Tag Archives: baby

The family laundry and missing women (mothers, take your babies)

Sparrow has had a feed, a vegemite sandwich, and a sleep. All in the Atrium. This means I’m out of tricks. He’s next to me in the pram while I kneel on the floor and type. We’re at The Family Laundry and I’m hoping that if there’s anywhere baby noise will be tolerated it will be here. I find a tiny green striped maraca in the bottom of the nappy bag and for now, he’s happy. There’s a woman with a baby in a sling walking up and down behind me, then standing still and rocking; the baby dance. Sometimes I do this dance in supermarket lines, even when there’s no baby on my back.

Sparrow rollingAnn Patchett reads from her new novel, State of Wonder, and I take Sparrow to the back of the theatre to do a nappy change. There is a thin flap that unzips from the nappy bag, the only thing between his body and the slate floor. He squeals and kicks and I try to be as fast and as clean as I can. State of Wonder sounds thick with gorgeous writing but it slips over and past me. The nappy change is done and I lie Sparrow down on the strip of wood flooring that cuts through the slate, to type with both hands, to try to pull words from the air and get them onto this page. Maile Meloy is reading and then Georgia Blain. Sparrow has rolled nearly onto the slate. He bangs the maraca and tries to sit. I am momentarily jealous of the baby dancing woman who could type right now if she wanted to. I try a breastfeed even though he’s not due. I hope that a nipple will create enough quiet for me to at least hear, even if I can’t write. I try to type one handed. It’s excruciating. Sparrow keeps lurching away from my breast and swiping at the keyboard. He’s making so much noise I feel sick. I give up. We go out to the Atrium and I drink coffee, and breathe, and decide to try again at the next session.

A young woman with an Equal Love t-shirt and forearms crisscrossed with cuts stops and smiles at Sparrow and reaches carefully to touch his hand. He grins at her with his gappy teeth, spit dripping from his chin. We talk. I try not to look at her sad arms. Sparrow, I think, has made her afternoon sweet.

The friend that I’m with comes to find me and we make our way to Missing Women. I put Sparrow in the ergo and try to be present. Carpeted floor. That’s good. A wide escape stretching out behind me. Good too. I bounce and rock and listen to the recorded intro. Sparrow makes noise, but I hope that he will sleep. Chris Gordon, who’s chairing the session, asks why, with so many women in publishing, do most non-fiction books and biographies feature the lives of men? Katie Holmes stands behind a lectern and says she is staggered by the stories of grief and the stories of hope that she hears from women. Sparrow squawks. Chris smiles at me (he’s out of the ergo and I’m trying to breastfeed him again – he’s so full of milk that it’s spilling from the corners of his mouth but I want to stay and so I keep trying to keep him quiet), a warm smile, a smile that says I understand. But there’s someone else in the audience who glares, a few times. I put him back in the ergo and try to get him to sleep. Please. Sleep. I fail. The cranky woman is psyching me out. I bail.

Sparrow sleeps on the peak hour train and then on the walk home. By the time I open the front door it has been a five hour round trip and I feel defeated. What I know is that I tried. And what I want to say is this: mothers, take your babies. Stretch these adult spaces. Require them to open up for you. And if you, out there, see one of us with a pram or a sling and a small squawking thing, trying to do something more, trying to make the world a bigger place, at the very least, hide your disapproval.

This is my last MWF post. Last week I watched Monkey reach a bubbler in the park in our street that he’s never been able to reach before. He pushed himself onto tip toes and pressed the button until a small trickle emerged. He had to poke his tongue out to get any water, but he did it without needing to be picked up. I feel like I had to do something similar to get to this festival. I had to push and stretch and do something that I didn’t think I’d be able to, and I’m glad that I did. Tired, but glad. Thank you for reading.

MWF here I come

Federation Square Theatre (BMW Edge)

Image via Wikipedia

The Melbourne Writer’s Festival has selected me as one of their five ‘UNbloggers’. I’m a bit in awe I have to say, being such a brand new blogger and all. My first response was excitement, and my next was more along the lines of what-was-I-thinking-I-can’t-take-an-8-month-old-baby-to-a-writer’s-festival. But I’ve just decided that I can, and that it’ll be ok. There’s plenty of couches scattered in that big undercover bit at Fed Square (perfect for breastfeeding), there’ll be a change table somewhere, and Sparrow will magically sleep through each of the minimum ten sessions I attend. Ah. Sleep.

I’m guessing that writers and audience alike may not feel particularly warm to either a crying, squirming, squealing, or singing baby. I wouldn’t have been, pre-baby. Note to self: paranoia and doing other people’s thinking for them whilst attending the festival will not be conducive to the kind of relaxed and inquiring state of mind I’d like to cultivate. More notes to self: everyone there was a baby who interrupted a grownup at some point. Sometimes childcare is a hard thing to get and babies need to travel with their Mamas. Sparrow might magically sleep through the sessions (yeah right). Even if every post ends up saying something like “the first five minutes of this session was amazing, and then I had to leave because…” that’s ok.

I’ve downloaded the app and made a must see list. It’s twenty-one sessions long, and that’s only because I couldn’t include anything after dark (Sparrow’s not so crash hot at going to sleep for the night without me).

Essential items (please feel free to add to this list in the comments): pram, ergo, cruskits, pear slices, blanket, quiet toys, food and water for me, all the other stuff that goes in a nappy bag, laptop, iPhone so I can dictate my posts as I think of them in case I can’t type, pen and paper for old school moments, a brave face, and the serenity prayer. No I’m not religious, but the serenity prayer is gold.

Lost: huggalug and sense of equilibrium

I may have already said this, but Sparrow and day sleeps don’t go together. At all. He ends up sleeping on my back in the ergo, or during pram walks, or in the car. Last Thursday I tried for an hour to get him to sleep in his cot because I needed to breathe. Because I wanted to write, and drink a cup of tea, and stare out the window without a wriggly baby on my hip. When I had those I-must-be-alone-right-this-second feelings with Monkey I would assume it meant I was a bad mother. Despite years of therapy and a pretty decent amount of self awareness, my ability to descend (not descend, that almost sounds gentle – to plummet) into guilt, shame, and bad-motherness is extremely well developed.

The hour was interminable for both of us. I should have given up sooner. I turned off the music and the heater, lowered the cot side, and picked Sparrow up. And felt desperate and alone. And like a cliché. Woman in house alone with baby, going quietly mad. So I changed his nappy, rugged him up, and put him in the ergo on my back. At least that way he’s behind me, I thought, and I am facing outward. At least I can walk. Woman with baby walking has to be better.

While I walked I listened to the podcast that currently helps me to stay sane – a Buddhist psychologist named Tara Brach. On joy. It’s far braver and harder to live in joy I heard. Sparrow wriggled and grunted on my back. Joy is a complex thing, it is an expansive saying yes to this moment, here. Yes, I tried, my chest cracking with the weight of one deep breath. Sparrow grabbed for my scarf. Sleep, baby.

I felt behind me for his kicking legs, thinking that if I could still them he might settle. My left hand brushed icy skin. Sparrow has these things called huggalugs; essentially baby leg warmers. The left huggalug, and with its left sock, had fallen off along the way. No wonder he couldn’t sleep. By the time I discovered it we were a few kilometres from home. So I pulled the sleeve of my jumper over his foot and ankle, and warmed his toes in the palm of my hand. Five minutes later, he slept.

Tara spoke on and I let the idea of joy wash through me. I tried to see the creek, to look at the sky instead of the path. I turned towards home, Sparrow’s foot still in my hand, and scanned the path for the huggalug. I was ten minutes from home before I found it. Those green and blue stripes unmistakable on the side of the path.

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The movement of crouching to retrieve it made him stir, but not wake. Fifty more metres gave me his sock. I stopped a couple on the path and asked them to put the sock and huggalug on him. They said they had seen those, and wondered who they belonged to. I remembered that, before having babies; wondering why there seemed to be so many baby socks in the streets. Sparrow’s foot now warmed, I kept walking, and listening, and he stayed asleep long enough for me to get home and make a cup of tea. And to drink it, still hot, while staring out of my callistamon framed kitchen window. Joy.

Enrollment day

Student Union V

Image by Laurabot_ via Flickr

Yesterday was cold. Melbourne cold. The kind that makes your cheeks flare red, that on a good day makes you feel more alive, as if the crisp air is clearer and lighter so that somehow you can see further in it. Yesterday was not a good day. It wasn’t a bad day either, but it wasn’t good. On a good day I have certain absences: loneliness, discontent, anxiety, that old companion melancholy, none of them are there to push their way past my breastbone, to stain all my comings and goings with uncertainty.

Yesterday the cold air ate its way through my bright purple jumper. My scarf and gloves did little to hold off the feeling of being coated in a fine ice. Sparrow was royally warm in his four layers and hat, tucked under a blanket, a rain and wind cover turning his pram into a capsule of warmth. I pushed him past the lake and tried to be pleased at the sight of ducks. I found the building where Research Services lives quickly and easily. There was a lift, and a toilet, and warm air. See? It’s all running smoothly. There was no one else there to enroll. This was not the cattle call of undergrad land. An easy form to sign while Sparrow beamed and dribbled. Anxiety plucking at my chest. Another easy walk to Student Services. Again no other students. No money to change hands. Photo taken, card printed. Done. Enrolled. Is there a student graduate association? Blank looks. There used to be, don’t know if there still is, umm… Oesophagus clenching, worry wriggling in my stomach. I am far better at all of this than joy or hope. I had come from a uni with a whole building for grad students, with an extremely active student association, with, with, with. With all the facilities a girl could want, but not the supervisors I need. I sat in a hard black chair and looked out at the empty lawn. Breastfed Sparrow and read the student diary. Tried not to feel as bleak as the day.