How long will it be, till you no longer reach for my hand? How long until dinosaurs and fairies no longer roam and you can face everything you fear on your own?
How many more days do I have, picking dandelions with you?
Answering a ceaseless stream of why’s?
‘fore you don’t need my answers at all?
When will you stop looking to me for all the new things you see?
How long do I have before either I no longer know
or you at least doubt that I do?
How many more days can I keep you playing, in the garden, with frogs,
excited by ‘the most amazing creatures’, common garden bugs
and gross-me-out slugs?
How much time do I have left, to view the world through your eyes?
To see the magical, the beautiful, the every day in your incredibly sensory way?
How many more days, because it passing too soon, in whirlwinds and torrents and days come to pass.
Hold on for a moment, you’re growing too fast, let me drink it all in, let me sip up my fill
then let me hold your hand, while you allow me to still.
Happy birthday my beautiful beautiful little girl. We celebrated your birthday the other day and it was just a lovely day. You are just such a treasure.
I’d love to sit here and tell you what an amazing year it’s been and how everything’s just been wonderful and beautiful and magical, but it hasn’t. It’s been a tough year and there’s no point really in pretending otherwise.
It’s been a difficult year from long before you were born, so it wasn’t you that made it difficult. Mama and Daddy were struggling with money, we weren’t able to pay rent, we didn’t know whether we’d be able to stay in our house, we didn’t have enough money for food sometimes, and sometimes even our friends had to bring us food, and we had to borrow money from our own parents.
Mama and Daddy were struggling too, because Daddy was feeling sad a lot of the time, and Mommy was trying to work and be pregnant and be sick and pregnant and trying to keep us afloat and there were just times when it was almost all too much.
I look back at the last year and I try to picture it as a whole year and despite all the difficult things – including Nana getting sick and going to Australia and living with other people, which was very hard for Mama sometimes – but I look back at all of it, and I try to think of it as one picture, and you know the one picture I see in my head all the time is just you.
You as a baby, smiling, looking up at me, being joyful. You are just beautiful and smiley. You have a contagious and infectious smile, amidst and in spite of all the crazy things in our life. Everyone looks at you and says you’re such a smiley joyful child and they are right. I am so incredibly grateful that we have that in you and that we were gifted with this child who can cut through the darkness and radiate light from your eyes. I have no idea how we got so lucky, but we did and I am so very grateful.
I have to tell you there were times in my pregnancy when I didn’t know if you were going to be okay because of the sickness medicine and because I was so sick and there were times when I felt like nothing was ever going to come right again. There were times when you were a newborn that I felt so worried that we were never going to be able to do right by you, and we were never gong to be able to give you the best, be the best parents, or give you everything you deserve.
But you are so low maintenance and so full of love and… I keep coming back to the word joy, because that’s what you have and that’s what you are: a joyful little pixie elf girl.
You know, with your sister i thought my life had changed so much I didn’t recognise it. It was all awe and amazement. I look at you and I never thought with a second child I would feel all that awe and amazement, but you know what? You are so different to her, that you bring your own bags of awe and amazement with you and, it’s a miracle.
Having you has opened my eyes to so much about people and differences and life.
I love you so very, very much. Not just because of who you are or just because of how you’ve changed me, but all of it. As a package deal , you’re amazing.
So… some of your milestones:
You are walking, but you were a slower starter than your sister. You were walking at 10 months and 10 days, and before your first birthday you were toddling around on your own.
Now, at 12 months you say Oupa and Nana and ‘Meli (Ameli) and you babble and point at things and use inflections to show us what you want. And my goodness when you want something you make sure we know it! You don’t take no for an answer. Your screeching isn’t much fun, but your babbling is fantastic.
You’re a really good flyer – you just lie down on your belly in the bassinet and that’s you for about 8 hours with minor wake ups here and there. A real star in the air.
Unfortunately I can’t say you’re enjoying the UK winter too much. I think it’s the sheer amount of clothes you have to suddenly wear, making you look like the Oros man! I know how you feel.
You’re on solid foods, but you don’t do meals, really. Just a bite here and there. It doesn’t replace your milk, but you nibble. You still have a lot of milk through the night and now and then, but your main source of solids is stealing food off your sisters plate! She doesn’t mind too much though and is normally happy to share with you.
You’re in about the same sized clothes as Ameli. She’s taller than you, but body-wise you wear the same clothes. You’re not fat or anything, but you’re just… well, Mama’s child!
You are going for your first, way overdue haircut this week. You badly need it, but I wanted your first haircut to be special so we had to wait till we were back here.
I think that’s about it for now.
I just want to say thank you again for choosing us to be your family Thank you for coming to us and bringing light into what has been a very dark time. I know some people might say I shouldn’t tell you about how hard it’s been and what a rough time we’ve had, but the fact is, you have been a LIGHT. A light in a VERY dark time. When I look back over the year and I think of all the hardships, every picture in my head isn’t about struggling, and food, and rent. The pictures in my head for your first year are a little girl, smiling, laughing, nursing, crawling. Those are the things that 10 years from now I’m gong to look back on and remember, and I really, really, really thank you for that.
Aviya’s 1st birthday is just over a week away, and while knee-deep in preparations for it, I realised that with the mayhem and madness of visas and flying to Australia in October, I never posted the photos from Ameli’s 3rd birthday party. For her party we had an Under The Sea party at a Puck’s Oak Barn in Compton. It’s an absolutely stunning venue and it happened to be one of the rare beautiful days of last year, weather wise. It didn’t rain, and in fact the sun came out and cast that golden hue around the orchard. It was simply breathtaking, even though it was still a little cold.
We didn’t have entertainment, because we were in an orchard, and while it took everyone a little while to ‘warm up’ to the venue, once they did I think everyone enjoyed just being outdoors. The kids made up a treasure hunt with pretend maps and it was – to me, at least, – an idyllic afternoon.
[pinit] The barn is attached to an orchid with a great play area, wild forest bit and a stream. It’s the most perfect place for outdoor play.
As guests arrived they walked through the door with hanging fish garlands* (US Link) meant to represent the ocean, like they were ‘swimming’ through a school of fish. I had some of these same fish on the floor inside the hall.
There were also “bubbles” – aka clear balloons (US Link)– strewn across the floor. This provided great entertainment for the little ones. Here’s Aviya crawling after a balloon.
We had a great big blue sandpit shell that we borrowed from a friend. I set up balloons around it – they’re missing in this picture – and put a white blanket inside and set up a camera on a tripod so people could take photos of themselves in the shell, like perfect little pearls.
I spent a lot of the days leading up to the party planning and preparing food for it. There were octopus red peppers on the home made hummus, and a platter of vegetables to choose from. I had a treasure chest – far right- withStarfish Haribo (US Link) pouring from it like treasure, andkiwifruit lollipops covered in dairy free chocolate with edible fishy printed ricepaper. These icecream cones are an unhealthy favourite in our house, originated from the icecream week we did for Andrea’s Summer Camp At Home. Not quite under the sea, but close enough to the sea to be welcome.
These ice cream cones were gluten free, with cheese and chicken or ham, pressed out of bread with cookie cutters (US Link). And there were white and brown breadfishy sandwiches (US Link) with Tuna and sweet corn and home made mayonnaise .
A lot of effort, but worth every second for this, my beautiful princess, my three year old.
I hope, my gorgeous child, that every year affords me the ability to make your birthday as special as your life has made mine.
*If you purchase through any of these links, you will not be charged any extra, but Amazon will pay me around 5% of the purchase price. If buy without an affiliate link, Amazon just keeps the whole amount!
It has been so many months since I last wrote to you, and I feel absolutely awful about that. You have changed so much since we arrived in Australia. You’ve gone from just pushing yourself up on your arms to walking properly, without assistance, and sadly, I’ve missed out writing about so much of it. I’ll make it up to you though, sweetheart.
You’ve adjusted to life in Perth incredibly well. You manage the temperature well, and while you wake up covered in sweat some mornings, you’re doing pretty well. You spend a lot of time just in your nappy, and you’re okay with that.
Aviya, you are the smiliest child I’ve ever had the pleasure of having anything to do with. I never thought Ameli was miserable or anything, but I don’t remember her smiling about everything. You do. You smile almost all the time. Your eyes light up, your face brightens. Your beauty radiates. And yes, you still look like a pixie, and you still make my heart melt.
You have begun to show so much character over the last few months, and while you are smiley you also have a temper that can scare the pants off an unsuspecting onlooker. Wow. When you get mad – like at the water bottle for not having water in it, or a toy for being stuck under furniture – you get mad fast, and loud. It’s impressive.
Milestones you’re knocking out the water too. You didn’t crawl for very long, but you crawled, and then on the 20th of December, you took your first steps, holding on to my hand – actually you were pulling me towards the water in the waterpark in Geraldton. You wanted to get wet and really, all holding your hand was doing was slowing you down!
On Christmas day – your first Christmas – you were beautifully dressed in a white dress with golden butterflies. You looked so lovely, but you were a bit miserable whenever anyone tried to pick you up. We didn’t know why, but when you were on your own you were okay. It was unusual for you, but we were all doing Christmassy things, so didn’t think too much of it.
You spent a lot of the day pushing around a heavy chair. You were ‘walking’! You pushed that chair up and down the room. I was so proud of you.
All in all, I’d say your first Christmas was good, apart from the fact that you were a little tearful at times.
The next day you screamed every time anyone tried to pick you up, so I decided enough was enough, and took you to Perth Children’s Hospital. After an x-ray, we discovered you’d broken your scapula! I don’t think I’ve ever felt so bad about anything in my life. My poor baby! You were crawling around with a broken shoulder for days! No wonder you were miserable!
We tried to put a bandage on you, but you weren’t really having it, so you had to go without it, eventually. Thankfully it seems to have healed by itself and well. You don’t have pain anymore, at least.
You spent much of January walking holding on to someone, walking along the furniture and pushing furniture to where you wanted to be. Your confidence has grown massively, and we knew it wouldn’t be long till you took your first unassisted steps. And on January 23rd, you did! Almost a month after your first assisted steps, you took your first steps all on your own. Hesitantly at first, and you plopped on your bum a lot, but at 10 months and 10 days, there you were: my toddler.
By a month later, you don’t crawl anywhere anymore. You just walk now, confidently and beautifully. It’s a quick transformation, and while I mourn the end of your babyness, I am loving watching you grow into a little girl.
Nana asked me the other day howcome I haven’t really done any baby signing with you, while I did a bit of it with Ameli. It’s an interesting question, and I’m not sure whether I have changed and am just more perceptive of your needs than I was first time round, or whether we just read each other better, or whether you’re just better at expressing your needs. Maybe it’s a mix of all three. Today, for example, you are 11 months and two weeks. You wanted a cherry tomato out of the bottom compartment of the snack box. You brought me the snackbox, and tried to climb on top of me. I opened it and offered you some hot cross bun. You shook your head, vigorously enough that you plopped down on your bum, off balance. So I offered you the cherry tomatoes. You took one, wombled off, plopped down and ate it. Then you came back to me, climbed on top of me again and we repeated the process.
What I will say, though, is you have a MEAN temper. When I don’t get your wants right, yu’re not shy in letting me know.
You’ve spoken your first words over the last couple of months too. It’s really cute. You crawl or walk through the house saying ‘Opa. Opa. Opa.’ That’s Oupa, or grandfather. It’s really sweet. When you see him your eyes sparkle, your face lights up, and you radiate your beautiful smile. You do love him.
You also say Kyra – although it’s more ‘AYA’, but you like it when she answers your call too.
And then you wave. You wave at everyone. You say ‘ALA’ loudly, and wave. It’s beautiful.
I’m not sure what happened to Mama or Dada in your vocabulary, but I’m sure they’ll come.
You’ve started having solids, but not much. You’re still mainly milk fed, but you will anihilate a cherry tomato as well as the next guy. Same with pasta and bananas. You also really like Pronutro porridge, but so far I feed it to you, because baby led weaning is really only acceptible so far in someone else’s house! You have six teeth now, and seem to be constantly working on new ones.
You are a lot more ‘attached’ to me than Ameli was. It’s rather nice, actually. In a playgroup or park or around other people, you’ll stay by my side, playing with whatever I have on hand. Occassionally you’ll follow Ameli into a sand pit or something, but for the most part you stay close. At this rate, she’ll be the one who makes friends, and you’ll be the one who sits at home reading a book. That’s fine. I’m happy with both those girls. I’ve been both those girls at different times in my life.
You’ve taken everything we’ve thrown at you so far these last four months entirely in your stride. You moved rooms without it distrupting your sleep too much. You’ve had accident and emergency and still, carried on smiling. You get super excited when you see Daddy on Skype and while you don’t ‘talk’ to him, you spend the whole time waving and being generally excited.
You are an absolute pleasure. A treasure and a joy to be around. Your Nana loves spending time with you and your Oupa adores you. You make him smile, and I think you bring him great joy.
Keep doing what you’re doing my beautiful pixie girl. It’s your first birthday soon, and I’m holding on to you as tightly as I can right now.
I am so proud of you. I watch you when I get into bed at night, and I thank you for choosing us. I thank you for coming to us. I thank God for you. I can’t imagine a life that didn’t have you in it.
I read a paragraph from Carlos Gonzalez’s book Kiss Me! (US Link)*recently that has stayed with me all week and has gone round and round in my head. Speaking about taboos in modern society, he talks of how the subjects of sex and promiscuity or homosexuality are no longer taboo as they were when our parents were children, but modern taboos focus a lot on mothers and children. He then divides that topic into three categories: picking up a crying child, where that child sleeps and how that child is fed, especially if said child is over around 6 months of age.
Gonzalez points out what many mothers already know: When you have close physical contact with your child, they tend to cry less. However, society tells us that if we respond to our children too readily, we’ll be spoiling them. A breastfeeding mother will tell you the ‘easiest’ way to comfort, calm and otherwise have a peaceful life with a baby is to nurse her, whether for nutrition or comfort. Yet society puts such a negative on the idea of comfort nursing – how often haven’t I been asked ‘is she actually feeding, or just sucking for comfort?’ as if it’s a bad thing?
When those things that encourage physical proximity, says Gonzalez, are removed from a mother, she has very little left in her arsenal to help her through her ‘job’ of mothering, and it suddenly becomes really hard work.
Perhaps that is why raising children is such a strain for some mothers. It entails less work than before (we have running water, washing machines, disposable nappies…), yet there are fewer compensations. In a normal situation, where a mother is at liberty to look after her child as she sees fit, the baby cries very little and when he does it pains her and she feels compassion (“Poor little thing, what’s the matter?”). However, when they prohibit you from picking him up, sleeping with him, breastfeeding him or comforting him, the child cries even more, and the mother is helpless in the face of this crying, and her response becomes angry and aggressive (“What’s the matter with him now!”)
One of the rewards of motherhood: closeness
I have heard so many mothers talk so lovingly and happily about the 3am feed with their new baby. There’s something beautiful about that middle of the night feed, when there’s no one else awake, other than the child at your breast (even if you’re bottle feeding, putting the child to your chest, skin to skin, offers an amazing oxytocin release) staring in your eyes. (Did you know that relationshipcouncilors will often recommend that a couple kiss each other with their eyes open, looking at each other?)
But getting back to the 3am feed. No one in their right mind wants to be woken at that time of day, least of all to do something for someone who depends on them so wholly, but the rewards of falling asleep cuddled up next to a squishy baby, suckling at your breast, are exquisite. It’s definitely compensation for being woken up.
On this, Gonzalez says:
Although some try to justify such recommendations by insisting they are ‘to help mothers to rest’, the fact is they never prohibit tiring activities. NO one ever says: “Don’t do too much housework or he’ll get into the bad habit of having a clean house”, or “you’ll have to go with him to do his washing when he leaves home.” In fact, it is usually the most pleasurable part of motherhood that is prohibited: letting your child fall asleep in your arms, singing to him, enjoying him.
But this here is the paragraph that’s rung in my ears all week:
Almost all of these taboos have one thing in common: they prohibit physical contact between mother and child.
Is it any wonder then, that motherhood is so wholly under rated? Is it any wonder that it is difficult, and referred to as the hardest job?
Don’t get me wrong. I cosleep, breastfeed and babywear. I respond to my crying child, and I am with my children most hours of every day, and it is no magic bullet or secret recipe. There are hard days. There are days so hard, all I want to do is sit down and cry, especially during this period of solo parenting, but , and it’s a big but… the rewards of feeling my child go limp as she falls asleep in my arms, the beautiful peace as her breathing deepens and she drifts off in the darkness of night, the serenity of seeing a crying child’s tears turn into a toothy grin when you pick them up… those rewards are what differentiate between simply having children, and actually enjoying motherhood.
*At the current price of this book I will earn about 20p if you buy through this link, however this is a personal, unsponsored recommendation – I bought the book myself too.
Whether you call it a nurse-in, a breastfeeding protest or lactivism, I love a good session of breastfeeding in public with a bunch of other women also breastfeeding in public. The beauty of breastfeeding activism is that it can’t be an angry event – by it’s very nature, breastfeeding releases oxytocin, the love hormone, and there’s something so powerful about a group of women channeling their passion and their energy into a united cause.
If you’ve ever met me, you’ll probably know I’m not really a feminist. I believe that men and women have roles in this world, and I don’t necessarily believe that we are supposed to be equals in everything, but rather that we are supposed to be leaders and followers in different things, making up a full and beautiful circle of strength and weakness, vulnerability and power. I also am not big on the concept of ‘women’s rights’. I am a human. To me, by definition, I am covered by human rights. I understand, in an imperfect world, the need for women’s rights, children’s rights, but in an ideal situation, we wouldn’t need to defend ourselves as women – we could just be human and therefor judged by the samestandards, regardless of our sexuality, our orientation, our colour or our gender. (I love this clip from the West Wing. It’s exactly how I feel, in an ideal world[from 4:40])
While I do think that breastfeeding mothers should respect their environment – I also feel that you should dress appropriately whether you go to church, a dinner or ice skating, and I feel you should consider others wherever you are, whatever you’re doing – I take exception to being told where I can and cannot breastfeed, and I take exception to being told to cover up. I don’t pop my boobs out when I breastfeed anyway, because I dont want to but I also don’t use a cover, because I don’t want to. When I first started breastfeeding, I used a cover because I wanted to and when I became more confident I stopped because I wanted to. The law protected me, yes, but the encouragement I received from a stranger on a bus gave me the courage that led me to where I am today. If the law didn’t protect mothers, then where does it stop? When it is okay to tell a woman how much cleavage she can show, it will be okay to tell her how much skin she can show. If it’s okay to tell her where she can feed her child, then it’s okay to tell her where she may or may not be. We can’t have it both ways. Either we are ‘equals’ or we are not. There shouldn’t be a further subclass: men or women, breastfeeding women or non-breastfeeding women.
And today I participated inanother breastfeeding protest, not because I want my boobs out on the street, but because if ONE mother or future mother saw women nursing in a public place and saw that it was okay and that it was normal, then it was worth it. If it gives one mother the courage she needs, then today was a job well done.
So, here are a few pictures from our Perth Nurse In today, and here’s my message: Breastfeeding is beautiful. It is normal. My breastfeeding isn’t a judgement on your feeding choices. Breastfeeding is the normal thing for babies, and it should be normal in our society. You don’t eat in a toilet or facing a wall – neither should my child. You don’t eat with a cover over your head, neither should my child have to. Breastfeeding is to bonding what a candle lit dinner is to romance, it’s lovely, but sometimes you just have to eat to stay alive – not every meal is an intimate experience, nor is every breastfeed. The only way to normalise breastfeeding, is to breastfeed where people can see it.
I loved the fact that there were young people behind us doing street dance and skateboarding stuff, right next to a bunch of breastfeeding mothers. How much more normal can it be?
You are eight months old and a continued source of awesomeness and joy.
When your sister was a baby I used to think she filled my quota of awe, amazement and wonderment. I worried that when you came along, it would all be old news. It turns out, however, that you are so different, and have such different personalities, even now, that you show me entirely new sides that I’ve never seen before. You remind me of some previous amazements that I’d forgotten, and you take me to new places of thrill and excitement every day. (more…)
There’s a chill in the air, and where a month ago I hugged the trees to keep myself and my babies in the shade and away from the blazing sun, the kiss of sunshine on our skins now is beautiful, blissful and very welcome.
The seasons are changing, and as one wanes and another rises, I find myself tracing my children’s development by them. My baby is six months old now. She was born in March and spent almost the first three months of her life in rain. We had a brief summer and now, as the leaves begin to fall to the ground, I see infancy disappear in the wake of her leopard crawl across the floor.
We’re also faced with a tragic loss in our family right now. It seems so fitting. The dying of the summer, the dawning of the cold months, the hope of a distant reunion with spring…it matches what I feel inside. The end of something. The cold, bitter, hard mourning. The dawn of a distant hope, where memory comes back with a bitter sweet sting, and for a brief time, I know it will all be okay again. Because that’s what happens. For everyone else, life just goes on. It’s only for those left behind that the winter seems longer, colder, starker.
I feel the air stinging my face as I walk, holding my baby close, holding my daughter’s hand, and I realise the warm tears are leaving icy streaks down my cheeks.
“Are you okay, Mama?” my big girl asks.
“I’m okay, Baby. I’m just sad.” I squeeze her hand.
“Because your mommy is sick?”
Yes, Baby, because my mommy is sick.
“If I give you a kiss and a cuddle, will that make you better?”
Yes, Baby, for the moment, that will make everything better.
I realise with surprise, at times, that I am a mother, and that I have a child. No longer a baby, but a girl, a daughter. Daughters. The word catches in my throat, and my heart drops into the pit of my stomach where it knots, making my head spin. Like a player at a roulette wheel,waiting for the deciding moment when the dream, the beautiful dream, may be swept away.
The moment passes, and I know, with your heads resting in the nooks of my arms, I know that this is forever, you will always be mine. My baby, my child, my daughters. In making you, you remake me.