The moment my life changed forever

I totally hate how I look in this picture.

May 2011. In labour. No idea.
May 2011. In labour. No idea.

But it’s one of the most significant photos of my whole life. This was taken on Mother’s Day 2011 sitting on a bench on the coastal clifftop walk in Vaucluse, just up the road from the famous Gap. I look like shit because I am just not photogenic, but also because I am in labour with my son, my first child. I was 32 and had been having six minute apart contractions since 6am that morning. This was taken, well, sometime towards dusk, which is probably about 5:30pm at that time of year in Sydney. My son was born the following evening around 8pm. My life changed forever.

Now, people always say, oh yes, children are a big commitment but also a joy, your life changes forever, bla bla bla. You can’t conceptualise it and you just nod and smile and agree and maybe roll your eyes when they’re not looking. You KNOW your life is going to change. And even after it does, you think you KNOW just what you’re in for. But I’m here to tell you that you don’t. You have no IDEA.

I’m writing this nearly three and a half years later. My second child, a girl, is ten weeks old. I have no IDEA how I got through this morning. It’s freaking hard. It just is, and I make no apologies or excuses. Older, more experienced people have told me how straightforward it was for them, how they just swaddled their perfect little baby and laid it down in its old-fashioned cot with the sides up in a bedroom containing nothing else and it went to sleep for two hours during which they did all the housework and cooked meals for the next year and had a cup of tea and planned out the week. Yeah, great, nice work, good for you. That’s not how it is for mothers today. Well that’s not how it is for me, anyway.

My grandmother on my mother’s side had ten children. Her third child, a boy, died in infancy during the war. I’m not sure why or how. But let’s examine my maternal grandmother’s situation for a moment: she was either pregnant or breastfeeding for 20 years. She was a migrant, with half her children being born in Serbia and Germany and the other five here in Australia. She was poor. She grew most of the family’s food because of this. She had her babies in hospitals but could only stay a night after a birth because her other children needed her at home. My grandfather got up for work at 4am six days a week and was home after the children were in bed. No one but my grandmother cooked and cleaned, she did it all. Her name was Elisabeth and she was a Capricorn who never wanted children and didn’t marry until she was 23, virtually an old maid in 1937.

How did she do it? I have no idea. But I will offer one theory: life was entirely different. There were no computers, they never had a tv or other technology invading their lives. They didn’t even have a washing machine or fridge in the beginning. They ate from their farm and there was a purity of existence that has to be created with much effort these days. Somehow, I don’t know how, this lifestyle made for a gentler, more harmonious life. And babies who didn’t demand feeding 24/7, who wouldn’t sleep for more than a few minutes without being held.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am very much of an attachment parenting mindset and I believe that it’s completely normal for young babies and children to resist sleeping for long periods away from their mothers or carers. It’s basic physiology, part of being human. However. I’m not completely convinced that the reason babies don’t settle, the reason they cry, is due to the lack of attachment. I think there is too much stimulation in life today. Not only does all this distraction take up the time and space a parent might otherwise have had free, it changes the way we relate to each other, and to our children.

I don’t think there’s a solution to this, I think I’ve made a conscious choice to live in this way, and knowing my lifestyle impacts my babies in this way doesn’t make me want to change. I am however willing to continue on a “natural” parenting path as although it is a lot of work, I couldn’t do it any other way. I won’t be doing any kind of sleep training or controlled crying. I won’t be arbitrarily stopping breastfeeding and introducing formula. I won’t be forcing my kids to sleep in their own rooms if they don’t feel comfortable doing so. I won’t be pureeing meals and spoon feeding at some random age determined by some doctor.

I lie here in the dark at 9:30pm trying to slip my nipple out of my baby’s mouth without waking her so I can go back downstairs and watch Breaking Bad and I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s just what mothering is for me. And it’ll all be over in the blink of an eye.

Author: curiosikat

Writer, editor, linguist, social historian...

2 thoughts on “The moment my life changed forever”

  1. Lovely post Kat! I’m glad to read something from you again. You know, I’m a very neat person. I feel ill at ease and anxious when my house is a mess and with two toddlers, you can imagine it’s not always neat! I’ve found the easiest way to keep it to a (compromised) standard is to have less and have a rhythm to the day.

    I have an excel spreadsheet that is divided into a loose timetable and activity list each week. It’s kind of lame and often it all goes out the window, but for the most part, it enables me to keep the house tidy to a standard that I feel comfortable with.

    Nick is also a super helper and the poor guy rarely flinches when I demand yet another task be completed! Oh, shop online… Once a month, I do a big online supermarket shop for dry goods/nappies that I can’t buy in bulk at Fyshwick Markets and our fruit and veg we grow or get at the Farmers’ Market.

    As for the tech thing, I let them watch TV in the morning (and if all is going to shit in the afternoon) and that’s it. I tell them, TV’s off and find something to do. They’re generally happy to build Lego or help me with the laundry.

    Really though, you don’t need a list of how I get stuff done! I think one of the biggest things I have learnt as a mother (especially after the second) is to be flexible. That, and my multi-tasking skills are through the roof! Ha ha!

    Oh! One of the best things I did to implement a rhythm was to do the same things on the same day each week. Today, I’m going to finish this, clean the breakfast dishes and then off to the City for a coffee date with my sister and mum. The girls look forward to it every week and it gives me some downtime!

    Hope to see you in April! xx

    1. Thanks! Oh, see I’m the opposite, I’ve never been even slightly interested in cleaning. Everything has its place but I’ve never been bothered by untidiness. Sarah had to gently implement a chore roster when we lived together as I was totally oblivious! I just don’t even notice it half the time! The man is the clean freak in this relationship. He walks in after work and picks invisible crumbs off the carpet, muttering under his breath about cleaning etc. So most of the time I’m finding ways of keeping him happy rather than working out how to clean enough. His high standards dictate things, although he has learnt lots of flexibility and doesn’t freak as much as he used to about kid mess. But the crazy thing is, since having kids, and especially since the second one’s arrival, I’ve actually got a few systems and routines in place for the first time ever in my life! We have a four week rolling meal plan (I hate cooking and I’m really slow at it) so I always know what needs to be prepped, and now I’ve begun doing just what you were saying, the same thing every week. Now Izzy has started one morning a week at kinder, that’ll be my cleaning day and I’ll have those precious few hours without his demands to get shit done. 🙂 I like the idea of the online shop, I must investigate that option as going to the supermarket is kind of like a death wish with two littles and limited budget.
      I do the same with TV, just set limits and don’t budge on the agreed deal. He whinges for a few minutes then goes off to play. Although sometimes it’s destructive – he often totally trashes his room and the other day got hold of a black permanent marker and drew on everything, wall, books, shelf, foot stool, it was a disaster zone!
      Anyway, my little ‘to do’ app on my phone plus scheduling dinners and shopping accordingly is all helping me be more organised. And our house gets cleaned regularly too, bonus! 🙂 if only I had family around I could get more of a break but really it’s no big deal, you just make it work.
      Yes, look forward to catching up! XO

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