Different kinds of mums

My daughter is on the brink of her first year and I think I’ve got a pretty good handle on things…we’ve got our routine, she doesn’t give me too much trouble when it comes to food, she doesn’t exactly crawl but somehow she makes it across the room (I think she kind of pivots on her bum) and she says mama, dada, catcat (cat) and bowwow (dog). She refers to my mother as Ga.

As a mum I think I’m pretty organized…I clear out the baby’s closet regularly, her clothes get washed and folded without delay, I prepare her meals in advance and have all immunisations up to date with appointments in place for the next set.

So yes, when it comes to my daughter, everything is as it should be.

When it comes to myself, however, that’s another story. I have completely put my needs on the back burner. Except for the gym: I exercise twice to three times a week and that’s very important to me. I operate on practicality mode: flat shoes, clothes that are easy to run in, hair always tied back and for the most part in its natural state. I don’t look bad. But I don’t look spectacular.

When I take my kid to these mummy and child groups, I can’t help surveying the other mums. Most of them look like me, in the uniform of jeans, sweatshirt, flats and ponytail or messy bun. But some are in a class of their own.

1. The mum who lives at the hairdresser:

This woman will always be wearing clothes she should not leave the house in. She will have food on her face and a touch of b.o. But her hair will always be coiffed and blow-dried perfectly. I must say, I understand this woman. Her hair is probably the only thing that she finds really necessary to care about. She makes a choice and owns it: her hair or everything else. And she chooses her hair and tosses it about with pride, even if she has chocolate pudding smeared across her face and mashed pumpkin on her t-shirt like a live-action Jackson Pollock.

2. The mum who always wears sports clothes:

This woman is slim and always in Adidas athleisure clothing. She probably doesn’t actually attend the gym, but she is so on-the-go that she doesn’t have to. Her children have short names like Zac or Jade so she wastes no time when it comes to calling them or registering them for the multitude of activities she signs them up for. She walks briskly, speaks curtly and simply has no time for you or your idle chitchat. Zac needs to be at infant tai chi in 3 minutes.

3. The mum who has it all together:

This mum looks effortlessly chic, her children are always well-behaved and she baked organic tofu cookies for everyone. Her children have slept through the night from day one and she always gives absolutely great advice. When she gives you her hand-me-downs, they are washed, pressed and individually wrapped according to size and item of clothing. In the bag she encloses the note ‘from my happy home to yours.’ I’d vomit if I didn’t admire her so much.

4. The mum who has had enough:

Her kids have been driving her up the wall, so when she brings them to events, she sits back and lets them be the host’s/teacher’s/ organizer’s problem. They will run amok but she won’t care. Everyone can go to hell. She will be given advice on how to reel them in and she will smile and nod knowing that this advice is useless as she has spawned a trio of wild animals. In fact her youngest one is named Godzilla.

And somewhere in the middle of the chaos there’s me, holding my not-so-tiny daughter, just doing my best and trying to do right by my family.

I don’t think I’m doing too badly…even if I don’t own an adidas tracksuit.

Salad days

I love interesting salads, so I made a beetroot and feta salad. I’m not into the new year new me nonsense, but I do wish to eat better this year. Soon the baby is going to be one, and I’m hyper vigilant about what she eats and then rather careless about my own nutrition, often eating toast or a frozen pizza as it is easy and takes little prep. I don’t want her to point a finger at me and call me a hypocrite.

Some great salad tips:

1. Lettuce is not a must. Lettuce is actually a really boring vegetable. Use spinach or rucola. Add some cabbage and basil leaves. If you really want lettuce, use Romain and not ice berg. Better still, butter lettuce is great…kind of velvety.

2. If you are not intolerant, add a little dairy. Feta cheese, Maltese gbejna, mozzarella balls…anything you fancy.

3. Don’t be afraid to get fruity. Apples and carrots are great together. So is pear and Gorgonzola. Cranberries go great with broccoli. Waldorf salad has grapes in it.

4. If you’re getting fruity, might as well go nuts too. I love apple and walnuts in salad. Or pine nuts. Seeds work too.

5. A little dressing goes a long way. Dry salad is nasty. A light vinaigrette is always tasty. And season your salad with salt and pepper.

6. Always add some protein: meat or poultry, hard boiled egg, fish, beans or chickpeas are all great options.

I remember I once watched a Jamie Oliver programme and he showed pictures of vegetables to school children and shockingly, they did not know what they were. I don’t want that to be the fate of my kid. And the only way to prevent that is by example.

2019

2019: what a special year. Not without incident, mind you, but still special.

I started out the year heavily pregnant. In January I was in my 8th month and I looked like a planet. One morning, I had a nasty headache. I tried to keep hydrated in the hope that it would go away.

It didn’t. It turned into a full blown migraine, one of the worst in my life. I started to convulse and even became incontinent. I had to go to hospital and since I was pregnant, there wasn’t much that could be done and the pain was unbearable. Then I was given codein. I wasn’t right as rain, but better enough to go home.

A few short weeks later, I went into labour. On the 20th of February I visited my gynecologist and he did what is called a sweep, which is basically a deep internal exam and I actually had a contraction at that moment on his examination table. When I got home, I went for a long and brisk walk. At 4am on the 21st, I got a strong contraction and 20 minutes later, another one. At 6 am they became about 7 minutes apart and stayed that way, so we went to the hospital. Unfortunately, I was only 4cm dilated and the contractions remained 7 minutes apart until 10pm. But after 10pm: oh Lord. Those contractions came faster and faster and stronger and stronger. Thank goodness for the epidural. I was kind of terrified of having a massive needle stuck into my spine, but it honestly wasn’t so bad. Definitely not as bad as the contractions. At 3am they turned it off, I was fully dilated and the baby was practically crowning. I pushed for an hour and at 4.05am on the 22nd of February we welcomed our little daughter into the world.

And nothing was ever the same again.

The month that followed was all about getting used to life with a kid, visits from the midwife and mastering breastfeeding. One evening, I sneezed really violently and managed to blow one of my stitches off. It was really horrible and it happened on my 35th birthday. Thank goodness I didn’t need to be restitched and it healed on its own.

A week later I had this weird ache in my torso and shoulders and I simply blamed it on constantly carrying my child. Later on in the evening, I started vomitting and I had to go to hospital, leaving my husband all alone with our 5 week old daughter. It turned out I have massive gall stones and as soon as my daughter grows up a little, my gall bladder will have to go. In the meantime, to prevent another attack, I need to stay as fat free as possible. I haven’t yet had another attack and I pray it stays that way for as long as possible.

One evening in early June, the hubby and I sat down to watch some television when all of a sudden the baby started making these loud wheezing sounds. They sounded horrible and scary and we ran to the health Centre to get her seen by a doctor. She was her usual jolly self, smiling at everyone and giggling. It was clearly evident that absolutely nothing was wrong. But there ain’t no worry like mama worry, so you get it checked out. Apparently it was just a guttural sound she makes when excited.

This summer was such a different experience in comparison to other summers: lazy days spent at the beach, evenings out after work…yeah, none of that. I can only take the baby to the beach after 5pm because I’m afraid she’ll get burnt and can’t really stay more than an hour, 90 minutes tops. Also, going alone is not an option.

However, what I can really take away from 2019 is how much I have learnt about transformation and how one adapts and coins a new way of life when the necessity arises.

I hate this new year, new me concept. Everyone assumes that a new me means a marked improvement from the former model. The funny thing is, 2019 actually turned me into someone new: a mum. Is it an improvement? I’m not exactly sure.

But it’s definitely different. And full of love.

Happy 2020 everyone.

Some merriment.

Anyone living in Malta right now is very aware of the tension and turmoil that has torn through our once peaceful little island.

This is not a post about that. Because yesterday, for a little while I was able to forget about it all a bit.

I love Christmas and this is a special one because it’s the first with my daughter and I’m at home so I can really soak it in. Not that I am really feeling the Christmas spirit with the horrific news bulletins coming in daily and the nasty feeling I’m harboring in my heart.

But yesterday my mum came up with the idea of making Christmas logs at her house to get us into the Yuletide spirit.

My concept of a Christmas log was very different before I came to Malta. In Canada, a Christmas log is basically a large roly-poly covered in chocolate to resemble a large log that one puts in the fireplace. In Malta it’s a no-bake ensemble of morning coffee biscuits, nuts, cocoa, glacé cherries and candied peel and condensed milk to bind. Then you fashion it into a cylindrical shape and cover with chocolate.

So I trooped down to my parents’ house with my brother and sister in tow, baby in arms to make this concoction. When we walked into the kitchen, we found that my mum had bought three sets of ingredients, had three big bowls ready and was rearing to go. Mum announced ‘ok kids! I am the manager of this operation and you will do as I say!’

Fabby fun. I had a quick glance at the recipe, of which there was only one copy which was tightly gripped in my mother’s hand. 200g nuts…150g cocoa…

Me: shall I start weighing things out?

Mum: no! We shall use our eyes!

Me: erm, I’m not really good at that, it’s not usually how I prepare sweets…

Mum: No! EYES! No measuring! We use our eyes!

Oh dear. Well, here goes.

Now have you ever seen what log mix looks like in the beginning stages?

Terrible. It looks terrible. And condensed milk is disgusting. I had never seen condensed milk before…it’s like an extra gloopy custard. My brother drank some straight from the can. It smeared all over his beard. It was like a bird did it’s business on my brother’s face. My brother was completely unperturbed. He didn’t even bother to wipe it off. I’m sure some dripped into his mixture. Did I mention that this recipe is no bake? So all the bacteria does not get cooked away, it just sits there, festering.

Then we had to grab this mixture and form it into logs. That’s a lot of handling and none of us wore gloves. I have a huge aversion to such things. It is why I never eat coconut balls unless I make them myself. During this process my nurse imagination ran wild.

Because log mixture looks like poop. Chunky, brown, copious poop. Like what I find in an old lady’s nappy at work.

And of course I started to giggle because I’m very mature that way. Soon enough, the whole family was laughing because we made a right mess. Our hands were all brown, there were little bits of mixture all over the table and floor. Awful. And my logs looked like turds.

The thing is, since we all ‘eye-balled’ it, we ended up with very different mixtures. My brother decided to make one huge log. It was completely misshapen. My mum’s turned out perfect.

My dad poked his head around the door, got a look at the scenario and shouted out ‘OH GODDDDDDD!! I’M NOT CLEANING THAT! YOU HAVE TO CLEAN IT! DON’T BLOCK THE SINK WITH THE NUTS! OH GODDDDDD!’

Yeah, he’s got a flair for the dramatic.

Well, here’s the finished product and I must say, the result isn’t half bad.

Kind of like a weird chocolate bar.

Best wishes for the Christmas season. And remember to get a laugh when the opportunity arises. It’s important.

The parental conundrum.

I am the mum of a beautiful and charming 9 month old daughter.

This has been my full-time job since my last trimester of pregnancy.

I spend my days preparing baby food, changing nappies, singing nursery rhymes, cooking and grocery shopping, sometimes I meet my other mom friends, going to children’s activities and trying to create a life that’s both fun and loving and also an environment conducive to learning.

I know I am truly blessed that I have this opportunity. I am lucky to be able to stay at home and care for my baby. She is so wonderful and well-adjusted and I think that is mostly down to me.

Then why, oh why, am I feeling this weird feeling that I want to go back to work? I thought I’d go back when my child would be about two and a half. All of a sudden the notion got into my head that I would start a little after she turns one.

The money aspect is really just a small part of it. At the moment, my husband is the bread winner. That is, the baby and I are living off him. And it feels just so strange. I have been making my own money since I was eighteen. To depend so wholeheartedly on another person, even though he is my husband, is just alien to me.

I honestly feel uncomfortable. That’s the word. Uncomfortable.

And the reason why is because I know I am more than capable of making a living. I am a nurse. I have some seriously useful skills. I was a team leader. I took big decisions every day, decisions that affected people’s lives.

In other words, I was an actual contribution to society. And right now, I don’t feel like I am. I feel like a waste of space.

Now I know that is silly and far fetched. Bringing up my child is a very acceptable contribution to society. But there’s also another issue: guilt. I feel guilty. Guilty that I am capable of much more than I’m doing now and I’m not using that capability.

And on the other side of the coin, there is…you guessed it, more guilt. Guilt about the very notion of leaving my child in the care of others. Guilt at how ungrateful I must seem, wanting to pursue my career when I guess I’m doing just fine rearing my child myself at home.

I must admit that since I’ve been away from work for nearly a year now, I have some romantic notions about it. Being a nurse in charge is very stressful and my little one does not sleep through the night completely yet. Not to mention all the illnesses and diseases I get exposed to and possibly carry home.

My goodness, I honestly feel like I don’t know what to do. Which is also an uncomfortable and alien situation for me.

I used to be cool.

Ok, who am I kidding? I have never been cool. I’m a bona fide nerd and I have come to terms with that a long time ago.

So maybe not cool. But at least current. I was current. Since becoming a mother all that has gone out the window. 

1) I only know what day it is because my week revolves around my daughter’s schedule. Yes, she’s just 7 months old and she has a schedule: ‘Read With Me’ class, children’s theatre shows, baby swimming lessons, paediatrician appointments, vaccines and ‘Well Baby’ clinic appointments. Not so long ago my schedule involved day shifts, knowing the other nurses’ rotas, sorting out the overtime rotas and ordering supplies and medicines for our ward. 

2) I used to perform stand-up comedy regularly. At the moment, a gig is absolutely out of the question. My daughter is very clingy, we can hardly leave her with anyone. I have considered taking her with me as the offers to perform keep coming in but most gigs happen rather late at night in bars, so for now it’s a no-no. Even though I do sometimes think my child is a bit like a little drunk person: she babbles, she’s rather unsteady in her movements, drinks from a bottle, gropes random people’s breasts, has no issues wetting herself and eventually passes out wherever she happens to be sitting.

3) I used to watch a lot of local theatre. Since I also act, I enjoy seeing my actor friends in other performances. I caught some wonderful shows. Then my friends and I would go out and get some wine and discuss what we just saw. It was quite a lark, really. Now I watch children’s theatre, which has its merits. The last show I took my daughter to involved a picnic blanket coming to life. She did not like that at all. She shouted until it left the stage, and this blanket person had quite a significant role in this play, so she shouted for a good twenty minutes. To be fair, I found the live picnic blanket slightly disturbing. It looked as though someone rolled up a murder victim in a carpet and when it moved, it was clear that the deed wasn’t done properly. 

4) I used to watch thought-provoking television shows and movies. I love documentaries and docudramas. Now I watch Sesame Street. A lot. It’s fine, I love Sesame Street. I love how much my daughter loves Sesame Street. The sketches are pretty funny. The one where Ernie dances himself to sleep with the aid of tap-dancing sheep and they end up carrying Bert out of the apartment…that’s comedy gold.

5) I had cool hair. My hair was fire engine red. It was bright, you could spot me in a crowd. During pregnancy I was advised not to dye it so often so I went back to my natural colour, which is a dark reddish brown and I have not dyed it since. I simply can’t spend hours at the salon anymore. I remember I used to go get it done very frequently, whether to dye it or straighten it …now I haven’t even bothered to get it trimmed in months. But it’s ok. Split ends have character. In a way, they suit me.

Shut-up. Let me live this lie.

6) My clothes. I love my clothes. I can’t wear most of them because I can’t breastfeed in them. I plan on stopping soon. I say it’s because the baby is getting too big and it’s starting to look weird, but really it’s the clothes. I look at my daughter while feeding her and tell her ‘enjoy that kid, your days are numbered.’ In all honesty, I’ve been saying this for a while. And at this point, the baby wrecks most of my clothes by chewing on the necklines and sucking on my shoulders, so wearing nice things is not exactly the greatest idea in the world. Nowadays if it’s clean and has clear boob access, I wear it.

7) I love perfume. Dior, Issey Miyake, Marc Jacobs, Kenzo…I would wear a different scent according to my mood. Now I smell of cerelac. All the time. Even after a shower. I smell cerelac. 

8) I used to love fancy restaurants. Tiny portions of nouvelle cuisine, bites of deliciousness in a quiet setting, drinking wine with my husband and making hushed plans between courses. Now when we make a reservation I ask if the place accepts children and if they’ve got a high chair. A couple of weeks ago I was at a food court and I wanted to eat lunch uninterrupted, so I brought out my iPad and put on Sesame Street for my tiny one. She was happy as a pig in shit (or perhaps an infant in cerelac) and I could eat some sushi in peace. Do you know how hard it is to operate chopsticks with a seven month old squirming in your lap? Within seconds your kid will become a tataki roll. An old lady passed by and passed a judgmental comment about my iPad at the table. I wanted to impale her with a chopstick. It was Sesame Street. Just imagine if I had broke out the porn collection….I wouldn’t have even been able to give it an educational spiel with a ‘that’s how you were made’ as she was conceived through ivf. 

(For the record, I don’t have a porn collection, before anyone calls child protective services on me).

So no. I’m no longer cool or current. My idea of a great song is ‘SkinnaMarink’ and news to me consists of whether Heinz have released a new flavour of baby porridge. 

But it’s fine. 

Because: priorities.

 I have a happy and healthy kid and that’s all down to me. 

And that makes me happy. And my heart is full. 

  

Things I didn’t have an opinion about until I had a kid.

There are some things you just don’t have an opinion about until the situation is thrown at you… and hits you in the face… and fractures your nose. Here are a few:

1) I sometimes pump out my breastmilk, or express if you please. Lately I have noticed that my pump machine is a little loud. And it actually sounds a lot like a cow. A distressed cow. It kind of goes ‘MOOOOOOOWWWRRRRR! MMMMMMMOOOOOOOO!’. 

2) Not all nappies are alike. Some leak. I tried a brand that some of my friends raved about and ended up with a code brown at the dinner table. I thought ‘what awful nappies’. But I was wrong. Just like different brands of jeans, some fit perfectly and some not so great. That brand of nappies simply were not suited to the shape of my child’s rear end. Now that I’ve figured that out, all is fine.

3) it is possible to carry many household chores with one arm, since I’m often carrying the baby. I can wash and dry dishes, do laundry, make beds…

4) going out for a walk with a pram is more tumultuous than you might think. Selfish people who park their cars in front of ramps, people wanting to touch the baby….

5) The songs I knew as a kid simply don’t cut it anymore. No ‘ring a ring of roses’ or ‘if you’re happy and you know it’. Now it’s all ‘five little speckled frogs’ and ‘elephants have wrinkles’ and ‘baby shark’.

6) However, the most stupid, ridiculous modern kid song has to be ‘Johnny, Johnny.’ 

If I lied to my dad I don’t think I’d be going ‘Hahaha’.

7) I don’t know about other parents, but when I’m at my daughter’s swim lessons or reading class I think ‘my child is the most beautiful one here’ or ‘my child is the smartest’. And then she tries to breastfeed off my nose and I’m brought back down to earth.

Having a baby has turned my world upside down and now I see everything differently. 

I’m not complaining 🙂