There is a milestone moment in the life of a parent when your child realises that the act of giving a gift can be (almost) as rewarding as receiving one. For my eldest daughter, Monkey, that happened last month and I was the lucky recipient. The gift she thoughtfully chose, sourced, bought, wrapped and tentatively gave me on the birthday morning brought tears to my eyes.
In fact, every time the bloody thing goes off in our lounge room, it still does!!
It was this….
and to fill it, this…
Apparently, the idea came to her during our stay in the serviced apartment in Brisbane. You see, growing up in Asia, our kids have never really been exposed to commercial TV. At the temporary accommodation we had cable, in English. Yay and funness! I freely admit that I used the television as somewhat of a ‘babysitter’ in those first few hectic weeks here in Australia. I also admit that I was not entirely immune to the charms of the 40-odd-channels, indulging in quite a lot of food and lifestyle porn!
It was probably during one of mummies ‘house’ shows that Monkey saw an advertisement for the above objet d’art.
According to the website – Air Wick Freshmatic Automatic Spray has been carefully created to ensure continuous fragrancing that will keep the air fresh and lovely for you and your family and ensure a brighter, happier home.’
Not only that, it comes in several unique fragrances, including ‘Frangapani’, a scent that would surely remind mummy of out home in Lao (The Frangapani is the National flower of Lao)
What’s more, it is available at your local supermarket!
Monkey, accompanied me grocery shopping, secretly located the aisle and item and later dragged Daddy on a special mission to buy mummy a present that would make our new home smell like Lao.
Honestly, it was most beautiful, thoughtful gesture and, despite that fact the our home has started to smell like a cheap brothel, every time I hear the psst of the fragrance dispenser my heart swells!
Monkey quietly approached me a week or so after my birthday, ‘Mumma’, she said, ‘It is OK if you turn the machine off sometimes.’
‘Why would I want to do that?’
She leaned in close, looking me straight in the eyes. ‘Because we both know it doesn’t smell very nice, does it? I don’t think the TV was right!’
I love you my beautiful, smart, baby girl. You are FABULOUS!
Please accept this, my resignation, from the position of mother-of-three. I know that you were hoping I would apply for tenure but after much consideration I have realised that I am unsuited for the role. It would be remiss of me to continue.
Let me start by saying, in case there is any confusion, that according to the role description I have been given, there are three young children in my care. Are we clear on that point? Three little life forms all relying on me to keep them safe, fed, healthy and stimulated. Three little people who look to me for guidance, support, love. Three VERY DIFFERENT personalities who all NEED me, ALL THE TIME.
The fact is that I should never have taken on the role in the first place. I will admit to having been quite the advocate for having a child. A CHILD. Single. I was actually rather good at the making and baking part.
What I failed to do, this is entirely my fault, was read the safety instructions and follow the precautions which were clearly indicated, though in rather fine print I must say, at the back of the document.
The fact that I failed in my duty of care a third time should really be grounds for instant dismissal. I am obviously completely incompetent.
That not withstanding, I would like to list a number of other reasons why I am unsuitable for this job in the hope that you will accept, with haste, this request for clemency.
I like to be organised.
I like to be in control.
I like to be punctual.
I like clean.
I am rational.
I like to finish something I start, be it a task, cup of coffee or even a thought.
I like sleep. (Seriously, I really, really like sleep)
Given the above, I hope you see why I cannot possibly continue in this role. There is really very little job satisfaction!
If you are still not convinced, please let me make one final point. I wanted to do this job well. I really wanted to nail it. With every fiber of my being I wanted to be the best mother I could possibly be. But I just don’t have the capacity or the resources to give ALL THREE CHILDREN the time, support, sensitivity and understanding they need.
The only thing I have enough of is love.
The only thing I seem to be good at is shouting.
Thank you for your time. I wait anxiously for your response.
I like change. It keeps life interesting. But this month things are moving way too fast for me. Have you ever watched a pirated DVD where the sound and image have not quite synced? (of course you haven’t, pirated movies are illegal) I AM LIVING IN THAT MOVIE. My mind is about 3 seconds behind my physical reality… it just can’t process the changes quickly enough. Needless to say, where possible I am avoiding social interactions. I just come off like a total retard.
Firstly. My big princesses returned to school. Relief. Pride. A touch of sadness.
It is no secret (read this… or this… or this) that I find found the Summer Holidays challenging. I returned from drop off on their first day back, collapsed on the bed a cried. I had made it to the end. No-one was dead or seriously injured. Threads of my sanity remained intact. Despite my fears and doubts and moments of being the most ‘yellingest, horrible, most mean mummy in the world’, mostly it was good… dare I say fun… dare I say rewarding.
Seeing them return to a familiar environment made me realise how much they had grown over the break. They are rare and caring little people. Mostly, I am proud of my daughters.
Then, a few days later there was this change…
My baby, my littlest heart, started part-time in the toddlers program at the school. MY BABY! She looked so small with her skirt length around her ankles and her backpack dwarfing her frame. She looked so big with her hair in pigtails, grinning from ear to ear as she showed off her uniform.
‘Mine! Mine! Mine!’, she exclaimed loudly… and repeatedly. ‘Same, same sista! MINE!’
But, of course, She didn’t let me off lightly. The were tears. Tears of indignation. Tears of anger, confusion, pleading, fear.
Week three and now there are sniffles. ‘No cry, no cry, no cry!’, she repeats to herself as she buries her head in my neck at drop off. ‘No cry. no cry, no cry!’, I repeat to myself as I walk back to the car each morning.
There was also this…
What an exciting milestone for this 6-year-old. Though I can hardly understand how it happened. It seems to me that only a few weeks ago we celebrated the arrival of the very same tooth.
Heartbreakingly, said tooth was washed down the drain by the overeager 6-year-old, who was trying to make it shiny for the tooth fairy. A handwritten note of apology slipped under the pillow seemed to placate the forgiving and generous tooth fairy. However, I was absolutely devastated, still am.
There have been changes on the domestic front too. Despite the myriad ongoing niggling maintainance issues, ‘The Big Wooden House’ has become home to our little family here in Laos, so after some consideration, we decided to renew our lease.
With the realisation that we would be staying here for a while longer my inner ‘Martha Stewart’ has been unleashed on our home. I have been in a frenzy. Each room has been examined with a forensic zeal. Clean, reorganise, reposition, keep, sell, gift, toss. New furniture and new beginnings. Exhausting but rewarding toil…and necessary as our family grows and changes.
There have been bittersweet partings with the no-longer-necessary equipment of babyhood. Another reminder that my baby ain’t such a baby anymore.
As a result of all this activity, Chilli has moved out of the nursery and she and her big sisters now sleep in one room. New beds are on order and soon even the cot will be a memory. They love sharing a bedroom, though each has a place for their own favourite treasures.
Our bedroom has also been under scrutiny. We have a new bed, finally. A bed big enough to accommodate me, G and at least one.. two…or even three extra guests without relegating me to the couch.
But what of the former nursery?
This is what it looks like now…
In an act of sefishness, or perhaps self preservation, I have claimed it. It is MY room. I am filling it with MY favourite treasures. This will be my nest. What am I nurturing in here? The part of me that has been neglected. The me that is longing to be inspired. The part of me that is fabulous!
To start, I am going to sit for a moment and catch up with my body.
Here in Lao, as in many parts of the World, it is Summer Holidays. Coming from Australia, I find this hard to digest. Summer, as far as I am concerned, is December/ January. It is soaring temperatures and expeditions to the beach, Christmas, New Year!
July/August should be cold and wet, I should be accessorising with an assortment of fabulous scarves and battling chilling winds. Instead, Laos is giving me ferocious storms, 100% humidity and hot, hot, heat!
‘Summer Holidays’ meant nothing to me until I had children… and those children started going to school… and school- decided that for 8 weeks, ‘over summer’, I would be responsible for my offspring 24hrs-a-day, 7-days-a-week.
For fucks sake! SERIOUSLY!
So here I am, almost one week into the ‘Summer’… again! What a strange time. What a pot-luck of highs and lows.
The best part has been waking up in the morning and not having to cajole, humour, threaten, bribe and yell to get us all out the door – preferably fed, cleaned and dressed – before 7:45am each morning. Instead, there have been long morning cuddles and leisurely showers, albeit with a toddler and two little people sharing the bathroom with me.
Watching Monkey and Pigeon play with their little sister, chasing her around the house as she squeals with delight, dancing together, smashing the poor keys on our keyboard to create a sisterly symphony of tuneless noise, more squeals of delight… I find myself clutching my chest as it bursts with love and pride.
What’s more, for the most part, I find myself enjoying the company of my older daughters.
This week we have had our hair cut, our nails done, we have seen a contemporary dance performance. There have been several play dates, a shopping expedition across the boarder into Thailand. They have crafted and painted and made cookies and swum. There has been a trip to the Dentist and several trips to the clinic for a variety of ailments. We have even had a wart removed (I won’t say who or from where!!). We have been really busy and it has been fun.
But by this afternoon, we were all exhausted. Chilli was doing circle work and walking into walls well before 6pm. Pigeon, who had nothing left to give, lay on her bed in the fetal position weeping because, “My eyes are too tired and my nose won’t let me sleep!”.
But it was my eldest who was the most impressive. Around 4pm this afternoon, Monkey morphed into Demonspawn. Two award-winning tantrums in as many hours. She bulls-eyed just about every button she chose to push. She fell asleep, wailing even until her final moments of consciousness, I practically sculled three-quarters of a bottle of red wine and sat in the dark for over an hour before the call of nature dragged me out of my catatonic stupor.
… and this is only week one… fabulous!
Thanks for reading… I make no promises about writing again until the “Summer” ends, but it is good to know you are here if I need you.
Last week was pretty bloody miserable. There were more bodily fluids violently ejected from little bodies than in Monty Python’s “The meaning of Life”. My mother, who is visiting, was overcome by a series of illnesses, culminating in something called tri-geminal neuralgia. This left her incapacitated and plagued with absurd facial spasms that would have been funny had they not been so obviously painful.
I was not immune from whatever horrid bug has been working it’s way through our household. For the record, I can confirm that nausea and cramping are even less pleasant when your abdomen is still healing from major surgery.
Around the time this plague of misery descended on our Big Wooden House, G left for a series of meetings in Australia. Let’s just say I didn’t accept his absence graciously!
In the midst of it all I had to attend a series of handover meetings for a new (temporary) job, which involved juggling sick kids and popping pills to ease my own symptoms so that I could endure the hideously dull training sessions without hurling.
I would love to say I kept my sense of humour throughout. I didn’t! I was grumpy and, on more than one occasion, indulged in a little late-night pity-party for one.
I would love to say I tended my sick brood with only compassion and tenderness but the truth is that there were moments when I just wanted my exhausted, hungry, miserable. clingy, vomiting toddler to leave me alone for five minutes.
There is no denying that the last week sucked. We all hate it when Daddy is away. Sick children break your heart. Vomit smells bad. Dettol smells worse. Feeling sick is… well… feeling sick.
But here’s the thing…
The last few days didn’t suck.
Unexpectedly, Daddy’s trip was shortened and he arrived home early. I missed him so much. His return made all his girls so happy.
I have not opened a Dettol bottle since Monday. Could it be we are all on the mend?
Going to work hasn’t been too bad. Despite the gear change it will mean for out household, I think it might be fun.
Something fabulous happened to me a couple of weeks ago, a profound and permanent shift in my self perception.
I BECAME a mother-of-three daughters.
Yes… I am fully aware that Chilli was born 17 months ago. I have loved her and her crooked little smile since the day she was born. But that doesn’t change the fact that until two weeks ago, deep in my heart, at the core of my being, in my marrow, I didn’t really integrate her existence into what I defined as ‘my family’.
After she was born I felt like I was leading a double life. I had a baby to care for. She was mine and I loved her. For the first six months she and I slept together in the nursery. I will treasure forever the memory of that time, her nestled in the crook of my arm all squishy and precious, nursing her in the twilight. She was my tiny, pink treasure, my secret love affair.
In the morning, I would get up and take care of my family, G and my two smart, intuitive, magnificent daughters. If I was lucky, ‘the baby’ would sleep until ‘the big girls’ had left for school so that I didn’t have to try and juggle the two… they were the good days.
Afternoons and evenings, weekends, holidays… those things were a little more difficult to handle. Somehow I was expected to integrate the two elements of my life into a cohesive whole. After a while, things got messy and the affair started to sour. The baby got in the way of my family time, The family got in the way of my time with the baby. There was absolutely no possibility of any ‘me’ time.
I resented everyone.
I yelled too much.
I cried alone.
When the baby was about 8 months old, I travelled, with the girls, to Australia for what I fondly call the shit fucked disaster misery tour. With the benefit of hindsight, perhaps flying home for three weeks without G was a bit of a stupid idea, especially when I was already wrestling with the darkness. Add a little family drama and an unexpected illness, the trip was an emotional marathon – long, lonely and relentless.
It wasn’t all bad. Monkey and Pigeon reminded me again and again what extraordinary, resilient, fabulous girls they are. We made a good team. The baby started to crawl. We spent lots of time in Australia’s wonderful public parks. I saw old friends. I made some decisions that would change my life, including meeting a lady who would help me change my perspective (big ups to you Sue Lester).
One of the first things I talked about with Sue was my conflicted feelings about the baby. I love the baby. I never wanted the baby. I resent having a baby. I love the baby… round and round in ever decreasing circles of pointless negativity.
She asked me to do a very simple thing.
“Start using her name, Pip.”
(…and the tears roll down my face, again!)
“Anchali, I love you.”
So Chilli became a person. She became her own person. Chilli REALLY liked that. Chilli the unique, wicked, funny, happy, little person. Chilli started walk and talk, express opinions… loudly! Chilli, the little sister, started terrorising her siblings.
Yet, despite all that, and my love for her, she was not a part of ‘my family’. Crazy, I know, but true. It was like I had two images – cute baby/ happy family -and I just couldn’t photoshop them together.
Locating my children in the playground, or at a party, I counted like this – one, two… tick! one… tick!
When asked, “How many children do you have?”
Well, I have two daughters… and then there is this toddler that lives in our house. She is really adorable and I love her to pieces. I gave birth to her. So I guess that means in total, altogether, if you really get down to it, um… three… “I have three children!”
Did it have to be so hard? Was it going to be like this forever? I worried. What was wrong with me? My youngest child was over a year old. I still had to consciously add her the tally when I counted my kids.
Patience… not my greatest strength… I waited!
…and then, two weeks ago…
Lao and Thailand were celebrating Bpii Mai, the biggest holiday of the year. G had taken some time off. Our family (including my mother, who had just arrived from Australia) packed up the super- sexy, Kia Carnival for a road trip across the Mekong into Thailand.
The Isaan region is home to some of the best Som Tum, Gai Yang and Kaw Niaw (Papaya Salad, Fried Chicken and Sticky Rice) in the world so it would have been remiss not to stop at what was hailed as the best Gai Yang shop in Isaan. We had been driving for almost 4 hours. Everyone was hungry and grumpy and needing to go to the toilet. I parked the car, shut off the engine, started unloading the kids… one… two… three!
I did a mental double take. It must have been a mistake, I was tired after all and mentally drained. I had just spent several hours driving my LHD car in RHD Thailand. No reason to get too exited.
We negotiated our way through the car park and I wrangled the girls safely inside the restaurant… Monkey, one… Chilli, two… where is three? Daddy rushed her to the toilet, no worries. Three! I did it again.
Seated, I looked around the table. Pigeon was discussing the relative merits of ‘busy’ water vs normal water with her dad (busy = fizzy). Monkey was organising her place at the table; plate goes here, cup here, fried chicken here, napkins here. Chilli was sitting on her grandmother’s lap stuffing her face with fistfuls of sticky rice. Everyone was laughing and eating. This was my family. These three magnificent little girls were my daughters. I choked back tears of gratitude.
That afternoon we set up camp… in a nice hotel… with a pool… in the middle of the red light district… in Khon Kaen… and our family hung out for the duration of the 4 day celebrations. Over and over again I kept including Chilli in my mental family stocktake. It was effortless.
My mum’s room was down the hall from ours. My heart could have burst as I watched my three girls, hand-in-hand, Chilli in the middle, toddling down the hall to check on YayYay before breakfast.
My three girls!
Easy as that.
Finally, after all this time, a mother-of-three.
This was a lovely week for goods news. Two different friends are expanding their brood and expecting their second child. Congratulations! Enjoy the ride. It will all fall into place and when it does it will be FABULOUS!
Thanks for reading. I would love to hear from you. Comment, like, share, follow, or do nothing. You were here. You’re fabulous!
When my second daughter was born I found myself in the grip of Post Natal Depression and it really sucked…. Mother’s Love (part one)
However, by the time Pigeon turned one I had accepted and embraced my crazy little family. We were complete. I was 37 years old and I had two beautiful daughters and a loving partner who was a wonderful dad.
I could clearly remember what my life was like before children (staying up after 9pm, getting up after 5am) Of course there was still the occasionally nostalgic whimsy about going to concerts and staying out until dawn and making fashion choices based on ‘fashion’ rather than which floral pattern was most likely to hide the boob juice stains… but this was a new phase in my life with G and I kind of liked it.
We moved back to Australia, briefly, with our little sticky rice eating princesses and rented a cottage in Canberra (Please don’t think we wanted to live in Canberra, it was a decision based on G’s work)
Now THAT was some serious culture shock!
Monkey and Pigeon did not like the cold. They did not like wearing shoes indoors, they did not like having to go to daycare. They wanted temples with ‘orange monks’ and street food and the constant adulation that all western children get when in Asia (particularly blonde haired, blue eyed ones who speak the local language)
Mummy and Daddy did not like the cold. They did not like wearing shoes indoors, they did not like having to take their girls to daycare. They wanted temples with ‘orange monks’ and street food… ooh… the street food!
Australia had some benefits. I LOVED being back at work. We grew vegetables. We drank good coffee. I have to admit I was enjoying the ‘normality’ of it all. However, G was not happy. He HATED Canberra… and the cold… and his job was pretty dull after all the excitement of his time in Asia.
So, when an opportunity for him to move to Vientiane, Laos presented itself there really wasn’t too much debate. I packed up the house and the kids (again) and we moved back to South East Asia just as the the winter frosts subsided and the tulips and daffodils I had so lovingly planted started to bloom.
Our uplift was limited so I took the opportunity to ‘spring clean’ our belongings. Goodbye cot, change table, stroller, baby clothes, monitor, maternity bras, breastfeeding tops and other essentials of babyhood. The girls were both in beds now. Nappies were a thing of the past. We were moving on.
I was excited. I had beaten PND. I had survived the early years of motherhood and breastfeeding. Finally there would be more balance in my life, still mostly mummy but maybe, sometimes just me.
So we settled into Vientiane. The girls loved it. G loved his new job. I concentrated on keeping it all together and began my first tentative steps back into the world of adult conversation and job hunting.
One day my boobs started to hurt. I started to cry during episodes of ‘Modern Family’. Wine started to taste like vinegar. I was overwhelmed by unexplained bouts of nausea.
Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck!
I bought a test and left it in my handbag for another week. I didn’t say a word to G. I was sick to my stomach with fear. Finally, in the pre-dawn light after yet another sleepless and dread-filled night, I pee’d on that bloody test-strip and watched, numb with shock and horror, as the two blue lines appeared once more.
It was like the air had been sucked out of the room. I could actually feel the blackness descending…. again! I opened the bathroom door and walked to our bed. I don’t actually remember what I said to G. Probably something along the lines of, “Well, everything is fucked, I’m pregnant again!”.
He lay motionless for a moment, then sat up and grinned! It was a look of pure joy. It was a smile that sprang from the depths of his heart.
His honest and heartfelt response was, to say the least, not what I had expected. I had been assuming more ‘shock and horror’. How dare he hit me with ‘joy and delight’.
“You don’t get it do you, this is the worst thing that had ever happened to me.”
“You don’t get it do you, this is a wonderful, magical gift.”
Quite obviously, we were not on the same page!!!
I contemplated a termination. I am a firm believer in freedom of choice for women. However, after giving life to two precious souls already, it was harder to make that decision. More to the point, there was nowhere I could safely and legally access that procedure in Lao,s or even in Thailand. I could have returned to Australia and investigated my options but… and this was the deciding factor …G had smiled. This was his baby too and he already loved it.
My world went into a tailspin as I came to terms with this new reality. I tried to focus on the practicalities, keep busy preparing for the arrival, planning the birth (I couldn’t have the baby in Laos as there are woefully inadequate facilities and the logistics of moving to Bangkok for a couple of months were quite time consuming), sourcing a cot, buying a ‘family size car’, preparing Monkey and Pigeon for being big sisters (they were so very excited) but the truth is I was miserable.
I withdrew completely from G. I couldn’t even bear his touch. It must have been so hard no him. How could I begin to explain what I was feeling.
I don’t want another baby. I am heading towards 40. I have done my ‘baby’ time. I want MY LIFE BACK. This was not what I planned. This is not what I want. What about me? What about me? What about me? I can’t do this again. I am not strong enough. If I get sick again, if the darkness takes over again I won’t make it. I know I won’t make it. I am so afraid. Please…. help me… I am so afraid of the dark.
My belly swelled. My body ached and I waited, in fear, for the birth of our third child.
I moved to Bangkok. My ankles swelled. My body ached and I waited, in fear, for the birth of our third child.
G and Monkey and Pigeon arrived in Bangkok. I was fit to burst. My heart ached and I waited, in fear, for the birth of our third child.
On December 1st at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, while watching TV in our apartment, the baby let me know it was time. Between breathtakingly rapid and intense contractions I kissed the big girls goodbye, struggled downstairs, hopped in a tuk-tuk (yes, a tuk-tuk) and made my way to the Hospital.
At 4:45pm our daughter, Chilli, made her fast and furious entrance into the world.
Let me hold my baby. Please, please, just let me hold my baby.
She was pink and slimy and naked and squashed. She was beautiful and tiny and precious.