Magic and Cynicism

‘Where is my Bean?’ I call into our living room, as I see the swaying movement of the curtains behind our sofa stop. The scurrying noises I heard just a second ago stop as well and I hear a stifled giggle as I make my way to the area where he is hiding and call out his name again. I peak behind the sofa and see my 13 month old on all fours ready to dart away should I come too close, with his head bopping up and down as he is trying to contain his loud laughter. I burst out laughing in child-like delight and pick him up in one swoop. ‘I’ve got you!’ I declare loudly as his laughter resonates through our house. He wriggles in my arm trying to free himself so that we can start the game again and as I place him on the ground, I realise how wonderfully adventurous it must be to him.

He is able to communicate, not with words, but with sounds and actions. He is walking and crawling with the purpose of exploration. He has his own sense of humour, allowing him to laugh out loud in arbitrary moments, sometimes making me wonder what it is he is laughing about. He stares at cars as they drive by, making a ‘brrrrrmmmmmmm’ noise and he waves at lights as they go on and off. When he sees an empty bowl, he lifts his hands as if to say, ‘where have the contents gone?’ and he squeals with delight, waving his arms excitedly, every time he eats somethings he likes.

Everything he does, he does with a vibrant energy, a sense of adventure, of learning something new; and I often wonder staring at the openly curious look in his eyes when he sees, feels or smells something new: at what point when we grow up do we lose this sense of magic and replace it with the cynicism and bitterness so prevalent in adults? When do we stop being delighted by the simple things in life in an attempt to be more, have more? When is it that we become so entrenched in the drama and politics of everyday adult life? When does our ego become so important that we forget to appreciate the beautiful –  the vibrant colours of a sunset, the soothing sound of a breeze blowing through trees, the gurgling sounds of a river, a child’s laughter?

We are going to the Vaal river for a weekend getaway soon and as I was telling one of my friends about the trip, I jokingly mentioned that before I had Bean, I used to travel the world (for work) and now I get excited about a weekend to the Vaal. To be honest, sometimes, when Bean is being difficult and the day to day routine of being a mom gets a bit much, this little sentence makes me a bit depressed – I really miss getting on a plane wondering what adventures the next couple of weeks will have in store. But then I remember the drama and the politics this life brought with it: my own ego often getting in the way of happiness, being so easily swept up in unnecessary drama. So, despite no longer travelling the world, I really am excited about our little trip! It is a place I have never been to and although it is close to Johannesburg and by no stretch of the imagination an exotic break away, it is something new: a new experience and a new adventure which I can share with my little family.

It is the simple things that really matter: to be surrounded by the people you love, to enjoy a good glass of wine and a delicious meal, to partake in a lively conversation with strangers, learning something new. We need to see the world through the eyes of our children to know that every day is magical, every day is an adventure.

When you see your children changing into cynical, bitter and ego-driven adults, remind them of their inner child-like wonder, joy and magic. Remind yourself and your children how easily they got back up after they had fallen, how quickly they forgave you when you were having a bad day, how pure and unconditional their love was.

Children are simply and wonderfully magical, and we as adults have the inherent ability to be like this too – we were once simple and magical, after all.

Trapped

‘I feel trapped’, my husband said as we were washing up little Bean’s bottles. As any mom and wife will know, these are not words one wants to hear.  He, luckily, did not mean that he felt trapped in our marriage, but rather that he felt trapped in our routine-driven lives. Instead of spontaneously going for a night on the town or a movie, we had to carefully plan every activity we wanted to participate in. Could we take Bean with? If not, who would watch him? If yes, what did we need to pack to be able to go? Our lives had become one continuous routine of washing and sterilising bottles, nap time, play time and cooking food for our little guy, with the odd well-planned and well-packed excursion in between.

This made me think: why did I not feel this way? I experience feelings of anxiousness and stress – yes, often; but never trapped. I fully understood where he was coming from of course: our previously busy, adventure-laden and spontaneous lives had become boring and we had become that settled, married couple we had been so scared of becoming. Yet, I was quite happy with our new ‘dreary’ life.

Upon closer inspection our lives are filled with little bits of wonder, excitement and adventure every day. Bean is growing at such a fast pace and developing so quickly, that every day brings with it something new. On the night in question for example, I was busy feeding Bean his bed time bottle when he had a dirty nappy. Being my compulsive self, petrified of a nappy rash, I immediately placed Bean on his change mat and removed the dirty nappy. Excited by the freedom I had now bestowed upon my son, he decided to unleash the fury and so, in the midst of it all, he pooped in my hand. Hearing my panicked cries from the bedroom, my husband ran up the stairs, saw what was going on and promptly burst out laughing. This was a definite first and a funny, ‘adventurous’, one at that.

On the same day, Bean started throwing his arms around my neck, squeezing tightly, smiling his widest smile, all the while cooing excitedly, every time I picked him up. This filled me with so much gratitude and so much wonder, that it felt as if my heart was going to explode: it could not possibly contain the amount of love I felt at that moment.

A week later Bean started rolling – something I had been trying to teach him for (which felt like) forever. This was another exciting moment which caused me to jump up and down in our lounge, doing my little happy dance, feeling incredibly proud. And all this while Bean smiled at me impassively as if to say, ‘what is the big deal, lady?’

Now, coming back to the question of why I did not feel trapped by our routine– how could I with a living miracle in my heart, in my life, in my home?

It is easy to feel trapped while looking at an empty freezer knowing that you will have to spend the next 48 hours cooking for your child, or when you look at the dirty bottles piling up and you have just received a message from one of your ‘non-parent’ friends asking if you feel like going for a quick drink. I have felt this feeling creep up, threatening to spread a little bit of darkness over my heart – but in these moments all I need to do is look at my beautiful son, his eyes filled with wonder and excitement every time he sees or hears something new (even if it’s just water running out of the tap) and I know, with a knowledge deeply instilled in my soul, that he is the best thing that has ever happened to me.

I would choose my dreary, routine driven and settled family life over and over and over again (and I know that my husband would do the same).

Picture Credit: http://www.canva.com

Hard Knock Life with a Newborn

‘It was not supposed to be like this’, I thought crying, yet again, while I was trying to feed my screaming child. He refused to eat and although he would root for food, once placed into his feeding position, he would scream. He did not have a wind and his diaper had just been changed. He was hungry. Yet, whether I gave him a bottle or my breast, he simply would not latch. Panic, confusion, fear, anger and that ever-present guilt, washed over me. ‘Why did nobody warn me that it would be this hard’ was all my panicked, severely sleep deprived, brain was capable of thinking.

Truth be told, people did warn me. Sort of. In a nice and funny way – ‘sleep while you can’ they would say, laughing. Well, if they are laughing about it, it cannot be that bad – this was my logical conclusion anyway. But it was that bad, or should I rather say, just really, really hard. So, dear reader, here is the truth, my truth, about what life with a newborn as a first time parent is like:

It is exhausting. It’s a sort of tired feeling you have never felt before. A severely sleep deprived, emotionally drained and anxious sort of exhausted. Because although you have read all the books and you have listened to everyone’s advice, you have no idea what you are doing 90% of the time.

If you did not know this already, babies go through a lot of growth spurts and many wonder weeks within the first couple of months of their lives. This means that they are not only extra niggly during these periods, they literally hang on your boob the whole day. Bean went from drinking every three hours, to every two hours to every hour, to every forty minutes at one stage. This meant that on some days, by 14h00 in the afternoon, I was still in my milk stained pajamas, in my bedroom, my teeth were not brushed – in short, I smelled and looked like I had just crawled out of a cave (which for a person who is obsessed with cleanliness is horrible to say the least). At that point in the afternoon, it felt like the walls were caving in on me.  I was filled with despair and loneliness.

It is lonely. And although you are constantly getting phone calls and texts from people wishing you well with your new bundle of joy, you feel that you just cannot tell them how sad you are really feeling at this point. Are you the only one going through this? The only one who cannot seem to get a handle on this motherhood thing?

It is relentless. It does not matter how hard this day is, tomorrow, you have to get up and do it all over again. Actually, tonight, you will have to get up and do it all over again. There is simply no time off, no break – you are this child’s mother and he needs sustenance and love, regardless of how tired you are.

Most babies have an issue – whether it is colic or reflux or the fact that the baby will not sleep, there is usually something. In my case, Bean had reflux. This meant that as he was feeding, or after a feed, the milk would come back up, burning his little throat. In an effort to soothe the throat, he would then want to feed again and so on – to a point where he would then refuse to feed. Bean, in other words, was either crying for food, attached to my boob, or screaming because I was trying to feed him. Either way, there were days where he just cried. He was seemingly inconsolable and I felt like a failure as a mother.

It is hard to maintain a sense of self. You just become so completely and utterly entrenched in caring for this child, that you lose yourself. There is no more you, only mom.

The Guilt. It is as if being a mother automatically makes you feel guilty. Guilty for feeling sad and frustrated sometimes, guilty for not having enough milk, for having too much milk, guilty for wanting to sleep, guilty for feeling guilty. If you let this feeling run rampant, it will consume you.

Relationships suffer. Whether it is because you are both just so tired and overwhelmed or because you are frustrated with yourself, the baby, your milk supply etc, your relationship definitely gets put under strain. Both parents are experiencing so many raw emotions and it is just too easy to let out negative feelings onto your loved one – they promised to stick around until death do you part after all. My husband and I fought almost daily, about silly things, like leaving the milk out of the fridge, and also about the bigger things, like breastfeeding. We in fact still fight, but I have learned (rather, I am still trying to learn)not to take things too personally. We are both parents for the first time, we are both tired and we are both trying to navigate our way through these emotions

Through it all, these little babies bring with them such an intense feeling of love. It consumes you and every fiber of your being wants to keep them safe. To ensure that they feel loved, that they are happy, that with your guidance, they become well rounded, strong, lively, compassionate and successful children and later adults. It is this love, which makes you stare at their peaceful little faces for hours on end, while you could be catching up on some sleep, wondering what life has in store for them, dreaming about their future, envisaging them running through a field of flowers, flying a kite, laughing.

One morning, I woke up and the fog through which I had been trying to navigate myself for the last couple of weeks had lifted. Everything just seemed a lot clearer, easier. I got used to the lack of sleep and I learned to read and understand by child. I was managing!

My baby now smiles at me as I walk into the room in the mornings – a smile so wide that his eyes close. I realise that this special time with my  baby has not been about hardship after all but rather the precious seconds, minutes and hours of a new life developing and growing.

So, to all the new mommies out there:

As hard as this time can be sometimes, try and soak in every moment with your precious little bundle of life, hope and dreams. Although it seems like forever while you are in the midst of it, it does pass, faster than you realise. It does get better. In fact, it becomes wonderful.

 

Photo Credit: http://www.canva.com