18 months

You are on the cusp of 1 and a half. This, for me, is the best age yet – you are pure delight: a winning combination of angelic innocence, infectious giggles and exploding language skills which amaze me every day. A recent snapshot of new words: butterfly (butterby), mushroom, paintbrush, peanut butter (peta butta), starfish. Today you came out with your first sentence: More please (morpease), mama. About sultanas, obviously.

There are so many weird things about becoming a parent, but watching this creature transform gradually from a red, squashy, screaming caterpillar into a fully-fledged human is by far the most awesome.

A lot of this newfound delight is down to you finally starting to sleep through the night, which makes everything SO much easier (and makes you just that tiny smidge easier to love). Who knows how long this particular sleep cycle will last; it’s been long enough that I no longer go to bed with one ear open. It’s also your giggles and shrieks of delight when you love something in that whole-hearted, whole-bodied way that only a toddler can love something. What do you love right now? SULTANAS. Your sticker book ‘Oshee’ (Let’s Explore the Ocean). Your manimao (cat) and tigee toys. Going for walks. Sitting in your cubby in the wardrobe. Teepee (tv), especially Elmo and Emma. Cuggles (cuddles). What do you hate? Wearing pants, mostly.

This is the first time I’ve felt the true privilege of bearing witness to your growth, and been able to appreciate it in a way that I haven’t before. I’m so lucky to be able to enjoy this time with you. This time is fleeting, I know. It’s one of the great parental paradoxes: Hurry up and grow. Please stop growing.

In a few months we will head to your Baba’s hometown of Mumbai, where you will spend some long-awaited time with your Aba and Aji, and meet your Atya in person for the first time. I’m a little scared of how you will cope with the flight and jet-lag, but I am so excited for you, and for them. You are going to be immersed in a whole new way of life – a different language, different food, different clothes, new experiences – from a culture you’ve only experienced a little of. The love, however, will be just the same.

May you be bathed in love and light your entire life, my darling girl. You’ve brought so much of that to our lives.

Love you boogaloo,

xx mama.

11 Months: Divine, maddening creature

My darling girl. You have been testing us these last few months.

Is it a sleep regression? Teething pain? Developmental leap? Who knows. All I know is that my wrists ache from rocking you to sleep, your naps can be measured in nanoseconds, I’ve been going mad trying to feed you when you reject 99% of foods offered, and I have been giving your baba SUCH a hard time.

Sorry baba. I mean, Vik. Sometimes I forget that there was a you and me, before we were three.

We’ve given up trying to resettle you when you wake at night, so we bring you into our bed to snuggle. By snuggle, I mean dig your little toes into me and whack me in the face intermittently.

Some days I am desperate for thirty minutes to myself, with no one else to think about.

Other days, I think I’ll go mad from your blood-curdling screams that pierce directly to the centre of my brain and set my nervous system on fire. Those days, your baba cops it when he gets home from work.

But oh, gorgeous girl. For every exhausting day, there are shining moments that make it worthwhile.

You are getting more beautiful and funny by the day. Your squeals of delight make my heart swell in my chest. Your grinning face beams pure sunshine. Your precious little bod is divine, your chubby hands slapping the ground as you speed-crawl along the floorboards. When we walk you around, your feet take off faster than the rest of you, desperate to run ahead. I watch as you make new discoveries, picking things up and turning them back and forth in your hands, your engineering mind at work. Occasionally, out of the blue, you come and rest your head in my lap for a moment. Nothing has ever made me feel so maternal as this.

Pointing is your new thing. You point at this thing, then that, so that your baba and I find ourselves walking back and forth all over the house while you point imperiously at the next object that has caught your attention. Your two willing slaves are too besotted to care that we are being totally played.

I pretend to roll my eyes when you reach for me from your baba’s arms. Secretly, it makes me feel a tiny bit smug – plus I know it’s only a matter of time before you prefer him, so I’m soaking it up while I can.

Oh, and you finally said ‘mama’. Or more precisely, mumumumumumum.

Love you bablu dablu,

xx Mama.

Six months

Well, here we are. 6 months in and you’re not only alive, you’re thriving.

Can you believe we made it this far? You and I?

You are becoming a proper little person, with a distinct personality. I want to record something about you right now, at this point in time, before we move on to the next stage, and we’re so involved in that, we forget the previous stage (and so on, and so on, until you’ve moved out and your Baba and I look at each other like, what the hell just happened?).

When you’re in the right mood, the most random things will make you laugh manically. A raised eyebrow. Making fart noises. A sideways look. Throwing a ball up and catching it. Pretending to eat your fingers. Saying ‘Baba’. And when it happens (which is impossible to predict), it is the best, and we do it over and over just to hear that breathless laugh again.

You have always been a super-textural baby, but right now you are particularly fascinated by doorknobs. Every time I walk past one, you lean over for a quick inspection, and if I stop, you could spend 10 minutes running your little fingers over it and moving the door back and forth.

When I try and feed you, you grab the spoon with your super-strong monkey grip and use it as a teething toy, gagging yourself in the process. You love pumpkin, and hate rice cereal.

You love being outdoors. You almost always stop crying when I take you outside, and I love watching as your bright eyes flick from one thing to the next – the leaves on the curry leaf plant, a rose, the watering can – and you smile and frown in concentration at the world around you.

On very rare mornings, you stay happily in your cot waiting for me to come and fetch you, talking and singing softly to yourself. Those happy sounds are like drugs to me.

You are slowly getting used to bathtime. You still won’t smile and play, and your hands grip the sides of the tub while you look massively worried throughout – but you don’t scream non-stop, which is progress.

The car capsule is another story.

Speaking of bathtime, when you are nude, all I can think of are Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, and their gorgeous chubby tummies and thighs. You are a perfect Gumnut baby size right now.

Your little legs never stop moving. When you’re in the highchair, they swing back and forth like two metronomes. When you’re on your mat, your heels thump against the floor like a drum. In the jolly jumper, they bend and stretch like they are spring-loaded. I think you’re going to be a very active girl when you are up on your feet and and running.

You smile whenever you catch sight of yourself in the mirror.

Who could blame you?

Love you chintu pintu,

xx Mama.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then there was you…

A little girl. A tiny thing who came and blew our carefully constructed, quiet little world apart. Those first days were full of terror and wonder, then there was just terror as I struggled and struggled to breastfeed and to quiet you and to make it okay. You were clearly not okay, your new voice shrieking bewildered into our stunned and ringing ears hour after hour.

For the first four weeks, your Baba and I paced the house in shock, trying to remember to eat and barely speaking to one another. When it became too much for one of us we would thrust you at the other and walk outside for a minute, blinking in the sunlight after the dimness of days spent indoors. My hormones raged, my skin flared with rashes and ran with sweat, and my breasts… well, they were just two torture devices attached to my chest, throbbing with pain when you weren’t attached and cutting like glass when you were.

In the little time that you slept, I lay down and instead of sleeping, my head spun with thoughts of you, the reams of advice I’d received and sought, my heart pounding with panic about what I was doing wrong. Occasionally I fell into a fitful sleep until your howls jolted me awake with an electric shock. I went a little crazy. Hallucinated that you were in bed with us when you weren’t. Heard the voices of a pair of men having an urgent conversation in our bedroom in the early hours, which grew into a crowd of people all talking at once; a busy train platforms worth of people. I was strangely calm – I knew I was severely sleep deprived and that this was a symptom of that and not madness. I closed my eyes and waited for them to leave me alone.

Four weeks into your life, your Baba had to go back to work. I was in an absolute panic with the anticipation of this. Panic at the thought of being left alone with this strange creature, and being solely responsible for her all day after another night of endless feeding, crying and no sleep. It was utterly terrifying.

I stumbled on for a few more weeks on my own before finally crumbling and calling my mum to tell her I wasn’t coping. I could barely make myself heard – the shock and terror had stolen my voice and punched the air out of my lungs. She switched into no-nonsense mother-hen mode and came over, insisting that I go see our family doctor immediately, even though she was over an hours drive away. You, my little girl, were left with your Baba and a bottle of expressed milk while I sobbed and sobbed in the doctors office.

It was a perfect storm of sorts – recovering from the shock of childbirth; the stress of a new baby and subsequent sleep deprivation; the sudden postpartum drop in Oxytocin; the medication which had kept me on an even keel laying untouched since I found out I was pregnant; the multiple problems plaguing my attempts at breastfeeding.

That was the beginning of things turning around. I knew I had help – my mum (thank god for her), my dad, my doctor and my medication.

Gradually, I started to get better. Slowly, I learned to live with your cries. I loosened my grip on my guilt over giving up breastfeeding and learned how to prepare a set of bottles and formula for the day. My lovely sister-in-law came over and spent a day with me, prodding me to get out of the house and go to the shops for some basic baby items – something I couldn’t face on my own. Eventually, I walked up to the local shops and bought some milk and groceries with you in the pram, all by myself. It seems such a small thing, but it felt huge. I was pouring with anxious sweat by the time I got home, but I made it. We made it.

And of course, my baby girl, I fell in love with you at last. At around 6 weeks, you started smiling – and the first rays of light shone through the clouds that had darkened those early days.

Now, I can finally delight in you – the softness of your marshmallow cheeks, your bright dark eyes studying my face with a gaze that seems so intelligent, your sweet change-table chats with your Baba in the evenings. Before, I felt like a fraud singing to you, like I was following a script titled ‘How to Behave like a Normal Mother’. Now, I can’t stop singing to you.

It’s not easy, and I’m still not getting much sleep. But now when I go to settle you in the middle of the night, I don’t feel terror and dread – I pull on my dressing gown, drag my tired body into your nursery, sighing and maybe cursing inwardly – but as I lean over your cot I can’t help but marvel at your sweet little face.

You’ve taken us on quite a journey, little one. And this is only the beginning…

 

 

 

The sweet spot

After the hell that was the first half of this pregnancy (did I mention that??), the third trimester has been much easier, despite the hip pain and heartburn and consequent wakeful nights. I’m so thankful to not be throwing up on the regular, I could be wheelchair-bound and forced to sleep sitting  up, and I would still be happier than I was in those early nausea-and-vomit-tainted months.

Oh, I’ve slowed down. I’ve slowed waaaay down to the kind of pace where an average turtle could easily overtake me as I lumber towards the shops. Everything takes me longer, from eating a meal to hanging out the washing. Sometimes pelvic pain strikes and makes every step painful (I’ve had to turn back on occassion). But the funny thing is, after nearly 39 (!) years of being a speed-walker who huffs at slowbies holding up the footpath, I DON’T CARE. I’m big and slow and that’s just how it is. Everyone else is going to have to deal.

The nursery is coming together at last. The pictures on the wall are the same pictures that were up when it was my workspace – lovely pictures from my travels that make me happy. Leaving them up means that the nursery wall decoration is ticked off with zero effort from me (bonus). Gosh, I’ve been lazy these past few weeks. I’m really lazing it up, like the smug first-time preggo I am. Yes I’m going to put my feet up, I’m growing a goddamn person over here! I figure there’ll be plenty of time for working my ass off in the coming months/years to make up for it.

Am I worried about the birth? Not really. It doesn’t keep me up at night. The baby’s coming out one way or another, and in the scheme of things, that’s far less of a worry than the fact that when you get home from hospital, you’re entirely responsible for a totally helpless, incoherent new little human. I’m more worried about how we’ll cope with the sleepless nights; how soon I will have to return to freelance work; how my mental health might be affected; our financial situation. It’s the first time in my adult life that I won’t be earning an income (apart from the few months I spent WWOOFING), and that makes me nervous.

I’m just trusting that the baby herself will be ok, because I don’t want to go down that particular rabbit-hole of ‘what ifs’. Please be ok, little baby.

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Yesterday the temperature hit 43 degrees celcius in Melbourne, and after spending a very uncomfortable day in our overly warm house, I made my husband take me to the local pool after he got home from work. I spent a lovely hour or so swimming (ever so slowly) up and down in the blessedly cool water, the pressure on my hips and pelvis miraculously lifted. I smiled as I felt the baby’s tiny foot bulge out of my right side, as we were both suspended in our bodies of water (my body of water!), and for a short while, I felt wonderfully weightless and free.

What not to say to your friend struggling with infertility

“Just relax, it’ll happen”

Number one on the ‘what not to say’ list. There is nothing more frustrating, more foolish, or more downright thoughtless to hear when you’re going through this struggle. Telling someone to relax when they’re going through one of the most stressful, emotionally fraught events of their lives is akin to telling someone with depression to ‘just think positive’. Unhelpful.

“It’ll happen when you stop trying” (see also: “I know this one couple who tried for x years and when they finally gave up they got pregnant”)

Nope. That’s not how it works. Couples go to incredible lengths to get pregnant if they really want it, and if you say this you’re negating that massive effort, cost, emotional upheaval and time investment. Not to mention, the vast majority of couples fall pregnant when they’re trying – you only hear about the ones that get knocked up when they don’t expect it because it’s unusual.

“Maybe it’s not meant to be” 

Although this acknowledges that it may not happen for you, and tries to be philosophical about it, saying this to a couple who are still in the process of trying (no matter how long it’s been) is disheartening. Also, unless you place your faith in some higher power, or believe in fate, it’s essentially meaningless – there is no ‘meant to be’ or ‘not meant to be’, there is just the random nature of the universe.

“Maybe you’ll be one of those childless couples”

Terrible. Don’t say this. I had this said to me and it was devastating: at once cutting off all hope and being judgemental of childless couples.

“Have you thought about adoption?”

Do you have any idea what adoption involves in Australia? Chances are, you don’t. Adoption is a whole separate, lengthy process with its own set of complications, and there are very few couples who have the emotional and financial resources to address both their own infertility struggle and the adoption process concurrently.

What to say instead:

“This must be hard for you. I’m sorry you’re going through this”

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“Is there anything I can do to support you?”

“We will be here for you no matter what.”

“You’ll be a great mum/dad” (although be warned this is 99% likely to result in tears!)

On mothers & daughters

How do you get on with your mother? It’s the classic starting point for any psychological exploration. I’ve always struggled to define my relationship with my mum, which is generally good these days, but has certainly been through its rough patches. Now that I’m on the verge of having a daughter myself, I find this question has taken on a new, uncomfortably familiar dimension. The idea of having a girl is so much more daunting than the idea of having a boy, somehow. Girls are just so much… more. More complex. More emotional. More difficult.

Generally speaking, of course. I know I was.

I recently re-read “Making Babies: Stumbling into Motherhood” by Irish author Anne Enright (highly recommended, by the way), and one assertion in particular stood out: there are things fathers do that their children (eventually) forgive them for; the same things for which their mothers are never, ever, ever forgiven. Things that basically boil down to not paying enough attention to them. This rubbed like a sore spot to me, and made me realise how much mothers are held to completely different standards than fathers, even by their modern-day, proudly feminist, staunchly egalitarian daughters (*ahem*).

I’ve spent a lot of time analysing my relationship with my mum, wondering why she did things this way and not that way (my dad too, but to a lesser extent – see above). Certainly I never lacked for love or care, but I was an exceptionally sensitive child and struggled with self-esteem issues into adulthood. What I’ve come to realise is that, like every parent ever, my mum was navigating her way through parenthood with very little guidance, apart from the example of her own parents, and doing her best with the resources she had.

I find myself imagining my parents at the same stage we’re at: painting the cot and putting up pictures; marvelling at her rapidly growing belly; fantasizing about the ‘dream’ baby to come; and having absolutely no idea what they/we are in for.

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To my mother – the woman who carried and cared for me from day 1 – eternal thanks from your difficult, complex and emotional daughter.