Mother

The background music to my shower is that of a crying baby, and yet when I turn the faucet off, and stand dripping in the sudden ensuing silence, I hear no baby crying.

I tiptoe out and drip on the carpet, peering into the bedroom.. baby sound asleep on my bed, ne’er a stir.

Back to the shower it is. Rubbing shampoo through my sparse postpartum hair, trying my utmost to ignore the anguished imaginary cries of my baby.

I towel myself dry and watch that peaceful little face, large soft peachy cheeks, eyelashes gentle on the roundness below, small deep breaths under the covers, a contented little sigh.

My eyeballs are burning. I am beyond needing a nap. My body screams for a good weightlifting session at the gym. I flutter about the house on my toes, doing only chores that are silent. Brooming, mopping, dusting. No hoover. No dishes. Never boil a kettle. And set the washing machine to start when nap time is over.

If I am too tired to do that, I sit on the sofa and eat ice cream. Noodles. Doritos. And I watch reruns of Gilmore Girls. Not focusing on the story, really, just mindlessly staring into an abyss.

Daily things are done as and when I can manage them. I want to kiss my boy inside and out, but don’t know how to. I live for the little gurgling laughs and the huge shy smile and that soft little double chin. I knew I would love him but never realised how much it would hurt and what sort of worry it would cause.

I miss my mother. My mother in law doesn’t like it when I visit her. She gives me the silent treatment and yet acts normal when my husband is around. She complains to my husband that I am disrespectful and always act like I am itching to leave. She doesn’t let me leave. And when I try to she asks ‘why’. Even though I spent the entire weekend at her house, and only a few snatched hours with my mother. I am not allowed to stay the night with my mother else she gets very upset and her husband shouts at my husband and calls him names and stresses him out until he fights me to the death so I give in and stay in their horrid, horrid depressing house. My father in law wouldn’t have cared if his wife hadn’t pushed him to. He told my husband that she comes first before anything and he must never upset her.

I am shocked. I didn’t think she had it in her.

What about me and my sanity and my mental wellbeing?

I miss my mother so sorely and yet when I am with her I am stressed because I know I will be ‘in trouble’ when I go back to my husband.

This time is meant to be special, and I am making it so, I really am. I am treasuring my child so very much. I just wish family was easy also. I feel trapped, because I don’t actually have a choice. I feel anxious all the time and on the verge of tears.

My husband makes it very hard for me to see my family as he prioritises his mother, and causes trouble when she causes trouble. So I have to pick my battles, and that means much less time with my parents.

I miss them so much.

Having a baby makes you need and value your mother in a way you never did before.

When I am a mother in law, I honestly will ensure that I am not so selfish and insensitive to my daughter in law. People need their mothers, while they have them.

I NEED my mother.

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Myself

Hello. Yes it is me. Peering into the internet. I am sitting in bed with a baby snoozing in my arms as I type this. It has been some kind of day. He won’t seem to settle tonight unless he is being held but I don’t mind I don’t I don’t I never will mind because he will never be this little again and he is my big big blessing.

We did nothing today but are exhausted. But that is the reality of parenthood.

It’s been three months to the day since our lives changed completely, and as I was getting into the shower at 10:47pm I thought to myself – you know, self, your life is never going to go back to being like it was before. So stop thinking of that. Embrace this change and make the most of it.

So that is what I have decided to do. Babies are not a pause in life – rather an enrichment of it. See it’s taking me a while to get there but I am working on it.

See what I have to do is throw myself all the way in. Go all out. Dedicate my brain and time to learning and teaching and loving and nurturing. Not wishing for a holiday.

I love this boy more and more every single day it’s insane.

Like at the beginning I don’t think I bonded very well with him because of how traumatic the birth was – and because I was under general anaesthetic when they pulled him out of me via emergency c section – I didn’t witness his entrance into this world. They literally put him on me while I was woozy and drowsy from the operation and I tried to connect but all I wanted to do was sleep. So weird right?

But now I am in my right mind again – I think… i don’t know yet because back then I thought I was in my right mind but I very obviously was not…

anyway. Myself. That was the prompt for today. I must work on myself and not hang about the fringes of things if I want to give my boy a valuable childhood.

I want to give him the best in terms of mind enrichment and education. So that means I have to make sure I am educated and informed.

If you have had kids, how did you navigate being ‘yourself’ in order to nourish the brain of your child? Any tips would be so very welcome!

Sparkle

I am challenging myself to write a post every single day in May, to kickstart my writing again. I will be following some prompt words that I ‘stole’ from somebody on instagram. Here is my seventeenth post.

 

Hundreds and thousands,

Atop white icing,

Atop a cake,

On a plate,

Covered in foil.

Wrapped in a plastic bag,

Shoved

Mercilessly

At the bottom of my schoolbag.

For I was ashamed

Of the cake

My mother toiled all night to make,

for the school fair.

Don’t ask me why.

It was perfectly lovely,

Soft, yellow vanilla sponge

Simple, perfect flavours,

And the sparkly fun of hundreds and thousands decorating the top.

I just didn’t want to be

That GIRL.

WHAT girl, pray tell?

The one who carries a cake onto a bus where the boy she secretly crushes on sits coolly at the front, NOT carrying a cake.

Don’t ask me what nonsense goes on in the minds of twelve year olds.

When I got on the bus..

That boy was carrying a cake.

And most of the other kids

Had some kind of home-made concoction in their laps too.

I felt stupid

And sad.

For my cake,

On it’s plate

With white icing

And hundreds and thousands

Was a flattened, crushed mess.

And my heart, now, today, at 25

Wrings in sadness

At the thought of the love and care

That went into that cake,

As my mother,

toiled through the night

To see a sparkle

in her daughter’s eyes.

I love you mama.

 

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Red Lips

I am challenging myself to write a post every single day in May, to kickstart my writing again. I will be following some prompt words that I ‘stole’ from somebody on instagram. Here is my fourth post.

My to-do list is huge. There are so many things on it that get pushed and pushed and pushed back until they are curled and blackened and covered in layers of wanting to be clean.

Other things take precedence.

Bottoms must be wiped. I know, such a charming topic. Clothes to be changed, cries to be soothed, cuddles to be given and soft chunky little bodies to be fed and bathed and rocked gently to sleep.

Lullabies to be sung.

Baby clothes to be washed.

The floors can wait, my hair needs care, nails are bitten down to stumps and polish dries in glass bottles as the dust settles on their lids.

Lips are cracked.

I wore a red dress at my wedding party. After the white one. An A-line princess neck dress, embroidered bodice, tulle under a skirt that flared out just enough to be elegant. Not too much. A red dress and red lipstick, sultry and deep and when I look at photos of myself I do not recognise that carefree girl.

I want a baby, I told my husband, I have so much love inside me and it wants to come out.

Give it to me, instead, he told me. And I did, of course. Red lips and high heels and night dates and spotlights and kisses in the moonlight, in the heat of the sun. Kisses before and after work. Sleepy ones and excited ones and ones that are routine, barely noticed and vaguely appreciated.

And red lips. Perpetually. The soft click of a good quality lid, the deft twist and the scarlet balm smeared on two lips in a matter of seconds, turned up hair and a pretty dress. So much love to give, galavanting from place to place. Work to home and travelling here and there in between.

Evenings enjoyed. Nights slept in full. Mornings together, just the two of us. So much love to give. So much given. Eyes meeting and smiles amid hours of companionable silence.

I don’t wear lipstick anymore. Ever. Barely. Silence is fleeting, moments together are snatched. Cuddles involve tiny arms and legs, and two large heads cooing over a small one.

I don’t have red lips. But I still do have so much love to give.

 

Love Letters #48

This photo

Gives me a strange ache

In my chest

Some would say it is my heart.

But does a heart have feelings? Or is it just the brain projecting?

And why do the most emotive of sensations make themselves felt in the chest?

I don’t know why this photo has such an impact on me.

Something about summer, and roses.

It reminds me of my grandmother. She had a kaleidoscope of roses in her garden, plants all over her home. Silence ringing through rooms, interrupted with the soft tick-tick-tick of a clock, gentle chirping outside, the distant buzz of a lawnmower. Sunlight flooding through tall windows.

Knitting needles, clicking.

One leg crossed, over the other. Face knotted in concentration, but never frowning.

All that hurt in her heart, but always a smile.

All that pain in her body, but always patience.

Now I am going through a very similar physical pain, and I don’t know how she managed to do it. To give so much, so effortlessly, with all that burden on her heart.

So when I came across this photo today, my heart thumped painfully in my chest, probably because my brain told it to.

Because it reminds me of my childhood in her garden, her love and patience and life,

Enveloping me in warm comfort.

She was a mother to her own children, and a mother to their children too. A mother in the deepest, most emotional sense of the word.

And what is lost can never be returned.

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The credit for this image goes to this blog on Tumblr. 

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My mother doesn’t like to talk about things. I don’t know why, she is just like that. My mother is half blind because of an accident leading to a retina detachment. It hinders her greatly, because it would anybody – to go from being able to see just fine to being part blind.

She still carries on with life, though. And she never ever talks about it. And she gets very annoyed when I ask her about it, so I don’t.

I respect that she doesn’t want to talk about it. Maybe that is her way of dealing with it.

I don’t think I understand my mother very well. I think we are very different. She is more similar to my sister than she is me. They are both very stubborn, which is why they don’t get along most of the time. It isn’t pretty. It makes me very sad.

Today I accidentally found out that my mother might have cancer. She would never have told me. She doesn’t know yet. She is still waiting for results. But she has cysts in her uterus and a high number of white blood cells. But the specialist will be able to determine if she does or not.

She did not want to tell me because I worry too much. Which I understand and respect. But I wish she did tell me. I told her I was not worried and will only worry when the time is right to. I don’t want her to worry about me worrying. I want her to be relaxed and peaceful.

So I left my mother’s home and came to where I live and I have sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. Which is so ridiculous because nothing is definite. But. I just. I just thought about all the suffering she goes through. And how rude and disrespectful my brother and sister are to her. And how upset that makes her. And how nasty I used to be back when I was a rebellious little witch.

And. How I can never forgive myself for putting her through hell.

And. How she sacrificed EVERYTHING for me. For us. Her health. Her happiness. Her stability in marriage. Her life. Her career.

And. If it is bad. And if she is sick. I want her to be happy. I just want her to be happy. I just want

her

to be

happy.

I am really upset. And I shouldn’t be because this is not about me, it is about her. So I am only going to show her happiness. I am never going to cry in front of her because that will hurt her. I am only going to be good and kind and make her laugh with my ridiculous stories and listen to her and take her out and treat her to a John Lewis facial because those are super luxurious – and I am going to make sure my siblings buck up and move their sorry asses and help her out.

If they don’t they will have a furious big sister to deal with.

And I just want my mother to be happy. Did I mention that?

My mother is everything to me. She is my whole world. She made me who I am today. I hear her voice in the background of everything that I do. I hear her encouragement and her soft support behind all these words that I write. My mother is one in a trillion humans. There is nobody like her on earth. I know she will love me when all my hair falls out and when I am a fat blob of misery. She will tell me to dry my tears and stop being so silly. She will stomp on my self doubts and tell me I am so beautiful and wise and interesting.

If I don’t have my mother, I don’t have the earth at my fingertips.

 

Woman

I went to my mother yesterday. She was making dinner while the rest of the family lazed about doing nothing.

‘I feel so stressed,’ I told her, ‘I don’t know why. All my exams are over.’

She carried on stirring the cheese sauce for macaroni cheese (i put chilli flakes in mine. I have an obsession with chilli flakes lately. My brother says I will get stomach ulcers. BUT THEY’RE SO GOOD?!!?!), but I knew she was listening.

‘I feel like everybody expects something from me and I am trying my best to meet everybody’s expectations but it is never enough, and I go to bed feeling guilty that I haven’t done enough, or been enough, and it’s giving me anxiety!”

My mother turned to me, and she was smiling slightly but her eyes were dead serious.

‘Well Lenora, that’s what it feels like to be a woman.’

Her voice was encouraging, supportive, sympathetic, sad.

For the first time in my adult life, I saw my mother as a woman, not just my mother, always getting on with things, always dependable, always listening to what I have to say. That’s way too much expectation for a singular human. But they do it. They all shoulder it up and carry it through life, and the bundle just gets larger and larger.

And that, I think, is simply amazing. The amount of strength one woman can garner. Woman are strong, folks. They are built to carry the weight of the generations on their shoulders.

 

 

Love Letters #7

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Dear Mama,

We don’t always get along. Sometimes I am very rude to you. Like yesterday, when I walked in from work, exhausted and thirsty, and you said ‘where have you been, missy!’ and I got irritated and said, ‘Where do you think I’ve been?! You know I go to work. See, you always ask me this because you never remember because you don’t care about me.’

That was cruel of me. I know you care about me. I know you are tired and overworked, and nobody helps you at home. Ellie stays in her room all the time, and moans about doing a pile of dishes. She never cleans anything, and you go to work and come home and cook and clean after four kids aged between 21 and 10. And not one of them lifts a finger for you, except maybe sometimes. Very rarely, though. And you call them until your voice is hoarse and that is so wrong. If i had the time, Mama, I would help you. I would clean up for you and cook dinners for you and make sure the boys behave.

I know I should make time, but it’s so hard. There is not a moment where I am not teaching or studying for the imminent exam. But when it is over, I will help you. I will take you places so you can relax.

I want you to know that I am sorry. I am sorry for all the pain I have ever caused you, and I know I have caused you a lot of it, and much of it you haven’t forgiven. I don’t want to bring it up again with you because you will make me relive it again and again. You have this habit, you see, of going into all the grainy details. Details which are painful for me. And it was all five years ago. And I am so sorry but I can’t say it without feeling so awful and painful and scared. So I just try to silently show you by doing the best I can for you.

I say, jokingly, that your mother was a mumsy mother, unlike you. But you don’t have to be ‘mumsy’ to be a good mother. It’s not the hugs and the cuddles we want. We see your love in the way you make our breakfasts before school, and the way you listen to all our woes, even though you have plenty of your own to worry about, and which you never speak of. We see it in the encouragement you give us, in the way you push us to be better people. In the way you have sacrificed everything, even your sight, for us. You were so unhappy for so many years and it was all for us.

Us ungrateful, wretched children, most of whom do nothing to help and don’t appreciate anything. But they will. Oh, they will, when you aren’t around them anymore. I hope they do and I hope they feel pain because you don’t deserve to be treated the way they treat you. You are their mother and you deserve to be respected highly, for all you have done and continue to do for those lazy, selfish louts.

I don’t always agree with the things you do, but you made me who I am today. You helped me become more confident in myself, and love myself for who I am. You told me I was beautiful when my bald patch shone bright like a star on top of my head. You made me read from the age of three, and if it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t have found my true calling.

You are not soppy at all, and saying these things to you would result in a ‘Ohh, shurrup’ in that no nonsense way of yours. We aren’t a touchy feely family at all. Mostly because you aren’t, but that is okay. It is just the way it is. I just want you to know you are appreciated, and you are a great mother, just like your mother before you, who you never stop remembering to us.

And I wish nothing but the best for you, Mama. I will take care of you, even if you bat me away and tell me to stop mothering you. Who will take care of you, if not your own children?

A Mother's Love

The Darker Side of Parents.

Because I tutor children, there are some things I have realised about different mothers (who are generally the primary dealers with me).

The main thing, of course, is that they do like to talk about their kids. The thing is, you see, I really am not interested in what Aaron ate for lunch last night, or how late Peter went to bed (theoretical names).

I genuinely DO NOT CARE. I care how much your son knows or if your daughter has done her homework, but all those little details about how good they are… I don’t care.

A mother’s opinion is highly subjective, of course. I know lots of mothers who take it too far. For example, my mother in law, doesn’t like it when anybody else highlights anything bad about her kids even though some of them are right brats. RIGHT brats, I tell you, and it really annoys me. They aren’t perfect just because you birthed them, you know. And they genuinely are horrible and mean, e.g. one of my bro in laws is pretty mean to my little brother so my mum doesn’t want them to mix as much.

Even with D, if I say something, even if its so small like ‘Oh, D couldn’t cook to save his life’ (because I always cook and a girl gets sick of that you know? And he can’t cook but you could darn well learn to, even if you hate it, and help your wife out a little. He acts like such a baby when it comes to cooking I swear) she will say ‘awww but he’s my baby, he’s such a good boy, his heart is in the right place.’

Um, I’m married to him, I know how he treats me sometimes, it’s like he is a massive child and it’s because he is constantly coddled. I won’t mother him. And I will secretly really seethe when you coddle him and treat him like a child, because that just makes him act like one with me and lately, after living here for a good four months now, it’s getting worse. Gah. I need to move out already.

Anyway, so some mothers like to say how good their kids are and how well-behaved etc etc… BUT I REALLY REALLY DON’T CARE.

I will be the judge of that, thank you, based on how they behave with me. A lot of mothers just can’t accept that their son back talked me or their daughter keeps disrupting the class.

‘Oh but he’s such a good boy he can’t….’

He jolly well can and if you aren’t going to take responsibility he will grow up an arrogant fool and nobody will like him.

For example, a student was late for his lesson and his mother texted that he couldn’t wake up, and it’s fine, of course, sometimes people can’t wake up because they need the extra sleep. So I said,

‘Ok, that’s fine. We can resume next lesson.’

There. End of.

But then she goes on to say, ‘Andrew wakes up at night, he struggles to wake up, and he has poorer health than others. He ate cereal last night and it didn’t agree with him, I think it’s the milk, maybe I should start giving him fruit if he wakes up hungry.’ [this is the literal text, by the way]…. ON and ON and ON.

I get that you want me to understand that he isn’t being spoiled and there is a genuine reason for his tiredness, but spare me all the details.

I really don’t care, lady. It irritates me because then I have to REPLY to it, and I really don’t want to because I didn’t want to know the details about Andrew anyway. He is so rude to me, honestly, and gets really pissy when I correct him, even though it’s my job to, and when I try to explain to him where he went wrong he just grunts at me. Which is rude for a 12 year old boy. But his mother brushes it off saying his cereal put him in a bad mood, or ‘he takes his study so seriously and gets really upset when he gets it wrong.’

Son, you are going to get it wrong plenty of times so learn to deal with it and move on. So I roll with it and smile and nod and say ‘good job’ while inside I am just really wishing I could tell him to stop whining and get on with it.

She also has to bribe him to have lessons, by promising him sweets. Makes my blood boil. She is basically bending over backwards to make him out to be this angel when really he is disrespectful and is too big for his boots, and needs a slap.

Some mothers think that other people have no right to say their kid has done wrong, even if said other person is dealing with their kid for hours and hours a day, even if said person is MARRIED to their kid. No, only you can decide if your kid is being naughty. I think that is very wrong.

My mum’s friend told me she saw that her daughter was being told off by her class teacher at school and suddenly she was gripped with this rush of anger making her hurdle down the stairs so fast to intercept it.

What? I said, But surely the teacher has a right to do that? How else will the teacher maintain discipline in the class?

The lady wasn’t having any of it, though.

Oh no. Not to my baby. She’s an angel, she would never do anything naughty, nobody else can tell her off but me!

I really, really have had it this morning. It’s a combination of lack of sleep, D acting like a big child and being moody with me (because, I dunno, my hair’s a mess?), his whole family in the room last night at 10pm when I just wanted to go to bed because I have been awake since 5:45am and need to get up at 5:45am again tomorrow, and my head pounding like a thousand Thor hammers creating a racket in there, but no, they can sit around and chill while I am blatantly waiting to sleep, his mother babying him (if I hear one more ‘awww my baby’ I will explode!), and all these mothers making excuses for their rude little children.

If I spoke to my teacher like that (I wouldn’t dare to, out of respect), my mother would nip that in the bud quicker than I could blink. She would march me over there and make me apologise, and forget watching movies or having treats for a good week (which is AGES in child time).

Well. Who knows what I will be like when I am a mother. Hopefully I will be sensible and recognise when my child has done wrong, rather than make them think they are angels walking on this earth.

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The Naughty Boy – George Bernard O’Neill

Raining

Today is Saturday. All our phones were forecasting snow, but so far it has been sunny and showery by spells. My fingers are cold, though. It’s certainly colder than yesterday.

There is a hole in my heart today. It’s wide and gaping and bigger than I can handle.

I went to the gym, nursing my hole, and sweated until there were rivulets running into my eyes. Then I did planks and pushups and mountain climbers and lifted some weights. Afterwards, when my legs were too shaky to hold me up anymore and my arms were like jelly, I hobbled into the showers where I stood for a good ten minutes under a hard, hot stream of water, soaking my senses. I stood there quietly, allowing this painful feeling to wash over my entire body. It made me weak.

Soap, scrub, wash and out. I stood in front of the mirror painstakingly smearing foundation all over my face and curling my eyelashes with a thick wand of mascara. Curl curl curl, lengthen, elongate, blink, curl.

I blowdried my hair and it flew all around my head as goosebumps popped over my scalp. I closed my eyes and relaxed into the warming sensation. When I walked out of the gym, the sun was shining against a backdrop of heavy black clouds grumbling quietly.

I went home to my mama. She was sitting down on the phone. When I walked in, nodded at her, and went to see what I could nab from the kitchen I heard her say,

‘I’m sorry, Sadie, I’ll have to call you back. My Len’s just walked in and I think she needs to talk to me.’

I grabbed three tangerines and went back to the sitting room.

‘You’ve got that face you had when you were eight and all the girls in the bus ganged up on you, what’s wrong?’

‘Do I? Oh, nothing. I’m just tired.’

The conversation spiralled out of control. So slowly, though, that I barely noticed it happening. First we were talking about exams and then she brought up something I did years ago that was Very Bad and Extremely Terrible. To her, at least. To me it was different. It was a horrible experience in which I was abused and manipulated and felt so alone and didn’t trust anybody and couldn’t speak to my mother about it because she kept telling me I was ‘evil’.

When I told my mother this today, she started making excuses. So I didn’t want to talk about it anymore.

‘You’re just like your father, you never want to talk about the big things, the real issues that matter.’

I can’t talk to you about it, because you make out like I was the evil one, and you didn’t understand me, and you still don’t. It was five years ago. I need to move on.

I also realised that my mother is not easy to talk to, and sometimes talking to her brings me down. Sometimes. I love her very dearly, but she doesn’t like to admit when she is wrong, and is constantly arguing and making excuses. It’s very tiring and depressing, sometimes.

I also realised that sometimes I do this too, to my husband, which is why he doesn’t really talk to me properly lately. I know I do this, and I need to stop, because I can’t bear it when my mum does it. It makes me feel trapped and anxious and it also means I can’t trust her.

When she asked what was wrong, and I said ‘nothing’, I lied. There was something wrong. I just didn’t want to tell her, because I know she will tell her friends my business, and then when they see me they’ll be all up in it, asking me how everything is.

Like yesterday when a neighbour that is a bit weird and odd and nosey cornered me and asked me how I was feeling after my miscarriage. I was furious. Why did she tell her?! What right did that lady who doesn’t even know me and is such a big gossip, have to know about my private affairs?!

It’s none of anybody’s business, and my mum doesn’t understand that just because they are close to her, doesn’t mean I want them to know my business. So if things are bothering me now, I can’t tell her, because I know everybody we know will end up knowing.

I’m not saying my life is so important that she has to tell everybody. I’m just saying that my mum tells people stuff. She just does. She would deny it vehemently and say no no no but last month a close friend of mine said,

‘Hey, Marie told me you were feeling really isolated out in the country, you never told me!’

Who is Marie? Some loser little sucker who I really hate, but whose mother knows mine pretty well. How did she know this? I told nobody this. Nobody. Except my mother.

See. If Marie finds out about my ‘marriage problems’, she will be gleeful and go around telling everybody who’s anybody, whether they want to know or not.

So that’s why I can’t open up to my mother.

If I tried to tell her why, she would deny it and get angry and shout at me and make excuses saying ‘oh but it’s only so and so’.

I don’t care if so and so knew me in my nappies, she doesn’t know me now and has no right to hear about my private matters.

So, right now, all my problems are kept inside me, and it’s really ripping me apart. I feel so helpless and upset. This marriage malarky is really hard, and I need somebody to help me, or listen to me, but I don’t trust anybody.