Sometimes when I hold my girls, I close my eyes and try to imprint on my skin how that touch feels. I inhale their scents deeply, trying to store them in memory. I long to hold onto those baby cuddles, those ferocious 4 year old hugs. I dream of bottling the sensations, to be taken out a long time from now, perhaps when I am alone, and they are gone. But I can't. Already, I look at baby photos of my Bay, and I can barely remember what it felt like to touch my cheeks to her soft, billowy face or to hug her tightly. I have snatched memories of how she looked at me, or at the world, how she laughed and cried. But the sensations are gone. I can't feel my baby, because my baby is gone. It is a physical ache. The past and the future casts a shadow into my most perfect moments. So, knowing the loss lying ahead, and that I must let go, I feel intensely in the present. I hold their baby and small girl selves now. And that is all. That is everything.
“If you try to change it, you will ruin it. Try to hold it, and you will lose it.”
There's been something up with Iona. She usually has reflux anyway, and doesn't sleep well. But. Weeks of waking every 2-3 hours at night (and that is after midnight). Much much more vomiting. And there was already a lot. Crying a lot. She wont be put down at all beyond a couple of minutes when very relaxed. But doesn't like the sling much awake. B was similar. Though slept more at night. Past midnight last night, needing to pick her up again, I just had to release the ball of tension in my stomach. I screamed. Loud. It just felt the right thing to do. Even still, I smiled as I looked in her little face. Which was a bit worried looking of course. These babies. They do get to you. I'm glad we live in a detached house though. I did feel a bit better this morning. Most of us dont scream much past childhood. It was necessary for me to let go. x PS These pics are of different babies. Would you know? They look so alike.
Being a mother of a small refluxy baby and a 4 year old consumes my days. There really is very little time or energy for anything else. Yet, don't you feel that society tell us parents we should be doing more?
In my mother's day, it was seen as quite enough to look after the home front. And rearing children then was not as intensive as it can be these days. Not in my neighbourhood anyway. Kids were washed and fed, maybe encouraged to join some clubs, and do their homework, if education was valued. But largely? Left to their own devices. And mothers weren't made to feel solely responsible for how their kids turned out. "Shrug, people are people, you're lucky with the kids you have, or not" seemed to be the attitude. Women did do other things sometimes, of course they did. And sometimes they might have wanted to do something else and weren't able to. But they didn't feel they had to. Or feel so accountable.
But, looking around, even the more intensive parenting of today doesn't seem to be viewed as enough. Women should do more. It appears. Seems like women are expected to be everything to everyone. Having it all became doing it all. And women still feel guilty about not being or doing enough. I am a real home bird, yet I plan to start a business with my husband.
And I wonder, do I feel like I want to do this because I feel what I do is not enough? I don't think so, but yet…. I want to be on guard for feeling home life is not enough, as it is such a pervasive, insidious view surrounding me.
So all this is to say, I'm pinning my colours to the mast.
Being a mother is enough. Being a mother is enough. x And here is a totally superfluous shot of squidgy baby legs as you know, having a baby is bloody brilliant too.
"Children know perfectly well that unicorns aren’t real, but they also know that books about unicorns, if they are good books, are true books.” ―Ursula K. Le Guin
It's so easy to be cynical about Christmas. I'm not a believer. That child in the manger, that guy in a sleigh, those wise men, those solstice rituals. They're not real for me.
But still. All these traditions might not be real, but they contain truths. The generosity of spirit, the yearning to spend time with others, the outpouring of love for children. The importance of the message of the Father Christmas story for children - that we can believe in the kindness of strangers. The lighting of the fire in the dark telling us we can trust that the brightness will return.
Our Christmas has been lovely, but hard. We've all had hacking coughs and sore throats, the baby has been very unsettled. It's so hard not to have a moment to have an adult conversation. Or do my knitting. I've cut back on caffeine now and the baby has been more settled. I hope that's the answer but you know with these children, you think you've cracked it and then the next issue arises. That's life too isn't it? Two steps forward, one step back. The challenge is whether we can learn to tolerate the uncertainty, never mind embrace it. It gets easier with experience for sure.
As an aside I read something the other day about wisdom which resonated. This person wrote that it cannot be taught, it comes only with experience. Seems obvious but it is something to remember, especially when it comes to raising children, but also ourselves. He spent years worrying about what other people thought of him, then years trying not to. And now he has reached the point where he just considers what he thinks of other people. I long for that, and sometimes I'm there, but you know I don't think it can be rushed. It will come through experience, and deep work on myself. And for my children too, while I long for them to be full of self-esteem, I must accept that they are on their own trip, and must go through life experiences to gain these wisdoms.
At the moment Bay desperately wants to be like other little girls and she wants to be the best at everything. I swear I didn't instill any of this, in fact I consciously tried not to, but who knows? I'm trusting that this is a necessary stage for her, but my mother's heart feels for her.
So, the New Year. What will it bring? I hope more of the same. Life is good now. But I would love to overcome my shouting habit. Improve my tone! In response to some cross words about something really trivial, Bay said to me "Mammy, why can't you just SAY it". So that's my motto for the moment.
Why can't you just say it.
Express what I feel. Not cover it in (for me) easier emotions like anger and irritation. Say when I feel hurt or embarrassed, or lonely. I'm going to try. again.
Another thing that is really going to happen (FOR REAL!) is myself and himself are going to launch a business. It's started, it's happening. The question is whether we should follow the more soulful (read risky and bloody expensive) route or go with something perhaps more likely to sell (and still lovely). Perhaps I am asking the wrong question. I think my life is a search for those right questions. But in any case I suspect we will hedge our bets and do both. Well, I am a lawyer, that part of me would have to be burned to die.
Perhaps this is the year to burn it up baby.
Happy new year to you all. May you burn with all that you love the most xx
Iona is 3 months now already, and Bay will soon be finished her first term at school. It is a cliche but time does really fly. I can really understand now how I will turn around one morning and they will both be grown. Have you ever heard that poem "Turn Around"? This is how I know I will feel. "Where are you going, my little one, little one? Where are you going my baby, my own? Turn around and you're two, turn around and you're four, turn around and you're a young girl going out of the door.
Turn around, turn around, turn around and you're a young girl, going out of the door.
Where are you going, my little one, little one? Little dirndls and petticoats, where have you gone? Turn around and you're tiny, turn around and you're grown, turn around and you're a young wife, with babes of your own.
Turn around, turn around, turn around and you're a young wife, with babes of your own.
Where are you going my little one, little one? Where are you going, my baby, my own?" I suppose I'm in a emotional mood. Having a small baby does that to you. I also think of the Woody Guthrie song "One day old". You can hear a sample of it here. He wrote it for his daughter, Cathy Ann, who he used to look after at times during the day, as he worked at night. He wrote such brilliant songs about his time with her, "riding in the car", going on the amusements in Coney Island, about how she was always asking "Why". Just beautiful children's songs. You can hear the fun and the love in all the lyrics. Tragically she died in a house fire the month she turned 4. There's a line in "One day old" which he wrote about her as a baby "10 days, 20 days, no days old" that is just so sad, in retrospect. I think of things like this often, how lucky we are, and I try to remember it. I've heard parents are at their happiest in the first year after a baby is born, barring other pressures, and depression I suppose, and I can definitely attest to that. The love is so strong. I see the pure wisdom, the potential, and the grace we were all born with. ------------------------------------------------------------
On the other hand of course, having a small baby, and a 4 year old, is exhaustion making. Bay is an absolute bundle of energy, she talks non-stop, she is full of endless enthusiasms and ideas. She wants to be involved in everything. She wants to be wherever we are. She has her own very firm ideas. She loves making up songs, jokes, dances. She plays endless imaginative games. She loves playing with a set of wooden bear families she has. All. The Time. She is really interested in reading. She interrupts us all the time. We can't have a conversation. She loves school, but doesn't join in much in class (though does so increasingly). She told me she doesn't like if other children make a point that she was just about to make. She is learning still how to contribute, how to interject, how to share what she is thinking. She can do all this with us no problem of course, so she will get there with school. She loves to wear red tights and party dresses. Or her skeleton pyjamas. She loves almost anything really. Every day is party day, as one of her toys has a birthday continuously it seems. She loves the film Frozen, and is a bit put out that it is the only film she has seen. I must find something else suitable. Any suggestions? I'd like something without violence, something with a strong message of friendship perhaps. Nothing sexist. Or just something funny. She is wonderful. But also maddening and challenging, and I am struggling a bit with that sometimes. I want to have endless time with her, and the energy to fall into her plans, while simultaneously wanting to run far far away to a darkened cave somewhere. I just don't have the time or energy at the moment. Lack of sleep is a sure route to grumpiness. I fall into old conditioned ways of behaving, and find it hard to get out of it. There's conflict and conflicting feelings around all this. Sadness that I can't be the mother she wants (and maybe needs), regret when I lose patience with her, pride when I manage to get it right, delight when we have fun, relief when I get a few rare moments alone, guilt that I don't make more of an effort, or guilt that I don't want to sometimes. I know the answer to all this though - more rest, more time for me and more connection time with her. And I know both these are difficult at the moment, and I just need to get through these few months, and I will be over the hurdle. And I know how important it is to remember how I am getting it right so often too. Celebrate success to encourage myself. But time seems so short. And flies so fast.
I don't want to turn around, and she is gone, and I have never spent that time. --------------------------------------------------------------
Iona is an absolute dote. I am totally in love with her. She smiles and wriggles as much as she can. She has awful digestive issues, I mean, not that bad, not losing weight or anything, but painful all the same, but she even tries to smile bravely through them. She loves to have a good laugh, and even seems to have a laughing time in the evening. Mostly she laughs if you make funny sounds or at Ian if he puts things on his head and knocks them off. i've worked out that the digestion problems are mostly oversupply, with a little bit of reflux thrown in sometimes. I'm using shields which are controlling the milk flow which are like a magic bullet most of the time. But she still gets too much sometimes and then cries a lot. She sleeps well after midnight, maybe for 6 hours, and then back for an hour or two after a feed, but is still staying up all evening. Some days she has big long sleeps (4 hours?!), but at least once or twice a week she doesn't really nap at all all day long. she could go 8 in the morning until midnight with just a few naps of a few minutes each. She slept through the last couple of nights (12-8, 10:30-7). Imagine if she kept that up. Oh wow, I won't even dare to hope.
Yes I am obsessed with sleep. I got her The Dancers Mobile, a Montessori mobile, which apparently suits her at this age as she is developing depth of vision and is tracking movement. Mostly, it is just beautiful and graceful though, and she loves to watch it. Before I semi-sorted out her digestion issues I couldn't put her lying down flat generally, so now she can do it a bit more it is good for her. I took some photos, but with the Canon, which I haven't uploaded. Just one task too many for me at the moment.
I'd like to blog more. Shorter posts perhaps. Ian and I are again thinking of setting up a business together. If I could do something enjoyable, and not have to commute to London, life would be so much better. I keep talking about doing something I know, and then not doing it. But we are close to it how. I don't want to say anything yet, as we haven't made any decisions yet, but soon.
PS I am envious of those people who can stick the baby in the sling and get on with things-my two are only happy if they are/were really ready to sleep, lots of protest otherwise as can be seen in the pic below. No pottering around the house for me with an awake baby in the sling!
Bay wanted to dress up as a skeleton for Halloween. Ian came home early from work and painted the scariest skeleton face ever. Seriously disturbing. He is very talented. Let's hope he uses his powers for good... Even little Iona dressed up. There was a Halloween party at the school, with trick or treating on the street where the school is. There was an amazing atmosphere. Lots of the neighbours had dressed up, including a brilliant dead Mexican bride. Someone projected a Nosferatu the Vampyre film on a house end wall. Bay was hugely excited. Unfortunately I didn't get photos of all of this. When we drove back home afterwards the street seemed very dead and I pined to live near the school for a few minutes. I do appreciate what I have here though. Maybe it is a transition period now with Bay starting school and starting to live a new life. It was always a disadvantage and disjointed going to school in another town. On Saturday we went to see Peter and the Wolf in town and afterwards went to a Falafel restaurant and got lovely mezze. Out of all the lovely mezze Bay chose to eat a lemon sandwich... Bay was on half term from school and it was my first extended period minding the two children together. It was ok mostly, and nice to have her around, but she wanted to spend every moment playing with me and wherever I was, she was too. I think she found it difficult to share me, but didn't want to say anything negative about Iona, which was a struggle for her. And me. There was rushing and emotional outbursts and exhaustion over the week, and getting stressed needlessly, but there was also a lot of love and fun, and I am holding onto that as tightly as I can. I am still feeling that winning the lottery feeling, especially as we heard something very sad. A little two week old baby boy, Beau, in the extended family, tragically died this week, we think from a Strep B infection. A shocking loss that words wouldn't describe. It's good around here. x