Category Archives: Parenting

The longest day [ever] and sleeping around…

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We knew it was going to be a long day.  But we had no idea of just how long it would end up. We left the village at 2am.

We piled into the car, strapping Bo into an old simple little car capsule, dreaming of hours of sleep on the road. Dreaming was right! Bo decided that she didn’t want to sleep. For the next five hours I talked to her, read to her, tried to soothe her, tried to help her sleep. A few times I took her out of the capsule and nursed her or just held her close as we drove (not ideal, I know) and she would instantly fall asleep. I would then put her back in the capsule and she would wake within minutes.

It should take us no longer than 10 hours to get to Jakarta. It took us closer to 14 hours – we did in car feeds, play time, and even a few bumper-to-bumper nappy changes. We only just made it to the clinic (with five minutes to spare) before it shut so we could get the medical completed for our mans Australian migration  visa. we had planned to do some shopping, spend some time together, maybe get some frozen yogurt… things you dream of when you live in a village. But we had run out of time. We then spent a few hours in the car  on the way to the airport.

I was exhausted by the time we got in the line for our ticket. I was beyond exhausted. Bo had slept for maybe three hours all day long. I had slept maybe one and a half since the day before. A kept telling her it would be over soon. We would be on the plane and she could curl up in my arms and sleep soundly and undisturbed. I was wrong.

After a long line for check-in in the sweaty Jakarta airport, another long line in customs and immigration and then a two hour delay. Our flight was cancelled due to a tornado over the ocean. We then stood in another long line to get back through immigration, more stamps in our passport, then a long line to find out what was happening with refunds/reissuing of tickets. I was frazzled. I would like to thank the little man from the middle east, the love7l gentle Indonesian woman with her three year old baby and the three Lebanese Aussie guys – they helped me push trolleys, collect baggage, find passports, find sanity… they gave me comfort and helped me relax when all I wanted to do was cry. They said the next flight would be sunday night. but then they said that it might not be until Tuesday. Bo. was in her sling, watching the world. Quiet as can be. I was a train wreck.

My lovely husband turned the car around and drove the three hours he had gotten away from the airport – back to the airport. Just to help us figure otu what we were going to do. We tried to get a room at the transit hotel. It was full. So we got into a strange car, with a security guard and a driver… who promised to take us to a near by stand by hotel. My husband started the 10 hour journey home… again.

We drove through the back alleys behind the airport to a dingy little hotel. I was just glad they took us to a hotel at all. I got in locked the door. stripped Bo of her sweaty clothes and cuddled her up in bed, trying to help her relax. It was nearly 3am. We slept. I got up early to try and figure out flights. I was fried. I tried to find a solution. I was going to go to the airport with Bo and try to get on a flight standby… and get out of here… but   then I got a call from my mum. We had been rescued.

Since 11am this morning Bo and I have been holed up in a lush hotel room, on a big comfy bed. We have both slept. Bo had a five hour nap. And tomorrow morning at 3am we will leave for the airport.

Right now Bo is rolling around on the mattress next to me. A tropical storm is thundering outside and we are both warm and clean and comfortable. I realised today just how blessed I am to have a baby who is so adaptable. She was awake for seven hours without a nap yesterday and still she was quiet and smiling and chatting. She was happy to play on a blanket on the floor. She waited in lines without getting upset. She was patient even when I know she must have been hungry. She just stayed strapped to my body, calm and quiet, her big eyes looking up at me. She is a wanderers wandering daughter… and this is a pretty good start for my already-seasoned traveler… in the past 24 hours she’s slept on the floor of an airport, in my arms, in a dodgy Indonesian hotel and in one of Jakarta’s most comfortable hotels… She’s done it all.

xox Hopefully next time we will have finally arrived and be in the arms of family.

To inherit the earth, is our gift to them.

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Bo’s birthright: it’s in her blood.

Living in the village has taught me many, many things over the past few years. I have learned to let go where I used to hold on, and I’ve learned to hold on or hold back at times where it’s no longer appropriate to let go. I’ve learned how to eat with one hand (even deboning a fish or unshelling a prawn), how to barbeque fish over hot coals and how to shower with a bucket. I’ve learned a language, a culture and an identity I didn’t know I had in me. I’ve learned how to appreciate faith, even if I don’t have a particular faith of my own.

I’ve learned a true appreciation for the luck of my birth rights, the luck that was handed to me just because I was born when and where I was. I grew up middle class. I grew up with clothes on my back and food in the fridge. There were hard years, where perhaps I was too aware of financial stress and bills piling up… but there were also many easy years where i was allowed to just be a child. I was lucky to be given the opportunity to have government support whilst i studied at university and the freedom to study what I wanted, where I wanted, when I wanted. These privileges weren’t earned. I didn’t do anything to receive them. They were inherited. They are privileges I am so honoured to be able to pass on to my daughter, and privileges I know my husband wishes he had had.

I’ve always been aware of recycling, in Australia we are very well educated when it comes to garbage disposal etc. Our government programs that actually DO the disposal haven’t quite caught up to our education, but that’s a whole different story. When I first moved to the village I was shocked that there is no garbage disposal system here. There is no dump. There are no trucks that come to collect your household waste. Waste get dumped into a hole in the front (or back) yard and gets unceremoniously burnt off when the hole gets too full. Good or bad, it’s the system here. And as I got used to the many cultural differences I have over time come to accept our rubbish hole.

The blessing of the rubbish hole is the new thinking it brings. It makes me consciously THINK about what goes into our household bin… knowing that I will have to live with seeing it in the hole for the next few months until it is burnt or covered with fallen palm fronds. We create very little household waste now. With food scraps going over the fence to the chickens, dogs, water buffalo and other wild (and not so wild) animals that pass by and using cloth nappies (who wants to live next to a pile of dirty nappies?) we are greatly reducing our impact on the local environment we are a step in the right direction.

The problem is the plastic. What can be done with all the plastic? Everything comes in a plastic bag, or two… when I go to the market (which post-Bo is not very often if at all) I try to take a canvas bag with me to avoid plastic, though some sellers are pretty insistent that their goods come wrapped in plastic. We donate our unwanted plastic bags to my mother in law who uses them at her house and in her food stall to sell her wares… is there another great use for unwanted plastic?

Maybe it takes knowing that you have to FACE your garbage every day to truly THINK about what you throw out? Whether you do already or not, it’s certainly worth considering isn’t it? We leave many things for our children. We leave them love and useless belongings. We leave them with lessons and letters and photographs. We leave them with a world that we as adults have helped create. Maybe we can’t change the politics or effect global change in a day (though I’m not saying we can’t in our lifetime… because if we all just STOOD UP we truly could) but one thing we can change is our own actions and how they impact the world around us. And maybe the simplest way to start really is by looking in your bin?

Let’s let these kids inherit the same beautiful earth that we did.

A bum in cloth.

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cute, soft and enviro-happy… Bo in one of her 2nd hand Itti Bitti’s

I never thought that I would be spending time seriously considering the pros and cons of different nappies, nor did I think I would spend time writing about them. But here we are, and here I am… writing. I have a confession to make. I have an unhealthy love of cloth nappies. I’ll admit it. Even from here in Indo I find myself using my slow internet connection to browse second hand (I try not to buy new, but that’s a story for another time) nappy sites and look at the beautiful cloths and dream about Bo’s little toddler bum running around in cloth. I don’t purchase, I just look, and dream.

I don’t purchase because Bo has enough cloth. We have thirty something nappies in a big red plastic bin in her corner of our house. 90% of these nappies were gifted to us and the others were bought second hand. We love our cloth.

When in Australia we used disposables most of the time… with a brand new first-time-mama baby, a husband overseas and packing for a move… we had enough on our plates, so I “learned” cloth slowly. Once we arrived here in Indo we went cloth, and we are using the last of our disposables just for night time sleeps (they last a super long time when you are only using 1 or 2 a day!).

I read a lot about cloth diapering before we started the cloth adventure. I joined MCN (Modern Cloth Nappy) forums and found out how to wash, care for and use cloth diapers of all makes and models – and you may find it hard to imagine, but there are a few.

We have our favourites. We love Itti Bittis and Designer Bums… but the China Cheapies we have are really just as reliable and Bo couldn’t care less which one we put on her. My husband loves them, I love them, they don’t leak, they don’t smell, they look cute and they are super easy to use and to wash.

Good for our pocket. Good for our environment. Good for Bo’s bum. And now we have our semi-automatic (yes that means it’s part manual) washing machine and we don’t have to handwash… there is no reason not to go green and use cloth.

When nappies are $40 a box in stores… it’s definitely something worth considering when thinking about your babies bottom.

xox

If only there was a birth-plan for life after birth.

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Parenting advice comes in all shapes and sizes… and whether you ask for it or not, it comes. Some of it is good, some of it is bad and a lot of it is, well, for lack of a better word, painful. When you have a child, as soon as you are handed that baby, your parenting is scrutinised.

In our birthing plan we were very clear about what we wanted for the first few hours of our life with Bo. We wanted respect. Respect for the bonding that would take place, respect for the decisions we made about how to bless her, how to love her and how to welcome her into the world. We were very grateful that the hospital that we were at were extremely respectful of our wishes and regardless of how dramatic the final moments of Bo’s birth had been, within fifteen minutes the room was cleared, the lights were dimmed and we were left alone and in peace with our baby.

I chose to co-sleep in the hospital. It wasn’t a conscious choice, it was just what happened naturally because we were allowed (Bo and I) to evolve into our real-world partnership and begin to find our feet together. What we needed was closeness, and so during the night, Bo’s tiny newborn body slept in the crook of my arm in our single, crisp-white sheeted hospital bed. The midwives raised their eyebrows a few times (I could see the SIDS warnings flashing behind their freshly minted smiles) but they held their tongue. The staff respected my decision, and I was grateful to not have to justify myself to anyone. Bo and I have been happily and safely co-sleeping together ever since, and for us, it is the very best decision I could have made (or not made as the case may be).

If only we could write a life-plan, or a life-preferences sheet and give it to everyone in our lives and have them respect our decisions for the way we would prefer our life to go just like we can in a hospital for the birth of our child. If only I had my doula on hand for every step of my parenting, my very own advocate, standing by my side, holding my hand and whispering encouragement in my ear. This parenting gig is hard, and the second you walk out of the hospital (and unfortunately for some mums it starts in hospital with the midwives) people will judge the decisions you make.

I know a woman, with a young baby just like Bo, who was very recently verbally attacked in a shopping centre food court for bottle feeding her baby. The woman scolded this mother, telling her that babies should be breast fed, that she was, essentially, not doing what was best for her child. I also know of other mothers who have been made feel uncomfortable breastfeeding in cafes, restaurants and other public places by general members of the public. The first few weeks, months, years of a mothers motherhood is an extraordinarily emotional time and to think that anyone feels they have the right to comment (with anything other than praise and encouragement), or indeed pass judgement on the way a mother feeds her child (as long as the child is indeed being fed) greatly disturbs me. How have we lost so much respect for each other that we can’t just stand behind someone and say, we as your brothers and sisters, we support you…

The idea of respect has been on my mind a lot lately. Respect for peoples choices. Respect for other people situations – regardless of the outcome that those situations may have on me personally. Respect for babies as people. Respect may be something that is culturally ingrained in us, and this is something that I’m planning to ponder further as it’s something that I’m facing day to day here in the village.

Why can’t we just find it in ourselves to let go of our own judgements and ideals and just respect each other and find love and acceptance just because we are people, all in this together, just trying to make sense of this wild world… one day at a time with no life-preferences plan to follow.

What’s the best parenting advice you’ve ever heard? What’s the worst?

I’m on her team.

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Right from the beginning: Photo by Kate Heaslip Photography

How would you like to go to a brand new place, have some strange giant pick you up, get all up in your space and repeatedly tap your face until you grimace in such a way that it convinces the giant that you’re smiling. The giant will then proceed to bounce you up and down whilst waving your arms around and banging your fists together as if you are clapping until another strange giant comes over and repeats the entire game from the beginning again… Personally, I’d rather not. I’m a big fan of my personal space. Don’t get me wrong, I can be quite affectionate, I love a good cuddle and I like being physically close to people who are important to me. I love meeting new people, but I’m always a little wary at first, just trying to find my feet before I dive right in there. I like my little personal space bubble to be respected, and I am really trying to ensure that Bo has the same respect given to her.

People love babies. There is something really magical about a little person. Their little tiny feet, their chubby hands, those cheeks… they are magnetic, there is absolutely no doubt about it. Long before I ever held my own child I felt drawn to children, the purity, the naivety, the beauty is enchanting. So I completely understand that people want to look at Bo, how could you not? She’s spectacular. I even understand when people want to squeeze those chubby pillow feet sticking out of the sling when we are at the beach. I love that people talk to her when she is in the safety of my arms – it gives her a chance to interact with the world whist still feeling secure and protected. It allows her to transition into this big world gently.

What I don’t love is people tapping her face repeatedly trying to make her smile. I don’t love people leaning in until they are an inch from her face and making loud noises at her. I don’t love people bouncing her up and down and talking loudly at her and treating her like a puppet, especially when it’s nap time and she’s tired. I don’t love people trying to pick her up out of my arms when she is snuggled in close. I certainly don’t love completely strangers trying to take her from me on the beach… whilst culturally all of these things are totally acceptable here in the village, for me however they are not. For my child, they are not. I know people don’t mean any harm… but I also know people don’t always think beyond their own little bubble.

These things don’t only happen here. They happened a lot when we were in Australia too. The only difference is that in Australia I have no qualms about telling people no, picking up my child and giving her what she needs – regardless of how that may make other ADULTS feel. Here I do the same but I’m not quite as linguistically capable of explaining my actions, so I’m afraid at times I probably come across as a real bitch.

Some people may say I coddle her, others may say I’m controlling, some people may think I’m not being respectful of my elders – there are always plenty of critics. I know there are parenting “methodologies” out there that would say I’m spoiling my child, but I don’t believe it for a second. I try to be as respectful of others as possible. But my respect for my child trumps my respect for anyone else… I’m on her team first and if that means the strange woman on the beach and the surrounding crowd think I’m awful for not handing my precious baby over to her, so be it.

One day Bo will be able to tell me how she feels, and she will be able to show me what she’s ok with and what she’s not. One day she won’t need me as her advocate (even though, let’s face it, I always will be) and she will be free to do what she feels ok with, and I will trust her implicitly to do so. For now however, I’ll protect her and build her up and by respecting her as a person I’ll help her to learn how to respect herself, something that so many young women out there have forgotten how to do.

Have you had to manage cultural expectations that have been placed on you as a parent? Have you ever had to challenge them?

The long days of the (slightly maniacal) mother of a catnapper

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We have a serial cat-napper on our hands, and it might be driving me insane. Up until we moved to Indonesia Bo was a relatively good sleeper… or maybe that’s just romanticised hindsight? We had a system down-pat (a total fluke) and it was working for us in a no-routine kind of way. In fact the week before we moved Bo was sleeping 9 hours in a row at night and napping like a champion here, there and everywhere. Now however, we are completely exhausted. By we I obviously mean me, myself and I because Bo is bouncing off the walls in an energizer bunny kind of way.

Bo has decided that napping is unnecessary. And on top of that she must be attached to mama or her father at all times. And dad certainly comes a close second, she adores him. He has mastered getting her to sleep, sometimes it takes 45 minutes of slow dancing with her on the cool tiles of our lounge room (I use that room title very loosely).

She can be in an open-mouthed, floppy headed, intoxicating sleep on either of us. Or so it seems, until the exact moment you decide that your arms are burning, your eyes are bleary and for-the-love-of-god you need to go to the toilet… and then BAM – hello big brown eyes, she’s awake again and looking at you with the sparkle and cheek that I’m sure we will get to know well over the years. Then it’s party time. But in-your-arms party time because god forbid you put her down for a second. She’s not a big crier, but she’s a big shouter, and makes it quite clear that she’s not impressed by howling, grumbling or generally honking in your direction until you pick up her chubby over-tired body and hold her close – then all noises turn into happy honks and giggles and teeny-tiny-happy-wolf howls right into your ear.

From the time we get up in the morning at around 6am (after an increasing amount of middle of the night mama cuddles and feeds), until the time we start putting her down for the night at around 7pm – I spend the entire day trying to get my cat napper to sleep… then trying to keep her asleep. It’s pretty safe to say right now that NOTHING else is getting done right now as operation get-Bo-to-stay-asleep is still in full swing.

And I may be (read: am definitely) going a little loco for it.

Motherhood makes [me] crazy…

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Just call me crazy. Seriously. This motherhood thing, it’s turned me into a bit of a lunatic. People warned me before I had this baby, they said to me “Sash, the world that you know is going to change, it’s going to change hard!” And I smiled and nodded and did all the boring pleasantries that make my stomach turn a little and I shrugged it off. I mean honestly, how much could my world change? I’ve always been a pretty open minded person… I’ve always (attempted to) seen things the way they are but left plenty of wiggle room for those not so frequent (who am I kidding?) moments when I had it totally backwards.

Then I had Bo.

Now I look at the world through a totally different lens. And right now, I’m going through the lens that is commonly known as the lens of FEAR. Welcome to motherhood, sucker! Seriously though. Before Bo I was a traveler, I lived out of a backpack for years. I flew around the world… I drank in strange bars, I partied in languages I couldn’t understand, I lived on the proverbial edge, I did things I was proud of (and let’s face it many things I wasn’t)… I wasn’t living in fear, I was living for adventure. I used to say, the only thing to fear is fear itself – I was very “deep” (and very naive).

I wrote about fear and how to get away from it and to stop it from taking over your life. I thought I had this no-fear approach to life down. I was so very, very wrong.

Now here I am with this precious little being in my care and it’s making me crazy. Everywhere I look I see Armageddon. The mandi buckets in my bathroom a drowning hazard, the rats in our kitchen a sanitation issue, second hand smoke a  killer… Everything that I used to think was fun now just seems super dangerous. I imagine car crashes, planes falling from the sky, kidnappers, murderers and the giant purple people eater. The list goes on and on until you start reaching global warming, over population, starvation and aliens taking over the world and turning us all into slaves. I mean what if something was to happen to me? Then who would take care of Bo? Who could possibly love her the way I do? What is going to happen when she’s a big adult in this crazy world and no longer wants/needs me to protect her? I get stuck in these spiraling thought processes and they are driving me mental!

And all you mamas out there are nodding and sipping your coffee and laughing at me… welcome to motherhood, you say…

Come on mama’s (and papa’s) – share with me, what’s your most irrational post-baby fear?

xox

life begins… at the end of your comfort zone.

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Yesterday Bo and I arrived in Indonesia and the end of my comfort zone. After a hectic week in WA introducing Bo to family and having the whole gamet of experiences that go along with such a whirl wind trip (and a few unexpected) we boarded a plane at 2.45am (really, not recommended when travelling with an infant) and flew right through my comfort zone, landing in hot, sweaty Jakarta a little after 6am on Friday morning. A wonderful reunion for my little family, we loaded the car up with our luggage and we set off into the dusty highway. We had a long ten hour trip ahead of us  to our new home in a village I called home for many years.

The drive was much as expected, having done this trip a bazillion times before. Bo was an angel who napped and chatted and smiled the whole way. We stopped in my husbands village to do a quick first introduction of Bo to the wonderful world that is her Indonesian relatives… and here is where my first panicked moment set in.

I handed over my beautiful, calm little girl to her lovely grandmother and the craziness began as family began streaming through the doors to poke, clap at, and delight in Bo’s charms. Bo was totally fine with it all… a little wide eyed and shocked, she played along and smiled on cue and did all the right tricks. I, on the other hand, was more than a little overwhelmed watching my tiny baby swamped in a sea of Batik. I put this feeling down to a combination of heat and absolute exhaustion, and if I’m completely honest, being miles from my comfort zone and allowing myself to get caught up in an I-want-my-mummy moment.

This moment continued long after we left my husbands family behind and ventured into our own village, to our new house – as I inspected the new place and made a mental note of all that needs to be done, I felt hot tears on my cheeks… I was overwhelmed at it all. Bo and I, sweatier than we have ever been, found calm in eachother whilst my husband raced back to the last village to purchase insect repellant and a fan to make our night a little more comfortable.

I knew then that I was having one of my well known first-night-moments. I have them every time I travel to a new place and they are always magnified when I’m travelling alone (which WAS most of the time, and probably won’t happen again, anytime in the near future). In India I broke down and hid in an airconditioned hotel room for 12 hours, in Hawaii I forced myself out on the town, in Vietnam I shook the tears with a shower followed by a cold beer in a crowded bar. I know this feeling well, it’s a what-the-hell-have-I-got-myself-into feeling. What is unfamiliar is having this feeling going back to a place that is already familiar to me. This sea of faces, the heat, the sounds and smells are all strange compared to where I come from but I’ve lived in them before. What is different is bringing my little girl into this world of colour…

Last night I shook off my tears and soothed my baby to sleep. I ate dinner with my husband for the first time in six weeks and I then tried to sleep. I knew that things would be different in the morning. As I sit here now the call to prayer is dancing through the heat of the air, across the women planting rice and into my front windows. The shell of Bo’s ear will be catching its sound as she sleeps under a mosquito net next to me. I’m not nearly as panicked as I was last night. I’m calmer and more centered but I’m still out of my depth.

I’ve always believed that life begins at the end of your comfort zone… I’m certainly here. I guess it’s time to start living.

I can’t believe she’s mine…

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Look at her, my Bo. She’s mine. And I totally can’t believe it.

When we talk about parenthood there is always a lot of talk about sleepless nights, stress, exhaustion, confusion and general feelings of failure. We find solace in the fact that other mums have three-day-old spew on their clothes and haven’t been out of their pj’s for days. We nod in unison and empathy to stories of mums who haven’t had a cup of hot tea or a warm meal since baby was born. But what we don’t talk so much about is the tenderness. That feeling that you have when you look at your child. Maybe we don’t talk about it because there really are no words for the way it feels. Any mum (or dad) knows what I’m talking about. The moment when you look into the eyes of your child and your heart breaks with absolute happiness and love and fear and total awe. And suddenly you are completely connected with mankind. Suddenly being human is the most amazing experience that life has to offer. Suddenly you understand.

There really aren’t words. I just can’t believe she’s mine.

What if the newest “must-have” baby item was simplicity?

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What if the newest “must-have” baby item was simplicity?

I read a lot of mommy blogs. I read a lot of posts by other mothers, new clueless mothers (much like myself) desperate for some sort of advice/guidance/reassurance that they aren’t alone. Then I read articles, posts and comments by old-hat pro mums who have been around the block so many times their hair is grey and they mutter with some sort of baby-induced tourettes that seems to get gradually worse as they venture through toddlerdom and beyond.

One thing I’ve noticed about mums is we like to buy stuff, it’s like stuff will make us forget our anxiety about not doing it right. I get it, this mother gig is bloody hard work – it’s like every day you get up to go to work and realise that you never left work. You don’t get to shower in between gigs and your hot and smell like spew. Your overworked and have no social life to speak of. Your boss is loud, demanding and speaks a foreign language and you’re forever trying to translate the cries. We are programmed to believe that stuff will actually make it better and solve all our problems. If one mum finds a particular item of clothing/sleepwear/noise making device or secret fairy dust  that seems to solve their problems then every mum between here and there will rush out and buy one.

But, what if we didn’t? What if we simplified life and got rid of all this junk and just lived? I don’t know, maybe we would all spontaneously combust, maybe I’ll be shot down by the all important marketing deities for even suggesting it… it is blasphemy against consumerism after all.What if instead of buying stuff to entertain our child so that we can go and do something else/watch tv/chat on facebook… we got down on our knees and played silly buggers with that little ball of dribbling innocence that kept us up all night?

Maybe less (of the plastic, light up, musical crap) truly is more (for them) and more (for us)… but then again, I have a six week old who won’t let me put her down, I still smell like stale spew, I’m completely sleep deprived and the shop was all out of magical fairy dust last time I checked – so I could be completely wrong.