Reflections on motherhood...


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Now I'm pregnant, feel free to comment on my body

It's a common gripe amongst pregnant women.  Suddenly your body is not your own, people feel free to comment, they touch your stomach without asking, bla bla.  Last time around, all the comments about my shape and size floated right past me, mostly unchecked and unnoticed.  I was also slightly in denial, telling everyone who commented on my size that I would be having a nice, normal-sized 7 pound baby, thank you very much.  Little did I know.

But I'm really noticing it this time.  Probably because I'm a little bit tired, and, according to the last person who looked at my scan, and the one before that, "this is going to be a very big baby".  Great.  Nice to know.  But does everyone have to comment on the fact that I look like I'm either (a) carrying twins or (b) about 8 months' pregnant?  And what is it about these comments that makes me conversationally inclined to make the commenter feel better about the faux pas they've just committed?

Almost daily I have a conversation that goes something like:

"You haven't got long to go."
"Three months, actually.  I'm not due till January."
[surprised look, reassessment of belly size] "Gosh, are you sure there's just one baby in there?"
"Yes, definitely just one baby.  He's just a big baby."

Or this one:
"Wow you look like you haven't got long to go!"
"Months actually, I'm not due till January"
"Gosh, really?"
"Yeah, don't worry, it's just a big baby boy"
[someone else, chipping in] "My daughter's about to have a baby in a few weeks and she's the same size as you"
"Is that so?" [Did you seriously just say that to me?!]

These one-liners didn't really deserve a response:
"You're huge!!!" [Thanks, I was hoping I could just stand over here unnoticed]
"You look really tired, have you got the weekend off?" [Are you kidding?  I have a three year old at home]

For some reason, I find it even more surprising that it's men doing a lot of the commenting.  Men are well-trained to know that comments on body shape/size/appearance, even the most positive and well-meaning, should be approached with extreme caution.  But once you're pregnant, it's like that rule goes out the window, and it's open season on commenting. actually has some great suggested responses.  My personal favourite:
"My excuse is that I'm pregnant, what's yours?"

Sunday, May 12, 2013

A happy Mother's Day

Mother's Day.  The one day in the year when mothers across the world know for certain they can expect just a little bit of special treatment... perhaps a lie in (hallelujah), breakfast in bed or out at a cafe, alone time (at least while going to the toilet), maybe even a present or an awkward card.  Like this one:

I got this card:

I'm not sure what Milkbaby was trying to say with this card.  I feel like it should be captioned with a "I can has cheezburger" caption.

According to Wikipedia, the modern version of Mother's Day started in 1907, when Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her own mother.  By 1914, it was a nationally recognised day, and by 1920, Anna was disgruntled with the commercialisation of the day, lamenting that:
A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world. And candy! You take a box to Mother—and then eat most of it yourself. A pretty sentiment.
By that standard, I am grateful for a homemade card.  I am also eternally grateful for the sleep-in, the brunch, the alone-time, and the spa vouchers (alright, self-purchased, but still holding the promise of more alone-time).

My own mother didn't receive the same treatment, largely because we weren't in the same city.  Though to be fair, that probably meant she got a sleep in and some alone-time.  I sent her a text, wishing her a happy mother's day, and complaining about being sick.  Shame on me.

But that is the lot of mothers - to wipe butts, noses, mouths, and other miscellaneous orifices all without a jot of thanks.  Though now Milkbaby is almost three I get the odd "tink you" for some act of service or glass of milk delivered.  

I think this diagram explains it all:

Anyway mum, "tink you"!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Dispelling second baby myths

Lately we've been talking again about having another baby.  Some days (usually when I've had at least 8 squares and a few drinks), I think yeah, maybe.  Other days, I'm more like the Tui side of this ad I made up:

Before we go further, there are some myths surrounding second babies that I felt the need to explore and/or dispel.

You forget the pain of childbirth

No you do not.  Nor do you forget the nine months of alcohol, caffeine and nice cheese deprivation.  And don't even get me started on the sleep deprivation.

What's another fart when you've already shit your pants

Or, more accurately, what's another 9 pound baby when your vagina already looks like last week's used dishcloth and your stomach, no matter how much of that god damned cream you put on it, will forever slightly sag over the top of your jeans?

It's cost effective

Yeah, ok, so you might as well get full use of the cot, high-chair and umpteen bags of baby clothes, but frankly getting to use your baby crap again does not equate to cost-effectiveness.  Secondly, "cost-effectiveness" is not a good reason for going through the aforementioned nine months of alcohol, caffeine and nice cheese deprivation, not to mention the 25 years of sleepless nights that are likely to follow.  Sorry, did I mention these two things already?  I'm a bit sleep deprived.

The second time around will be easier

Yes, the second time around we might actually have some clue as to what we're doing, but that doesn't guarantee it will be any easier.  My sister and I are a case in point on this one.  In fact, my sister can claim to have single-handedly forced my parents to relinquish their dreams of having a large family.  Three months worth of colic resulting in hours of crying in the evenings will do that.

Milkbaby needs a sibling

Does he?  I'm pretty sure he would see things differently.  There are variations on this theme: "you need an heir and a spare" (this argument only holds water if you actually have something for your kids to inherit).  Or: you'll want more than one kid to look after you in your old age.  Yeah, maybe.  

So why exactly do we have children?

Looked at in the cold hard light of day, even on limited hours of sleep, it doesn't really add up.  Put succinctly, children will ruin your body, your house, your bank account and your mind.  And all your nice shit that you've forgotten to put out of reach.

The only way I can explain humans' urge to breed is that we are, at base, animals.  And therefore we are programmed to do our part to continue the human species.  Though overbreeding - and by extension - overpopulation - is probably what is going to bring the human race to its knees, if not decapitate it altogether.

So there we go folks: another blog post with no pithy ending, no answer.  And I haven't even begun to explore the feminist angst raised by more time off from my career.  All that "can women really have it all?" stuff.  For another time.

Friday, February 22, 2013

What we're reading: another vintage classic - Outside Over There

As a child, this book scared the bejesus out of me.  The kind of scary that makes you want to read it over and over again.  I suspect it's the same kind of scary that makes adults watch horror films, though I wouldn't know as I didn't progress beyond picture-books in the scary-stakes.

Or as one expert puts it: "From the very earliest age, when adults play the game of 'Boo!' with infants, the young learn the surprising fact that scariness can be discomforting fun." (Jerry Griswold, Feeling Like a Kid: Childhood and Children's Literature).

I'm now subjecting Milkbaby to the same thrills and intrigue that had me hooked.   Now, as an adult, it still holds the same intrigue, not least because I now know its chilling backstory.  We'll come to that.

Let's start with the story.  Ida, whose papa is away at sea, is playing her wonder-horn to rock the baby still.  But she's not watching, preferring instead to look out the window.  

First crucial mistake.  The goblins come and steal her baby sister away - "to be a nasty goblin's bride" - leaving an ice-baby in her place.  So Ida, making her second crucial mistake, climbs backwards out her window into Outside Over There.  Finally, on her father's advice, she tumbles right side round and finds herself "smack in the middle of a wedding".  Luckily, she's brought her goblin-taming horn with her.  Long story short, she manages to use the horn to sort the goblins from the baby, and retrieve her sister from the hubbub.  Phew.  You can see why the story had an addictive appeal to a dark-haired little girl with a younger sister.

Wikipedia suggests that Ida is jealous and resentful of the baby, for whom she is largely responsible while their father is away.  I didn't take this from the story, though Mama in the arbor does seem strangely unperturbed by the goings on in the back garden.

Now to the illustrations.  Quite simply, they are captivating, magical, and every time I read the book I see something new or decide I should try and locate a print of this or that picture for my wall.

And finally, the intrigue.  Sendak says this story was inspired by his fascination with the Lindbergh baby kidnapping case, and in his recent biopic, suggested that at least one illustration of the baby in the book was based on Charles Lindbergh Jr.

 Frankly, to me, all babies look very similar, but the suggestion of a link to a real case is enough to send shivers up my spine.  And there's no denying the clear similarities between these two button noses and rosebud lips.
Or these two innocent expressions:

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