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Posts Tagged ‘relationships’

The day we brought Morgan home from the hospital, our 2 year old, Sebastian, was over-tired and having a bit of a sugar crash. He slept in the car and woke when we pulled into the driveway – and immediately started crying and shouting ‘no no no no no’ when he realised the baby had come home with us. We’d tried to do our best to explain to him in advance that the baby was coming to live with us, but he didn’t really understand, I think, until that moment.

Since then, Sebastian has gotten better, although initially he was obviously resentful that I nursed the baby so often and wasn’t available for cuddles. He sometimes climbs into the bouncinette with a dummy he’s appropriated, playing baby. He lets the dummy fall out of his mouth and pretends to cry, mimicking Morgan, and I have to put the dummy back in his mouth and talk to him as though he’s a baby. I think this is a pretty healthy expression of the jealousy he feels over all the attention the baby gets – sometimes he needs to be the ‘baby’ again, to have my focus and attention in this way.

Sebastian’s grandparents have also been invaluable – Sebastian spends special solo time with both Alex’s mother and my parents, staying over night and having all of their attention. I’m lucky to have such help! 

Sometimes Sebastian is very affectionate with Morgan, to the point of being far too boisterous. I have to watch them together or Sebastian will try giving Morgan his dummy, or share his food with him, or touch the top of his still-soft head. Sometimes he’s still resentful, telling me to put the baby down or stop feeding him, because he wants my attention. But Sebastian is young enough that as time passes, he forgets the time before, when there was no baby and he was the centre of our universe. 

Sometimes I feel incredible guilt, for having a second child and taking away the special one-on-one, mother-son relationship we used to have. But then I think about the future, and how lovely it will be to have two boys so close in age, who will grow up together, play together and learn together. Morgan is just starting to smile, and I think Sebastian will start to find his brother a lot more interesting when they can interact.

Driving in the car yesterday, Sebastian pointed something out to Morgan, which made my heart warm. There’s a bond between siblings, and here I see the beginnings.

Sibling rivalry

My darling boys


 

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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

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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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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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1.- You’re not fucking fat.
In fact, you’re young and reasonably attractive with the natural curves of any woman that doesn’t have the metabolism of a mouse. You are years away from getting pregnant, ballooning up with pregnancy weight and an over-sized fetus accompanied by extra amniotic fluid; years away from your breastfeeding size G-cup breasts that naturally deflate a little when the milk goes dry after a year of nursing; years away from your stretch marks and birth scars. Because all of those things will make you review your body image and come to terms with how your body changes over time, and you gain some sort of equanimity for your weight and shape and look because nobody is a supermodel except supermodels. You’re 20 and you look great and your attractiveness really has nothing to do with weight.

2.- Stop dating jerks.
Your first true love at 18 was wonderful and heartbreaking, and you’ve spent two years dating guys who are bad for you and will for several years to come. They don’t make you feel good about yourself, but you keep trying because you figure that if you make them feel good about themselves then they’ll return the favour. They won’t.

3.-Your friends are the people who show up when you say you’re feeling crap.
And it takes you years to learn this lesson – that when you phone a friend or two and say, ‘I’m having a really hard time right now’, it’s the people that truly give a damn that take time out of their day to listen to you or visit you or show you their support – and the people who make excuses, or don’t have five minutes, or are really busy right now can-I-call-you-back-never? They’re the ones who will always take when they need help, and never give it back when you do.

4.- Your family matter more than you realise. Because at 20 you’re still hung up on teenage resentments and trying to figure out how to be an adult and independent and still ask for help when you need it, but the truth is that you take that support for granted when it’s always been there unconditionally. Be patient, and kind, and give love and recognise when it’s given in return. And not just your parents and your brother – remember you have a whole crowd of grandparents and cousins and uncles and aunts who have always been around and interested. Because you know what? People get cancer and die and you can’t get them back again. Appreciate that the people who care about you stand back when you need it, and step in when you need it too.

5.- You don’t need to grow up so fast. You’re 20, and one day when you’re older with a family and a job and responsibility you’re going to nostalgically look back and realise you spent so much time fighting to be grown up and strong and independent that you forgot, for a while, how to be young. And it’s ironic that at 28 with a family and a job and responsibility you will feel like you enjoy life much more than you did as a young and free 20-year-old.

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When it comes to the arguments against same-sex marriage, I like to play a little game. Remove the word ‘gay’, and either replace it with the word ‘human’, or ‘people’, or switch some words around, or do without it altogether. Would you like to play? Here’s the gist of some of the anti-gay marriage arguments, in original form:

  • Gays don’t need to get married, they have all the same legal rights now with civil unions. It’s just attention-seeking.
  • Gay marriage only effects a minority, so therefore it’s too much effort to change those laws.
  • If gays can marry it’s just the start of it… next people will want to marry their dogs.
  • I have lots of gay friends and they don’t want to get married so why bother?
  • Being gay is a choice.

This does not, of course, cover the full idiocy of anti-gay marriage arguments, however we’ll get to that later. First, lets play word swap and examine how these statements change.

  • [People] don’t need to get married, they have all the same legal rights now with civil unions. It’s just attention-seeking. Of course, everyone has the same legal rights without marriage. Being officially partnered (that is, the government recognises that I am in a long-term, de facto relationship with my partner), I have pretty much every right that a married couple does (I could even take his last name, without ever signing a marriage certificate). I am my partner’s next-of-kin, his medical authority, all our assets and income are joint, and if we (for some unforeseen reason) were to separate at this point, it would be the same complicated mess of asset-division, joint custody and other unspeakable horrors. So if everyone has access to these rights without the necessity of marriage, then clearly nobody needs marriage. It should be abolished.
  • [M]arriage only effects a minority, so therefore it’s too much effort to change those laws. If you remove the word ‘gay’ from the above sentence, you see the angle here. Not everyone is married. Or going to get married. Some people spend most of their lives not-married. Some get married, then get divorced, then get married again. Children are too young to marry. And so on and so on. Basically, because marriage does not affect the entire population, no laws should ever be made that change it. Ever. And maybe we should repeal some of those much, much older laws – we’ll go back to the golden era where women were property and divorce was impossible without some sort of decree from the Pope and you had to read the banns for a month before you wed to prevent Mr Rochester from bigamy (and oh, poor Jane Eyre…)
  • If [humans] can marry it’s just the start of it… next people will want to marry their dogs. This argument is too stupid to exist, and yet it does. I mean, same-sex marriage… REALLY. If humans can marry humans then soon we’ll want to marry a cow or an inanimate object or a child or some other poor thing that can’t consent. Or we’ll want to marry our siblings on reality shows, because people like to watch train wrecks, and produce genetically deformed incest-children, which we’ll then marry. One consenting human marrying another consenting human is a stepping stone to hell.
  • I have lots of friends and they don’t want to get married so why bother? I have simply removed the word ‘gay’ from this argument, and it still wallows in its stupidity. See also: above argument about changing laws for minorities. So if not everyone wants to get married, NOBODY should get married. This argument has the added bonus of presenting the speaker as someone who isn’t discriminatory (I have gay friends! And black ones! Sometimes I listen to reggae!), they just don’t see the point. The reality is this: if your straight friends don’t want to get married right now, they can change their mind later. Your gay friends can’t.
  • Being [human] is a choice. You see how this argument turns itself around by replacing one word? Saying your sexuality is a choice is like saying your chromosomes are a choice. Granted, some people go through periods of confusion about their sexuality (as a teenager I decided I was a lesbian, but clearly since then I have had sex with a man). While I may not be entirely heterosexual, I have made a choice to be in a heterosexual relationship, because I fell in love with a hetero man. But we have to be careful about the distinctions here – it’s my choice to be in a relationship with him, but I did not choose who I fell in love with. I didn’t choose his gender. I am happier in a relationship with him, so here I stay. People who are only capable of having romantic or sexual feelings for one gender, whether it be the opposite gender or the same gender, also do not choose who they fall in love with. To say you can choose who you love is like saying you can choose whether to be a human or a chimp – your opposable thumbs aren’t optional, you are what you are.

(As a side note here, I’d like to point out that there are some people who are attracted to both genders, or more one gender but occasionally the other, and they don’t choose that either. And in fact, it’s damn fucking hard to figure out who you are and what you want and who you’d like to sleep with when there are societal pressures saying that you must be either Column A or Column B.)

But marriage is about family!

I’d like to move on now to address one of the biggest anti-gay marriage arguments: that marriage is about procreation, the protection of the family unit, the safety of children – you know the rest.

I am not married (gasp!) but I have a child. Alex and I live together as a family, and as I said above, we have all the rights of a married couple. Therefore, I seem to breaking the cardinal law of family life – we are a happy, functioning unit, and yet our child is a bastard. I said it. He is illegitimate. However, I’ve read enough historical romance novels to know that because Alex gave our son his last name, he will be recognised as his heir according to primogeniture, unless another son shows up in the future that’s born of the marriage bed.

OH WAIT IT’S NOT 1815.

We intend on getting married, someday. At the moment we’re too busy twiddling our thumbs and rearranging the furniture or something. But that’s our choice. As a heterosexual couple, nobody decries our lack of marriage certificate. Although I’ve looked very closely, I’ve seen no sign that Sebastian is aghast at the lack of a piece of paper. He sees only two parents, that love him very much and love each other. What would the child of a same-sex couple see? Exactly the same thing, but with one major difference – we have the choice to marry, and his or her parents do not.

Some gay marriage objectionists state that having gay parents is a disadvantage to the child. This is bunk. In fact, studies show that children of gay parents are just as well-adjusted as children of hetero parents (here) and in fact, that children of lesbian parents (because more studies exist on lesbian parents) are more likely to be less aggressive and nurturing (boys) and the girls are more likely to aspire to traditionally male-based professions (article here). Some objectionists decry the bullying that may result for a child of gay parents. Well, amazingly, bullying exists, and you know what? That’s not the parents’ problem. That’s society’s problem. Bullying and discrimination occurs because of race, socio-economic status and gender anyway – and yet nobody says that only white people should be allowed to marry and have children, or only wealthy people.

I was raised with every advantage – a child of hetero, married parents, with jobs and education, who are intelligent and raised me to think intelligently, with a comfortable socio-economic background. And I was bullied in school. This is society’s problem because society teaches us to be competitive and critical, to form elitist groups and exclusionary practices, to lower someone else’s status in order to elevate our own. Children emulate their parents’ behaviour, and if a child is raised with love and understanding, is taught ethics and morals, is shown to be kind and accepting by example… then what does it matter if those parents are a Mummy and a Daddy, or two Mums, or two Dads? In fact, wouldn’t same-sex couples, having probably been discriminated against themselves at some point, raise their children with tolerance? Don’t we all want to raise our children to be better than the previous generation? And exactly how does same-sex marriage make that ideal crash and burn…?

And if marriage is only for protection of the family unit, what about couples that never have children? I mean, you have to give childless couples leeway, at least until the female passes child-bearing age – but do we revoke their marriage licence the minute she hits menopause? Does that mean that the elderly couple, both widowed, who find love and comfort again in their old age, should be denied the right to marry?

I’m sure we all know single parents. What about them? The truth is that marriages break down. Or pregnancies happen unexpectedly, and sometimes one of the DNA contributors chooses not to stick around. Single parents aren’t single-handedly destroying the notion of family – they’re loving and raising their kids as best they can. We all make do with what we’ve got – we have kids, and fumble around in the dark trying to make those kids happy and healthy, and some parents find that their relationship break down and staying married would do their kid more harm than good. It’s better to be from a broken home than living in one, and raised with tension and despair chipping away at the child’s sense of the family unit. Happy families make happy children. So if a couple are in love, and want to get married and have kids and raise those kids in a loving environment, who the hell cares what genitals they have?

And if a gay couple get married and choose not to have children, how is that any different from a straight couple getting married and choosing not to have kids? Why is it anyone else’s business at all?

But waaah, marriage and religion!

This is possibly the most infuriating argument against same-sex marriage. The 2009 in Australia the ABS showed that secular marriage ceremonies had overtaken religious ceremonies in frequency (here) at 66.9% – about two thirds (how do you like being in the minority NOW, religious anti-gay marriage folks?!)

And if religion gets such a dominant say in marriage, does it also get to influence legislation on slavery and women’s rights and so on? And if marriage is dominated by religious, primarily Christian, beliefs, then how is that marriage is older than Christianity? I’m sure Christ didn’t just wake up one day, see a bunch of people living in sin and start rounding them up to take vows. The institution of marriage used to be primarily about the joining of families for alliances and land and goods. Men married for children and heirs and dowries, women married for protection and children and households of their own. So do we return to these old traditions? Imagine if you could only marry your potential spouse if she brought a comfortable enough dowry, or if he possessed enough goats to ensure wealth. In fact, there is a long and comfortable history of nobody getting to choose who they married – marriages were arranged for political reasons, and suck it up if you didn’t like your spouse (here).

These ideas are antiquated, and so is the idea that marriage is centralized in religion, property or heirs. Modern marriage is product of love, trust and belief in your future happiness, and these ideas are not gender or sexuality specific. Gay marriage does not destroy the family unit, it simply expands its definitions.

I can choose to marry my partner only because he is male and I am female. Disallowing same-sex marriage is discriminatory, and therefore a matter of the human right for equality. This is the core of my beliefs right here: even if I am heterosexual, I am still human. Marriage is a basic human right for all adults as a matter of expressing love and commitment. Making same-sex marriage illegal infringes on my human rights. Making same-sex marriage illegal infringes on everybody’s human rights, even if you are straight or asexual or confused, because saying that one sector of the population has less rights as a citizen than another is to try to make them less than human.

Women’s rights are human rights.
Children’s rights are human rights.
Racial equality is a human right.
Equality for the disabled is a human right.

Gay rights are human rights.

And in summary… if you don’t like gay marriage, don’t get one.

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The obvious reasons that parenthood are exhausting are, well… obvious. You have a small child to keep entertained, who needs help to eat and needs clean clothes and a safe place to play, who needs to sleep on a regular basis and needs love and attention. There are the household tasks that are repeated over again – cooking, cleaning, laundry, vacuuming, putting away toys. The list is never ending. But what you don’t know before you give birth is the emotionally exhausting aspects of parenthood.

But first, I must say – I am luckier than most. Alex often works staggered shifts that mean he is home in the mornings, and gets up with Sebastian, or home early in the evenings and gives him dinner while I cook. My mother-in-law comes once a week to spend the day with Sebastian, and does some cleaning/baby laundry while he naps (we used to try to stop her, as it seemed like it should just be her day with Sebastian, but this proved impossible). My parents live on the same property as us, so often I go to their house the evenings that Alex works, and that’s a meal I don’t have to cook and extra help with Sebastian. My mother does not work Fridays and we spend the day together. In all, I have a fantastic amount of help and support that many stay-at-home mums don’t have, and my partner is around much more than most.

But being a mum, even with all that help, can still be exhausting because of the unexpected things that are not listed in baby books. A short list, off the top of my head:

1.- Constant physical contact. For Sebastian’s first four months of life, he screamed horrendously if you put him down. I held him all day while Alex was at uni, and all night as we co-slept. Now he is older and mobile and active, Sebastian would still like to be touching me or within a few feet of me all the time. He takes my hand and leads me to whatever activity he wants to do. He leans on my legs when I sit in a chair. He wants to be with me, eat what I eat, do what I do, always. He comes with me to the toilet. The shower scares him so I do not shower while he is awake and nobody else is around. He pulls my hair and kisses my face and bites my fingers and wants to be UP or DOWN, or carried or kissed or held or swung around in the air. As a child, he has no sense of personal space or of areas of my body that are private. He watches me when I am naked, getting dressed, putting underwear and a bra on, with frank curiosity, and is inclined to touch too. I breastfed him for a year and felt like that part of my body actually belonged to him and not not me, for a whole year.

2.- Repetitive activities. There is no way I could casually read a book while Sebastian happily plays in the corner. Or write an email, or surf the web, or make a phone call. Phone calls are the worst, because he wants to speak to the person there, and screams if he can’t. So instead we play together. Part of a child’s process of learning is repeating the same action over and over again, forming muscle memory and understanding the mechanics of the world. This is sometimes very fun – like when he learns how to sit in a chair by himself and is very proud, or we play a game of sliding cars down sloped surfaces. However, if Sebastian likes something, it happens over and over and over again. I swear I sing Twinkle Twinkle to him 80 times a day, because it has actions that we do together, that he knows, and by doing the actions it prompts me to sing the song. This is good for him, because it is a form of communication that he’s managing, but HOLY FUCK I am over that song. The same with a few of his books that he wants to read a million times in a day. And it’s not just the games – he needs help to eat most meals and snacks. So I sit, and spoon food in his mouth, and teach him that no, we don’t throw it on the floor, and let him use the spoon, and we talk about what is HOT and what is COLD and what is food that is okay for fingers and what needs a spoon, and no it doesn’t go in your hair or get fed to the dogs, the cat does not want your toast, but okay teddy can have some OMNOMNOMNOM… this happens three times a day for meals, interspersed with snacks. I am so excited that he is close to being able to spoon feed himself.

3.- Everything must be timed just right. Sebastian cannot stay awake too long past the time he is ready for a nap or he will become hyper and impossible to put to bed. He cannot sleep too long or he will be too hungry when he wakes up and throw a tantrum and refuse to eat. If we go out, we must have snacks and toys and possibly a chance for him to run around before he gets tired, while still managing to achieve grocery goals. If he naps too late in the day then he will be awake past his bedtime and making dinner will become very hard. If there is a long car trip it must happen when he is very tired so he will sleep and not complain the whole trip. These endless calculations are actually much easier now that he no longer breastfeeds – when he breastfed exclusively, at three hour (or less) intervals, my whole life was on a timer. If I needed to go out, I needed to consider if I would have to breastfeed in public and if there would be a comfortable location to do so. If I was going anywhere without him, I needed to be able to complete everything I was doing and get back in time to feed him. Since Sebastian was born, I have a giant mental alarm clock in my head that is constantly ticking away to the next task or activity. Even when he is asleep, I need to consider that if I start a task, will it be finished by the time he wakes up?

4.- My brain gets put on hold. I like to think I am a smart person with intellectual pursuits and natural curiosity and talent in my chosen areas. However, when I am with Sebastian I am just a mama. No creativity is required for bathing him, feeding him, dressing him, and so on. We do not have philosophical debates about Playschool. I try to engage and be creative by doing new and interesting things with him, like building a fort or exploring the garden or going to feed the ducks or taking him swimming, but really, my brain has been on hold since I gave birth. I managed to write and direct a play last year, and the only way that could happen was because Alex was at home at that time, job hunting after finishing his study. I haven’t written anything since, which is part of my motivation for this blog – to get back in the habit. But the worst part, the absolute worst part, is that when I do have some time off to myself, and the house is empty… I am tired. I just want to read a book and lounge around and do nothing, because there’s no clock counting down in my head when he’s not around.

Being a mama is a wonderful, rewarding and amazing experience. I treasure him, I do. But it is difficult to explain to my friends who do not have children just what is so exhausting about parenthood – the endless chores, yes, the way everything takes about 30 minutes longer with a kid hanging off you, yes… but the emotional part. An indefinable tangle that leaves you feeling that you are SO important to one person in a way you have never been before, but it leaves you emotionally empty for anything else. Society devaluing stay-at-home parents is a whole other post, but sometimes it feels like once you are a parent, there is not enough room for anything else. It is hard to stay physically affectionate with your partner when your child has been touching you all day and you just want your skin to yourself. It is hard to wind down and relax with that giant clock ticking away in your head. It is hard to dredge up that enthusiasm for daily tasks when it takes so long and seems so hard and you just have to do it all again tomorrow. It is hard to feel smart, or attractive, or creative.

I love my family, and the time I get to spend with my son, but every day I have to find a way to remember that he will not be this young and small and helpless forever, and that when this part of my parenting life is over, I have to feel like I still have something to contribute, I have to feel engaged.

Just writing about it helps, I think.

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I fell pregnant unexpectedly when I was 25. Although I had known my partner, Alex, for years, we’d only recently started dating. I was naturally terrified. We both lived in shared houses (not together), I was a student and Alex had intended to go back to study the following year. He’d been working as a bartender and within a few weeks had taken a panic-job at a digital media company, where his role consisted of editing gay porn (as far as I could tell). It made him horrendously unhappy during the brief few months he was there.

Pregnancy and parenthood can be hard at any point in your life, but having an unplanned pregnancy can be downright traumatising. We were poor, and I smoked and took medication, and did not have private healthcare, and we ended up moving in together in the ‘burbs when I was five months pregnant and my pelvis began separating unevenly, causing horrible pain. Our furniture was (and still is) a mismatched combination of hand-me-downs, cheap Ikea units and op shop finds. While financially we did manage to scrape along by the skin of our teeth, we also had to prepare for a baby. It is ridiculous that the baby bonus is only paid after you have the baby, because most of the major purchases need to happen in the months before hand – we were lucky in that Alex’s brother had twins who were outgrowing their baby gear, so we were given a cot, high chair and change table, toys, clothes and other baby gear for free. Family members also contributed things like a swing, a bassinet, a car seat, first aid kit, clothes, blankets, electric thermometer, soft toys, newborn nappies, etc.

I will probably write more about my pregnancy and birth experience later, because it still sits in my mind as a thing I was completely unprepared for, in spite of all my diligent preparation. I did not enjoy pregnancy, or felt like I had some mythical glow or had found the meaning to life and was hiding it in my uterus. I felt guilty about that, but finally crystallised in my mind that loving my unborn baby and hating the process of growing him were two separate things.  And the birth was a nightmare of pain and failed epidurals that ended with me giving birth flat on my back with my legs in my air in an operating theatre with an audience of medical staff under fluro lights. It was not the beautiful scene of meaningful pain I triumphed over while angels sang in the background that I had been led to believe. Sebastian was born, and put on my chest for about 30 seconds while my hands were still too full of needles to hold him properly, and then he was taken away while my ordeal continued as I was stitched up.

I did not properly hold my son until about an hour after he was born, but when I did, it was exceptional. I was lucky enough to be one of those women who felt an instant bond with my child. I say ‘lucky’, because I know it is not always this way for women, and sometimes takes time and help for that bond to form, and some women finding that initial bond and some women not seems to be down to chance. We have a video my father took of me holding him, an enormous 10lbs 2oz (4.6kg) of fat, bloody, mewling baby. I held him to my chest, skin to skin with a blanket around both of us, rocking him as he made little baby noises, and I was in love.

We took him home a few days later, after a brief but stressful hospital stay. Being home with your newborn, I learned, is 90% panic and 10% furtive glee. We learned. Our whole lives had changed with the arrival of Sebastian, and money was still tight, and Alex had indeed gone back to study for a year, and I was being a stay-at-home mum. Within twelve months we had started dating, gotten pregnant, moved in together, nested, and had the baby. Sebastian was three months old when we went away together for our one year anniversary.

We still do not have a lot of money. Alex works full time, and I was working part time but that seems to have died off and I am job hunting again. We plan to get married, someday. We live in the country now, in a little cottage on my parents’ property in the Dandenong Ranges. Sebastian will be turning two in July (two!), and Alex and I will celebrate our third anniversary in September, and we are muddling along, making a life for ourselves, trying to keep a hold on what we love to do and how to make it work with a family.

The answer is yes, by the way. We do love each other.

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