Happy Mothers Day

00000002I was not even half way through my 20s when I became mum to Jade. By yesterday’s standards and absolutely by today’s standards, that’s pretty young to be popping out an offspring. Although I will proudly state upfront that Jade was never “popped out”, moreso the caesarean result of a stubborn child who preferred dark warmth to fluorescent noise. I think she still does. I still can’t wake her up.

But I digress…

I was the first of my tribe to bear offspring. And at the time, her father and I had absolutely no idea what we were doing.

“Is it time for a nappy change?” he would ask me.

“How the fuck would I know?” was my standard issue response.

“Is she due for a feed?” was another of his incessant questions.

“Well we fed her three hours ago, how about you do the maths,” was another example of a standard reply.

Somehow though, we got her through to adulthood alive and alert, where she will turn 25 at winter’s end and continues to stupefy and enrich me with her fearlessness, conviction, vivid plans and flat out refusal to conformity.

That’s how I absolutely know she’s my child. She makes me feel I can validate the title of mum.

My arc of friends is wide, colourful and jagged. Single mums, married mums, gay mums, grand-mums, aunty-mums, no mums and a decent sprinkling of never-to-be mums.

My folks, Jade and me 1997

My folks, Jade and me

Yet all are mums in some form, shape or voice.

I met a lady (girl) on my first day at high school who to this day is still my close, supportive, non-judging, available, warm, joyous best friend. That was in 1978 so again I ask you to do the maths (simply because I’m getting so old now, I’m a tad afraid of calculators).

She’s literally the world’s most dedicated and enamoured aunt (or Arty) to her tribe of nieces and nephews. Which involves a set of twins so work with me here. Her wish to be a biological mum to her own kids didn’t eventuate. And that comes with its own separate menu of heartbreak, but at day’s end it never stopped her from loving and evolving with the young ‘uns her brothers and sisters managed to manufacture.

I have another incredible (and again very long term) friend who has chosen to devote her life to her mother’s care and not concerned herself with her own reproduction. And remains nonplussed with her choice.

Yet another shunned the concept of conception outright and embraces a career lecturing in the USA on sleep techniques for babies.

ps15My Brisbane neighbour, who never quite found the right bloke to make the babies with, knew that there were cartloads of abandoned puppies that the RSPCA needing help to process and home. Which eventuated in her full time care of Milo and Peaches, two adorable pups that in lesser circumstances would no longer be with us.

My other best friends M&M are apparently gay but are so fucking fabulous and warm and gorgeous and blessed that being gay is irrelevant and unconnected. Not a hesitation or a stuttered breath in helping me and wanting to take care of Jade. Black Eyed Pea and Kylie concerts spring to mind, the sort of concerts where I would prefer to swallow a battery than endure. Sitting on Dreamworld’s Giant Drop or eating at the Pancake Manor or enduring hours of boogy board surfing… And when she needed it, offering her a full time job in their company.

And my other friend, who held my daughter in her arms when she was three months old while I held her wine glass for her, then went on to give her office work 23 years later. I once spied on them having a cocktail together. They were laughing. Bless. I kept walking, albeit with a very warm heart. I may have taken a sneaky photo.

Fashion shootHere’s the thing. Don’t think for a second they’re not mothers too.

As a single mum from the time my daughter was four, I had to be flexible and open to support, ideas and constructive criticism to make it all work. I had a tribe of people around me who cheered, cleaned up and nodded, and every single one of them needs a Mothers Day accolade for the help and kindness they selflessly offered me. And for what the offered others.

OK, so I’m adopted. From birth all I knew were two people who vocalised unashamedly on their desire to be parents.

They chose me.

I think that’s cool.

And they are the kind of parents people dream to have – easy, supportive, talkative and ready with a wine bottle and a wine glass. They also sent me to Girl Guides, Sunday School, piano lessons and private school. I may have got a smack. I definitely got grounded.

Four decades later I meet the outstanding and liberating lady who not only gave birth to me, but also understood that the best option for me was adoption. How a mum makes that irreversible and devastating choice I will never experience but I absolutely know it was made from a place of love. And a place of hope. Hope for a brighter future and the peace of knowing you did the best thing possible.Jade 3

She’s my mum too. I love her so much. I’m pretty lucky to have the best of both mother worlds.

It’s the motherload. Literally.

I want the word “MUM” to mean more than what Hollywood movies depict or online news forum debate.IMG_0765

If you love unconditionally, I reckon you’re a mum. If you have ached because someone else ached, you’re a mum.

And if you look into a younger person’s eyes and see the future, you’re absolutely a mum.

Happy Mother’s Day. Much love xo

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For the mums

off to schoolIf my memory serves me correctly (because there are often times it doesn’t) it was 19 years ago that I took my daughter’s five year old hand and walked her into her Grade 1 classroom to start her schooling.

The night before had been fairly riotous. In a bid to quell her excitement, I had invited close family friends over for a barbeque. They arrived at 4pm, bearing sausages, gin and zero expectations of etiquette. How could they? There was an excited five year old bouncing off walls and the side of the pool, showing off her brand new uniform to the younger offspring of my friends.

As responsible parents, we poured ourselves large measures of Bombay Sapphire, frightened it with some tonic, and set about dissecting the pros and cons of private schooling and whether head lice was really an issue.

Eventually we cooked the sausages.

After they departed, I was unable to settle young Jade. She wanted to stay up to practice her reading (which was no more than using her own words to describe what was happening in the pictures of the book) and practice her singing (she opted for Van Morrison’s Brown Eyed Girl but sensibly changed the word brown to blue so it matched her eyes).

I think I was asleep before she was.

Jade 2Now, when morning arrived, something happened that had never happened before. Never. Let me explain. You see, my daughter can sleep for Australia. When her father and I first brought her home from hospital, we fed her and changed her, and popped her into her bassinet. It was 4.30pm. At 8.30pm, I anxiously started to do five-minute checks, worried she’d stopped breathing. But she slumbered.

At 10.30pm, I wanted to wake her but her father was militant and declared you never wake a sleeping child.

At 11.30pm, I opened the scotch bottle.

At 1.30am, I passed out, as you do when you haven’t had a drink for nine months.

At 6.30am, I woke up in my own bed, my sleeping husband on one side and the dregs of a scotch bottle on the other. I lay in bed for approximately one full minute, happy in the knowledge it was a Sunday and I could sleep in.

Until…

I remembered I had a baby. In my house. That hadn’t been fed or changed since 4.30pm the day before.

And I screamed.

I ran to her bassinet, sure in the knowledge that I would find her suffocating in her own nappy or perished from lack of food.

Not at all. She was still contentedly sleeping.

Jade 1She eventually woke at 8.00am, happy and chirpy. Had a feed, had a bath, had a cuddle, and went back to sleep. Just like babies are designed to do.

This, of course, charted a course for Jade, where she became the Queen of Sleep. When she was four months old, we had a dozen friends over for Christmas drinks. Apparently the neighbours found our music (which was only Abba for God’s sake) so loud they called the local police to hush us. I politely showed the nice constable my sleeping daughter, who was in the room next to the music and sensibly said “Officer, if she can sleep, I can’t understand now the neighbours feel the music is loud”. The nice constable didn’t have an answer.

A few years later, Christmas morning was a laugh. Whilst every child in Australia was terrifying their parents at 5am with squeals about Santa and presents, Jade slept on. In frustration, I went to her room at 9am and woke her.

“Darling, it’s Christmas morning, don’t you want to see what Santa brought you?” I begged, camera at the ready.

“Mmmm,” was her muffled reply. She lifted her head, nodded at the bulging sack at the foot of her bed, rolled over and slept for another half hour.

So when it came to her first day at school, I was fully prepared to drag her out of bed by her plaits and force-feed her Weet-bix.

Instead, she wanders into my bedroom at 5.30am, fully dressed apart from her shoe laces, holding her brush for me to plait her long hair. She’d already had an attempt at breakfast and had her backpack by the front door, ready to go.

That has never happened again.

We drove to her new school and when I took her into her classroom, I instinctively knew she was in good hands. Her capable teacher, Mrs Bird, had taught Grade 1 for a hundred years and there was nothing she couldn’t soothe with a smile and a hug.

I went back home and sat at my kitchen table with a cup of tea that I’m sure went cold. The day I had been waiting for, almost dreading really, was here. My girl was growing up and I wasn’t sure if I liked it. I was sure there was nothing I could do about it but that doesn’t mean I liked it.

Like all the other new mothers, I was at the school gate an hour before I was needed. My reward was this tiny blonde creature, long plaits flying, running through the quadrangle and into my waiting arms to tell me about the “bestest day ever Mummy”.

That night, I stroked her hair as she slept, and wondered if I’d still feel the same way when she was in high school.

Jade 3Of course, within a nanosecond, she was in high school, and I was traipsing up to All Hallows’ School to again drop her off, this time for Grade 8. The plaits were replaced by a messy bun and she slung her mobile phone into her pocket, but I was still the worried mother, carving myself up inside wondering if I’d made the right decisions and armed her with the right skills to handle high school.

And then, in another nanosecond, it’s five years later and I’m sitting in the All Hallows’ graduation ceremony and high school is done. They’re off to schoolies week and university, driving their cars and kissing their boyfriends.

And I sat there and wondered where the time had gone. I remember week after week of being a single working mum and that relentless cycle of washing, ironing, making lunches and driving to her to netball, ballet, music, choir and her father’s. Of making sure we had enough money for holidays and a laptop, and eventually private school fees. Of making sure I was a sort-of-cool mum but not an over-the-top-cool mum – nothing that would embarrass her. Of thanking my workmate for covering for me while I was at sports day or home with a sick child.

In a blink, it was over. No more lunches, no more ironing uniforms, and if she needed to go somewhere, she could drive herself.

I had all this free time and I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it.

So, to the mums out there who today started the school trek or continued it, I will tell you what a wise person told me many many years ago.

When it comes to parenting, the days are long but the years are short.

Make the little moments count.

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Due date

007If you were to ask me now if I could remember the exact date I was given, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. But when I was sitting in my doctor’s surgery, nine weeks pregnant, it was a date that was seared into my brain and invisibly tattooed on my skin.

The date my baby was due.

My own birthday is at the end of August and it seemed incomprehensible that I would be holding my own child in my arms when I next blew out candles.

Not for even a second did I pause to appreciate the benefits of youth and pregnancy. Probably because when you have youth, you don’t bother to appreciate it because you figure it will always be there.

But since Jade’s birth, I’ve watched friends and workmates struggle their way through gestation while in their late 30s and even early 40s. But at 25, when I was pregnant, I pranced about the place and couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about.

The first time she moved, I was lying on my bed reading. I felt the movement and looked at my stomach, and thought it was a scene from Alien. I think Jade was doing yoga. It was like she stuck out her foot, which created this big lump in my stomach and then it started moving from left to right, and back again.

If I hadn’t known I was pregnant, I would have been terrified. Those Maltesers ads are lame in comparison.

When I got to about seven or eight months, I noticed these reddish-purple lines on the lower part of my stomach. I didn’t worry too much at all, because I just figured they were the indent marks from the elastic in my tracksuit pants. Tracksuit pants being the only item of clothing which was comfortable.

But even when I didn’t wear the wonderful tracksuit pants for a few days, those marks were still there. No way was I going to even consider the possibility of stretch marks, until my doctor very gently and very kindly said, “oh, and you’ve got a few tiny little stretch-y marks just here but they’re nothing, they’ll be gone in no time.”

(In actual fact, the “stretch-y” marks covered my entire stomach from hip to hip. Nice work on the doc’s part though. And as for them being gone in no time? The baby turns 22 next month but I’m sure they’ll be gone soon.)

Mmmmm.

So my due date was approaching. It was a Sunday. I remember with absolute clarity going to bed on the Saturday night fully prepared to wake at 2am in gut-wrenching labour. I even slept in my tracksuit pants to make getting ready to go to the hospital quicker and easier. (It’s why I’m tired, I’m always thinking.)

Instead I woke at 7am, walked the dog, read the paper, drank tea and pulled out some weeds. Some friends popped around to “see how I was” (I think they just wanted to see if labour hurt as much as the television says it does).

I made some lunch, we all chatted, and then watched a movie. I made sure it was a movie I’d seen before because I was convinced my upcoming labour would prevent me from seeing the end.

I even had a glass of wine, figuring that the baby would be out before its affects supposedly ruined her for life. Same way you eat chocolate on the day of your high school formal because you know the pimples won’t show until the next day, so you’re in the clear.

Instead, the movie finished, and with some big hugs, our friends left. I took the dog for another walk, moved the sprinkler, and hung out a load of washing. I even had another half-glass of wine.

Nothing.

Over the next few days, I started getting agitated. Where are you? Get the bloody hell out of there, I want to meet you! Get the bloody hell out of there so you can see your frothy princess pink room that I made for you. Get the bloody hell out of there so I can start thinking about my size 12 jeans again.

And so it started. I walked for miles every day. Our gorgeous dog was in heaven. And very tired. I cooked the hottest curries on the planet. I drove through potholes. I had crazy crazy sex. And more wine.

Nothing.

In the end, nearly 10 days later, we all gave up. The doctor confirmed what I’d already guessed. She wasn’t coming. Not today, not tomorrow, and probably not next week.

They had to go in and get her.

And that’s the date I remember. August 22, 7.09pm, when they stuck a dirty great needle in my back and took Jade out via the sunroof. Finally, I got to meet my girl.

So Kate Middleton, I know your baby is born to be Queen (yes, it’s a girl) but don’t stress. One way or another she will make her way to you and you’ll wonder what you ever worried about.

And like me, you’ll wonder what you ever did without her.

xo

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On motherhood #3

Life rarely turns out as you hope or plan or dream. Neither do your kids. That’s ok. Be flexible. Go with what you have, work with what you’ve been given. No matter what, being a mum is a gazillion times better than you could ever have expected – for better or for worse.

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On motherhood #2

Sure your kids need boundaries. My kids need boundaries. But ultimately you don’t teach them about boundaries through setting and enforcing rules. They learn about them from the examples that you set … the way you live your life, your beliefs and values, the boundaries that you set for yourself. This is what has the greatest impact on your children.

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On motherhood #1

Here’s the thing. When my daughter was at school, I felt guilty running to work (away from her) and felt guilty running home (away from work). But looking around, I realised there is no perfect mother, whether she goes out to paid work or doesn’t. You simply do the best you can, with what you have, and that is good enough for your kids. Ironically, when you reach that point, and realise you’re doing your best, you seem to get more time to relax and enjoy your little family xo

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