confessions graphic FINAL

I guess you can call this “A Few Hours in the Life…” or “How We Eat Something Other Than Frozen Pizza.” (The recipe for a fabulous salad is part of the post…you just have to hunt for the pieces like a treasure because I have zero time to write it all out.)

I can’t remember when I realized I would have to cook something for yesterday’s lunch because there were no leftovers, but I had all the ingredients for a roasted butternut squash, fennel and spelt salad, and it seemed easy enough.

Baby went down for his nap in the crib upstairs, Little Boy was zooming around on his scooter. I started skinning and chopping up the half of a butternut that was in our fridge. Toward the end, I asked Little Boy to help me, and he came in and put the little pieces into the roasting tray, we sprinkled sea salt, pepper and olive oil and tossed it. I put the roasting pan into the oven (170C) and set the timer for 15 minutes.

Little Boy starts pushing the knobs on the oven, and I get down to his level, look him in the eye, and say Josiah, what are you doing? What is obedience? He looks everywhere except my eyes, eventually meets them and says, No. So I say, That’s right, kiddo, obedience is no touching, if you do it again, you get a time out. 

Baby starts crying – I did not check when he went to sleep but it had not been long – and Little Boy does not look like he will co-operate with the whole running upstairs, running back downstairs routine, so I put him in his chair at the dining table, turn on the nursery rhymes on Starfall.

I run up to pick Baby up, start rocking him back to sleep until I realize he will not go back to sleep without a bit of nursing, so nurse we do. Eventually I hear the timer start to ring, baby is “asleep” so I put him down, run downstairs – notice that Baby started crying again – pull the pan of squash out and set it on the counter while Mary Had a Little Lamb plays in the background. 

Keep trying to put Baby back to sleep. I put him down semi-asleep again, he starts fussing almost immediately, I run down anyway for five minutes.

bowl

So the next ingredient in the salad because – you know – I’m cooking!

I take one bulb of fennel* out of the veggie basket and decide not to use the second one, wash and start slicing into medium-thick wedges. I’m about to put it all back in the oven when I remember that there’s supposed to be a clove of garlic chopped into the mix.

Never leave out the garlic.

Back up the stairs I go to see if Baby will be soothed to sleep. At some point I give up and just take him down to the kitchen, plop him into the bouncy seat. My little extrovert. He’s full of cheeky grins and coos now and wants to have a little chat while I start chopping garlic into tiny pieces. I am thinking about the other bulb of fennel in the fridge. What will I use it for if not in this salad? Is this going to be one of those things that just gets thrown away after a week or two? I take it out, chop it up and put it into the roasting tin.

If you’re following, that’s the 15-minute roasted squash, two medium-sized fennel bulbs sliced, and a clove of garlic chopped. Top it all off with a toss and a bit more olive oil, and back in the oven it goes for 20 minutes. (Set the timer. It’s always a good idea.)

veg

I measure out my spelt, which I don’t think is spelt but something I brought from Switzerland called Ebly – it looks like pearl barley. Maybe. Who knows. Some sort of puffed grain. Easy to cook and fun to chew, so I really don’t care any less. I have not had time to figure out what spelt is in Swedish. Or what spelt is in English.

Either way, it’s two cups of Ebly to three cups of salted water in a pot on the stove.

I go over to check in Little Boy who looks totally bored with Incy, Wincy Spider an happily wants to get down. We begin a little kitchen dance that involves him wanting to get into stuff and me trying to keep him happy because I know he’s hungry.

Want fruit! Want bread!

How about some butternut squash and fennel in a few minutes? 

Butternut KWASH, he says.

Zero, zero, he says pointing at the timer, ring ring! Ring ring! 

Nope, I reply, that’s an eight, see an eight can look like two zeros on top of each other, and I walk over to his blackboard and draw two zeros on top of each other that look like an eight.

Turn down the now-boiling Ebly so that it is only simmering.

We count down to zero while watching the timer. I am amazed that this can be fascinating to a two-year-old, but really, I’ve stopped asking questions.

The timer goes ring ring! and I pull out the roasting tray and toss everything again and scatter about 50 grams of whole walnuts on top, everything goes back in the oven for eight more minutes.

I check the Ebly, and it seems done, grab a colander, put it in the sink, check for the toddler before I start handling the boiling liquid and pour.

HOT HOT!! Very hot!

Now, I tell him, I’m going to get a nice salad bowl out, and we’re going to make a nice salad. 

But he’s hungry and wants to try the Ebly. Why not. So he sits down at the Red table! and starts eating a small plate of Ebly. He rejected it last week, so this is a success. I put the Ebly into a salad bowl that was a wedding present from Australia and watch the way the steam curls up toward the ceiling, with the still alive herbs and gorgeous October light in the background, and I think, I need to take photos of this.  Because the herbs will probably be dead by afternoon.

smog

The timer goes ring ring! again, and out comes the tray of roasted veggies, I mix it all up with the Ebly and toss it on the red table! and then remember that half a lemon gets squeezed over the whole lot. Miraculously there is half a lemon, cut and waiting in the fridge.

Little Boy squeezes the lemon because citrus has no chance when his hands are around.

lemon

We sit down and eat our lunch. This salad is fantastic, I think to myself, the textures are lovely – crunchy walnuts, soft fennel and squash, gummy Ebly. There’s supposed to be grated parmesan through the whole thing, but I’m not eating dairy at the moment. 

There’s laughter and talking, Baby keeps smiling at Little Boy and trying to “talk” to him and to me. Little Boy eats all of his walnuts and starts to take mine off my plate.

How do you ask Mommy? I say.

Please Mommy ayyy I be cused! he says because it’s one of his little memorised phrases.

Not that one, I say, Please Mommy may I have a walnut. I don’t know what he says back to me, but I give him the walnut.

Butternut squash is let completely untouched – it was his favourite first food two years ago – and for two weeks now he has steadily refused it. I can’t be bothered arguing. There is enough salad for another meal for Husband and I (and snacks for me during the afternoon). Baby is happy, Little Boy is looking very ready for his nap.

I’ll call that a good morning. We’ll tackle the butternut squash again next week.

salad

This recipe is from delicious. magazine, but I cannot find the recipe online. It was from the November 2011 edition, page 91, “Hugh Goes Veggie,” recipe by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

*If you are breastfeeding and have supply issues, fennel is supposedly a simple way to increase milk supply. I was given fennel tea in large thermoses by the midwives in the hospital after both of my sons were born. 

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

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