Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Stories Kids Are Hearing

Mummy, I’m going to tell you a story, said The Curly Mop.

Once upon a time there was a castle.

This is Sleeping Beauti-fully.

She pricked her finger on the spinny-widdle. And she went to sleep.

Then she heard steps outside the door. Step step step.

It was the witch!

Then there was a fairy godmother. Because Cinderella wanted to go to the ball.

The witch turned into a boy. He was the prince and he and Cinderella danced. La la la la.

Her prince was Flynn Rider.

They wivved happy after.

But then there was a monster crocodile...

My gosh, this is an amazing story, I interrupted.

Be quiet, that isn’t the end yet.


They danced and got married.

The end.
Proud or horrified?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Why Did I Write That?

'I saw your article, Shannon.'

Normally these four words would make me swell with pride, but lately they have been making me wince.

Recently I had a story published in Offspring Magazine, a West Australian parenting and lifestyle magazine. It was about having a Caesarian section.

Back in 2007 when I was pregnant with the Bombshell I knew everything about babies. As you do when you are pregnant for the first time. I was going to have a natural labour with minimal intervention. I went to all the pre-natal classes - all of them - except the one about epidurals and c-sections, because there was no way I was ever going to have one of those. Ever.

So after I had been in labour for about 24 hours, and the doctor told me I needed an emergency Caesar my first reaction was 'no thankyou.'

In reality was probably more like, 'no way [sob], you're not cutting me open [wail], I am going to push [argh], Caesars are scary. I won't be able to walk. I won't be able to hold my baby. I will have a massive smiley face scar on my stomach forever [arghhhhh. sob. wail].'

Obviously I wasn't the first women to have this reaction, as he just gently smiled and pushed the consent form at me.

I cried the entire time.

In hindsight it was a necessary and straightforward process, but at the time it was devastating. Not only was there the (completely wrong) impression that I had already failed as a mother, but I had this misguided fear brought about by ignorance. It turns out my knowledge about Caesars were based on information from approximately 1957. A little outdated shall we say.

If I hadn't been so arrogant to assume that 'it would never happen to me', maybe I would have gone to the pre-natal class and discovered that they're really not so bad. Certainly not worth crying over.

I went on to have two more Caesars. And with the experience of the first behind me (and actually attending the class) that bit of knowledge meant that I went into it knowing it wasn't the end of the world.

So I wanted to write an article for women like me, who think (rightly or wrongly) they will never need a Caesar, and so never seek out the information. Because even if only one of those women then end up needing a Caesar, maybe she will not cry the entire time, because they will remember my article, and think 'she survived and it wasn't that bad.'

I should mention that my obstetrician did give me a photocopied page about the possibility of needing an emergency c-section. I did read it at the time, but it focused on the risks and statistics and not the experience of it. I wanted my article to focus on the experience.

Of course, a lot of the experience is terribly undignified and involves complete strangers poking, prodding, shaving, sticking things in and pulling things out of you. Looking, looking, always looking at your lady parts. Like a normal delivery, but with more cutting and tubes. And a lot more witnesses.

So I wrote my story. And in my usual style I over-shared. I talked about pubic hair and watching myself be catheterised. I wrote about the sponge bath and the naked fat bottom.  I wrote about farting.

So this is why I was shuddering when people mentioned they saw my article. Were they looking at me picturing me sweep up a pile of shaved pubic hair. 

Just like you are now.

Sorry about that.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Why Mums Lie To Themselves

I will forget how hard it was. I will forget the anxiety that crept up the walls, that permeated our lives.

The last six or so months will shrink in my memory into a few weeks. It will lose its potency.

The Mop, despite my fears, despite the trips to the doctors and hospital, despite her claims that she will 'never ever wear knickers ever'... is out of nappies.

Last Thursday, after some sage advice from my mother's group, I asked the Mop to collect up all her nappies and give them to her baby sister.

She bundled her remaining Huggies into her little arms and plonked them with gusto into Baldy's room. Knickers were procured. The potty was placed in the family room.

And that was that.

Except it wasn't that easy. It never is.

It's only been six days, yet I am already beginning to forget the months of begging her to consider using the potty, the toilet, the garden... wherever. The memory of my cheeks burning as I changed nappies on her three year old bottom at playgroup while kids less than two trekked in and out of the toilet. The false start.

The frustration and anger at how she would agree to wear knickers, but then refuse to use the toilet and hold it all in, for hours and hours, before wailing for her night-time nappy to release it all. Just to do it all the again the next day.

Then the intense anxiety of the early nappy-free days where she would pace around the room, eying the potty, clutching her bottom, like a caged lion eying its master. She would pace for hours, constantly moving, potty always in sight. She needed to go but she didn't want to go. As the hours ticked by and her pacing grew more frantic, I would feel the anxiety in the room heighten until I couldn't breathe.

Then she would finally, desperately rush to the potty, face contorted with fear and discomfort and she would pee forever. Then she would smile and stand and declare 'I did a wee' and point proudly. She would insist on tipping it into the toilet and flushing. All the fear and stress would dissipate.

Until the hours ticked by and the anxiety began to rise again.

I will forget all of this.

It’s easy for mums to have somewhat romanticised memories of major milestones. ‘My baby slept through from six weeks’ or ‘she toilet trained before two with no accidents.’

Sorry, but that’s bullshit.

Even in the rare cases it’s true it doesn’t help other mums: new mums who are struggling with night time feeds at 18 months, whose children still don’t sleep through at four.

The only account I tend to believe is from someone living through it at that precise moment in time. It’s only when you are knee deep in it that you can see it for the challenging and draining experience it is. It is a gift given to parents that time dulls the pain of nocturnal awakenings, that distance allows us to believe it was easier than perhaps it really was.

No one would ever have more than one child if we remembered things with any degree of accuracy.

So this is how I know that I will forget how trying the past few months have been. By the time Baldy Baby is ready to toilet train I will be telling myself that I convinced the Mop to give up her nappies one day and that was that.

But I don’t intend on having more babies so I don’t need to fool myself it was easy. It’s been bloody difficult. And it is far from over. Yes, she is out of nappies but she still won’t use the toilet. I have become one of those mothers who arrive at your house/playgroup/daycare with a potty under my arm. The fashion accessory of the modern mum.

I have written it all down now. So even if I do forget, please someone direct me back here when I am flailing around in a couple of years, despairing at how much harder it is to toilet train Baldy.

Because all I had to do was ask the Mop to give away her nappies. And that was that.

Wasn’t it?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Hot Pink Plastic Fantastic

'Bugger,' I said a little too loudly. 'Your Daddy's ability to count leaves much to be desired.'

Baldy, the Mop and I are running through the halls of a Perth Hospital, looking for a physiotherapy clinic that doesn't seem to exist.

Baldy Baby has broken her leg, and although the good people at the kid's hospital have made her a marvellous plaster cast, it's so heavy, she is anchored to floor.  If we left it on much longer she would gnaw it off with her little baby teeth.

So my husband has set up an appointment for Baldy to get a new light-weight plastic cast. He just neglected to give me accurate directions.

We burst into the clinic and immediately make ourselves at home.  The Mop gets out her portable DVD player and headphone and opens the lunch bag. Baldy starts charming the other patients and spitting crumbs at them.

Once out of the pram, she attempts an escape, dragging  her broken leg behind her as she heads to the door. It's pitiful and I feel eyes on me. 'What did you do to her,' they are thinking.

The clinic is used to dealing with adults who sit still and co-operate, not 1 year old dynamo's and their support crew. Tables are moved, toys are procured, the Mop comes over for a look. She starts fidgeting with her nappy. I silently beg her to hold it in.

While the physio and I are chatting about the specifics of the accident (unknown) Baldy does her best to grab the physio's scissors. They are going to give me the World's Most Negligent Mother award soon.  She is given a bunch of plastic samples to chew on instead. She seems to like the pink one. No surprise there.

First the plaster cast needs to be removed. It's about seven inches thick and we need the jaws of life to break it open. Baldy offers to help with the scissors. Her request is politely declined.

With the damn thing off, it offered to us as a souvenir. I decline and it disappears into the bin with a puff of plaster dust.

'Now, how are we going to do this?' the physio asks. We decide I will stand and hold her upright. With her broken leg dangling well away from me, he begins wrapping the heated  plastic around her flailing limb. She is kicking me in the bladder with her other leg and she has plunged one hand down my top and her arm is stuck. I can feel her fingers wiggling under my bra and I am praying silently that the physio hasn't noticed that I am precariously close to being exposed.

The next patient comes in and looks around. There are six chairs and we have taken them all over. My bag is on one, the pram blocking another. The abandoned DVD player is on the third and empty cheese and cracker wrappers on the fourth. The Mop and I are sitting in the other two. I can't put Baldy down with a broken leg to move all our crap, and when I ask the Mop to pick up her things she says 'I don't want to' then quickly follows it up with 'but I love you Mummy.' 

The patients are directed down the hall to the communal waiting room.

The plastic hardens and is then snipped off. Baldy keeps trying to get down from my lap. She wants to crawl and is not helped by the fact that the Mop keeps encouraging her to play. A smell is emanating from someone, but I can't quite tell who.

'Did you want to do a nappy change while I finish this off?' the physio asks. My cheeks are burning as I check nappies.

'Just wind,' I say. Wind? Who says that? Why didn't I just say fart?

The cast has been shaped and sanded and strapped. It is literally a little baby leg, there are even little fat rolls around the ankle. My heart stops at the realisation that I will have a permanent and physical reminder of the fact that my tiny baby had a broken leg and I wasn't even there for her when it happened. Nothing like hard evidence to sustain your mother-guilt.

We strap it back on and Baldy spits it. Apparently she thought she was done with the cast and she is not happy about the new one, even if it is very stylish.

'My nappy has come off,' the Mop declares pulling up her dress. Yes it has.

I put the rabid baby back in the pram and reapply Mop's nappy. I pick up the food wrappers and try to sweep the crumbs off the floor. I pack away the DVD and headphone and colouring-in books. I repack my handbag from where Baldy has pulled everything out. I thrust my credit card at the receptionist as I hear Baldy fill her nappy.

We run out of there so fast, kids howling.

It's not until we are stuck in peak-hour traffic on the freeway that I hear the tell-tale sound of Velcro being pulled. Baldy is trying to take the cast off.

It's going to be a long 4 weeks.

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