Sunday, 15 November 2015

When you turn old and have to go to your 20 year high school reunion – a blog post in two parts.

Part I

How are you supposed to behave at your high school reunion? What are you supposed to say to the woman who organised the whole event, when she is the person who bullied you in primary school?

I am in a conundrum about this milestone of my life. 20 years has passed since I left high school. It feels like a lifetime. And my memories of my entire school history are largely miserable.
I’m aware she is a different person now. We are both adults. She may not even remember me, or that she teased me and made me an outcast. Her memories of how that played out are no doubt, totally different to mine. She has created a Facebook event for the reunion and everyone is posting photos in it. I look through them, and the comments on them, and it looks like we were all one big happy family, a bunch of mates having a good time. The reality, well my reality, was that the year was very divided into a hierarchy of popularity and cliques.

As a kid I’d been very interested in performing arts, so my mum had me enrolled in drama classes and got me an agent. I don’t think I was terribly good, but I performed in a few stage shows and did some TV ads. Rather than elevating my popularity, this had the opposite effect. I suppose from some sense of jealousy, I was ridiculed and ostracised. I changed primary schools in year 5 because of the bullying. I remember before I left that school, a teacher finding me sitting on my lonesome in the playground and asking me who my best friend was. A pretty strange question, when it would seem obvious I was friendless, but I scanned the playground searching for an answer. Eventually I settled on a girl whose mother was friends with my mum, but in truth she barely spoke to me. I had no friends, let alone a best friend. I feel like crying for my child-self when I think about that.

I did better once I got to high school, the girl who bullied me was back, as were a small group of others, but once all the cliques were established they largely left me alone. But I remember the years that followed as filled with that hormone-driven teenage angst that makes you hate yourself, your family and the entire world. I really felt I didn’t fit in and I desperately tried to change myself with make-up, hair dye, even socks in my bra!

I wasn’t especially unpopular through high school. I had learnt to blend in. I had boyfriends. I had a best friend, who I shared everything with- clothes, secrets, even boyfriends. I played sport, albeit very badly. I got okay grades. But still, my memories hurt.

In the aftermath of doing our HSC I had a disagreement with my best friend and hung up the phone on her. We never spoke again. I was devastated, it hurt equally as badly as any boyfriend break-up I’d been through, probably worse. That friendship finishing symbolised the end of that era for me.
I went on to drift away from most of my school friends, only a handful remain. I made new friends, had more boyfriends, met my husband, travelled. I changed my name when I got married, it seemed like a good opportunity to shake off the girl of my past and be someone new, someone better. I even got the nose-job I had wanted throughout high school.

I now have a husband I’ve been in love with for 19 years, two gorgeous kids and a career I’ve worked hard for and am proud of. I should be feeling confident. Yet I’ve been dieting for a month in anticipation (dread) of this event. Why am I even going then, you ask? Yeah, I wonder that too. But one of my oldest and dearest friends talked me into it and I didn’t want to always wonder “what if…?” We discussed our approach to greetings – she was for hugging and cheek-kisses with everyone – I was against. I was adamant, there was no way I was pretending these niceties with people like my former bully.

Part II

So, in answer to my very first question – how should one behave at one’s 20 year high school reunion – the answer is this. One should apparently get leglessly drunk, require carrying out and throw up in the carpark before being taken to a friends place to sleep it off. This is how the evening unfolded.
After spending an inordinate amount of time and effort to look as fabulous as possible, we fronted up (fashionably an hour late). I immediately threw back as much alcohol as I could find as quickly as possible to quash the nerves that I felt must be written across my panicked face. The food was awful so I didn’t eat anything, and I drank nothing but white wine and champagne. A recipe for disaster after a month off the booze.

The first half hour comprised awkward, stilted conversations with people I barely remembered, but then everyone seemed to share my boozy buzz and the socialising flowed more freely.  The men had aged badly, lots of paunches and receding hairlines. Thanks to the wonders of skincare and make-up, many of the women looked hardly any different, just older versions of their teenaged selves. I know it’s pathetic, but I was thrilled to be sought out by a guy I had crushed on madly in my final year and for him to tell me I looked great. Suck on that champ, I’m the one that got away!

The conversations I do remember having were mostly pleasant. I was genuinely pleased to see most of the people I chatted to, and avoided those who I never spoke much to in school anyway. My philosophy was, why pretend to be pals now? I was surprised that I didn’t get asked much about myself, I was expecting to have to give my story over and over again, but the reality was that a lot of people didn’t ask me what I did or whether I had a family or anything much like that. There was a lot of small talk, which is my least favourite kind, but I’m rather glad I didn’t get into the big topics, particularly considering the inebriated state I was getting myself in.

And the bully – she greeted me and kissed me on the cheek! I was furious, but I remained civil and blew her off as soon as possible.

By the end of the night, well 11.30, I went to the bathroom and the room was spinning. I was rescued by a friend who performed the heroic deed of whisking me out of there to puke in the carpark, before taking me back to her place and putting me to bed.

And then it was over. I survived it. I had moments of feeling like that kid again, afraid of feeling insignificant or invisible, or worse, like a laughing stock. There were no revelations. No-one was a shining star, no-one was bullied (or at least not that I saw). We were just a bunch of adults still trying to work out how to navigate this world. I didn’t re-establish any lost bonds or create any new ones. A bunch of people tried to add me on Facebook afterwards - including the bully! But I think I'll graciously decline. My curiosity is satisfied but I think I’ll leave the past in the past, and pass on the next reunion (or at least the drinking part of it).

Friday, 24 January 2014

Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to work I go...

So much has changed since I last blogged and it’s almost beyond me to try and summarise the last few months. I feel so incredibly lucky. I have this beautiful, healthy, incredibly awesome family. I now have a job too, and that is actually really important to me. As documented here, being a stay-at-home mum has been hard for me, I’m sort of the Anti-Hero of the domestic world.

We had a bit of a scare a few months ago. Lets just say there was a possibility that the husby might be out of work, and we both had to seriously consider what we’d do if we had no income for a while. It was very scary and I think we both experienced real panic. So I began job-hunting. It wasn’t a tough thing to do, I was keen to work again, and had been thinking about work since before the Chicken was born. But now it was necessary and I tried damn hard to get some part time work as a supplementary income and back-up in case the turds hit the air-con.

Long story short, I got contacted about a full time job that I’d never have thought to apply for, it was such great money that I had to apply, and in the end, I got it. The long story involves not actually getting it, and accepting a part time job that I didn’t fancy instead but then finding out that the person who was offered it turned it down, and being the runner-up I was next in line. Anyway suffice to say, the opportunity is so good, both financially and career-wise that we made some changes to allow me to go full time. I had received several rejections, many of them for jobs way below my skill-level, making me start to despair of my chances of getting work. I never imagined I’d manage to return on this level – if anything I thought I’d have to take a decrease in pay and responsibilities on returning to the workforce after 2 years.

So Husby is now Mister Mom – a mantle that suits him far better than it ever did me. Of course I miss my babies. Lots. I feel terrible guilt about not seeing them such a lot of the day for such a lot of the week. But the beauty of this job is that it’s public service so I have RDOs to spend with them. And I know how much work is intrinsic to my identity. I need to DO something that seems useful, and it is great to be a contributor (finally) to the family income.

I couldn’t have done this – or thought I could do it – if it weren’t for the fact that Chicken sleeps. Not “sleeps like a baby”, thank heavens, but sleeps like a proper human being, that is, for 9 – 10 hours a night.  I would not have believed it possible and I count my lucky stars every day that I wake up and she has slept through.  She is such a different baby to the Monkey, she is very laid-back and smiley, whereas the Monkey was pretty intense and serious from memory. He was SO BUSY being the first to move, roll, crawl, stand, walk etc. that there was no time for sleep or even quiet reflection. The Chicken is actually almost crawling now, she can commando and move around a room, if not in a particularly intentional way. But she is also super-smiley and very content. And the absolute best thing – she finds the Monkey hilarious. She squeals with laughter when he is running around flinging himself about like a lunatic and it makes my heart burst.

The Monkey is divine, so intelligent, so articulate and precocious and with a lively and delightful imagination. But I suppose it’s this imagination that makes it difficult for him to sleep at night and he’s still waking at least once a night.

And leaving him is even harder than leaving the Chicken, even though I had to part-wean her. Because he wails, “I don’t want you to go to work!!!” when I leave and runs after me clinging to my leg, and physically breaking my heart. God it’s awful. Last night I got up to the Monkey 4 times and the Chicken twice. I was a zombie today at work. Luckily I am still in training mode, God help me when I have to actually be productive. I have wine now. Signing off…. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Friday, 25 October 2013

Sleep depraved shambles

Here we are at week 10 and all still alive although my nipples are a shadow of their former selves.

Chicken is still a very good baby but juggling her needs with those of the Monkey is challenging. If I don't get them to synchronize their day naps I don't get a second to myself and that's exhausting and frustrating.

Breastfeeding is still so painful sometimes that I cry at the prospect of the next feed. I could be singlehandedly bankrolling the local chemist with my custom - thanks to my 2nd bout of mastitis I've bought more antibiotics there and have been hiring a breast pump to give my poor norks a rest.

I know that I should really give up but I still can't admit defeat just yet. This may be my last child and I really want to enjoy the breast feeding experience eventually. So I persist but it's got to the point where I don't know how much pain I should tolerate, my pain threshold is completely confused.

This week I ventured out for the first time with both kiddies sans car. Firstly I had Chicken in the ergo baby carrier and convinced Monkey to get in the new stroller. We only went to the park but that was an achievement since Monkey kept asking to get out and walk. I don't trust him to hold my hand and not run off into dangerous situations so I need him to be in the stroller. It was good to get out and wear him out doing something fun, plus I chatted to some other mums there.

I don't know if I looked quite as desperately harried, sleep-deprived, and adult-company-starved as I feel, but they were both mums of more than one, so hopefully they understood what it's like to leave the house without brushing your hair or even looking in the mirror. 

I continue to mourn the loss of my personal grooming. My hair is this ridiculously long, matted mane that I probably would have pined for once upon a time. It is so long through accident not design, I have not had the time or opportunity (nor the cash) to go to a hairdresser for so long. But it seems to just hang from my head like this big dead thing that gets knotty and becomes just another chore to detangle and to me it represents a lack of personal style. I am about 8 kgs overweight and that is not baby-fat, it's icecream-and-cake fat! I have been eating pretty badly since the birth and every day I think I'll start the diet tomorrow, but my will-power is so weakened by tiredness. I need energy boosts and they don't come easier than a sugar-hit! I try to remind myself what I'd say to any one of my friends in the same situation - be kind to yourself, appreciate the amazing feats your body has achieved, don't stress etc. But it's a total double-standard, I am my own worst critic and although I know I shouldn't compare myself to other people I find myself looking at other mums of babies and wondering how they look so much thinner and more composed - some of them even wear make-up!!! 

I want to set my daughter (and son of course) the example of self-love, so I repeat my mantra - enjoy life, there will always be tomorrow to diet! 

The scariest thing about parenthood I have decided is how much more vulnerable my heart is. I feel terrified at the thought of something happening to any of my beloved family members, husby included, and life seems so much more precious now. The weight of my responsibility to not only protect them from harm, but to stay healthy so that I can, adds to the stress of the daily grind. 

Friday, 20 September 2013

Motherhood - things I now know

Here I am, at the end of my first week alone as a mum of two tiny people. We all survived and I feel, as I’m sure many parents do, inordinately proud. Every little task I perform feels like a major achievement. Yesterday I cleaned the bathroom (Monkey “helped” me mop the floor), vac’d and mopped the floors and did 3 loads of laundry. I felt like a superwoman! And really, considering how little sleep I get, and that there is a small person basically trying to undo everything I do, it is pretty impressive.

I am going to say something controversial though. I hate breastfeeding. HATE it. I am so disappointed that my experience with it this time around has not been better, but I blame my children. They must be broken. They are missing some sort of mouth/boob compatibility gene or have not read the manual. Whatever, they clearly have no regard for my nipples. I think the nipple thrush has cleared up, but Chicken won’t open her little beak wide enough, and clamps down with the force of an industrial vice. It hurts. But I’m a stubborn old mule and I’m not ready to give up just yet. So I just curse and cry and suffer through the pain 5 times a day. She better appreciate it when she’s older. It’s OK, I’ll remind her often. In speeches. Like at her 21st birthday party and her wedding.

So I am by no means an expert, but here are a few things I have learnt that seem worthy of passing on:

  • The hardest lesson I have learnt was to DO NOTHING.  Babies will cry – and you don’t always have to DO SOMETHING to stop it. This revelation was such a long time coming with my first child – I ended up eventually going through the pain of “control-crying” which is the extreme version of DO NOTHING - and I still find myself resisting it. There is that mothering instinct that means I cannot stand to hear my babies cry and I feel responsible to DO SOMETHING to ease their distress. But I remind myself that it is actually important to allow them to settle themselves sometimes (as long there is nothing actually wrong with them, like being hungry or wet etc). Doing nothing when your baby is crying seems inherently wrong but by constantly cuddling, rocking or soothing the baby I think they come to depend on it. In any case, it becomes out of your control when it’s your 2nd child – there is so much to do that by the time I get free to check on my crying babe she has often settled herself – woo hoo!

  • Everything always seems better in the morning.  At 1, 2, or 3 or even 4am I have been sitting on the sofa crying while my baby fails to latch properly, or pacing the floor patting her back, shhhhhhing, trying not to trip over with tiredness, everything seems so much more dramatic. I begin to wonder if Chicken has colic, or croup, or reflux, or that she is failing to thrive, and I consider all sorts of extreme measures… like taping her dummy to her face to keep it in… But once day breaks - even though getting up then seems harder than ever – after the coffee takes hold, I realise she is fine, I am fine, and we will all be fine. And following on from that point:

  • Find time/a way to take a shower every day. This was another epiphany for me. It would sound like a basic human right, I know, but not for a mother of a newborn. I went for more than 24 hours without a shower and when you have sticky toddler fingers all over you, and you’re being drooled on and sneezed on and spewed on all day, a hot shower is HEAVEN. So I felt like a new woman after having one and I resolved to ensure I manage a shower in the first half of the day, every day. Even when I get spewed on almost instantly afterwards, I still feel better for having had that hot water rush over my face. 

  • Breakfast television is SO bad it’s almost good. And the hosts are invariably, female: over-coiffured airheads, male: dumb but funny. I love watching the male hosts pretend to be interested in the latest fashion trends, tummy controlling shapewear and age-defying make-up. The best ones manage to do it with a cheeky, tongue in cheek irony  - as in “How fascinating?!”

That is enough words of wisdom for this post. I’m off to take a shower.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Preggers no more!!

We made it! Both baby and I survived the birth intact and are now fit and well. The relief I felt as soon as she was out was overwhelming. And it is so nice not to be waiting anymore!

Having a c-section is quite surreal, and more than a little bit scary, but overall I rate the experience as a thousand times preferable to my vaginal birth one. The anaesthetist we had was awesome, he was chatting away with us in the prep and had a wicked sense of humour, so it really helped eased our tension. Then throughout the op he was keeping me informed but also distracting me with tales of how he was doing tequila shots with my OB the night before – ridiculous, as my OB is this lovely, quiet, Church-going soul who probably doesn’t touch alcohol. It was all over in a couple of hours and apart from being intensely itchy from the anaesthetic for 24 hours afterwards, I felt pretty good.

Upon arriving home I ensured I had the catch-up feast of soft/smelly cheeses, salamis and port. And seeing as I no longer have a night/day division in my life, only grabbing snatches of sleep where I can, I figure it’s fair game to drink wine anytime, so long as it’s post feeding the baby.

Chicken (my nickname for baby girl) is a dream baby really. She had a couple of really unsettled nights in hospital, and since I’ve been home out of 3 weeks she’s only had one bad one in terms of sleeplessness, so the odds are pretty good.

On the other hand, I’ve had mastitis and then nipple thrush as a result of the antibiotic treatment, which progressed to ductal thrush, which is as painful as it sounds. This breastfeeding malarkey is really not as easy as it looks. I’ve been mainlining the Panadol and coffee.

My mother-in-law was brilliant, looking after the Monkey while we were in hospital and keeping him happy since we’ve been home. But she left yesterday so now I face the daunting prospect of managing alone!  She was keeping on top of the cleaning, cooking and laundry so god only knows how badly things will fall apart, but most of all I am dreading when the Monkey realises she is not coming back (so far he hasn’t really noticed, but it’s only a matter of time). It will break my heart to see him pine for her.

But OMG both kidlets are actually sleeping at the moment so gonna go have a shower – more updates to come.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Twas the night before Friday and all through the house....

Not a creature was stirring - except the rats under the kitchen floor, my unborn baby who seemed to be having a "soon-to-be-leaving-let's-trash-the-place" party in my womb, and my son who decided 5.30am was a good time to get up.

Oh yeah, I had a great night.  I was almost certain at one point that I was going into labour, that must've been about 2.30am. After the pain subsided and I waited an hour for more to come - never have I wished for pain so fervently! - I realised with enormous disappointment it was a false alarm and managed to get back to sleep, only to be woken by the rats in the kitchen floor. I actually thought my son had woken and was playing in his playroom, that's how loud they were. 

Rats FREAK me out. We had them all over the kitchen once and it was my worst nightmare - I mean vermin are not like pigeons, or even cockroaches, they don't scare when you come into the room. They look you in the eye unbudgingly as if to say, "yeah, this is my loaf of bread now, whatchu gonna do about it?" It terrifies me. So I'm lying in bed freaking out about the prospect of them getting in again, with a toddler who is now unbound by baby gates and a newborn due any minute. And then said toddler decides it's time to "wake up mummy", "I don't like sleepytime" and climbs on my head. 


On another note - I have to share this blog post which resonates with me so much. 

Being Mumma Enough

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

1 week to go!!!!

The countdown is on. I was thinking last night how sad it is that I seem to have wished away so much of the last 11 months - yesterday was exactly 11 months since I gave birth to my angel baby Benjamin. I so wanted to go into labour yesterday to mark that milestone, and even thought I was after cramps and back-ache all night, but sadly it wasn't to be. I am still a hippo with a bun in the oven. But I feel sure this bun should be cooked by now!!!

If you don't count the two months between losing Benjamin and falling pregnant again, I have been on this rollercoaster of expectancy for the last 16 months - that's over a year to be sharing my body with another (or 14 mths if you want to be pedantic).

I am so looking forward to having my body back, but I know that doesn't happen straight away, in fact it can take almost a year with breastfeeding and recovery etc. But boy is that first glass of wine going to go down a treat!!!

Its the nausea and reflux that's killing me now - I get these frantic bouts of ravenous hunger where I just can't eat enough or fast enough, but then within an hour it all comes back to haunt me... I am so looking forward to enjoying food properly again (and without guilt).

Plus, I can handle the huge belly and an ass that's so big it almost reaches my knees, but this double chin is depressing.