Hi. I am a mother of Elka. She is my first baby and an absolute joy.
I thought I would share some of my daily experiences as a mummy, and some of my friend’s thought and ideas about motherhood. We live in northern NSW, and I am not sure if it is because we live in the vicinity of the magical Byron Bay – home of hippy happy yummy mummies – or if it is simply coincidence, but I think we are doing a really lovely job of being new mums.
There’s a lot of hype about motherhood. And on the whole I agree with the cliches – it changes your life, it’s fulfilling, it’s the best thing you ever do and all that. But of course there are some things the not-so-earthy-mother in me finds challenging – such as staying in doors with your babe in arms whatever the weather, finding time to clean and organise the house in a domestic goddess like way, finding time to bake home-made bread also in a domestic goddess fashion…hmm. But I guess the ever-present, over-riding factor is that sweet little toothy grin, smiling at you so lovingly it’s heartbreaking….makes the lack of breadmaking worthwhile.
My journey into being a mum was planned, and well-timed. I have a loving and happy relationship with a guy I have been with for about four years. He’s eight years older than me, but for both of us, the time was very right to have a baby.
We talked about it on and off over the years, and then one day decided to make it happen, for real. We were one of the lucky couples who were able to conceive almost instantaneously. And from the word go, it was a very safe, and comfortable pregnancy. No morning sickness, little stress, good hormones flying.
In the midst of it, we decided to move from Melbourne to northern NSW, which seems huge, but really was just a minor part of the whole period. My body was changing, my mind was changing, as this amazing thing grew within. Moving, or anything else for that matter, paled in significance.
The due-date came and went, and two weeks of trying everything “natural” like acupuncture, herbs, curry and ..ahem…hot sex (well, hottish, given the fact that my husband was completely not turned on by our baby’s head very near to the whole saga)… stillnada. I was planning to birth at the natural birth clinic near Alstonville & Lismore, so 14 days over due was really pushing the envelope when it comes to safe practice. A day longer, and I would have needed to be induced in hospital. Fortunately I had Australia’s best obstetrician on watch, and an amazing mid-wife, and her equally amazing support person. In the end, Castor-oil did the trick.
In our waiting period, Christmas came and went, and New Years 2010 was looming. The Castor-oil worked its magic at about 7pm New Years Eve. We sat around the pool eating dinner with neighbours of the birth centre, when the contractions began, thick and fast. My first stage was only about 4-5 hours (who knows exactly – it was a blur), and was very intense. By midnight, fireworks were cracking over Alstonville, the full moon (a blue one at that) hung high in the sky, and I was fully dilated. My baby was crowning. She continued to do so, though, for several hours. So in the end, I was maneuvered backwards into a Hyundai Excel, hanging face down over the front seat, bum in the air. My ever-cautious partner panicked secretly, but we made it safely to the hospital. An on-call obstetrician oversaw the procedure (as it turns out, Australia’s best obstetrician was out celebrating the dawn of a new decade) and our baby girl was born at 3.13am. She came out…big! and healthy and rosy. As any new parent will tell you, it was an amazing moment, compared to no other.I felt pretty up and down the first week. We stayed at the birth centre on a beautiful property under the care of qualified lactation consultants. I can’t imagine how people do without such support, because even then, I was a bit of a basket case. The baby howled, especially at 1am in the morning. My boobs hurt, I felt anxious about…well, everything. Especially how I was going to do this whole mothering thing! I felt separated from my partner, cranky and lost in an unknown world, not sure if I had done the right thing by deciding to have a child, and frightened by the fact that things would never go back to how they were. It was rocky, but I made it through.
The first three months were pretty much a blur. I barely remember them. There was a lot of rocking, singing Leonard Cohen’sHallelujah and bouncing on the gym ball. One of the highlights – make that a pinnacle – came when someone warned me that bouncing on the gym ball regularly could cause brain damage to your baby…! You can imagine the freak out and despair I felt after such a comment. Everything is hanging by a thread in that first period – your sanity, your patience, your relationship. All you need is something to tip you over the edge. (By the way, we researched into this “fact” about bouncing = brain-damage, and in fact discovered it was a piece of “fiction” – at least that is what relevant websites say.)
I was saved because
1. I didn’t ever get too tired – I was co-sleeping, and found I went back to sleep extremely easily after each feed, and sometimes during.
2. I walked – excessively. One of the only ways to get baby to sleep was walking quickly up and down the hills of Lismore with her in a sling.
3. I had a husband who was very supportive, especially in the cooking and washing up department.
4. I socialised.
For me, the social aspect of mothering is crucial. I know people talk about “Baby Moon”s and staying in to get to know your baby, but I needed to get out! I needed to share my experiences, talk to other women, and hear other mother’s stories. I needed nurturing as much as possible.
And hence, when the three months were over, and baby girl only cried when she needed something I knew how to respond to, and became an absolute delight, I was in one piece, and in fact doing very well.
Six months later, every day still gets better. It really is wonderful, this thing they call being a mother. When your baby laughs, when your days are filled with wonder at the changes, at their ability (and your own ability) to become absolutely engrossed in the present moment, their precious soft skin…there are endless things that make this journey magical.