Wednesday, 28 April 2010


I work as an English teacher with teen mums and we have 3 mums with young babies who have just started with us. It is the first time since Ella was wee that I have been around tiny new babies for more than a visit for a cup of tea. It has shocked me how much it has brought back about those first few months with Ella. I had forgotten how tiny she was and how much I was just guessing about what to do. I rocked one of the little boys to sleep yesterday and it was almost too much for me to remember my desperation when I rocked Ella, that she would sleep, that I would sleep. That I wouldn't feel so terrified and exhausted and desperate.

It is easy to believe now that I am coping well and just have to remember to take two white pills, to believe I am well. That that terrible time in my life is gone and I can pretend it didn't happen. But the awful sick feeling I had as I looked at these new mamas and their bubs reminds me that I am not okay. That I carry scars and that healing must happen.

Recently many of the Mums I know have been talking about having another child. Honestly, I feel nothing but shock at even contemplating such a crazy thing. For me it feels like a path that would lead to despair and doom. Now those are not the thoughts of a well and healed woman! So even though it is so tempting to pretend that everything is fine. It is not. I love my life now and I am content but there is unfinished business and I hope that I can have the courage and honesty to face it and not just brush it away with another two white pills.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Through a child's eyes

I recently spent a long weekend at the beach I stayed at when I was little. It was so wonderful to revisit a place which has such strong, happy memories for me. But it reminded me of how untrustworthy memory is. I remembered the long walk to the shop. It is actually only 2 baches down the road. I remembered the walk over the hill to the next bay as being a huge tramp and Mum encouraging us to keep going so we could have a piece of chocolate at the end. It is actually only a 10 minute walk. But on little legs it would have been formidable. In my mind the surf was huge and the beach enormous. Don't get me started on how far I thought it was from home!

Now seeing it from a greater height and with the perspective or an adult stride suddenly it looks quite different. I am no longer fascinated by the corner store or the distance over the hill. But now I can see just how precious a bach holiday at the beach is and how beautiful and peaceful it is. I can see how the baches are becoming beach houses and life is changing so quickly. I now know how privileged I was to have those holidays and that my daughter's generation may not even know what I am talking about when I tell stories about my childhood when I am old, wrinkly and smell funny.

Bursting Bubbles

Today and really and the last couple of weeks have felt like a constant process of bubbles bursting. You know, those lovely but maybe naive beliefs about life and how it works that we grow up believing are true and how life should work and slowly as we grow up (or for some, suddenly and all at once) they burst.

At the moment it seems that all the bubbles have burst. All around me and in my own life people are dealing with the fact that life doesn't work out the way you want it to and often the things you hope and pray for either don't happen or when they do, don't turn out as planned. And I have to say that it makes me sad and it makes me mad. And I wish it was not this way and I wish I had something more positive and profound to say about it. But I don't.

And I hope in hindsight there will be more to it than this and more goodness rather than the sadness and disappointment I feel right now.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

My secret life

Since I became a Mum I have been slowly working through the fundamental struggles which most Mums have. Sleep and food. Both for me and for Ella. They are such controversial areas among parents and apparent 'experts'. I have asked so many people for advice and wrestled with what works for Ella, for me, for our family and strangely often the opinions I have given the most attention are other people. Why when these people probably don't care and certainly don't look after Ella, would I care what other people think? But I am painfully aware of the way some parenting practices are viewed and never wanted to be prejudged from a distance as 'kooky' or strange.

So as a result I feel like my life is divided into "acceptable in public" and "needs to be secret". So this brings me back to food and sleep. Ella has been breastfed since birth and though I was so ill at the beginning I am proud that she has never had formula. I truly believe that breastfeeding is normal and all a baby needs till at least 6 months. I believe that formula is inferior and is associated with babies becoming ill and interfering with supply. I am really aware that everyone has to make their own choices and do what they feel is right but there are certain facts about the negatives of supplementing that cannot be argued away. I enjoy breastfeeding and though there are hard times I believe it has helped me to recover from post natal depression and continues to be wonderful for Ella and me. At this point I think I will breastfeed until Ella no longer wants it. I demand feed and do not watch a clock, follow a routine or count feeds. Ella can have a feed whenever she likes and it is not about just food.

(Okay so I feel totally exposed and vulnerable. In every sentence I just typed I can hear the arguments, hurrumphs as people are offended and I fear hurting my friends by being so adament about my views. My secret life is being revealed.)

Food then leads me onto sleep. Many people believe that after the newborn weeks babies should not be fed to sleep and should be put down to sleep awake. Ella did that for about a month, maybe two and I thought I had the perfect textbook baby. But once she started rolling it was all over. And I had to face the fact that Ella needed more than being put down in a quiet room and the door closed to be able to sleep. So I fed her to sleep. This sometimes works but when she was little it also resulted in lots of big spills. As she has got older she sometimes naps in a wrap, sometimes in the buggy, sometimes in the car and sometimes in bed with me. And this is where it gets awkward.

There is such strong feeling in New Zealand against sharing a bed with your baby due to the fear of SIDs. I think there is also a feeling that mums need space away from their baby and that the evening is for the parents. I used to feel this way but in all the reading I have done nothing actually supports those views. We brought Ella into our bed at night at first as a way to cope with how often she wakes. But now it is our preferred way of sleeping at night. Ella feeds many times in the night but I can stay asleep or only wake for a moment. I am so much more rested and Ella goes to sleep peacefully. Many books say that it is normal for babies to cry. I really don't think it is. There is always a reason and crying to sleep is not normal. It is something that developed countries think is normal because our lives have become so controlled and individualistic that we are disconnected from the natural and instinctive ways babies behave.

But sleep has been my biggest secret because it is so different from the way most other people I know parent. When people come to our house and see that we have sold our cot and that our bed is on the floor it becomes very obvious that something different is going on. And it is hard to be different and not come across as extreme or judgmental towards other people's choices.

So I guess I struggle with having two lives. The one that is easily digestable, middle class and predictable. And my 'real life' which is feeling more and more like a story on a current affairs show about wierd parenting practices. I have never lived my life in secret before or been so careful about what to say and do around people. And I think it is sad that as parents we struggle alone in our homes instead of sharing our experiences to help each other along. Hopefully telling the truth about my life will help others to see me as I am and feel they can be honest about their's, no matter how they choose to live it.

Coming Out

I have been posting very infrequently because I have been wrestling with why I am blogging at all and who this is for. I often have ideas of things I would like to write about but auto censor what I think because I don't want people to know my real opinions or I don't want people to be offended. Also most of the things I want to post about are to do with my life as a Mum. And I am self conscious about appearing as if all I think about is being a Mum.

So after much thought and some courage I have decided to come out of the closet, in a way. My blog is not read by many people if anyone and I am sick of editing myself. So I am going to be honest and say how my life really is. Being a new parent makes me particularly sensitive about saying "this is how it should be done" and to causing tension in my friendships. But I also think I have to be true to myself.

I am not ashamed of what I think and the decisions I make. So I need to stop acting like I am. It is sad that we live in a society which seems to have one right way of being as parents and anything else is wierd or downright dangerous.

So hopefully in the next wee while I will gain the confidence to be honest but not be insensitive toward others. I still write in the hope that someone, somewhere gets something out of it.