Finding The Happy

Looking for joy in all the right places



Needing patience now

So far, Motherhood has been a long exercise in patience. No surprises there, huh.

Except… I’d always thought that the patience was needed for the baby. That the love, compassion and long-suffering was about dealing with the baby, you know?

The endless crying during Arsenic Hour.

Her uncanny ability to create the biggest mess juuuuust after you’ve slid the soiled diaper away, and before you’ve had the chance to jam the fresh one under.

The fights before sleep time.

The clumsiness, hand-in-hand with baby stubbornness.

The house in perpetual mess.

The fact that it takes 50% longer now to do everything you’ve done before – like leave the house for a walk or a drive, for example.

The fact that you have 90% less time to do things that used to be important to you before – like brushing your hair and matching your clothes.

I mean, all this is true. And it requires patience. But the patience for such things comes naturally, ungrudgingly. With little grumbling or complaint. Effortless.

No. The kind of patience I’m talking about – the kind of patience that needs to be wrung out of me – is patience for others.

Because until I had Arddun, I hadn’t realised how stupid and inconvenient people and things around me can be.

BECAUSE it takes such effort to cart a baby around, BECAUSE she is vulnerable and defenceless, I’ve turned into a grouchy mother bear. It is a fight every day not to growl at strangers for being obtuse to the needs of my poor defenceless baby and her struggling mother with the pram and the 21 other things hanging off it.

Things that threaten to set me off include:

  • Competitive, selfish, boorish, impatient drivers who delight in cutting you off, who turn every roundabout into a drag race and/or come within a hair’s breadth of dinting the side of your car where the baby is seated. RAAAWR!
  • Big Fat Cars parked willy-nilly beside you so you can’t open your car door to get baby in or out.
  • Mothers who don’t wipe down baby chairs after they’re done.
  • Smokers near entrances and exits so when you walk through, it’s like entering the Vortex of Baby Lung-Blackening Hell
  • Customer service with Attitude (I’m already growing my own teenager. I don’t need your angst or sarcasm. Especially if you’re paid to help.)
  • Shopping trolleys left inside the last convenient parking lot, so you and 38 other cars before you were deprived of the one good lot nearest to the lifts (near lift = less time with pram on road with impatient drivers)

etc etc.

And sometimes, it’s manageable. Sometimes, you just grit your teeth and soldier on. But other times, you just want to freeze everything around you so you can get to that selfish stranger (with your crying baby on your hip), and with your free hand, grab that selfish stranger’s neck and shake it so hard you can hear his or her teeth rattle, while yelling,


(Which is, you know, a euphemism for Ass.)

And while things like that used to bug me before, THEY REALLY BUG ME NOW. Because I have more to lose. Because I’m her protector. Because it’s harder and because I have less time. Because Arddun doesn’t understand, doesn’t read a clock, and doesn’t have patience.

And yes, I am aware of the irony – that while I’m jumping up and down about the supreme selfishness of such acts, I am in fact making it all about ME. I have, in fact, grown a huge entitlement complex. It came free with the stretch marks and permanently widened hips.

And so I try not to take things personally, because that’s half the issue. I’m not suddenly special because I’m a mother, and I’m not suddenly a target because I’m a mother. I’m just a mother.

And so I try to slow down. Do one less thing while multi-tasking. Bear to be late for events. Give 4WDs, Utes, taxis and Audi drivers a wide berth. Smile at rude sales staff after they’ve insulted me, and let them think I’m simple. Because the cure for impatience isn’t patience – it’s submission. I am not in control of everything or everyone and never have been. The universe is large and my troubles, on balance, are trivial.

If we’re having a bad day, pull over and hug the baby. Both of us might feel better after the time out.

Peace like a river, baby.

Banana in your ear… and other First Aid scenarios

I am a complete wuss when it comes to almost all forms of violence – exploding, shooting, stabbing, spearing, sword-fighting, animal attacks… I even turn away when Itchy ‘n’ Scratchy comes on. WUSS. Just the idea of pain and pointy objects sends my skin crawling, and if I’m made to sit through a particularly violent story or movie, I can feel physically unwell if I’m not allowed to leave the room.  It’s a wonder I ever managed to give birth to Arddun without painkillers.

Which is why it is almost laughable that I enrolled myself in a first aid course – and actually showed up.

Arddun, as it turns out, is one of ’em Active Babies. Started rolling belly to back at four months, the other way at 4.5 months, joined them both together at five months, now moving on to an uncoordinated commando-crawl and caterpillar squirm-flop at 5.5 months. Her legs just DO NOT STOP, unless she’s sleeping – which is the only way I can work out if she’s taking a snooze in the car seat. (Section past belly button no longer a blur.) And while I used to smugly tell others that I aim to house-proof my child, I now realise that I won’t always be fast enough. Or intuitive enough. Or alert enough. Or creative enough. Or obeyed enough. And it only takes the one time, before something drastic could happen. Plus if she has any of my genes, she’s going to be tripping over her own feet and getting her face smooshed by basketballs.

I needed both risk management AND crisis management plans.

Hence $150 2-day course littered with heartening worst case scenarios.

From resuscitation to poisons to dealing with LOTS of blood and embedded objects (pen in eye, knife through hand, ew ew ew ewwwww), I sat in a room with 10 other parents and learnt how to be useful when my child suffers the consequences of silly actions – hers, or someone else’s. It was a special first aid course that was geared especially for treating babies and young children, although the principles and practices are largely borrowed from the usual first aid you administer to adults.

I’m very glad I went, but the course did breathe new life into the saying, “Hope for the best, expect the worst”. I pictured Arddun in every scenario we practised, and felt my insides flop and lurch with anxiety. Every time the instructor gave an example of something her twin boys did (knives… benchtop… fighting over it… blood…), I had to mentally laa-laa-laa. The saddest part of the afternoon was spent practising resuscitation on a dummy baby – its wan, vacant expression and sealed-shut eyes an eerie reminder of cot death and a million things that could make babies go too quiet. And here I was, calmly squishing its hollow chest with my two fingers and hearing a whisper of doll’s breath wheezing out of those rubber lips with each poke.

As if that could ever be me, if I found my baby lying still as death. Not breathing.

Anyhoo – all said and done, I highly recommend the course. For while it made me squirm heaps, it empowered me more. And the last thing I want to be when my baby needs me is a useless, flapping wuss.

The Crying Game

If I believed in karma, I’d say I’ve just been bit.

All those times I’d claimed how I cannot stand the sound of children crying? Oh the irony. Because some days, I’m convinced that I have the cryiest baby around.

“Cryiest” does not exist in the English language but dangnammit, it should.

Arddun head-butted my bony collar bone this afternoon. No real harm done – by which I mean no bruising, bleeding and mild concussion. But it’s given her license to com-plete-ly lose it and she’s been crying for 90 minutes since.

No, this isn’t the first time something like this has happened and no, I’m not having a freak-out. I’m just resigned to it, that’s all. I want to take a nap because I am still rather knackered, but I haven’t quite mastered the art of sleeping through histrionics yet (yet!), so I’m sitting here to blog about it instead.

In the last 2 days, it’s started to dawn on me that I’m losing my sense of shame. Pre-baby, the sound of babies crying so grated on my nerves, I was convinced I’d whisk mine out of the room if mine made so much as a whimper that went on for Too Long (read: 1.2 seconds).

But the sad truth is, I’ve just become immune to the sound of Arddun crying. I’ve also lost the ability to think of more than one thing at a time because when she goes off her nut, all I can focus on is calming her down on the spot while teaching her how to comfort herself. To ask that I remove us from the room while I shush her would be to ask that I cook a six-course tofu meal while a man in a hideously gay jacket booms from the stage theatrically (just watched Iron Chef yesterday).

In other words, it’s just too hard, and it’d never dawn on me to do it.

Usually I can calm her down in ten seconds. This involves a lot of shushing in her ear till the noise of simulated ocean or womb or whatever drowns out her baby angst and she stops to admire the curtains or secretly pee in her diaper. All well and good when we’re at home and out of everyone’s way. Not so good when you’re out in public and alone with her, your tea has just arrived, and the baby change room is on the other side of paradise.

But the fact is, I have a stinkin’ suspicion that I’m being quite inconsiderate and I’m a little helpless as to the protocol here. Just yesterday, I had an old classmate complain bitterly on Facebook about a parent who let her child scream blue murder in the elevator while she benignly stood by to watch. And then today, just when my Coke Spider had arrived at the Coffee Club, Arddun decided to wake up half an hour early for her feed and was rather grumpy about life. I shushed her in five seconds, but that was all it took for the older couple beside me to roll their eyes and up and leave in disgust. And I was left sitting there wondering if I’d just turned into a public menace with my 5-second contribution to noise pollution in a suburban cafe.

Perhaps I put too much stock on what others think. Except I remember being just like them, and I remember how tedious it can be to put up with ill-behaved children. And I don’t want to inflict my child on others. I want her – I want us – to be a delight to have around. To be considerate of the needs of others, to be kind. But it takes time and I’m so green and unimaginative right now, it’s not funny.

Have to go. Arddun’s still crying and I think it’s time I gave my new neighbour’s ears a break. :(

Hypochondriacs R Us

I need to take a chill pill. Ironically, that might involve a doctor.

Okay, back up. Here’s the situation. In just 2 weeks, my girl’s got the sniffles. And then 10 days ago, her face exploded into a gazillion pimples so innumerous, they’ve sorta merged into one giant crusty, flaking mask of yuck across my offspring’s gorgeous face.

Baby modelling career over before it ever began.

On a more serious note, it’s really distressing to watch. Mostly because it just looks so painful. To add to the litany of skin-related woes, her nappy rash came back with a vengeance and now we’re talking major ouchy looking sores.

And I feel terribly guilty. Like I didn’t wash her face properly. Or keep her dry enough. Or hydrated enough. Or cool enough. Or warm enough. Or something.

Not enough! Nothing I do feels like enough. I feel like a man, and want to run out and DO something. Get a cream! See a doctor! Alleviate the pain and suffering. Except the books and websites all claim that nappy rash and colds and baby acne happen, and I should just sit tight and let it run its course. That medication at this age would be overkill. That it’s normal. That This Too Shall Pass.

Not on my watch! another part of the brain yells. And as with any extensive sleuthing on the internet, the worries grow. It’s probably nappy rash… but it could be THRUSH! Quick! Run to the chemist! Call the GP! Get Canesten! No wait, too strong for baby! No, it’s alright! Leave it alone! No, do something now before it gets worse! No, if you fiddle, it WILL get worse!

She has a snuffly nose. Or it could be… the FLU! Viral! It’s winter! What if it gets to her lungs! Quick! Get her booked into the after-hours clinic at the hospital! Turn up the heater! No wait, too hot. No wait, turn down the heater but turn on the humidifier. No wait, get the Vicks vaposteam thingamajig to menthol-ise the air! No wait – not advisable for babies! Might burn her lungs out. Or something. No wait – says it’s okay on the box…

She’s got a bad case of baby acne, but it could be… DERMATITIS! Or SEVERE ECZEMA! She could be allergic to EVERYTHING! Quick, change her formula supplement to soy! And change your diet so your breastmilk doesn’t taste of chilli. Or something. And run out and get this cream that everyone swears by – Aveeno. Or Weleda. Buy them both. But patch test first! But where! Which part of baby would you like to patch test on, so that if it goes balls up you can just say, “Phew. Thank goodness that was only on [insert body part here]”. Tell me that.

They never told me this was part of motherhood. I wish I can turn this part of my brain off.

You can always tell a book by its cover

What I’m trying to read before Week 37:

  • Juju Sundin’s birth skills with Sarah Murdoch
  • On becoming baby wise: giving your infant the gift of nighttime sleep
  • Kidwrangling, by Kaz Cooke

What I’m actually reading before Week 37:

  • Jump! by Jilly Cooper

While vacillating between both classes of books, I’m getting the distinct feeling that I’m setting the tone for the rest of my stay-at-home career. I’m also getting the stinkin’ suspicion that I’m leaning towards the lazy side of mommyhood. I think I’m quite ensconced in the at-risk group anyway.

The nesting period that’s supposed to descend on me come the second trimester? Either it came and went over a tummyache, or bypassed us altogether like the Angel of Home Decor repelled by the million cobwebs draping our doorposts. In fact, ever since we trundled into Trimester Three, my overall domestic-goddess quotient has taken a nosedive. I do enough to get by, but most days I get home with just enough energy to cook, and the rest is spent trying to unwind from work.

And unfortunately, reading up on baby sleeping theory and optimal birth positions still feels like work.

The thing is, every project manager bone in my body is screaming at me for not applying my professional skills at home. And in the forefront of my mind, in the part of the brain that is wired to feel guilty and assuage said guilt with Connoiseur cafe grande ice cream heaped on a meringue nest, is the understanding that if I want something enough, I’d make time for it. 

Which brings me to the ugly truth: while I love this baby growing and kicking and twitching and bodyslamming inside of me… I obviously lack some sort of selfless passion that governs my being and propels me to devour every book in my path that could lead me to some sort of Mommy Nirvana.

Instead, I’m reading a very thick chick lit about horse racing.

The scary thing is that I’ve blown the second trimester. It’s gonna be downhill from here. Both Blobette and I are doing all we can to keep comfortable, but we’re fighting a losing battle as she gets bigger each day. I’m losing my fight with water retention. I’m losing my grip on quality sleep. And I’ve never been so sick of sneezing in my life, because that’s all I seem to do now. 

You know the force is getting dark when you find yourself at home with a head cold, wearing

  • a fire engine-red knitted poncho, over a
  • grey T-shirt, text shouting Hello! Lovely Silly, over a pair of
  • sky-blue flannel pajama pants with printed giraffes gripping pink roses in their teeth, over a pair of
  • Monty Python killer bunny slippers

and you actually answer the door clad in such when the Jehovah’s Witnesses come by.

And that’s the problem. I’ve crossed over into the I-don’t-give-a-stuff zone – right when I really need to give a stuff. It’s Week 30 from next week. It’s crunch time, baby. But if I love you, why oh why can I not get my act together?

All or nothing, do or die

So I figure that at some point, I have to stop navel gazing (quite literally) and start figuring out how to bring up another human being. As if I don’t have enough problems figuring myself out.

A part of me has been putting this off because it’s such foreign territory. But an even bigger part of me is scared silly because of the plethora of theories out there. Was reading an article that was against baby-led weaning, and this passage completely resonated:

I am sure that this is how about 85% of parenting decisions are made. There will be 10% of world-beating parents who would sooner fund a cross-cohort study of the whole country than entrust their child’s diet to a misremembered segment of early-afternoon radio. Then there will be the bottom 5%, the totally feckless, who are worse than me at everything – I have no evidence at all for their existence, yet take a surprising amount of solace from it nonetheless.

For everyone else, there are either obvious rules – don’t let them play in traffic, don’t let them stick knitting needles in sockets, make them learn to read even if they would rather play – and the rest is just coming down on one side or the other, and then continuing to do that, unless something calamitous happens and you have to do the other thing. Routine Feeds or On Demand; Gina Ford or Snooze at Will; Breast or Formula; Puree or Finger Food. It’s not like we’re choosing a football team, or an ideology. Nobody’s going to die. There isn’t a fire.

Except, why does it feel sometimes that if you don’t choose the right theory, you ARE that feckless 5%? That irresponsible low-life they call the Lazy Parent? The internet has done one thing for parenthood, alright – it polarised all of us over something or other. Secretly, we all aim to be smug and satisfied that we are not killing our baby while everyone else is, tut tut tut. Add to this the whole culture thang – Eastern vs Western theories – and I have before me a gorgeous melting pot of pull-my-hair-out.

So what do I do? I lament in ditty.

Solids at four months, or six?
Let’s make it an even five.
Vegetables chopped into finger-sized bits
Or mashed w’thin an inch of their lives?
If Mommy makes rice porridge mixed in with spinach
And topped with steamed ikan kurau,
Is she being clever, this Chinese endeavour,
Or just today’s ignorant cow?

Is it Boob on Demand, or meals by the clock?
Is it suicide to rock them to sleep?
Should they snooze as they will
Or will they be a pill
If by military time you don’t keep?
Do you sing them a song, swing them in a sarong
Or leave them to cry till they’re hoarse?
Is immunisation a bastardisation –
Should I let ’em ills run their full course?

Are good theories today
Bad theories tomorrow?
The answer, I know, is a Yes.
Yet… the only other smart answer I bring
Is that this mommy doesn’t know best.

Food baby gone berserk

Maybe it was the horrid day at work that made me repress stress with food. Maybe it’s just baby + water retention. But I practically inhaled tonight’s dinner (tiger prawn linguine with spinach, capers, salmon and chilli). And I now have a massive belly that looks positively bulbous.

Which, of course, made me hit the interwebs to figure out if

  • other 13 week olds can look as bulbous as I do tonight
  • other bellies fluctuate as drastically as this – Roseanne Barr one day, Twiggy another
  • someone has made a proper weight-gain chart for pregnant women.

Answers to the above: Yes, yes, and yes.

Work stress. Everyone has it, but coupled with hormones, perpetual hunger pangs and general inexperience with how big/small you should be at which stage, it’s sometimes harder to judge. I suspect the old habit of “finishing everything on my plate” kicked in tonight and as if on autopilot, I steadily steamed through the whole dish while mulling over today’s work incident and getting crosser and crosser. Aussie helpings are ridiculously large – always. And I really should have been paying more attention.

But I didn’t. So now I look like Mother Christmas.

That will teach me. :(

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