Wednesday, September 21, 2016

A moment for Mama

The first night with my first baby I was in for a shock.  Somehow it didn't occur to me that the sleep-deprivation would start immediately - and on this particular night I had just given birth!  After 24-hours of contractions, culminating in pushing a baby out of myself, I had never felt more in need of a good night's sleep in my life - the same night that I would discover that a good night's sleep was no longer available to me.  Frankly, I was horrified.

Obviously I had to suck it up and get over my horror pretty swiftly, but a couple of weeks ago it occurred to me how much the past three years of my life have been an ongoing, extended version of the same phenomenon.  The phenomenon of being more deserving of self-indulgence than ever before, whilst being - for the first time in my privileged life - largely incapable of self-indulgence.

I was prepared for the one-way relationship with my actual child; that I would be giving, and not taking, the care and the love.  But I didn't quite factor into the equation the fact that I would also have less time and energy to give to myself (I didn't know how much I used to give to myself!), nor the extra burdens I would face as an individual.  What I noticed recently, is that even outside of the actual caring for and raising of my children, I've been through a lot.

The statistics.  In the past less-than-four years I have survived:

- 18 months of pregnancy
- 41 hours of labour
- 2 births
- 7 months of breast-feeding (aka having-the-life-literally-sucked-out-of-me)
- 25 months of alcohol deprivation
- 10 kilograms weight lost (not including babies)
- 20 kilograms weight gained (not including babies)
- 187 visits to medical professionals (I'm not actually going to do the sums... it might be more!)
- 2 courses of combined-hormone contraceptive pill, 1 course of progesterone-only implant, 1 course of pill overlapping with implant
- 1 year on anti-depressants
- 1 month coming off anti-depressants
- 75 meetings with mortgage broker, real estate agent and tradesmen (again, I'm really not doing those sums)
- 1 mortgage acquired
- 1 house painted
- 2 house moves
- 1 paid, professional job maintained
- 3 years of not having a really proper night's sleep (and I'm a lucky bitch with two mostly-sleeping-throgh-the-night babies)

I am being flippant, publishing "the stats" (as well as putting out a blatant call for awed sympathy).  The fact is, it's been a tough time.  It's been a tough time on top of looking after two babies, now toddlers.  It's been a tough time that I haven't had a break from, and that I've largely had to ignore in the face of my babies' greater needs.

I'm not a martyr, the kind of mother who gives her entire self to her children then blames them when she is drained; I'm a feminist, and an unapologtic selfish creature - I look after my own needs.  But between the physical work of being a parent, the emotional journey it itself takes me on, and perhaps hardest of all - for an emotive character such as myself - the strain of managing (which sometimes means hiding) my private emotions for the sake of my children, it has occurred, largely beyond my notice, that I have suffered in silence.

Just occasionally I get a reminder of the trials.  This post came about because while I was suffering a few withdrawal symptoms from my meds, it occurred to me that pre-child me would have been feeling quite sorry for myself, and expecting the world to give me a bit of a break from being a fully together adult.  Pre-children the trialling-not-taking-anti-depressants situation would have been enough, on it's own, for me to ask for sympathy.  But in my current life I barely even get a chance to contemplate my problems, let alone deal with them.

Don't go getting worried about me, though.  Yes, it's been tough.  And yes, I've had to put myself second to my children (not last, I come second... sorry husband!  Not sorry friends / family / employer / world.)  But the scariest thing is that it's okay - I can do it.  It turns out, these beautiful children don't just take, they do give.  They have, just be being so god-damn loveable, given me strength.  They have, simply by existing, made their mother a better person.  Which is just as well - I fucking need to be.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Berlin scheming

What I have been saying to everyone, is that I am not "in love" with Berlin, but that I really like it.  I really like it a very lot.

As you may be aware, I am more than a little inclined to follow my gut-instincts, aided by witchy magical-signs-from-the-universe, whenever making major life decisions.  Life experience has taught me that for me, this is the very best method of creating a happy life for myself; far more reliable than any more 'sensible' method of decision-making.

And here Berlin is making a rather strange case for itself.  Being not "in love", I would think it is not the home for me.  Yet, somehow, I am quite certain that it is.

My overall impression is that we could have a really good life in Berlin.  We could be happy there.  And on this trip - paying rent and living with two children - it became very apparent that perhaps we would not be so happy in London.  At least, as I explained, not full-time and permanent.

What I feel about Berlin is that we could be ourselves there... but better.  Only the week before our holiday I complained to husband that the thing that really annoys me in life is dealing with incompetence.  Then here we were in a city where WE were the most incompetent people around.  The Germans were polite enough but clearly unused to dealing with our moments of human-error.  So we would have to work on that... but I think that's a good thing.  Just as the hippy-vibe of the Berlin people is something for us to aspire to.  Their healthily-lean bodies in practical clothes, no make-up and natural hair - it's how I feel I should be.  I could be a less superficial, more intellectual version of myself.  A better mother, a better wife, a better person.

But we could also relax.  The city functioned so well, we didn't have to think about it.  I think it would be really nice to live somewhere that just WORKS.  The lack of hills deprives the city of vistas (a reason I believe I didn't quite fall "in love"), but makes it eminently pleasant for walking and cycling around.  I normally am not a fan of cycling, but in Berlin I would absolutely get a bike... a big hipster bike with a basket and a huge, comfy seat.  The food was brilliant too.  I ate two of the best breakfasts of my ENTIRE LIFE in Berlin, just by wandering to local caf├ęs.  And the people were even better.  Friendly and helpful and encouraging us to move to Berlin immediately.  They appeared to be relaxed yet competent parents, too; with pleasant, active children.  The whole city had a great vibe towards children, with amazing playgrounds at every turn... with beer for the adults.

Now I would never advocate marrying someone you're not "in love" with, so can I advocate settling in a city I only really, really like and find practical?  Well, the fact is, we prefer Berlin to Perth... and it's in Europe.  Even if it this were a marriage-of-convenience, it would be a damn good one; with London, my lover, just around the corner for regular flings.  But I don't believe it will be so sordid.  One of my dearest friends (and a Berlin-lover) said, Berlin and I have only just met - I don't want to fall too quickly.  I agree, and feel sure the love will come.

Several VERY important people (and quite a few random strangers) highly recommended Berlin as the place for us to live, which is actually why we visited.  Despite such rave reviews, we were impressed.  And as for magical tidings, the weather did it for me.

For our five days in Berlin, the sun shone so magnificently we were sunburnt.  The trees in full summer foliage (underground powerlines - genius!), the consistently high-quality buskers, the street-after-street corner of abundant flower-shops and even the ubiqutious graffiti, dazzled under bright-blue-skied brilliance.  At the very minute our (insanely fucking expensive!) cab pulled up at our flat in London, the skies unleashed an almighty downpour of flooding RAIN - not the well-prepared for drizzle - torrential, flooding, skin-soaking RAIN.  I am aware that both weather scenarios are highly unusual for their locations, but the timing made both stand out.  I got the distinct feeling that Berlin was beckoning us to stay, putting on her best show that we might be tempted to settle; and that London was giving us a very clear message to FUCK OFF.

Well, London, you will never convince me to "fuck off".  I will be back, often, dressed-to-impress.  But Berlin, you just might have convinced us to stay.  At least to move in and see how it goes.

In eighteen months husband is due long-service leave.  If we can arrange a house-swap we could give Berlin a trial-run risk-free.

So our long-term scheme of moving to Europe has moved into a new phase: learn German.

Berlin, hier kommen wir!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

London dreaming

It took me at least a fortnight to get over my jet-lag.  My husband, generally similar in sleep-habits to myself, and even my two infant children, were sleeping soundly through the night within days.  But here I have been, insanely tired, yet unable to make myself sleep before sun-down in London.

This is not unusual for me.  Weeks of troubled sleep and dreamlike living are familiar accompaniments to a return to Perth from London.  But this time a new interpretation presented itself: is this long-recovery time physical, or psychological?  Does it take my body weeks to heal from a change of time-zone, or my soul?

After all, London is not just a city to me: it is my other home, my other love, my other life.  If where-I-live is my husband, then London is my lover.  (You will notice I have written "where-I-live", not "Perth"... Perth and I are not married.  Just because we grew up together does not mean we have to wed.)  After an intoxicating month with my lover, it is natural for reality to be a little hard to settle in to.

I feel part of the world in London, at the centre of things.  I love being in a "proper" city, with vibrancy and activity and importantly, not just a large number of residents, but a large number of transient people.  Students, tourists, visiting artists, new immigrants and potential new immigrants... these people give a city of sense of being part of the entire world.  I love the history and culture, walking amongst a living museum, stopping for a pint at any street corner - because they all have a kitsch or cool or ancient pub.  And of course I'm half-English.  I love being in the "green and pleasant land" that is the home of half my kin.  Walking through the gentle, pretty, sprawling parks under mild English skies is so beautiful to me it hurts.  Being with my London loved-ones makes me miss them before we've parted.

I feel sad at how quickly life moves on without me when I leave, at how much I am missing.  But I notice it is a romantic melancholy that overtakes me, a wistful longing for a dream, not a reality.  This trip, with children, showed me that while I love London, I don't think I should settle there.  Perth has spoilt me in practical terms: my expectations for my standard of living could simply never be realised in London.  Perhaps even worse, the everyday inconveniences, incompetencies and downright unfriendliness that Londoners put up with - grumble about, but also accept - are unacceptable to me.  I just don't think I could live with it long-term.  So there is a sadness even while I am still in London.  I have come to the tragic conclusion that trying to marry my lover would likely destroy our love.

I also notice how uncreative I was in London; I did no writing of any kind.  But another part of our trip had me, and still has me, feeling rather upbeat.  I think of this other city and feel excited, not wistful.  For how I feel about my potential new home (my long-awaited husband-city?!), watch this space for my next piece... on Berlin.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

My son's "other"

It only occurred to me when writing, that Master-Two doesn't have a beloved teddy-bear - he has an alter-ego!  A filthy, bedraggled, cuddly alter-ego.  And in this case, Master-Two is the evil twin, Ted is the sweet one.  A recent case in point.

So, Master-Two didn't want to leave the doctor's office, on account of the toys (the multitude of nearly identical toys at home are NOT a substitute, okay?!)  A standard bribe was issued and reasonably well received: a visit to a playground on the way home.  I really felt too tired for a solo chasing of multiple toddlers in an open space, so I admit I was attempting to get out of the promised bribe when during the drive I asked "home?", and received the inevitable "not home, just PLAYGROUND!" response.

I felt, and said, that this was fair enough.  I did, however, explain that a nicer way of stating the same sentiment would be to say "not home, can we go to the playground please, Mummy?"  But Master-Two was to leave me in no uncertainty about who was in charge: "NOT 'please playground' Mummy, just PLAYGROUND!"  Right we are then.

Moments later, a spookily mirrored conversation was had in that same car-seat behind me.  "Ted", Master-Two asked, "would you like to go to playground?" (vocabulary and grammar improving exponentially lately), to which Ted replied sweetly, "yes please!"

"Ted must be rather more polite than you are", I noted.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Not a post

I was planning to write weekly, but y'all will have to wait until our household again possesses a functioning computer.  It's like living in the dark-ages here!  I mean, we have electricity and heating and smartphones and wifi... just no laptops.  Dark-fricking-ages.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

A Tale of Two Babies

Sorry to get even more uber-parenty on your arses, but that's how it has to be, at least for now.  My youngest has just had her first birthday, and my eldest is two-and-a-half.  They are both possessed of pretty full-on personalities, and are at pretty full-on stages in their wee little lives.  This makes them intensely loveable and loads of fun... and, of course, utterly EXHAUSTING.

She is the smiliest little heart-stealer on the planet, absolutely divine and sweet... and masses of trouble.  She believes that if her brother can climb something, so can she... that if he can initiate a wrestling-match, so can she... and that if mummy takes her away from something, then that is the very thing to play with - with a cheeky grin and squeals of delight throughout (until the inevitable pain of the fall-from-height / squished-by-twice-her-size-brother / thing-being-put-out-of-reach happens).  And he is terrible-two-PLUS.  Our clever, cheeky, "spirited" little man has always been independent, strong-willed and both highly verbal and incredibly physical... so you can imagine how that plays out during the height of a developmental stage marked by defiant tantrums.

I seem to have clawed my way out of the repressed, stressy, post-natal depression that arrival of second-child hit me with.  (I've recently submitted my story of that particular challenge to an upcoming book on the subject... so I'll keep you posted and in some way or other share it here at some point.)  This means that I am now finding myself able to see many of our daily dramas as amusing, rather than purely difficult (at least after the fact).  Indeed, I am here to announce that I plan to use this space to share some of the more entertaining anecdotes that I get to be part of.  Afterall, it would be a shame if I were the only one witnessing these divine moments.  Even if I am the only one who finds them "divine".

So stay tuned for some "Dear Daughter" and "Dear Son" style stories of Miss-One and Master-Two.