Life in Small Moments

December 7, 2011 at 11:39 pm (Uncategorized)

About halfway through his birthday party, Master J made like Beyoncé at the Emmys and required a snappy wardrobe change. His birthday outfit, a ludicrously ambitious combination of white shirt and shorts, was by now saturated in raspberry pulp, his chest and lap smeared with spectacular red stains. He was all but untouchable, an 84 cm, 11.1 kilogram disaster zone, so despite many protests by those guests enjoying his juggernaut’s progress through the place, I changed him.

I changed him as I have changed him every day of his life – although these days it’s a major production and I am a desperate circus performer, juggling, dancing and singing my heart out in an always doomed effort to keep him still. But how many times have I changed him over the past year? How many wet nappies, how many turd-taculars? How much vomit during the long months of reflux, how many beetroot stains (sometimes I am just not very bright), how much avocado, how many portions of Laughing Cow? It wasn’t until someone from the Early Childhood Centre came by to check up on me that I was even told I needed to position his penis downward when I was changing his nappy – up until then Llew and I had been changing the sheets, sleep-suits and wraps along with the nappy at just about every change, thinking this was simply what wet nappies did…

“Oh no,” said the ECC woman, looking at me askance, “you have to press it down.”

Well, how would I know that? I didn’t know that. But I know it now.

I’ve still got bung wrists, my right one is still giving me grief, though after cortisone shots and changes to how I hold him – particularly while I was still breastfeeding – the De Quervain’s Syndrome has certainly improved out of sight. There were days when the pain was so intense I feared I would drop my baby. It made me gasp aloud, and the effort to keep myself from releasing my hold of him was nothing short of superhuman. I overcame, because I had to, but the agony was extreme.

I can’t get much distance from these little sensory stabs because my wrists are still too sore, it feels too close, but I’m looking forward to the gradual hazing as the pain recedes (as I believe it eventually must). It marked me, though, this condition – it maimed and marked me. One of my more vivid memories of the first few months of motherhood is of the first mothers’ group meeting in a nasty windowless room at the local library. It was a summer scorcher, a day in the high 30s. I was wearing braces on both hands and wrists, Master J had screamed the whole way there, and I was a looking and feeling a total wreck: wild-eyed, dishevelled and sweating profusely. My hair was dripping sweat, hanging in lank reeds about my face. More sweat trickled from my neck right down my spine. And I needed to use the toilet.

Of course I needed to use the toilet. I will forever associate the first months of motherhood with always needing to use a toilet, because actually going to the toilet was one of those basic things I couldn’t figure out at the time. I couldn’t yet string together the words nor the logic required to ask someone to please mind the baby for me long enough that I could dash off to relieve myself. Nor had I quite pieced together my mental map of all the disabled toilets in the area so that I could take him with me. And I hadn’t even begun to understand that it was absolutely essential that I continue servicing my own needs too.

So as usual I was busting for the loo. And all the while I could feel my hands cooking, bubbling away unseen, trapped beneath the synthetic material of the braces, a little hothouse of dermatitis building and building with every second my poor hands remained encased. All I wanted, sitting there with over 20 other new mothers listening to this ECC woman complain and complain about parking, was to go for a swim. I wanted nothing more in those airless, harried minutes than to rip my ill-fitting dress to pieces (the post-partum body is so odd – no longer pregnant but still not recognisably one’s own), hurl the hateful wrist braces across the room, kick off my shoes, abandon the still foreign screaming baby and run into the blessed surf for a moment’s cool relief.

The other women must have thought I was mad. And I felt mad. By certain definitions, I probably was mad.

As I sit here reflecting on the year that was, small moments return to me, little vignettes of those rare days and nights when a newborn is just that: new born. During last summer’s heatwave, a cricket came to stay. He was the first one I’d ever seen here, and little Jiminy took to leaping around the room in the dark while I sat up in the middle of the night feeding Master J, making me with jump with nervous fright when inevitably the playful cricket decided to leapt right onto us. One night the air was so hot and close we all moved into the lounge-room for the night. Master J moved about in his bassinet, nude but for his nappy. Still we worried about him overheating, and it was a night of whispered temperature checks and hands pressed to his tiny smooth forehead. The bi-fold doors to the courtyard remained wide open all night, but still there was no relief. And yet we were so happy, even sleepless and on constant high alert, because we were all of us together. Here we are a year later, so happy still.



  1. Suzanne said,

    I remember that nasty windowless room of our first mother’s group and I remember your entrance.

    But I didn’t think you were mad!

    I took great comfort in seeing that someone else was as harried and flustered as I in those hazy early months of motherhood. I think we all did!


  2. litlove said,

    All new mothers are mad – it goes with the territory. No but seriously, Julia Kristeva called pregnancy ‘institutionalised psychosis’ because you are two people at once and no one should be that. I think it’s worse after giving birth because it’s like, hello, where the hell did YOU come from? New mothers know how close that child is to their own flesh, the baby having been guarded so close to the heart he is a piece of your heart, and now outside having a separate individual life (except not because utterly dependent on you). It’s such identity chaos. But you do get through it and children do become easier and oh boy, language is a wonderful thing once it’s been acquired. You’ll be just fine.

  3. Lilian Nattel said,

    I’m so glad to have you post again so soon after the last one! I am smiling and wanting to give you all a hug.

  4. Pete said,

    Happy birthday, Master J! And congrats to you and Llew for the first year of parenthood! I’m glad to hear that your wrists are feeling a lot better. And that description of all the trials of motherhood is brilliant. It definitely gets better, right? Love to you all. xx

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