Baby time: Changing roles for a month
Posted on 29 June 2013
I am yet to experience the joys of motherhood but I regularly find myself reading about natural parenting and birthing. I’m not sure why but it seems to fit with my quest to ‘make sense of things’ so I roll with it. My friend’s frequent flyer points recently delivered me to their family in Perth, Australia, where I spent a month as part of their growing family – mum, dad, 2 year old Nova and 6 week old Lumen. Before arriving I wondered… how would I cope? After all, reading and doing is very different.
My concerns dissipated quickly. Every morning I was woken by Nova, a beautiful little girl, whose smile makes me so happy I forget my tiredness. We’d read together in bed, talk or I would get my medical from this little doctor, checking my blood pressure, heart, stomach and lungs with her little stethoscope and little hands. I felt she was ensuring I was ready for another active day of activities, swimming lessons, cooking, reading, drawing hand monsters, planning, nursing, tidying, real-doctor visits, farmer’s markets, mother’s group, learning and more.
Who would have known that I could find such pleasure in waking up so early? Her acceptance of me in her home and life made my heart burst with love. We would go to the kitchen to make mummy (decaf) coffee in bed while she nursed Lumen. Nova’s love of her little sister is touching even if her enthusiasm sometimes needs to be curbed for Lumen’s safety.
One morning Nova was sick and had a fever. She crept into bed with me and we snuggled for hours. It broke my heart to know she wasn’t her usual lively self but I secretly enjoyed our long cuddles and peaceful moment together.
Nova goes to daycare two days a week, leaving time to appreciate Lumen and her rapidly changing body, expressions and movements. I could see Lumen grow daily, still tiny but no longer looking newborn. Sometimes she cries – hungry, sick, over tired or needing the comfort and scent only her mummy can give her. She makes many soft sounds, both when she is awake and while she sleeps. Her fingers curl up into fists and she stretches one arm out so that she looks like a tiny boxer. Her bright blue eyes sparkle in the light. I would breathe in her wonderful smell, make silly faces for her to smile at, kiss her tiny button nose, nurse her to sleep and marvel at her feeding from my friend’s breasts. I love seeing my friends become parents. I observe how they evolve and grow and I feel so much love for them also.
My friend’s garden is a blossoming food forest. Its winding paths lead Nova to her beloved chickens, trees to climb and corners to explore. We would collect fresh eggs daily, replant arrowroot, pretend to paint Nova’s house, water plants together, play music on Tibetan bells, pick brilliant red grape vine leaves, taste some gooseberries, check the sweet potato and watch the pepino ripen. Sometimes we would paint outdoors, mixing colours and enjoying the sunlight on our skin. We would pick grass and clover for the hungry chickens and they would in turn reward us with their eggs. Nova’s excitement for them never fades. I daydream about owning our own land one day. I’m proud of my friend’s aspirations to live sustainably and ensure they have a good work/life balance.
While I am there Nova is finding her words. Each day she translates more from her head to tell us. Sometimes she parrots every word I say and I laugh. Her comprehension is astounding and I realise the frustration she must have in expressing herself at times. Her choice of words are surprising and sweet. I try to explain the difference between ‘need’ and ‘want’ and end up laughing at her confused expressions. I try to verbalise her feelings for her. Sometimes it calms her.
My heart glows warm when she asks for me to put her to bed instead of her daddy. It happens again when I pick her up from daycare by myself and she runs to me, wrapping her tiny arms around my neck. I feel undeserving and privileged. Imagine if we stayed like that our whole lives.
I am fortunate I also have other close friends in Perth. Their daughter, Isabelle, is one year old. While I am there Izzy is taking her first steps. As I watch her I hold my breath and reach out to her. She steps forward and forward and then grabs my hands. We all clap for her and she smiles proudly. I think, oh this is just the beginning, watch out mum and dad! By the time I leave she is independent and confident on her feet. I joke that I’m the reason she walked.
Izzy is also finding her voice. She loves other people. She is a very social baby, waving at everyone and everything. No one can resist her infectious toothy smile, her wave and her little squeal to them. It is sweet yet commanding. I can see her mind is filled with conversations to share. I watch her observe herself in a mirror and understand that the reflection is her. She smiles and kisses herself.
Izzy’s garden is also producing peas, beetroot, tomatoes, cabbages and more. She collects macadamia nuts but can only hold 2 at a time, dropping one to pick up another. She loves being outdoors, especially if there is a bird nearby to wave to. Her mum inspires me with her outlook. She doesn’t sweat the small stuff, she’s fun, she’s optimistic and pragmatic in a way that makes life beautifully simple and uncomplicated. She’s a born educator.
Life with a toddler has its downs also, of course. All will be fine one minute and in pieces the next. It can be hard to understand why or how it suddenly changed. The tools are distraction, time outside or helping them express themselves through the frustration of their limited language… or often, simply sleep! We all need outdoor time – sometimes we ignore this need. What a fantastic reminder from a tetchy toddler to reconnect with nature and find some inner peace. This post titled ‘5 reasons toddlers won’t follow our directions’ also helped me understand how to deal with a 2 year old.
Most days it seems many mums feel like they have too much to do and too little time. They feel they should be more productive during the day but it would mean not being present enough for their babies. With my friends, life sometimes gets messy but they are living and loving as a family every single day. This is success! I offer suggestions for routine and ways to reduce stress. It seems to help. I can see it sometimes feels isolating too. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed. I remind them they are wonderful and doing great. This will be for such a short time in retrospect. We used this link of 50 Montessori activities for 2 year olds as inspiration to create some of our own activities designed for Nova to do with only verbal instruction from mum so that she can breastfeed or relax while she completes the activity.
I am in love with my friends as parents. Dads besotted with their daughters, confident and content in their life purpose. Mums nurturing and capable, balancing so much. Little girls excited to see daddy home, amazed by mummy’s music or stories. I understand the parents’ pangs of sadness that their babies won’t remember these beautiful times together. I capture some for them as a gift.
Leaving these babies made my heart heavy and my eyes glassy. Children change daily, I’ll miss so much, they will forget me. I felt so loved and accepted. I enjoyed putting all my energy into them. What a privilege it feels to be loved by them. I have never felt so ‘cool’ in my entire life! They don’t care what you think or how you look. For that matter, they don’t care how they look, whether there is food all over their face, if their hair is wild or they are wearing mismatched clothes. They accept you as easily as they accept themselves. They are completely in the present moment, calmed and excited simultaneously by nature’s wonder. I loved how grounding this was for me too. It’s hard not to be in the present moment with a young child or baby. Normally I am practicing meditation and gratitude to bring my awareness back to the present. I’m so grateful for this experience.
I learnt so much with my friends but I also learn online. Here are some of my favourite sites for pregnancy, birthing and parenting. There are many more I can recommend but for now I’ll leave you with these… please feel free to recommend your own in the comments:
Documenting Delight – Georgia runs this hilarious blog showcasing her stunning photos, sharing side splitting stories of her family life and documenting pregnancy, motherhood, birth, babies, laughing children, co-sleeping and all things delightful about family life. I often find myself laughing out loud at her statuses on facebook and feeling inspired by this young mother’s way of thinking. An added connection for me is that she lives in Brisbane, Australia, where I was born and grew up so I often relate to places she references and the way of living there.
The Skeptical Mother – The Skeptical Mother is interested in all that is fair, honest, and true about birth, breastfeeding, and babies. Her facebook page is a celebration of pregnancy and motherhood that points you in the direction of many other wonderful pages. She is skeptical of those who wish, so adamantly, to villainize women who choose homebirth and natural birth. It is her hope that someday the Birth Wars will end, and all women will be respected, no matter how they choose to bring their babies into the world. She shares many amazing photographs from births and family life, always giving credit. Go check her out!
Becoming Dad – Darren runs this page as a place for expectant and new fathers to be engaged, educated, mentored and supported as they navigate the rite of passage that is fatherhood. He believes that there is a deep calling for conscious and connected fathers to play a strong, loving and healing role in creating the changes we want and need to see in the world…. and I agree. I loved this quote he posted some time ago: “Be a dad. Don’t be ‘Mom’s assistant.’ That’s depressing, just waiting for her to write you a list, walk around a store staring at it, calling her from the cereal aisle to make sure you got the right thing. Be a man. Make your own list. Fathers have skills that they never use at home. You run a landscaping business and you can’t dress and feed a 4-year-old? Take it on. Spend time with your kids and have your own ideas about what they need. It won’t take away your manhood; it will give it to you. I did that. I spent more time with my kids. And I found out that I’m a pretty bad father. I make a lot of mistakes and I don’t know what I’m doing. But my kids love me. Go figure.” –Louis C.K.
Pinky McKay – In a world where common sense isn’t so common, Pinky provides real-world, no-nonsense, parenting support and approaches with a blend of humour, sharp wit and wisdom. She specialises in gentle parenting styles that honour mothers’ natural instincts to respond to their babies and empower a positive response from infants and toddlers. She is an International Board certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), certified infant massage instructor and sought after keynote speaker at conferences for parents and professionals internationally, Pinky calls parenting like it is – messy business. She has proven solutions to help parents cope and create their own methods to the parenting madness. Her real world experience stems from being the mother of four adult ‘children’ and a now teenage ‘bonus baby’ (the baby you have when your other kids can run their own baths, tie their own shoelaces and even drive their own cars). She is also a proud ‘hands on’ grandmother of three littlies (6 months to 4 years). You can find her on facebook too.