Inadequate.

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“But I struggle to pull together bits of my worth and tape them piece by tangled piece into something resembling a person.” 

I have never wanted anything as badly as I wanted to be your Mama. I dreamed about you, I cried for you and I fought for you. Then you were here, and you were unutterably perfect. You made me fierce, you made me brave and you made us a family. You dragged me over coals, you showed me this new world through your eyes. I cherish every beat your ridiculous heart has taken since I saw it flicker away on a screen with a probe I was emotionally ill-prepared for. But I got to see you so I didn’t care.

I have done this twice, I have watched flickers turn into limbs turn into features and then met that face in a perfect moment while repeating ‘Hello baby! Hello! Hello! I love you! Hello!’ Even though I tried really hard to say something more meaningful the second time it seemed I was a compulsive greeter. Which is fine because neither of you really cared. You were there mainly for the boob, which was completely understandable, and having some lady screech the same word at you and sob was probably distracting.

You’re both perfect. You’re both intensely strange little people, one who shouts out after dogs ‘You have a great waggy tail! Really great!’ and then looks at said dogs owner like ‘who the hell are you?’ when they chat to you. Plus another who insists that gumboots are practical footwear for every occasion. Including sleeping. You are joy and laughter all wrapped up in button noses and butterfly kisses with the occasional catastrophic meltdown.

Being your mama makes me feel more inadequate than I could have possibly imagined.

Because I really wanted to be good at this. I am fine with sacrifice, I am so fine with sacrifice. I am patient, kind, and I love you more than anybody will ever love you (I know eventually you’ll probably meet someone and maybe even create additional weirdos but pfft, I will still love you more and that’s just an indisputable fact because Mama) but I struggle to pull together bits of my worth and tape them piece by tangled piece into something resembling a person at least once a week.

This, as usual, has much more to do with me than it does you. This is about my perception of perfection and striving for something which a) doesn’t exist and b) is kinda fucked. This is about failing in public and dealing with strangers. This is about having a plan most mornings to make buckwheat pancakes and instead having three coffees because a child slept on my face. This is about reading articles about the importance of a back up plan when you’re a SAHM because divorce and realising that ‘write some shit about vampires because people love vampires’ is not an adequate back up plan and then giving my husband shifty eyes when he says he’s going to Bunnings.

This is about Mothering in a society that tells you ‘you need a village’ and then shows images of mothers who probably just needed a village, and instead wound up on social media at their lowest moment with their parenting and their hearts open to flagellation. This is about trust, and faith, and how I trust you so much to tell me what you need in some form or another and then get told that I’m pandering to you and you’ll get over it. This is about my complete confusion in raising you in this world neither of us can control or even interpret sometimes, and wanting to just sit down and watch The Little Mermaid with you and explain why it’s sexist and marrying a prince is probably less cool than being a mermaid but still sing along to ‘Under The Sea.’

This is about going ‘yeah, he’s Autistic’ with varying degrees of defiance and warning in my voice because I wish I could say it the same way I go ‘yeah, he’s tall’ but I never quite know what response I’ll get.

I live in dichotomy, and I can’t figure out if I’m giving you either an incredibly valuable childhood or a really shitty role model who is devoid of reasonable back up plans. I’m lucky enough to be a SAHM, but I’m still conflicted about being lucky enough to be a SAHM because there is no other job I’ve done where I’ve gotten so little feedback or been so aware of the impossible expectations placed on me. The most response I get from raising you both is a) you’re growing because I have to keep buying clothes and b) your grandparents really like you.

I’m drowning in being a mama and it’s so weird that I’m laughing while I’m doing it. I try and think of the future, of being on my death bed (I’m so fucking chirpy!) of the things I will find valuable and the steps I’ve left behind me – and of course my family comes first. Then I wonder if I’ll remember the day I hid under the bed to write emails or that sinking feeling when a urine-soaked child crab walks up to you and you know you don’t have spare clothes. The failures stay with me too.

There is an emotional labour to this mothering thing that I don’t think ever ends, a continual outpouring, pleading, joy and a few ‘I can’t do this’ rendings. I just have to trust that this inadequacy I live in, this filtering I do of what to expose you to and what to protect you from even whilst some barbs hit me exactly where it hurts – I need to figure out how to live in this.

So yes, I love this life, but I feel so inadequate.

And yet, every night I tiptoe into your bedrooms, kiss your sweet faces and compulsively say ‘Good night, good night, I love you! Good night!’

 

From Exhaustion to Love.

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Exhaustion happens quietly. There is no sudden realisation – a cold rush of comprehension, that your limbs will not obey you the way you’ve come to think they should. Exhaustion is slow, it creeps its way over your body. Leaving in its path a weight, a heaviness that expands each day as you push and pull heavy arms and legs through this ever-thickening fog. You don’t reflect on it, you don’t truly experience it; you just sigh and think ‘I’m tired.’ Sometimes, you sleep and you sleep (or you don’t and you don’t) and still the weight never quite leaves, it’s anchored to your form as you wrench yourself along the path of motherhood, life and love. Exhaustion does not announce itself. It sighs, it rubs hands over your face and fills your mind with forgotten things instead of facts and needs. Exhaustion is not loud. It is quiet. It reveals itself in slow movements, in deep sighs and sentences beginning with ‘I’m ok, I just…’

Fear hides too. Fear is a finger sliding down your back, creeping up your spine, ice on your skin through the thickest layers. Fear holds your arms and wants to make your helpless. Fear is a memory and a promise and both feel real even when they’re not. Fear lives in corners, in darkness and in the eyes of strangers. Fear pours out of keys struck on social media and wants to leave imprints on your mind, a never-ending wake of vitriol.

Panic is thunder riding on your heartbeat. A pulsing in your blood and a rushing through your brain. A breath that never reaches your lungs and a reaching for something just. out. of. reach. But you breathe the breaths you don’t believe will save you and slowly, the thunder retreats.

Love is quiet too, it stays quite close to panic and fear and exhaustion, it stays where it’s needed. Love is in a friend who told you ‘I know you’re used to accepting second best, but not with this’ and so you didn’t. Love is tiny hands that slip into yours and clear eyes that brighten when you kiss tiny cheeks. Love is still waking up in your partner’s arms, when you can’t remember falling asleep in them at night. Love is patient, it waits while you comprehend the exhaustion, and the fear and the panic; it waits for its turn. Love is always last, but perhaps it needs to be.

Touch has a memory: Owning your skin.

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10 Tiny Toes

Dear Daughter,

Keats said that ‘touch has a memory’, and while he didn’t have a daughter, he was a poet and he loved someone so perhaps he knows something about it. I do have a daughter, you, and I hope he was right; I hope touch does have a memory. I fervently hope that the many hours I have spent holding you in my arms have sunk in somewhere deep; and when you’re older and I’m far away you will run your own fingers over your face and a tiny part of you will light up with memory.

I want the delight I poured into your skin to be swept into your soul, I want it to stay there and keep you safe, keep you strong when the world inevitably tells you that you’re not ‘enough.’ I want you to own your body, to be completely and utterly certain of its power and strength, and also of the undisputable fact that it belongs to you. I want you to feel like iron in your skin, whole and complete.

There are girls, already, who are being taught that they are not the owners of their skin, that their bodies are not built for running and skipping, but for something far darker. When your Daddy blows raspberries on your belly you laugh, you have that guttural laugh that little girls sometimes have – like you’ve been hanging out in the backyard smoking a pack a day rather than making mud pies. Sometimes you’re still laughing as you hold up your hand and say ‘Stop! Stop!’ Your Daddy stops, he stops at your words, he stops when you wriggle your body away and he stops when your laugh just isn’t quite right. May all the people in your life honour your right to your skin. You have a privilege in being taught this, in being protected in ways other girls are not (I know, I cannot truly protect you, and neither can you, believe me I know). Some of those girls are in far-away countries, but probably one is also on our street. I hope the injustice that happens in our society fills you with rage. I hope the way you are loved allows you see that injustice more clearly. I hope you fight for other women, I hope you use your voice as an ally, a supporter but not a rescuer; people are strong but they do need empathy, and understanding. You will be a better person for obtaining that understanding.

I want your body to be a place of safety for you. I want you climb mountains, swim in the ocean and cuddle up under blankets with someone you love. I want you to do those things wearing whatever the hell you want. Society will try and tell you that your skin somehow belongs to them, that other people have a right to tell you how much of it to show, how much of it to cover and what to do with it. Society is wrong. You own your skin. Our world is imperfect but your body is not.

You won’t ever remember the months you spent growing under my heartbeat, or the months afterwards that saw you sleeping over that same heart, my arms wrapped around you and kisses placed on your forehead. You won’t consciously remember how hungrily I searched your face, wanting to know who you were, how I ran my fingers over your baby arms and legs and counted your baby fingers and toes. Perhaps a part of you will remember it anyway. I hope you love your skin as much as I do, I hope you value it as much and I hope you stay out of the sun on hot days because your skin while fantastic, does not like the sun.

You will always be loved, always,

Mummy.

Keats, J. ‘To -‘ ‘What can I do to drive away’ https://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/k/keats/john/poems/to–.html

 

This Is What We’ll Remember

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She wanted a ride on the merry-go-round. Of course. We line up while she hops from one foot to the other (this is called waiting patiently). When it’s her turn she and her Daddy dash off to find a horse.

I watch, but I’m not really seeing.

Then there’s this moment as the merry-go-round spins, and I’m struck. Tinkly music swells through the air and sunlight strikes the strands of gold in her hair and I love her. There has never been day of her life when I haven’t told her I loved her. But every so often it’s a break-your-heart love, a love that cracks you open, fills you up and makes you realize how deeply and utterly in love you are.

Part of me wishes we could stay here, in this moment. I want to tell her: We could stay here and I could always be your Mummy, I could always watch the smile tiptoe from your lips to your eyes and down into your hands as you throw your arms out wide and shriek ‘wheee!’ in the rushing wind. I wish the farthest the world would take you away from me is the other side of that merry-go-round, and that it would perpetually bring you back. I wish you would always seek me out, eyes roaming through the other people who are waving to their pieces of their hearts riding on painted horses. You see me, you have one hand gripping a cheap golden rod and the other waving frantically. For me. Half your joy in this ride is for yourself, but the other half is sharing that with me.

I remember when I was pregnant and crying one afternoon- a mess of belly on the floor. I knew I would adore you, love you and already loved you with each heartbeat that drummed through me, but I was crying because you would love me back. You would love me. It would be built into your survival, part of your DNA. I am imperfect, and I will hand you some kind of uncertainty in one way or another; and you will love me still. There is no-one in the world that could love me as much as you. My baby. No-one who will seek me out, need me, cry for me and wait for me with every single tick of the clock like you will.

I cried for the beauty of that love, but also for the weight of it. I want to be worthy of your love, but you will give it to me whether I am or not.

Back at the merry-go-round the lady next to me speaks. She’s older, with silver hair and fine lines flowing across her cheeks like cracks in a beautiful vase. She’s watching her grandchildren just as intently as I watch my daughter. ‘Your daughter is an angel,’ she says. ‘Thank you,’ I give my usual smiling shrug, meant to convey unbridled love but tempered with reality.

I keep watching, truly seeing now.

Everything is condensing into this moment. The music, the sun, the gold chipping off the paint and the clear blue eyes that look for me with each revolution.

‘This is what you will remember’, she says, ‘moments like this.’ I nod, I can’t look away from my girl, I’m trying to remember. She’s right. You’re an angel.

I think of all the people who have watched children they love go on this ride, watched them as they carefully or haphazardly chose horses, watched innocent hearts examine the patterns on saddles and waited for the whirring to begin – a slow circle of childhood. There is always someone waving, a heart seeking a heart to make a connection – an endless ‘do you see me? Do you see how fun this is? Do you see me?’ This is what we will remember.

The ride ends, she slips off the horse and runs to me. She smells like sunshine and the grass she was playing in earlier. She is lit up. Glowing. I pick her up and notice how heavy she is now. Her whole body used to fit between my collarbone and my belly button, and now her legs trail down almost to my knees.

She loves me with every piece of her heart. The weight of that is not a burden, it is a gift. This is what I will remember, the love, the moments in the sun: this is what we all remember.

 

Falling in love with the Father of my Children.

Dear Father of my Children,

A lifetime ago we sat on my bed and spoke about kids. My heart was thumping because we’d only been together for six or so months, but I knew I loved you. You said that you found it difficult to imagine the person you’d spend your life with (um, hello, I was right there) but you’d always found it easy to imagine having children. You were right. It was easy to imagine having children, especially our children who would naturally inherit your height, but my sarcasm, my eyes, but your eyelashes (you lucky bastard). The reality was a tad different. I called you the day after we were told to prepare for our third miscarriage, one twin lost and a heartbeat nowhere near where it should be. I was lying on the couch and afraid to move,‘Are you ok?’ you asked quickly with anxiety cracking your voice. ‘We’re keeping this baby’ I said firmly, on the basis of nothing but hope. And we did.

You held him, wrapped up in a blanket with the rain pouring down the window behind you. He looked so tiny in your arms but when you handed him to me I said ‘Fuck he’s huge!’ You rocked the crap out of fatherhood. We were Team Breastfeed and you only mildly swore when I woke you up to get more cushions so I could change boobs. You baby-wore and could wrap a stretchy like lightning. You held our son and watched terrible, terrible television in the middle of the night so I could grab a few consecutive hours sleep. Mainly, you loved us. Your eyes would light up as you saw us after a long day, sometimes they would dim again as you took in the carnage, but generally you were pretty happy.

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I want to eat your face Daddy! YOUR FACE!

The boy became our world, and on his 1st Birthday we decided we needed a bigger world. Which naturally meant another baby. Our daughter arrived in the sun, light streaming through windows and resting on her perfect wrinkled face. She was born pouting, and it’s still her fallback expression.

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I may have only been in the world for 24 hours, but I’m old enough to appreciate ennui.

Again, you loved us. However, things were hard. Too often it was easier to take one child each and go our separate ways than navigate this new family. For the first time we understood that marriages can fail, that loving each other didn’t make us immune to not being happy. So you took a year off. Of course you did, we needed you and you were there, like you’d always promised to be. We lived on fumes and noodles, but I watched you fall in love with your daughter and remembered that you didn’t suck. You’d push the stroller and we’d go find trucks for our children to watch while we drank coffee and discovered we could still make each other laugh.

When we were told our perfect boy was autistic we said ‘Yep, we figured that,’ and bought five of the both kinds of shirt he would wear. But later, I cried. I asked if you had known that he would be autistic, would you have still had children with me? You held my hand and said, clearly and concisely so there was no mistaking it ‘I would have wanted him sooner.’

I watch you sometimes, I’m hoping that’s not creepy but it probably is. I see you with our children and you’re not quite the man I remember falling in love with. This isn’t the life we planned, we have far too many conversations about what to have for dinner and we live in the suburbs. My god, we drive a hybrid. But the man you used to be wouldn’t cope with our life. He wouldn’t wear a toddler on his back to look at video games he has no time to play, and he wouldn’t brush his daughter’s hair every morning and put in the dozens of clips she requests. Most of all, he wouldn’t love me with the same intensity and devotion that you do. But you, the father of my children, you love us wholeheartedly. You see our madness and you meet it with your own, you never flinch at hard days, you might order pizza and put beer in the fridge but you’re there with me, supporting us and loving us the best way you know how. Even when that means dancing to Gangham Style before bed. Every.Freaking.Day. I’m privileged to have fallen in love with you twice, and I’ll keep falling in love with you as many times as it takes. Because we’ve got this.

Love,

The Mother of your Children

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