The First Year (Parenthood part 2)

I can honestly say I didn't truly understand what an achievement the first year of a child's life is until it happened to me. It was an epiphany of sorts. The night before Millie's first birthday I put her to bed, the whole time thinking 'This is the last time I put my first baby to bed as a baby. Tomorrow she's a toddler. Not a baby.' Always my baby.
When she was born my own relationship with my mother changed for the better. I suddenly understood the years of her trying to keep us all happy (often at her own expense) and her frustrating need to always be close. To be touching my hair, pushing my fringe out of my eyes (I AM TWENTY NINE NOW, STOP PLEASE.) and ever joyful in the face of our own adversities. I only understood this when Mr S and I looked at tiny (not really, she was a 10lb baby) Millie in the hospital cot and he pointed to her and said 'That's how big you'll always be to your mother.' I get it.
Apart from the snuggles and loving, the first year seemed to be about surviving. Just getting through the first really hard year and finding the pinpricks of light along the way.
It was such a shock to my system to be a parent. I remember sobbing to Mr S thinking that I was ridiculous because 'I just feel SO responsible. 24 hours a day.' To which he replied 'Yep. You are. I am. We are.' I desperately wanted him to tell me that I was being ridiculous. That kind of responsibility was so terrifying. Now, not so much. I love it.
I hadn't taken into account how hard I would find it to be friends with people who have wildly different parenting values to me. Prior to children, these differences didn't matter so much. Now, I don't think they matter so much, but it's not as easy to maintain a friendship when the boundaries for your kids are so different. Millie's not at the age yet of saying 'But HER mother lets her...' but that time will come. I suppose that right now parenting is my main focus, so it's relatively high on any conversational agenda if we're hanging out with other kids Millie's age.
The internet can be a harsh place for parents too. I've only discovered recently just how harsh it is.  And that post made people talk. I think it got linked somewhere because the stats went nuts on that post. My cynical side thinks that it got linked amongst the 'Mummy Police' who no doubt are swearing behind my back at me, but I'd like to think that it's being read by people going 'Oh god. I KNOW. Why can't be we all just be nice to each other?'
The first year was so sleep deprived. So many tears (all of us). So many afternoons of me walking around the house holding tiny M sobbing along with her saying 'I don't know what you want. I wish I knew.' Afternoons of me ringing my siblings at 5.30pm saying 'Just talk to me, please. Millie is very upset and I need to talk to someone, anyone, about anything.' And them chatting to me about the weather. I don't know that they'll ever know how grateful I am for those calls. My mother listening to me four or five times per day and suggesting different techniques for winding M.
The first smiles. The first time she hugged me. The first crawl. The first steps. The first time she slept through the night (FIST PUMP!), the first teeth. So many firsts. Firsts are hard, but they pave the way for second steps, more teeth, more sleep, more crawling.
Mr S and I flicked through a lot of parenting books but pretty much just made it up as we went along. And right now we've got a super happy, very sociable, well adjusted little girl who loves her Mummy and Daddy. So we're doing everything right.
If I had to explain to anyone what the first year is like I'd say this:
It's all about surviving. And when you make it to the first year you'll realise what a fantastically awesome year it's been.

Mrs Smyth... can't read. But she can bake.

On Saturday Mel from Honey, You Baked, her husband Ash1, our friends Ash2 & Erika got together to celebrate Mel's birthday with a Brownie Bake-Off. After a relatively disorganised morning where Millie couldn't sleep, the dishes needed doing, I hadn't baked my brownie offering yet, the fire went out and aliens crashed in the front yard*, I was ready for our guests to turn up. Millie finally asleep, I checked my phone to find a message from Mel with directions to Ash2's house. Oh...

It turns out that checking Twitter at 2am perhaps requires a) more attention that I was giving it and b) one to wear one's glasses. Oops.

Luckily my friends are wonderful and all happily relocated to the Huon Valley where they knocked on the door and I was lying on the couch with Millie halfway through a nap. 'Hi, welcome! Err... I'll be up soon.'

But brownies prevailed and I was in sugar shock for the rest of the evening. Millie had a great time talking to her future husband Oliver and I cherished having a houseful of friends. Friends who bake.

Mel wrote a great post about it all over here... so without further ado I'll leave you to go and bask in the glory that is several brownie recipes.

I baked these brownies again, with the addition of white chocolate, dark chocolate and dried cranberries. I also didn't undercook them this time, so they were just brownies. But still - yum!


*may or may not have happened. But you get the gravity of my situation.

R U Ok?

R U Ok?

At various times in my life I’ve felt anxious. I’ve felt depressed. I’ve been unable to get out of bed. I’ve cried by myself and I’ve cried in the arms of those who love me. I’ve wondered fleetingly if it’s all worth it. (yes, it is. the answer is always yes.) Then, I open my eyes, I blow my nose, I push the doona covers back and I stand up. Sometimes on shaky legs, but I stand up and I find a kernel of sunshine in my day. This is now easier, as I don’t need to look very far to find a (kernel) 8kg fat roll of sunshine.

It seems fitting that as I sat down to write this I realised that next Thursday is

R U OK? day.

Since becoming a mother everything, EVERYTHING, touches me tenfold. We can no longer watch the news as we eat dinner as stories of starving children send us both dissolving into tears. I couldn’t watch a show on September 11 last night because all I could think about was what the people stuck in those towers were thinking… their families? What were they thinking?

Today I held someone close and whispered in her ear that she’s ALWAYS worth it. Always.

On my drive home to pick up my daughter from Play School today I couldn’t help but reinforce into my own head that along with all the responsibilities I’d realised already, there was another one. I will always be fundamentally ‘OK’ for Millie.

Following Millie’s birth I had times where I wasn’t okay and I wondered if I ever would be again. And the guilt following that. And the guilt of wondering why I was looking at the most beautiful baby I’d ever seen and not feeling much at all. Then one day she smiled at me, and I began to heal.

What has helped me exponentially in these times is being able to communicate with others who sometimes ask ‘Are you okay?’, and sometimes they don’t need to.

When I think about

RU OK?

day now, as a parent, I think it’s more important than ever. It breaks my heart into a million pieces to think that for every person that takes their life there is a parent wondering why. Because in every parent’s eyes their child is always a tiny newborn in their arms whom you need to guide and protect, and ask RU OK?

Whilst today’s hyper-connected society can be isolating it can also be wonderfully supportive. I have a brilliant Facebook mother’s group who hold my hand from time to time, and I hold theirs. I have an astonishingly wonderfully supportive bunch of Twitter friends (Twitterati) who are always there, and have been there in person as well. And when you live in the sticks and are a bit crowd shy like I do and am, this is super important and I am so grateful.

Friends, my point is to take some time on any given day and chat to someone who perhaps you couldn’t find the time to previously. You could make their day and help them find the light out of a dark place. And remember, you are always worth it. Always.

If you need to talk to someone call

Lifeline

24hrs/day on 13 11 14. You can also talk to someone at

Beyond Blue

 on 1300 22 46 36. And don’t forget to have a look at

RU OK?

. OK?

(this photo is taken at Taupo. When I’m feeling sad face, I go to my ‘happy place’, which is my NZ honeymoon last year. I miss the North Island so much.)