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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

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This week David Koch, who is a co-host of Channel 7’s Sunrise, made some horrible, horrible remarks about breastfeeding. His remarks might seem somewhat innocuous, but when you take them in the context that any discrimination against breastfeeding is illegal in Australia, and that women deal constantly with body and motherhood policing, they’re pretty offensive.

I wrote a reply over at The Peach:

Can you not see how ridiculous your comments are, how they attempt to police women, motherhood and women’s bodies? Because nothing will ever quite be ‘discreet’ enough, or ‘classy’ enough. I mean, all breastfeeding women everywhere could sit in out-of-the-way armchairs with blankets draped over their shoulder and child, and someone, somewhere, would walk past and know what was happening under that blanket.

The whole story: My body is not shameful and I will not be shamed.

My article is personal to me, for many reasons – I breastfed my first child for 12 months, and hopefully will do the same with the imminent arrival, if not longer. But more importantly, I am SO TIRED of privileged white men thinking their opinion counts when it comes to women’s bodies. Like they get a say, even if the law is already clear on the subject.

If you haven’t been following this issue, my article at The Peach handily comes with links to relevant news and blog posts so you can catch up.

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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.

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My son is an incredibly cheerful, active and happy boy – he’s also a screaming mess when he doesn’t get his way. In many ways, toddlers are not like children at any other age, the same way you can’t compare a newborn to a ten-year-old. The cognitive processing is so different as to be alien.

I’ve recently had the joy of seeing my (almost) five-year-old nephew and niece several times, and because it was Christmas and there was food and presents and toys and territory involved, I saw a couple of meltdowns, or small instances where their parents enforced their rules and boundaries. In a way, I was envious – because as much as five-year-olds can shriek and tantrum as well as a two-year-old, at least they understand what you’re saying.

Enacting discipline with Sebastian is difficult on two fronts – firstly, because finding the language that he accepts and understands is like trying to find a door to Narnia, and secondly because he may not retain that information even if he does understand. But, of course, it has to be done.

Discipline, as I see it, is a matter of schooling your child on appropriate behaviour, and while this can shift depending on location and circumstance, it all has to be consistent. We have a few hard and fast rules (no biting, ever), some rules that come in to play circumstantially (if you’re screaming at me I won’t help you; if you keep screaming at me then it’s time out), and some rules that are effective according to location (what is appropriate for inside play is very different from outside play).

If that sounds confusing, it’s because it is. We’re just muddling through, and trying new things, and seeing what works. There are a few things I don’t support, ever – physical punishment like smacking, scary yelling or abusive language (I differentiate scary yelling from yelling-across-the-backyard-to-be-heard by the fact that scary yelling involves anger or rage), acts of shaming or physical restraint.

The last one may not seem like much, but it’s important to me. I don’t like to be held down. It’s a horrible thing. I don’t want to be pinned to the floor, even if I’m yelling and screaming or trying to hit, so why would I do that to my toddler? If Sebastian is trying to hit/scratch/grab me, then I’ll deflect his hands, remove his hands, move away from him, but I would never physically pin him down to make him stop – I consider this a matter of body autonomy – and while different from the body autonomy that says ‘it’s okay not to kiss every adult who asks for it’, it’s still a matter of a child having a say and control over their own body. In relation to discipline, there’s a huge, huge difference between momentarily restraining a child because they’re in danger, or need to sit still for a doctor’s check/vaccination or they’re about to cause harm, and actively holding them down because you don’t like their behaviour.

Our current methods of discipline are probably a bit all over the place, because we’re discovering what works. Things that are working so far:

  • When Sebastian deliberately makes a mess (like yesterday drawing on the kitchen floor with chalk), he has to clean it up. I will help him, but I will also insist that he do it immediately. If he accidentally makes a mess I will usually do it, but more and more I’m noticing he wants to help.
  • He knows how to ask for help or something he wants politely, so when he demands and screams I tell him the way he’s speaking to me is not very nice, I don’t like it and I don’t want to help when he’s screaming at me. Amazingly, this works even when he’s bordering on a tantrum, and sometimes even calms him down because he has to focus on putting his words together in a calm manner and saying ‘please’.
  • When he hurts, even accidentally, he must say sorry. Adorably, he offers to kiss the hurt better, which to him means presenting his cheek to be kissed. Lately even when the hurt he’s caused was accidental he’ll offer up a kiss and a sorry spontaneously.
  • When he’s tired and cranky and getting frustrated with a toy and repeatedly screaming demands for help (to the point where the above technique of insisting on politeness isn’t working), he loses the toy. Today he lost his trains for his train set, and was told he could have them back after his nap. This was the first time I tried this, and it worked surprisingly well – he did cry and rage for a while, and even climbed into bed insisting he was going to nap immediately, he calmed down quickly and went to play with something else. I think having a clear time frame he could understand worked really well.
  • When he’s having a no-holds-barred tantrum, we have a two stage process. First I ask him if he needs to go to his room to calm down. Sometimes, and becoming more frequently, he actually runs off to his bedroom to have a bit of a rage in there, or to climb on his bed to self-soothe. Then he comes out when he’s ready. When that doesn’t work, he gets put in his room with the door closed and told he can come out when he’s calm. Currently we only do this for two minutes before sticking out heads in to check on him. But this does work for us – he comes out ready for a cuddle or wanting to play quietly.

These techniques are of course only what is working for us, right now, at this point in time. Things may change. There are some techniques we can’t do right now, such as a time out spot or chair – I’m too pregnant to chase after him if he leaves the chair and provide consistency. Thus putting him in his room and shutting the door is what works right now.

I try really hard to be consistent – to warn him of a punishment like room time or losing a toy before it happens, to explaining why I’m asking for certain behaviour, and praising him when he demonstrates appropriate behaviour on his own.

That’s the flip side to discipline I think – and just as important. I tell him when he’s behaved well, when he’s been good at listening or asking politely, and when he’s been patient while I complete errands and chores. I want him to know I appreciate when he’s making an effort at remembering what I ask. So it’s not all just doom and gloom when he does the wrong thing, but he gets signs of my pride and happiness when he’s doing the right thing. I love seeing the happy, proud look on his face when I praise him.

We muddle through.

We muddle through.

What are your tips for toddler discipline, or how did things change for you as your child got older?

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I haven’t written here because I needed a break; the last few months have taken a lot out of me. We moved house, with all those various stresses, I was working and studying during the same period, and fitting in endless medical appointments for this pregnancy. More recently, Alex has spent the last two months working insane graveyard hours that, while providing a bit more income, has generally just been bad for us.

Because he was sleeping all day and away all night, we were only just snatching conversations about household issues and holiday plans. He and Sebastian got to spend almost no time together, unless it was dealing with a tantrum or putting Sebastian down for a nap. I was trying to get Sebastian out of the house in the mornings so Alex could sleep, and organise Christmas plans and presents, and we were having no quality time together as a family. And that’s important.

We all suffered. Alex was constantly tired when he was awake and home, and I was handling all of the shopping, housework and parenting and reaching my last nerve. Sebastian became clingy and frantic and the tantrums were constant. And we just kind of plodded along like that for two months. Just surviving, not really living.

Christmas was another stress – we had some fantastic family time, but preparing for that and making sure everything was perfect took the last of my energy. The presents were beautifully wrapped and the tree trimmed and I made lovely food, but having a wonderful holiday season takes work.

I made sure I did something I’d like to make a tradition – on Christmas eve, Sebastian, Mum and I made gingerbread for Santa. It was an incredibly special thing, in its own way, just to stir and knead and roll the dough together, to cut the shapes and watch them bake in the oven. Sebastian was delighted because he adores gingerbread. And sure enough, Santa only left a few crumbs.

There is nothing in the world as wonderful as freshly baked gingerbread.

There is nothing in the world as wonderful as freshly baked gingerbread.

Christmas day for us was lovely – probably far too many presents for Sebastian, but he was delighted and watching him with family was a real pleasure. We ate far too much, I made Christmas pudding from scratch and made everybody admire it at length, and we had a peaceful evening, just the way I like it.

But what I really, really needed was the trip we took down to the Mornington Peninsula between Christmas and New Year’s. A gorgeous beach house to stay in, pleasantly warm and sunny days and nothing to do but rest.

I had gotten to the point where I desperately needed to recharge my batteries, and I got that chance. Alex, who’d missed Sebastian terribly while he’d been working crazy hours, spent lots of time with him and wow, I just slept so much. I had long, long naps and rests and afternoons in bed. I occasionally went to the beach or the park and did something fun, but mostly I just got rest. This pregnancy has been draining me so much.

The holiday period is special to me – a time to see family, to put effort into lovely food that everyone enjoys, finding perfect gifts for the people you care about and taking the time to unwind. Christmas has never had religious significance for me, but that doesn’t equate to a lack of meaning. Being a parent only intensifies that – being surrounded by family and spending quality, relaxed time together, Sebastian is the happiest I’ve seen him in months.

Life gets so busy, it’s easy to let priorities slide. For me, that’s time to relax and recharge with my family, so I feel grounded and close.

Sebastian with his train set on Christmas morning. He didn't move for two hours.

Sebastian with his train set on Christmas morning. He didn’t move for two hours.

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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.

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CHRISTMASCHRISTMASCHRISTMASCHRISTMAS.

I just had to get that out of the way. I’m excited for Christmas. On Sunday we finally, finally went and chose a Christmas tree, and decorated it with Sebastian, who calls the Christmas tree ‘delicious’. My mother gave us some lovely wooden Christmas decorations that light up too.

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We’re having Christmas with the Melbourne contingent of Alex’s family a couple of days before the 25th at our house, and spending Christmas day with my family on my parents’ farm. I’m making Christmas pudding and gingerbread men. Most of my shopping is done, and we’re slowly getting everything wrapped. No tree looks complete without presents underneath.

IMG_5600

For Sebastian we have one big present – an enormous Chuggington set that I actually bought secondhand, because that much track would cost a bazillion dollars new. He’s obsessed with trains so this is perfect. Otherwise, we have a few small presents – books, a tambourine, and a stocking.

The stocking is a big deal to me. I remember as a child, waking up when it was still dark and sneaking out to the lounge room to see what Santa had left, poking through the stocking while it was still dark. It was always filled with little [resents – a doll, lollies, plastic jewellery, toy cars.

I wanted to continue this tradition with Sebastian, so I’ve been collecting little toys for his stocking for the last couple of weeks. Here’s a glimpse at what I have:

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Asides from the Chuggington die-cast figures, which go with his big present, none of this cost over about $4. In the picture there are:

  • Stickers, both foam and plastic
  • Crayons (his crayons constantly break so more are always welcome)
  • Magnets – you can’t quite see in this picture but there’s a cool metal frog and a jointed lizard on a spring
  • Bubble wand
  • Bead bracelet and necklace in multicolour, and metallic bead necklaces
  • Tiny rubber duckies
  • A crocodile that goes with a zoo toy set he already has
  • Chuggington figures
  • Toy truck with a toy truck on the back
  • And an alphabet puzzle that will not actually fit in the stocking.

I always wanted to put a food treat in the stocking, and have been scratching my head as to what I could put in that isn’t pure sugar, and it finally occurred to me this afternoon – a small package of unflavoured popcorn. That will be a treat because we never have it, but won’t fill him up with sugar or salt, plus I can make it myself and put it in a cute paper package.

I’ve seen other lists for toddler stocking stuffers put on Pinterest, but I didn’t like them because they were gender segregated. I mean, Sebastian LOVES necklaces, but that’s something that would normally only end up on a girl’s list. So here are some more ideas for non-gender specific stocking stuffers for toddlers:

  • Sunglasses or novelty glasses
  • Bug chalk for outside or pavement drawing
  • Finger paint
  • Bouncy balls, not too small
  • Sports whistle (this was last year’s favourite from the stocking)
  • A set of keys
  • One of those small weird soft cat/dog toys that moves when you pat its back
  • Tiny board books
  • Bath stickers
  • Bath toys of any type, or even a novelty shaped bottle of bubble bath
  • New colourful toothbrush
  • A funny hat
  • A simple doll/figurine with no small parts
  • Toy cars
  • A special Christmas teddy
  • A pack of cards with interesting pictures – toddlers can’t play, but they love to look!
  • Alphabet fridge magnets
  • A torch with an easy button
  • Special tree ornament
  • Kaleidoscope
  • Stamps and ink (for supervised use only)
  • Drawing pad with a nice cover
  • Family photo in a frame (with no glass)
  • Cool drink bottle
  • A wallet or purse, just like grown ups!
  • Tubs of Playdoh
  • Home made biscuits

What else would you add to your toddler’s stocking? If I had more time I think I could make a list a mile long, but only so much will fit in the actual stocking!

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