Saturday, 2 May 2015

What I didn't expect...

Okay, so it's no secret that pretty much nothing about motherhood has been as I expected.  It's not that I prided myself on being clueless about parenting or babies, it's just that I wasn't a baby person and didn't know what I didn't know.  If that makes sense.

I did know that for the first few months I would be tired and drained and that it would be somewhat monotonous.  I knew that I would experience a STEEP learning curve.  Lots of mothers say that they fit their baby into their life, not the other way around.  And superficially, I suppose that's true for me too.  Other than staying at home instead of going to work each day, I still generally do the same things.

UH, EXCEPT I DON'T.  Everything is different.  And in lots of ways that I quite simply could never have expected, or would have believed had you told me.

So without further ado, here is my list of fourteen things that I didn't expect about motherhood.

1.  The joy of showering.
Before I had Joan, I enjoyed a shower as much as the next person.  It was a pleasant and necessary part of my day.  Nowadays it is like my ten minutes of time out from life.  Is the baby crying?  I don't know!  And it's not my problem if she is, because I'm in the shower and I can't do anything about it.  La la la la la.  I am absolved of all responsibility as long as the water is running.

2.  Time: changeable.
Nap time?  Short.  Arsenic hour?  LONG.  The other night I ran out of things to do to keep the tiny dictator happy before bath time, and ended up rocking her in my arms while I stood in front of the clock and literally watched the minutes pass.  Mother of the Year moment, people!

3.  WAH.
Something that started when I was pregnant was that I went from being, you could say, quite cold-hearted to becoming a soppy sentimental wreck who needed tissues to watch a Qantas ad on TV.  I thought once I had the baby and my hormones returned to their normal levels that I could go back to rolling my eyes and snickering at anything overly emotional.  Not so.  I don't even want to admit to all the things that bring tears to my eyes.  It's embarrassing.  WHO EVEN AM I ANYMORE?

4.  Not being able to remember anything.
Did I have a shower this morning?  Or was that yesterday?  Which side did Joan last feed from?  When did she go down for her nap?  Did I submit that grocery order?  Is the hose still running?  When did I last ring my mum?  I don't know okay!!  I don't know!

5.  Singing makes me cry.
This is so weird.  So weird.  I can't even sing "twinkle twinkle little star" without getting a lump in my throat.  It's some kind of physical reaction to singing - especially high notes - that I cannot explain, because they are not emotional tears but they are tears.  Big tears.  Like the other day I was singing along with Don't Stop Believing (judge away!) to Joan in the car, but I couldn't because then I was crying.  I can't believe I'm even admitting to this stuff.

6.  Skin flaking off my face.
Seriously.  As if I could feel anymore attractive right now, apparently changing hormone levels (bless those hormones) can cause "non-specific dermatitis" in some lucky people.  Yes, try not to be envious but I am one of the chosen few!  My eyelids have dandruff.  I could not make this up if I tried.

7.  Being so superstitious about sleep.
The first rule of the sleeping baby is that you don't talk about the sleeping baby.  I shouldn't even be discussing this right now.  Forget I said anything.

8.  What works one day won't work the next.
Call me clueless but I truly had no idea just how true it is that each day is a fresh start - and that can be a good thing and a bad thing.  Just because Joan was a screaming inconsolable terror yesterday doesn't mean she'll be like that today.  What she liked yesterday might just send her into a tiny red-faced fury today.  Every day she likes to remind me just who is in charge.  And, much as I pretend to the contrary, it's not me.

9.  A perfect day doesn't mean a perfect night (and vice versa).
Following on from point number 8.  It's amazing how quickly things can unravel and I will be left wondering what exactly tipped us from Huggies commercial perfection into the screaming pit of hell.  Alternatively a baby who screams all day is often exhausted and sleeps peacefully all night.  Not exactly the most stress-free way to get a good night's sleep, though.

10.  The books don't always work.
Oh my word, how I now laugh at my naivety.  I trustingly read Gina and Tizzie and their comforting promises that if you do X then Y will result.  I believed that if I put my baby in bed at certain times and fed her at certain times that she would do exactly what the book said that she should.  HAHAHAHAHA.  Of course, some days she would do as the book promised (see points 8 & 9).  Other days she would be like, "Book?  What book?  I don't remember reading no book" and I would be reminded that a tiny meatloaf that poos her pants every couple of hours is now in charge of my life.

11.  The never-ending thirst.
Joan is pretty much exclusively breastfed, except for one bottle a day.  I never realised that other than making the skin flake from my face and the baby weight suction off me like the best diet EVER, breastfeeding makes you SO THIRSTY.  Like that kind of thirst when you wake up in the middle of the night after a few too many drinks.  It's like that all day long, to the point where I snarl at Blair like a rabid dog if he so much as glances at my water bottle.

12.  Babies crying on TV should not be allowed.
This is pretty much torture.  I've been trained like some twisted version of Pavlov's dog so that whenever a baby whimpers on TV I sit bolt upright like I've been electrocuted.  Unlike Blair, who calmly tells me without even lifting his head, "That was on the TV sweetie".  Humph.

13.  The love I feel for my daughter hurts me.
It's such a cliche but the love I have for Joan totally overwhelmed me.  It's not at all what I expected.  It hurts how much I love her.  When she smiles at me with her gooby little toothless grin my chest clutches and it hurts.  Before I had her I wondered, if she was - shall we say - a homely baby, whether I would know or whether I would be too blinded by love to realise.  I realise now that the point is that I wouldn't care.  I love her desperately and I don't care whether other people think she's cute or not.

14.  The community.
I've said a billions times already that I had a hard time adjusting to being a mother.  Blah blah blah.  But one of the things that got me through and touched me to my (very soft) core was how nice everyone is.  That sounds stupid so let me explain.

Right from the very first day we brought Joan home from hospital, in fact even as we were walking out of the hospital, I have been effectively showered with support, compliments, just lots of thoughtful little gestures and remarks even from total strangers that buoy the spirits.  I never would have even noticed let alone commented on a tiny baby before so I had no idea that if you sit at a cafe with a small baby in a pram you will attract a veritable stream of people who will all smile and offer a kind remark.  For no reason at all.

Or the fact that it would suddenly become so easy to make friends.  Hey, you have a baby, I have a baby, let's be mates.  I've made more friends in the past two and a half months than I made in the preceding five years, easily.  And these are good friends - people I can see myself staying friends with for many years to come.  What a treat it will be to watch our kids grow up together, to see new ones arrive, to look back and see how far we've come.

Okay, see, now I'm tearing up again.

Far out, you guys.  What a freaking trip being a parent is, and I'm less than three months in.  All that crap that made no sense to me before about how it's simultaneously the hardest worst best most rewarding incredible thing.

Yup.  That.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Life lately

Sorry you guys…  As you can probably imagine I've had plenty of awesome real life stuff keeping me absent from here.  Unfortunately I've also now come down with a raging cold in the last couple of days, and am crossing all my fingers and toes that by some miracle I don't pass it on to Joan.

In typical lazy time-strapped sick blogger style, I'm going to use a bunch of photos off my phone and camera to remind myself of what we've been doing these past few weeks.

My beautiful baby is growing up so quickly.  I was never a baby person before I had her so I never really realised how short the baby stage is.  So much changes so fast.

Like so many new mothers I obsessed from day one about when, when, would she sleep through the night.  She has been sleeping a good six-hour block from 7pm most nights from about five weeks old, bless her.  The middle of the night feed kept getting later and later until she slept through from 7pm to 5am just the other night.  Of course, by now I'm so used to waking up in the middle of the night that I didn't even care that much about it anymore.  Which isn't to say I wasn't thrilled, just that it didn't matter to me as much as it would have when she was, say, two weeks old.  Typical!

I finally finished this cardigan for Joan, and not a moment too soon.  It's not going to fit her for long! >SOB<
I WILL finish this blanket before the end of winter
Biggie Smalls has been enjoying the change of seasons which means that not only is the nice soft quilt back on the bed, but the sun comes in through the bedroom window making the perfect napping spot.
Hello gorgeous!
Joan is becoming more smiley by the day.  I often look over at her in her swing to see that she's having a wonderful time grinning up at the sheep on her mobile.  She is so close to laughing I can't stand it.  I have not a shred of dignity when it comes to the silly things I will do trying to coax that first chuckle out of her.

I love this, our first family photo, with our dear little cross-eyed baby.

Oh my goodness, eight weeks old.  I barely got a chance to get used to that before suddenly she was two months old, then nine weeks old.  Next Monday she's ten weeks old.  How?  How?

How did we get here already?  
Most exciting for me recently was my sister Hazel coming to visit for a long weekend with her eight month old daughter Emma who is squishy baby heaven on a stick.  For Hazel's visit we agreed that eating responsibly was a waste of our time.  In the spirit of that I bought a whole block of Marvellous Creations and a ten pack of Coke cans.

We ate the whole block, drank many cans of Coke, and gorged on cheese and crackers and McDonalds and pizza.  I realised after Hazel and Emma left that we didn't actually cook a single meal the whole time she was here, which was a pretty awesome effort I think.

Probably the cutest baby in the whole world.
Joan has A LOT to live up to if she isn't going to be the ugly cousin.
I love to think how these two, born six months apart, will roll their eyes together about us in years to come.
Blair and Emma.  HEAVEN.
After Hazel went home and I was feeling a little melancholy about my family being so far away, what should be on TV but my all time favourite movie, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.  I don't think I could ever get sick of this movie.  It was the perfect pick-me-up.

Why is there a cork on the fork?
The only better pick-me-up than Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is these two, napping on the couch together.

So that's what's been going on here.  

I sneezed approximately 3,294 times during the writing of this post.  Am now off to forage in the kitchen for chocolate.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Taking Stock: Newborn Edition

She does spend some time awake, I swear
Crocheting again - all is right in my world
Cheese muffins - first baking effort since becoming a mother
The chins, oh my...
Lemon Ricotta Cake… looks good but I have to confess it was a Fail Cake, not even close to cooked :(
You guys bought this thing for me, right?
You guys, I am so happy right now.  Sleep deprived?  Yes, extremely, and in need of a hairbrush, and often splattered with baby spew, and ignoring the pile of washing to be folded.  But, just really happy.

Making : a very overdue baby blanket for my pretty girl, now that my pregnancy puffiness has FINALLY left the building.
Cooking : cheese muffins - the first thing I cooked following the arrival of Joan!  It took me a good few weeks to get my mojo back, but gosh it felt good to get back in the kitchen.  The other day I also tried to make this Lemon Ricotta Cake, but failed dismally :(
Drinking : litres and litres of water.  I had no idea how thirsty breastfeeding would make me.  Someone said "she will suck the marrow from your bones".  YES.  That.
Reading : not much of substance, but lots of back issues of Country Style that I bought on eBay months ago and never got around to reading.
Wanting : to have another go at the Lemon Ricotta Cake with a few recipe tweaks suggested by a friend.  Thanks Von!
Looking : at the rain-drenched garden glistening in the sunshine.
Playing : back to back episodes of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills while Blair is at work.  There's something to be said for this stay-at-home-parenting business.
Wasting : plenty of time staring at my beautiful baby Joan sleeping.  I am OB.SESSED.

Sewing : not much, but big plans for lots of clothes for Joan in the coming months.
Wishing : that Blair didn't have to go away for work.
Enjoying : the fact that he isn't going anywhere just yet.
Waiting : for my two mothers' group catch ups next week.  Bring on the ladies with the babies!
Liking : the seven hour stretch that Joan has starting sleeping at night (I now need to knock on wood.  First rule of the sleeping baby: you do not talk about the sleeping).
Wondering : why I always forget one important thing from the grocery order, every damn time, and then remember it about five minutes after clicking the "Submit" button.
Loving : groceries ordered online and delivered to my door.  LOVE THAT.
Hoping : that Joan's sleep continues to improve... but knowing that we probably have many regressions ahead of us... so may as well just enjoy it while it lasts.
Marvelling : at how quickly the weeks pass by.  I don't think I've ever been so conscious of the passage of time as I am now.
Needing : an open log fire to really get the most out of this weather.
Smelling : the freshly baked loaf of bread on the kitchen bench.  Smug?  Why yes, yes I am.
Wearing : my pre-pregnancy jeans!  Breastfeeding: best diet ever.  EVER.

Following : anyone living a simple country life.  Feeling so ready to start our own life in the country.
Noticing : that I am not at all the kind of parent I expected to be; I'm softer, more relaxed, and don't care about the things I thought I would care about.  Remember this post?
Knowing : that I'm going to need to order yet more yarn to finish this blanket.  Fourteen balls of yarn at $7 each… no need to do the maths I think.
Thinking : about my sister coming to visit in a couple of weeks and how much fun we're going to have.
Feeling : excited to watch our baby grow.  I have officially packed away the 0000s!
Bookmarking : patterns for baby clothes on Etsy.
Opening : so many parcels that have arrived from all over the place, containing beautiful gifts for our little girl.
Giggling : at how little room I have in my brain for anything that's not baby-related.  Hopefully only a temporary state of affairs…?!  Otherwise I'm going to become a pretty boring person.
Listening : to The Simpsons.  Blair has found a marathon on Fox8.  EYEROLL.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

That girl

Firstly thank you to everyone who got in touch after my last post.  I have been completely overwhelmed by the number of women who have told me their stories, and offered their support and comfort after reading about my experience of baby blues.  Yes, there really are PLENTY of us who have all felt the same way. If you're experiencing it, please know that you are not alone.

I've now updated that post with links to some great resources on the baby blues, as well as who to contact if your baby blues don't go away.


I have now come out the other side of that miserable haze.  I still seem to cry more easily than I used to, but the feelings of hopelessness, the regret and the misery are gone.  I will keep an eye out for any signs of post-natal depression because of course that bastard can turn up any time.  But right now I feel that I could burst with love for my daughter, and life is so much the richer for having her in it.  I even miss her when she goes down for a sleep, how ridiculous.

I can't believe that she's over a month old already.  But then again I can't lie - what a long four weeks it's been!  How can she only be a month old?

Something that I now understand completely
She looks around at things with her bright little eyes.  She is more awake and alert every day.  The other day she looked up at the mobile above her swing for the first time.  She feeds hungrily and efficiently, and does the most unladylike burps when she's done.  Something she got from her dad, I'd like to say.

I'd like to think she's been smiling at us for the last few days - the cutest little gummy grin revealing her adorable dimple in her left cheek.  I don't have dimples, she inherited those from her dad too.

She's starting to make deliberate sounds - not just the snuffles and grunts of a newborn anymore, but real baby sounds.

I can't believe how she's grown already, and according to the doctor's scales she's putting on weight at a rate of knots.  She's still wearing size 0000, but only for a week or two more at the most, I expect.

Last night - her first full night in her cot in her own room - she gave us six blissful hours of sleep, completely missed her 10pm feed and slept through until 1am.  Of course, just as everyone told me I would, I woke with a start at midnight and, after checking that she was still alive, spent the last hour googling whether to be concerned that she had slept so long.  And of course, there was nothing to worry about.  What a waste of precious sleeping time!

My mum, who stayed with us for three fantastic weeks, flew back to Adelaide early on Friday morning.  It's the longest amount of time we've had continuously together since I was at school.  I really don't think could have got through those first weeks without her tireless support.  She helped get our days into a nice easy (and yes, sometimes monotonous) rhythm.  We go out each morning to get a coffee for me while Joan naps in her pram.  It's far more boring sitting at the coffee shop without Mum there to chat to, but it's still my favourite part of the day.

So much to look back on already, so much to look forward to.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Baby blues

Just a warning, in case you couldn't tell from the title... this is not going to be the joy-filled post I had expected I would write upon the birth of our child.

In the spirit of #keepingitreal, I want to talk honestly about what these first weeks have been like.

These early days of motherhood have been nothing like I expected.  From about Day 5 until just last weekend I cried endless tears, so many, without even being sure why and feeling terrified that I would never stop.  As the visiting midwife suggested a few days after we had arrived home, "Everything is wrong and nothing is wrong all at the same time, isn't it?".  I could only nod helplessly through the floods of tears.

Of course it's normal and it's to be expected, and it will get easier.

Nothing, nothing, prepares you for the transition to motherhood.  I know many women take to it joyfully and naturally but for me it has been a huge adjustment.  Accepting that life has changed forever, and that's ok.  Accepting that our old easy life is gone for good, and it's ok to mourn that life.  Trusting that it will get easier.

Blair has been incredible to both me and Joan - the tears well up again as I type that.  He is just the father I imagined he would be, and so much more too: gentle and strong and at ease with tiny Joan.  I have leaned hard on him these past weeks and he has held me up and steadied me and kept me going.

Late one night when I tearfully (yup, more tears) squeaked out my thanks for his support, he just took my hand and squeezed it and matter-of-factly said, "Sweetie, we're in this together".  Whatever other joys we get out of being parents, the experience has brought us so close.  It's a cliché but it truly has added another dimension to our relationship.  I just adore that man.

I think our girl is beautiful and she has actually been such an easygoing little thing, but the bald truth is that I did not bond with her straight away.  Perhaps it was the Caesarian delivery, who knows, but for many days I went through the motions, feeding and cuddling and rocking her, without feeling any strong emotional attachment to my tiny daughter.

It's not an easy thing to admit, but it's the truth and I want to be honest.  I think a big part of my distress over the lack of attachment is the myth that everyone falls in love with their baby straight away.  Plenty of women don't and if I make just one other person feel better by reading this, then it's worth it.

On that note, the support and warmth that I have received from friends, from all quarters, has been overwhelming.  No judgement, just love and so much kindness.  Sometimes it helps just to hear that other people have been through the same thing.  And that this will pass.

All I felt for ages was fear, the crushing responsibility of looking after her, and horror at the thought that I might never experience that unconditional mother's love that is supposed to blossom instantly upon meeting your child.  What if I had made a huge mistake?

Of course, the bond has slowly started to form.  It's going to strengthen as the weeks and months pass.  She can't even interact with me yet, is only just starting to look - really look - at me and turn towards my voice.

The first time I realised that I was developing an attachment to her was walking into her room last week to get her up from a nap.  She had her little arms thrown over her head, just so tiny and vulnerable.  I felt that clench of love in my heart and I realised that everything will be ok.

I will stop crying, perhaps not just yet, but soon.  I can already start to feel my old self returning.  It won't be this hard forever.  It will get easier, but there are still some really hard times ahead to.  And that's as it should be.

She is going to grow up so fast, I need to soak in and be grateful for every moment because soon enough I'll be looking back at these hazy days wondering where my newborn has gone.

Our beautiful girl is already teaching me so much about life and about love, in ways I never could have imagined.

Edited to add:
Read this excellent article about the baby blues
Or this one about adjusting to life with a newborn
10 things I wish I'd known before becoming a parent (this article is full of affiliate links but is still an excellent read)
Who to contact (in Australia) if your blues don't lift after a couple of weeks

Friday, 6 March 2015

Introducing Joan...

It's been nearly two weeks now since we brought our little girl into the world, a tiny (6lb 7oz!) vernix-covered bundle who arrived in the hot sunny afternoon of 23 February 2015.

World, meet Joan Katharine Cowley.

Everyone comments on how pretty she is, and I have to agree.  I also choose to believe that they don't say that to every new mother!

She has fed well right from the start, and sleeps deeply and peacefully… during the day anyway!  We're still teaching her the difference between day and night.

I can't believe how little she is, and how life has changed forever.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Baby room

I'm currently cocooned at home getting to know our new baby.  Things might be a bit quiet around here as we settle into life as a family of three.  In the meantime you can keep up with daily goings-on on Instagram (@prudenceclaire).

The long-awaited baby room reveal!  Actually I don't know if it is long-awaited, but we'll pretend it is for now.

Ikea dresser and cot
I LOVE how the room turned out.  Not knowing the sex of our baby meant that it was important to keep a neutral colour palette, although I was never going to go mad with the pink or blue even if we did know what we were having.

Wooden toys from Etsy, Sophie the Giraffe teether (left); and books gifted by our friends (right)
Lauren Merrick print, Ikea chair and trolley

You can see my original "inspiration" post here, and I think we've remained pretty true to that vision.  I love the fact that there are so many gifted and handmade touches in the room.

Rug and quilt made by me (left); mobile gifted by a friend (top right); basket crocheted by me, Target lamp, soft toys gifted by friends (bottom right)

I can't say that I would have chosen to have a big flat screen TV in the baby's room, and it may never be turned on, but it's a legacy from when this room was our gym and there wasn't much point uninstalling it.  Plus, it could turn out to be a blessing for me during those long sleepless nights!

My only real disappointment with the room is an extremely frustrating experience I've had with an Etsy seller.  I ordered a custom mobile from her back in November (you can see it in the nursery inspo post I linked to above), and it still hasn't arrived.  Needless to say I'm pursuing a claim to get my money back, but I'd still rather have the mobile I ordered.

The good news is that the mobile you see in the photos above was a gift included with some items I bought off eBay.  The seller of those items turned out to be a fellow blogger and Instagram friend, which I only realised when I saw her name in the checkout.  Small world!

I'm sure the room will change and evolve as we figure out what works for us, and as our baby grows, but no matter what I adore the calm and peaceful space we've created for our little one.