Flying with Toddler: What I wish I’d known

Hell hath no fury like a toddler asked to sit still and keep quiet for three hours during “witching hour”. Similarly, hell hath no fury like a new mama interrupted while trying to get her newborn to sleep, or a grumpy man after a long day at work stopped from getting a little much needed shut eye; this is why, a week ago, I had no hope of escaping not one, not two but THREE people’s wrath.

To set the scene: A plane ride (just a domestic Jetstar, home to visit family for a three-day-weekend), leaving at 4:45pm (WHAT was I thinking?) but delayed on the runway for 40 minutes (oh HELL, no). Me, 18-month-old on my lap (I had to pay for the privilege, children are no longer free apparently) sitting in the window seat; another WHAT the heck was I thinking moment. A beautiful new mama and bubs in the seat directly in front of me (and Mr. Toddler) and a grumpy old man to my left (let’s call him 28D to protect the innocent, and because I don’t actually know his name; we weren’t exactly BFFs by the end of the flight; sorry – ‘Spoiler Alert”.

Now, after sitting on the runway for a while I was feeling smug. Little Mister was being absolutely adorable, patiently sitting on my lap and eating grapes. Hallelujah, ANGEL CHILD! This was going to be fine, I thought in relief. We’d been on multiple flights together before, but this was the first one since he’d begun to form pretty strong opinions on what should be happening at all times, and he is now getting  pretty good at expressing those opinions (loudly) so I was apprehensive. Anyway, shortly after we took off, things took a turn for the worse.

Mr. Toddler began kicking the seat in front of me: Hard. On these domestic Jetstar planes there is NOT a lot of space between you and the row in front of you; even less so with a toddler on your lap. His legs were basically pressing into the row in front even before he began bending it like Beckham. Now, you’ll remember, that seat belonged to a new mama and her adorable new bundle of joy, who (miracle of miracles) had actually managed to fall asleep during take-off, thanks to an artfully timed bottle. So my little prince (of darkness, hah!) has woken up this bundle, who minutes before was a peaceful cherub in arms, and was now a wailing banshee. New mama (can’t blame her) has turned around and (quite calmly under the circumstances; more calm than I’m sure she felt) asked me to keep my son’s feet to himself. Easier said than done, but I will do my best, I thought. At this point I was mortified. Completely. FOR SHAME *hangs head*.

So I grabbed out the one thing that all “flying with toddler” articles recommended, the tablet with the games and the Wiggles shows on it. I was going to wait for it all to go dramatically downhill before needing to use that (keeping it up my sleeve), but things were looking pretty bleak, I think this is it, this is the moment, so out it came. It starts making this really annoying noise (no, not Simon Wiggle’s operatic voice, a different annoying game-related noise), and the volume button seems to be broken, but when I try to take it out of my son’s hands, he starts making a much more annoying noise, at a much louder volume and a much higher pitch. So I let it be for a minute. The new mama whips her head around in irritation and Mr 28D joins in with a giant huff and a puff; I know guys, I’m the worst; but I was also really disorganised today, so it’s only on 13% battery life, it will be over soon, I promise.

Toddler got bored of the tablet before the 13% battery ran out anyway; he started in with the “eh eh eh” noise that I’m yet to be able to interpret, but I think basically means “I want something right now, and if you don’t get it for me I’m going to persist at an increasingly high pitch until you figure it out”. I go to the first item on my usual check-list of whinge-triggers; thirst. I pull out the staw sippy cup. Now, here’s a mystery of epic proportions for you: I have two sisters with five kids between them. I have a mum and dad who had four kids. I have multiple friends with kids, some really frequent travellers. So, WHY THE HELL has no-one told me about the straw-sippy-cup-on-a-plane-reaction?!  Thanks, guys. I proceeded to drench Mr 28D, as I unleashed the sippy cup from its lid, and the H2O sailed through the air in a perfect arc like there was a target on his crotch. I called to the hostess for some towels, which they brought to me; I wiped the seat, myself, my son, and offered 28D a towel. He refused with another huff and an angry “no!” turned his head away and closed his eyes for a nap (or probably because he couldn’t stand the sight of us anymore).

Anyway, as you’ll remember, I’m in the window seat. The bub in front of us is still screeching, and my son finds this hilarious and is trying to play with her by kicking the chair as hard as he can; I, of course, can’t let this happen, so I’m holding his legs up around his shoulders as hard as I can, and he is alternating between finding this even more hilarious and continuing his efforts, and screaming out in dire protest and attempting to wriggle out of my arms and into 28D’s arms. And he is STRONG. And my back hurts. And my head. And my pride. This is a losing battle. But at least Mr. 28D seems to have fallen asleep, thank goodness.

But then…you guessed it. A rather repellent and very familiar smell started emanating from our general direction. Nappy! Oh, my gosh. I CAN’T wake 28D up to let us out of the row! Can I?  I’m trapped! What would he prefer? To smell this smell (oh, it’s getting worse) or to be woken up? Eventually the decision was taken out of my hands when the powerful odour seemed to rouse him, and he glared at me and asked “are you going to change that?” “Yes”, I say gratefully and go to get up; when suddenly what happens but the seatbelt sign turns on and the announcement comes through; turbulence. I have to call for the hostess AGAIN, and she gives me special permission to get up and change him (and yes, the turbulence did lead to me arriving in Melbourne with a poo stain on my jumper). By the time I’ve got back to the seat, 28D is asleep again (WHY?!) and I wake him again to let us through.  So, yep…

At this stage, we’re about 20 minutes into the flight.

Anyway, we made it through, AND back home again, relatively unscathed, and I will share with you the FEW things that I learnt through the process.

  1. For the love of all that is holy, get an aisle seat. It is worth the extra $6 seat-choosing fee. Promise.
  2. If your own family and friends are as elusive with the details as mine, let me be the first to give you this piece of information; DO NOT bring a sippy cup onto a plane! Or if you do, aim it away from the crotch of the grumpy man sitting next to you. You’re welcome.
  3. DO NOT fly during witching hour (around 5:00pm-7:00pm), if you can help it. Fly at the start of nap time, or when they have recently woken up from a nap. In hindsight, flying at 5:00pm was on a whole other level of cray.
  4. Bring lots of snacks, tech, toys, and books. And then prepare for all your preparations to go straight out of the window, because kicking the seat in front of you with the cute little baby in it is just way more fun and funny (sorry!).
  5. Be able to let it go: You will have bad days with kids, and bad flights with kids, and people who aren’t as understanding or patient as we think they “should” be (NOT the new mama, she was a saint and I’m sorry!) As I sat there, struggling to fight off and breathe through an imminent panic attack and tears, from 20 minutes into the flight until the end, I felt so hard-done by, and panicky, and angry. And then I thought, this too will pass; I’m not kidding, I actually thought that! Nerd! And when I got to the airport, I could have spent SO much time regaling everyone with my story about my abysmal flight, but why? It was just going to make me angrier, make me anxious about the flight home again, and taint the short and precious time with my family; sure I told the highlights, but for the most part, I let it go for the weekend. Things happen, and people will be people (including grumpy old men AND toddlers).

Well, those are my limited tips for now! If you have any others, please let me know in the comments! Because I’m sure we will be flying again soon! Maybe there are some other sippy-cup-disaster-type-situations that I have yet to come across!

Advertisements

I’m a Highly Sensitive, Introverted, Working Mum: How I (try to) work with it.

Do you ever get that sensation that everything is a bit too much; overwhelming even? The sounds are too loud, the lights are too bright, the room too hot, your clothes too scratchy? I do. I get it a lot. I find myself needing to snatch the remote, turn the sound down, dim the lights and strip down (NOT like that) and just breathe deeply. Or yell “do we live in a three-ring circus!?” and storm out dramatically. Depends on the day.

Or do you ever come out of a movie theatre, or play, or listen to a band, and feel inspired to the point where you are somehow changed; maybe you walk a little taller and with purpose; feel a sense of urgency to make some changes in your own life; find some meaning in the world that you hadn’t pondered on before; feel an indescribable heart-sadness, or nostalgia, or another feeling that you just can’t explain? Where you don’t want to speak to anyone, or come out of that magical space, but are forced out by the fact that the credits are rolling, and the ushers are cleaning up the popcorn, or your friends are waiting on you with a slight air of impatience? And do you get so confused when your friends move on to “where should we go eat?”, or begin to critique the special effects or acting, when in truth you didn’t even notice these things, for you were too busy having an out-of-body experience? Hey, me too!

Or are you really naturally empathetic? You pick up on other people’s moods to the nth degree? Where you worry for hours after you’ve left a person because they gave you a “funny look” and you know… YOU KNOW (!) that something is wrong (usually you think that they are mad with you), even though other people you confess this to will tell you that you’re being paranoid?

Guess what? Turns out that these types of things have a name; it’s called being a “Highly Sensitive Person” or HSP. It turns out that there is a fairly significant correlation between being a HSP and being an Introvert (something like 70% of HSPs are also Introverts) so apparently I’m not (that) strange – who knew?

I am definitely an Introvert, as well as a HSP. This means, I gain my energy from within myself (NOT from others like an Extrovert does), and feel pretty drained when I’m around lots of people for an extended period of time. Working in a people-oriented job and having a toddler at home, this basically means when I’m around more than a couple of people in general for any amount of time in my outside-work life. And when you’re highly sensitive as well as Introverted, this can mean that as well as NOT having your re-charging “me-time” you are also “leaking energy” by taking on other people’s feelings, even the ones who aren’t necessarily talking about their feelings, on top of a hundred other sensory stimuli that are affecting you more than others.

In addition to our social worlds and workplaces, HSPs and Introverts must also take into account what it will be like when they have children. Because children are a gift! BUT they are also loud, emotional, egocentric, and like to be TOUCHING.ALL.THE.TIME. Having children as a HSP and an Introvert means (for a while, while they are young and 100% dependant on you) that you do have to make sacrifices, that probably don’t seem like much of a sacrifice to those who aren’t HSPs or Introverted; It’s not always possible for me to have my body to myself, or to turn down the volume or the lights on the world. I’m happy (somewhat) to make these sacrifices on an everyday basis, because I love my son, and he’s worth it; but this does not mean it doesn’t all get a bit much sometimes.

So I’ve been working on ways to combat this; by making a habit of filling up my “emotional tank” when I can, so that when the moments come where I need to be “on” with people (at work or at home) I can do it to the best of my ability, and be the best mum and Psychologist I can be. For me, things that fill my emotional tank are:

Reading:

Proust reflected on reading as the “miracle of a communication in the midst of solitude”. It truly is a miracle for me! Reading provides me with experiences, people and ideas that I would never have been exposed to before, without the inevitable drainage that comes with other types of full-on social interactions. Between those magical dust covers (or Kindle cover for me these days, as I’m woefully short on bookshelves and space) is an opportunity to breathe in freely, entirely in my comfort zone.

Writing:

Writing journals, stories, and now writing this blog is the exhale to the inhale that is reading – a beautiful quote by Justine Musk and the inspiration for this blog’s name. It’s another opportunity for me to have communication with others in the midst of solitude; it’s strange that Introverts like me will feel comfortable to share their lives via social media in this way, but it does happen pretty often and I think the Proust quote is a good explanation as to why. We Introverts do actually love people too, just in different contexts to Extroverts (I.e. not all at once, and in certain environments ideally).

Quiet Sensory Time:

This is a tricky one, because as a working parent of a toddler, there is limited time to engage in it. I’d love to be able to say “go get a hot stone massage” or “do a yoga class” but for me it’s not practical. We have no nearby family (aka babysitters); so even though hubby and I juggle enough to be able to mow the lawns, clean the house, cook and wash ourselves (usually) for the most part when we are not at work, it’s all hands on deck.

But I have found some “hacks” that allow me to parent and have quiet sensory time at the same time. The sandpit is a good one. Sand is calming and soothing for me, and I can repeatedly fill up buckets of sand with a scoop for an hour quite happily, sitting in the warm sun (as can my son), and find a sense of peace doing it. A warm bath is another; If I give him a few bath crayons, I can lay back and relax (watching him of course!) while he happily makes murals in the bathtub (unfortunately this skill has generalised to the walls AND the carpet in the new house, but hey, can’t win them all!) A long walk is good too; my son sits quite happily in the pram as long as there is stuff to look at, so I can go for a walk outside and push the pram, and though I’m not alone, I can feel like I am for a minute. For double the amount of time if I also provide him with a container of food that takes a lot of time and concentration to eat, like pea and corn kernels, or sultanas.

So, these are just a few of the small ways I keep my head, and keep my energy tank filled. When I do find myself in the yelling, exhausted, or “freaking out” space, it is invariably at times when I haven’t been doing these types of things. We need to remember that we are important, and the people around us (including our kids, partners, colleagues and clients) are better off when we are filled, happy, and energised. SELF CARE IS NOT SELFISH. Sometimes we need to reflect on what keeps us filled up, and what drains us. Of course, it’s not always going to be possible to avoid what drains us, especially at work and as parents, so what fills us up, and what are some creative ways to manage our time so that we can actually do them? Some life hacks, if you will. I’m always after tips on this subject, so if you have any ways that you fill your tank between work and parenting, please let me know!

What I wish for this Mother’s Day

card
He is an artiste, oui?

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day! On Thursday evening, Mr Toddler’s Daycare presented me with a card he had made (above), complete with a celery painting on the front. Such cuteness! The kid is an artiste, oui? (Yes, there is a bite taken out of the top, because he was being a puppy and crawling around with it in his mouth, while growling at me; somewhat ferociously it must be said). The teacher asked me did I know what I was doing for Mother’s Day? (I don’t, but I hope it includes bacon or chocolate, or even better, both). Well, what did I want to do, she asked? I got to thinking, what would I wish for this Mother’s Day, if I could ask for anything I wanted? Apart from infinity wishes; that is against the rules in these types of scenarios, apparently.

This is a wish list for Mr 18 Months, who can’t read, nor understand most of what I say, so this makes heaps of sense, not…

  1. It’s very cliché but I wish time could stand still. Because you, in this moment, are perfection. You are an absolute delight. I love your round little toddler belly and your big nappy bottom. Your deep belly laughs that are pure joy. The fact that your whole entire self can fit on my lap and in my arms, and does, every night, to fall asleep. Your raucous screams of excitement and your cheeky side eye that you give me when you are about to do something you know you’re not meant to (like this afternoon when you drew with chalk all over the lounge carpet in the new house we’ve been in for a week – sheesh!) That you are completely innocent, and yet to develop any mistrust, cynicism or fears (except for the vacuum cleaner, but who isn’t afraid of that). I wasn’t a “baby” person, but now that you are a “real” human, I can’t get enough of you. I want you to stay like this forever.
  2. BUT I also wish I could fast forward a couple of years. I want to talk to you. I want you to talk to me. I want you to tell me how your day was, not your Daycare teachers. I want to know what is going on with you, what is hurting, what is scary, what you need, without having to attempt to interpret your cries – then I can help before you get too sad! I know this will come, very soon, and I am just being impatient, and then I will miss these toddler years; can’t I please have both wishes?!
  3. I want to know for a 100% fact that you are always going to be OK. I’m wearing my heart on the outside these days, and it’s so vulnerable. The world is so big, and can be scary and unpredictable. And not everything is controllable, and it’s terrifying. I want a guarantee. I promise that I will always do what I can to keep you safe and well. When you are older, and I can’t be with you all the time (because #creepystalkermum) I would like you to please do the same; whether that means not running across the road without looking, eating your veges, not getting into a car with a drunk driver, saying no to drugs, or talking to someone about how you are feeling when you are not OK.
  4. Likewise, I want to be my best self for you, and I promise that I will do what I can do to keep me safe and well. Sometimes I don’t feel like doing the exercise and stretches I need to do to keep fit. Sometimes I don’t feel like following the diet plan. But I will get there, and get better at it, for you, and for me too. Because on my bad pain days now, when your little cherub face looks up at me wanting me to carry you, and I can’t because of pain, you cry and I break inside. I never wanted to deny you a cuddle or that feeling of safety, but I have, multiple times, and it breaks my heart to think about. You don’t know why I’m not lifting you, it must be confusing. I don’t know if it will get better, but I will try whatever I can, and then keep on trying.
  5. I want you to know love. I want you to feel love, and I want you to see love. I want us all to grow in love and learn more about it, and each other, every day. I want us to speak words of love to each other, and remember that words can hurt, and they are lasting. I want you to grow up secure, and to be able to pass that love onto your own friends and future family.
  6. AND, I want you to go off with dad for a few hours tomorrow. I am due for a long soak in the bath, maybe with the aforementioned bacon and chocolate combo, and an afternoon snooze. And if any of these wishes are manageable, I reckon this is the one! Hope you are paying attention Husby!

So, this is my uncensored, ask for whatever I want wish list. Not asking for much am I? What would you wish for if you could have ANYTHING?

I hope that all you mums have a wonderful Mother’s Day tomorrow!

XOX

Rewiring an anxious, angry, tired brain.

Recently I was at Aldi, shopping for food with my toddler. He was screaming the place down, because I looked at him. Seems reasonable! *Shrugs*. Anyway we FINALLY got to the checkout, when the checkout lady said to the bloke behind me “oh you come through first, that lady will take ages to unpack (because I was balancing a 12 kilo wailing banshee on my hip) and you don’t have that much stuff (he had about 5 items less than me)”. I SAW RED! I couldn’t believe it. I thought to myself, I’m going to let her have it!!! (when it’s eventually my turn, which at this rate is probably never). Anyway, what that looked like was, I said with flickering eye contact and shaky voice “I really would have preferred you to ask me before letting someone else through. I have a really sore back, and have the baby with me and I am actually in a bit of a hurry”. So assertive! She must have been terrified, not.  Anyway, it didn’t really work, because she just said “well, we always do that as a courtesy to our customers” and then when I repeated “I just think asking the person if they mind would be better, or letting the person offer it themselves” she said “I’m not here to argue with you, I did the right thing”. What the actual…?! *bites tongue* Seems little now, but yeah I was pretty annoyed.

So, I stewed on it all day (as you do), considered making a complaint to Aldi (but then realised I was far too lazy) and then let it ALL OUT to hubby when he walked in the door that night. I looked at him expectantly when I had finished my tale of woe, waiting for I don’t know what exactly, but some form of sympathy or outrage, I guess. He looked at me, genuinely befuddled, and asked a one word question: “So?” Well! I drew my breath, and puffed my chest out ready to tell him exactly why “so” Mister! And then I stopped. I stopped because the question had just sunk in and I didn’t have an answer to it. In what way was that event actually going to affect my life? What was I gaining by holding onto it and wasting time thinking about and even talking about it? In other words, as he so eloquently put it, so?

I have actually heard this lesson before, in a different way. My dad’s favourite saying is “oh well”. (Is it maybe a male thing?). But it hasn’t sunk in for me yet! I like justice, damn it!

There is some comfort in holding tight onto things that offend you. You feel as though the person is paying for their “crime”, so long as you don’t let go. Like if you forget it, then they are getting away with it. And that is not on, we think! But there is a saying, “Resentment is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies”. And another: “Forgiveness is setting someone free, and then finding out it was you”. Sometimes (most of the time) little things people do are just that: little things. That they possibly don’t even remember, and probably didn’t mean.  Sometimes they are big things, and sometimes they are intentional and that is harder. But it is still worth it to try hard to let it go. For your sake. Because you deserve to live your best life, and harbouring resentment and negativity isn’t it. I’ve spent (wasted) too much time thinking about inconsequential negative moments, and I’m tired, and I bet I’m not alone!

A friend recently commented to me that it is more comfortable to think about the “little” things in life than to have to go there with the big stuff. It gets us out of thinking about the major life issues, the uncontrollable things, and the stuff that really actually does need our time and energy. In the midst of raising a toddler, keeping a marriage alive, having a demanding people-focussed job, buying a house and moving into it, dealing with a chronic back condition, and being away from my family, on top of some other personal issues that are really draining, why do I spend time focussing on this (pardon me, but…) CRAP! Because it’s comfortable? But it’s not really. It’s not comfortable, but it’s easy and it’s automatic. That’s how our brains are wired; for survival.

We are wired to see the potential threat in EVERYTHING, at least according to evolutionary psychology. And we keep these potential threats at the forefront of our minds, to keep us alert, alive and “safe”. But we don’t often encounter actual threats to our survival in Australia in 2017; if someone looks at us funny it doesn’t usually mean we are going to lose our tribe and be left to fend for ourselves in the woods and then probably die of starvation. It probably just means someone has on their resting bitchy face, or something equally benign. The things we tend to focus on are more perceived threats than actual ones, and they are NOT worth holding onto so tightly. What was I afraid of in Aldi that morning? What was the “threat to my survival”? Well, I guess I felt embarrassed about my screaming kidlet, and worried that if I had to stand another minute I may not have had the strength left to pack the groceries and get them to the car and still drive home (not to mention take the trolley BACK to its friends in the trolley bay to get my $2 back – stupid Aldi; they make you work for it, don’t they?) Was that likely to happen? No. There were plenty of people around to help me if need be, and I even had my phone on me for any worst case scenarios. But the anxiety was automatic, and I guess by writing this I’m just realising that this is the way I am wired. I’m normal woohoo!

But there are ways to soften the blow of this automatic reaction. There is a term “Metacognition” which means “Thinking about Thinking”. It’s having the awareness of your own thought processes. Once we are aware of not only what we are thinking but how we are thinking and why we are thinking it, it is possible to use certain strategies to alter the neural pathways in our brains, so that our automatic pilots aren’t always set to fear and anxiety. This is a very basic example of something called neuroplasticity, which I might talk about more another time, cos it’s so fascinating. But what sorts of things should we set our minds to instead of fear and negativity?

Many studies have been done about the “key to a happy life”. One theme that runs throughout them all is thankfulness and contentment. To be thankful and content where you are, not always wanting things to be different, or wanting more, or striving to be better at this or that. Not to be stuck in the past with “it’s not fair” victim type mentalities, or stuck in the future with “what if”, worst case scenario type anxious thoughts. Just to be where you are, and to be grateful for it and content in it. Letting the other stuff, the negative stuff, the unfair stuff, the scary stuff, go. So, next time (should it happen again, which it won’t cos stuff you Aldi – joke! I actually love Aldi a lot) I will try not to think about the Aldi lady all day, making myself more and more angry and worked up. I will pretend I am a duck and let it roll right off my back. I will be like that movie Pollyanna and think about what I am “glad” about. I will concentrate on things I am thankful for every day. I’ll sit still and be in the moment.  I won’t drink any more poison. And then I’ll hopefully be set free. Well, I will try anyway. I’m sure it will be a work in progress!

Newborns, Part 2: The First Weeks (aka the flipping hard part!)

When I think back to the first weeks and months after Eliah was born, it literally seems hazy to me. Like in one of those TV shows when they want to show that something is a flashback? Maybe I have just been watching too much Netflix. That time seems so surreal, even though it was only 17 months ago. It is probably a combination of shock, sleep deprivation and hormones (well everything is explained by hormones when you have a baby isn’t it? So I just assume hormones factor into it somewhere). Anyway, as wonderful and exhilarating and life-completing as that time was, it was a HUGE challenge for me, WELL beyond what I was expecting. And as I said in my previous post, my over analytical brain has been musing over why this was. And on reflection my brain did kind of stumble onto some thoughts.

There is a counsellor named Gordon Bruin, who specialises in addiction and recovery. He came up with an acronym BLAST, which stands for:

Bored. Lonely. Anxious. Stressed. Tired.

He came up with this acronym to speak to his clients about their common “triggers”. Things that drive them to the edge; that trigger them to feed their addiction, whatever it may be; alcohol, drugs, even food.

I myself also like to use it to kind of do an emotional “check in” when I’m not feeling right, but don’t really know why. I find it is a good starting point for self-reflection, and also for discussion when someone asks “what’s wrong”- which I never have an answer for, so I always resort to “I don’t know”, “nothing”, or “this is just my face, deal with it”.
In thinking about post-partum, I’ve realised that not one but ALL of these “triggers” came into play for me. No wonder I was tapped out! And here I am just going to go on for a bit to hopefully explore a bit about how each of them came up for me personally in that period.

Bored:
I never really wanted babies. There, I said it. Kids, yes, babies not so much. To me, babies are cute, but they’re very boring. It’s a pretty one sided relationship for a while there, with SEVERAL long weeks of thanklessly wiping bums, feeding bellies, bathing, massaging and rocking to sleep before you even get so much as a hint of a smile, which is probably just gas anyway. Don’t worry, it gets ridiculously fun and unimaginably hilarious when they can interact a bit more, but at the start, they are a bit of a lump. You know you’ve thought it too. You know it. You think that too right? Am I normal?! ANYWAY, the days feel really long when you are doing everything in a 1.5 hour “feed – play – sleep” cycle (I’m only half sure I got the order right there, cos I was never good at following a schedule). There are a lot of 1.5 hour periods in a day and they don’t end at 8:30pm like my day used to! The nights can be super long and lonely…Which brings me to my next point.

Lonely:
I’ve spoken before about being an introvert; so you’d think loneliness wouldn’t be a massive issue for me. Day after day, no work, alone at home with someone who sleeps every 1.5 hours (well that’s the plan) and can’t talk yet; sounds great, right up my alley! But it wasn’t great; I felt isolated and trapped in it.

Loneliness is not the same as solitude. I see solitude as intentional, an intentional space between me and the world. A way to recharge, to connect with the energy inside me and to ground myself. But loneliness isn’t that. Loneliness to me is a sense of separateness. Everyone else is the same as they were; I am different. Everyone else is at work; I’m at home. In the middle of the night, everyone is asleep. I am awake. All “little” things, but enough to make me feel…separate. Lonely.

“They” say (whoever “they” are) that it takes a village to raise a child. After I had Eliah, I didn’t have my village. Well, I had them, but they weren’t close in proximity. My family (both Gavin’s side and mine) are all interstate. Well rather, we are interstate, since we are the ones who moved away, about 6 years prior. I was feeling it, every kilometre!
The plan was for the whole family to come up and stay for a couple of weeks. We asked for a week or two to settle in as a new unit of three and then it was family holiday time! The problem was that Eliah was born five weeks early, so it actually ended up being seven weeks before ANYONE in our families was going to meet him. Unacceptable. My mum and mum-in-law ended up flying up for a few days each to visit beforehand, so that was awesome. But then they had to go home again. Boo.
When hubby had to go back to work after a week at home with me, and the mums had gone home, I was left to my own devices with baby Eliah. And here comes the next point.

Anxious:
Anxiety was pervasive and penetrating in those first weeks. First up was the most important concern: How do I keep an actual human being alive? I couldn’t produce milk: Yes, that Lactation Consultant from my last post was obviously an utter failure at her job; my “great boobs” were “udderly” useless (see what I did there?) Eliah developed jaundice and kept losing weight. But I couldn’t put him on formula, the home visit “L.C” insisted, because it was “poison” and “anything good you’ve ever heard about formula is due to their great marketing”. She went on to explain that I would need to breastfeed every two hours until Eliah was at least two, like she did with her two twin babies and her two-year-old kidlet, sometimes all at the same time. (*Inner monologue: Did she have three boobs? I did sneak a peek, I must admit, because even in my sleep deprived state I thought that didn’t sound right; we do only have two right?*) But what about when I went back to work in 18 weeks, I asked? Well, I would just have to figure it out, she said, and take my pump to work. I did actually have a great pump, lent to me by a great friend, but not only was it no better at milking me than Eliah was, but also I wasn’t sure that my clients at work would appreciate talking to me while I was strapped up to an electronic milking machine. Cue anxiety that I was going to have to resort to poisoning my son (spoiler alert: He’s fine. Although when I said this to a mum who bottle shamed me in the chemist one day while buying formula, she told me “I’m not really aiming for just “fine” for my babies” so I was put back in my box. He is fine though). Besides feeding him, there were many, many other things to be anxious about, I could go on all day, but I won’t. Summary of my worries: Is he normal, am I normal, am I doing a good job, did I actually put my pants on like I had planned?

Stress:
The amount of new information you have to learn when you have a newborn at home is flipping unbelievable. I felt quite stressed, especially when hubby went back to work and I was on my own with bub. Apart from the actual keeping a human being alive business, there is their STUFF! Oh man…I am really not a spatially aware person, so having to figure all this stuff out was a source of major stress for me. The carseat! The capsule! The pram. The cot. The baby swing. The Hugabub baby wrap thingy. The steriliser, the pump, washing nappies and what the heck a “dry pail” is. Wowzers. Mind meltdown and brain overload. STRESS!

Tired:
This one is short and self-explanatory.
I never slept. Never. That is all.

In short, thanks to Gordon Bruin’s fab little acronym, I’ve realised it is normal for us with newborns to feel this sense of overwhelm! ALL of the most common triggers for causing us distress, and needing to resort to our coping mechanisms, whatever they may be – come up quite significantly during this stage. If you are going through this stage now, please remember this, give yourself a pat on the back for getting through it at all, and remind yourself “this too shall pass!” It gets really, really good!

 

Newborns, Part One: The Giving Birth Part (aka the easy part)

My littlest sister is about to pop! bring forth a precious human life into this world. I can’t wait to be an aunty again! My next littlest sister has a newborn at home, and some of my beautiful mother’s group pals are also reproducing. All of this new life has got me reminiscing about giving birth and the newborn stage, and reflecting on just why it is that I found it to be so very, very challenging. I know this is normal, but my over analytical brain wants to know WHY?!

I remember when I was about six months pregnant with my son, one of my sisters said ominously “you have no idea of the shit storm that is about to hit you”. Geez, dramatic much, I thought! “I think I can handle it; I am a psychologist you know”, I said haughtily. Oh, the young are so foolish! (except I wasn’t that young). I cringe now, because she was right! That made me wrong which is never a nice thing to be, I’m not a fan of the feeling. And what did me being a psychologist even have to do with anything? Idiot!

Anyway, the way Eliah came into the world, was that one night when I was 35 weeks pregnant, my waters broke, and it was on like Donkey Kong (but even more ape-like). I freaked out and ran downstairs to very calmly went downstairs and told Gavin “something weird has just happened” and we packed my bag and went to the hospital. After 8 hours of labour, helped along by some gorgeous gas (the pain relief type, the other type probably wasn’t that gorgeous, nor was it helpful to anyone involved) he was here. After such impatience to get out into the world early, he did have a last minute hesitation and try to stay inside me, resulting in him getting stuck and his heart rate dropping dramatically, and me needing an episiotomy, which was really fun. For the most part though, it was relatively straightforward and we were lucky. #soblessed even.

That night, I was in a room with four other people. Two of them had already had their babies, like me. We didn’t talk, but we occasionally exchanged weary smiles, and now looking back I think we all bore the slightly shell shocked look of comrades in arms. “What just happened?” we asked each other silently with our glassy, sleep deprived eyes as we shuffled around the room to the toilet and back, pushing our brand new mini humans in our little glass bassinets on wheels (that they make you take to the toilet and shower and in fact EVERYWHERE with you, can you believe it? No getting used to it slowly around here!) The whole time I was there I was wondering when they were going to take him away to the nursery thingy like in the movies, and let me have a little nap, but I was too embarrassed to ask; LUCKY I didn’t, because nurseries apparently don’t exist anymore, cos they aren’t “baby friendly” or some such malarkey.

The other two ladies in the room were still in labour; they were in my ward (MY ward lol) because the birthing suite was full up; no room at the inn. One of them had been induced, and she was eating McDonalds. It would have actually been pretty handy if she had offered me a chip or two, but she didn’t. Oh well. I’m sure deep down, she is a nice person (damn chip hog).

*SUDDEN THOUGHT – I’m hungry for hot chips*

But I digress…

Anyway, I didn’t get any sleep that night. I mean, at all. I was so afraid my baby wasn’t breathing (he was so still!) that I kept getting up to check. Then every two hours the nurse would come in and make me wake him up to feed him and stick a needle in his foot to check his blood sugar levels, because he was a “sugar baby” which sounds so, so cute, but really just means that I had the diabetes while I was pregnant with him. So after one full night of labour, followed by one night of no sleep on the ward, I was ready to go home to my comfy bed, husband, and puppies. So, home we went: And like all new parents (I expect) we were vaguely surprised when there was very little pomp and circumstance when we left: No parade, farewell party, test, ceremony, not even any user guide. He was all ours now! At one point a nurse did chase after us when we left and I thought “finally”; but we had just dropped a beanie (I’d bought about a squillion of them in the hospital cos what else do you do? I don’t know what I thought I was going to do with them; it was summer).

Anyway, that ended up pretty long and I didn’t even get to tell you about the nurse who had me standing up for half an hour, stitches killing me, insides feeling like they were about to fall out, telling me about how she was going to go be a psychologist but she chose to “actually help people” instead. Or about the Lactation Consultant who told me that if she couldn’t get my breasts to produce milk, she was a complete failure because I had the best boobs she’d ever seen. *BLUSH*. Oh wait, I just did!

I was going to write about the newborn stage and explore why it was so hard for me (and others) in that post, wasn’t I? It ended up so long just talking about the birth, so I will write about “what came next” in the next post – another story for another time!

Thanks for reading, and sorry for the TMI moments!

Love Sally
xx

I am an introverted mum…but I still like you, kid.

Every night (well, not every single night, we’re not in a TV cult or anything, but lots of nights), when the Giggle and Hoot bedtime song comes on, my husband says “Time for the night-night song” and our son puts his head on Gavin’s shoulder, holds my hand, and sits perfectly still until the song is over. (You know the song; “It’s time for all the stars that sparkle in your eyes, to fly through the night and light up the sky”). This is literally the best, cutest thing I have ever seen, and I recently saw a duck who was unlikely friends with a goat at the zoo, so yeah, pretty cute then.

Anyway, shortly after the song, Gavin inevitably becomes sad and asks if we “really have to put Eliah to bed?” I’ve also heard the phrases “I might just go and wake him up” and “when is Eliah going to wake up, I miss him?” pass through his lips at nap time.

Now, I can safely say I have NEVER missed Eliah while its nap time or overnight, nor felt the urge to wake him up to play with him. I have even gone so far as to not turn on the kettle or open the fridge for 2 hours at nap time, in fear of the too-early-wakeup. And if you knew how much I love my cups of teas and snacks, you would know that that is a big deal!
Is this because Gavin is a great parent and I am an uncaring monster who will never have a secure attachment with her child? Nope; well, I hope not! We are as bonded as superglue, he and me.

I believe it is because of our different temperaments. Gavin leans towards extroversion, while I am introverted, as I have already said on my first post. Introverts get their energy from within themselves, while extroverts get it from being with people. When he gets home from work, Gavin may chat to our neighbours, talk to me for a bit, play with Eliah, and then chat with a friend on the phone. I, on the other hand, may not notice if I spend a whole long weekend not speaking to anyone but Gavin and Eliah and maybe mum on the phone. It’s just how we roll.

Does this make me weird? Well, yeah, maybe. Probably. Does it make him weird? Also yes. We are all weird in our own ways, cos there is no such thing as normal. But will we continue to grow in love, and make our little family work? Yep, always.

One piece of advice though, for those who have different temperaments like us. Discuss it! Discuss how you are, how you feel, and what you need from each other. She may not know you need some time alone to recharge, and aren’t just sick and tired of her. He might not know that you are feeling lonely and need some time out of the house with people other than you or the family. He might think you don’t love your child enough because you don’t want to wake him up after a 15 minute nap and deal with a tired-toddler-tanty – *ahem*. If they are not things we personally need on a regular basis, we usually don’t think of them by ourselves. And we all need to make allowances for each other, work out fair compromises and creative solutions. But, it starts with some reflection and self-awareness on each partner’s behalf; and then you are ready to have the discussion. Reflection-Awareness – then Communication is key!

Night Night!

Love Sally
xx