Monday, January 24, 2011


Last week I got sent a rejection letter for a manuscript I’d submitted to a big publishing house. Oh, don’t feel sorry for me, I’m used to it, and it was quite a good rejection letter as those types of things go. Full of praise for my wit and passion and other phrases people write to you in birthday cards. It’s small recompense that they asked me for the manuscript and some consolation that two other publishers are currently considering me also. I only need one of them to want me after all. But any way you cut it, it’s still a rejection letter. A sanitised missive addressed directly to me.
Only they didn’t address it to me. They addressed it to Bruce. That’s right. Not only was I rejected, but they wrote the letter to the wrong person. I’m assured they read the manuscript as they made specific reference to things they could only have known by doing so, but still, they called me Bruce. Like my rejection makes me so insignificant as to void my name entirely. Any name will do, I’m just one rejection in a pile of many. Just as now I’m just another mother taking up space in a coffee shop.
Where has my identity gone? For the first thirty years of my life I was a daughter, sister, relative and friend. Most people can’t escape some of those titles at least. Then came wife, which brings with it a whole slew of other jobs and responsibilities, but it was really when I picked up the moniker of ‘mother’ that I noticed the most distinct change.
Where did my individual identity go?
All of a sudden, my daughter defines me first. I’m not suggesting this is a bad thing, or even that it is bothering me, but it is an adjustment to be sure.
Beyond my other roles (sister, friend and so on) I used to be ‘Naomi the singer’, ‘Naomi the dancer’, ‘Naomi the unemployed’ – only between gigs I would like to clarify. But ‘Naomi the something’ is how I was known, how all of us are known I would venture to say.
My title related directly to me…until now.
Now I’m ‘the peanut’s mother’. Even people who knew me prior to meeting my new human now use the peanut as my yardstick. And of course, every decision I now make involves thinking of her first.
Can I make it back from a run before she needs to eat again?
Should I get that desperately needed coffee or do the laundry before she wakes?
How many nappies does one peanut need?
These are the all important questions that currently consume me.
The world is her universe and she is at its centre. Slowly but surely, she’ll learn the unfortunate truth that that is just not the case, but life is long with that reality, so I am more than happy to indulge this fantasy of hers for as long as the world will allow.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


“How was last night?” I ask my brother and his mate over brunch and my brother bursts into immediate laughter.
“Oh no,” I groan, “what did you boys get up to this time?” I ask and order an extra large cappuccino, knowing I’ll need it to get me through the explanation.
“Pinky here,” (that is not his real name by the way. For some reason I feel the need to protect his identity so that anyone reading this doesn’t forward it to every single female they know and destroy his chances at happiness forever). “Pinky here,” says my brother, “couldn’t come up with the name of the girl he’d just had relations with when she asked him in post-coital bliss.”
“Oh poor girl,” I commiserated, “what happened then?”
“She asked me to leave,” said Pinky, managing – sort of – to look like he felt bad. “She’d broken up with her boyfriend six months ago and I was her first…ah, foray into the single world shall we say.” Then he retold the story in that nonchalant, ‘I don’t understand the way women think’ tone that I’ve been hearing from my brothers for years. “She got really upset and started telling me all about her ex and how she knew this was a bad idea and what was she thinking and so on, and then she started to cry and said; ‘I knew I shouldn’t have done this, look what happened, I hooked up with a guy who can’t even remember my name.’”
Pinky looked up from his latte and shrugged.
“Then she said she was never going to do this again, and I felt bad," he continued. "Don’t say that, I said; don’t rule out something so fun just because I can’t remember your name. If I see you in two years time I’ll be able to tell you what you are wearing – were wearing – and what we talked about tonight, but I’m rubbish with names, that’s all. I never remember anyone’s names, this happens all the time.” (And even he will concede that this was perhaps not the best thing to finish with). “But she still told me to leave,” he said not sounding very repentant at all. “I’m going to go back and try to apologise, I don’t want to turn her off this sort of activity forever.”
“Oh, so you’ll apologise out of your deeply felt civic responsibility is that it?” I ask, walking a fine line between loving my brother’s friend and wanting to sock him square in the face in defence of the unnamed lady’s honour.
“She was a bit of a looker,” says my brother, “it is his civic responsibility. He’s apologising so hope is maintained for the rest of mankind.”
“You two are outrageous,” I rage, “that girl is somebody’s sister, daughter. You have to show her more respect than that!”
“Oh Nome,” protests my other brother who has been sitting silently by my side, “she knew what she was doing. She approached him remember. Pinky promised her a good time, he never said he’d remember who she was.”
I shake my head because I know he is right, and just then my little peanut stirs and I am hit with the horrid reality that in eighteen years – quite possibly even less – my daughter will be navigating this very minefield herself. A minefield her mother never even ventured into, knowing that with her poor navigation skills, she was certain to step on any and all Improvised Explosive Devices within a ten kilometer radius. I would be no help to her whatsoever. And Lord knows what sort of a minefield it will be like in eighteen-odd years, what kind of technological advancements she’ll be using, what sort of diseases and pick-up lines she’ll have to avoid, and it’s hardly an environment her mother can venture into just to make sure she’s safe. 
And there’s the rub. That’s my job. To love and protect. How dare someone expect me to be remiss in my duties! 
But, I didn’t give her life not to let her live it. 
So between now and then, I’ll do my best to instill a sense of self-worth, a clever mind, a thoughtful heart, and then I’ll tell her to make sure they remember her name first.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


What is mother love?
Is it waking up to a mozzie buzzing by your ear and not swatting it away but rather patiently letting it bite you on the cheek because you realise that if it doesn’t bite you, it might pick your child instead.
Perhaps it’s feeding your child in the middle of the night, then having them spit up all over the bed and just deciding to lie in it and go back to sleep. Actually, having re-read this I’d say this is more like laziness.
Could it be wearing maternity bras. I don’t know how other ladies feel, but for me they rank as the most uncomfortable contraption second only to wetsuits. Although that could be because I’ve only ever worn one wetsuit and it was borrowed from a friend with a distinctly smaller frame than yours truly.
Maybe it’s staying in undies soaked in your child’s wee for half the day, unable to change because you’re feeding, changing, playing, cuddling and finally settling them. I defy any parent to say they made it through the nappy stage without wearing their child’s excrement at least once. I don’t care how fancy your nappy is, it’s a right of parental passage.
Mother love could be finally managing a meal at 2pm, so hungry you could eat your shoe, only to watch it go cold and stale as you feed your child for the fourth time that day instead.
It could also be defined as denial and self-sacrifice. Ie still not drinking and coming home early from parties while your husband stays and drinks beer and smokes (more) celebratory cigars. Yes, I can hear the sounds of the violin too.
Then of course there are those late night feeds, your tired eyes gritty and dry as you keep the lights off to lessen the pain and let your marsupial fossick about till it finds what it’s looking for. Just you and your peanut, her father snoring softly by your side, and you marvel at the creation feeding from your breast. You know you made her with the man you chose, that you nourished and protected her while she grew inside you. And now she’s here, thinking and dreaming, learning and smiling her happy grin, a smile that says ‘I know you, you keep me safe and I know the beating heart I hear when I lie on your chest is the same one I heard every day of my forty weeks and one day of growing.’
A heart that used to beat just for my family and friends, but has grown now, to unimaginable proportions, as it tries hold all the feelings I have for my child.
That’s mother love. 

Monday, January 10, 2011


I thought having a baby in the summer was absolutely genius and here’s why;
1.     The hospital recommends ‘skin to skin’ contact to aid bonding between parent and child. Much less painful in the summer than on a cold miserable ‘we don’t know how to heat our houses properly’ Australian winter’s night.
2.     Cleavage tops. Probably not as big a deal to someone who pre-baby actually had boobs, but for those of us who are mammary challenged, the chance to bust out our newfound bosom is rare and should be shamelessly exploited.
3.     Baby clothes are cheaper – all the peanut needs is one of her fancy cloth nappies (check out greenkids) and a singlet. Done.
4.     Daylight saving. Great for the requisite ‘I really want you to stop your whinging’ run which tends to occur at her birth time (7.16pm) every single night.
5.     It’s much easier to get your boob out in summer clothes than under a sweater, skivvy and maybe a lovely warm scarf. In fact, how do you breastfeed in wintertime? Am I going to be cold for an hour every two hours while I expose half my torso in order to feed my darling child? Please don’t tell me I have to wear button down shirts. I haven’t since 1996 and with good reason. Firstly, they’re ridiculously uncomfortable and secondly they remind me of the brown skirts and lace up shoes I endured throughout my entire high school career. While we’re on the subject of fashion, someone should start a breastfeeding clothing line. Seriously, I hate shopping at the best of times, but now I enter a department store and my usual state of confusion and panic escalates rapidly as I realise I am ineligible for most of the clothing on the racks and am forced to ask assistants for help, actually try things on (normally I pick a size and hope for the best) and sift through clothes looking for the few items where I can whip my boobs out at the slightest sound of my distressed child. Truly, there is a market for this ladies. I don’t have the skill set, but if you do I guarantee you’d be a success. And when you are, feel free to name a lovely boob-accessible moo-moo after me.
And in the negative for having a baby in the summer we have;
1.              Christmas. You haven’t drunk for 40 weeks and you still can’t because you’re the food source for your new human. This might be alright if you were on a Buddhist retreat, but Christmas in Australia calls for champagne, gin and gingers and the odd late night tipple or two while you wait to make sure Santa makes it through the back door.
2.              Beach holidays. You’ve got the ‘I just gave birth gut’ going on, but you’re baby is too small to go out in the surf with you, so people just think you ate too much Christmas pudding.
3.              Relatives, house guests and people on holidays in general. December 24 until January 26 are some of the finest days in the Australian calendar, but it means you keep a punishing schedule of park dates, tourist activities, summer festivals and general social events accompanied by any number of people desperate for their touch of the new human.
4.              Sydney knows how to do humid and when you hold a human against you for an hour at a stretch you both come off a little worse for wear.
5.              The rain. This is an anomaly in Australia after ten years of drought, and fabulous for people’s backyards I know, but it makes it bloody difficult to keep my environmental resolve and use cloth nappies. I have to confess we bought a dryer…any idea if the use of such counteracts the benefits of reusable nappies?
6.              Sunshine. My grandma used to tell me to marry a black man so our kids might have a chance at skin better suited to the Australian clime, instead I married a man with the same welsh heritage as I, forcing us to cover our already hot human in hats and muslin wraps so her delicate skin keeps its glorious alabaster tones.
So there you have it. The cases for and against. Let me know what you think.


The other day I hung out a load of washing with one arm while breastfeeding the peanut in the other. There has to be a medal somewhere in the world for that. Seriously. It required great skill and dexterity, wit, (to outwit the wind) patience, (never my strong suit, but greatly improved since the arrival of the peanut) and a very bendy left arm.
It also required a lowered clothes line since I couldn’t stretch and a sturdy elbow for holding down clothes while the hand of the same arm twisted and reached for a peg to secure the item. I can’t guarantee my husband’s jeans were completely dry (one leg was hung at the knee, the other at the hip pocket) and since I couldn’t do a preemptive shake, all the wrinkles formed during the wash are now cemented into the clothes and as I am vehemently opposed to ironing, there they shall stay until next we wash them.
This is atypical in the land of breastfeeding I have discovered. You see the greatest benefit of breastfeeding is a total shonk-off of all household chores.
Making the bed is impossible – try doing hospital corners with one hand. Instead I just wait till the peanut is out of it, (don’t tell the midwives she sleeps with us) pull up the quilt and call it a day.
Washing up is ridiculous and just ends in a broken wine glass - not that I’m drinking of course…
Taking out the garbage is off the cards – would you like to eat your dinner with one hand and hold a bag of day-old prawn shells in the other?
Sweeping - same deal, it’s hardly hygienic.
Mopping, dusting, folding laundry…they’re all nigh on impossible when one of your appendages is taken up by a small human that is stuck like a leech to your nipple.
I have tried eating with some success – so long as it’s my left hand that’s free to feed myself. My right hand isn’t so great with fine motor tasks like that and the peanut wore more of the Weetbix than made it to my mouth.
And I’ve now managed to make this whole breastfeeding gig even more luxurious by having to lie down while I do it. It’s not my fault. My milk flows so fast that if I don’t the peanut drowns – choking and flailing her arms about in a violent, turbulent and desperate pantomime. It doesn’t look good in public people, (people tend to frown at mothers choking their own babies) so I’ve developed a weird sort of faux-lie position to prevent me being entirely housebound and strangers from calling child welfare services.
So there I lie, shanghai-ing passersby into getting me glasses of water, grabbing a book or switching on the computer, even my brothers who would fall about feigning broken legs and other defective body parts if ever I previously needed them will jump to my every request so their precious niece can be sustained. I am charged with a most important duty after all. Raising the next generation is to be taken most seriously. Mothers of such should be treasured indeed. Treasured, adored and praised for their excellent work.
In my defence, this breastfeeding gig takes up A LOT OF TIME. The peanut usually takes the better part of an hour to feed and she likes to do that every two hours, so by the time you burp, change and play with her you’re back to the beginning again. Tonight she fed for nearly three hours. THREE HOURS PEOPLE. She completely drained both boobs, (so I tried to replace them with a hefty serve of ice cream and chocolate topping) and slurped and gulped her way through The Prince Of Persia, a so-so film that kept me company while I was devoured.
I am led to believe by that esteemed journal, The Sydney Morning Herald, that breastfeeding mothers make 1.7 litres of breast milk a day. Seven weeks ago I might have questioned that. In fact, had I read that statistic before the peanut became a human I might have tried to find a way to back out of the whole deal, but now I can tell you that the statistic is most definitely true and what’s more, the little humans need every last drop.
Lying down should be the least us breastfeeding ladies get. Simultaneous foot and head massages followed by a hot spa and a full body rub down would be more like it. But that would take longer than an hour and that’s more timeout than my little peanut will allow.
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