Karakia

My precious babies

When the sun shines let it warm your skin

Your heart is warm

Your home is warm

When it is cold know you can find warmth in my arms

I will be your shelter

I will help you build a shelter for when I’m not here

You have such strength my little ones

I believe you will do amazing things

I know this

Because I’m your mother and your mother knows things

Dance

Be anything you want to be

I will be here no matter what

And you can be

a princess

a ballerina

a digger driver

a caterpillar in a cocoon

You can be

brave

and bold

and bright

And when the sun shines I will play with you in the garden

And when it rains we can stay inside

because it’s ok to not like the rain my sweet babies

Everything will be ok

The sun will always shine again

Did you eat your matchbox car?

Oh my God why would you do that?

How did you even do that?

No I’m not angry.

But don’t eat your cars. Jesus.

***

If you liked this, follow me on Facebook for more of the same. I’m on Instagram too!

Lessons from children

A lot of what we do as parents is teaching. And I see a real focus on that in society – you need to teach, they need to learn. But I see very little about how much our children teach us, how much we can learn from them.

I have learned so much from my children. It seems like every day my son is teaching me some new lesson, he’s teaching me how to see the world a different way. Quite frankly, a better way.

I get kind of bummed at how people treat children. I’ve written about it before. One of the things that annoys me is the constant “teaching” that children have to deal with. And how adults often don’t ever consider that they could learn just as much (if not more) from children as children can from them.

To explain that with just one micro-aggression: I really hate it when people spend all their time correcting children. I loathe adults who correct adults. You know, those people who pompously say “It’s to whom, not to who”  or “you mean fewer not less” like the world will implode because someone used the wrong term in an every day conversation. As if language doesn’t ever evolve. As if the mistakes we make are more important than the fact that we are trying to communicate with each other as people. It’s just about making sure everyone knows your status. You’re a clever person. And being clever is important apparently. It puts you ahead of me. Ahead of others. You get to be at the top of the pile, to whoming and fewering everyone you come into contact with so that they remember you’re just so clever.

When people do it to children – it irritates me so much. And they do it all the time. Eddie used to confuse words like “hot” and “cold” and “up” and “down”. He would say ‘Can put me up?’ instead of ‘can you put me down’. It was clear what he was saying, but people always said NO YOU MEAN PICK ME UP. PICK ME UP NOT PUT ME DOWN. Never mind that he meant put me down. It was condescending and patronising and they weren’t even listening to him. And here’s the thing – people think you can’t be condescending or patronising to kids. They think that’s just not possible. As if children are some subset of humanity immune to being talked down to, unworthy of basic respect.

This isn’t about talking to children like they’re adults. It’s about giving them some credit because they’re learning a damn language and they’re learning to communicate (all at the same time!) It’s like when some people who only speak English speak to someone whose first language isn’t English – THEY SPEAK LOUDER. As if yelling will somehow work. Because if you can’t understand what someone is saying, surely yelling in their face will help? Right?

Children are learning how to function in a new world. There’s all this random stuff going on that they have no idea about. Every day I will say something and then catch myself and think – oh wow, he doesn’t know what that is! He saw an emu at the zoo and I could *see* his internal monologue like OH OH NO NO NO NO WHAT IS THAT THING?!?!? IS IT A BIRD?!?! IS IT A GIRAFFE?!?! THE NECK IS LONG BUT IT HAS FEATHERS?!? IT LOOKS LIKE A DINOSAUR?!?! IS IT GOING TO EAT ME?!?! WHAT THE HELL IS IT?!?! IS IT DANGEROUS?!?! IT LOOKS TERRIFYING!?! Can you imagine that? Cruising along and seeing a creature you’ve never seen before and it’s just right there and you don’t know what it’s called or what it is? And you’re tiny? That’s the shit kids are grappling with daily. Except it’s not just an emu it’s tin foil or sand or earrings.

When Eddie bursts into tears when he hears a hand dryer it takes him a full minute to truly believe me when I say hand dryers can’t hurt him. Can you even comprehend what it must be like to be afraid of hand dryers? To not have the cognitive ability to wrap your head around their actual use? To you they’re just boxed death attached to a wall that will go off at any time?

And yet – some people feel they just have to say to toddlers all the time “No it’s 1 2 3 4 5. Not 1 3 4 5” as if they’re never going to ever be able to count unless they’re corrected when they’re two years old. Or “It’s a clothes LINE not a close lion” because so many adults can’t say clothes line. Or “You said princess but you meant prince” – leaving aside the fact that you’re clearly trying to say boys can’t be princesses, what if he really just means princess? When have you ever said princess and meant prince? Never? So maybe consider that he knows exactly what he’s saying and what he’s saying is what he means?

You can actually almost see people closing themselves off to children in this way. My son stutters a bit when he’s excited or when he’s trying to get a word out and he doesn’t know what the word is. I see people not even bother to wait to hear what he’s trying to say. As if they’re so rushed and busy they can’t wait a second to hear him, to let him finish his sentence. It’s because they’ve decided what he has to say is unimportant.

Because children can’t teach us anything.

Well with that attitude these smart and clever and important people are losing out. Because kids are giving out gems for free! Kids are way smart. It’s just not necessarily the kind of smart that people value. That ‘I’m clever, you’re not, which means you’re at the bottom, and I’m on top’ kind of smart that has so much social currency.

Children are smart about life. About what matters. About treating people as they should be treated. To children, there is no Us and Them.

To my son there are about three or four jobs that are the greatest jobs there are available. Garbage man, digger man, petrol man, Bunnings man. As a grumpy old feminist it does my head in a bit to hear everything as man. But I’m not going to correct him. I’m just going to make sure that when I talk about these roles it’s “people who collect garbage” not garbage men. Every time he talks to anyone who has any of these jobs (a trip to Bunnings takes a really long time because he has to talk to every worker there) he simply cannot believe that they have the mind-blowing good fortune to be able to wake up every morning and do what they do. If he finds out we went to the petrol station without him we hear about it for weeks.

When he found out his dad worked at a petrol station he could hardly speak. His dad was already his hero and now he finds out he worked in a petrol station? Dear god, is there nothing this man can’t do??

And yet – my husband has had numerous people (many, many, many people) make comments to his face about how petrol station workers are morons. Society pumps out (yes pumps out) classist shit about petrol stations 24-7: Go to school or you’ll end up working at a petrol station. Forget about the bullies, they’ll be pumping your gas some day. Better work hard or one day you’ll end up working at a BP.

All of my husband’s jobs have been blue collar. He has heard people talking about their gardener and saying that they’re thick as two bricks and another person will chime in with “well what do you expect he’s a gardener?” or how road workers are lazy “they were there all day and didn’t even move” (umm it’s their job dickwad). Often with a bit of fun racism thrown in as well. People don’t think about how quick they are to (incorrectly I might add) separate people into smart and dumb. As if you can’t be intelligent if you have a particular job that doesn’t involve academic skills. Or you can’t find joy in a job like collecting garbage. Or you’re not doing a job correctly, as decided by someone who has never done that job! The point they’re making is that these jobs are low value and the people aren’t of value either. When nothing could be further from the truth.

Really, the sad people are those who have to put down people who work in services they can’t live without in order to feel just a little bit OK with themselves.

Eddie once got so excited that a man in a digger showed him how to use the controls that he burst into tears. He was so overcome at how wonderful a digger was that he lost it.

I can’t figure out what age people get to when they stop thinking “diggers are awesome and the people driving them are amazing and I’m so happy to see one I can’t control my emotions” and start thinking “what a dumbass that person is they drive a digger”.

Now, I’m not suggesting we all start tearing up over those mini-cranes at Bunnings. But maybe we could do better than to consider the world through our kids eyes and think about why they see life the way they do. And wonder, maybe that’s the way we should be operating. Not always rushing to insist we’re smarter. We know more. There’s them and us and we’re better.

Maybe we could try learning instead of always insisting we’re the teachers.

***

If you liked this, follow me on Facebook for more of the same. I’m on Instagram too!

 

To dance, to dream

A little while back my son announced that he wanted to be a ballerina. He wanted to dance with other ballerinas he said. Can I “PEASE PEASE PEASE DEAR MAMA” let him dance with other ballerinas?

I googled ballet classes and began calling around. After half an hour of this I was pretty gutted.

At the moment like many families we are on one income. When I return to work we will be able to do more but at the moment we are on an extremely tight budget.

Most ballet classes I found were around $120 a term. Plus admin fees. Plus uniforms. Yes, uniforms. For a two year old. I know. I know.

Some didn’t seem to have any boys in the classes and looked Very Serious by the photos. The people on the phone sounded Very Serious. There was grading. And performances – where you had to pay extra for costumes. Hidden costs you’re unable to budget for.

I googled ballet shoes.

I felt like I needed a wine after doing that.

I went on Twitter and complained about ballet classes being out of reach. Because $100 a term is out of reach for many parents. $150+ and a uniform (when ballet shoes can cost upward of $40 and that’s just the shoes) – well that is beyond out of reach.

Even if you can scrape together enough for a term fee, the way classes are set up can be really challenging when you’re on a low or no income. Being at class every single week is tough – if you don’t have enough for the extra bus fare because you had to pay a $5 script fee, there goes the ability to get to your ballet class that week. And you’ve lost that money for the class. Very few places have make-up classes. And I get that – I mean, businesses have to make money. I’m just trying to explain how these things quickly become out of reach for many whānau.

If you can *just* afford a uniform – do you buy shoes a size bigger so they fit? My son has changed shoe sizes twice this year and it’s only June.

Also – he’s two. What if he doesn’t like the class? I couldn’t find one place that did a tester class.

So, as I usually do when something upsets me: I went on Twitter and moaned. And soon I was inundated with messages from other parents. They told me about crying late at night over a budget trying to pay for classes for their children. And let’s be clear – it’s not just ballet. Most activities for kids that run on a term basis are expensive. I guess ballet is just at the extreme end.

I just don’t think it’s fair that kids miss out because their parents don’t earn enough money, or are between jobs, or are in caregiver roles and therefore without a regular wage. Dinner on the table is a priority for many families – not ballet.  It isn’t the fault of these parents, it isn’t the fault of these kids. But I thought it wasn’t fair that some kids missed out. A friend who is a dancer agreed.

So we concocted a plan. Ballet for everyone. Free.

I began asking around to see how much interest there was and we began deciding what the classes should look like. Here’s where we got to:

  • Free or koha.
  • All ages, all genders.
  • As accessible as possible.
  • No uniforms or extra hidden charges.
  • Tutus for any kids who want them – but no pressure to wear them.
  • No grading, no strict rules, no competitiveness.
  • No need to commit to an entire term – classes would be “drop in” if possible.
  • Kids wouldn’t be forced to participate.
  • Emphasis would be on fun and letting the children lead.
  • Children wouldn’t be separated based on skill – it would just be basic ballet with a focus on joy.

We set up a GiveALittle page to ask for donations to cover the cost of booking a studio once a week. Then, suddenly – the donations started rolling in and word spread.

Now we have a heap of demand and we are trying to meet it. And we’re both really overwhelmed by how much of a desire there is to let kids dance and dream and have fun regardless of what their parents can afford.

Also, we are seeing there is a real need for “classes” that support kids whose needs are a little bit different. The mixed ages and genders and non-competitive aspect really seems to appeal. And that’s so awesome. So hopefully, we will be able to run some classes that are koha and those classes will be able to support the free classes.

Right now I am trying not to get teary every five minutes from the lovely support we’re getting for our Ballet is for Everyone kaupapa. The donations! So much has been given! We have had two more teachers offer to run classes. We have had brand new leotards donated. We have a wonderful person who is making tutus for us – for free! Another person is dropping off second hand dance gear. We’re beaming and sending messages to each other that are just hearts for eyes emojis.

I love this about our online community – we support, share, create, and promote kindness every day. This is just one example of it. But it’s wonderful, and joyful, and awesome, and inspiring.

And we are very grateful.

So this post is just a thank you. A “look at how amazing this is!!?!” A watch-this-space.

Thank you to everyone who has supported this wee venture. I’m excited about what we can achieve. But most of all – I’m just chuffed that a little studio in Wellington is going to full of excited children who have been given a chance to do something that was previously out of reach.

Arohanui.


 

How you can help:

  • Give a little to give a lot!
  • Like our Facebook page
  • Follow us on Twitter.
  • Contact us on the form below to let us know if you help. We need dancers to volunteer to teach classes. We need dance gear – tutus, leotards, skirts, shoes,  costumes, those pretty ribbon things…

You can also contact us if you would like to attend the classes or you would like more information.

[contact-form to=’balletisforeveryonewellington@gmail.com’ subject=’Ballet is for Everyone’][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Comment’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form]


If you liked this, follow me on Facebook for more of the same. I’m on Instagram too!

 

GUEST POST: The Word I Wish I Could Take Back

This guest post is by my dear friend Gem Wilder. Gem is a total badass, a beautiful writer, a babe of epic proportions, and a really great mum. I love what she’s written here about her experiences parenting her awesome daughter. I reckon you’ll love it too. Truth above all. Thank you Gem ❤️

The Word I Wish I Could Take Back

Motherhood comes with its own language. As soon as you find out you are pregnant you acquire a whole new vocabulary: Ante-natal, post-partum, meconium, placenta, nuchal fold, lactation, and so on and so forth forever and ever amen. Some of these new words can inspire a plethora of emotions and memories. Words like ‘latch’ can bring on a cold sweat. My sympathies to you if you gave birth in a New Zealand election year, when every utterance of the word ‘labour’ can reduce you to a sobbing mess rocking on the floor, nothing but a bundle of PTSD and hormones.

There are words that come freely with motherhood that are suddenly easier to say than ever before. Words like “I love you,” and more than that, “I love you so so SO much, you make me so happy, come here so mama can snuggle you to pieces”. Yep, you’ll say these things, and you won’t even gag when you do. You’ll say them in public without an ounce of shame. You’ll say them even as you are wiping your kid’s snotty nose with your bare hands because you don’t have any tissues, and you’ll mean them sincerely.

You will understand a language that makes no sense outside of your small family unit. My family know that ‘Bawnmolly’ was my nephew’s word for lawnmower when he was a toddler. That ‘donner’ was the cord on the side of his sleep sack that he would wrap around his hand as he sucked his thumb. We know that when his younger brother asked for a ‘cuggle’ he wanted to suck on the side of his mothers thumb, her skin tough and dry from many a night spent soothing her boy. We know that when my daughter talks about ‘pippit’ she means cricket, and we laugh when she talks about how pippit players wear iPads. When my daughter pipes up from the back seat of the car, excited about having seen a ‘pane,’ I have to decipher whether she means plane, train or crane.

There are the words that people get wrong, like my daughter’s name. People that have known her since she was born, who hear us pronounce Kōwhai with a long o, like core, then call her Kowhai, co, as if it doesn’t matter how they say it. As if it is still her name if they pronounce it an entirely different way. I knew this would happen. I have no regrets when it comes to my daughter’s name. She will tire of correcting people, or not. Maybe she won’t care. Maybe her presence in the world will inspire a few more people to learn the correct pronunciation of the beautiful native tree she was named for.

There are the words we use as terms of affection for our children, the nicknames that they endure. My bunny baby, kokomo, koko pops, my only sunshine. And the words she uses to define us, her parents. Mama. Papa. Titles we earned and owned the second she took her first breath.

My daughter is three and a half now, a chatterbox with a growing vocabulary. I hear her mimicking me often. I hear her testing out new words to see how they feel on her tongue. A few weeks ago she was describing an incident that had happened to her at daycare. “I was feeling…” and she paused, thinking of the right word to describe her emotion, “…frustrated” she finished, confident that she’d used this new word correctly.

All of these words I treasure. I wouldn’t take back a single one of them. Except….there is one word that I have overused during my time as a mama, and that word is ‘careful.’ I utter it numerous times a day. When my daughter is climbing along the top of the couch, when she is carrying a glass of water, when we’re out walking, when she’s playing rough and tumble with her cousins, when she’s curiously stroking a baby, when she’s climbing out of the bath. I say it, and then I see it. I see my daughter being careful. I see her playing at a playground and avoiding ladders she thinks she cannot climb. I see her wary of the touch pool at the aquarium, standing in such a way that she can look at the starfish below with no risk of getting her hands wet. I see her being careful, being cautious, being wary.

Careful is the word I have used the most since becoming a mother, and I hate it. I don’t want it to be the word that defines my motherhood. If I could start over I would tell my daughter to have fun. I would let her learn for herself what she is capable of, before planting the seed of danger or failure before she’s even tried something. When I told her to be careful I did so out of love, but also out of fear. I’ve learnt my lesson though and these days I sound like a cheerleader, or a motivational poster. “You can do it!” I call from the sidelines. “Just try it!” I plead. And hopefully, if I keep this up, before too long she will start to believe me. If I say it out loud enough times, maybe that’s what she’ll start hearing inside her own head.

Not even close to perfect

I managed to get both kids to sleep at the same time today. It’s difficult to describe just how great I felt at this momentous achievement. I am guessing (obviously, I mean look at me) that it feels exactly the same when you reach the summit of Mount Everest. Euphoric. Slightly out of breath. Sweaty.

I was so smug about it I felt like I deserved a glass of wine – but I didn’t have one since it was only 1pm and even though it has been a hard week I can’t quite justify 1pm wine. Maybe tomorrow.

So instead of wine I went on Facebook which is nowhere near as satisfying as wine. I was scrolling through and I saw this:

TV

God give me strength. As if any child playing outside looks like that. And the actual message here – Just eff off mate. You don’t have to be making memories every fucking second of every fucking day. So you don’t have TV, awesome. I didn’t have TV for the first 10 months. Then I got it and I can’t even put into words how much better my life is. Sometimes I see articles about people who marry appliances and for a second I look at my TV and think…well…

I digress (really, I’m sorry if you got a mental image then).

Look, you’re clearly a better mother than I. You win. I’m not even interested in playing because I would lose my damn mind if I didn’t have television to entertain my toddler for half an hour while I do eight loads of washing and feed my baby. Yes, there are other ways I could keep him occupied, but TV works best. So that’s what I do.

Just going to keep scrolling and…are..you…serious…right…now?

 

Video

Well I definitely remember being drunk as all Hell playing Crash Bandicoot when I was 17 so I just don’t agree with that at all.

minutes

A few minutes? That’s all I need to give them? Why didn’t someone tell me sooner. I have been spending all day with the little *ahem* angels.  I’ve been *grits teeth* respectfully parenting for every single second, of every minute, or every hour, of every day. And trust me, I’ve felt every minute.

Deep breath. Keep scrolling.

stretchmarks

I’ve got to be grateful for stretch marks now?

Where does it end?

What is the purpose of these damn trolling Pinterest meme things? If they’re not to make you feel like shit or feel sanctimonious then they’re failing. Because that’s literally the only two reactions you can have to these things.

Like if you see that one and say ‘Yeah! Tiger Stripes! I earned these! I’m grateful every second of every day and I’m a good person!’ cool. You do you. More power to you.

And also, I seriously believe loving your body can be a revolutionary act. That’s not my point here.

When I read it I’m like – you know what? I’m a feminist. I am all about body positivity. I rocked a bikini when I was preggo. And some days I hate my body. I loathe it. I try really, really hard to feel good about how I look after two kids. But it’s really hard. Some days I really hate my body. And you know what – I sometimes resent my kids because my body feels and looks so ruined some days. There, I said it. I’m clearly a monster. I should take my children to the firehouse and drop them off so someone with higher self esteem than me can take them. That’ll teach me.

drug

I can’t even. I tried to even. And I couldn’t even even.

Can we please inject some reality into these? Good god. You can be you. You can be an imperfect parent. You don’t have to be a Pinterest mum who does everything right all of the time. I lose my shit sometimes (often) and yell at my husband. I say sorry. Our marriage is fine.

I get so damn frustrated with my son when he absolutely refuses to change out of a pair of shorts when it’s two degrees outside and we miss the bus and the whole day feels ruined. It’s OK to get frustrated sometimes! My son is seeing that mama is a real person who gets tired and frustrated some times. He also sees that mama still loves him because this is just life – people get upset. It doesn’t mean they don’t care!

It’s OK to call your baby a little asshole under your breath when it’s 3am and they’ve woken up for the fifteenth time and you are totally exhausted. You’re still getting up and cuddling them, feeding them, loving them. You’re allowed to be shitty about not getting sleep. You’re not allowed to put the Moses basket outside and let neighbourhood cats raise your child.

It’s alright to throw your kids at your partner as soon as they walk through the door after a day of work. You’re allowed to have bad days. People have bad days at work, you’re allowed to have bad days because you’re working too. It’s just that your employers are tiny tyrants who won’t eat fruit.

You’re not a bad parent because you put on TV or let your kid play on the iPad or the computer or the playstation or if you don’t make it outside for four days because the weather is shit and YOU ARE JUST TIRED. Being tired doesn’t make you a bad parent. A bit of “screen time” *vom* won’t kill your kid. You’re a grown ass adult – you know what moderation is.

I’m not a great parent every minute of every day. Sometimes I’m only an adequate parent for an entire day. A week. Other times I ace that shit and when both kids are asleep at the end of the day I think ‘damn, I’m good at this!’ But you know what the truth is – kids don’t need perfect parents. They just need people who love them to look after them and help them grow. Having a TV, hating your stretchmarks sometimes, being exhausted – that’s OK. These are not inherently bad things. They definitely don’t make you a bad parent.

I just want permission to be the parent I am. Tired but trying. Desperately in love with my kids. Failing often but never intentionally. I am teaching my children, but they’re also teaching me. We’re a work in progress and that’s OK.

So I’m just going to sneakily paint Facebook with my own messages. The Not Perfect And Actually OK With That edition of Pinterest parenting crap.

imageimageimage

imageimage

image

If you liked this, follow me on Facebook for more of the same. I’m on Instagram too!

Giveaway: PRINCESS ALERT!

So if you follow me on Twitter (or you actually know my Eddie) you will know that he is absolutely obsessed with princesses. At the moment his obsession is putting a towel over his head and declaring himself a princess. I’m unsure how a towel says princess but I try not to interfere with his elaborate imaginary world.

So I am extremely excited to be able to host a giveaway for Disney On Ice’s new show Dare to Dream which I’m told is absolutely magical. I actually cannot WAIT to tell Eddie that he’s going. I’m also excited to see what he will choose to wear for it since his princess style is pretty on point – he has a crown he made and decorated himself and yesterday he declared himself a princess dinosaur hybrid.

Anyway, enough about toddler princesses….Here’s the deal:

Cinderella

Disney On Ice presents Dare to Dream opens in New Zealand next month and will take audiences on a spectacular journey featuring all of your favourite Disney characters. Disney On Ice presents Dare to Dream will open at Vector Arena in Auckland on July 24th, and then travel to Wellington and Christchurch.

Dates are:

  • Friday 24 July to Sunday 26 July at Vector Arena, Auckland
  • Wednesday 29 July to Sunday 2 August at TSB Bank Arena, Wellington
  • Friday 7 August to Sunday 9 August at Horncastle Arena, Christchurch

I have a double pass to give away to a show in each city! To enter just head over to my Facebook page and like Mama Said then comment on the giveaway with the city you would like to attend the show in. Share this post with anyone who has princess-obsessed kids so they don’t miss out! Competition closes July 1. For more information about the show visit their website.

 

FINALE

GUEST POST: On not being a mum – yet

This post is about wanting to be a mother but not being one – yet – and all of the internal dialogue that comes with that particular pain. Thank you so much to the author for opening up and sharing with us here – that’s tough to do. There’s nothing more powerful than speaking your truth. We can connect with people all around the world so simply by sharing our experiences and our thoughts and feelings. Empathy and honesty binds us. I am so grateful to the women who share their stories here. I feel very privileged to be able to host these stories and I take that honour very seriously, so guest posts are moderated. I am always keen to feature posts about different experiences in parenting so please email me if you’d like to write something for the site.

Trigger warning: Infertility. 

I didn’t really want to see Avengers: Age of Ultron. I’d seen spoilers for it. Not about major plot points or if any of the main cast die or anything like that, but the fact that a big deal was made about Black Widow being infertile.

My friends would probably assume I didn’t want to see it because I really don’t need more terribly-handled Joss Whedon casual-sexism-disguised-as-Strong-Female-Character-development in my pop culture.

A few years ago, that would have been true. Despite much urging, I still haven’t watched Dollhouse precisely because I’m so over Whedon’s obsession with using sexual violation and psychological abuse to progress his Strong Women Characters’ storylines.

Now it’s different. Now, I just don’t want to see yet another movie or TV show which uses a woman’s infertility to make the audience feel sad.

A coworker once told me, “when you’re pregnant you suddenly see pregnant women EVERYWHERE.” It’s like when you’re waiting to get picked up by someone who drives a red car, and all you can see is red cars going past.

Well, you don’t just suddenly see pregnant women everywhere when you’re pregnant. You see them everywhere when you desperately, desperately wish you WERE pregnant. And you’re not. And your chances of getting pregnant “naturally” are pretty nonexistent. And there’s pretty much nothing you can do about it but pray and daydream about tens of thousands of dollars falling into your lap.

And you feel like the worst fucking feminist in the world. You’ve spent your entire politically-conscious life railing against the patriarchy, against the social pressures which say as a woman (ignoring/erasing trans women, of course) you must want kids. It’s natural, it’s ingrained, and you downright deserve to get paid less and overlooked for jobs and treated like a man’s property for it. All the institutional sexism stops being oppressive once you look into your baby’s eyes, right?

It’s bullshit. You know that. It’s a trap which set by The Man to stifle your options and perpetuate capitalism. You don’t need kids to be fulfilled. You can totally live your life and have your relationship and build your amazing career and be a whole, healthy, satisfied person.

Except I’m not. Despite ticking so many of the boxes, despite being in a comfortable place with nothing but good options in front of me, I just want to be pregnant. I just want to have a baby. It’s not rational, it’s not conscious, it’s just a deep, driving urge which no amount of sense can talk down.

But it might never happen. That’s life. Sometimes shit doesn’t work out the way you assumed it would when you were planning everything out at the age of 13.

So I try to go through life looking at the great things I have – a job I enjoy, a partner I love, a warm dry house – and hey, if it happens, it happens. Maybe by random biological chance. Maybe by a sudden financial windfall making IVF an option. I find myself humming “Let it Go” a lot to try to stop stressing myself out about it.

But at the same time, every single show and movie – not just the ones peppered with Joss Whedon’s trademarked short-and-snappy dialogue – seems to be part of a grand scheme to remind me that my situation is literally the worst thing that can happen to a woman.

In Game of Thrones, Daenerys Targaryen is hung up on never being able to have children of her own. Revenge’s Emily Thorne can’t get pregnant because Daniel Grayson shot her. Masters of Sex was unsurprisingly full of reproductive themes but specifically used Libby’s desire to have a child to emphasise what a villain she was against the happy, randy, fecund Virginia. Boardwalk Empire – Nucky’s first wife had a mental snap after their child was stillborn (again – the infertile woman = villain compared to child-bearing Margaret’s virtue). Mad Men’s Trudy Campbell got depressed about not being able to conceive and seeing women with children everywhere.

Spartacus’ Lucretia is obsessed with having a baby. The titular second half of Julie and Julia cries on hearing about her sister’s pregnancy. I’ve been there. How many episodes of any procedural crime drama – or supernatural drama – revolve around adopted children, crooked fertility doctors, women so desperate to conceive they do extreme things? How many science fiction shows depict species which can’t reproduce taking drastic action to preserve their societies?

My favourite show is Orphan Black – wall-to-wall motherhood issues.

Don’t even start me on the opening montage of Up.

I try to be reasonable. Relationships and procreation are common human experiences, so of course that’s reflected in our media. I tell myself I should take comfort from the fact my situation isn’t unique. Other people get what I’m going through.

But every day while I try to hold things together, chill out, let life unfold the way it can … fuck, it’s difficult. And I just wish I could sit down and watch a goddamned silly superhero movie without being reminded yet again of the assumption, the thing I know deep in my soul, the thing I deny and deny but can’t escape: that my whole life is a complete fucking failure if I can never have babies.

I went to see Age of Ultron in the end. I figured I was forewarned, at least. If I cut out every bit of media from my life which used women’s fertility as a plot device I wouldn’t be able to watch anything at all. Just got to keep trucking on, and hoping.

They listened

I’ve sat on this blog post for a while now. One thing I don’t ever, ever, EVER want to do here is make anyone feel judged or shitty. We all have different experiences in parenting, and I know that sometimes when I’ve been exhausted and feeling overwhelmed I’ve read things online that have made me cry and feel like the shittiest mother ever. Sometimes I think it’s intentional – people post without caring about how it will hurt, or they post horrible things for clicks, or they’re like actually mean jerks. But often I think it’s unintentional, just badly worded, or the person hasn’t quite said what they meant to say – or maybe I didn’t get it because I read it with all of my hurt and sadness and feelings and experiences sitting on my heavy, tired shoulders. And that’s ok and not my fault or their fault or anyone’s fault. So I don’t know where I’m going with this – I guess I’m saying that after re-reading and editing and reading and editing I’ve decided to post this. I do not want to minimise anyone’s experiences – this is just my truth and I want to say it. I think the most important thing (the TL:DR version) is that we must feel supported in the choices we make about how we feed our children. It’s important. Really, truly important. Thank you for reading.

Breastfeeding Nazis. Nipple Nazis. Breastapo. Breast feeding police. Psychos. Smug earth mother bitches. Sanctimummys. Bullies. Anti-Formula fanatics. Did you hear the one about that mother whose baby died because she’d been BRAINWASHED by lactation consultants? They’re mum bashing do-gooders. They hate formula. They hate women. They should get rid of Le Leche League. They’re a bunch of dangerous hippies.

That’s just a sample of what people say about lactation consultants on your average article about breast feeding in New Zealand.

Well, here’s what I have to say about them – they listened to me. They heard me. When I felt desperately alone – they were there for me. They empowered me. They made me feel strong. They wiped away my tears. They made me feel like I’m a good mother and I should be proud of myself. They made me feel like I mattered too. That I could trust myself as a mother. They were there when I felt like nobody else was there.

I always thought breast feeding would be easy. I had always wanted to breast feed. I tried so very hard with my first born. But I was too scared to ask for help. I’d been told by absolutely everyone that lactation consultants would yell at me. They’re anti formula I was told. They’re judgemental. I didn’t ask for help because I was afraid of them.

While my oldest son was in hospital I tried to advocate for myself and for him. I wanted to keep breast feeding I told the doctors and nurses and registrars and well-meaning family. I kept being told my milk was the problem. In my head I felt that couldn’t be right. Why couldn’t I just give him expressed breast milk in a bottle? Why did it have to be formula? Alone and utterly exhausted and emotionally ruined I gave him formula at 3am in hospital. I weaned in agony in a children’s ward on my own. Every time a child near me cried my breasts did too. I was never able to comfort him at the breast again. I remember sobbing and asking a nurse “How do I stop the milk?” she just said “we can’t give you anything” and walked off. Another said “There’s nothing wrong with formula for goodness sake!” I’d never, ever suggested that there was anything wrong with formula. I got mastitis in both breasts while trying to look after my desperately ill child.

I’m not anti-formula. I formula fed my son. I am very grateful for formula. But I will never be thankful for the way I was railroaded into giving up on breast feeding. It really hurt me. And for a long time I swallowed that hurt because when I tried to voice it people jumped down my throat – don’t you think you’ve got bigger things to worry about? There’s nothing wrong with formula. Your son gained weight. Isn’t he the priority? Shouldn’t you put your son first? Actually formula is better than breast milk because you know what’s in formula. Who cares how you feed your baby. Get a grip. You should have really started him on formula earlier. All that matters is that your son is healthy. You’re being a bit dramatic aren’t you?

I felt silenced at every turn. I didn’t dare express how I felt. I knew how I should feel – I should know that what I wanted wasn’t important. That my instincts were wrong. That wanting to breast feed was selfish if I couldn’t do it immediately without any hassles. Sick children should be given formula. Breast milk is too unreliable. It was irresponsible, even dangerous, definitely self-absorbed and narcissistic, to want to breast feed if it was difficult or if my child had health problems. I was anti-formula and judgemental of mothers who used formula if I didn’t use it when I was told to. Breast feeding was just a way to feed your child – it had no other worth. As such it didn’t matter how you fed, just feed – but with formula.

Even now, two and a half years on, I find it so hard to trust my own feelings because of the gaslighting and stress of it all.

When my second son was born I was absolutely determined that I would make the choice as to whether I breast fed or not. I wouldn’t let anyone else take that choice from me.

The first people to listen to me were my midwives. One of my midwives is training to be a lactation consultant. In tears I told her about my weaning the first time. She listened. She never called me dramatic or told me off for the feelings I had. She held my hand.

I left the hospital a few hours after my second was born and she came over to help me with my latch. She then came over again a few days later. She kept texting me and sending me online messages to trouble shoot the problems I was having. She did all of this voluntarily.

Being a midwife is an exhausting job – long hours and emotionally it requires huge resilience. I am astounded still that on her days off she took the time to visit me to help me feed.

I messaged her at 2am when my son was recently in hospital and I was again in a vulnerable position with formula being offered at every possible opportunity. She immediately responded. She sent me love and encouragement and said she would come to the hospital to help me.

What a Nazi.

When my son was two months old I went to the Newtown Breastfeeding Support Clinic. I walked in and immediately started sobbing. The volunteer there gave me a glass of water and a hug – she listened to me. Another volunteer entertained my toddler while they helped me with the pain I was having in one of my breasts. I felt completely safe in that hall. Surrounded by other mums struggling through like I was.

Every single week these women gather and sit in a hall and help mums breast feed. Voluntarily. They give up those hours with their children to help us with our children.

Bullies right?

Those lactation consultants kept emailing me to make sure I was ok – physically and emotionally. Not once did they pressure me to breast feed or bottle feed. I was given help with the pain and told they could give me help with weaning if I chose to do that. They discussed what could be the reason I was having pain and kept in close contact with me.

Smug right? Anti-formula fanatics. Totally.

But Le Leche League are the worst aren’t they?

In agony one afternoon I called a number on the Le Leche League website. A woman answered. I could hear her children in the background. I was completely hysterical. I could barely get words out. She told me to take deep breaths and she calmed me down enough to get details from me. This volunteer, a stranger, offered to come to me if I needed immediate help. She encouraged me to contact my husband and get him to come home and take me to my GP. This might all sound melodramatic to you but if you’re surviving on no sleep, and you’re in extreme pain, and you’re overwhelmed – it’s impossible to think straight.

This woman voluntarily takes calls from sobbing mothers day in and day out and talks them off ledges.

I ended up in A&E where a doctor gave me tramadol. I was a mess on it. I was told by almost everyone to just stop breast feeding. I know why. I know it is well-meaning. I know I am stubborn. But it was so hard to hear that.

I was never told to stop or keep going by lactation consultants. I was never dismissively told “happy mum happy baby!” as if wanting to breast feed was a terrible thing to do to my child. I was never told ‘you don’t have to breast feed you know’ or ‘I don’t know why you’re bothering’ or ‘it’s not compulsory’ as if I was a complete moron who doesn’t know her own mind.

I wasn’t ever pressured by anyone to breast feed.

I wanted to.

Desperately.

The only time I was ever given permission to feel this way was when I was around lactation consultants.

This post is mainly just a post about my appreciation for them. I managed to get through my son’s hospital stay without stopping breast feeding. I am proud of myself for that. I trusted my gut and he gained weight on breast milk. I knew he would. I know my milk is working well for him. But it has taken me a long time to trust myself. And I trust myself because of them.

Now, I feed on one side as the other boob is some weird cosmic mess that is super painful. But I feed! I did it! I am immensely proud of myself. I feel like it’s a big achievement. Because it was so painful. So difficult. And I kept going. And I did what I thought was best for me and my son. And it worked!

I now breast feed without pain. My son is pink and fat like a delicious Christmas ham.

I could not have done it without lactation consultants. They protected me. Supported me. Comforted me.

More than anything they listened to me. And here I am – finally, four months on, feeding my baby easily.

I got to heal myself and that matters.

So I guess this is one of those posts that doesn’t really have a message – except maybe this: I’m not going to buy into the narrative that lactation consultants are monsters. If you need help with breast feeding then go to them! Your feelings matter. A lot of women can’t breast feed. But a lot can if they’re given support and help and they’re listened to. And they should be listened to.

And somebody will listen. I’m so incredibly grateful that so many women block out the horrific abuse they get on every article about their profession, every thread online, in mum groups, on Twitter, on Facebook, at coffee groups – everywhere – to voluntarily listen every day to women like me who need help.

***

If you liked this, follow me on Facebook for more of the same. I’m on Instagram too!

 

 

There are lovely words

I’m in hospital with my son. We have been here all week. I have been too tired to write a coherent blog post but my brain is still a jumble of words. I have written bits and pieces over the last few days. Here are some feelings. Some things I’ve been thinking. Not particularly eloquent, but I wanted to put them out there anyway.


There are some lovely words.
Ya’aburnee is a word commonly used in Lebanon, it is Arabic, and it is difficult to translate. It is the wish that you will die before the one you love. Simply: You bury me.
Unsurprisingly, it is a sentiment that lives mostly in the hearts of mothers. I have watched my two babies fragile in their hospital beds, fighting for breath, too many times now. Each time Ya’aburnee escapes from my lips as a whisper, a fervent prayer.
It is the same every time – when my babies are at rest, their chests still straining but their eyes closed, I too close my eyes. I picture them at peace and content with loved ones, partners, children, grandchildren, friends, cuddles, kisses, travel, wine, cheese, trampolines, laughter, happy tears, celebrations. I picture them proud watching recitals, performances, gigs, shows, races – karate, swimming, guitar, ballet? I picture them at graduations, awards, writing CVs, creating art. I picture them with a faceless love by their side who brings them as much joy as their father brings me. And I imagine them saying “your Nanna used to say…” to their grown children in remembrance of me. And even though I’m gone, they’re not broken by my absence. They have their own beautiful lives now. And they look at their babies and whisper ya’aburnee.


If a woman’s work is never done a mother is never allowed to rest. I am told to rest. To sleep. To “have a cup of tea”. I hate tea. It tastes like dirt. I am fuelled by coffee.
I am anchored to my son’s cot. I am a lumbering ship. Slow. Not in the best condition really. But determined. I need things to be repeated, I don’t understand what the doctors say to me the first time around. I cry in private. It is too hard to rest. When I sleep it is through sheer force. My body drags me down into the ground and it’s dark and cool and then a cry launches me up. My body acts before my brain does. I am here, it’s ok, I am here. I will rest later.


My second boy came into the world screaming. His face was a deep purple. He was nine pounds and three ounces and he was born angry, screaming at the sky. I love that fight in him. His labour was long, far too long. He fought to be here, to be heard, and he fights to stay here. He seems so resilient even as he struggles. I did not have drugs during his labour because I did not want to be away from my Eddie overnight. It was agony. I felt like my pain could crack the sky. But it wasn’t as painful as being away from my Eddie for so many days now. My arms feel empty. I long to kiss his forehead. To push his dirty blonde hair from his face. To hear his incessant chatter. The ward even with the crying, the constant alarms, the yelling, the sound of so much marching past our door, sounds too quiet without his relentless commentary. I saw him briefly and he said to me “you ok my darling? My dear mama?” He is so compassionate. He is a born mother. A study in care and empathy.
Missing someone  even when you know they’re close and not gone, can feel like physical pain. I just know I never want to be apart from my babies.


This place is misery. Surely, there is no sadder more isolated place than the children’s ward in a hospital. Mothers rock even when their babies aren’t in their arms. Fathers have red ringed eyes. Their shoulders are tense. Their footsteps are the heaviest. Nurses are patient but parents are quick to anger. There is so much crying, screeching, babies in pain – but I think the worst cry is the lonely, desperate crying in the night of parents who just want their babies to be better. Torture is not being able to fix your baby. To not be able to hold them because of tubes and monitors and chords like delicate ropes that feel like they’re strangling you. To stand with teeth clenched, nails digging into your arms, as strangers work, speaking a language you don’t understand, too busy to translate, on your precious baby – it is some specific type of Hell. But there is so much humanity here too. The doctor who gently sings a lullaby to your baby as he tries to get a line in. The nurse who gets you a hot chocolate just because you look like you need one. The texts and tweets and calls and financial support because Heaven knows nothing is more terrifying that not being able to pay your bills when you’re in here. The man at the coffee stand who remembers your order and starts making it so you don’t have to speak through tears. The other parents who nod and say “need anything?” No energy for themselves but they are machines with one setting – to care for their babies, and anyone else who needs it right now. Because we share this Hell together.


I will get to leave. My baby will be ok. But some won’t. And I weep for them. Nobody should ever have to bury their child. Every time I leave hospital I have a renewed dedication to frantic, compulsory empathy and compassion for others. The world is too mean too often. We have to be kinder. Always. Gentle. Always. Because some people never get to leave here.

***

 

If you liked this, follow me on Facebook for more of the same. I’m on Instagram too!

Maybe tomorrow

I am nearing my 30th birthday and it has made me question a lot of things. At 2am, while writing blog posts in my head, and gritting my teeth through another painful feed, and gazing at my beautiful baby, I thought – what do I want most of all?

I realised I want two things in this life.

I want to be a really good mum.

I want my children to always feel loved, to always feel safe, to always know that there is nothing they can do that will change how much I love them, and that they are never responsible for my happiness. I want them to know that they don’t have to perform for my love. That they don’t have to do anything to keep their precious place as my beloved children.

I want to be a good partner.

None of this good-wife-1950s-throwback BS, but I want my husband to know that I love him, that I appreciate him (gosh, I really hope he knows how much I appreciate him). I want him to know that every day I choose him as my partner, my friend, my teacher, my lover (well shit that’s not every day, but you know what I mean), and my trusted companion through everything. I want him to know that I really love our life together. That the last ummm more than a decade (I can never remember how long it has been) has been amazing. And that I am grateful for everything we have given each other – obviously, most of all I’m grateful we are parents together.

So clearly, I can tell my kids and my partner all of these things. And I do. It’s kind of a running joke that I’m the “I love you!!” person in our house. I try not to get all scary on them with the intensity of my love for them. I don’t want to accidentally swing into delusional, terrifying mothering – It’s a fine line between Molly Weasley and Cersei Lannister.

MUM STAAAHHHP!

MUM STAAAHHHP!

But it takes more than just saying it. Actions speak louder than words and bla bla bla.I need to show it.

I try, I really do, to be a good parent and partner each day. But the thing is – I’m not.

There are days I fall really short of this goal. I get all shitty that my two year old won’t eat just one bloody bite of food. Or that he keeps leaning out of the bloody buggy. Or that some days he whines and moans and whines and moans and I can’t even understand him because his voice is so high-pitched with that awful toddler moan. I get annoyed at the baby for clamping down on my nipples and yanking his head away with my nipple still in his mouth. I get shitty at him for refusing to settle. He’s tired. I’m tired. He’s fed. He’s dry. Go the fuck to sleep. I seethe at my partner when he does stuff like pouring my expressed breast milk down the sink because he thought it was old (he did this two months ago, and I still feel super emotional about it). It annoys me that he gets annoyed at me for not wiping down the bench.

There are microagressions. Many, many microaggressions.

I once got so frustrated with my son that I said ‘fine, do whatever the fuck you want, I don’t care’ and he said ‘Eddie WILL do fuck wanna wan mama’ and we laughed. A lot. And then I said “Don’t tell your dad” and I gave him a lollipop and an Easter egg for lunch. Yes, a lollipop and an Easter egg. And that’s all he ate the whole day.

And I’m starting to think that actually that’s OK.

Because parenting and partnering is like that. There are days where you suck at it. And there are days where you compromise and the compromises aren’t even good ones. And yes, I swear at my kids sometimes. And I feel really guilty.

But then, I get so into feeling guilty that I don’t realise that it’s a whole new day tomorrow. And I have a whole new day to try to do better. And I don’t want to get all hashtag blessed on you but – I don’t want to waste days feeling guilty when I’m so lucky to have these days with my family.

So when it’s 2am and I know I had moments where I was not a good parent the day before I try to tell myself that moments of not good parenting doesn’t make me a bad parent. Moments of anger, frustration, even rage at my partner doesn’t make our marriage a bad one. Our partnership isn’t flawed. We’re all tired. And we’re all doing the best that we can. My children aren’t going to grow up to be serial killers (hopefully) because I told my oldest I would leave him at the bus stop if he didn’t keep his hands in the buggy.

Because tomorrow, today – I can be better. I can respectfully explain to my son why he needs to keep his hands inside the buggy instead of snapping. I can spend more time convincing him that a kiwifruit won’t kill him, that a sandwich is good for his body. I can take a deep breath and count to 10 before yelling. I can get my husband a cold drink and remember he’s had a long day too when he gets home. I can let go the fact that he poured that milk down the drain.

Because I’m not perfect. And I want my kids to see that it’s OK to not be perfect. As long as there’s love in this home it can be an imperfect home. As long as we are trying, it’ll be OK. We will have good days and bad days. We will be good to each other and appreciate that some times we snap at each other and that’s OK – as long as we keep trying. Trying every day to do a little better.

Each day, I can work toward my goals of being a good parent and a good partner. And I will fail some days. But that’s OK. These goals aren’t just boxes to tick. They’ll be my never-ending aims. And they’re examples for my children.

And I’ve got tomorrow if today doesn’t work out.

**

If you liked this, follow me on Facebook for more of the same. I’m on Instagram too!