25 October 2013
Dear Jess, in 2008.
You have a baby in your arms. A real, live new little person that belongs to you. Whoa. For those first few days, I know you couldn't put him down. You wanted to. But he didn't. And I know that was hard. I know you were exhausted. I know you just wanted half an hour to be your own self again. I wish I could have told you that the moment that little boy entered your world, you would be irrevocably changed. Your definition of self would shift and be redefined to include this small person. I know that shift didn't come easily to you. I remember you sobbing on the phone to your sister-in-law that it was really hard. I remember how awesome she was to come over at 9pm so you could talk in person. That was great. I also know that you loved that baby. That even though you had NO IDEA what it meant to be a full time, first time mother to a newborn and just how demanding that is, that boy was yours, and you were proud of him.
I know that you spent a lot of your pregnancy being told that you were doing the wrong thing by choosing a home birth. I know how much that affected you. I remember the sleepless nights after awful, thoughtless comments from people who thought they were right and you weren't. It wasn't pleasant, but what came out of that was a greater understanding that birth is personal and everyone has the right to choose their place, in an educated and informed way. And that there is never a place for negativity for a woman preparing to give birth for the first time. A calm, loving discussion, yes. Never condemnation. So good job Mama - your first home birth was incredible!
I remember too that a lot of people told you that "babies love routine" and "you can leave your baby to cry." Both of which are true, but only to a certain extent. What I wish someone had actually said to me was that babies like predictability. Knowing that Mum is there, ready for a cuddle and a feed if it's needed. That a baby is not a clock, only needing to be fed every three hours, and not a moment sooner! That making your crying baby wait 10 minutes because "it's not time yet" is cruel. I so wish someone had said that all my baby needed was me to love him and listen to him. I cringe when I remember a visit we had from a man who said "it's okay if you want to leave him crying, it doesn't bother me" and so you thought that's what you were expected to do. And your little baby cried and cried and cried until that man went home and you felt like you were allowed to pick him up. It makes 2013-me angry thinking that I let other people dictate how I should be a mother. I wish you knew then that you had a mother's intuition, and that it was good!
I know how you would like to say that you wish you had taken the time to bond properly with your little boy. But I remember how incredibly overwhelmed you were. How tired you were. How much breastfeeding HURT. How incredibly painful it was for a long time. I know how you still have scars. I know how you lived in a different town to your family and just about all your friends and how isolated you felt. I remember. So I need you to be gentle with yourself. To know that you did the best you could. I need you to know that even though you didn't feel it at first, you love that boy to your very soul. I need you to know that your best - then and now - IS good enough.
My advice to you, my First-time Mother Self, is to prioritise rest and sleep. To tell visitors you were on your way to bed so please come back another time. Because you need to protect your bond with your boy. You need to have enough to be able to feed of yourself to him. To care for him from your heart. I would tell you that nothing will ever change you as much as becoming a mother has. That the change is a good one. A great one. You will not regret it, though it be hard right now. I would tell you that it's great that you know how to look after a baby, and to be patient with yourself and your baby as you learn to be a mother. I would tell you to trust your instincts. No-one knows how to be a mother to your boy except you. You are the authority on your baby. Don't let anyone take that away from you. Love him. Look at him. Cuddle him. When he wriggles too much, cuddle him when he sleeps instead. Read lots about baby things, but filter it all through what works for you and what is right in your heart for your baby. I would definitely tell you that though breastfeeding is an excruciating process for you right now, it is so worth it. It is so worth it. You are amazing that you worked through it and continued on strong.
I would tell you that becoming a mother is a process that makes you more selfless. This is not always an easy thing to become, but it is good to be less selfish. I would tell you that you will never see the world the same way ever again. Becoming a mother makes a connection in you that will never be broken. You and every mother on the planet now share the knowledge of love for a child and the strength therein.
You've just had your first baby and it's intense. But it's incredible. The journey might not be enjoyable all the time (I do remember the time you had to wake your husband in the middle of the night for a poo explosion you just could not handle by yourself!) so I'm not going to tell you to enjoy every moment of it, but do keep your sense of humour (it will serve you well) and your voice of reason. Do understand that you - and your body - have just been through something enormous and it won't all be smooth sailing. But you have a son now. You have a son. You have become a mother, and you are amazing.
your 2013 self.
15 October 2013
This little guy is pretty cool. You'd expect me to say that though, right? However, I do have it on good authority* that he's been earmarked to marry one of the little girls at our church. (*Her mother.) SO I guess some other people think he's a bit alright too. *grins*
Tristan has some amazing hand-eye co-ordination. I won't lie: he got it from me. (Not really.) Though he got more of it from his soccer-mad Papa, and possibly his Opa too - who used to be amazing at gymnastics, back in the day. I haven't asked him to do a back flip recently.
Without word of a lie: Tristan kicked a ball before he could walk. One day he crawled across the grass to the side of our deck, pulled himself up to standing and kicked that mini soccer ball like he'd been doing it his whole life. Incredible. He's pretty handsome too.
I wonder if we'll see him in these colours as an adult one day?
10 October 2013
Can we all just pause for a moment and say together, "Slow down, Gryffen!" 7 weeks old and he is growing quickly. Why do babies do that? Don't they know we enjoy them little so much?
Now, let's take another moment to appreciate this photo:
Four children, four onesies. (I totally had to Google how to spell 'onesies.')
Had to get a photo before the kids all grow out of them. Thankfully, Gryffen will get to keep wearing them for a long long time. Nothing cuter than a baby in a stretch-n-grow. (Anyone else call them that growing up?)
And finally, behold the evolution of photo-faces when I try to get a photo of all four together.
Actually, I have a lot of these types of photos from over the years. I might have to start a collection...
06 October 2013
25+ years ago
Dear Oma and Opa,
This year, you have both turned 81. Congratulations! The Lord has blessed you with a great many years with which to serve Him so far.
I am thankful that He has blessed me with a great many years with YOU. I want to write down how important you are, how much I love you both, but I find it is hard to find the right words!
Oma and Opa with my sister, Sarah (L), and me (R).
I have so many memories of great times with you over the years. Sleep-overs at your house; Opa playing the mouth organ to us before we went to sleep; fighting over who would get to sleep in the bed with the curtain; playing with the knitted teddy family that Oma made; playing with the Barbies who lived in an old biscuit box; sitting at the wooden table and chairs that Opa made when Mum was little (that MY children now sit in too!); Oma's giant meatballs - the best in the land! - and her delicious soup (still my favourite!); pineapple flan; giant feijoas from Opa's tree; playing hide and seek and always hiding under Opa's big desk in the rumpus room; thinking the laundry chute was a little bit magical; chocolate hail on open sandwiches eaten with a knife and fork; playing endless, ENDLESS, games of Rummikub, Monopoly, Tri-ominos, Snakes and Ladders, and Ludo together; making huts with the plastic furniture in the rumpus room; driving to Wellington with you, listening to Joni Eareckson Tada's tape in the tape player.
I remember the outings you took us on when we were younger: Waingaro Hot Pools, Hamilton Lake, Parana Park, Hilldale Game Farm (now known as Hamilton Zoo, of course). Oma would pack her stripy bag with a picnic lunch or morning tea. A stack of plastic cups in their Tupperware containers; individual packets of sandwiches with our names written on top - because Oma knew we all liked them different: Sarah with no butter, me with no tomato. You would set up 'base' on a picnic table somewhere while we would go off and play or swim, knowing you would be ready for us when we ran back to you, with a warm towel, or a drink or something to eat, whatever we needed.
Here we are at Waingaro Hot Pools
Playing at the Hamilton Lake (L) and Waingaro Hot Pools again (R).
On Sundays, you always sit in the same pew at church. I like this. I like it because it's like a little piece of home. We used to sit next to you every week when we were growing up. I knew it was time for the sermon when Oma passed along her special purse with Oddfellows and aniseed lollies in it! Sarah always chose an Oddfellow and I always had the aniseed. Then there was a time when I didn't come to church anymore, and I forget how long that lasted, but I knew that you would still be there. When the Lord did bring me back, I sat next to you again, even though I was no longer a child. And I knew you were so proud to have me there next to you. When I knew I wanted to be back at church, but felt unsure of my welcome, I felt safe knowing that there was always a space next to you, in the same pew every week.
The cousins at Oma and Opa's 50th wedding anniversary celebrations.
Over the years, you have often told me that you pray for me. I want you to know how much this comforts me. I know that not only do you pray when there is a particular need, but every day you pray for me. Not only me, but every member of your family. Every day, whether I have managed to carve out time in my own day to come before the Lord or not, I know I am brought before His face by your faithful prayers.
Your faith in our Heavenly Father is strong - and evident. We see your trust in Him in everything that you do. You encourage me in my faith by helping me to see the that there is blessing in every situation, by showing me that you cling tightly to Him in times of sorrow and trouble, by reading the Bible and praying with me as I grew, by showing me how integral He is to you in every part of your life.
Oma and Opa, even with all these words I've just written, all these precious memories I have of you, I still feel that I want to tell you more just how much you mean to me. I just don't think there will ever be enough words!
So I will just say I love you. I treasure you. I thank God for you. As you have always told me I am precious to you, so you are precious to me.
02 October 2013
I have long maintained the thought that there is a very special and particular bond between a woman and her midwife. Birthing my babies has been the most powerful and emotional four things I have ever done - and probably will ever do.
Not every woman feels this bond, I think. For me, it is very strong. I have been blessed to have the same midwife for all four of my pregnancies. Sue has been really, really great. Since we moved back to Hamilton from Morrinsville at the end of my pregnancy with Rosie, she has driven over to my house for every appointment and hung out amidst my washing piles and crazy toddlers.
This morning we said goodbye to her for the very last time. I had to swallow back the lump in my throat as I went to get the camera to record the memory of her with my four babies.
I'm going to stop writing, or I'll start crying now!