April 21, 2014 § 1 Comment


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I began this creation way back in 2009 when I was pregnant with Zara. I had picked up a cute little Japanese craft book way back when that huge bookstore Borders was in every major shopping centre. (How I miss being able to go to the bookstore and browse for two hours!).

I loved the retro yet modern simplicity of this project, and the chance to practice lots of new stitches. But after I finished one tree, the unfinished piece sat in my craft cupboard for five years….until recently when I knew my mother’s birthday was coming up. In true style of course I only dragged it out approximately three days before the birthday celebration, and in the midst of preparing and running a craft workshop at home.

With five children, including a toddler who seems to stay up until I go to bed, getting some craft done at night is becoming more and more difficult. Still, I persevered, right up until 1am the night before, stuffing the pillow over breakfast the next day and finishing the final stitches in the carpark whilst waiting for Mum to arrive for Yum Cha!

My mother loved it, and it has a special place on her lounge. Of course I think hand made presents are extra special, but it is incredibly satisfying when the recipient thinks so too.

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Seasons Changing, Letting go

April 19, 2014 § Leave a comment

This year summer seemed to be truly endless. I was swimming at the beach just three weeks ago.  Since then we have changed our clocks and with that, the mornings are suddenly cooler. I’m now waiting for the first leaf to fall from the star leaf tree in the yard next door.

This past month, the shift in seasons echoes the shifting seasons of motherhood. Tomorrow I (gulp) say goodbye to my 14 year old son, going camping with a few mates into the bush for the first time without any adults. Suddenly he seems almost a man, and is gradually making steps further and further into the world, alone. There is nothing I can do except to let him go, and hope we have ‘cooked’ him right.

At the same time, it is time to begin to let go of Robin a little more. Robin turned two a few weeks ago. His birthdays have been emotion-laden days for me.

The day he was born: an amazing, unpredictable birth full of joy and radiance. His first birthday: a bittersweet acknowledgement that he was alive, amongst the painful awareness of all we had been through. And this year the most intense feeling was one of gratitude. Gosh, our journey with Robin has been both difficult and stressful, heartwarming and full of so much love. I am so thankful for all the gifts he has brought into my life. I’m so lucky to be chosen to be his mother.

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Which brings me to breastfeeding. Generally I wean my babes at two. Robin….I thought I would breastfeed for longer, given that he spent much longer than usual in the baby phase. But something changes for me when my children reach two: their speech develops, they grow, at the same time that I am ready to reclaim my own body and bed space. Certainly the last couple of months have been marked by bone deep exhaustion, the kind where I feel hollow, like everything has been sucked out of me (literally)!

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I’ve begun weaning Robin at night. So far it has been two weeks of very broken sleep, as I gently let him know that the ‘boobs’ are away and we will be having a cuddle instead. A few times he has pushed me away and turned to Sol’s arms in refuge, only to return a moment later, needing a continued connection with me. Now he is beginning to roll over and return to sleep quickly. I am hopeful we are nearly there. And my energy is slowly returning.

But today, I realised he had only breastfed once in the past 24hours. No! I am not ready for it to end altogether. I cherish the closeness Robin and I have experienced in his short life, and breastfeeding has been an integral part of that. When Robin was ill, breastfeeding him served so many important functions: nourishment, connection, something I had a purpose for, an affirmation that he was still my baby, and through all of that, yes, protection.

The truth is that am scared to let him walk into the world, further away from me and my protection. I gave all I could when he was a defenseless baby to keep him safe, and help him heal. Now he is a toddler, and I know that for many reasons it is time for him to leave my arms.

He is/was my baby. I’m sad to think my childbearing career is at an end, even though there is much to look forward to. I imagine us, walking off into the sunset – me no longer carrying Robin, but walking beside him in strength and harmony.

Oldest and youngest.

Oldest and youngest.

 

Craft group happenings

April 9, 2014 § Leave a comment

Last year I wrote about Making Way for new elements in my life. One of those began in February this year when I began a Women’s craft group.

So far the group is small, which is perfect for my first foray into a completely self-driven exercise. I’m learning how to run things better each time we meet. I’m gradually ceasing the worry about whether the attendees are satisfied (they have come again, after all).

And the craft….this term we have focused on hand sewing using felt. Below are some of the amazing creations – from needle books to babushka doll keyrings to easter bags:

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Reflections on a job well done.

April 4, 2014 § Leave a comment

Last week, letterboxes belonging to the home birth community across Sydney and the world were filled with the Autumn 2014 issue of Birthings: the final issue over which I was Editor.

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In late 2012 I rather impulsively responded to a call out for a new Editor for the magazine. Robin had been born that March, and throughout the year we had travelled through his illness, extended time in hospital and further recuperating time at home.

I felt turned inside out that year – after the absolute joy and euphoria of his birth came the crushing low of a seriously ill baby just weeks later. I completely let go of my own needs in order to stay with Robin in hospital on and off for five weeks – caring, advocating for, and feeding him. It was a daily hell with no privacy (our room had microphones so the nurses could hear when Robin began coughing), little freedom and constant fear, the only respite being the six hours each night where I slept in a separate room in the hospital, and the couple of hours I spent at home every second day, nurturing my other children.

Once we were released from hospital is was not the end of the ordeal. It was the beginning of a whole new ordeal, without the support of nurses and medical equipment. Robin continued to have coughing episodes and turn blue up until Christmas. Whooping cough is called the 100-day cough, but in Robin’s case, it came closer to 200 days. At home, he could not be left alone for one minute, or even one second, lest he begin coughing and turn blue. His cot had to be moved out into our living area as it took too many seconds to run to him in the bedroom – seconds in which he could struggle to breathe and turn blue.

By the end of the year, I had lost myself in some way. That whole year had been devoted to care of my baby: a job I took very seriously and fulfilled to the absolute utmost of my ability. I am brought to tears when I think back to the intimacy that Robin and I shared….I knew him so completely that I was aware a coughing episode was about to begin seconds before it would start. I knew the meaning of every breath he took.

As Robin began to grow stronger and heal, as he no longer needed to be watched so intently, I needed to come back to my self again. I’d had to let go of other commitments, work, and my own health to care for Robin, but magazine editing, which I could manage at home in my own time, seemed perfect. Furthermore it combined two of my passions: writing and birth. It would be something for me, a way for me to strengthen my own soul.

Having had no experience editing an entire magazine before, I turned to a good friend who worked as an Editor. I asked her if she thought I would sink or swim. Swim, came the swift reply, you can do it!

And I have done it, for five issues of Birthings over almost eighteen months.

The cover of my first issue: Creative Expressions.

The cover of my first issue: Creative Expressions. Cover art by Jacqui Fae.

I came to the role willing to learn and eager to share some of my own ideas and experiences of birth and home birth. Pulling a whole magazine together is a pretty big undertaking and a massive, intense learning curve. It has been both terrifying and exhilarating. And holding a copy of the finished product in my hand has been massively satisfying.

I’ve been humbled and awed at the birth stories women (often strangers) have submitted for publication. I’ve quailed at the responsibility I undertook as the custodian of these stories. I’ve loved getting involved with a group of fantastic women and making new friends. And my confidence in myself has gradually increased. I can finally recognise that as  a woman who has given birth six times, and who is raising five children, that I just may have some wisdom to share.

I wanted to continue for longer. I feel I was just hitting my stride with this role. However my recent break in Bellingen brought with it many realisations, one of which was knowing that it is time to move on. I’ll be forever thankful for the focus and stimulation and inspiration that editing Birthings gave me. It helped to pull me out of a place of crisis before it could turn into serious depression or similar. But now that Robin is two, and healthy, it is time to focus on myself in other ways, as well as my family and other career goals.

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I don’t think that I will have any more children, so letting go of this role mirrors my internal release of this phase of my life. Oh, what a turbulent ride the past fourteen years has been for me: breastfeeding for most of that time, a ride of joys and griefs, hormones and the primal power of birth.

I’m now birthing a new version of myself.

 

A special project.

April 2, 2014 § 2 Comments

 

 

 

 

A while ago I was asked by a friend to make a special pillow for her. She lives in England, and was starting a Red Tent for her local women’s community.

I thoroughly enjoyed creating a special pillow, featuring the colour red and a vagina, for such a gathering of women.

I attend a Red Tent myself here in Sydney, and cherish the deep sharing, acknowledgement and connection I receive from a group of women who honour the seasonal and sacred that is woman.

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My favourite part of the pillow is the lace. As I was creating it I knew there was something missing. I have long wanted to work with lace as a subtle act of subversion. This 100% cotton lace met all my criteria and has become the star of the piece in my eyes.

 

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