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And yet

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I once went snorkeling in a series of caves underneath Cancún. The entrance was a dark, echoing cavern; a deep, ragged hole in the earth. I think of that cave whenever I see my belly button in the mirror. It’s like someone took a clay model of my midsection and left it in the sun too long.

Last week I went to the gym for the first time in a year. Loving (or tolerating) my body has been a work in progress my entire life, and in some ways it’s nice to have this tiger-striped pooch where my waist used to be. It’s like a shield, or a story written in stretch marks.

The first time I saw it after giving birth I thought “well, at least I never have to try and get into a bikini again”. And then, simultaneously, “I’ll wear a bikini if I want!” and “I can’t believe I got so fat”.

I gained 27kg during my pregnancy, due to a combination of ice cream and sitting still. I felt at the time like everything was hard enough without adding exercise and not eating ice cream into the mix. Post-birth, I lost the first 17kg without really doing anything except never having time to eat and pouring all my resources out of my nipples 12 hours a day, but that last 10kg feels like it ain’t going anywhere.

I made a human person, but I’m still obsessed with how I look in my jeans. These things don’t stack up. They aren’t of equal or similar importance. My body did something incredible for me and Brazil (and Nico, obviously). It’s still battered from it — back aches and red, scaly patches on my face, nipples turned chew toys. I don’t know if I can expect it to be like it used to be. I don’t know if I should.

I could name any photo album of my twenties “places I felt fat” and it would be an accurate description. I’ve worried I was fat everywhere from the top of the Temple of the Cross in Palenque, Mexico (I wasn’t) to an island off Tongatapu (also wasn’t) to Tokyo (wasn’t), Sydney (wasn’t) and everywhere in between (still wasn’t. Never was).

I want to be more accepting of my body, but it’s hard. I have 33 years of judging and hating and poking and prodding under my belt, and now there’s this extra weight on my stomach and hips, these gigantic breastfeeding boobs, the stretchmarks and dry skin and darker freckles and tired eyes…

It’s tough to inhabit a new body, one you didn’t choose, that’s older and weaker and looser than the one you used to have. It could be freeing, maybe, to be lifted out of your petty body confidence concerns by having all your former issues pale into insignificance. Worrying about getting into a bikini seems foolish now I’ve added stretch marks and loose pouchy skin and four cup sizes to the mix. Like I could choose to throw the whole mess into the mental trash where it belongs and focus on things that actually matter… or I could double-down and hate myself more, harder, for more concrete reasons.

I know which of those I want to choose, but it’s not quite so easy to actually do it.

I swing daily between deciding I need to go on a diet and announcing I’m going to love myself as I am. I know being thin isn’t the same as being well — but right now, I don’t feel like I’m either. My body has been stretched too far for too long. I’m not strong or flexible. My back hurts all the time and I’ve had a cold forever. It’s hard not to conflate that in my head with being slightly too heavy. In the past, there’s been a direct relationship. I’ve had too much weight on because I wasn’t eating well or exercising, and when I sorted those things out, the weight came off too. Right now, I’m eating well. I’m eating too much, but I’m eating well. I’m exercising, in a new-mum kind of way. Walks with my baby in the front pack. The occasional aborted naptime yoga attempt. There’s only so much free time to go around, and although I want to prioritise my health, I also massively resent feeling obligated to spend the eight seconds of the day I get to myself on making my appearance more palatable to others.

I’m supposed to “get my body back”, but I’m also supposed to keep breastfeeding (and, right now, I want to, even though I have Many! Opinions! that I will write about at length soon). It’s drummed into you that “supply” is infinitely perilous. Eating too little could damage it. Dieting could force you to wean early, or stop your baby gaining enough weight. When you already eat a healthy diet, the only way to lose weight is to eat less, but that could force your baby to also eat less. No matter how self-obsessed I get, I don’t want to jeopardise my baby’s chubby thighs for my own. Squeezing fat baby thighs is like 60% of the reason I had a baby in the first place.

They tell you that you’ll lose weight while you’re breastfeeding because you’re burning so many calories making food. (This is largely BS, by the way.) But that hypothesis ignores what every fad diet also seems to ignore: hunger. The hunger of a breastfeeding woman is second only to… well, a pregnant woman. Your body spent nine months laying down resources in your ass, but it’ll be damned if it’s going to use those if it doesn’t have to. We’re literally designed to store fat in our thighs like a squirrel stores nuts in the winter.

(Let’s talk sometime about how I feel about how women have all the pressure to be thin, when they not only naturally store more fat than men, but find it easier to gain and harder to lose. Then let’s sidebar about the #dadbod thing. Fuck off, society. Fuck right off.)

So, basically, my body is doing exactly what it’s meant to. It’s storing resources for my child — as many as it can get. It’s giving him antibodies and fat and all my liquids, while I drink litres and litres of water to avoid desiccating like a corpse in the desert. It grew and sheltered him, birthed him, and now it feeds him. If you want to get existential, it’s fulfilling its biological purpose. If we were grubs, I’d crawl into a hole and die once he was weaned, confident that I’d lived a rich and rewarding life.

So why can I appreciate that in others, but not in myself? Or caveat it with an “and yet…”. And yet, I’d still like to fit my old jeans. And yet, I wish I was fit again. And yet, I’m not ready to look like someone’s mum.

I am someone’s mum, though. And I remember all the times my own mother talked about how fat she was, and how every time I told her that I loved her squishy bits, because they were better for cuddling. I remember telling my nana the same thing — she worried about her weight right up into her 90s, when there was nothing left of her but bones wrapped in soft skin.

How much mental effort have I wasted on the circumference of my thighs? How many other things could I have done with that time? How much nicer a place could the inside of my head have been?

And yet.

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Adventures in multicultural relationships

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“What’s a stick in Portuguese? Stick-o?”

“You’re so racist. It’s galho.”

“Okay, then what’s a trunk?”

“…Tronco.”

“I want you to be happy and do the things you enjoy while giving me your full attention at all times.”

“I’m peeved.”

“What does peeved mean?”

“It means… you know, peeved.”

“Very helpful. Do you even remember why you’re mad at me?”

“…No. Do you?”

“I do. But I’m not dumb enough to tell you.”

“You’re not the boss of me, you’re just my manager.”

“Remember when you used to stare at me, instead of out the window? It was a magical time. You’d stare at me and not fart.”

“And I said, ‘for fuck’s sake, man, I speak two languages and read two others, is there any point on arguing this tiny point of English grammar?’”

“‘In’ arguing.”

“Now I’m peeved.”

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I don’t know if this post holds together as a cohesive whole, but then neither does my brain these days

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Nico is four and a half months old. I meant to write so much in those first four months, and instead I have a handful of half-finished sentences and scrawled thoughts, and 7,185 photos in my camera roll. (See, Facebook, I am being restrained.)

I just read back some of those scrawled thoughts — they’re like an ice bath now, a sudden dunk back into those first weeks of fear and pain and exhaustion. Of being terrified to do anything and also to not do everything and Google telling me over and over again sixteen million times a day that breastfeeding is the only answer and that everything is normal until it’s not.

But now we’re here. If not confident, we at least have our legs under us. We can navigate leaving the house, going to appointments, buying groceries. I generally know when he needs to eat and when he needs to sleep. I can squeeze myself in around the sides, stolen moments of work and exercise that remind me that I was once a person, too, and one day might be again.

I don’t begrudge him that — he needs me, and I’m so into being his mother it’s embarrassing. And it turns out everyone was right about how fast it goes. He’s already so different than he was. We look at pictures of him as a newborn and struggle to draw the line between there and here, even though there was only weeks ago. Time has never moved faster or slower. I’ve never been so content or so bored, so focused or so lost.

I don’t begrudge this brief, endless period of total need, but I do resent it sometimes. I resent the way society is constructed so mothers are down here in the trenches at home alone while the world moves around us, like making new people isn’t part of the world… kind of the core part, even. Humans are sort of the MVP of humanity.

This week Nico likes to drink water out of my glass. I let him try because it was cute, and now there’s spit and water all over the house. He pulls his own socks off when I’m changing his nappy. He hurls himself bodily at things he wants, and then rages in frustration when he can’t propel himself across the carpet by sheer force of will. He’s full of gummy smiles and giggles for anyone and everyone, but cries real, red-faced tears if we leave his sight in an unfamiliar place. He likes to “walk” holding onto my fingers (by which I mean stamp his feet while wobbling around on fat, bowed little legs), which is murder on my back but fuckin’ adorable. He can sit by himself for, oh, seconds at a time, and will play happily and independently with a toy for ages as long as he can reach out and touch me, and I don’t try to do anything else. His life goal is to get my phone into his mouth, which says far more about me than it does about him.

He’s basically a cartoon of a baby — all eyes and smile, with that serious forehead and those comical eyebrows. I’m obsessed with his fluffy duckling hair and his chubby little feet. I’ve cried several times in the last few days because I get so overwhelmed by how much I love him.

It’s embarrassing to admit that. It feels like you’re not meant to let on how much you love your children — or you’re only meant to talk about the hard bits. I feel a certain amount of judgement in some circles just for breeding — like I’ve sacrificed my work or my social life, or I’ll get so involved with my own tiny family that I’ll forget to care about the big picture. Sometimes it feels like the very act of having a baby feels unfeminist, like I’m letting womenkind down by being so openly womanly. Or at least thoroughly complicating the issue.

Childbirth and parenting do complicate it — but I think they should. Hormones and biology are complex topics, over and above society and its biases and expectations. Having a baby runs you hard up against the fact that women and men might be equal, but they’re not the same. Brazil couldn’t carry the baby or give birth to him, and he can’t feed him with his boobs (although Nico will give it a go, given the opportunity in the bath). So much of this has to fall on me. Society doesn’t help with that, but there’s also no easy solution to it. I find myself wanting to talk about this all the time, because I have no idea what to say about it.

As for the other stuff, I care more about current events now that I made a person who’ll have to live in this broken world, but I also can’t find room to care as much as I used to. I’m too tired and my feelings are too raw. I can’t even cope with the ducklings in the stream this year, because I’m so concerned for their safety I find watching them actively painful. I’m working, and I want to work, but I’m frequently startled by how little work matters. I like it and I’m good at it, but I’m just not as angry as I used to be about how people are Making Websites Wrong.

I often see articles reporting on studies that have found that having children makes you less happy. But now I wonder what they’re measuring as happy. Am I more frustrated? Less free? Frequently exhausted, emotionally and physically? Yes, yes and yes. I can’t do what I want to do when I want to do it. My life, by all accounts, is looking pretty pathetic right now. But under that… something that’s always been empty has been filled. It’s not that I’ve found a purpose — more like I don’t feel like I need to anymore. I’m just here, today, operating naptime to naptime. And a lot of those moments aren’t what you could call happy… but I’m happy. Happier. Happiest.

People are all that matter, in the end. And new people… I have this whole new perspective on humanity. I’ve never been more conscious of the fact that we’re animals, mammals, organisms made up of collections of cells. But we’re also phenomenal: watching someone learn how to reach out and touch something he wants to touch has made me aware for the first time of what a ridiculous feat of biological engineering it is that I’m typing on this computer right now. That I can tie my shoes and name things with words and use my imagination. We are incredible creatures.

We’re also born craving connection. The love of a child is absolute. I used to feel like that was somehow a weakness in parents — like it was vaguely exploitative to have children for love, like there’s something vaguely odious about needing other people that much.

It’s beautiful, though. This baby is so incredibly happy to see me every single time he sees me. I make his day just by showing up. He has no concept of hate or disgust or anger. He gets sad and frustrated and he doesn’t understand why I sometimes want to use the bathroom without him, but his requirements in life are so simple: me, Brazil, cuddles. The two of us form his entire pyramid of needs. Food and sleep and shelter are all contained within us.

I watch him watch a tree move in the wind and his total delight is contagious. I’m also realising he’s happier playing with one toy than six, with the cords on my hood while sitting in my lap, than the plastic elephant-shaped ball-shooter thing I bought him for $70 and four D batteries.

I used to joke that toddlers are proof we’re all born sociopaths and have to be moulded into responsible citizens through bribery and brute force. Maybe I’ll change my mind once we have one, but right now it’s fucking wonderful to realise the opposite is true: we’re born loving everyone and everything with indiscriminate abandon. This baby isn’t only teaching me about myself — I feel like I’m re-learning the world along with him.

It’s pretty great, you know?

Anyway, as I’m sure you’ve already guessed, I wrote all that while he slept. And then he woke up feeling like he’d been dramatically wronged by the changing table in general and his left sock in particular, following which he was done some kind of grievous harm by avocado, which only yesterday was his best favourite. Then he enjoyed some no-nappy time until I left the room for eight seconds and he pooped, rolled in it, and then peed across all of his toys. Then he smashed a pot plant, threw up in my hand and now he’s back in bed.

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Birth

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I love birth stories. I was dead keen to write one… before I gave birth. For the first few weeks afterwards, I was carrying around too much shame to even speak about it: I’d done it wrong, I hadn’t been cool (I lost my shit completely, and then lost it some more), I hadn’t coped.

I did too much hippie reading beforehand and wanted to try a natural birth, but when it came to it that epidural was the single best thing that’s ever happened to me. I’d have named my child after it, if it was called something slightly nicer.

We had a plan worked out — if I asked for pain relief, Diogo was to gently talk me out of it unless I used the pre-arranged safe word. (It was “quesadilla”, pronounced the way my 70-year-old, rural-Canterbury-raised mother pronounces it: kwes-a-dill-a.) When it came to it, I was screaming it in his face before he even had a chance to ask if I was sure.

Let me backtrack a bit.

I went into labour naturally at 39 weeks and 5 days pregnant. I’d gone to bed the night before feeling like something was happening, and every inch of me was positive that I couldn’t be overdue. There just wasn’t room. I’d never been able to comprehend people who realised they were in labour and went back to sleep (the most exciting thing that’s ever happened is happening after nine months of waiting and you sleep through it?), but I woke up at 1:45 that morning, left myself a note on my phone that said “I’m pretty sure this is it”, and went back to sleep until 8am.

The next day was a blur. The contractions rapidly ramped up to between 5 and 10 minutes apart, and then… stayed there. All day. And all night. And they hurt. Technically, that early phase doesn’t even count as labour — it’s “pre-labour”. It’s not, apparently, meant to be that painful. Later it turned out that Nico’s head was in the wrong position, so nothing was progressing, and I think I had back labour (you feel the contractions primarily in your lower back, and the part where the pain is meant to go away between contractions just doesn’t happen…).

About 4am the following morning, I rang the midwife on call. The contractions had made it up to 4 minutes apart, were crazy intense, and it had been over 24 hours since I’d slept or functioned or been comfortable. She said, “you haven’t had one while we’ve been on the phone; it’s still too early” and I burst into tears.

And so we continued until lunchtime the following day, when my midwife was due to visit anyway. At that point they’d slipped back to about 7 minutes apart. She checked my blood pressure and it was too high, and there was protein in my urine. After a couple of weeks of threatening it, I was finally over the line of pre-eclampsia now that I was already in labour.

Because of that, my midwife said we could go to hospital and, if I wanted, she’d induce me to speed things up. An induction was number one on the list of things I’d said I wanted to avoid in my birth plan, but after 24 hours without sleep, I didn’t take much convincing. Faster seemed better.

(Little did I know that 18 hours later I’d be frantic with excitement for a woman to cut my vagina open with scissors to speed things up. I clearly remember being beside myself that she was taking the time to anaesthetise me first. Shit escalates fast during birth.)

It took until about 6pm for the drugs to actually start and things to kick off: in between we went out for lunch and then again for dinner, me white-knuckling the table through contractions and hoping no one noticed that the ridiculously pregnant woman wasn’t just in danger of going into labour but actually was.

The syntocinon ramped things up fast. I don’t remember if the pain got much more intense, but there was no break from it now and my back was starting to be constant agony. I couldn’t find any way to get comfortable. I don’t know how long I held out for — it could have been three hours or ten minutes; time had ceased to have any meaning — but at some point it occurred to me that we’d been at this a day and a half and almost nothing had changed. I’d skimmed half of the birth skills book I’d been putting off reading between contractions the night before, but it contained such sage advice as “curl your toes into the carpet” and “light a pleasantly-scented candle”, which is the kind of earth-mother shit I’d find delightful if I’d, say, stubbed my toe.

I’d read a lot about the medicalisation of birth — the idea that (male) doctors have divorced women from the natural processes of their bodies and made a beautiful act of nature into a medical emergency. Unfortunately, these books had kind of convinced me that birth wouldn’t actually be painful. Several of them even said in words, “birth shouldn’t be painful”. Thus I found myself in probably the opposite position to most of my friends, who’d had the dangers and interventions hammered into them by their antenatal classes, midwives and friends and went into labour terrified. I was surprised to find myself in such pain. And I didn’t feel at all equipped to deal with it. I’d packed a fucking scented candle and some Rescue Remedy.

I thought about how many hours I could keep doing this for, making bargains and deals in my head to keep me from begging for drugs. Finally, I asked my midwife how much longer she thought it might be. She said, “I’ll check your progress in another four hours”.

CHECK MY PROGRESS. CHECK.

Four hours was my outside guess for the whole damn deal: at this point I’d already been awake and in constant pain for over a day and a half. She’d check my progress in another four hours? Fuck that with knobs on, thought me. QUESADILLA QUESADILLA QUESADILLA.

And, oh, it was beautiful.

I even slept off and on for a few hours, watching my contractions scrawl across the monitors like mountain ranges, the baby’s heartbeat strong and steady underneath them. (One blessing: Nico’s heart never skipped a beat. He was utterly chill the whole time, still trying to squirm around right up to the moment he emerged topside.)

Things my midwife didn’t tell me: syntocinon is INTENSE. The pain of it is intense. Pushing under it is like being hit repeatedly by a truck that drags you under it until it hits you again a moment later like a truck snake that’s eating its own tail while you writhe underneath its snake wheels. Several people said later that very few people manage a natural birth once they’ve been induced, for exactly that reason.

I also didn’t know that the epidural would be stopped when it was time to push, but the syntocinon would continue. I’m still not sure whether this is the only option or if I missed a choice somewhere in the haze of that night. (At one point I remember looking over to find my left side covered in blood. This seemed completely unsurprising, even though I was fairly sure it wasn’t standard practice for a birth. Turned out my IV had been dislodged somehow and my vein was emptying itself down my arm and into a puddle on the bed. I felt very calm and not at all bothered about this at the time. Bigger fish.)

I don’t know whether it was me or it’s like this for everyone with chemically-assisted contractions, but once it was time to push and the epidural was turned off, there was no let up at all. By dawn, the contractions had concatenated one into the other and I couldn’t keep up. I couldn’t even breathe. The pain in my back and hips was so intense that I all I could do was writhe and beg for it to stop, and then scream and scream and scream.

By this point it was my due date, two days after I’d left myself that note on my phone and gone back to sleep.

A couple of days later, through our shared bathroom door, I heard my hospital-room neighbour telling a visitor that she couldn’t understand why anyone would scream — such a waste of energy, she said.

Well, good on fucking you, perfect birther. I’m glad all your energy was productive. Mine felt like it was too much for my body, and the only way to bleed it off before it killed me was to get it out in noise.

I literally thought I was going to die. I felt like I was about to have a stroke. I was begging Diogo to make it stop, to let me out of my body just for a minute. And later, when I told Rachel B this and got to the part where my midwife then checked my blood pressure, turned white and immediately hit the emergency call button, she pointed out that that’s actually what was happening.

That hadn’t occurred to me until then. I’d been thinking about it purely in terms of my own failure: at a natural birth, at any kind of composure. Like, I knew things were going to get real in that birthing room, but I’d been thinking about, you know, the prospect of pooping myself in front of my love. I’d briefly worried that my scented candle might be too intense. Going full exorcist was nowhere on the birth plan.

To the medical profession’s credit, once that emergency button gets hit, things move. Doctors and nurses swarmed into the room. I lay there, legs akimbo, writhing and sweating in a puddle of my own drying blood, and could not have given less of a shit who saw what. If they were going to get the baby out, they could have told me they were sawing my legs off at the knee and I would have kissed them and offered to hold the saw.

A nice lady told me she was going to make a bit more room for the baby so they could get him out faster. Then she got out her scissors. I saw them very clearly, which I remember precisely because I couldn’t have cared less. “Oh, she’s going to cut me with scissors,” I thought, the same way you might think, “oh, there are scones at this morning tea”. Then they stuck a suction cup on his poor little head, and (and this is just my memory, so it may not be factually correct) a team of them lined up like a tug of war and hauled.

I always think of Rach telling her birth story with Joe, and saying that she was surprised to look down and find a baby after he was born. I feel the same way about the moment when he finally came out — intensely, suddenly and overwhelmingly shocked as I felt a whole person, with shoulders and limbs, come slithering out of me. The size of him was staggering. The feeling of all those limbs working their way out… like, somehow, I’d sort of thought it’d feel like, I don’t know, a really big tampon? I’d only thought about the head, so I was kind of just expecting something smooth and round to pop out of me. But instead a whole human person came out of my vagina.

I was surprised by a lot of really obvious things that day.

Everything is a blur from there. I remember him being put on my chest and looking at him and feeling this… very casual relief. Like, “oh, there you are. Of course”. Nico himself didn’t surprise me at all, and I’d really thought he would. I’d spent months wondering what he’d look like, if he’d have hair (of course he’d have hair). I couldn’t imagine him before he was born, but as soon as I saw him I felt like he never could have been anyone else. At some point Diogo cut the cord and someone took him away and cleaned him up, either before or after the nice doctor stitched my insides back together. I have no memory of birthing the placenta.

My next clear memory is Nico already dressed and wrapped up in the little plastic cot thing, and the relief midwife suggesting I might get up and take a shower. I looked at her, stunned. Get up? Shower? Like, did she SEE the massacre that just happened? I just spent over two full days trying to get a human out of my body and now I should just… get off the bed and go to the bathroom?

So I did.

And nothing will ever be weirder than the first time you try and stand up straight after nine months pregnant. There was a hole in my middle where my baby used to be, and all my organs hadn’t realised yet. Taking a breath felt a little like my whole body was about to fold in and swallow itself like a broken accordion.

I started thinking about this post because I was reading an article about the percentage of women living quietly with injuries from birth. (I have more to say on that later.) It made me think about how intensely ashamed I felt of having had an epidural and a ventouse delivery, and how the (supposedly) feminist literature had convinced me that without my body doing everything naturally, I wouldn’t produce the right hormones to bond with my baby. I was genuinely scared that any interventions would compromise my ability to love my child.

I’ve always been cautious with my feelings. I was scared I wouldn’t have the emotional capacity to bond, to love a baby the way he’d need to be loved. I shouldn’t have worried. The first weeks were a tired, aching, oozing blur, but I never felt anything but overwhelming, enormous love every time I looked at his squashed little face with its wildly lazy eye.

Now I don’t know what I think. I think mothers should feel empowered to birth their babies however they want to, by whatever standards they think are best. I think caesarean rates are too high and fear and clinical surroundings probably do make birth harder than it needs to be. But I also think humans have a fucked-up reproductive process, and drugs and interventions save lives and stop a lot of suffering.

I also think mothers are fucking heroes. Goddesses. They’ve been to war. They’ve looked the kraken in the eye and raised a middle finger to his tentacles. They’ve brought new life into the world in blood and pain and love, and then they’ve got up and had a shower.

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I made this inside me. NBD.

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Dad of the year

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When I’m in the city alone for work (the one meeting I generally go to a week, while Brazil’s home on Wednesdays) and I see someone I know, they exclaim without fail, “but where’s your baby?!” like we’re bonded together. Soldered. Like he’s still a part of me.

I want to say, “he has a father”. I want to say, “have you ever asked his dad that, when you saw him out on his own?”. I want to say, “not sure” or “I left him in the car”.

Instead I laugh awkwardly and explain he’s with his dad.  Or he’s with my parents, if he is. His dad’s working four days now, so I can work a bit, and so he can spend more time with Nico while he’s little.

“Isn’t he a wonderful father,” they say. “So involved.”

When I told Mum I was taking on a project and Brazil would cut down at work, she asked, “but what about his career?”. What about mine, Mum?

It’s not actually all about me. When Brazil asked to work fewer hours, daycare was raised as an alternative. Like the only issue was whether I had time to work – not whether he had time to parent.

(Also, I’m a better parent when I have something other than my son to think about. Five days at home on our own made me a crazy person. Two sets of two days keeps me engaged. Keeps both of us happy. And makes his dad happy too.)

Last Wednesday, I went to a meeting and Brazil took Nico to a local cafe for lunch. An older lady sitting near him watched him feed Nico his bottle, take him to change his nappy, and chat to him while he ate his eggs and bacon. She came over. “Is that your baby?” she asked, and after he replied in the affirmative, “but where’s his mother?”

Her tone implied, is she dead?

Once the fact that I was alive and well was straightened out, she was beside herself. “Aren’t you wonderful,” she gushed. “Out all on your own with the baby!”

I’m just saying, no one has ever stopped me in the street to tell me what a great parent I am for leaving the house. (And I frequently think I really deserve it.)

Because Brazil is lovely, he was pissed. He appreciated the woman was only being nice, but he sat across the kitchen bench from me later and said, “it’s fucking depressing. Is the bar really that low? Feeding my child a bottle without supervision makes me dad of the year?”

Yep. And working at all makes my parenting questionable. Welcome to the world, baby boy. I hope things have changed a bit by the time you’re a parent.

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Well, I’ll be.

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I’m thinking about becoming a florist, or a clothing designer, or a carpenter. What’s the word for people who make shoes? A shoemaker, Google? Surely not. I want a word like milliner. Ah, cobbler. I’m thinking about becoming a cobbler.

About becoming almost anything that involves creating physical things that can begin and end and be held and used. Anything that isn’t behind a screen and doesn’t involve grammar and sentence structure. I’m thinking about painting and lotion-making and preserving. About dill pickles and jam and crumb structure.

You should see my sourdough these days. You should try my jam.

I’m thinking about how much I love my job when I’m under pressure, and how that doesn’t go at all with any of these other wild, earth-mother desires I’m filled with. I’m thinking about how I’m applying for mentors at the same time as I’m wondering if I should be mentoring. Talking to schools. Helping. I’m clutching at everyone else’s philanthropy, knowing their cause isn’t quite mine but feeling so badly like I’m letting the side down, not contributing, not giving back.

Not even creating, really, in my own time. (Other than the sourdough and all that jam.) Instead, I take a lot of naps. I water the garden. I read recipe books and mindfulness books and Harry Potter in Portuguese (page 25!). I count the baby’s kicks. I fight nausea and fatigue by giving in to them, immediately and gracelessly. I make endless lists of things we need to change before the baby comes. I exhaust Brazil with trips to Mitre 10 and discussions about natural childbirth and my urgent desire for black and white curtains in the baby’s room.

I meditate, but restlessly. I’m working on it.

I’m too hot all the time.

I’m not interested in anything except the baby but I’m mad at anyone who dares to imply it. I drop things constantly. I eat too much sugar and I’m obsessed with fruit and I’m still not 100% sure if I’m allowed all this coffee. I feel beautiful and sexy and powerful, like my body was made to do this, and heavy and slow and broken, like every inch of me is falling apart. I’ve found myself and I’m losing myself. I’m a force of nature and a wild design error. Everything is exactly as it should be, but surely it shouldn’t be like this?

I am. We are. He’ll be.

We’ll see.

Post

Spicy food and cat litter

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When people talk about pregnancy cravings, they name normal things like ice cream or sawdust or pickles. This baby is obsessed with chilli. I’m putting it on everything, in quantities that would make my normal self burst into flame. I’d blame Brazil’s spicy Latin genes (#racism), but he’s an even bigger chilli wuss than I usually am.

My brain is adjusting to a new scale of time. We’re making plans for things that won’t happen for two years, or five, or twelve. It’s like my whole life has opened up in front of me, ripe and ready to finally be lived — but it’s also narrowed down, and thinned out.

So many things will be harder or take longer or be off limits for a while now. I don’t feel like I spent enough Wednesdays drinking impromptu wine… but I also did almost nothing else for over a decade, and I know I was ready to move on.

So many things will be out of my control. Baby will have their own timetable and set of priorities, and my career and social life are unlikely to make their list. The nature of what we do means the work comes when it comes — I don’t plan to take maternity leave, per se, but I also can’t make any plans about how or when I’ll work. Projects may or may not come up. Baby may or may not cooperate. We’ll make it work as best we can.

But at the same time, some sense of urgency has lifted. I’ve got time to do things and write things and see things. We might not get to travel beyond NZ and Brazil for a while, but we will eventually — and when we do, our little people get to do it too. (I’m sure that will come with its own set of issues, but it also feels pretty cool to me.)

I’m scared I’ll never have time to write for myself, but I need to make time for that, and currently I’m not doing that anyway. The optimistic, slightly dim part of myself is sort of hoping that “ask a busy person” thing will kick in and I’ll discover reserves of organisation and focus I never knew I had.

I fully expect future me to read that back and laugh until she cries.

The cat and I are in a battle over the garden. Everything I plant, he promptly digs up and shits on. I’m currently on the sixth iteration of my vegetable protection system.

After he dug up the carrots, I covered the whole garden in bird netting. Lucas immediately shat on top of it, managing to dig up the lettuces underneath without tearing a single hole in the material.

Next, I raised the netting with stakes. He sat on it until it collapsed, and then shat on it again.

Then I added a fortress of bamboo skewers poking through the netting. That night, as far as I can tell, he perched himself on a stake, backed gently over the netting, deposited a perfect pile of shit in the middle of it, and left without breaking a single skewer.

Finally, I raised the whole thing about a foot on each edge, then tented it over a teepee-like contraption in the middle. Then I fortified it with skewers and weighed all the edges down with blocks of wood.

Now he shits on my flowers.

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What an asshole.