September 30, 2014 § Leave a comment
Last week I read this piece on the conflict between wanting more children but feeling the time has passed. The sentiments have remained on my mind since then, and I feel compelled to write my own version, specific to my own set of circumstances.
I remember myself as a child, fantasizing that instead of just one brother and sister, I had three of each! I loved the hustle and bustle and the sense of camaraderie I observed in larger families in my community. I remember one particular family we were close to, with six children. We used to go on regular holidays with this family: days of canoeing down the Kangaroo River, lots of bushwalking in the Blue Mountains, and a trip to Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef that I was invited to along with one of their sons. I revered the can-do attitude of the parents, and the tight knit unit of their family.
I have always been a little bit all-or-nothing. I wanted no children, or lots! As a young woman, it was no children. Then I met my husband and rather quickly we were pregnant, and a whole new future opened up for me – a future that involved lots of children, a bustling house and that adventurous spirit I fell in love with as a child.
I love being pregnant. I love giving birth. I love nurturing babies and young children. Beneath the worry, I love the unchartered territories my eldest is dragging us into as he strides through his teenage years. And I do now have a large family, with five wonderful, individual children. We have had lots of adventures, though as number four and five have come along those adventures have changed, have become less carefree.
I know in my head that five is enough. Our house is full, our hands are full, our days are full. Meeting everyone’s needs in the family often feels impossible, despite the numerous gifts and positives that many siblings bring. We chose an independent school for these special souls, and that often pushes us to our limits financially. We began our family before we had established careers, and both Sol and I would like to catch up in this area, and even to get ahead. It is insanely hard trying to transition careers with so many dependents, and so many time demands. And then there is the whole population debate – I sense it is becoming less and less socially acceptable or responsible to create large families, in a world that many see as already over-populated.
Now our youngest is two, and we are moving out of the ‘baby stages’. Life has begun to get a little easier for us all. I tell myself that after fifteen years of pregnancies and births and breastfeeding and babies, that it is OK to move on to the next stage of life. Now my personal goals can enter the frame. This is both thrilling and terrifying. I have never had a career. My goals center around a business based on myself and my creative skills, and I am out of my depth even thinking about the possibilities of these goals becoming realities. Motherhood and more babies have now become the safe choice: choosing to leave those days behind and push myself into new areas is the adventure.
My midwife used to tell me that in her experience, a woman ‘just knows’ when she is done. I’ve yet to have that knowing. As I finish breastfeeding my youngest child, a void opens up in my body. There is space there, in my heart and in my womb, for one more. It is not rational, or sensible, or logical.
But it is insistent, like the constant beating of my heart. It is there.
September 11, 2014 § Leave a comment
Sol and I never used to celebrate Father’s or Mother’s Day. In the early years of our relationship, it felt contrived and unnecessary to participate in what we saw as a materialist and token experience.
But in more recent years, and with a few more children under our belt, we have been participating more and more. As children get a little older they become aware of these occasions, and so the questions about why we weren’t celebrating have been raised more than once. And our previous convictions began to feel like just plain old sour grapes!
It is nice, however contrived the occasion sometimes feels, to be acknowledged as a parent. And this year, when Sol had a ten hour shift on the actual day, we all felt really sad that we couldn’t be together for some family time. We did go out for a rare meal out with four out of our five children (one is on a class trip) the day before, where Samuel and I picked up some goodies for Sol on the way home:
Sol is a great father – fun to play with, great with the daggy dancing or the dad-joke, caring, calm and sensible. Now that we are doing it, celebrating – Happy Father’s Day!
September 3, 2014 § Leave a comment
August 25, 2014 § 1 Comment
Fifteen years ago I became a mother for the first time, and my breastfeeding journey began: through five children and a few little breaks between babies, it amounts to eleven and a half years of actual breastfeeding. And this journey now seems to be at its end.
I have breastfed in trains and buses and cars and aeroplanes. I have breastfed whilst doing the grocery shopping, while watching movies, while snuggled up in bed reading a book. I have breastfed while bushwalking, at the beach, even whilst sitting in the boom net hanging off a boat as dolphins frolicked just meters away (did that twice, with two different babies). I have breastfed newborn babies, just minutes old, and three year old sons who could ask for the ‘boobs’ and make a grab for them. I have breastfed for hours on end, through growth spurts and comfort feeds, and I breastfed my last baby in 10 second bursts when he was seriously ill.
Now that baby is two and a half, and in typical Robin style (he must be different from his four siblings!), he has been initiating the weaning process. For months now I have been gently introducing some boundaries around night time feeding, and now Robin is taking the lead, and taking things further.
He often asks for a breastfeed, manouvering himself into position, pointing and declaring “that”. But about a week ago he began sucking for a few seconds, then clamping down and biting. After my nipple was hastily removed (with an expletive or two: it is extremely painful), he giggled and moved off to do something else. This was the pattern for a few days.
Bedtimes became an issue all of a sudden – how would I get him to sleep if I couldn’t feed him? This is where Sol has stepped in, singing Robin to sleep some nights, and other times he falls asleep while Sol and I are chatting. But in the middle of the night, the baby has returned – rolling over and instinctively breastfeeding whilst still asleep. No biting.
A couple of days ago, Robin stumbled out to the lounge after a long sleep. He came into my lap, and began breastfeeding. My breath was held in, anticipating the bite, but he was still half asleep and in that instinctual space so it never came. It wasn’t long – a few minutes of feeding as he came into a more wakeful state. I must have known it would be one of the last ones. I looked down, at his hand splayed protectively over my bosom, lips apart, and a look of bliss of his sweet face. It occurred to me that he was getting much more than just milk in that moment. He was consciously loving breastfeeding, consciously revelling in our combined energy, and loving the taste of the milk.
His eyes found mine and we shared a moment of loving awareness, and of mutual bliss. It was as though he looked into me and acknowledged the breastfeeding journey we have experienced together: the tender intimacy, and the touchstone that breastfeeding was for us throughout some very difficult times.
Last night, he did not roll over and seek the breast at all. I have not breastfed him for a day and a half now.
I think back on all the years of breastfeeding; of the times I hated it and felt trapped, the times of mastitis. Of the satisfaction that comes from being able to nourish a baby, the gratitude of that way to comfort when babes are ill or teething, and the moments of tender connection.
I breastfed Robin exclusively for twelve months. Twelve months! Throughout his illness, when I could only literally feed him for seconds at a time before he began coughing, I was so determined to be the one to nourish him. Amidst the clinical setting of the hospital and the intrusive wires, beeping machines, and endless monitoring breastfeeding made him my baby. And that was so deeply important.
I’ve been so lucky, and so blessed with breastfeeding. In many ways it is a relief to finish: it is tiring, often limiting in practical ways, and takes energy. But the end of breastfeeding heralds the beginning of a new phase – new ways of connecting with Robin that are not yet established. Will we still have that closeness? The end of my childbearing and baby years – who will I be now that I do not have a baby to feed? It has been so long that I really don’t know. The prospect is both exciting and terrifying.
August 18, 2014 § Leave a comment
I began my crafting journey years ago, in a small community centered around the local Steiner school. My teacher was known for her dyeing skills and simple toys – dyed clothes, felt and rest bags (among other things!), little wooden figures dressed in beautiful felt clothes, and a huge assortment of tiny gifts for tiny people: treasure bags, crystal bags, craft kits, and on and on. And other people were known for other skills: wonderful cloth dolls, or wooden items, or hand sewn clothes.
Anyone who has followed my blog or knows even a little about Steiner inspired crafts knows the very distinctive visual elements that mark it out. Rainbow colours in soft or bright, pure colours that invite the eyes to drink them in, natural materials, wool felt and fleece and wooden toys, along with an overall sense of great quality and beauty. Within the ideas that form the Steiner philosophy, there are a million things to create, and of course even the same hand sewn pouch doll can look radically different depending upon who sews it.
When my teacher moved away from the school, I was so excited to have the opportunity to step into the crafting space (so to speak) she left behind, as dyeing and working with wool felt were (and still are) my particular passions. As a young mother who chose to stay home with her babies, crafting (and selling) was the one thing I could do to bring in a little spare cash, all in the name of helping to pay for my children’s wonderful schooling.
Over time my own style has developed, and evolved into the items I now think I am ‘known’ for – hand dyed wool felt in solid colours or rainbow painted, felt pictures (hand embroidered by me), rainbow dyed clothing items and doona covers, and more recently hobby horses.
A few years ago I became aware of the issues of copyright and originality in the crafting world. As a semi-professional crafter, I have deep respect and wonder for the amazing products I see being created around me. I now aim to produce items that are my original work -and if they are inspired by something already in existence – I put my own style and ‘stamp’ on it.
However this year I have felt disillusioned with the crafting scene. From reading in magazines about small time professional crafters having their designs taken by a major retailing chain, to what I have observed on a local level: people copying other people’s work (to then sell for their own profit), sometimes anonymously, sometimes shamelessly. I support a diverse market, and I support everyone’s right to produce items similar to mine, but sometimes I feel frustrated with the lack of clear boundaries in this area.
I am left protecting my ideas and designs until the last possible moment, knowing that once an item goes on sale, it is fair game. I once had two women talk in front of me at a market about how they were going to take my original felt picture and turn it into a craft project for their own community, and another person ask me if she could photograph an item of mine so she could copy it at home! I suppose that is a complement in a way, and I have copied someone else’s work in the past – although I buy the item in question, and as mentioned before, make it my own.
I would love to hear your ideas on this issue. Am I being too ‘precious’ to think that I should be the only one in my community doing my ‘things’? Or is this area open game for everyone?
August 14, 2014 § 1 Comment
For most of this year I have been wrestling with just how I can bring my children into greater harmony. They are often like shooting stars – going off in their own direction, to friends’ houses or sports games (how did it happen that every child chooses a different sport?!) I love it that they are gradually forging their own little lives, but I particularly want to nurture the strong centre that is the family.
There are moments: we recently had a few days’ holiday by the ocean, and I was touched one afternoon to see William holding Lily’s hand as we walked along the shore. Last week Samuel played hide and seek with his younger siblings.
Is it naive to want these moments to become the rule, rather than the exception?
As is often the way with serendipity, a rather simple and random addition to our household has provided the pathway to this goal: The Ball.
I use capitals for The Ball because it is not just any ball. Look around our house and yard and you find two basketballs, two soccer balls, a mini soccer ball, a mini basketball and numerous tennis balls. The Ball is different – bought by my mother for Robin: a cheap and light ball.
The lightness is the key – meaning that what is usually an outside toy now works as an inside thing – light enough to kick around in the lounge room without knocking things down or breaking anything. It is light and bouncy, so even the smallest of the family can throw a decent distance.
While the boys have been heading to their rooms to read or sleep after school lately, all of a sudden they are here, near me as I cook, kicking the ball to each other and making creative rebounds. Samuel loves a ball so much he will even kick with Lily (with whom he enjoys a love-hate relationship), while the ball is soft enough not to scare Lily into running away from it. And Robin, well, Robin will kick, roll, or throw with any person he can implore to ‘sit, SIT!’ as they walk by. No one can resist his tender implores.
And here it is: The Ball.
July 30, 2014 § Leave a comment
Years ago, when my eldest son had just begun to attend the local Steiner school, I took Samuel to a Steiner Playgroup run by a good friend of mine.
As part of her preparations for the endeavour, she made a special table and bench seats: large enough for a group of ten or twelve children (and their mothers) to sit around, sturdy, and beautiful. In those days I admired the role of a Steiner Playgroup Leader immensely – the special connection forged with each individual child, the creativity, the stories brought to life, and the role modelling provided to younger or less experienced mothers.
I used to dream of being all of that, and now, ten or so years later, I am (I hope) all of that, and even more. My friend kept this beautiful table of hers after she finished the Playgroup, using it at home. I knew, one day, that she would choose to sell it on, and was determined to be that person – mostly because I just loved the table. I had no ideas of starting my own Playgroup when she finally decided to let it go.
The table is bigger than any other I have owned. Perfect, as it turns out, for my large sized family. The first few nights of eating at this table felt amazing: a new sense of harmony was present in the room. All seven of us fit around the table with ease.
And when it inevitably became obvious that starting a Playgroup was a no-brainer for me, I already had the most important element: the table. The table is where we gather, we commune, and we communicate. A table of beauty gives something to the people sitting – a vibe, or creative inspiration, or simply a good feeling inside.
Every time I look at this table I think of my friend – my beautiful friend who continues to inspire me as she did way back when. I remember all the baking and eating I did at this table with other mothers and their children: the happiness that was present then. And I think of the new memories I am making with this table – with my own family, and now with a new group of Playgroup families who join me each week to bake, eat and connect.
Every time I look at this table my heart soars.