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Accepting help

I once received some excellent advice from two wonderful women who at the time were holding a tray of fish pie.

“Take help when it’s offered,” they said.

Why is it so hard for us to accept help? When you’ve just expelled a human from your body, and you’re exhausted, sore, and overwhelmed, it should be easy to say “yes, thank you, I’d love that”. But it’s not, at least for me it’s not. And I’m sure other mums feel the same.

In the days after my second son was born I had quite a few offers from friends and I turned quite a few down. For no reason! I thought, oh I don’t want to be a pain, oh I’m not that hard up right now, oh that would be good but I don’t want to seem needy. It’s so bizarre!

Someone offered to make me fudge and I said no. I said no to fudge. What the fuck was wrong with me?

My friends with the fish pie gave good advice. And I listened to them because they’re very wise. They’ve got two gorgeous boys and they’re mum inspirations (you’re thankful I didn’t say mumspirations right? Who the fuck even says that?) Anyway, I admire them and think they’re very clever and I want my boys to grow up and be as loved and spirited and supported as their boys are. So I started saying: Yes, thank you heaps! Instead of: No, I’m fine.

And it was great. I got chocolate and peanut butter brownie which I scoffed down as my son cluster fed. That same friend who is literally The Nicest Person I Know brought us a bag of goodies from the supermarket – my husband was in awe. There were ice creams in there. Fancy ones. She’s continued to be a huge support to me eight weeks on.

Our closest friends brought round KFC! The bogan food of the Gods. I thought my husband might cry with joy. They gave us hugs as well as the baby, it was wonderful. We sat there with stupid grins on our faces gorging on fried chicken and thinking “shit, we are lucky”.

I got the most incredibly huge amazing lasagne there ever was from another friend who will one day be the most excellent mother. Damn, her future kid will be lucky to have her. I got a damn cheesecake! A cheesecake! The cheesecake was from a friend who is the most selfless, kindest person. She too is going to be a such an awesome mum one day I just know it.

I basically lived on the lactation cookies another super busy friend made me. I will probably look back on those days in years to come and still think about how great those cookies were. 

Another totally badass and awesome friend who I so admire for her bravery and strength bought me medication for a blocked duct within hours of me having a cry about the pain I was in. She wouldn’t take money from me to pay for it. 

I could literally list so many lovely people who kept me company and dropped gifts off in those first three weeks. Also, a lot of them were friends on Twitter (one day I will write about how Twitter is your best internet home for support as a parent).

I now know that accepting help is so important. When I started accepting help (or at least trying to) I stopped feeling so overwhelmed. I stopped feeling so isolated. I stopped feeling so scared. So alone. It’s really, really hard to ask for help. Harder than it is to accept I reckon. So when it’s offered – take it, even if it feels weird.

And if you’re in a position to help a new mum, maybe just give her stuff (especially if it’s food) even if she doesn’t expressly ask for it. It can be hard to get past that “I don’t want to be a pain” reflex that a lot of women have. Women are taught to always be the provider, to always help instead of being helped. It can be really hard to overcome all that social conditioning to allow someone else to look after you. I’m grateful to my friends who just said “I’ve made you some dinner, when can I bring it over?” 

So thank you! Seriously, thank you so much. To all the people out there who make cheesecakes for new mums. The ones who make lactation cookies. The people who drop off  fancy ice creams or expensive tit medicine. The people who drop off lasagne and are the perfect guests because they only stay 15 minutes and wash their hands before they hold the baby. You’re all actually saints. You’re angels. You’re wonderful, awesome people. You’re making life easier for new parents – that’s huge. Thank you.

And mums: say THANKYOU and YES PLEASE. Trust me on this. You’re not being a pain.

Also, always listen to lesbians brandishing fish pie. They know their shit. Trust me.

 

 

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Pinterest Fail Mum

Sometimes when I want to feel bad about myself I go on Pinterest and look at what mums who have their shit together are doing.

I look at their miraculous messy play ideas at 3am and resolve to do them the next day with my toddler. My broken sleep is dominated by dreams of my son and I deliriously happy playing with home made rainbow snow and glittery gloop and glow in the dark playdough.

And then I wake up and reality hits.

“Shall we make some playdough?”

“No. No. I don want dat playbo”

“Come and make playdough with mama! It’ll be soooo much fun,” I say with forced cheeriness.

“No fun. No. Cars”

I lovingly make the playdough while my son plays with his cars. He ignores my perky, sing-song commentary. He’s probably thinking “who replaced my mum with this Stepford Wife?”

I put glitter in the playdough. I follow the recipe to the letter but the playdough is slimey. I add more flour. Now it is crumbly. I add more water. The glitter clumps together. It’s both slimey and crumbly now. The recipe says it’s fool-proof.

My son looks at the playdough then at me.

“I don like dat”

I don’t know who he’s referring to. I chuck the playdough into the bin. I used an entire packet of flour.


I will make gloop. It has three ingredients. Surely I can’t fuck this up.

I crush coloured chalk to make four bowls of gloop. All are different colours. My son is absolutely delighted. It has taken me all morning to make the gloop and get it to be the right consistency.

“I like dat!”

I am ecstatic. Such praise! I run to grab the camera. It takes me three seconds.

I return to find the bowls of coloured goop on the concrete by the front door.

“Finish mama. I finish da goop”


I will make snow. The recipe says “Easiest clean play recipe”.

I have decided that after spending two hours cleaning up after the eight second gloop messy play I want to have clean play.

Three cups of baking soda. One cup of water.

It looks like snow. The toddler is excited. He begins to play with it and I think “good, I can empty the dishwasher”. I take one cup from the dishwasher and the toddler appears.

“Where’s your snow?”

“I throwed dat snow away Mama”

He has tipped the bowl of snow from the deck onto the roof of the neighbour’s house.


That night I don’t dream of being a Pinterest mum. I look at the photos of the Pinterest mums and imagine them sneaking Valium and hiding vodka in their tea. Nobody can be that perfect.

In the morning a little voice says to me.

“Paint mine face mama? Eddie paint mine mama’s face?”

I look up “home made face paint”. I scan the recipe. I go to the shop and buy face paint instead. I know my abilities now. I know my shortcomings.

I put the different colours into a muffin tray. I google “face paint designs”. I look at the first website and read the instructions for “butterfly”. I roll my eyes. Yeah right. I turn off the computer.

I hand my son a paintbrush. “Make mama a butterfly,” I say.

He screeches with laughter as he paints my face. We get out a mirror and I paint his face as a “butterfly” letting him instruct me on how to do it just right.

Afterwards we both look utterly ridiculous. We look into the mirror and he says “we beuful budderfies mama!”

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Because we’re on a roll, I grab the corn starch and pull the hose out. We grab a bucket and he grabs clumps of corn starch and chucks whole pieces of chalk into the bucket with the corn starch and then puts the hose in.

It makes an unholy mess and my little baker declares he is making GLOOP PIES! He then throws the gloop in the air because now he’s making GLOOP PANCAKES!

We look like a Pinterest nightmare. And it’s the most fun I’ve had in ages. His screams of laughter reverberate around the neighbourhood. And we play for two hours.

Perfection is overrated.

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Thank you

I said goodbye to my midwife last week.

I remember my excitement when I first heard her voice on the end of the phone. I was pregnant. Finally! My husband and I were absolutely ecstatic and utterly terrified. We had gone to our GP to declare our good news. Our test had been positive the day we had decided bite the bullet and “do” IVF so we had seen them the day before. It was so surreal.

My husband said: “aren’t you going to do a test?” Our GP stared at him bemused “well didn’t you do a pregnancy test?” He asked.

I’d done five, I’d been buying them in bulk so I just kept peeing on them. Stick after stick. My husband stared disbelieving as every one showed two stripes.

“One means you’re pregnant. You did five. So you’re pregnant.” 

I think we just didn’t want to trust a stick. Or five sticks. I’d had four surgeries to treat endometriosis. My first was just two weeks after meeting my husband. We were 17 and 18. I was told then I would struggle to have kids. I went off contraception after my third surgery. I had scar tissue, a damaged Fallopian tube, and we wanted kids. I was 22. I got pregnant at 26.

They take photos of your insides when they go in during surgery and you can request them afterward. I put mine on the fridge. When people would peer at the photos and say “wow, what’s that?” I took great delight in saying “That’s my uterus!” I’ve always been an oversharer.

Our GP said our first step was a dating scan and then provided that went well, we needed to find a midwife. The dating scan was important our GP said, we were at risk of ectopic pregnancy because of my medical history. We needed to wait another two weeks for the scan. Our honeymoon was booked for the next day. We went on our honeymoon worried the whole time that our baby was in the wrong place (the nice way of referring to an ectopic pregnancy I suppose). We said we wouldn’t get excited and instead would pretend I wasn’t pregnant until we returned and had the scan.

Two hours into our honeymoon we bought a onesie that said “I listen to Led Zeppelin with my daddy”. I puked all over the floor of our fancy hotel room. I puked in our fancy hotel bed. We went down to the hotel lobby to have our buffet breakfast and I puked in a plant. I’m sorry for puking in a plant hotel I won’t name.

I puked watching Lamb of God, Hell Yeah, Slipknot, Marilyn Manson, Gojira, and System of a Down at Soundwave. My husband gazed lovingly at me the whole time. Every spew was a good sign he said.

We had our dating scan a few hours after arriving back in New Zealand. We sobbed staring at the little eight week dot. Our dot was in the right place. We carried the picture around for weeks insisting that it looked like us. The dot replaced my messed up (but clearly not that messed up) ovaries on the fridge. 

We booked a midwife. Hearing her say congratulations down the phone was one of the most exciting moments in my life. It signalled so much. Our long wanted journey had begun. It was real. Our midwife made it real.

I had a terrible pregnancy. I vomited every day for 25 weeks. Then I vomited every second or third day for the rest of my pregnancy. But my midwife was always there with me. She cheered us on. She kept me excited even when I was exhausted and overwhelmed. She more than tolerated my tears of frustration in her office. She was more than my midwife, she was my counsellor too. 

I felt so guilty that I had wanted a baby for so long but I absolutely hated pregnancy. I didn’t feel in touch with my body, I couldn’t stop puking, I felt unhealthy, exhausted, overwhelmed, I sure as fuck wasn’t glowing. She was so patient and caring and gentle with me. She always made me feel like I was strong and she gave me so much confidence. She never denied my feelings. 

My midwife wasn’t actually there for my first son’s birth. It was her weekend off. But she’d built me up and made me feel brave so I wasn’t scared when he came at 37 weeks. The on-call midwife was lovely. I have never met a midwife who isn’t a wonderful person. It seems to just be a prerequisite. There must be something about the job that attracts selfless people.

In New Zealand we have an amazing system that includes post-partum support so my midwife continued to visit for six weeks after my son was born. When he developed health complications she continued to support me for a further three weeks, helping me navigate that difficult world, before gently handing me over to a specialist team. She was always professional and I felt like she really cared about us. I really feel that she set my little whānau up to prepare for all of the challenges that lay ahead. There is nothing more terrifying than having a sick child, but I had moments of calm in the dark of the hospital late at night when I thought of my midwife telling me I was strong and I could Do This.

I swore I would never have another baby all the way through my pregnancy so I loved hearing my midwife’s familiar laugh two years on when I rang her to say I was pregnant again. I had another terrible pregnancy which I will likely one day blog about. But again, my midwife was a rock. She shared my care with another midwife who I immediately fell in love with. She had tattoos and pink hair. I mean Jesus: She was My People! She helped me breast feed so she’ll forever have a place in my heart. Every time my little one hungrily gulps down milk I think of her. She also helped me when I started to really lose it from all the vomiting. My second pregnancy took a huge emotional toll on me. The support I had from my midwives was everything during those months where I felt so out of it. They respected me. They were professional. Kind. Gentle. Caring. Compassionate.

My main midwife delivered my second boy and she was incredible. Again, one day I’ll blog his birth story because that shit was crazy. But honestly, she was amazing. There’s no way I would have made it through that labour and delivery without her incredible skill and support. 

I’ve been cared for by five midwives over my two pregnancies, one for a delivery, another for a false alarm, another for another false alarm, and another as cover for my main midwife…they’ve all been awesome, awesome people. I want to thank them all. I want to thank all of the midwives who care for us and bring our babies into the world. I want them always to have chocolate in their fridge and coffee in their pantries.

I said goodbye to my midwife last week and it broke my heart a little bit. I thanked her of course, but my words weren’t adequate. How can you ever thank someone enough for making you a family, twice? 

My midwife made me a mother. I can never thank her enough.

 

 

This lonely life

There’s so much about motherhood that I find lonely.

It’s such a strange concept because you’re almost never alone when you’re a mother. You can’t even shit without your little person handing you toilet paper. Showers have audiences. There’s often more than two people in the bed and it’s not the exciting kind of more than two people in a bed experience. My two year old is always talking to me. Where’s this? What’s that? This please. That’s mine! No! NO! He provides a non-stop commentary throughout his day. All in the third person.

And yet – I feel deprived of conversation. I talk to him about why you have to be gentle with the “beuful bufly” and why it’s not a good idea to put rocks in the baby’s basket. I talk to the baby: “Are you hungry sweetheart?” The answer is usually quite clear when he attacks my nipples with the ferociousness of an angry platypus (I imagine angry platypuses are very ferocious). I talk to myself: “They’re both asleep? At the same time? What do I do?”

I long to talk to other parents while at the same time being too exhausted to actually engage in proper conversation with said parents or to seek out those parents to make said conversation. The internet helps. This blog has made me feel a lot less alone. Twitter was my lifeline when my oldest son was born. Especially when I spent long nights awake in hospital staring at him with only my fears to keep me company.

In the two and a half years since I became a mother I have made some really, really great friends. Friends I can’t imagine my life without now. I love them fiercely. They make life better. They’re real friends where you know it’s not just the kids keeping you together. When I went back to work I envied their playdates and wished I was sitting in their warm and loving homes sharing coffee. I missed them.

This – my second time around – is different as they’re all working or studying now. My home is warm and loving, but it’s empty of adult companionship.

And at night, without my husband in bed with me, feeding in the darkness, I feel very lonely. There’s something truly isolating about breastfeeding. It’s again, such a strange concept, because you literally have another being attached to you. But ultimately it’s just you. You’re alone with your sore, cracked nipples. That painful let down that can be so forceful it can bring tears to your eyes in those early days. At a big family picnic on the weekend I sat in the bathroom feeding. There’s definitely nothing more isolating than hearing laughter and shouting when you’re stuck in a tiny room alone.

I know I should go to playgroups. Maybe baby sensory. Or a rock and rhyme musical thing. There’s a lot to do out there. But by the time I have the kids dressed and changed and fed – it’s almost time for my toddler’s nap. And I will not fuck with my toddler’s nap time. It’s the only time I have to do any housework or to check the news or have a solo poop.

If I somehow do manage to get to one of the absurdly early mum and bub groups I feel so awkward walking in late with a toddler who is wearing a helmet, batman cape, and mismatched shoes. Especially when he’s chomping on some not organic at all totally processed and definitely bad for you type of food thing. I worry about what others are thinking. That’s quite narcissistic because they probably don’t give a shit. But I’m not a confident parent so those thoughts come easily.

I find mum groups intimidating. The other mums seem so together. They have philosophies – attachment parenting, free-range parenting, permissive parenting, evolutionary parenting, maybe even paleo parenting – like, no nuts or something. I can’t even spell Montessori (I had to Google it). They speak with such confidence on positive parenting, body autonomy for children – all things I care about but don’t feel I know anything about. What do you do if your parenting philosophy is just – try to make it through the day without anybody getting badly injured?

I’m sure my philosophy of just Do Your Best and Love Your Kids is exactly the same as theirs when it comes to the crunch – but I feel overwhelmed with how on to it they are. They know what they’re doing. Any topic there is they seem to have thought a lot about how to approach it. I often just feel out of my depth.

But six weeks in I’m lonely. So I’m going to have to sort it out.

Or I’m going to have to start a playgroup of mums who try hard but fail quite a bit but never intentionally. One where it’s OK for me to show up with a bit of puke in my hair. Or to drink eight coffees even though I’m breastfeeding. Or to confess that I get Montessori and Steiner mixed up. One where it’s OK to turn up late. And forget your kid’s drink bottle. And wipes. Why do I always forget wipes?

Maybe I’ll start recruiting today. Yes, that’s what I’ll do.

So, if a sloppy looking, sweaty, haggard red head with two kids hanging off her approaches you in the park – smile or run (depending on how you feel about this post).

 

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