confessions graphic FINALdaniel

It’s like a love you’ve never experienced before.

I was amazed the way I felt instantly like I would do anything for my son. 

We were totally in love with her from the moment we laid eyes on her. 

These are the typical words I heard from parents when they described the first moments with their first child. Earth shattering love, new feelings washing over them, and sitting in my hospital bed holding our wee firstborn son in my arms during the first hours of his life, I slowly realized I had no idea what these people were talking about.

I was not sitting on a cloud of love, I wasn’t surrounded by it, no lovey emotions were flooding me on the inside. I did not at all feel like giving up anything I hadn’t already given up for him. A small part of me was still confused as to how this wrinkled, pink piece of flesh was actually a permanent part of my life now even though I could sense that something big had taken place in my life.

Crazy joy filled me – I was ecstatic, bouncing off the walls kind of happy, which I blame on post-birth hormones and how proud I was of myself for giving birth with no pain relief. I was so “high,” I couldn’t sleep at all for most of the first day, content to just look at my son and jabber on and on to Husband about how I couldn’t believe how well the birth had been and how adorable our son was.

I was like an athlete who won a race, and the event I had trained for was done.

But love? The feelings? Not so much.

I remember sharing this part with a group of people who all looked shocked and uncomfortable after hearing the words, and it so baffled me because I felt and feel no guilt or shame about this, I accepted my emotions and moved on. I am so glad I did not judge myself in the beginning for not feeling much toward my son, I made the choice to simply enjoy him without making myself feel anything I didn’t. 

Whatever you call your baby, his secret middle name is always the same – Needy. They only have needs, as my midwife liked to say. And in the beginning, Mommy is usually the one who meets most of the major needs. So day and night, I pulled him close and nursed him, I rocked him to sleep, woke up with him at night, changed nappies (and more nappies), washed his clothes, talked to him, read him books, sang to him.

It was physically, emotionally, spiritually exhausting work, and in the beginning, it is relentless work. It. Does. Not. Stop. Ever. Even in the moments of quiet, my brain would still be spinning, What does he need? When will the next wake up be? (And Little Boy was a fairly easy baby – no idea why –  I never had to deal with prolonged crying, and he slept for decent stretches at night.)

I didn’t have the feelings of love, but almost every moment of my day I was doing the work of love, and the more I did the work of love, the more the feelings of love began to seep into me, a steady trickle gave way to a flowing stream that gave way to a tidal wave of emotion.

It wasn’t a specific moment, the moment when I knew I loved him and would do anything for him, but all I know is that it is a process that continues. It still has not stopped. With each season and stage of his life and all the challenges that come with it (and they are tougher today than two years ago), there is a fuller, richer, more complete love for him. Each challenging moment, every situation that demands all of my patience, kindness and understanding is the chisel on my heart that carves out a wider space for him in my life.

The work of love feeds the emotion of love. The harder the work, the stronger the love.

Friend, how are you feeling toward your baby, your children? Are you feeling guilty for a lack of a certain emotion? Please don’t. Keep doing your work, keep fighting to be present with your children, to wipe that nose one more time, to hold a tantruming child again, to work through another bedtime drama. Your emotions will follow. 

*I do feel like it would be irresponsible of me to not add one caveat at the end of this – negative emotions toward our children (resentment, bitterness, even hatred) should be watched very, very carefully and thoughts about wanting to harm babies and children – however irrational we might think it is – should be a red flag for all of us. There is no shame in these emotions, friend, it’s part of post partum depression, perhaps part of a dysfunctional family cycle you experienced yourself or maybe it’s an issue you will have to work through. If you feel this way toward your babies or kids, please, please, please immediately pick up your phone and call your husband and a friend you trust, talk to them about it, get it out there, find someone who can look after your children for a few hours a week or even more regularly, and then find a good therapist whom you can talk to about it as well. Change is always possible when we engage with the process. 

(New to this series? Start here and follow the links to each day’s post.)

notestoanewmum

The angry, angsty crying comes on the monitor just over an hour after I put him down for a nap, totally uncharacteristic of Little Boy who at over two usually takes a three hour nap daily. I need this nap, my introverted heart recharges in the shadow of books and Facebook. Every now and then clutter is cleared.

We have both been sick with evil colds and coughs for the past two days, and he sounds terrible. I go to him, flushed face, big tears rolling down his cheeks. I know he doesn’t want to wake up, but he must have felt so awful he couldn’t go back to sleep. We end up in the rocking chair, with his arms around my neck, head against my chest, neither of us are talking.

I used to rock him in this same, blue, uncomfortable chair two years ago. I was obstinate about napping – he would nap according to my plans, I would make him. So if he woke up too early according to my schedule or if he was having difficulty sleeping, I just sat there and rocked, sang, held his tiny frame close. Felt him relax, let go into sleep.

It’s costly, these moments. I had Things To Do this afternoon, and I am never ready for nap time to be over after an hour. Never. These are the daily little losses I faced when Little Boy was born and every day since, and each one came at a cost.

Our stories are unique, and in no way do I think mine is representative of most women. But whatever way a child arrives in our lives, no matter how desired, planned or hoped for a pregnancy or adoption may be, huge losses come with it.  Children are costly, and I’m not referring to money. Time, energy, fun, freedom, relationships and so many other things that disappear or change.

This is the point where many of you are reading this and wondering, Yes of course there are losses, but don’t you gain something as well? So many older women have said this to me as I have lamented the losses in my own life these past two years, and of course I have gained many things – and will be writing about that in the days to come – but before you gain something, before something is added to your life, there has to be space for it, and this is one of the gifts of loss, it creates spaces.

Counting the cost has become a necessary practice for me as I mother, it is the way I honour my losses. It is my way of saying, This was important to you, it’s not part of your life anymore, that’s hard and it’s ok that it is hard. Counting the cost requires continued honesty with myself, a process of acknowledgement and release.

What does counting the cost look like? For me it is considering what is to come – I spend a lot of time thinking, and I leave space in my days for thinking time (hence my devotion to nap time), I journal and write a gratitude list, easily the best tool in helping me let go.

The costlier something is, the more value it has, and our closest relationships in some ways are the most costly; in paying the cost, we affirm its value. Every night I lose sleep, every snotty nose wiped, every outing I turn down because it will mess up bed time, are all losses, each one says, I value you, son, more than what I am losing right now. 

As I sit in the blue chair with Little Boy slowly coming to terms with the fact that my afternoon as I planned it was over, I hold him, pray for him silently, rub his back, and I can feel the swell of compassion, empathy, gentleness and kindness coming over me, and it is good, this moment with my son as I pay my cost one by one.

What are your relationships costing you today? How are you counting the costs? 

(New to this series? Start here and follow the links to each day’s post.)

confessions graphic FINALtest

E very child enters the world into a landscape that exists in her parents life.

It is the backdrop to the story of this baby’s life, the map on which his mother and father will interact with each other and with him, their new baby.  Here’s the story about my landscape.

Husband and I met on February 10, 2009, engaged a year later on the same day and married on July 12, 2010. We had spent no more than four months in the same place during our relationship, we were in love and deeply committed to each other. We desired children, so much that we even wrote it into part of our wedding vows: I commit my heart and my life to welcoming children into our home, seeing them as gifts from God to be treasured, enjoyed and taught. 

I etched those words out with not-yet-Husband on a Gloria Jeans napkin in Melbourne’s largest shopping mall, and with all my innocent heart, I believed it.

Six weeks later we took a spontaneous four-day trip through Italy and Switzerland, and I noticed that I was starting to feel unwell after each meal. Nothing dramatic, just a steady, low level of nausea. I teased Husband about pregnancy, Impossible, he would retort back.

One week later we are sitting in bed in the large country home of friends for a young adults retreat in France holding a pregnancy test that turns positive in seconds, well before we are even able to read the instructions.

I was happy, Husband was over the moon. Neither of us could believe it, even though I was glad to have an explanation for why I felt so weird. I spent the following eight months and the first year of Little Boy’s life telling myself, You are so blessed to be able to “just” have a child. He is the most amazing little boy – look at how gorgeous he is? See how cute and clever he is? He adores you! You’re made to be a mother! Isn’t this wonderful? 

There were many things that were wonderful, yes, and Little Boy brought joy to my life that I did not think was possible from his first day until now.

But it took almost another year to admit to myself what I can see now in my landscape when I was pregnant and he was born.

I was afraid, shocked and angry.

I wanted a few more years with Husband, to be able to sleep in on Saturday mornings, to travel spontaneously, to see more of Europe, to have lazy weekends, easy weeknights and time to understand each other and our backgrounds. I wanted to work, to wear suits, take notes, write stories, be part of something that was impacting the world. I needed time, to figure out the major life events of the past year, to heal from my last season in Australia, to grieve the loss of friends and family. I wanted to enjoy feeling young and free, have fun on my own timetable.

And there were so many other dreams, plans, desires that dried up when I saw the cross on that test.

Loss and grief. That was the landscape of my first season of motherhood.

The thing about a landscape is you don’t always notice it because you have to live your life. I had to stop eating raw ham immediately, no more alcohol and smoked salmon and brie. There was labor, birth, nappies, night feeds – these are the things I saw.

We travelled to Melbourne when Little Boy was six months, and I was with my sisters one afternoon talking. I can’t remember the topic, but for some reason one of them turned to me and said, What happened to you? You used to have such big dreams for your life. 

My response would have been something superficial because I needed to get out of the room as soon as possible to make for the bathroom where my body shook with quiet sobs, the ache of pent up sadness, the crushing reminder that yes, my life would never be what I thought it would be. 

No one can escape their landscape – it is the invisible thing you wrestle with every step of the journey. It’s the wind on your back, the pebbles on the road that your foot hits, the open meadow of sweet-smelling flowers making the journey beautiful.

What’s your landscape? In what ways is it impacting your life? How are you living in it? 

I’m writing daily in October as part of The Nester’s 31 Days challengeHead over to the Nesting Place for other great topics.

(New to this series? Start here and follow the links to each day’s post.)

notestoanewmum

In October 2013 I wrote daily as part of The Nester’s 31 Days challenge. I called it “Notes to a New Mum,” but after I finished writing, each note sounded more like a confession, stories about love, loss, breaking, gaining, and a whole host of different things along the way. So I’ve re-named the series Confessions of a New Mum, and in 2014 I started writing more confessions.  You can find the index of the posts after the introduction.
Welcome, friend. You have been on my heart for weeks now. I don’t know how old your first child is, if you have children, want them, are pregnant or if you’re holding a newborn in your arms. We are all birthing something, we are all holding something new in our hands.

I’m holding another newborn in my arms these days and nights, and remembering my first season with a baby. These words are for her and for you. Re-visiting the woman I was and talking to my past self is a necessary part of growing, healing, living and it also frees me to move forward.

For the 31 days of October 2014, I’ll be writing these confessions of a new mum. I’m not a parenting expert. My toddler throws tantrums, our babies don’t sleep through the night early, veggies aren’t eaten, schedules are kept and disregarded, I leave piles of soiled nappies on the changing table. Please trust me, I’m not trying to pass on any great secrets or wisdom about the actual day-to-day of having small kids or babies. But there will be lots of stories, lots and lots of stories from my motherhood journey so far.

The only specific advice will be related to how much chocolate should be in your pantry at all times (lots), there will definitely be nothing on how to get your baby to sleep. There will be some letters, some lessons, some book reviews and a few guest posts from friends.

I hope the next 31 days are encouraging for you and for me.  Hopefully my own reflections will bring growth, health, life and freedom to your soul in whatever season of life you may be in right now.

Day 1         Landscapes

Day 2         Counting
Day 3          Love
Day 4          Lunch
Day 5          Review: Grace Based Parenting
Day 6          Inspiration
Day 7          Parenting
Day 8         Obama
Day 9          Schedules
Day 10       Time
Day 11       Outside
Day 12       Book Review: Simplicity Parenting
Day 13        Inspiration
Day 14        Faith
Day 15        Sara Groves
Day 16
Day 17        Accusation
Day 18        Slow
Day 19        Review: How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk
Day 20        Inspiration
Day 21        Guest Post: Amy
Day 22        Husbands
Day 23        Comparison
Day 24        Zone
Day 25        Guest Post: Hannah
Day 26
Day 27        Inspiration
Day 28        Guest Post: Myra
Day 29        Review + Giveaway: Desperate – Hope for the mom who needs to breathe
Day 30        Resources
Day 31        Born Again: A Birth Story


Image

I guess you can call these the “Did It” Ribs.

Last week on the day that Little Boy “Did it!” with the rock and the water, I was all wrapped up in the spirit of “Did It” that I didn’t start crying when I looked into our refrigerator and saw only a pack of short ribs on the shelves amidst the milk and eggs, and almost nothing else. As tempting as it was to open the freezer for another pizza or nuggets or fish sticks, I didn’t.

I decided instead to do it – to cook the ribs.

Two important caveats: I have never cooked ribs before and we had virtually no other ingredients.

So I googled “easy pork ribs,” and after noting that none of the recipes were at my level of easy, I had no grill and no one had a method for bringing a fairy godmother into the kitchen to just make it happen, I took a deep breath and said to myself, You can do this. Your kid can get a rock that is out of his reach, you can cook ribs.

Victory is contagious, what can I say.

Through some small miracle, Baby was happy, and Little Boy was mesmerized for at least an hour by a few trays of ice (Husband mentioned to me that when he took Little Boy out for lunch he – Little Boy, in case anyone is wondering – was fascinated by the way the ice melted and disappeared into his water.)

Seriously, he sat there with a tupperware semi-full of water and ice cubes, playing with ice, eating ice, sloshing water everywhere. Later I added frozen peas – even more fascinating! And he ate all the peas. For anyone keeping track, this was an activity that kept him occupied for a large amount of time and healthy and cheap and easy and educational (we got to talk about water’s different forms – SCIENCE, OH MY WORD).

In the mean time, I turned my eyes to our meager pantry – olive oil, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, salt, garlic, onions, muesli, baking powder, tea, lavender honey, vanilla essence, and I’m sure there were a few other things. My point is the pantry was bare. And now you’re probably thinking, She glazed the ribs with baking powder and cooked it with muesli!!!

I did not.

But I did use the soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, garlic and honey, and ladies and gentlemen, let me tell you. These ribs were lick-your-fingers tasty. Husband said they were amazing, but it is worth mentioning that he was eating frozen pizza and other fascinating frozen fare for the past week, so his judgment – or at least his taste buds – might have been at less than top form.

And me? Yes, it felt great to sit down and eat a real meal, but it was made only sweeter by the fact that I did something I did not think I could do. (And honey.)

You better believe I did a happy dance in my kitchen, arms raised in victory, proclaiming to my toddler and anyone who would listen – I did it.

Image

“Did It” Ribs or The Easiest Recipe Ever

This is an incredibly easy recipe for ribs – I think it took me a total of 10 minutes to put together, and that’s probably because I crushed garlic, which takes a long time, am I right?

  • Heat oven to a very low heat (mine was around 150 C/300 F)
  • I had two racks of pork spare ribs, and I crushed two cloves of garlic and rubbed a clove per rack into one side with some salt (and obviously if we had pepper or red chili flakes, I would have added that as well).
  • In an oven-proof casserole dish, add olive oil and the ribs, browning both sides until there’s a nice colour
  • In a bowl whisk together soy sauce, balsamic vinegar and honey (melt the honey if it’s too thick). There’s no science to the proportions here. I just tasted as I went along until the mix was to my liking; the idea here is salty, sour and sweet. (There are so many other combinations that would work, too: lemon juice, barbecue sauce, whiskey, stock, sugar, etc.).
  • Pour it over the ribs. The liquid should cover the ribs, so add water if it doesn’t.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil, then cover it with a lid or foil, transfer to the oven and bake for about two hours or until meat is tender and tasty.

We ate this with rice and a bag of frozen Chinese veggies. Ridiculously easy, incredibly tasty.