Confessions

These posts ran on the KIDsized Living website and Facebook page (currently at over 2600 members) from April 2012 to November 2013.

 

Sunday, 29 April, 2012

In those early, mindbending weeks after the birth of my little girl, I got hassled by a good friend.

She was merciless, really. On my back all the time, pressuring me to do something I felt supremely uncomfortable doing. Aggh, the pain, I still cringe when I remember what she forced me into, sitting in that room full of strangers, sleep deprived, greasy haired, completely vulnerable. It was my third mother’s group meet and I was way out of my comfort zone. Boobs were flying, babes were crying, and confessions were flowing thick and fast. I was terrified. Petrified. Not only of my own little bundle of, er, joy (ha!) but of this new social group.

Surely I could muddle along by myself? Surely I could just skip the next meet – all the meets – I pleaded with my mate. “No way,” she said. “These women will be your lifeline.” Maybe she was making a vain attempt to minimize the many, many bizarre questions she’d be fielding herself as one of my few “childed” friends. But mostly she was just telling the truth. Now that my daughter, The Berry, has turned two, I can say scouts honour that those women (plus some notable extras of course) have absolutely kept me sane through the toughest transition of my life.

Yeah a husband helps, and I have supportive parents too. But someone in your shoes, living where you live, sharing their struggles and triumphs, listening to your confessions with an open heart, that’s the good stuff for a mum. So now that the sickening fear of sharing stories with strangers has well and truly passed and I’m happy talking about inverted nipples in the playground, I hope to share a few with you.

 

Thursday 7 June 2012

I was planning to write you a witty post about birthday party politics this month, KSLers, full of wry observations on parkside RSA, stripy straws and sultana highs.

But to be honest, I can barely be bothered to wash my face at the moment. The delights of a bit of banter over a cupcake and a coldie seem a distant memory. You see, my daughter’s on a nap strike.

I told myself at first it was just a couple of bad days. Everyone has times when they can’t get to sleep, right? But the days stretched on, and the kid showed no signs of cracking. “Time to go to sleep, sweetie” was met at first with a firm and certain “no”. Then the yelling started. And the nappy wrestling. There was some critical sleeping bag issue that was causing hysteria. Scaling the side of the cot was only a day away.

So I started to plead (I’ll sit here with you if you’ll just lie down), then threaten (I’m leaving if you don’t lie down), then blackmail (no Playschool unless you lie down and go the you-know-what to sleep).

I’d read you’re not supposed to engage in negotiation with a toddler. Now I know why.

It’s because they’ll win.

After a week waging a war of attrition by day, she’s taking the fight to the night, where she knows I’m at my weakest. And that’s the kicker. I’m well aware that in the scheme of things, her sleep issues are not killer. Yeah, she’s cranky at the end of the day. Yes, there have been a handful of nights of broken sleep. But I know plenty of families do it much, much tougher.

What’s killing me is how poorly I’m dealing with it.

I NEED those two hours of nap time to re-group. I’m just as stroppy by the end of the day as the two year old. Not all the tears have been hers. You see, I have a teensy tiny tendency to catastrophise – as in, she’s never going to sleep and I saw this episode of Supernanny where they analyse the brainwaves of chronically sleep deprived children and she’s going to be permanently damaged and I’ve faaaiiled! I’ve failed as a mother! Ex cetera.

As mums, we’re so often our toughest critics. And in the battle of the naps, the critic in me is harsh. Way harsh. Maybe she needs a lie down.

 

Saturday 14 July 2012

What’s the maximum amount of time you’ve ever spent away from your precious progeny?

I have a friend who’s yet to spend a single night away from her son, almost three, and I’ve had quite a bizarre conversation with a mum who weaned her 5-month-old so she could holiday in St Tropez, sans enfant.

I’m very lucky to have compliant grandparents on hand who have given me and my partner a Saturday night to ourselves every once and a while, but last weekend I got on an airplane all by myself, for a whole 48 hours of freedom. It was kind of, well, weird.

There was this adjustment period after I became a mum where I would arrive at an event and everyone would be surprised. “Oh! I didn’t realize you’d bring your baby along!” “Oh, is this her? Um, well the pram, um, could go, err…”

Now the opposite is true, and it took some explaining to my girlfriend living in Darwin that I was planning a solo adventure to come and visit her. I don’t think she sounded disappointed – at least, I’m pretty sure she didn’t. Not much anyway. And so flights were booked and I was away.

The joy of it all began on the flight and really, I could have got on that plane, watched two movies, eaten dinner I didn’t have to cook, without talking or interacting with anyone, and returned home a happy woman. But I hit all the other big ones too – the sleeping in, leisurely shopping, the long, adult conversations about world issues and boys.

I didn’t long desperately for my daughter, as so many seemed certain I would (it was two nights, for crying out loud). But I did find myself compulsively drawn to random rug-rats, like an ex-smoker following the scent of a cigarette down the street. And I felt a strange sense of something missing, like a lost limb. I was reminded I actually like spending time with her.

Plus all that clever conversation was exhausting.

I came home completely knackered to be honest, and it felt pretty good to slip back into mummy mode. Next time, I’ll make everybody happy and bring my lost limb along for the ride.

Thursday 16 August 2012

So here’s a confession for you, KSL-ers. I’m up the duff.

It’s round two for me – my bright little Berry is two and a half (“I’m a big girl,” she remarks to me regularly in case it’s slipped my mind, or maybe just because the concept is such a delight to her). I’m thrilled to be adding to my family. But here’s the real confession for today: it’s been sobering, second time around.

My yoga teacher was one of the first to find out we were trying (I reckon my most intimate relationships are with my yoga teacher and my waxer). Each class, she’d give me a sideways look and I’d shake my head, before flipping up into shoulder-stand. I had a whine one night. “It’s taking aaaages,” I said, five months in. “Well it can take a while second time round, she says, rubbing her own pregnant belly. “Actually it took us 18 months.” Oh. Right.

A month later, I sit at my computer, a tiny embryo taking root inside me, as a friend loses her IVF implantation while we chat on Facebook. “Are you sure?” “Fuckity fuck”, comes the only too clear reply. I don’t tell her I’m in the two-week wait. But I don’t have to wait long – it’s clear from how hideous I feel that it’s definitely stuck. So begins weeks of migraines and nausea so constant and debilitating, I think I’m losing my mind. A friend from mother’s group asks me to the museum. She’s waiting on some test results, something from a lump on her leg. She’s desperate for distraction, so I drag my sorry self along, wincing at The Wiggles exhibition.

Then I hear the news: Non-Hogkin Lymphoma. Chemo to start ASAP. And I thought I felt sick. The chances of her having a second child now are slim to none, but she’s OK. She’s strong and brave. I swallow hard and touch my stomach.

It’s coming up to 12 weeks now and that stomach’s swelling. I know I have another in-person announcement to make before things get obvious. One of those, “I wonder what she’s up to?” friends, the kind that are adored but infrequent visitors to daily life. But I know why she keeps some distance these days. When it comes to her own desperately desired baby, the road has been long and bloody tough with no end yet in sight. Our easy little family mustn’t be so easy for her to see. “I knew already,” she says when I confess. “When you’re me, you just know.” Tears prick as I realise the depth of her own sadness and I take a slurp of tea. Change the subject. Try to crack a joke but the joke’s on me.

So I confess – to all those mums and mums-to-be who face fertility challenges, I never saw how hard it was til now.

I’m so thankful for the child I have growing inside me and it’s going to be getting some pretty rad cuddles once it’s out. Not just from me, but from all the women around me that have learnt to appreciate new life the hard way.

Thursday 11 October 2012

This whole post is a lie! I’m not an Inner West Mumma!

This month’s confession became obvious when I walked into Campos. “Where on earth have you been?” was the demand. Thanks guys. So apologies to Will Young if your revenue was down a bit last month. Yes, I know you haven’t seen me around. The fact is I’m living a lie…

This whole post is a lie! I’m not an Inner West Mumma! Oh Inner Westies, forgive me. I’m still one of you deep down, I promise.

But I’ve taken a little trip East.

Not too far, I haven’t become a soy chai-drinking, yoga mat carrying Bondi Mumma. But we’re having a bit of work done at home that involves the removal of a chunk of the back of our house, including that chunk called a kitchen. And since like most inner-west terraces my kitchen is also part of my dining room/study/lounge room/library/playroom/home theatre/gym/craft room, it seemed smart to depart to my parent’s place in Darlinghurst (thankfully parents are on holidays, or that’d be a whole other post).

Fact is, the eastern suburbs really are pretty.

Boats bobbing, beaches glittering… buttocks… bouncing. In fact, bodies on display wherever the hell you go.

There are many reasons why I avoid gyms, but being confronted by beautiful fit 20-somethings in tight clothing is a big one. Unfortunately it seems my park-side uniform of jeans and boots, maybe a ballet flat if I’m feeling especially jaunty, is out of place at Rushcutters Bay amongst the head-to-toe Lululemon (add a yachting branded windcheater if required).
Once you cross Cleavland St, there’s nowhere to hide. And nothing to hide, apparently.

I think I’m fairly OK with my body but these young, often blonde, toned and trim mothers beg comparison. How do they do it? Surely a bit of personal training by the swing set while your toddler crawls all over you does not result in a bod worthy of head-to-toe lycra (no matter how good the cut). And so many of them seem to be vaguely British. How do I crack this bizarre ex-pat fitness junkie yummy-mummy clique?

I bet most of you have guessed what I dumbly failed to grasp in my bottom-blinded state. These women are nannies. Nannies! Hallelujah!

I celebrate their bottoms! May their tummies stay trim and their foils fresh. But frankly, now I’d like to go home. I’m dying for some Tamana’s in front of the TV. Take-away prices are ridiculous over here. Then again, maybe a curry-free diet is the key to yogawear worthiness. At least it’s comfy.

My Inner East Favs:

Rose Bay Beach

Park on New South Head Rd just after the police station and walk down to the most delightful little beach, grassy verge and play set. The perfect scale for little people and rarely crowded.

The Fish Shop, Challis Ave, Potts Point

Fishman’s basket from all day kitchen and perky staff for whom kids seem a pleasant novelty.

Kidz Lidz Hairdresser, 95 Frenchmans Road,
 Randwick

Hair cut in an airplane! These women are fast. Lightening fast How they put such perfect little plaits in baby fine hair I don’t know. But I’m impressed.

Thursday 15 November 2012

I think pregnancy has made me a touch emotional. This month, I cried over preschool.

It was blubbering, messy, snotty crying. Of course, I had a house full of builders so at first I blubbered in hiding. Then in the car. Then while the two-year-old childcare rejectee giggled at me while I had one final go at it in the park. Lucky someone thought it was funny.

Surely lack of childcare is the shittiest thing (only shitty thing?) about raising kids in the Inner West.

When our bubbas were about 6 months old, my fabulous mothers group started throwing around ideas of return to work dates and waiting lists. Meanwhile, I did my very best ostrich impression. I didn’t want to think about the next stage of my life. As the critical time approached and my ex-employer wanted to know whether I’d accept their delightful full-time or demotion offer, I was in a complete panic of indecision, without a ‘place’ for my daughter or a direction for my life.

Luckily, my parents came to the rescue, offering a day a week of babysitting if I wanted to do some freelance work (whatever would Robin Barker say??).

So I gleefully plunged my head back into the list-ignoring sand again.
But this year, I knew we’d be ready. I’d joined the lists. I was hoping to have another tiny baby to look after and my growing toddler obviously wanted to play with her contemporaries, not her boring old mum. I thought that 12 months notice would be enough.

Wrong. Wrong wrong wrong.

And I blame four year olds.

Apparently four year olds need to be ready for school. And the government is selfishly giving them preference for pre-school places.
Or something. Well, mumma needs a break! Where’s the policy on that, huh??

As each rejection notice rolled in, I tightened like an over stretched trampoline – you know, like the ones they have at child care, near the big sand pits and just across from the painting easels. Soon there was only one option left. It happened to be my favourite, a small preschool just a quick walk away. I had a very energetic egg and only one basket.

“You have to call and harass them!” said my wiser, childcare touting friends. But I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. So I did what any modern woman would do – I made my husband call. “Just say your wife’s pregnant and crazy,” I said.

“They’re still working on it,” was the reply. “In any other year she’d be a shoe in…”

So I waited, and waited. “Don’t wait! Call them!” came the chant. So I did. And then I cried. I was coming to the realisation that I’d pinned all my hopes of sanity maintenance 2013 on bloody pre-school.

And then another call.

I’d seemed so keen (read: crazy) and other families weren’t replying and well, would my daughter like place next year after all?

Sanity may be back on the agenda.

Wednesday 23 January 2013

Today I very skillfully avoided backing into a Mercedes.

I devoted every iota of my concentration to NOT backing into the Mercedes, and I achieved my aim. Unfortunately, all that focus on the damn Mercedes meant I didn’t see the Paperbark limb leaning out from the nature strip. Made quite an impressive crumply-thump as I reversed the car carefully and purposefully right into it.

The prang brings my tally of costly incidents during pregnancy to four. There were the diamond studs put in a safe place, never to be seen again. The designer “I’m a grown-up” specs that possibly went on holidays (not sure?) but never came back (I guess?). Then there was the entire set of keys. And thanks for the kick while I was down, Subaru – those remote pressy key things are a bloody fortune to replace.

With four weeks to go, I’m seriously considering my potential threat to society, and whether the family bank balance will survive the birth of Little Sister. (No, it’s not a boy. Yes, I understand that you think it’s a boy, however I’m pretty sure you’re not sporting x-ray vision from behind your check-out so I’ll trust the sonographer thanks.)

As I get increasingly big, tired, grumpy and potentially a danger to others, I’m taking sanctuary where I can. The little enclosed playground in the corner of Bunnings at Mascot. The pint-sized traffic school set up at Sydney Park (I could kiss the creator of the micro mini scooter). Annette Kellerman Aquatic Centre where I have been asked twice whether I’m likely to give birth in the baby pool… And of course the kitchens and backyards of a few reliable suckers who will provide tea and toddler entertainment while I stare vaguely into the middle distance and say “yeah… uh huh” every now and again.

So if you see a slightly dented silver Forester on King St, maybe give it a wide berth. At least until I give birth myself.

Thursday 4 April 2013

So apologies to any Mitchell Road commuters who happened to catch the one-woman gore-fest on display the Tuesday before last.

You see, it’s a bit messy to have a baby in your bedroom and the walk to the ambulance wasn’t pretty.

This month I sheepishly confess: I had a healing homebirth and despite the steam-cleaning bill, I’m kind of loving myself right now.

The trading of birth stories is a funny thing. My first labour was a long haul. I’ve heard many more stories more full-on than mine (not all of them voluntarily), but I carried a chip on my shoulder for my “failure to progress”, my failure to birth my baby without some serious intervention.

This time around was going to be different, damn it.

I om-ed through enough yoga to turn a pretzel straight and ditched the doctor for a doula.

I listened to enough relaxation scripts to send me over the bloody rainbow and my calm breathing was semi-catatonic.

No excitement.

No getting worked up.

Definitely no getting to the hospital early.

Ha.

Obviously all that self-hypnosis stuff worked because I was so convinced I wasn’t in established labour that I walked to the shops for toddler party props; ate spicy Sichuan chicken between contractions (I mean surges) and refused to let my poor husband make a single phone call to the damn doula, let alone the hospital, as I moaned and moo-ed in the bath tub that I refused to fill (since I wasn’t really in labour).

Alone in my room, it took the splash of waters breaking all over the carpet to admit it to myself – maybe this time it would be different after all.

And at that moment I felt bloody proud of the mess I’d made. I could finally let myself off the hook.

The rest went in a blur until I was holding a perfect slimy baby in my hands. Even the ambo’s looked dumbfounded when they finally showed up to chauffeur me bloody and semi-naked out into the waiting street-side stretcher.

Of course now I wish I could go back in time to visit my weepy first-time mumma self. Let her know that the hard yards she put in then, made all the difference now, that it wasn’t failure, but prep for a show-stopping second round. I can’t tell her, but I can tell you. Confession session complete.

Wednesday 22 May 2013

Behind closed doors, all over the Inner West, barely controlled chaos reigns.

We are teetering on the edge of complete anarchy, people. How do I know this? Because I now have two children.

When I was pregnant, those mums would smile benignly at me as they herded their little cherubs around the park or strolled through the market behind a neat and tidy Phil and Ted’s packed with little poppets.

I know now that those smiles had to be fake. How do people do this and remain sane?

By the skin of their teeth, is my conclusion.

I understand now that the merest crack, the tiniest show of weakness or uncertainly can have fearsome consequences, that the smallest slip can have you tumbling down a snot smeared, Peppa Pig hole into a special kind of delirium, with wine the only possible saviour.

Too much? I think not.

Obviously the psychopaths that gush, “enjoy every minute” are in need of a reminder of the realities of juggling a newborn and a preschooler. I confess I may get violent with the next person who says, “it goes so fast”. I invite them to spend from 4 til 7pm at my place Those three hours are a time warp. Pity my poor husband on the days he’s more than five minutes late from work.

Yes, yes, these days will be a distance memory all too soon. But I’ll refrain from pointing that out to the next mum I see waddling along with a bun in the oven and a toddler in tow. I’ll suggest she stock the freezer and the wine cellar and simply wish her nerves of steel.

Thursday 1 July 2013

My daughter received her first birthday party invite from a preschool mate this week, and I almost exploded with glee.

But I confess, it was not from motherly pride that my little darling was making friends (I’m pretty sure everybody got one), but because I adore kids birthday parties.

I am that person. I love me a cake pop just as much as a good ol’ slice of fairy bread. I’m a nocturnal baker, one-handed pom-pom fluffer and I can bang out bunting by the metre.

Not with me? Here’s a list of all that’s good about small people parties:

#1 Eating cake
The basic essence of the thing. Cake, and plenty of it. For the sake of the children, of course.

#2 Champagne before midday
Maybe it says something about the circles I move in, but a nice glass of bubbles is thrust into my eager grasp no matter what the shindig start time. 10am? OK, put a splash of OJ in there for appearance’s sake.

#3 Crowd-sourced child minding
There is a critical point where enough kids in one place means they entertain each other and I don’t have to, and birthdays provide the crowd. Add a bouncy castle or a face-painting Aunty and we’re on.

#4 Perving on other mums in their natural habitat
You know you’re curious. Does Archie’s mum have hand-towels in her bathroom? What will the party-bag lolly philosophy be? And those pre-procreation friends are nursing hangovers in the corner? They’ve got tales to tell…

#5 Post-party naps
Parties are exhausting. Time that sugar crash right and I’m guaranteed a nap from the poppet – and quiet cup of tea for me – when we get home. I’m going to raid the party bag while there’s no one looking.

Wednesday 2 September 2013

A question posed to me by a girlfriend, nobly staring down the barrel of a day of vacuuming: Does anyone in the Inner West do their own cleaning anymore?

I, of course, looked at her like she was crazy and said “No! Of course not!” We are great outsourcers round these parts and you only have to be in the market for a new cleaner to know that they are rarer than hen’s teeth or childcare placements.

But there’s one service that’s even scarcer.

Dog walkers.

It seems that Inner Westies no longer walk their own dogs, and yes, I am one of them. And yes, she’s a big muscly staffie. And no, I didn’t think she’d get this big, and yes, maybe I should have thought more carefully before falling in love with that rascally baby puppy at the pound with the giant feet (oops).

But now the dumb lump is mine, all 30kgs of her. I was pregnant, joddling (waddle-jogging) behind the stubborn creature when the idea first came to me that it might be time to get some help. But it’s been a Cinderella journey to find her perfect match.

The first lot sent a stranger who arrived late while I was in labour. Strike them off the list. Then there was the sweet but tiny woman who I feared would get dragged from her feet at the first smelly tree.

After that, rejection after rejection. As far as I could tell, there were fleets of mini-vans headed to Sydney Park, absolutely bursting at the seams with rambunctious canines, desperate for release from their lonely apartments. And no room for my slightly socially challenged mutt.

Husband began bringing home mobile numbers ripped from flyers stuck to telegraph poles. But I needed someone with skills. Someone who could relate to my baby dog and understand her needs. Someone who could tune in to her nervous habits and prevent her from eating any pugs while out and about.

Then I found her. She is a shining example of an Inner West legend, the kind of no-nonsense, practical, damn friendly life-fixer that makes where we live so fabulous. She had my precious pup licking her feet in about five minutes flat. I refrained but was really tempted to do the same.

To Hannah, thank you!

 

So it’s fess up time. I guess this is a big one. The last one.

You see, I can’t really write Confessions of an Inner West mum, because I’m no longer an Inner Westie. With a heavy heart and heavier boxes of stuff (so much stuff…), we’ve waved goodbye to our fixer-uper and decamped to a big old dusty Darlinghurst terrace.

I may be the only mother in history who’s whinging about a bigger house.

“I can’t see the kids when I’m on the loo!” was my sincere complaint when we moved in.

“The stairs are too long!”

But the joy, ah, the joy of crawling into bed with gusto, fluffing my pillow with force and humphing to my husband, all without a baby three inches away from my head. It’s heaven, although I think it may take months for us to stop whispering to each other in the dead of night. The baby, for her part, is already sleeping better and for that, the move is worth it.

While I wander with two kids through The Cross to the library (who puts a library on the main drag of Sydney’s nightclub district?), or try to strike up playground convos with lycra-clad nannies, think of me, won’t you? I’ll always be an I.W. at heart.

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