30 March 2012

reading therapy

The upward swing continues. Helped along by the boy's improving reflux - or at least his  becoming somewhat of a 'happy chucker' - and increasing interactive cuteness. I have also started reading two books, which both had me punching the air after about the first 20 pages.

Susan Maushart's The Mask of Motherhood: how becoming a mother changes our lives and why we never talk about it (strangely only available as a US imprint via Amazon).  And The Divided Heart by Rachel Power, a series of musings based on interviews with prominent artists about the wrestle between the incongruous worlds of kids and art (or a creative life, for those less aspirational :).

We know people who are considering babies for the first time. I have had to stop tie myself to a chair to stop from running headlong at them shrieking 'don't do it!'. (And then flail around trying to explain why without sounding frazzled, burnt and totally uncool.) Which is nothing short of awful. But now, thanks in large part to these books, I think I understand why.

Along with the highs, becoming a mum has been an often-bleak 'who moved my cheese?' experience for me, for many reasons - from traumatic birth and breastfeeding experiences to the very large role-adjustment and the demands of a refluxy baby. All with an entirely overworked, under-appreciated support network of one, who has had to deal with my frequent meltdowns whilst starting a new job and moving his wifey, new baby and our worldly possessions (minus a bus) to a windswept outpost. I have also lamented strongly the incredibly limited capacity I have now for creative time.

Thankfully I'm feeling a lot less like this. And more like someone who can see the wondrous journey unfolding. And delighting in my cutest, most edible baby.

Susan Maushart's book in particular had me simultaneously whimpering and cheering (internally of course) in recognition. In that way when someone articulates your own latent but furiously percolating thoughts. Not just one, but layers of understanding only possible through lived experience. I should add a small caveat: I have only read the first chapter, though the introduction alone snagged me good and proper.

I could be wrong, but the recent surges in E's development make me think I will enjoy parenting little kids - and then big kids - more than I've enjoyed (or often not) the new baby phase.

Anyway. This is all a bit of a jumble. But I totally recommend these books to anyone thinking baby thoughts. I wish I'd discovered them earlier - and not just before I dropped a bomb on a counsellor. One of the contentions in Susan Maushart's book is around the silence on the reality of parenthood - that we're caught up in the need to compete and compare ourselves and our babies and therefore gloss it all up and secret away the downs.

I'm not sure if it's kosher, but I'm going to email the prospective baby-ers my reading recommendations.

So there.

28 March 2012


After months of frustrated dribbly chomping, it seemed like it would never arrive. And then it finally came through! A few days shy of eight months (six months gestation). Naively, I thought that might relieve some of his discomfort. I should have known. It seems there are others following closely behind. Though, happily, we've returned to our semblance of sleep. He is back to settling reasonably well for the night -  we had wake-ups every 40 minutes after going down, for a few hours - and sleeping through, with one or two dreamfeeds - he had been waking every one to two hours for more weeks than my bleary brain can count. We've also welcomed a cooling in the weather which has been absolute bliss. We can now venture outside during the day without sweltering, and without it aggravating his reflux. Which, being aggravated by stress generally, has also benefited from the tooth arriving and the temperature drop. And it is getting lighter later, which seems to be helping him sleep longer. No 4am or 5am starts for about four days now. Hooray! This is the good stuff!

Pics of the toofy grin coming when it becomes a bit more visible. 

24 March 2012


So I've mentioned before that E is big for his age. Even for his birth (not gestational) age. He's a few days shy of eight months old - so six months gestationally. I thought he was about the size of a twelve month old, going by clothes sizes - he's in zeros and ones now. Until we were accosted in our travels in Brisbane yesterday by a chatty three-year old, his two-year old sister and Mum. E was the same size as the two-year old!

Fast forward a few hours. We're at our GP who did a measure and weigh and checked his percentiles. He's now above the 97th percentile for weight. The chart ends at the 97th percentile. And he's somewhere around 75th percentile for length. She then proceeded to tell me he is obese. Her words. I was gobsmacked. Incredulous. And mad. Are you kidding me? How can a baby be considered obese? Sure, maybe if I was plying him with sugary snacks and letting him watch TV all day instead of having physical play.

We still do a combination of breastmilk and formula. In the past few weeks, we've tried the occasional bite of fruit or veg, but his gag reflex is still strong. Yes, he is fed on demand. Yes, he eats a lot. No, I do not blindly stick a bottle in his mouth every time he cries. If he won't be settled, I try milk and usually discover that yes, he was hungry.

Behind a number of suggestions given to me by the GP was the inference that I feed him too much. I know formula-fed babies don't regulate their milk intake as well as those exclusively breastfed. And they are generally bigger. But I refuse to let him go hungry because he doesn't fit a norm. She also suggested his reflux might settle with less milk. After coming back down to a simmer over the past 24 hours, I can see why this makes sense. But what he drinks is more problematic than how much he drinks. I know this because he'll vomit his first small formula feed of the day when he is eating on an empty stomach. I give him smaller feeds because of the reflux. (I've also tried fewer larger feeds, out of desperation that something might help). The reflux and feeding is a vicious cycle - the more he vomits, the more he wants to feed to soothe himself and replace the milk he lost. 

She also suggested that maybe I am making more milk than I think. I can put a ballpark figure on how much milk I think my body makes, with 95% certainty. Assuming he gets more than I think, he is still choosing to drink the amount he does because he is hungry or needs comforting!

It's not the first time our GP has commented on his weight and how much we feed him. Despite it making me fume, it also makes me second-guess myself. I came home and googled obesity in babies, and read some interesting but inconclusive studies. But I keep coming back to this.
He is appropriately chubby - no one comments on his size until they know his age. He is also very long - but then so are his parents. And hey, we are also both pretty slim and eat very healthily, so I think his chances for turning out the same are pretty good. Call me old-fashioned, but babies are meant to have fat. It fuels their awesome growth. Some will have more, some less. This article has influenced my thinking a lot. I have tried holding off feeds for as long as I can and it just makes us both grumpy and stressed. He is - apart from the reflux - healthy, and has been trending upwards on both weight and length charts since his birth. He started life so small that gaining weight was a good thing! (And no, I am not overcompensating for that.) We are grateful that he is happy and thriving.

I get the wider social context with rampant childhood obesity, but I really resent her judgement. And the term 'obese' in the case of a healthy baby is pretty severe judgement. I resent that Western medicine ideologies have to fit everything into a box of known proportions, rather than assess an individual holistically. Am I being overly sensitive? Perhaps. I'm reassured by K, who is there when E is ravenous and knows what it's like. Who counteracts my niggly self-doubts about this and many other little things and tells me what a great job we are doing as parents. Perhaps she never had a difficult baby. A very hungry baby. Would she make these judgements if she had?

Sadly, after this and a few other things rubbing us up the wrong way, we are on the hunt for a new GP.

13 March 2012


I have felt creatively re-inspired. Like, bursting. To make things, write, photograph and reinvent. I don't want to lose that feeling.

We've been picking tomatoes, basil, rocket, capsicums and zucchini.
And swimming in sweet potato. 

K diverted our greywater to the garden and found a pile of wood washed up on the beach which will frame up some shadecloth.

We had our first proper alone time in seven months. Dinner. I laughed more in an hour than in recent memory. It was good.

E is having a huge developmental spurt, babytalking ad nauseum and getting the sitting thing down. He's also grown some more hair! Here's hoping a tooth will follow suit.

His reflux had also significantly improved. Until, of course, I uttered those words aloud. But I'm choosing to see it as two steps forward.

I have been making porridge and ordering books.

Over the course of several days, I made celery salt. We've been buying celery for E to gnaw on, and I cursed those luscious leaves going to waste. All for want of time.

Over the course of several weeks, I rolled two hanks into knittable balls of wool. Upon discovering the loose scraps of paper I have relied on for knitting instruction have evaporated, I got serious and ordered a book. Whose arrival shall precede kick-off on the long-awaited blanket project.

I've picked up the camera again. My zoom lens seems to be having the same problem which killed my last one. I'm entertaining the idea of springing for an altogether new camera.

I've been looking at envying people with older kids and wondering how they manage to live the life creative. And realising there is hope for our life creative.

I've also begun to realise what a dark tunnel I've been in. And how far we've come. According to many a search result returned by Mr Google, the boy was probably a 'high-needs' baby in the early days, in that he was often in discomfort from reflux
and I couldn't really put him down. Luckily, he's getting much better on both counts.

Struggling with wake-ups. Struggling to parent mindfully and not be too distracted by the mess/the internet. Struggling to Brisbane and back in one day alone with the boy.

I've started the mammoth job of wiping off mould which has appeared on most of our surfaces after a hot and wet summer. I'm using clove oil which makes our house smell like gingerbread!

We've been having conversations about me going back to work. I'll need to mount a case to telecommute. Or as K calls it, teleport. And we've been talking about getting an au pair. I'm dragging my heels on the idea. Even though it's the only way I can really go back to work.

Trying to plot a trip to Binginwarri via Melbourne.

And more.

04 March 2012

lighthouse days

We moved here in September last year with our small babe,
two weeks after we brought him home from hospital,
and two weeks before he was due to arrive.

He is now super sized and I've written nothing of our windswept Cape,
our lighthouse cottage or our island home.

And there's a framed note, typed by a little girl who lived here in the 1970s with her two sisters and their dog, Fluffy (!!).
Which got me thinking about writing my own notes
about lighthouse life.

I must start with the views - it's either them or the weather.
Our windows could be paintings hanging on the wall,
ever-changing watercolour daubs of ocean, banksia and sky
and dunes, coastline unfolding south. 

I often stop - mid-laundering, mid-sweeping, mid-whatever - to wonder at the impossibility of such views. 

And how we were ever lucky enough to find ourselves here.

Lately it's been clear enough to see the thin ribbon of beach on the mainland
and the silhouette of the Glasshouse Mountains and Mount Coolum.
From my bed I see trawlers winking in the night.

The weather at the Cape is never dull

Some days equatorial, oppressive with not a whiff of breeze.
On these days you'd never guess that the
muddy splatter on the bathroom ceiling is from the south-easterly forcing rain up through cracks in the louvres.

The wind! It is why our clothesline is inside the house!

It has all kinds of sounds.

Sometimes up in the lighthouse it's like a swarm of bees.

Other times, I'm convinced there's a choir wandering the public track.
And of course there's the plain old howling and whooshing.

We've had bushfires and flooding rain.

There's lots of burnt country now and new lakes in the dunes.

Coastal lagoons appear and fade.

Roads wash away, some by ocean, some by rain.

There are no shops on the Cape, not a thing to buy*.

But horizons and blazing sunsets and the heady expanse of star-mottled sky
Punctured by a steady beam which shines four-in-twenty - how Ocker is that!

Our local is the beach.
More often than not, it's just us and the birds. 

Curlews make me laugh out loud.
Scuttling across our lawn in their stop-start, you-can't-see-me-if-I-don't-move way
And their wail in the twilight. Haunting. Beautiful.

The holes in the lawn were a mystery until one night we spied a bandicoot.
We've had green tree frogs, red bellied-blacks and carpet snakes in our yard.
And whales, egg-laying turtles, dolphins and dugong in the sea below.

Oh, here's the note, published in the Queensland Lone Guide magazine in 1973. Excuse the crappy photograph. Also, excuse the general lack of accompanying photographs... computer issues prevail.

*Actually there really aren't any shops worth entering on the island. There's a crappy general store at the resort where you can get a Magnum that's past it's use-by-date, and a general store at Bulwer, which I've never ventured into but suspect it'd be good for white sliced bread, bait and ice-creams. Our favourite place to buy things is the oyster farm down south.