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Posts Tagged ‘motherhood’

I am now in my 28th week of pregnancy, which puts me in the third trimester. I am in pain, and uncomfortable, and feeling stressed and depressed. These are familiar feelings from my last pregnancy.

I have pelvic instability, which is very painful and makes walking difficult. I’m having horrible acid reflux and the kind of intense Braxton-Hicks contractions that leave me stupefied and breathless for minutes at a time. I feel like I’m constantly overheating, and every little task feels hard, and I feel helpless, which I loathe.

I grew up with chronic illness, with the ongoing and constant sense that my body was betraying me and I had lost control. Pregnancy reawakens all of these feelings in me. That I am powerless and helpless and have no say in what is happening to me. I love my baby, but I hate pregnancy.

Alex and I when I was 20 weeks pregnant, pretty much the last time I felt comfortable.

Alex and I when I was 20 weeks pregnant, pretty much the last time I felt comfortable.

I try to stay focused on accomplishing small tasks, like cooking something yummy or completing one small aspect of a project at a time, like getting the curtains finished for one room. It helps to break things down like this – I am just doing this one small thing, not getting overwhelmed by Giant Energy Sucking Thing. But even this is hard because Sebastian is at a fidgeting, attention-intensive age so I have to wait for his naps or bedtime, but because I’m in pain I’m not sleeping well and often exhausted.

I remind myself that this is temporary, that there is not long to go, that even this is better than last time. But a lot of the time I feel depressed, and quite sad that I don’t enjoy pregnancy the way some women do.

This is my last baby, because I don’t want to go through this again.

Early next year I will have this baby, and I will have joy that he has arrived, but relief that it is over too.

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I want to try and write regularly about things I do with Sebastian that are toddler friendly in Melbourne, because I think there’s a vast difference between a location/activity being child friendly and being toddler friendly. There’s a lot of playgrounds out there that reaaaally aren’t great for him, because he’s only two and can’t climb very well, and asides from one death-trap animal on a giant steel spring for riding, there’s not much for him to do.

He’s getting to the age where he and I both go stir crazy if we’re around the house too much, even if we go play in the backyard. So I’m trying to get out more, to try new things and expose him to more varied and interesting activities. I’ll blog about the places I go, everything from parks and playgrounds, to child-friendly cafes and educational activities, and give my opinion on how interesting and involving it was, both for myself and a toddler.

So to begin: Edendale Farm. Edendale Farm is located in Eltham in the north-east of Melbourne, and the site itself has a history dating back to 1852. I remember visiting Edendale Farm about 15 years ago with some younger cousins – I think back then it was a collection of garden beds and penned animals set in scrubby bushland. Things have changed a lot.

Now, visiting Edendale is like wandering through a collection of beautiful and interesting rooms, each with its own activities and purpose. There’s the cafe area, where we purchased egg and bacon muffins, coffee and orange cake. We ignored the tables and chose instead to sit on a provided picnic blanket on a slope with the kids, and once the kids were done trying to eat all of the cake and not share, they ran and played amongst rows of vegetable plantings while we sipped coffee and watched. Until an escape attempt was masterminded by Sebastian and we had to retrieve the children from halfway down a dirt track.

We visited an indoor educational area, and even though a lot of material was aimed at older children who could read, it was still toddler friendly with aquariums to look at with Bob the turtle, yabbies and fish, and even a case of spiny leaf insects that were so well camouflaged it took me a while to figure out it wasn’t actually a display of sticks and dead leaves.

Sebastian loved examining the fish. He talked about little yellow fish for days.

Sebastian loved examining the fish. He talked about little yellow fish for days.

Whenever I go somewhere, I judge the location by how easy it is to do a nappy change. Bad nappy change locations can ruin my day, but Edendale farm was very family friendly in this respect – there was a change table in the disabled bathroom that even had a nappy disposable unit. Of course, right outside the bathrooms is Edendale’s spiral garden, which is supposed to be for gentle strolls through, with little watering cans provided that the kids can use. Our kids just screamed and ran through the whole thing, but still. They loved it. I’d like to go back and try the spiral garden properly, because Sebastian has been getting very interested in watering our garden at home, and I’m trying to teach him about where food and herbs and flowers come from.

We also spent some time in a dedicated play garden, which was toddler heaven with little areas set aside for dolls, books, trucks and cars, drawing with crayons and even an easel set up for painting. Unfortunately rain was threatening by this point, so an army of volunteers came to pack up the toys, but still, we had fun.

Painting in the play garden. Two brushes, no less.

Painting in the play garden. Two brushes, no less.

We were on our way out of Edendale when Sebastian spotted the young goats, who were poking their heads through the fence to get to the obviously much more desirable grass. He’s spent the last 18 months on a farm with dogs, chickens, cows and horses, so of course he ran straight up to them and started patting them and ‘cleaning’ their heads with a baby wipe and encouraging them to nibble on his shoes. They were adorable and friendly and one of the highlights of the trip.

He wanted to keep them. I kinda wanted to keep them too.

He wanted to keep them. I kinda wanted to keep them too.

There was a lot I didn’t see and investigate at Edendale – it’s an educational facility that promotes sustainable living, and there are many classes for adults and children throughout the year. There’s a plant nursery, and apparently gunea pig holding on certain days, and composters and worm farms that can be purchased.

For a toddler, this day trip was an absolute delight – the environment is peaceful, the children were engaged with age-friendly activities, and the staff and volunteers we met were unfailingly friendly. I’ll definitely be going back to see and do more.

Edendale Farm does not charge an entry fee, however you can make gold coin donations. The cafe prices are more than reasonable, and I found it to be pram accessible. On their website you can find the latest information about upcoming activities and a location guide.

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Because I’m the primary caregiver in this parenting partnership, half of what I do goes unnoticed and unappreciated. Usually it’s the mother who stays home with the kids, or only returns to work part-time or on flexi-time, and the mother who becomes the expert on her children and home.

Sometimes, I hate it. I really, really hate it. Because it’s so easy for me to shoulder the load that there’s a perpetual slide, so on days like to today something small happens, like Sebastian not going down for his nap on time while I am out, and I totally lose the plot.

I lost the plot today because if Sebastian doesn’t go down for his nap on time then I have to decide whether to wake him up before he’s had enough sleep and deal with a nightmarish toddler for the rest of the day, all so he can go back to bed at an appropriate hour… or I have to let him nap late, which means he’ll be up later, which means I get more tired and stressed as the evening wears on because he’s still not in bed.

This might seem like small change but I am tired, and pregnant, and reaching the horribly uncomfortable stage of pregnancy, and feeling resentful as I mentally tally all the tasks and responsibilities I have been shouldering lately without any recognition that I do these things, and our home runs smoothly because of it.

It’s invisible work. The things that I do without question, the lists and information I carry around in my head, the schedules I make and the information I obtain. Things that SOMEBODY has to deal with, and because I’ve got it sorted then nobody else bothers.

I know all the relevant parenting information, because I have made myself an expert on the topic. I know my son’s vaccination schedule, I know how to keep our Family Assistance income coming in smoothly from the government, and even though Sebastian’s not in daycare right now, I know which three daycare centres in my area have current vacancies.

I buy all the Christmas and birthday gifts for both my family and Alex’s family, and I’ll be doing all the wrapping. I have a fairly precise idea of what’s in our pantry and fridge on any given day, so I do almost all of the grocery shopping. I know what foods Sebastian will and will not eat, and I’m the one looking up new recipes to get vegetables into him.

Right now, because Alex is on graveyard shift, I do pretty much all of the naptimes and bedtimes – I know the favourite books and the precise routine. I get up with Sebastian in the morning, and plan activities and outings for us – I know where his fresh clothes go when they are dried and folded, and I know when we’re running out of nappies and wipes, and where his clean sheets are for his bed. I buy his clothes, and sort the ones he’s grown out of, and put away his toys and wipe his nose.

I’ve read up on potty training and toddler discipline and early childhood development. I know what behaviours are normal and what to anticipate next, because I’ve spent the time and energy doing that research. When he gets sick I give him medicine and take him to the doctor and hold him and stroke his hair just the way he likes, and I’m the one that knows to call the Maternal and Child Health Care hotline, or that we can call a GP to come to our house with bulk billing. All of this information about him lives in my head, just my head, and nobody else except stay-at-home mums and dads knows this stuff.

But there’s other things too, that aren’t child related – because I’m home, I’m the one calling our landlord about the broken dishwasher or calling a repairman when the washing machine broke. I set up our utilities when we moved in, and arranged for an emergency call out when our gas connection had a leak, and as the bills have come in I’ve paid them. I set up our internet and phone account, and badgered the service provider when it didn’t work, and let the technician in to repair the phone line in our house.

I write lists about household budgets and ways to save money – I think about money constantly – and plan ahead for the baby to make sure we have everything we need. I arrange all of my pregnancy appointments and keep all the medical information in my head too. I plan meals and keep an eye out for sales on meat so we can stock up the freezer, and invest in appliances that will save us time and money. I’m making curtains for the house, and decorating the bedrooms, and organise family outings and babysitting and amongst all that, try to remember to see friends and eat and shower and get enough rest and time to myself.

Single parents, of course, handle all of this and more, with no partner to step in and give them a break. But being a partnered parent, I sometimes wish I could get a pat on the back for the knowledge and care I use to keep things running smoothly. Because when I don’t keep up with one of these millions of little tasks, THEN it’s noticeable. But when I’m doing it right, it’s invisible.

There are people out there without children, or who have children but are not the primary caregiver, who have no understanding or sensitivity for how much work goes into being a stay-at-home parent. I’m sure some of them think it’s all play centres and lattes. But here is the reality: getting a screaming child clean, fed, dressed and out the door but 9:30 in the morning is damn hard work, never mind all the planning behind the scenes that went into it – the breakfast being interesting enough for the child to eat it, the clothes being clean and the right size, and knowing the magic words to make a two-year-old let you close enough to scrub last night’s encrusted snot from his face.

I deserve a damn latte.

 

 

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This recipe is a quick and easy fallback for me when I’m stressing about what to give Sebastian that’s quick, fresh and nutritious. It takes just five minutes if the rice is pre-prepared, so I usually cook extra rice with some other meal, and hold onto it for a day or two until I’m ready to make a batch of these corn cakes.

Ingredients

1 cup of cooked rice
1 cup of self-raising flour
1 cup of creamed corn
1 egg
Butter/marg/veg oil for the pan

Combine ingredients in a large bowl until mixed. Heat a large pan with your choice of butter/marg/veg oil over a medium heat. Dollop big spoonfuls into the pan, allow to brown and then flip. Cool before serving to your toddler, and store extras in the fridge or freezer.

Variations

I use jasmine rice because it’s what I always have in the house, but you could try long-grain or brown rice too. I use self-raising flour because it makes the cakes nice and fluffy, but plain flour works just as well. Try adding different finely chopped vegetables like red capsicum, grated carrot or pre-cooked broccoli. My Mum has tried adding diced bacon, which was a big hit too. If the mixture is becoming dry, simply add another egg or more creamed corn.

 

My son LOVES these, and they make a great snack, or serve with fresh veggies for a really healthy dinner. When they’re hot and crispy and fresh from the pan, I add a little salt and wolf them down myself. They freeze well in freezer bags, travel in Ziploc bags and are perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

 

What’s your favourite toddler recipe?

 

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I knew it. Pregnancy is my baby invading one cell at a time.

Cells may migrate through the placenta between the mother and the fetus, taking up residence in many organs of the body […] It is remarkable that it is so common for cells from one individual to integrate into the tissues of another distinct person. We are accustomed to thinking of ourselves as singular autonomous individuals, and these foreign cells seem to belie that notion, and suggest that most people carry remnants of other individuals.

From the Scientific American, via a tweet from Blue Milk.

 

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It’s almost Christmas and I’m fighting the urge to yell with excitement in people’s faces about baking and decorating. I am one of THOSE people at Christmas. I have only resisted the urge to deck my house in tinsel and glitter this long because all our decorations are in storage at my parents’ farm and we haven’t actually bought a tree yet.

Christmas is a problem for me because I want to do Projects. I want to bake all the things, craft ridiculous Marth Stewart-esque decorations and produce elegant and unique handmade presents for family and friends with kitsch wrapping paper I upcycled from butcher’s paper and ribbon or something. The reality is that no matter how much time I seem to have on my hands, there is never enough time for this kind of crap. Plus I have other non-Christmas Projects on the go that I should probably not drop over the holiday season in case they never get picked up again.

Christmas is different now that I have a child – it’s exciting again, full of magic and hiding presents and hanging strings of gold beads on my defenseless son the tree. My first Christmas with Sebastian was one of the best of my life – Alex and I went to my parents’ farm on Christmas eve, and after 5-month-old Sebastian went to sleep we built a terrible gingerbread house, and Alex and I slow-danced to the soundtrack to The Singing Detective – Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters singing ‘Accentuate the Positive’ and ‘Don’t Fence Me In’.

Sebastian was too small to understand Christmas or Santa or presents that year, but we dressed him up in a silly Santa’s Helper outfit and took him for pictures with Santa. On Christmas day he just wanted to eat the wrapping paper. Ultimately it didn’t matter that he didn’t understand Christmas because we did, and it was special for us just because of all the Christmas’s to come.

Christmas 2010Sebastian 2010, ready for photos with Santa

Now Sebastian is starting to get to the age where he understands Christmas, he understands decorating the tree and presents and yummy food, and I want to make it SO. DAMN. SPECIAL. Thus, the Projects. I’m really having to limit myself to ideas I think can be done quickly and are feasible.

I would like to make gingerbread people with him, because gingerbread is like crack to him. I would like to bake reindeer cookies with him, the recipe for which I found in a Christmas baking magazine. I would like to make a felt Christmas tree that he can play at decorating:

Felt Christmas Tree for toddlers to decorate, click the pic to get to the original blog entry!

Felt Christmas Tree for toddlers to decorate, click the pic to get to the original blog entry!

And of course I would like to decorate a tree, and hang a wreath on the door, and cook a pudding for Christmas day, and possibly a thousand other things that are not terribly realistic. Not when I have other Projects on the go currently – curtains for the whole damn house, sewing maternity tops for myself and toys for the new baby, completing the decorations for Sebastian’s room (including folding 100 paper cranes). Not to mention there are presents to buy and wrap, cards to write, parties to go to and all the other things you commit to at this time of year that aren’t actually Projects but still take up huge chunks of time.

This year is about prioritizing – lovely, small Projects that I can complete in a day, take happy snaps of Sebastian with, and not leave lying around the house half-finished until next Christmas. I’ll keep you updated on how I actually go with this, keeping in mind how much time I can waste on Pinterest finding adorable crafty stuff I vow I’ll do.

What are your Christmas Projects and how do you keep from getting distracted? What gets priority?

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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.

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