Running up the down escalator

From over on my ‘professional’ site. Thought it might resonate with some of you following me here!

Polly O'Callaghan

The last week I have to admit I’ve asked myself if I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. I’ve asked myself if I’m failing because I want to try to do more. And in wanting to do more I’m doing less in other areas of my life. Areas of my life that I should not be abandoning.

By Friday morning I was teary. I went to training down at the beach, and when I got home I did something I rarely do nowadays – I asked my husband for a hug. I heard the tremor in my voice when I asked for it too.

Because, here’s the thing…

I want to be in control. I want to run my own business, build my own little empire. I want to do what I love best. I want to succeed. I want to succeed in all areas of my life.

So…

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When you know you’ve failed

Been meaning to write this blog for a few weeks. I started jotting it down when I was laden with guilt a few weeks back. I felt upset about something I had done, something I was responsible for, and I felt like the only way to find some kind resolution was to a) address what I did and b) tell my story in the hope that my honesty would go some way to remove some of these faux presentations of our lives on social media.

I have been thinking more and more about how much BS there is on social media – and by that I mean these pretty pictures we pose of our lives – our kids, our relationships, our buzzing social lives. It’s a glimpse into our lives behind which there is often a different story. I watched a video that really resonated with me, and kind of drove this niggling feeling home. This is the video:

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Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m sure many, MANY happy pictures are genuine. And I love that. It makes me happy! My heart is drawn to looking for the positives in our lives and I find a negative newsfeed weighs heavy on my heart. I can’t be the only one despairing at the number of videos I see of animal cruelty, child abuse and the ruining of our beautiful eco-system. And yet, it’s out there. Sometimes it weighs so heavy I just want to ban the internet from my life and live in ignorant bliss.

But that’s another story… another blog. The point I was trying to make is that while I believe being involved in negative conversations can be really damaging to our frame of mind and outlook on life, it can also be refreshing to have the freedom to say:

“You know what, I hate the world today. Irrationally I am grateful for nothing this morning. F*** the sunrise.”

Or, “Why the heck is my husband so bloody annoying? Why can he never take his boots off before he walks in the door, and why can’t he think for just two seconds that maybe I don’t want a pair of pyjamas for Mother’s Day.”

Sometimes, you have just got to let it out in an intimate setting with those friends who know the real you, and understand that you just need to vent. That you’re just human. That you’re flawed and you don’t wake up every day feeling grateful to see the sun and head-over-heels in love with your husband.

Am-I-right?

I hope so. Or you’re all just going to think I’m just a super ungrateful bitch. And sometimes I guess I am. I try to keep it to small moments but… it is what it is.

One thing I know is I really messed up the other week. So, yes… back to that…

Let’s be straight up – Mr OC and I are not the kind of couple who never argues. We are the kind of couple who probably bickers more than we should. We know that. There… I said it. We are both very argumentative people. We are also both very stubborn. And I never like to let anyone have the last word. I fought like heck with my mother as a youngster, and then with my best friend, and now I do the same with my hubby. I guess I’m just like that with the person I’m closest to – I don’t do confrontation in any other aspect of my life. If anything I avoid it. Go figure…

Anyhow… this one Thursday night a little bicker about something small and stupid (which it must have been because I cannot even remember what it was) escalated. I got super mad when Mr OC walked away from me while I was trying to explain something (to do with what we were fighting over), and it just blew up from there.

None of that really matters now – because the problem wasn’t what we were fighting over or how it escalated. The problem was that our voices got loud enough and I got upset enough that I suddenly looked at my baby girl and she was crying. I’d upset her by being so upset myself. I was so caught up in how I felt about the situation that I had inflicted insecurity onto her.

In my mind, it was the biggest failure I’ve ever made. How could I have failed her so badly? How could I have got so lost in that moment, been so selfish in wanting to get my point made and my feelings out that I couldn’t just let it go and think of how that might affect her? Was it really worth it to make my point? No. Not even slightly.

I mean, yes, I want her to know her mummy is human, but not at the detriment to her pysche. In my mind, there are NO excuses. I was sobbing and shaking with rage. And all I can hope to goodness is that my daughter is young enough that her brain somehow loses that memory completely and never troubles her with it again.

I don’t write this to cleanse myself. I write this, because I want to confess. I want to hold my hand up and say that behind closed doors we are NOT perfect. And I’m nervous about doing it.

We love each other, we have some amazing moments, and each day I see something else beautiful in our family that I didn’t see the day before. My heart is full and I know we are a strong team. But honestly, there are flaws… imperfections – and some of them are pretty. But some are not. And so, I will learn from my mistakes and I will do better.

 

Feeling broody?? What the…?

Last week… no wait, over two weeks ago (omg) my little bubby turned 9 months. It felt like a very significant month to reach because of the whole nine months in the womb, nine months out of the womb thing.

At exactly the same time I also found myself doing several unexpected things.

I started fondly reminiscing about her being a tiny newborn. Anyone who knows me knows this is a little out of character. As much as I love my baby girl, and as ecstatically happy as I was when we finally got to meet her, I found those early weeks challenging. Challenging as any new mum would, but nonetheless I have certainly found more to enjoy as she’s grown. I guess having a newborn can be a shock to the system, a total lack of predicitability – and if you treasure sleep and routine like I did, it knocks you for six.

But… newborn days are precious and that tiny little being felt to me like the first baby ever made in the history of man – purely because it felt so miraculous and so profound that she had come to exist – this perfect, tiny bundle of part me, part her dad. 

I get so teary looking at photos or videos of babies being born. I think there are several things I would change second time around in labour and birth and one of them would be to have the moment baby comes into this world captured. There are some amazing pictures out there and with this first time I wasn’t sure I wanted a camera to be involved but now I know I want to look back and treasure that moment. So much changes so quickly and each day I realise, more and more, just how amazing it is that our daughter is with us. How lucky we are and how beautiful it is to watch her grow. 

Aside from feeling all soppy about Baby OC making her entrance into this world all of a sudden there was more than one post on my online mother’s group from mums who are now pregnant again. These are the ladies I went through my pregnancy with – and now they’re on the journey again. Which suddenly makes it more of a reality that I could be if I wanted too. 

Then there’s my timehop and Facebook memories – I was in my third trimester this time last year – her arrival was imminent and pregnancy felt so very all-consuming. And also exciting – we were on the final countdown and impatiently awaiting the arrival of our Jellybean. 

When I held my friend’s newborn daughter a few weeks ago she was so tiny, and so sleepy. 

And so un-put-downable! Remember those days? When babywearing was the life saver and the sofa had a butt-shaped imprint from where you were permanently attached to it?

Heck I do. And I also know there will be very little of sofa time second time round with another small human in the equation! Yikes. 

But we are not there yet. Don’t worry, no announcements…

Mr OC and I have both expressed we are keen to have a second but right now there are several reasons I won’t be joining the other pregnant mummas just yet.

Firstly, I had an emergency Caesarean Section and so I was told by the doctor that I shouldn’t get pregnant til 12-18 months post-surgery. Secondly, we want to upsize to a house before we extend our family. Finally, I wanted a calendar year where nothing major happened – in the last 4 years we have moved 3 times, bought our place, changed jobs, started our businesses, got married, had Mr OC’s eldest live with us, walked 100km, done home renovations, had Little Miss OC and so much more. It’s been a hectic few years and I wanted to just have this year to just ‘be’. I wanted to just watch our little girl grow and have the time and energy to enjoy that. I wanted to enjoy getting aspects of my old life back. 

And so far we are doing all of that and it feels good. 

Sometimes you need to just stand back and breathe life in. So broody or not, another baby OC is on hold for bit longer yet. 

 

An equal home

It’s Mother’s Day here in Australia (and in many parts of the world but not back in the UK) and it’s got me to thinking about what I do as a mum, what I don’t do, what value I add to our family, what I do that would be missed if I wasn’t around to do it.

I was thinking about what we do for my hubby on Father’s Day – what do we thank him for? He’s had a few more Fathers’ days than I’ve had Mothers’ Days and I have tried to do something (or many small things) for him on each of those days.

For me, before I was a mother, Mother’s Day (or Mothering Sunday in the UK) was about being present and thanking my mum for all the many things she has done for me: sacrifices she has made, hours she has worked, dinners she has cooked, discipline she has laid, the future she paved for me and so much more. And, of course, as I’ve become a mum that has not only underlined how important all those things that she did (and does still) are, but also it’s made me think of all the things that I didn’t even appreciate. Like just carrying my around in pregnancy, going through labour, putting her dreams on hold to care for me and make sure I was safe and loved.

And, back when I was little, it wasn’t commonplace for dads to share the load. And while my dad might have doted on me, I know he was not the most supportive partner to my mum. He did these amazing things like putting me to bed at night in the most creative and imaginative ways – Mickey and Minnie shows, songs with the guitar, reading Hobberdy Dick and The Chronicles of Narnia. And he picked me up from school, took me on bike rides, always came to find me, make me understand and say sorry to my mum when I had been playing up. But I also know that there were periods of time when mum was raising me alone, when she was doing her best for me when she probably was unhappy and stressed.

So, these days when I see the many, many articles out there on how dads need to do more for mum, and how a dad taking care of his child is not something impressive, it’s just ordinary – I completely agree with them. But when I read them I confess I realise I’m pretty damn lucky. Don’t get me wrong, I’m writing this on a day when I got given a Happy Birthday card instead of a Mother’s Day card, and when at 9am this morning we’d already had a fight about something silly. My life is not perfect – I didn’t get the perfect card and present, lunch wasn’t booked at my favourite place to eat and Little Miss DID vomit down the lovely outfit I picked for her today.

It doesn’t matter. Not really.

What matters is I never feel like I’m struggling without my husband’s help. And if I do  – it’s only for a short time before he realises and switches things up. I am never the only one getting up in the night (not now we’re both back at work). I am definitely not the only one doing the cleaning  – I think Mr OC vacuums nearly every day given half the chance. I do not have to worry about leaving him with her, because he shares the care. On Monday to Wednesday she goes to daycare, on Thursday she and I are home together, on Friday her and daddy are home together. Our home is an equal one.

And I know I’m one of the lucky ones. I know this isn’t the case for everyone. And I know there are times when I still have felt like I was weighed down with the magnitude of my responsibility. But these have always been finite periods of time and things always evened out.

So, today, when we are thankful for our mothers, I do hope to be thanked. I do want to be appreciated. But I also want to thank my husband, without whom I would have found motherhood even more challenging.

We all fall down…

Before Little Miss OC came along, Mr OC and I rarely got sick. At one time, Mr OC was a workaholic and I thought it was all going to catch up with him, but he kept powering through. And I used to have a record at work for having the least sick days, bar my boss.

Oh how times change.

When I first started back at work and Miss OC went to daycare I think I was sick everyday for about three weeks. It started off with the worst bout of gastro I’ve ever had (which involved vomiting into a bag on the bus home from work) and a pregnant lady (who should have been running a mile) collecting tissues from everyone for me to use and giving me her sick bag. Mr OC had to pick me up somewhere along my bus route as I was literally covered in my own sick. Since then, sick bags have never been left out of my handbag.

From there I got cold after cold… after cold – and so did Little Miss. It kind of sucked. I don’t like feeling unhealthy and I think I resented that another thing I was proud of from my old life had disappeared – my excellent health. I was still walking Miss OC to daycare every day and eating well. But it wasn’t a health regime like before, and with sleep deprivation (she was teething at the time, and also night feed weaning) to boot, I was struggling.

A work colleague recommended I take Floradix everyday for iron boost and, I have to say, it helped at the time to get me out of the cycle. I try to take vitamin c and zinc whenever I feel a cold coming and, usually I can keep it at bay.

And I’m now back at training which definitely helps boost my immunity. For me, strong body, strong immune system – they definitely go hand in hand.

But this past week we’ve literally all been struck down… one by one, dropping like flies. It’s been such a crappy week in some ways. When I came home from work on Friday, bubby was getting a cold. Snot everywhere. So I put the vaporiser on in her room and we battled through the weekend with broken sleep as she couldn’t breathe well, and developed a cough. By Monday I was feeling exhausted and decided to stay home and bub stayed with me. By Tuesday I went back to work and hubby stayed home with her – a trip to the doctors told us she had mild bronchitis and thanks to a Ventolin and a baby adaptor contraption thingammy (see pic) she has progressively got better.

IMG_5288
Ventolin with small child adaptor

And then of course, I started feeling like rubbish too – glands swelling and nose like a leaky tap.

I had lots of hot lemon and honey, and early nights, and took solace in the fact that I was not alone (everyone seemed to miss book club on Tuesday for the same reason) and that at least I could recover at night as Little Miss was now sleeping through again.

Then this morning I woke up to the dulcet tones of a clogged up husband. As I type he is driving home from work early (it’s lunchtime) and I think he’s about ready to hit the hay.

I feel like I’ve fallen behind on work as I’ve been in the office just one day so far this week. Yesterday I struggled through trying to work from home – the same day bub decided that she was not keen to sleep and wanted to start throwing tantrums. It was just one of those days.

Today is my usual day off and I am seriously considering using nap time (bubby’s not mine) for some catch up. Having said that my house is filthy and there is a massive pile of clean laundry with my name on it… but I so can’t be bothered.

Homemade baby wipes – trying to be Eco- friendly

If you haven’t seen it already there is a brilliant video that has gone viral, showing how a brilliant mumma makes her own baby wipes. And you can watch it here

Like many these days, I try my best to only buy toiletries with natural ingredients both for myself and for baby girl OC. However, also like many, I am driven by cost sometimes and I found a very cheap brand of wipes that did the job and didn’t give bubby nappy rash. 

But to be honest, when I was pregnant I had great ideas about how I was going to be as ecologically friendly as possible when it came to nappies. I bought a sample pack of MCN (modern cloth nappies) that I love from Hippybottomus and I was decided that I would do my best to use them when at home. And I have to certain extent but I by no means exclusively use them. I don’t really have a decent excuse for that other than my bub hates the heat and we had a ridiculously hot summer and we don’t have air con – the cloth nappies are thick and fleecy and she just seems too hot in them. And then we got out the habit of wearing them. 

I also tried Eco nappies from HelloCharlie.com.au as my friend uses nappies from there, but then money got very, very tight a few months back and I just couldn’t afford to buy nappies at 2 or 3 times the cost of the ones I could get at the supermarket.

A couple of weeks back Baby Girl had diarrhoea and we were away and used different wipes to usual too. The result was a bad nappy rash that was soooo sore for her. We resorted to an old method of bum wiping – large cotton wool balls and water – which is what we used on her from birth until she was probably about 3 months old. We even supplied her day care with cotton wool balls so that they wouldn’t use the wipes on her for a few days. The chemicals in them just exacerbate the rash. 

So, when I saw the video it was perfectly timed. But I thought to myself that I could probably use cheap baby flannels/facecloths instead of wasting more paper. Kmart sell 12 packs of these flannels in the baby section which we already use for…well, face cloths!! Ha! So I bought an extra pack or two and made up the recipe in a 1 litre Pyrex jug as follows:

  • 2 table spoons of coconut oil 
  • 2 squirts of Eco store shower gel (my own shower gel!)
  • Top up with freshly boiled water And whisk til mixed in. 
  • Pour the mixture over the flannels which I folded over once lengthways in a medium size rectangular tub (with clip on lid). 
  • Leave to soak up
  • If there is excess liquid then drain

Easy! 

I found that using these as wipes is great. Coconut oil is a great cleaning agent anyway (I use it to remove my make up) and it leaves her bum so soft and clean and usually even with a poo I only use one flannel, two at most. 

A couple of other tips:

  • I have a nappy bucket where I then chuck the pooey cloths and then pop them in a hot wash every couple of days. 
  • I wouldn’t recommend washing with MCNs because the oil will probably ruin the absorbency of the nappies. 
  • I also found I need a Terry towel on the side (we keep an abundance of them stacked under her changing table) to pat down the bum a little after wiping as it can sometimes be a little damp. 

It doesn’t take long at all to make these and I feel so much better knowing I’m not using nasty chemicals on Baby Girl OC and I can feel slightly less guilty about the environment too. 

Here is a quick video I did on snap chat. You’ll see I have sorbolene lotion there too but I decided not to add any and I don’t think I needed it. 

Have you made your own wipes? What works for you? 

Month 4 – getting a proper personality

It was in this month I remember starting to get so excited about her little personality

I can still look back and see this month as an up and down period – for example we still contended with trying to work out how to get places without her screaming the car down but as the weather started warming up for summer, this little miss started noticing her feet and showing wonderful little developments.

The waking up cooing and chatting (after mostly sleeping through) was becoming frequent and the smiling was too.

The main thing I remember about this month was that we were now officially old enough to start swimming and of all the things I’ve done with my baby girl – this is the thing I’m most glad we tried and stuck with. She loved it and seemed to take to it naturally straight away – enjoying floating on her back and looking around her taking it all in. We still swim every week in her Jump! swim class and it is the highlight of my week, watching how she loves it and gets so much out of it.

We also started to try and take her in other pools – but the best thing about the Jump! pools is that they keep them very warm for the kids – especially the bubs.

Other things of note were she slowly started being able to hold some soft and easy to manage toys – soft rattles and things. She also grew very attached to her musical mobile above her bassinet – it turned into a brilliant fall back when she was upset. You could simply put her underneath it, turn it on and she would instantly stop crying and start cooing and moving her arms and legs in appreciation.

I remember trying to increase her tummy time in this month – but she never really liked it much. I still put her on her tummy and she did get more used to it, but you had to time it with a good mood (hers not mine!) and something interesting to look at like the cat or a favourite toy. A lot of other babies we knew we were doing better in tummy time from what I remember and these are the babies that seem to be mobile before her. But, having said that, one of the girls from my mums group couldn’t put her bub into tummy time as she had hip issues and had to wear braces for a time – this baby girl ended up loving being stood up (supported of course) when all the other bubs were rolling around on the floor. So, it’s certainly very true that every bub is different – and I’d have to remind myself of that and learn not to stress over small differences.

At this age she had this cute little habit of putting her hands up and stroking whatever she found above her head  – so usually if she was being held by her daddy then she would stroke his beard, and if she was sat in her bouncy seat she would stroke the sheepskin we’d put on it. Sometimes there would be a muslin on the back of it and she would reach far enough to pull it down and you’d turn around and see her holding this giant piece of muslin, which she would invariably start sucking on. This often was a comfort thing for her too and we started to give her a muslin to cuddle to sleep. In fact, even now (at 8 months) she still has a muslin (or muzzy as we call it) in her bag for daycare, which they give her for her naps… with her comforter bunny. Well, I’m guessing they still do. They probably don’t need to give her the muzzy anymore. Things move on very quickly with these bubs!

Which… actually, is definitely the theme of the next month or two!

Changes changes changes

As Baby Girl OC has moved into the second 6 months of her first year I cannot believe how quickly she is growing and changing before our eyes. All of sudden I feel I can’t quite keep up! Not just because she’s my little baby that’s turning into a big baby and will soon enough be a toddler, but also because I realise that time has snuck up on me and my postnatal progress too.

There was something that changed on me before I expecting it and that was for bubby to stop breastfeeding. When I had her I had no major expectations around being able to breastfeed her. I knew I wanted to breastfeed and that it was my preference, but I had prepared myself in case the situation should arise where I couldn’t do so. Luckily I got my wish and we settled into breastfeeding just fine.

I had always said if we successfully breastfed that I would do so until she was a year old. At 6 months she had to start daycare and I returned to work a couple of weeks later. My supply had actually dropped a fair amount and so it seemed totally feasible to drop down to morning and possibly evening feeds and the rest of the day she would get formula supplied by her daycare. However, 2 weeks later, not long after her first two teeth came through, she was messing around more than usual on the boob. She didn’t even really feed. A couple of days later I gave up the fight. She hasn’t looked back, she was clearly ready to move on… she’s never once indicated she wanted or needed it since. For a day or so, I felt strange… but I really tried very hard not to let it get to me. I was proud of the 6 months we’d done and happy that she was happy. That was all that mattered.

I didn’t realise quite how deflated my boobs would become once my milk went away though. At first I just figured I was just used to having my pregnant and milk heavy boobs. But no, the continues to deflate like a balloon a week after the party finished. It’s quite sad. I tried on a push up bra and my boobs just kind of wobbled uselessly around in them like some soggy old dishclothes in a washing machine. Ahhh boobs. I miss you.

Yes. Sadly, one of the other things I knew would change was my body, but I wasn’t aware to what extent.

In the third trimester of pregnancy I realised I was getting BIG… and I also had to stop training. I was finding that with long days of work and commuting I was too exhausted to also fit in training. I don’t regret that decision. By the time I was about 35 weeks I was struggling to walk up my driveway (it is really steep) or down the road to the bus stop. But that decision undoubtedly affected my fitness or lack thereof. What also didn’t help was my ‘no food is off limits’  – I guess I felt that after years of watching what I eat, this was my chance to not give a monkeys for a few weeks.

And also, I was like… REALLY hungry.

Although, another reason my body changed is because I chose not to do any running from the minute I found out I was pregnant. I know some people run in pregnancy but I am in my mid-thirties and I had wanted to be pregnant for some time – we weren’t actively trying for more than about three months, but we hadn’t ‘not tried’ for ages prior. I didn’t want to jeopardise anything in those delicate early weeks, and by the time I reached the second trimester I was having huge pain in my hips and pelvis. This passed by the later end of the second trimester but by then I felt too big and it had been many months since my last run. Prior to that I would run 4-5 times a week.

I continued to get a lot of pain from one hip in particular and by the time I had baby girl I knew my body was pretty buggered. I had a good pregnancy, but it definitely took its toll on my body. My legs, which had been like tree trunks for 3-4 months (with massive fluid retention), returned to normal, but I had to get to the physio for my hip and abs (just two fingers of separation which isn’t too bad).

And a big wobbly spare tyre around my waist.

Soooo….

I knew when I returned to training it was not going to be an easy journey.

Moreover, trying to work out when to do things for myself is difficult enough. I run a bookclub and just about manage to read the book each month. I go to bed really early because my days are FULL ON.

You see, I think by the time you reach my age you know who you are and what works for you from a motivational perspective. Or you know what WON’T work anyways. For example, I know that I don’t (ok… rarely ever) turn up to any training that happens in the evening. I HAVE to train in the morning, the minute I get up, before I have the chance to make excuses or get weighed down by all the other things I have to do. What’s more, it totally sets me up for the day. Ok, it also usually means I find it hard to get up and down out of my seat, and/or run for the bus, but MENTALLY speaking… it sorts me the heck out.

So that’s all well and good but I am with my baby girl in the mornings so how do I train? Mr OC goes to work for 6am so I am with her in the morning and he collects her from daycare in the evening. Then once a week I am off work with her, and once a week he is off work with her. So that leaves the weekends and the day he is off spare for me to train. As such… I eventually gave myself a kick up the bum and said to myself – it IS do-able, you CAN fit it in, there ARE options and ways to do these things. You’ve simply got to just bloody do it.

Start. Somewhere.

And this followed weeks of agonising over whether I went to the gym at lunch (tried a weeks’ free trial – hated it. Prefer being outdoors). You see the gym never worked for me on its own as a training mechanisms before so I figured that trying to start something new or that hadn’t worked in the past was possibly the worst way to get back into my fitness regime. I realised I’d have to go back to the thing that worked best, the familiar and successful methods I’d used in the past.

So I contacted my old trainer and she slotted me in and by the end of the week I was doing 2 days a week. This is a great place to start!

And don’t get me wrong. I was nervous heading back. I knew I was out of shape. What I hadn’t anticipated was how uncoordinated I’d be. And how it would take me a few weeks to just remember how some simple moves and postures. Or to understand and follow instructions that previously were like second nature. I felt like a complete fool in the first boxing session I did. It didn’t help that I had to bring Little Miss OC with me to that session as Mr OC works some Saturdays. I kept stuffing up the routines and asking my partner what we were supposed to be doing. And then I would have to break off to get to bubby as she was upset or trying to eat mud or something….

Yep… it hasn’t been easy on my body or my mind but I’m sticking at it. Because every time I see an old pic of myself I don’t see what I looked like as much as someone who was less anxious, more positive – exercise really helps my mind go to a good place. And regular, routine training keeps me in a healthy place physically and mentally.
Before I got quite fit I was often sick with colds. These colds nearly always turned to sinusitis. These bouts all but disappeared for the 3 years prior to having Baby girl. And a decent run of killer sinus trouble – the kind where your head feels like it might pop and your eyes hurt behind the socket… for days on end – really cemented the need to be strong and fit again.

But it’s a journey. It’s not going to be an easy one, and I will stumble my way through it, most likely. What’s more, it’s weird and emotional adjusting to a different body and a different mind with which to achieve the things I want. But I have goals and I am lining up to kick them and it all feels pretty darn nice.

Now follows some motivational pictures of me when I used to run a lot. Haha!

What changes did you find hard as you approached the end of your first year after pregnancy?

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Switching off

Is it me or does it suddenly get much harder to read the news when you’re a mum?

Or read a book.

Or watch a film.

And I don’t mean because the small humans prevent us from doing so…

Though that is also an issue.

It’s more that since I’ve had baby girl OC, and even prior to that, when I was pregnant with her, I have suddenly found anything involving small children or babies, or even a mother daughter/father daughter relationship more gut wrenching than ever before.

It all started when we were re-watching all of Game of Thrones. You know how Craster kills off all the babies who are not girls – or rather he leaves them to the White Walkers as a sacrifice so that they leave him be, and he can continue to have sex with his daughters, keeping only the girl babies (for more sexy times) and getting rid of the boy babies who, of course, would be a threat to his nice little set-up. You didn’t know this? Ok, well so you don’t think I’ve finally lost the plot, you can read about this guy here:

http://gameofthrones.wikia.com/wiki/Craster

Anyway, the point is, there are two scenes which involve leaving a crying newborn baby in the cold, snowy and dark forest, all alone. Never has a tiny baby looked so defenceless – so innocent and undeserving of the cruel world into which it’s been born. Never has tv been so upsetting.

Until the scene with Walda Bolton (nee Frey) when she and her newborn baby (the heir to the Bolton empire) are torn to pieces by rabid dogs that evil Ramsey Bolton sets on them.

It’s honestly a great show.

Really.

But that was just the start. That was when I suddenly realised I couldn’t even physically bring myself to watch these scenes (that I’d actually seen before), but that now forced me to walk out the room and try to hold my shit together.

Unfortunately reality doesn’t give me much of a break either. A couple of months ago it was the story of the baby whose life was tragically taken in the pedestrian/car accident in Melbourne. And in the last week we have had to read about the mother who tried to kill her sons in the Murray River. It’s all so heartbreaking.

Honestly, I now can’t go near an article or book if it is going to take about child abuse. I always knew my mum was unable to read or watch anything that had that in the storyline and I always felt she was very sensitive. I understood her feelings, but it didn’t affect me like it did her.

And now I am totally on the same page. It sucks really that I had to become a parent to be able to truly feel a strong adversity to these atrocities, but at the same time it plainly just sucks (understatement of the century) that these things can possibly happen to innocent children. They of all people should be free from such monstrous goings-on. Once you’re a parent, if you weren’t already massively upset about these things you probably will be before long.

Last night I was chatting with one of my best mates whose son is 3.5 months older than Little Miss OC, she was saying she was watching a documentary on Dunblane but had had to turn it off. She wouldn’t even tell me what channel it was on. And she was right to do so. We would have both had nightmares if we had watched it.

Which got me to thinking. Surely the worst pain anyone can feel is to be a parent that loses a child? There is no measure of grief. But never has it been so clear to me what it is to love so unconditionally. To feel like a being is an extension of you. To know that what hurts that child hurts you. And if anything were to happen to her that it doesn’t even bear thinking of.

I have a friend who lost her daughter when she was about two years old. It is something for which you cannot really comfort her. Words and actions might show love and support to her and her family… but we have talked about how that grief doesn’t ever go away. It’s been ten years since the little girl passed but this year it affected me more than it has in the past – I felt even more helpless to take away pain for my friend, and I felt so upset in my commemoration of this tiny life lost. I knew it wasn’t about me, but as we let balloons into the sky for her, as is done each year, I couldn’t help but look at my lovely little girl and feel like my heart might explode in just considering what we were for there that day.

And apparently there’s no escaping from the tragedies of the world in a good book. Or at least, not in the ones I’ve recently been reading. We read The Light Between Oceans for Bookclub the month before lost. I’d already read it as a non-mum years ago but my now-mum friend read it and said “It’s not really the easiest read for new mums is it?!” And she’s right. The last month it was Big Little Lies. Now, this book is meant to be quite light-hearted but I still found it hard when Jane’s son Ziggy was crying and saying none of his kindergarten friends would play with him. Urgh. Ok ok. I get it. Kids are the greatest. Can you stop tugging at my heart please? And then this month, well Hannah Kent… you marvelled us all with Burial Rites and so I chose your new book The Good People. Poor unknowing me. It’s only mostly about a little handicapped boy in 1825 in rural Ireland where there was very poor understanding of things like Cerebal Palsy or any such affliction. This book damn near broke me. I shed some tears. It didn’t, in the end, take away from my enjoyment. But I sure felt some strong urges to hide it under my pillow at times.

So, it seems, I’m way too sensitive, and new motherhood has merely put me at further risk. I could be brought to uncontrollable tears and yes I might occasionally be able to blame hormones or sleep deprivation. But the main cause of my newfound inability to cope with anything involving small children coming to any harm is down to that gorgeous little human known as my daughter. And I’m cool with that. Even if I have to stop reading the news and half of the tv shows.

What IWD means to me

 

Today is March 8th – International Women’s Day. I don’t think of myself as particularly feminist and yet I felt compelled to write something this year. And I don’t think that women’s rights have been at the forefront of my mind in ‘things I want to change in the world’.

Until recently.

I don’t know if it’s my age or the journey I’ve been on with pregnancy and new motherhood or that feminism seems (from where I’m sitting) to be becoming more and more commonly spoken of and with less of a negative spin. It’s probably a combination of all three. Plus I now have a daughter – so I feel concern over the world that I can help create for her.

If I were to pinpoint a time when I began finding more understanding of what it means to be a feminist it would probably be in pregnancy.

But let’s look a little further back than that. When I started my job I was the only female in my office. And coincidentally the eldest. We were a small office and I found that over the first couple of months my preference for organisation and cleanliness saw me doing little things like making sure the tea towels in the kitchen were laundered.

I soon realised my mistake as I started to be seen as the person who would take sole responsibility for such things. I was (affectionately I suppose) referred to as the mother hen. But what does that actually say? I’m pecking everyone into order? I’m mothering everyone. I think the connotation is double sided.

Over time we have more women in our office and over time I’ve learnt to respectfully encourage others to also to help with buying the office groceries (now mostly looked after by one of the guys in our team) – we don’t have anyone who actually looks after all these things so we have to share the load. And these days I think we do it well.

Similarly when I became pregnant I realised I was going to be the first in our Australian team to be pregnant, the first to take maternity leave. The first to deal with all the ‘interesting’ aspects of pregnancy – sitting uncomfortably, nausea, not lifting things, swollen feet/legs, hormones (hormones, and more hormones), fatigue and waddling around as I turned into the size of a house. And that wasn’t even mentioning the need to be absent to get to antenatal appointments and scans galore. Part of me felt like there were going to be no issues as everyone would be very understanding but part of me felt that all of these things wouldn’t work in my favour to be taken seriously as a manager at my level. Or that none of these things would help in understanding that I am equal to my male colleagues. I’m clearly not!

And this wondering was simply that – nothing outwardly said or done – just me attaching a stigma to myself, doubting my position… and all based on what I believed society had taught me to understand about the role of women and women in the workplace.

I continued to do this in the last month, in my return to work from maternity leave. I feel I am fighting really hard to prove I’m as good if not better at my job now. I don’t want there to be room for a doubt that because I have my brain on my daughter – did I sterilise her bottle or remember to pack her sun hat for daycare? I need to work on those slides this weekend so I need to remember to make sure Mr OC isn’t working on Sunday afternoon. I need to cook up some veggies for her dinners for the next few nights when I get home. I have to leave early to pick her up as hubby is held up or sick etc etc…

And I want to prove I don’t have to be in the office five days a week to do an excellent job. Because I’m simply amazing.

Simply exhausted more like.

But I don’t want to slip. I don’t want to leave an inch of room to be referred to in a way where it’s “well that’s ok, we don’t expect you to do that because you’re a mum/ you’re a woman so you are never going to be fully committed to your job in the way a man is”.

Is that right? I don’t know.

Or should I be saying – this is being a  woman? I can do it all. And maybe that is why we should be paid more than men. Not less.

What I do know is I’m trying to get to grips with the importance of feminism.

I was shocked and disgusted to hear that daycare workers (a predominantly female industry) were left with no option but to strike on IWD over low pay. These Cert III qualified educators are not paid as much as a Cert III qualified electrician. Why?! Why are we not paying them more?! The job they do is vital. They are being mum, dad, teacher and role model. The are nurturing and teaching our children while we go and do something else. To me they’re invaluable.

And this is another example of how poorly we support the post-natal path. Not only is it commonplace, around the globe, to offer poor paternity leave schemes and payments, making it very hard for parents to NOT return to work (regardless of their own wishes) and yet, we do a crap job of supporting the systems that enable these parents to be able to go back to the workplace – the child carers. It’s ridiculous.

Wasn’t it Joe Hockey who made the outrageous comment that if you want to afford a house in Sydney’s stupid housing market then all you need to do is make sure you get a ‘good job’.

Well, Mr Hockey, I would suggest these early childhood educators have a good job. And yet, they will not be able to afford a house in this market now or anytime in the future if things continue this way. And the same could be said for our nurses (and whole host of other jobs I am sure I’ve missed). All these people who we simply cannot function without as a society are working the longest hours, making the most difference to our future (our children, our health… ) and yet getting paid pittance for it.

Anyway, I’ve gone on for longer than I meant to and my bus is about to arrive in the city… I’m not taking a day off work today as many women will. But for my best girl friends and their daughters, my nieces, my stepdaughter, my daughter and for the future of the human race today and on going I will be bold for change.