Thursday, February 14, 2013

Love means never having to say Happy Valentine's Day!

When I started dating my husband, almost thirteen years ago, I came to understand reasonably quickly that he was no romantic.   This was a little disconcerting to me because I was used to, and naturally drawn to, players. Boys who knew just what to say; how to make me feel desirable and special.  Boys who almost certainly said the exact same things to many girls before me & after me.  What was different about Filip was that, every now and then, he would come out with things that would just blow me away.  He would just say what he was thinking and it would be so beautiful because it was spontaneous and heartfelt.  And not aimed at scoring brownie points.

That is how I define true romance.  Not necessarily, gestures that aren't gestures, merely actions and words.  After all, it is nice knowing that someone is purposefully trying to make you smile.  But I see romance in spontaneity, in originality, in the little things that say "Your happiness is important to me".  The little things that say "I know you."

To me, Valentine's Day is the antithesis to all that.  It is commercial, generic, insincere, lazy and a farce.  And I think it awful that men be bullied into it & women brainwashed to feel that this is the day than men show them how much they love them.  They show us everyday.  You just have to pay attention.  Discounted chocolates and obscenely priced roses mean nothing.  While they might not dare to say it out loud, I'm pretty sure most men hate Valentine's Day.  I know single women do.  Any decent restaurant hates being fully-booked with tables of two, that traditionally don't spend very much and tip even worse.  To those who cherish this day, please don't see this as an attack.  It's not.  What I'm saying is you are worth so much more than pre-packaged sentiment.  And so is he.

As the years went by, our relationship and our feelings for each other have gotten a lot more complicated & Filip has learned to play the game more. He now says things to deliberately flatter me, and to wind me up.  But he remains a genuine, open-minded person with a big heart who loves me for who I am, even though I drive him crazy.  I'm a very lucky girl, all year round.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Ooh, Shiny!

So tonight's going to be a quiet one.  Which, to be honest, is the way I prefer it.  I've always kinda resented New Year's Eve.  Unless I was bartending, I liked to decide for myself how and when my night ended, no matter what the date.  But staying home, or having a quiet night with friends on New Year's Eve never really seemed an option before & going out was usually super lame and expensive.  I've partied past midnight countless times but New Year's often seemed more like an endurance test than a genuinely good time.  Plus I hated being hungover on New Year's Day. And I love New Year's Day.  The hope, the promise, the sheen.

My resolutions are more specific this year.  No fast food takeaways.  Only free range chicken, eggs and pork, even when eating out.  That one is not going to easy because I fucking love KFC.  Going to be insanely difficult if I do succeed at getting pregnant.  Brushing my teeth twice a day.  Gross, I know, but I can get a bit lazy.  Removing makeup before I go to bed. That's a bit of an ongoing battle but maybe this year I'll win.  Losing my mummy tummy.  Unless the obvious happens, of course.  Cleaning the bathroom once a week.  Another gross peek into my lazy hygiene, I apologise.  Less daytime TV.  Be less irritated by the dog.  Might try pretending that every day is her birthday again.  That worked for awhile after her actual birthday. More play dates for Levi.  New mother has moved into our street who seems more my speed.  Would be nice to have more kids to invite to his second birthday party though I won't feel rejected on his behalf until he's three. No Coke or Pepsi.  OK, shit just got real.  Things are getting out of hand so I better wrap this up.

What about Levi?  He's doing great.  Fussy eater and way clingier than he ever used to be but those things will resolve themselves.  I resolve to be more mindful that he understands more now & will continue to understand even more.  I will try not to bitch about people around him.  To be more careful what he's absorbing on TV or through music.  To mind my language. To be nicer to the dog.  She really is crazy annoying.  I will try to be less boring and lazy around him.  To try to keep things fresh and exciting for him.  Doesn't take money though it certainly helps.

Sorry if this blog post is a bit boring but my world's become a bit small; though I don't know exactly how much of that can actually be blamed on having a baby, to be fair.  I'm going to try and engage more with the outside world next year. Try to make new friends and not bother with the ones that didn't really work out.  Try to do more things as Levi is capable of doing and understanding more. Watching him witness, comprehend and participate is such an honour.  And hopefully he will help me to shake some of the despair, fatigue and disappointment I have with the world.  Here's to 2013!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

One year on...

Well, we're almost there.  Tomorrow Levi will have travelled all the way around the sun; though of course the journey was more important than the destination.  As threatened, it now feels like a blink of an eye.  Except of course it was a long, exhausting, trying, boring, beautiful, hilarious, exciting and rewarding journey.  And I have found this year (and the pregnant one before it) went much slower than previous ones have.

A lot of things have weighed on my mind this past year.  That happens when you are a stay-at-home mum.  What have affected me the most were loneliness and boredom.  Actually, loneliness wasn't really the issue.  The issue is that I need to stimulate Levi and he is very much a people person, as well as a massive flirt.  (Also I love to show Levi off.)  The loneliness comes as a result of my attempts to engage with my fellow mothers.  They have, at times, been a source of comfort and support.  But mostly, I just feel alienated.  I have yet to meet a mum that I would have been interested in hanging out with, pre-Levi.

The things that have bugged me the most are really the things that have always bugged me.  My general dislike of people.  Of being on a tight budget.  But what has really been heightened is my sensitivity to all the cruelty in the world, particularly to children.  It feels like I am forever reading about unthinkable acts of violence towards children, even babies. Before Levi, I could never have understood how frustrating and exasperating babies can be.  Combined with sleep deprivation, unsolicited advice and criticism, financial strain and/or lack of a support network, I can understand parents losing their temper.  I have done it with Levi.  But I would never strike him.  And if I shout at him, I apologise immediately.  It is so important to me that he feels safe and secure with me.  And it hurts me that so many children don't have that.  Sometimes at night, I can almost feel their pain, their fear and their confusion.  At this point in time, all I can do is put it out of my mind.  And to intervene, should I actually ever see anything disturbing.  But one day, I would very much like to be a foster parent.

For now, I will content myself with being Levi's mum.  And he does make me happy.  He's not everything I want out of life but I certainly couldn't ask for a more wonderful child.  It's been challenging but I definitely got lucky. Aside from the occasional cold, he's been so healthy.  He is so beautiful.  It shouldn't but it does make it easier.  He is so cheeky, with the funniest little kid laugh that he's had for as long as he's been able to laugh.  He is so incredibly sociable that I find myself being judgemental about parents with clingy or anxious babies.  I have found him easier and easier to take care of; more and more fun to hang out with.  I look forward to each new step, every new adventure.

Here's looking at you, kid.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

In Loving Memory

When I realised that today would be the 20 year anniversary of your death, I felt it was fitting that I would finally have in my life, your grandchild - Levi who is 25% you.  I also had no idea how to mark the day.  I thought about taking him to the beach & remembering you out loud but decided that this would be a more permanent way of doing that & he could read and understand this when he gets older.  It is important to me both that I let him know what kind of person you were & that I don't want him to mourn me the way I mourned you.  My grief was an open wound that I wore like a badge of honor, of loyalty.  A few years back as my heart was breaking all over again on this date, my husband suggested that you would not have wanted this for me, not wanted to be this source of raw pain for me.  Not for this long.  And as I struggled to understand the meaning of his words, I realised he was right.  And wondered how I could have got it so wrong, thinking the exact opposite.  Like somehow you would have been proud of the devastation your absence has wrought on my life.  Until I met Filip, I felt like I was living the wrong life in an alternate universe.

I realise now that I should have gotten counselling after your accident.  But for a long time, my grief was very precious to me.  People assured me that the pain would pass, ease with time, and I could not comprehend why they would think I would find that comforting.  My pain was all I had.  But to my horror, it did ease.  The pain numbed as did my heart.  When I could think about you without crying, I just felt dead inside so I would put you to one side.  My memories faded. I struggle to hear your laugh, see your mannerisms; no longer confident that I know how you would react to things.  Unsure of how much of what I remember is real & what I have coloured in myself.

Through Levi, I will try and remember you.  Talk about you in a way I never really did before, not a lot anyway.  Talk about you with the people who remember you.  By sharing you with him, I will reacquaint myself with the amazing person you were.

Thank you for making feel loved and liked, growing up.  I never had to earn your pride, just had to be myself and that was enough for you.  Thank you for being my friend.  Thank you for my childhood all over the world.
Thank you for teaching me to think for myself, to have the confidence that I could be right even if everyone told me I wasn't.  Thank you for teaching me to not take myself so seriously.  Thank you for teaching me to explore concepts just for the sake of thinking.  Thank you for talking to me like I was an important person, not to be talked down to or imposed on.
Thank you for passing on to me a love for good books and good movies. Thank you for passing onto me a wicked sense of humour and irreverence. Thank you for just trusting that I was a good person, that I could be trusted.  Thank you for our year or so together in Japan, the year before you died.  It remains one of the highlights of my life and a huge part of the person I have become.  And I don't know if I would've have made it intact without it.  In the years that followed, when the world was a little grey because I no longer had you to share everything with, I had that year.
With my best friend.

I love you, Dad.

Bryan Neville Laing  (8 December 1941 - 31 July 1992)

Monday, May 21, 2012

Babies 101

Both my husband and I are the first in our families to have a child and it doesn't look like Levi is going to get a little cousin anytime soon.  But I can't wait to be an aunty and I often think of things that I wish I had been told before I became a mother.  I only have one child and he's not quite 9 months old so I am certainly no expert but I know I would really have benefited from the following advice...

Get ready for unsolicited advice.  Get ready for people, even loved ones, trying to stress you out; creating problems where there are none.  If you are OK with how things are going, then things are going OK.  From the moment you announce you are pregnant, get used to people telling you what you better get used to.  Get used to people trying to make you dread the future, dread each next step.  When your baby starts crawling.  When your baby starts talking.  Personally I have found that looking after your baby gets easier and easier & more enjoyable.  Get used to people telling you that it all goes by so quickly and you'll wake up one day & your baby will be all grown up.  To be clear, I'm not actually suggesting you put up with any of this shit.  I'm just saying that you will get a lot of it.  How you deal with it is up to you.

Babies are all different.  Even babies in the same family.  For every theory, school of thought and parenting dogma, there is an equal and opposite theory, school of thought and parenting dogma.  I say, whatever works. Whatever works for you and for your baby.  Use intuition and common sense.  Sure, listen to advice.  Consult Google.  But between the two of you, you and baby will work out what to do.  Whatever works, for now. Babies change all the time.

Mothers, look after yourself first.  Your baby feeds off you in more ways than one.  Eat and drink properly.  Babies need milk, love and to feel secure more than anything.  If people are making you second/third/fourth-guess yourself, your baby can sense your feelings of inadequacy and your lack of confidence will show in how you interact with your baby.  If you're feeling good, physically and mentally, you are going to be far more likely to be able cope with whatever your baby does.

Don't beat yourself up.  But don't beat yourself up about beating yourself up.  I had a great pregnancy & the cutest, biggest baby bump.  But as a mother, at times I felt like a failure, from the very beginning.  For having not only an epidural but an epidural top up.  For wanting to quit breastfeeding on day 6.  For letting him sleep in the bed with us at first because he didn't like the bassinet.  (Handy tip: put something like a phone book under baby's mattress because they often don't like to sleep lying completely flat).  For needing my husband to do almost everything but breastfeed for the first two weeks because I had difficulty walking and sitting.  (Levi was not only big but his shoulder got stuck.  I had stitches and my tailbone was bruised.)  Because I had a couple of mornings where baby and I were crying at each other because I didn't understand he was overtired, not hungry.  Because visitors would play with Levi and entertain him whereas I was too tapped out to.  Looking back, it all seems so ridiculous.  I blamed myself for everything not being perfect despite being warned not to fall into that trap.  And then felt like crap for feeling like crap.

Listen to stories.  Your story, your experience is the only one that matters. But it can be really frustrating when trying to get the answers to questions because the answer is often that every baby is different.  Sometimes it's just nice to hear a definitive answer, even if it won't really have any similarities to your situation.  Sometimes it's not about looking for answers but common experiences.  Sometimes it's just great to hear that someone's had a much rougher time than you.  It might not be that great to hear the opposite but sometimes, with enough distance, you might even enjoy telling your war stories.  Plus, you can be the one to give someone the realisation that they've actually had it pretty good.  Gauge your audience though if you're doing the sharing.  Don't whinge, gloat or gross people out.

You will hear so much in your antenatal class that it will be impossible to retain it all, especially because you're listening about stuff you haven't experienced yet.  I actually can't imagine being a mother pre-Google!  What I felt most unprepared for was breastfeeding.  How painful it was sometimes in the first week or so, even when he had latched on correctly. Waking up marinated in breast milk.  The pain of being engorged as my body tried to work out how much I actually needed to supply.  Not knowing how long that was going to last, or how long I was going to leak milk.  This is the one area that I recommend researching, even if it's just paying particular attention in your classes or grilling your midwife.  And if necessary after baby's born, consult a lactation specialist.

No expectant mother is unaware that sleep deprivation is one of the hardest things that they will have to deal with.  But personally, the hardest thing about being a new mother was having to focus so much of my attention on this little being so much of the time.  This little being that I didn't understand and that didn't understand me. Not being able to just put him down and read a book.  Or not getting a break from him when my husband was at work.  Sometimes the days would seem so long...

Get out of the house.  As soon as possible & as often as possible.  Whether it be walking a lot or taking baby to playgroups or other activities.  I find Levi is a lot happier when we are out and about, being stimulated and experiencing new things.  Everyone comments on how chilled out he is but at home, he gets easily bored and is often demanding.  He is also really comfortable with being held by other people.  Could just be his personality but we let everyone hold him from the beginning, partly because most people seemed to have more experience with babies than we did.  And it really does help that other people can hold him for me & that he is so sociable.  A clingy baby is so much more work.

Keep a diary.  Take photos.  Take videos.  Don't experience life thru these things.  Do experience the moment by being in the moment.  But have a record so it's not all a blur.  (Or as much of a blur.)

Be sensitive.  As a mother and an expecting mother.  There are people who can't have children, or who are having trouble conceiving.  Don't complain about being pregnant.  (At least not to just anyone.)  Don't ask people when they are going to have kids.  Feel free to occasionally talk about something other than baby.  (This can be especially hard for stay-at-home mothers like myself.)  And if you find yourself getting ready to dispense some unsolicited wisdom to a new mother, stop and consider how it will be received.  And if you're not sure...

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

In other news...

Levi Bryan Quick was born on September 9, weighing in at 10 pounds 9 ounces, or 4.8kg.  He's beautiful, funny, and I am so in love.  It's not easy, this whole motherhood thing, but it is definitely worth it.

It makes me think constantly about the world I have brought him into.  How bad it might get.  How to try to make it a better place.  How to lead by example. How to stop cursing the dog out in front of him.

I love you, little man.

Is this thing on?

So it's been almost a year since I last posted to this blog.  Once I got pregnant, it was almost all I thought about.  The growing life inside me.  My excitement, fears and discomfort. I didn't want this blog to be all about that.  And it appeared I had nothing else to say.  I still don't know I have anything to say but now I have fewer people to say it to.

Now that I'm a stay-at-home mum, my existence has become even more insular.  I don't really have any friends with kids.  I'm trying but I struggle with the whole coffee group mummy thing.  So far I haven't met anyone I would actually like to hang out with. Initially I was quite active on Facebook after my son was born; my cousins in particular were very keen for photos and details.  But then I started feeling like I was spamming my other friends.  I actually didn't post that many photos but I would post often. Then I really started to resent Facebook.  For making me feel like a nuisance.  For making me feel like I was shouting across a large room.  For making me listen to other people shouting about shit I didn't want to fucking hear about.  The number of people I was hiding from my newsfeed grew.  I began to really look forward to my New Years Day cull.  I even accepted friend requests that I normally would've rejected; just to bloat the beast I was going to gut.

But the final straw was when I tried to fundraise for AMI Round The Bays. I didn't go with the default official charity partner but chose one that dealt with child abuse / neglect.  Something that has been close to my heart for some time but more so now than ever.  I got quite excited at the prospect of using online social networking to raise money to help the vulnerable children in this country.  Or at least to do my tiny part.  I thought that the combination of the seemingly constant horror stories in the media and the humour of my fundraising page was going to ensure success.  I wasn't asking for much.  $10 for a great cause.  And yet not a single donation through Facebook or Twitter.  No comments, no likes, no nothing.  Yet if I made a bitchy comment or posted a humorous article, I got plenty of positive feedback.  So instead of a cull, at the beginning of this year I quit Facebook.  I've come pretty close to quitting Twitter too.  Instead I only use it for when I have something I just have to say.  Social networking has tremendous capacity to bring about change and awareness.  But I guess that's true of a lot of mediums and yet we mostly choose to embrace the inane, the glib, the trite, the meaningless.  Fundraising should have been a breeze.  I was really hurt that not one person responded.

So now I have no friends.  I didn't have many friends before, really.  But now I have cut everybody loose.  There are people out there who love/like me who aren't related to me.  But now they have to reach out and contact me.  One on one.  Or wait for me to contact them.  And we've all become such lazy friends.  But I feel happier without the safety net of Facebook. Quite a few of my FB friends don't have my email address or mobile number.  I have probably lost contact with them forever.  We'll see.