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Archive for the ‘motherhood bliss’ Category

“All your extended breastfeeding questions answered” in Essential Baby by me.

When my son began talking to my breasts (“breastfeedings” he called them, in case you were wondering), he was being so sincere and sad I did not know what to do. Should my breasts be answering him? It seems rude to remain indifferent to someone sharing the most tragic moment of their life with you. I mean, my breasts aren’t cold-hearted. And if my breasts answered him then should they have my voice, which may take you out of the moment? Or should they have a unique voice of their own – in which case, what does a breast’s voice sound like?

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Am told my piece for Meanjin has a broken link at the moment so I’m re-posting it here. From the end of last year when I wrote about reading and love affairs…


There’s a small child in the bed with us. I hold the sheet over me and reach down blindly to find clothes on the floor. Under the sheet I slip my underwear and t-shirt back on. So, this is dating now.

One evening I find myself sitting in bed reading Hairy Maclary dog stories to the small child. “Out of the gate and off for a walk, went Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy..”.

It’s not my small child, it’s the son of the man I am seeing. My children are with their father tonight and I’m missing them. The father of this small child is in the living room feeling down. I’m trying not to see that as a bit of an indulgence. And instead, I’m reading to his son and those smalls hands on my arm and a small head rested against my shoulder are bringing a rush of pain to me.

This maternal business, when I’m not with my children, is tearing at careful compartments. But decompartmentalising is this man’s specialty. Out of the gate and off for a walk.

I meet his mother, and then in a rush, his whole family. He wants to meet my children. At first, I believe he’s fearless. He might be wrong for me in several ways but at least he’s fearless.

Last year I read Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson. This year I am re-reading it. I mostly re-read books this year because with everything happening in my life – the work, the grief, the rebuilding, the column writing, the conferences, the dating, the parenting, the budgeting, the anxiety and the calming – I can’t read anything new. I just can’t take anything else in. If I am going to consider anything in it has to be something I already know that I just want to understand better, and differently.

I read a lot to my children. They like re-reading books. The storybook I most enjoy re-reading to them is Stanley’s Stick by John Hegley. The rhythm in that book is something else. I marvel at it every time I read it. Every time.

I hardly read anything. Actually, I read constantly, all year, but hardly anything I think appropriate to highlight in a literary journal, like Meanjin. For instance, Twitter. For instance, Thich Nhat Hanh’s The Miracle of Mindfulness. I read that over and over again for part of the year, in a ‘dark night of the soul’ kind of way. I read papers and papers for work. I read a Coroner’s report with a fine-tooth comb. About the death of a child the same age as my daughter. Her mother kills her slowly, but quite thoroughly in the end.

She kills her slowly enough that people are wondering now how that happened. When you read the details, I mean really read them and re-read them, you see a lot of unraveling and the mother knows, she knows she’s unraveling. She asks her daughter to cover up the unraveling with her in more and more ludicrous ways. Most children killed by parents die before they develop the power of speech. But this daughter, who can speak and therefore reflect back what she sees in you, tries, reasons but also colludes. She is protecting her mother the way a mother is supposed to protect a child. Children do.

I distill the findings into something concise and lifeless for a report.

While driving home from the coast my own daughter starts reading aloud to her little brother and me from The Pinballs by Betsy Byars. It’s a young adult novel about children in foster care and I read it when I was about her age. Listening to her, I gasp. I forgot how sad this story is, I say. My daughter pauses thoughtfully and agrees before saying it is one of her favourite books.

When I arrive one night he is in a candlelit bath drinking wine, smoking cigarettes and wearing his dead father’s rosary beads around his neck. Even with tears in his eyes he can laugh. You look like something out of a film, I say. And I take some photographs.

Get in the bath, he tells me. And when I have pulled off my clothes and am stepping into the water he says to stop covering myself. We’re not young, don’t worry about it. He says it with such softness that for a moment I think I am falling in love. (You’re younger than me, too young, I think secretly). I hope you change me, he whispers in bed with a kiss. I can’t change you, I can only be with you while you change yourself, I reply. I guess, he says.

I read The Culture of the New Capitalism by Richard Sennett, the poem of Relational Self-Portrait by Dean Rader, A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway, Long Division by Kiese Laymon, The End of Eve by Ariel Gore, The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright, and Aftermath by Rachel Cusk again (and again). It goes without saying I recommend every one of these. In a way, I am reading about uncertainty, but then everything is about uncertainty. Eventually I am reading new things.

But I am also still re-reading The Autobiography of Red. It’s a novel written in verse. Everything is a metaphor. It is terribly beautiful and you need to read it slowly and if you have forgotten how to read slowly, as I have, then you simply read it repeatedly. The more you read it the more you realise stories about love affairs are really stories about trials are really stories about dreams and monsters are really stories about self.

We were supposed to be bringing one another stillness, I point out. He promises me he’s very calm. Yes, I say, because you’re the eye of the fucking storm, you might be calm but no-one else around you ever is. He likes that and we both laugh. But he has a shadow self. It’s appearance is even more alarming to him than it is to me. The kindness, the openness, the intuitiveness and most of all, the fearlessness are gone.

His sense of self crumbles. He tries to argue with me about things I don’t recognise. It’s his past, not mine, and so I lack the bitterness towards it that he is seeking. I return home in a panic. Safe inside my own house I suddenly feel like I am reassembling. Enough, I decide.

Out of the gate.

And off for a walk.

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1. This morning was perfect: the six year old crawled into my bed first thing, as he generally does for a cuddle when I’m awake but sorta meditating but sorta just thinking because I’m not good at meditation, and then he fell asleep against me.. and so this morning was even better because after I’d basked in the sweetness of him sleeping I got up and the ten year old and I had breakfast as just us, and we talked about nearly everything, in the kind of way that you can only do as two people together.

2. Cormac, the five year old making sense of his good fortune when his health-conscious mother bought him McDonald’s fries on today’s road trip – “Mum it’s ok because a) you were really, really hungry, b) there weren’t many other options, c) you didn’t want complaining kids all the way home and d) you just …couldn’t help it”. (Am not as judgey as Cormac makes me sound. I love hot chips).

3. The ten year old, Lauca, who comes from politically obsessed Labor families on both sides confessed to secretly testing herself on the voting compass. Me: really? Did you manage to understand the policy trade-offs being asked? Her: I think so. (Guilty expression). But I came out more a Greens voter. Me: We all do.

4. Cormac (age 5): When I grow up I’m going to be a parent who stays home with the baby.

Me: Really?

C: Actually no. My partner will look after the baby.

Me: What will you do?

C: Go to Bunnings and pick up some stuff.

Lauca (age 9): Have you asked your partner about that?

C: I haven’t met her yet.

L: Good luck making that relationship last.

5. Tucked Lauca, the nine year old into bed. Asked her what’s this latest book she’s been reading all night. Siblings Without Rivalry. A parenting book I bought and meant to read ages ago. “It has some good ideas but I don’t know how much you’ll find they can apply to Cormac and I”, she said.

6. Cormac lost his second tooth tonight and is insisting on cleaning it with toothpaste before putting it out for the tooth fairy. Never too late to fake cleaning your teeth regularly.

7. Me: Cormac, go and clean your teeth. Cormac: All you are about is cleaning teeth and looking pretty.

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When Julian was born, my euphoria intensified. To this day, I still can’t articulate how deeply and fiercely I love my son without shedding a few tears. He was this perfect, amazing little thing. But because I was a nineteen-year-old new mum, there was a sharp polarity between how I thought I should feel and how I actually felt. Stigma said that my life was over; I knew something significant had just begun. Society demanded sacrifice and selflessness but parenting my son never felt passive or transactional; it was always more rich and complex than giving something up in exchange for something else.

From my friend, Antonia Hayes’ “Why I loved being a teenage mum” in Marie Claire.

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index

From here at inhabitots.

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For all that, though, my son’s first year was the best of my life. I learned that while travel with a baby isn’t easy, it’s doable. We took him to Malaysia, where I was speaking at a conference, when he was 6 months old, and then on a reporting trip to Panama a few months later. Both of these were countries we’d been to before; seeing them again with our son made travel feel new. He made staying home feel new, too. When I was with him, the habitual churning of my mind eased. Instead of arguing with strangers on Twitter, I spent hours in neighborhood parks I’d barely noticed before, my attention resting on my burbling, improbably exuberant little boy. Ultimately, even my work life improved: The crisis motherhood brought on led me to refocus on more satisfying long-form writing. Something Louis C.K. said recently was true for me: “I realized that a lot of the things that my kid was taking away from me, she was freeing me of.”

From Michelle Goldberg’s lovely “I was a proud non-breeder: then I changed my mind” in New York Post.

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nicole-trunfio-photographed-breastfeeding-on-elle-australia-cover-instagram-1

Nicole Trunfio breastfeeding her son on the cover of Elle.

Trunfio has used the cover as an opportunity to advocate for a change in the stigma surrounding women who breastfeed in public.

More models and others being glamorous while breastfeeding and why I like it.

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