that evasive slumber

Do you ever overeat when you’re tired? I do. Both my children were up all night last night and as a consequence I have eaten my bodyweight’s worth in snacks today without even realising.

When I finally collapsed in bed at 2am last ‘night’, I shut my eyes and succumbed to slumber. It was the most glorious feeling. Then that familiar cry. Only at night it’s twenty thousand times more irritating and has that unique power to make you feel furious.

But you fight it. For that precious sweet face. You scoop the chubby bundle of baby up and bring them into your own bed.

Then the pattering feet, and the croaky child voice, ‘Mama, mama, I’m scared.’

So you haul the other one into your bed too.

And try to succumb again to that glorious sleep. It’s there alright. Tantalising. Close. You feel it.

But your kids have other ideas. One of them is attempting to crawl in the bed because it is her newly found skill and she loves to do it. She is laughing as she tries to get her chubby legs up, chaos in the covers, pitch black room. And then the almost-3-year old is awake. Banging his feet on the headboard. Asking me to open my eyes. Telling me stories. Chatting to his baby sister, who chats right back.

All through the night.

All through till morning.

And they do not tire. No siree. They hanker for breakfast and are little spitfires ready and gearing for their day of action. Playing, fighting, giggling, pulling things out of cupboards, sticking play dough in corners and smushing it into rugs, snotty noses from leftover colds.

I wish today I could say ‘Ahhhh it’s all so precious and worth it.’

Y’all.

I KNOW it is.

But I don’t feel it today.

I feel angry. Tired. Frustrated. Guilty. Bloated from all the sweet chilli thai rice crackers I have been eating to keep my bleary eyes awake. And the countless mugs of coffee I have downed today. That massive hot chocolate I had for lunch. My oh my. I fell asleep trying to put them to bed at 7:30pm BECAUSE HELLO, SHOULDN’T THEY BE TIRED AFTER THEIR NIGHT OF PARTYING?

No.

No they are not.

8:30pm came and went and it crept to 9… still wide and happily awake.

Bloody hell.

Some days parenting is a ride.

Today is that day.

Today I am bedraggled, a mess, and totally lost. I sit here writing this when I am supposed to be working but I am so tired from my sleepless night and my full-on day that I want to go to bed. But I am also terrified to go to bed because I know as soon as I give in to the glorious sleep that is beckoning to me.. I will be rudely yanked away again.

I know it.

News From Sebastapol. Charles West Cope (1811-1896). Oil On Canvas, 1875.

P.S. Look, I only write this to document. Not to complain. I love my babies with every fibre of my being. I would wrestle sleep to the ground if I thought their lives and health were in danger. I know one day I will sleep and sleep and sleep because they will be grown and off living their own lives and I will be sad and miss them. I KNOW this. However, I also know that in the moment, sometimes, it all gets a bit too much. You can feel frustrated and angry. You will also feel guilty for feeling frustrated and angry. Being a mother is so insane. It’s so mad. It’s so crazy. It’s so surreal and unbelievable and unfair and beautiful. You can’t hold it in your hands. You can’t catch the fleeting time, and yet you wish it all away. You can’t get enough, and you have way too much.

Love Letters #48

I truly think success is contentment, in whichever shape or form that takes.

For me contentment is dancing around my living room like a maniac making my ten month old bay girl laugh. She is a very smiley child. She has the most beautiful little dimples and she is forever making friends with anybody who so much as looks at her.

Contentment is wearing a tight red dress and red lipstick that I haven’t worn in nearly 3 years for a ‘date night’… in my living room. We ended up watching 15 minutes of a movie and then I was upstairs soothing a baby to sleep and he was upstairs cuddling a toddler who was afraid of ‘the bats’.

Contentment is taking my babies to the library on a Monday afternoon and choosing 8 books to take home. It’s stopping in a cafe amid the drizzly walk home and drinking a hot drink with my two year old boy. He is a wonder to behold. He is so human, with all his flaws and beautiful ways. A piece of art, I think, as he sips his warm milk and leaves a milk moustache on his upper lip, which he then proceeds to wipe away on his clean sleeve. My baby girl babbles away in the highchair, waving a croissant around and laughing at herself.

Contentment is making sliced pickled red onions and having them on a cracker with some cream cheese.

It’s tidying up the house.

It’s somebody popping round for a cup of tea.

It’s baby breath, and the warm sweet smell of a baby who has just woken up from their nap.

It’s a mother’s love, that trickles down the generations, and is felt decades and decades later, in hand-knitted cardigans and the echo of a voice telling me a smile makes the most plain face beautiful.

It’s feeling grateful for warmth at night.

It’s the catharsis of crying.

The ability to have hope that tomorrow will be better.

The gentle sigh, the pages of a book, the taste of tea, the sound of someone typing, the growl of hunger after a long day of physical and mental labour, the ache of loneliness, the prayer, the bright and numerous stars in an icy, black night sky.

What is contentment for you?

Slow Down

I watched a Youtube video on 15 minute dinners. Ways to cook dinner quick. Mad rush in the evenings to fit an entire life in. A life put on hold because of working during the daylight hours. Quick, quick, make dinner. Eat it. Hurry. So you can put the kids to bed. Or relax. Or do anything but cook and eat.

Some folks like to take their sweet time whilst cooking. Slowly chop and onion. Feel the satisfaction of a sharp knife sliding through the crisp layers. The gentle sizzle of cut onions in a pan. The creaminess of sauce coating spaghetti.

Why is it always a mad rush?

Where is intentionality in living?

Why does life feels like a horrible race?

Even when not racing?

I bought a really lovely book called ‘Slow Down’. It’s full of little stories. The story of a snail making silvery trails across the garden. The story of a bee collecting nectar from dahlias, and pollinating an entire garden as it buzzes about drinking from it’s straw-like tongue.

Gorgeous little illustrations.

My son and I pored over the book today.

He is ‘scared of the big snail’.

You see, we were collecting snails in the garden yesterday. Well, no. I was weeding a border and I kept pulling snails out with the weeds so I lined them up for my toddler to collect. The snails were small and green, and fit nicely in the palm of his hand. I pulled out a larger brown snail, and he gazed at it in wonder. I watched his eyes flit from his line of little green snails, to the big brown one. Light up. Make to go put it at the front of his little snail army… but just then the snail decided to peek out and see what was going on. Two tentacles for eyes grew out of the shell and my son threw the snail in horror.

‘Don’t like that one, mama. Put it away.’

‘Okay lil chap. I’ll put it away’

So I tucked it away in the weeds again.

That night he kept waking up and saying he was scared of the big snail.

And the next morning as I was leafing through my ‘Slow Down’ book, he noticed the page on the snail and he was fascinated by it. We looked over every inch of that page. Every illustration. The snails looked exactly like the big scary snail we found in the garden, so we talked about that too. We talked about how it leaves a trail, and how it comes out when it rains and hides away when it’s sunny.

We ‘slowed down’.

And I just thought that was meaningful in some way, but don’t quite know how yet. I feel like I want to slow down more often.

Slow down in the kitchen.

Wash the dishes and enjoy it, maybe. Allow little hands to help me hang out laundry. Make a fifteen minute dinner, but observe my pasta. Relish in the gentle simmer of a tomato sauce. Ladle some soup into a bowl. Nice and clean ceramic, smooth hot liquid. Brush hair softly. Feel the locks in my fingers.

Why rush the kids to bed.

Go upstairs slowly. Listen to my boy telling me stories. Even ones where he says he wants to squish all the woodlice. Listen. Breathe.

In Time

I am very fat these days but like to think I am a soft cushion for my babies. None of those waist training things. I am also in the stage of life where I have no time for what my generation like to call ‘self care’.

Now if I were from another era, I would be going to the salon weekly to do my hair. I would have a manicure and a pedicure, and leave my children with the nanny. Maybe. Or family. If they lived closer. I would spend time on my wardrobe and have a select number of outfits which complement my hair and handbags. And shoes.

I would have all the time in the world to figure out how to wash the clothes properly in the machine so they don’t lose their softness and don’t develop nasty little balls on them. Or feel stiff when they should be slinky.

I would figure out how to utilise vinegar and soda crystals to ensure my oven was sparking, my sink smelled fresh and my washing machine was a happy little Larry.

As it stands, I find myself in a constant state of disrepair. I look like I have been dragged through a bush by my toes. My hair is a mess, my feet are so embarrassingly rough, my hands look dry and rough and …. not feminine and soft. My fingertips are all peeling. My nails are jagged and weird. My laundry gets done but always comes out wrong, even though I research the right way to do things. Sometimes they get left in the machine overnight because I am too exhausted to remember to hang them out and my husband is…. a forgetful annoying person.

No sooner do I clean than things get messy again.

And daily

Daily..

DAILY…

I find myself musing on the precious thing we call time.

Time and hours.

If I spend time working out I have to then spend time showering. If I want to look good I have to spend time doing things to my hair and skin and selecting a nice outfit and making sure my eyebrows are trimmed and my feet aren’t rough. All that takes time. Hours.

I also have to have my babies in clean nappies, clean outfits, and have them have a good sense of hygiene. That means hair and teeth brushed, nails clipped, feet clean, socks on, and all that shabang.

iI have to educate them and talk to them and read to them and teach them good life hacks and how to be healthy members of society. I have to take them out and expose them to things and give them experiences.

They must also be fed and not packet food. Broths and vegetables and wholesome grains. THAT TAKES TIME. I can no longer shove any old thing in the oven. I do that sometimes but I do feel guilty because I KNOW what is good for their growth.

So what is a priority?

I also have work to do and research for a literature review. I have to put in hours after the kids are asleep, and the house also needs cleaning? Mopping? Dusting? Fridge cleaned? Oven cleaned?

You see what i mean?

You can’t have a spick and span house, a well-groomed good looking persona, healthy, happy, clean kids and a steady job and good education all in one go.

Lord knows I try every single goddamn day.

THERE ARE NOT ENOUGH HOURS IN THE DAY.

So I end up wearing the same uniform daily. T shirt, shorts, slippers. Hair back in a bun. Time for perfume? Maybe. Always a sports bra. I end up prioritising dressing my kids over myself. Feeding them healthy foods over myself. Educating them and taking them to places. Drinking coffee and coffee and coffee. Strong and black and in a huge mug. Only hygiene is brushing teeth and MAYBE hair. Washing face. Quick shower after they sleep. No creams anymore. No makeup anymore. No nice shoes and cute dresses.

I wish I could look like those mums. YOU know those mums? With the nice outfits and matchy matchy with their little girls. But I really don’t know how they do it? I wake up groggy and feeling like I haven’t slept enough (spoiler alert: I have not). I have to sort the babies out and feed them asap because if I don’t… they suffer and show me. Can’t put mascara on while they wail at me for their porridge.

I don’t know why I write this.

It’s just a reflection I guess.

Just some thoughts I am having about time and what to do with it.

Like right now I could be at the gym right? It’s 8:45pm and my babies have gone to sleep.

But here I sit writing this.

Priorities, ey?

You’re Horrible

‘You’re horrible,’ he said to me, leaning back on the sofa. I sat hunched on the table, angrily tapping on my laptop keys, fury racing towards him like daggers from my side eyeing.

‘No, you are.’

‘I haven’t seen you all day and all you do is be mean to me.’

‘Well I have been taking care of two babies all day and was so looking forward to going to the gym for an hour, MY TIME, but you choose to come home half an hour before it closes!’

‘So?’

‘SO, I am left rushing there, banging out a poor workout, and rushing back.’

‘Ok, at least you worked out?’

‘NO.’

‘Mean.’

‘Not mean. I wanted to take my time, walk there all psyched to go. I wanted to lift my weights slowly and with focus. I wanted to do some stair stepping and sweat to some tunes. But all I got to do was race there, dash in, quickly rush through my weight lifting routine, and rush out.’

‘Hmmph.’

‘And the music had stopped, the gym guy was waiting by the door, tapping on his phone, keys jangling.’

‘…’

‘And I rushed out, raced across the car park in the pitch black, jumped in, locked the doors sharpish and looked into my backseat.’

‘Why the backseat?’

‘Well you know in one of the X-Files episodes where that creepy guy with honey eyes – the one who eats people’s livers every thirty years – anyway, that guy was in the backseat when Mulder gets in his car.’

‘O…. kay?’

‘And I watched that as a child and it so terrified me that every time I get into a car, I have to look into the backseat to make sure nobody is waiting there to pounce on me.’

‘Alright, weirdo.’

‘Anyway and then I rush home. And there is mess everywhere. I was with the kids all day, bathed them alone, put them to bed alone, and I was hoping you would at least clear up the dinner things and tidy up, but it’s a pigsty. Literally. There’s dried baby food on the table.’

‘I’ve been at work all day.’

‘So have I?’

‘What, you were at home!’

And folks, I took my laptop upstairs, and here I sit, steam shooting out my ears.

Is this for real?

What I Want

As each day passes,

I realise

With starker clarity

That I don’t have to feel lonely

Or adhere to people’s expectations of me.

I don’t have to cook fancy meals when family come to visit

Even when I don’t want to

I don’t have to pretend to feel stressed over the things my husband stresses about, to show solidarity.

I don’t have to smile when somebody insults me, to keep the family peace.

I don’t have to drive to visit my in-laws, just because they think I should.

I can get up with my kids and go anywhere and do anything.

I don’t have to feel like a failure for not meeting the expectations other people have of me.

I can

Just

Do

What

the

DICKENS

I

want.

So today, in the pouring rain, I am going to blast some tunes in the car, pop my kids in their waterproofs, and go to a woodland garden. We are going to get very wet. We will look at stones and jump in all the puddles. I will get the biggest coffee with the largest dollop of whipped cream, bank account be damned. Thighs be damned too.

It’s not a failure to not adhere to a routine.

Sweet, sad sixteen

Today I found an old diary from when I was sixteen years old. That was eleven years ago.

Colour leapt out at me from the crackly lined pages of the cheap poundland A5 book. Band names, song lyrics, addresses and phone numbers. Random phrases, supposedly ‘cool’ taglines, self-depreciating paragraphs… and underneath it all a desperate and futile attempt to make sense of who I was.

‘Oh to be sixteen again,’ I thought with a sigh. I thought of my six month old fat cherub and my two year old little terror with a heart of gold and my mundane days and my anxieties and my adult worries and my tedious conversations about paint and toddler beds and sippy-cups..

And life leapt out at me from those pages.

Hope and elation and soaring optimism. I thought there was a road ahead of me and I was giddy because I did not know where it lead and I was full of beans because I did not have a c section scar and loose skin from insane pregnancy weight gain…

I remember running running running as fast as I could down a deserted street in the pouring rain and feeling as though there were wings on my converse shoes. You know the ones? Converse All Star? They were the rage among my group of peers when I was sixteen. I flew down that road. I sailed and my mind was above the clouds and my heart was … safe and mine.

Ohhhhh to be sixteeeeen.

But then I thought more about that. I thought about the vulnerability, the depression, the uncertainty. I thought about being a misfit and uncomfortable in my own skin and feeling ugly and like a failure and having no purpose. I thought about thinking certain people were God’s gift and feeling the desperate need to be liked by anybody.. so desperate that I would sometimes do and say stupid stupid things.

Oh I sure am glad I am twenty seven and not sixteen. I am glad I am on the nerve wracking train that is new parenthood. I am glad I am rediscovering myself again and gaining a confidence I wouldn’t have dreamt I could have at sixteen!

Do you miss being sixteen?

Image Credit

27.06.2021

I think early motherhood is the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life. Every single day is a battle I am fighting alone. It is a vastly lonely place. Time stretches endlessly yet snaps away in an instant. It’s exhausting, exhaustive, filled with guilt, self hatred and overwhelming love.

I feel like there is a huge lump in my throat and I need to cry and cry and cry but it is not high enough to spill out of me in tears.

I know I know I know this will pass and I will look back on it wistfully and sadly and nostalgically and perhaps… perhaps with heartbreak? I know this time will go and I will pine and yearn and ache for my precious babies as they are now. Thieves of my heart. Apples of both my eyes. Their names are scarred on my soul forever and my back breaks for them every single day. I ball up fury and resentment and frustration and it explodes in hugs and kisses and squeezes and promises and the occasional yell.

I am alone. I am lonely. I have no family nearby and barely any friends in the same boat as me.

We are all busy busy busy and people tell us to enjoy every single moment and we try we do we try we try try try but there is only so much you can give when you have nothing left inside.

I am a hollow shell of who I used to be. I laugh shrilly now. Anxiety lives in all my pores and breathes under my arms and heaves like a pit in the loose folds of the extra skin that has stretched and stretched and stretched over my stomach. Housing my two babies. Rent free but I paid dearly for it. A price I am not willing to accept has left my bank yet.

I think about everything all day. Everything everything everything. Things I have to do and haven’t done. I am not being a wife or a woman or a partner or a daughter or a sister. I have no time to be and no help to be but I am facing the consequences of not being those things.

I am lost lost lost lost dark drowned.

They all say every day, they all say over and over again. They say: This is hard. They say: You are not alone. They say: You’re a great mama. They say: This shall pass.

So I write a note to myself and put it on the fridge, because I am always opening that fridge. I write it with an old felt tip pen that is washing itself out.

I write:

When you are feeling overwhelmed and angry, remember this is just a moment out of many. Make it count.

So when they are old, older, oldest. When they are older and I have space to breathe and space to miss them and space for my heart to yearn for their small little faces. So when they are old I can have less things to regret and more to cherish.

Tomorrow is a new day.

Tonight, I struggled to put my two year old to sleep. Oh he was such a cheeky monster. I was at the end of my tether. Feeling irritated. Touched out.

Like I was about to explode into a million pieces of piercing anger, all directed at his little baby face with those big eyes and those rosy cheeks.

But I did not do it. I breathed. I thought of the sunset. Gleaming through the room, burning through the curtains.

I lay there still as a statue. Still as stone. Dead.

He touched me on my arms and kissed my wrists and climbed all over me and chattered away. Counting things, talking about things we did that day, asking to kiss ‘mum-mum’ (what he calls his little sister) – who was soothing herself to sleep with her thumb in the crib next to me.

When he finally fell asleep it was 10:30pm and there was no time for anything.

I took myself to the shower which turned into a bath, because the plug found its way to the hole and the bath started filling up.

I saw an unopened face mask beside the bath, the paper ones that you peel and place on your face and let whatever serum they soak it in do your magic. It has holes for your eyes and nose and mouth. I thought, why not. Been wanting to do this for months. Catching sight of my reflection in the bath taps made me shudder. Horror movie things.

I lay back in my unplanned bath and just felt tired. Guilty. Defeated. Like a failure. I felt like I failed my child because I did not manage him adequately. We did not do much today.

My legs felt sore and I just did not feel anything emotional.

Just numbness.

Couldn’t stay in the bath too long so I hauled myself out and … here I sit.

I don’t know why I couldn’t stay long. I couldn’t relax. My mind feels like it’s teeming with thoughts but I simultaneously have nothing to do.

My babies are sleeping.

Tomorrow is a new day.

Tomorrow I will do better.

New Chapters

25th March 2021

I never sugarcoat things. I don’t think I ever have. If I am happy I am sunshine and if I am not I am a cloud. It could be a fluffy cloud but the shine is dimmed as it pushes through.

I guess we can all be like that.

When the health visitor asks me how I am finding motherhood now that I have two children I say, ‘Well, I find myself looking forward to brighter days.’

Enjoy this time, they all say. Relish the cuddles.

And I am.

But I am also feeling low and resentful.

And I know it is not because I am ungrateful.

It’s simply because I have some mild form of depression. And it manifests in resentment and a wistful recollection of the days before I carried and birthed my children.

My body is unrecognisable and I always see women say this and think ‘yeah, duh’ but

but…

But

But

BUT

When it actually happens to you, it’s like a punch in the gut.

HOLY shit. Look at that sag. I DON’T HAVE A BUTT ANYMORE.

And I spend my days covered in baby vomit and when I wear makeup I kiss my baby girl and there on her face is the faint glitter of my bronzer.

29th April 2021

I wrote the above a month ago and had to stop because my then 9 week old had woken up and began to cry. Dismally. And then life happened. But what a difference one month makes postpartum.

You can go from feeling overwhelmed and out of depth to feeling happy and hopeful and looking forward to the future in four short weeks.

I don’t know why I am publishing this post. All I did was complain!

But it was interesting to open it up one month later and read it with a very different mindset. I don’t feel like that anymore.

I don’t feel resentful! I was not in love with my new baby back then but now I am so completely in love with her that it hurts to breathe! I remembered I felt the same way with my first little boy. Took some time for those postpartum clouds to clear away and once they did, wow, the love exploded.

Those brighter days I yearned for have arrived. I still don’t get much sleep at night, I still have to feed round the clock and we are DROWNING in nappies because my 2.2 year old is still not potty trained. But I seem to have more energy and zest for life.

I am in a new chapter and it’s unlike any of the old chapters. There are turns in this road that I never would have anticipated. They feel like wistful turns, like I will look back at them sadly and knowingly in years to pass, and wish that I had lingered longer on their gnarled and wonderful corners.

That’s all I have to say really.