Conversations with kids

Kids say the most hilarious things, and I wish I wrote down some of the things my own kids say more often. Here are a few things my little ones have spilled recently…

When I came back from the hospital and J said to me:

“Mum, why do you still have a baby in your tummy?”

Me: “Umm… there’s no baby in there J. My tummy is just going to take some time to return to normal.”

J: “Oh, ok. I don’t like it like that. It needs to be flat again!”

Me: *tears streaming down my face… “This tummy stretched to carry all three of you!!”

When asking why her 16 year-old uncle isn’t married yet…

J: “Why isn’t Emmi (short for ‘Amja’ or ‘uncle’ in Turkish) married yet?”

Me: “Because he is too young J, he’s still in school…”

J: “Oh, so he can get married in the school holidays…”

A few weeks ago she suddenly piped up with…

“An-ne (or mum), I want to be exactly like you when I’m older…”

Me: “awwww that’s so sweet… but why baby?”

J: “Because I love you more than anyone else.”

And when putting her to bed tonight:

J: “I can’t sleep anymore An-ne…”

Me: “Oh why not baby?”

J: “I just feel different these days…”

Me: trying not to react “Why?!”

J: “I think it’s because I’m going to turn 5 soon…”

And a few one liners from Z, who is talking so much these days…

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Z: “Just leave me An-ne, just leave me…” as she shuts the door on my face in defiance because I wouldn’t let her do something. 

This morning…

Me: “Z what do you want for breakfast?”

Z: “Chocolate. I WANT CHOCOLATEEEE!!!”

And lastly,

Z: “all the girls love me An-ne, all of them!” 

 

Postpartum reflections

I’ve been following Australian actress Teresa Palmer on Instagram lately, and have been reading her posts over on her blog Your Zen Mama. She had her second baby just before I had my third, and she has been sharing her weekly postpartum reflections. I’ve really enjoyed reading them, it reminds me that I’m not the only one going through this at the moment. Her honesty is refreshing and the detail she goes into with her reflections is also actually really helpful.

Inspired by her posts, I’ve decided to put a reflection of my own together, but I will not be doing this weekly because I HAVE THREE KIDS. It’s also taken me four and a half weeks (no, I can’t believe it’s been over a month since I gave birth) to get this down because I’ve been stumbling around in a mind-fog and drowning in an endless cycle of nappy changes, tantrums, sibling rivalry and swaddling wraps…

So here goes:

The Labour

I’m not going to give y’all a recount of my labour in detail, because, well, who really wants to know how it all went down? All labours are excruciatingly painful- regardless of how long/short they are. There are some things I do want to note though:

  • This was the first labour that I opted to have an epidural. At first, it was wondrous. My husband and I looked over at each other and could only stare in amazement and comment on how this “doesn’t even feel like labour.” I knew when I was getting contractions, but I couldn’t feel their full force. Until I could. OH MY GOD. The damn epidural WORE OFF PEOPLE just when I needed it the most and I faced at least 40minutes to an hour of excruciating pain. The anaesthetist was stuck in a caesarean (later I found out from the nurses that there were SIX caesareans that day) and I had no choice but to scream through contractions that hit me with extreme force. I opted for the gas, which made me nauseous and suddenly I was vomiting all over myself. I was also screaming “WHY THE HELL DID I GET AN EPIDURAL IF THIS WAS GOING TO HAPPEN!!!” and then profusely apologising afterwards for yelling… because I am an apologiser. More on that another day.
  • Essentially, I had an epidural because they wanted to speed up my labour due to certain risks and having heard horror stories about induction from friends who had been through it, I decided to get the epidural in advance. Sure I felt that guilt, I was anxious about the consequences and side effects, and I was also terrified of having someone stick a needle into my spine. BUT, the memory of the pain of contractions was also much too fresh and came rushing back to me when in that birthing room and I looked over at my husband and said, “let’s do the epidural”, whereupon he replied, “it’s your choice babe. I aint gonna judge you, and nobody else should either. You do what you have to do.” Basically he said exactly what I needed to hear lol. #husbandoftheyear
  • So this labour was different from my other two because it literally had a bit of everything. There was the epidural, the syntoconin, the gas, feeling the full force of contractions and in around four hours or so (my memory of the timeline of this birth is fuzzy given everything), baby was ready to make his entrance. With a top up of the epidural and the midwives telling me when and how to push, my son graced us with his presence.
  • And apparently that is me NOT giving a recount of the birth lol. Too much detail for y’all? I apologise…
  • OVERALL: I hated the epidural. I paid for it after as well (more on that in the next section). Labour is FREAKING PAINFUL AND I NEVER WANT TO DO THAT AGAIN. Phew. But when baby comes out and they place him on your chest, there is nothing in this world that compares. I am extremely grateful I was able to experience it again.

The Hospital Stay

Because of the epidural and certain side effects, I stayed in hospital for around 3 days. Basically I was getting some major headaches. And when I say major, I mean MAJOR. I was basically forced to stay lying down, as the headaches would hit me as soon as I sat up. This made changing baby’s nappy/clothes and picking him up difficult. But I took all the painkillers they gave me and it helped.

The hospital stay was much calmer and overall a better experience, mainly because I was mostly ignored by the hospital staff, except when they came in to do the necessary checks. Because #BABYNO3

Oh, also, the girls meeting their baby brother was the sweetest. J (the older one) was totally smitten. Z on the other hand, wasn’t so sure. She kissed him and exclaimed his name over and over, but she wouldn’t come near me. I think it was because I was lying in a strange bed, in a strange place, drained of colour, with needles sticking out of me. Maybe…

Once we got Home

Again, things were much calmer as baby slept really well. Actually, he was extremely sleepy and I’d have to wake him up for feeds. He was slightly jaundiced so this probably contributed to his lethargy. It did make recovery for me easier though as I got plenty of rest. Also, my mum came over everyday for around two weeks, which was basically a God send, otherwise I could not have dealt with everything, and probably would have starved.

My mum is an angel in disguise, as every time I’ve given birth, she comes over and does everything for me. She’s firm with this as well. She forces me to rest, and literally does not allow me to do anything. And I mean NOTHING. She doesn’t let me wash dishes, throw in laundry, vacuum, cook… She spends the time looking after my older kids and doing everything. She insists that the postpartum time is for rest, and drinking soup lol. Which she forced me to drink 3 times a day. Breastmilk is mainly water, so drinking lots of soup makes sense.

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What I’m eating

The weeks when my mum was here were great. She made good wholesome homemade food, mainly soups as I said above. My mother in law sent yummy Turkish foods… I tried to get my intake of veggies and fruit, and a snack at night, because breastfeeding makes me really hungry. My friend made me some lactation cookies and sweet potato tarts which were the best for snacking.

Once my mum stopped coming as often, I had to fend for myself lol. I’ve been doing grocery shopping online, or getting the husband to bring home groceries. Haven’t been cooking much, although I’m trying.

This week I’m going to try to go back to a gluten free diet, as eating wheat based foods throws off my digestive system, so we’ll see how it goes.

Also, lots and lots of water!

The Emotions

The first three weeks I went through the wave of hormones and the resulting emotional rollercoaster. I’m prone to anxiety anyway, so I don’t cope well with the postpartum hormonal changes that the body goes through. Plus the stress of keeping a baby alive… basically I obsess over every little detail, dramatise it, and end up in a puddly mess of tears.

This time around I felt completely overwhelmed by the need for me to meet the emotional needs of three children. And I wasn’t even feeding them. Or cleaning. How could I do EVERYTHING once my mum stopped coming?

More tears ensued.

Somewhere around week 3.5-4, the fog started to clear from my brain and I started to feel like myself. My body started to recover and gain strength, and my psyche benefitted from heading out of the house, getting back to some sense of normalcy. The Solly Baby wrap has been great, making outings easier, and I’m also loving the new stroller.

Our new family of five braved dinners out, a wedding, a picnic at a beach, visiting interstate guests who had arrived, doctor’s appointments etc within the first few weeks of baby’s life.

Baby

Our new baby has coped with entering this world like a champ. He is very serious, always frowning, and has a gaze that is so knowing. He is totally wise beyond his…weeks lol. He sleeps really well, clocking over 4 hour stretches at night, basically waking twice a night for a feed. Some days he feeds more, which I suspect are times of growth spurts. Currently he has longer waking hours, he can hold his neck up really well, and is starting to follow movements with his eyes.

Everyone keeps telling me he will change as he grows, and this I know. Right now I’m just thankful for this phase and taking all that I can get, because I know what a fussy baby who does not sleep, who cries all the time, is like.

I’d forgotten how much you need to plan in advance before leaving the house with a newborn, trying to squeeze in a feed before leaving or else face a screaming baby in the car, getting the baby bag ready… now I had two more kids to prep. Once we did it a few times though, we got the hang of it. Although, if we go somewhere that is quite far, we have had to pull over just to feed baby, because if he’s hungry, he will scream till he is fed.

The girls

The girls are coping in their own ways with this new phase. J struggled the first week, as she kept asking me when I was going to play with her, sit with her, read with her and she also kept telling me that she loved me over, and over, and over again. She did the same when her younger sister was born as well. There was one heartbreaking moment around two weeks after we brought baby home where she just got really emotional, threw her arms around my neck and told me that she was worried about me…because I just kept sleeping, and having my own mini-breakdowns. Since then, she’s been back to her usual, 4.5 year old, sometimes annoying, always chatty and playful, self.

Z on the other hand has been acting out in different ways. Tantrums over random things are on the rise, her attachment to me has increased, and she’s also displaying violent tendencies toward her older sister (the other day she bit J’s finger so hard it bled). She just hit 2 so I know this is normal for her age, but it’s just compounded by having to contend with a new sibling in the house.

We, the parents, are barely scraping through. Trying to maintain our own patience in the face of SO MANY EMOTIONS has been tough, and to be honest, I know that I have had many, many bad parenting moments. Lots of shouting, and dramatic moments, using the TV to get things done, like feed my newborn, cook and clean have been my worst vices. Just this week I’ve made the conscious effort to keep myself calm in the face of Fight No. 1000 between the two girls in the one day, or a tantrum because Z doesn’t want to sleep. And I’m getting rid of the TV. That’s right. We are going cold turkey. Please pray for me lol.

Lastly…

Yes. Three kids is definitely tough. Slowly though, I feel like we are getting into a rhythm, and adjusting to this new phase. It helps that baby is sleeping well and feeding well, and I have nothing but gratitude. As with babies, I know things will change as he grows, and starts teething and so on, but as I said earlier, I’m taking whatever I can get now.

Despite the emotional rollercoaster, the physical recovery from labour, and adjusting to three children, I do feel that this postpartum period has been the easiest out of all my kids. Experience has definitely been a factor in this obviously, as has sleeping enough lol.

I feel a lot more comfortable and confident and I know that has made a big difference.

I’m looking forward to the next few months, and just enjoying having another baby in the house, especially knowing how fast it passes…

Mostly, I am incredibly thankful for all the loving and supportive and helpful people around me, without whom all this would be infinitely more difficult and challenging. Still, with all the support, there have been moments of sheer desperation, frustration, tears, where the mounting responsibilities of three children has felt so overwhelming. I know that there were many times where I didn’t cope with it all in the best way, and I’m learning from those mistakes and trying to move forward now. But honestly, watching my family grow, work together, cooperate, help each other and settle into a new phase is truly a beautiful gift. As is being able to kiss soft newborn cheeks 🙂

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I am not enough…and that’s ok

Practically everyday at some point, the thought will cross my mind that, “I am not enough…” that “I don’t know enough…” or that “I am not smart/knowledgable/wise/patient enough…” That I’m not doing enough outside of the children. That my ‘career’ is not progressing, that I’m not doing enough for the community, that I don’t maintain connections with my friends enough, that I’m not helpful enough for my parents, that I’m not showing my care and concern for my husband enough… ETCETERA.

I worry that I don’t do enough for the children. That I don’t spend enough quality time with them, or that I don’t organise enough activities for them, or teach them enough (I want to homeschool them, but haven’t really started doing anything homeschool-y yet).

I face up to the gaping holes in my knowledge and wonder how on earth I am even going to homeschool my kids.

And with a third on the way, I wonder how I’ll find the time to organise a homeschooling curriculum for them, or even lessons to do with them.

Beyond just the homeschooling though, I often find myself questioning whether I can even mother them properly. So many times a day I catch myself in ‘bad parenting’ moments/ACTIONS and I feel that guilt.

Oh yes.

That ‘mum guilt’. That creeping sense that I am totally traumatising my children with my horrible parenting, with the impatience, with the shouting, with the harsh discipline that I can mete out…

I also have major control issues. I totally overthink many aspects of how to parent them, and I struggle to let them go, to be carefree, to be easy with them…

For example, my eldest (she’s 4.5 years old), does not go to a childcare of any sorts, at all. She hasn’t since she was around 1.5 years old.

I struggle to take on help from people outside their grandparents. And even with the grandparents I’ve spent years trying to control how they are looked after by them, when in their care.

It’s exhausting, you know.

Knowing my controlling ways, I wonder if I’m constricting my children too much and possibly stunting their development, character-wise. Am I giving them enough opportunities to learn things on their own?

Another part of my strongly believes that although children should be tested, and allowed “out in the world”, that this also has its own time and place, and if it happens too early, the consequences on their development can actually be harmful. You have to know your child well enough to decide when they are ready to exposed to certain things.

So I vacillate between trying to control their surroundings and allowing them *limited freedom to experience different things, and be exposed to different people.

When J (my eldest) was around 10 months old, I decided to go back to work. Full time high school teaching. It was a difficult decision. I panicked for weeks before I started work. I drove my husband crazy by being concerned about minute details of how J would be cared for. I was an emotional wreck at the thought that someone else would be caring for her, feeding her, playing with her for long hours. My mind conjured up horrible scenarios where things would go wrong and she’d suffer short and long-term impacts of being separated from her mother, or from watching too many hours of tv, or eating foods that I had not “approved”.

At the time my husband took it all in his stride and his advice is one that I still try to remind myself of today.

He patiently told me that first of all, I needed to calm down lol. Then he told me that the reality is that I could not be everything, and teach everything to my daughter. That her being looked after by her grandparents, extended family, even childcare could teach her things that I had no capacity to, simply because I am just me, and not them. That every person who cares for her has their own unique qualities, knowledge, life experience etc. that J could benefit from. That they all make up the patchwork of life lessons for her.

And most important of all, my husband reminded me that she would be in the care of those who loved and cared for her dearly, completely and sincerely. And that therefore, she would not be at risk of any major harm. That in fact, she will grow to be a more rounded, fuller individual having been exposed to this love.

Armed with this advice, I threw myself back into teaching, and I do not regret it. Sure there were challenges, but all in all I could see J flourishing, I could see that she was happy, she had no major anxiety or stress, or problems adjusting to the fact that I was no longer around full time.

Ultimately I did make the decision to quit work at the end of that first year of going back. The reasons were myriad, and not all connected to my child, but one major consideration in relation to her was that I felt it was important for me to look after her full time at a time when she was approaching 2 years old, a time that would require an emphasis on disciplining her, on dealing appropriately with her tantrums, and in establishing a diet that was nutritious and quite frankly, low in sugar.

I did not want the grandparents to have to take on this burden, when they’d already raised children themselves and I knew that what they really wanted with their grandchildren was to simply love and enjoy them. Not to raise them.

As her parent, that was my responsibility.

So, I suppose what I’m trying to say here is that as parents, particularly as mothers, we need to find that balance between doing our part as being our children’s primary source of parenting, discipline, love and so on, especially in the first 7 years of their lives, but also of fully understanding the importance of reaching out to extended family and trusted community members for help.

To admit that no, we can’t be everything for our children by the very limitations of who we are. That no, we can’t do it all. We can’t juggle our households, our jobs, our children, ourselves, on our own.

We need help.

The very nature of our existence is hinged on dependence on others. We could not function in this world without other people. From the rubbish that gets taken out every week, to the roads that we drive on, to the shopping centres that we shop from, the maintenance of our suburbs…everything requires us to depend on others doing their bit.

Why do we try to function as mothers on our own?

We need to let go of the fallacy of perfection. Perfection lies only with One Being, and for us to strive for it is a form of arrogance.

Knowing our own innate limitations as human beings, in comparison to the Absolute Perfection of our Creator should comfort us. Not cause us anxiety.

So yes, we should reach out to our family to play a significant role in raising our children. And we should do this with tact, with wisdom, and with trust. We shouldn’t be giving our husbands (yes, I totally went there) instructions on how to look after our children, or hold them, or feed them, or play with them… We shouldn’t reprimand him for doing things differently. We should trust him to do it in his own way because hey, he is also an intelligent, thinking human.

If we have extended support in grandparents, aunts and uncles, we should be grateful for this support system and also give them the opportunity to teach our children that which we cannot. For our children to experience and grow and be nurtured with their love as well.

And if we are fortunate enough to have a community beyond family, we should also reach out to them and be honest enough to admit that we may need help, and to be humble enough to ask for it.

Being a mother can be an incredibly constricting experience, because of the depth of our love for our children, because of the nature of our concern for them, and at times, this can make it difficult to sustain over years of parenting. It may manifest in controlling behaviours, it may prevent us from taking on the advice from other concerned and sincere people who should have a role in raising our children as well.

We, on our own, are not enough… ultimately, left to our own devices, we will do something wrong…but this is how it should be, and we should respond accordingly and reach out for help.

We should allow people around our children to contribute to the richness of their lives, and to help us nurture them.

Not only will it result in children who are better rounded in their characters, but it will also go a long way to help ourselves do this thing called parenting…

What I’ve packed in my hospital bag

With two weeks to go till my due date, I finally put my hospital bag together, and guess what? It’s still missing some essentials. Here is what I’ve been able to throw in there for now…

For me…img_3954img_3955

Missing from bag…

For baby… 

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Missing from bag…

I am feeling that mix of emotions that is inevitable at this phase of pregnancy. I’m over being pregnant, constantly tired, scared of labour, but also excited to meet baby. One positive is that I do feel a lot more mobile and “normal” and I’m associating it to the fact that this is my third pregnancy and I have two other little kids at home to keep me busy and literally on my feet. Oh how luxurious a first pregnancy is! One can lounge around, and take naps whenever they want and simply wait in blissful ignorance of labour, revelling in the excitement of meeting their firstborn. Not so with latter pregnancies… It may be a good thing though, because it keeps one active which should help with the labour… “should” being the key word here lol.

Brightness is not a dim place on the horizon…

I remember the first night that I was in the hospital by myself with my new baby. My family had left, my husband included, as hospital policy (in a public hospital) did not allow the husband to stay overnight. I was alone in a vacuous hospital, lights dimmed, with the constant beeping of machines, other patients around me, separated only by a thin curtain. It was cold too, as the hospital had its air-con blaring.

I was alone for the first time with my baby. I was exhausted after a long and difficult labour. I felt like I’d been hit two trucks, not one. I could barely lift my arms up, let alone roll out of bed and walk to the bathroom. I literally needed my husband and a nurse to assist me to walk the few metres out of my room and around the corner to go to the bathroom.

It was in this state that I was now left alone with a baby.

All night my uterus churned as it shrank. In my delirious, exhausted state, I was convinced that a baby was still inside of me. That the doctors had made a mistake. And yet, I’d look over at the bassinet next to me and see the sleeping baby.

She was mine, right?

Was it she who had resided inside me just hours earlier?

Then what was this movement inside of me now? It really felt like a baby. Maybe I’d actually had twins and the doctors forgot him/her inside me. Of course, the doctors had told me that my uterus would shrink and I’d feel the pain, but my irrational state wouldn’t fully accept this explanation.

I also felt a strange disconnection from the real, out-in-the-world baby next to me.

At the same time I was petrified that I would not be able to keep her alive.

My newborn actually slept for 5 hours straight that first night (alas this was not to last over the next few weeks) and when she finally woke up, and I rang the bell for the nurse for assistance, she reprimanded me for “allowing” the baby to sleep for “that long”. Didn’t I know that I was supposed to wake her up at least every 3 hours to feed her?

Um. No. I didn’t know that I was “supposed” to do that, because this was my FIRST BABY and I HAD NEVER DONE THIS BEFORE, oh and NOBODY HAD TOLD ME WHAT I WAS SUPPOSED TO DO WITH HER. (Two babies later, I know that this nurse was actually incorrect. If a baby is sleeping, they should just be allowed to sleep, and feeding should happen on demand rather than trying to stick to a strict schedule. So not only did she reprimand me and make me feel guilty, she was actually wrong.)

So now I felt like my baby was possibly going to suffer because I hadn’t woken her up for a feed.

Then it came time to actually feed her, and the nurse stripped J of all her clothes and literally shoved her onto me repeatedly, pushing me into J’s mouth. Yes. IT WAS PAINFUL and traumatic.

When I came home the next day, J would not sleep at night for more than 10-20 minutes. I was still in pain from the labour, and in pain trying to breastfeed (she probably wasn’t latched on properly, but breastfeeding for me was excruciating for the first few WEEKS).

On top of this, J was not gaining weight properly. She wasn’t “thriving”. She had some mild jaundice. She was constipated and not passing stools for weeks at a time. And well-meaning relatives around me were constantly looking in and commenting and asking “why isn’t she gaining weight, etc etc…”

I remember sitting on my bed and looking down at my new physical self, with tears streaming down my face. Yes I got a baby out of this body, but I no longer recognised a single part of myself. Everything about me was just so different. I still had the weight that I’d gained from pregnancy, stretch marks crawled their way across my stomach, my chest had swelled from the milk… None of my clothes fit me. And when I did get dressed, I did not look like myself at all. I mourned my pre-baby body. I scolded myself for not appreciating it and constantly complaining about how I had extra chub here or there. I would never look like that unscarred, unmarked by birth, self, ever again.

I remember again, sitting on my bed looking out the window and feel a heaviness descend on me. Tears were rolling down my face. My husband came and simply sat next to me, put his arms around me.

Sometimes whilst sitting in J’s nursery with her in my arms, trying to rock her to sleep, the same heaviness would descend upon me and the tears would once again snake their way down my face. And again, well-meaning relatives would tell me, “you can’t be sad! It will affect her. You’ll pass on your anxiety to her. So be happy!”

Of course, this only exacerbated the guilt I felt for not “being happy” and wondering why I even felt this way, and that omg now it was affecting my baby, wasn’t I just a horrible mother!!

The thing is, I felt that I couldn’t quite comprehend nor grasp the momentous transition that I’d just experienced. I couldn’t believe the pain that I’d been through to birth this child, I couldn’t comprehend the physical separation, and I couldn’t cope with the intensity of my feelings for her, which mainly manifested itself in anxiety and fear over her health. Every little thing that did not “go right”, such as her sleeping, her feeding, her constipation, her slow weight gain…everything… I couldn’t be rational about it. I felt that it reflected my failure as a mother, because I didn’t even know what me as a mother looked like and I was terrified of hurting her in some long-lasting way.

When I think back to those initial months, I can literally feel the stifling heaviness and anxiety that I experienced.

When I had Z, I thought it would be easier given that I “had experience”. But I was to learn keenly the lesson that “every baby is different”, and therefore you have to change and adapt to them. Although it was easier to fall into the newborn cycle with Z, she also was not a good sleeper, had colic, fed for hours, and did not want to be put down during the day.

So most of my days with her were spent on the couch feeding her, with J watching TV for hours (even though I tried to set up ‘play stations’ for her), and the time in between carrying Z in a baby carrier and trying to cook, or clean, or play with J whilst my back suffered from the constant carrying of a 4kg baby. Come around 7pm, Z, overtired from a day of not sleeping for more than 45 minutes at a time, would scream for around 2 hours and nothing, nothing that I did would calm her.

Again, I felt that familiar heaviness. That creeping, uncomfortable anxiety that I wasn’t doing things right. That sense of fear and insecurity about the health of my newborn, and this time, of the boredom of my eldest and frustration that TV was the only way we could get through those early days.

Anxiety was not unfamiliar ground for me. A few years before having J I had experienced anxiety disorder and panic attacks for quite some time.

Maybe this history of mine meant that I was predisposed to experiencing post-natal depression of some form after giving birth. I had feared that I should expect it whilst I was pregnant with J, given my history.

The midwives would ask me those standard questions, where we’d have to tick off on a checklist how we felt, and this would determine, supposedly, how ‘depressed’ or ‘sad’ we were. I remember a midwife who came to visit us at home after J was born told me that I had the “blues”. She left it at that. She didn’t really tell me how to deal with it.

Looking back, I would tell that fragile-as-a-baby new mother to be easy on herself. I would tell her, yes, you have been through an incredibly harrowing event that will mark the timeline of your life, that will unalterably and significantly change who you are as a person.

I would tell her that it’s ok to mourn for her pre-mother self. But that slowly, vestiges of that self would slowly creep back in, only this time she would be coloured and brightened by a new self, a new role, a new mission that will guide every decision that she makes henceforth.

I, I’d tell her that things will get easier. In those early weeks, it feels like the days simply drag on and that your baby will never grow, never sleep, never settle.

I’d tell her that “the days feel long, but the years are short” my dear. And if only I knew then how quickly the years pass, how quickly the fussy newborns morph into children of strength, curiosity and brightness… I would tell her to cherish the soft soft skin, the untainted smell of baby, the wondrously small toes and fingers…

And difficult as it might seem, I’d tell her to cherish this time when there is no other responsibility in the world but to care for this baby… even though some of the time this knowledge itself can exacerbate the anxiety. There will be years ahead to dedicate yourself to things outside your children… there is only a small window of precious time when it is just you and baby…

Giving birth, regardless of how it happens, and bringing that baby home is an incredibly difficult, strange and challenging time. Without proper support (I’ve written about what support should look like before) it can be almost impossible to cope with. The physical separation of mother from baby is itself a contributing factor I believe to the post-natal depression that women experience.

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So to all mothers, mothers-to-be, mothers who have experienced the crippling anxiety and the weight of heaviness descend upon them during a time that is supposed to be the ‘happiest time of their lives’, I want to reach out and hug you, and tell you, it’s alright. I promise it will get better. Remind yourself to have shukr (roughly, ‘gratitude’) for the beautiful being you have helped to bring into the world. Steel yourself with positivity. And when you feel that sadness, accept it, let it wash over you, but know that it will pass. It does not mean you are a bad mother… it just means that you are human, and that you have just been through a surreal, yet completely natural transition, and yes, you will experience an array of feelings.

And that’s ok.

It’s ok.

Brightness is not a dim place on the horizon, you carry it within you, you carry it in the love that you have for your child… and this will carry you both through…

*Images via Akira Kusaka. Featured image is “Dawn” and second image is “Stray”.

Best on the Net

It’s been a big week in the world, with much to ponder on. Here are a few inspiring, positive and thought-provoking links to make this week that much better…

  1. A beautiful new children’s book compiles tales from Syrian refugees.
  2. Carla Zampatti designed a uniform for Westpac and included a style for hijabis.
  3. Check out this Kickstarter for a company designing activewear for women who wear hijab. 
  4. Finland is taking their awesome schools further by abandoning subjects for ‘events’ and ‘phenomena’ in an interdisciplinary format.
  5. Speaking of teaching, here’s a video that explores how there is no scientific proof that homework improves performance in elementary school. BAN HOMEWORK I say!
  6. The biggest supermoon is set to hit our world tonight, but it’s cloudy and raining here in Sydney 🙁
  7. Did you read about the new screen time recommendations by doctors? About time they got onto this.
  8. Suzanne Barakat is an incredible ambassador for her religion, and this latest talk she delivered at TED is at once utterly heart-breaking but also motivating. She asks, what resources do you have and how can you use it for good?
  9. And lastly, I really want this dress.

Let’s talk about what we feed our children

Today I want to talk about what we feed our children. I know that it is an incredibly heated topic, one that can really make people (parents, I mean) defensive and emotional. I know that 99% of the time, the defences used will be something along the lines of…

“I just CANNOT get him/her to eat anything else.”

“There is NO WAY that we can get him/her to eat the veggies.”

“I’m too tired, and it’s so much easier to give him/her what he/she wants.”

I know, because I’ve used these lines myself.

But let’s be real with ourselves here. We are facing an epidemic on a scale never seen before. Our children are becoming increasingly obese. In Australia alone, “the number of overweight children in Australia has doubled in recent years, with a quarter of children considered overweight or obese.” (From betterhealth.vic.gov.au). And in adults the statistics are even more shocking. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics“in 2011-12, 62.8% of Australians aged 18 years and over were overweight or obese.”

Considering such ominous stats and facing the reality of being surrounded by an unwholesome food environment and culture, we decided to speak to someone who knows much more about how important it is to eat well, who is an expert in her field. We asked Iman Salam, who has three grown children of her own, from Afiya Live Well to answer a few questions about the importance of eating nutritious food and instilling good eating habits in our children.

What impact does eating ‘bad food’ (e.g. highly processed, high in sugar, soft drinks etc.) have on children’s physical, mental and spiritual well-being?

Junk food has a highly addictive nature for children. Although it can look appealing and of course taste great, children simply do not realise the ill effects it has on their health, as well as on their growing bodies. The physical complications are many; obesity,  diabetes, chronic illness,  low self esteem, and even depression.

As for mental and spiritual well-being eating a diet heavy in unhealthy foods including low nutrient dense foods can be a cause of behavioural and emotional problems, including anxiety, depression and stress.

What are some of the problematic eating habits amongst families that you have seen?

First of all not eating as a family. I’ve heard of families grabbing food and everyone eating in their own corner, on their phone, or in front of the tv. This not only causes a breakdown in family relations but eating in front of an electronic device creates an unhealthy relationship with food as well as a habit of mindless eating.

Second, the emphasis put on finishing your plate, food as reward, etc creates a long-lasting negative relationship with food. Often times being forced to clean our plates as children develops into emotional eating, overeating, and eating disorders. A healthy way to start each meal is to remember to praise God, make the intention to get the most benefit out of the meal and start with a small serving. Just as important is listening to your body and knowing when to stop before you get full. *Editor’s addition: Children have an innate ability to know when they are full, and will often assert when they have eaten enough. It is usually the adults who push them to eat more, thus breaking this natural instinct to stop eating when full. 

How can parents instil positive eating habits in their children?

Children learn from seeing so therefore setting an example is the best way to teach our children. We have to remember that our food is a blessing and it starts long before it gets to our dining table.  Teaching children the value of food and where it comes from is important. It helps to reconnect the child to mother earth and have a deeper appreciation for nature as well as the food that is put into their bodies. Being involved in a local CSA or visiting your local farm is a beautiful thing to do as a family. It’s also extremely rewarding for the soul. Don’t be afraid to get your kids to help in the kitchen, give them small tasks that they can do to help prepare dinner. This will give them a sense of ownership and pride and make them more likely to eat what they’ve helped in preparing.

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Image via Marche + Atelier

What types of food should children not be eating? 

SUGAR!!!!! (artificial).  You would be surprised to learn that it’s in everything, even toothpaste. Be aware of the different names for sugar. I know what you’re thinking, “it’s hard to avoid.” If you focus on what is in your control, your own home, then when kids are at their grandparent’s house or at a birthday party, you won’t feel so bad that they are most probably going to eat sugar.  Cut back on the amount of meat and milk as tons of hormones are injected into these animals and this is causing life-long damage on their growing bodies.

Which foods have the best nutritional value for children?

It’s important to keep in mind that children need a diet containing a variety of foods. Protein, Carbohydrates, and good fats are all essential for their growing bodies. When choosing animal protein look for grass fed, free range, organic meats. And keep in mind that protein can come from other foods as well, beans, legumes, and dark leafy veggies. Aim to have one night a week meat free.

Aim for five servings of fruits and veggies each day, but keep in mind that portion size will differ depending on your child and their activity level. If your child isn’t a fan of veggies sneak them into a smoothie. Get creative with veggies, you’ll often be surprised with what your child will love. *Editor’s addition: Don’t hold back from offering them new vegetables. The worst that could happen is that they don’t eat it, the best is that they try it, and like it. 

Some good sources of carbs include whole wheat pasta and breads, barley, acorn squash and green peas. Healthy fats include avocado, ghee, and salmon (look for non-farmed options, which you can ask the shop owners about).

Don’t get too stressed with picky eaters, do your best and aim for at least one healthy meal a day.

How important is it to eat organic foods?

Eating organic foods is important in this day and age. Yet, no doubt, it can get expensive. Decide what you can and cannot afford for your family’s needs and work accordingly within those boundaries. Being educated on the ill-effects  of consuming non-organic meat is important. If that means cutting back on meat, then do what you think is best for your family. As Muslims we are held accountable for the food we eat and that includes the care of animals. When it comes to whether something is deemed “halal”, we often forget that it includes more than just the way the animal is slaughtered but how it was raised and the conditions it was in before being slaughtered. *Editor’s note: It is important to consider and understand that if an animal has been raised and slaughtered in a stressful environment, it will affect its body, and therefore its meat. If we then eat this meat from a stressed and anxious animal, it does affect our own spiritual, mental and physical well-being. Eating does have a spiritual dimension, and we cannot disregard this. 

When it comes to things like fruits and veggies, there are some that have more pesticides sprayed on them than others. These are the worst contaminated fruits and vegetables:

  • Peaches
  • Apples
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Celery
  • Nectarines
  • Strawberries
  • Cherries
  • Pears
  • Grapes (Imported)
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Potatoes

If you can stay clear of these and focus on organic, great! Otherwise a great tip that helps reduce the dirty film is a solution of vinegar and water (3 parts water to 1 part vinegar is most effective).

Can you give us some ideas for a healthy (and easy to put together) lunchbox?

  • My kids love hummus! I mean, who doesn’t 🙂 Hummus wraps with cucumber and bell pepper.
  • Tuna sandwiches on whole wheat bread. I like to use Avocado (insert heart eyes) mash, instead of mayo.
  • Whole wheat pasta with pumpkin.
  • Lentil soup.
  • Quinoa with chopped tomato,cucumber, and added black beans.
  • Sweet potato and black bean burrito bowl.

Iman Salam is an American currently residing in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  Her desire for a better lifestyle and health led her to study integrative nutrition. She holds a Diploma in Preventative Health & Nutrition,  Executive Master’s in Preventative Health and Nutrition, and is a certified Personal Trainer. Currently, she works as a Nutrition Consultant and is studying to be a Practitioner in Prophetic medicine.  Her goal is to revive the sunnah of well-being by encouraging the beneficial practices of prophetic medicine. Iman is the producer and host on DOPStv YouTube show “Afiya Live Well”, a program that promotes the Prophetic diet, nutrition, and overall well-being of the body

Featured image via Hideaki Hamada.

An (un)birthday party

It was my youngest daughter’s second birthday earlier this month and usually birthdays around here are small affairs where only the family gather for dinner and a cake, and presents.

This year I decided to do a little something different and throw a “birthday party” for Z mainly because she is about to become middle child in a few weeks, and I wanted to do something special to make her feel well, special.

As I planned the birthday I realised that I wanted it to be more about enjoying the company of our nearest and dearest, and for it to be an enjoyable day for the children.

Also, I really didn’t want to do the ‘typical’ birthday things.

For example, I didn’t want presents.

Exhibit A:

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My lovely friends and family still did gift the girls presents, which I wasn’t going to be annoying about. And I say ‘girls’ because they were gifts that both the girls could enjoy and use. We gift things to people because we love them, and this is a beautiful trait. My logic behind requesting no gifts was because I didn’t want the girls to expect present after present, which they would begin to not appreciate. I also didn’t want this day to be about an exchange of gifts, I wanted it to be a day to enjoy each other’s company…

I also did not want party bags. You know the ones filled with junk food, lollies and cheap plastic toys. Instead I decided to organise some arts and crafts so that the kids could:

  1. Be entertained, rather than go crazy with all the toys that we had (which happened anyway.)
  2. They’d have something to take home in lieu of party bags.
  3. It would get their creative juices flowing (but I think it was the adults who got more creativity out of this than the kids lol).

I also really did not want to do the whole ‘dessert table’/’grazing table’ that is trending at parties these days. I didn’t want the big floral backdrop to take photos with. I just wanted to bring out the sweets when the time came, and have a moment to bring out the cake, candles lit and everyone singing ‘happy birthday’ like we did in the good old ’90s.

My reasons for not doing a dessert table/grazing table:

  1. I didn’t want my children’s eyes to become accustomed to a table overflowing with lolly jars, cakes, towers of sweets and so on. I felt that this would simply promote greediness and extravagance from a young age.
  2. My aim for this party was to keep it simple and a table with a backdrop seems over the top and unnecessary for a two year old.
  3. I didn’t want a backdrop to take photos with, because it’s actually kind of weird to have people lining up to take photos in front of it. I didn’t want the children to see and engage in this form of ‘selfie’ (ahem, narcissistic behaviour). If we were taking photos, it would simply be a natural part of the day.
  4. What the hell is with the ‘grazing table’ anyway? Are we field animals that simply ‘graze’ lazily on food? Again, it’s just too extravagant and sends the wrong message to our children about what is acceptable eating behaviour.

I still wanted it to be beautiful, because it is a way of honouring our guests. So I bought some flowers (stock) from the local farmer’s market, and we trimmed down some foliage hanging over my back fence and hung it around. I also couldn’t resist buying these plates from Lark Store because they are just gorgeous.

The day before, my eldest daughter J, and I had some fun making some desserts. We made blueberry and cream and strawberry and cream popsicles, and butter cookies dipped in chocolate decorated with some sprinkles.

Here are the recipes we used:

Blueberry and Cream Popsicles (just replace the blueberries with strawberries)

Butter Cookies (we simply melted some chocolate, dipped the cookies in it once they were cooked and cooled, then sprinkled them with some pink sprinkles).

As for the crafts, we made wands and pipe cleaner crowns. For the wands, I cut out some star shapes the day before and got the kids to collect some sticks from the park with their father. The children simply painted the stars with glitter paint, attached ribbons to the sticks then stuck the stars on.

For the pipe cleaner crowns, we used this tutorial, and got creative with some fake wire flowers and ribbon.

All in all, it was a lovely day, reconnecting with friends and family and having the children to reconnect with each other as well. When I asked my eldest what she loved most about her day, she said, “playing with my friends, making the wands and eating the popsicles…” In that order lol.

Here are  a few more pics from the day…

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Pictures by my sister Subhi Bora.

Newborn essentials-things that you will actually need, Part 2

 

  1. Rest: Do not, under any circumstances, attempt to get straight back into work (if you can of course), or cleaning for God’s sake, or even cooking. And yes I’ll throw in the disclaimer that every mother is different and different things work for them. But I’m talking about a mother (first-time or not) who has just been through hours of the most physically painful task that she will ever endure in her life (or undergone a major operation i.e. a caesarean), and is now expected to keep a human being alive by feeding it. So I say to you, just rest. Don’t try to be a superhero and do everything on your own. Trust me, there will be PLENTY of time later when doing EVERYTHING will fall on you. For now, just be easy on yourself and give yourself and your body time to heal, to adjust, to reset. For all those hormones to do their thing, for your uterus to shrink, for your tears to heal, for your stitches to heal, for your aching and full breasts to adjust to the milk, for every muscle in your body to fall back into their place. Just, rest.
  2. Support: In saying that, a crucial prerequisite for a mother with a newborn to rest is having support from family/friends/community. Obviously she cannot simply rest if there is nobody around to take care of the older children, or the housework, or even cooking food to feed herself and her family. The state of post-natal care in this country is already miserable, and what doesn’t help is the increasing distance between family members and friends, the lack of sincere concern, the unwillingness to sacrifice one’s own time to help someone in need because we place ourselves, and our work, first. So if you know someone who has just given birth, swing by their house once a week and drop off food, or clean their house, or play with the other kids, or just keep this woman company. Trust me, she needs it.
  3. Wisdom and Tact: To add to this, a VERY important prerequisite to supporting a new mother and being there for her, is to do it with wisdom and tact. If you are going to be there everyday judging her every move, or being insensitive to her struggle with her child, or feel the need to offer your “advice” on how to rear children, or you constantly throw out your observations on how skinny the baby looks, or you KISS THE BABY ON THE FACE, or don’t give the baby back to mum WHEN SHE ASKS FOR HER CHILD who is CRYING, it’s best that you just stay away. Just don’t visit. It will do her much more harm than good. I will say here though that as mothers, we really need to learn to be more relaxed and not so hyper-sensitive about everything. We also need to stop acting like we know everything the second we give birth just because we’ve read an article on the internet about how to (or how not to) put your baby to sleep etc. etc. We should be wise enough and dignified enough to take on the sage advice of our own mothers, or more experienced mum friends/family, and not offend them by constantly asserting our ‘knowledge’. That we got from the internet. What needs to be simultaneously happening though is that the support network (grandparents, aunts, friends etc.) need to take a step back and allow the mother to just be a mother. To give her space to consolidate her new role as a mother, to figure out her relationship with her baby, and even to just figure out the baby. Like I said above, wisdom and tact is necessary on behalf of the support system.
  4. The Father: The husband really needs to suck it up and pull his weight more than usual. The early phase (and when I say early, I really mean the first 6 months at least) is a turbulent time. Your wife IS going to change. And if you think it’s wrong or weird that she is different, well I really only have this to say to you…DUHHHH. Your wife has literally just been a conduit for life and you expect her to be the same girl she was when you married her? Not happening. And you shouldn’t expect her to be. You should expect her to change, to grow, to mould into a different self. One that will be defined wholly (initially) by motherhood. More than this though, there will be difficult moments when your wife is irrational, moody, hypersensitive, and so on, because she is so focused on keeping this creature alive. And whilst I’ve already given my warning to mothers about being hypersensitive, what I would say needs to happen on the part of the husband is to simply muster your patience and let. It. Go. Don’t try to nitpick her every moody moment every single time. Know that she is trying to negotiate a very tough phase, and hey, she is literally keeping YOUR progeny alive. Give her a break. Later (like, MONTHS later), you can tell her how mother-lion-y she was. And you can laugh about it. Maybe. I think a crucial point to keep in the forefront of your mind for both mother and father at this time is that you are in it together, and you should both be helping each other to navigate through it. I am emphasising the father’s role more heavily here though because evidently, it is the mother who experiences the most upheaval during this time, and is the one who needs more support, care and attention.
  5. Perseverance: This one is mainly for mum and dad, but can be for everyone involved in supporting and raising baby. Those early days are tough, and unless you have been blessed with some angel baby who feeds well and sleeps through the night, let me tell you, you are going to have to steel yourself and utilise some perseverance. When we brought home our first child, we had NO idea what we were doing, nobody told us anything really, and our baby would not sleep for more than 20 MINUTES AT A TIME. At night. And we were already on barely any sleep what with the labour lasting all night and so on. I’m telling you, sleep deprivation is literally a torture method and by the end of the first week, my husband and I were insane and questioning every decision we’d ever made that led to having this baby, including marrying each other. For reals. Throw into this the fact that for me, breastfeeding was pure torture. The only thing I can say to our credit about how we handled this time, was that we persevered. Through every sleepless night, and every painful feed, we pushed ourselves to keep going. And eventually, as the weeks passed, things got easier. We learnt our baby. So my advice, particularly for first time parents, is that the labour is one hurdle, but bringing that baby home is quite another, drawn out hurdle. Prepare yourself by steeling your nerves and endurance. And know that things WILL get easier. I promise.
  6. Thankfulness: Lastly, but certainly not least, a crucial part of surviving this tender phase is ensuring that we have shukr, or thankfulness and gratitude for the baby that you have been blessed with. It can be very easy to get caught up in the difficulties, the struggles, the lack of sleep, the complete change in our lifestyles and even our bodies and throw into this mix the crazy things happening with your hormones. One thing that I have learnt in retrospect, after having two children, is that there will never be a time like the newborn period. Your baby will only for around 6 months of their entire lives be a being of pure light and sweetness, of overwhelming fragility, of tiny toes and hands and heavenly newborn smell. So take a moment or two to just be thankful, to marvel over this perfect creature that you helped bring into the world. The struggles will still be there, but it will allow you to capture the magic of this time, to soak it all in, and therefore to give you the resilience to get through the difficulties.

Featured image is of me (editor Saltanat) with my first born in her newborn phase. Tough times. Don’t be fooled by the cute pic.

Newborn Essentials- things that you will actually need

Anybody who has had a baby will know that the sheer amount of products out there for baby are mind-blowing and plain confusing. A newborn human shouldn’t need that much right? Wrong. Walk into any baby store and you’ll see what I mean.

Having done this twice already and expecting my third (in just 7 weeks!!), I’ve whittled down what a baby would really need to the following. They are tried and tested by myself and I genuinely love these products. I try to choose organic and ethically made products where I can.

See below image for more details and links… If you hover over image the corresponding numbers will show.

  1. BABU Organic cotton hooded towels, face washers and wash cloths.
  2. Baby Bjorn Balance bouncer– this has been sitting in my living for 5 years in the same spot and will probably be there for another 2 years. It is very practical, and isn’t a scary, battery operated bouncer with toys hanging off it. It moves with the natural movements of baby, aiding in muscle development.
  3. Wilson & Frenchy growsuits. Get the zip kind, not the one with a thousand buttons because nappy change time is hard enough already.
  4. Gaia baby massage oil. Makes bath times much more fun.
  5. Tooshies by TOM nappies. They only launched these recently and I’m using them for Z (my two-year old) and I LOVE them because they are made using organic materials, are made well, fit around baby’s waist snugly and don’t leak. What more could you want in a nappy?
  6. Gaia hair & body wash. See number 4.
  7. Bubba blue organic four piece gift set. A cute print with all the essential accessories: beanie, mittens, bib and socks.
  8. Manduca baby carrier. I have used my fair share of baby carriers and this one is by far my favourite. It’s easy to use and supports your back well, whilst keeping baby snug and close.
  9. Bassinet. My bassinet is very similar to this style. I like that I can see baby through the see-through mesh, I can roll it around the house and I also like its simple aesthetic.
  10. Lifefactory glass bottles. In one word; brilliant. They also fit onto a Medela pump which is a huge thumbs up.
  11. Muslin Wrap. Both my babies liked to be wrapped and muslin wraps are perfect for both winter and summer babies. Get one in organic cotton.
  12. Valco Snap 4 stroller. So with my first baby, I bought the Valco Rebel Q pram, which was awesome, except that it was one of those prams that had to be separated into two to fold and fit in your boot. When I first tried it out at the baby store I didn’t think it would be a big deal. I was totally wrong. I eventually grew tired of separating the seat and folding the huge base…and it literally took up all my boot space. So, I passed that onto a family member who needed a pram, and this time round swore that I’d buy something that folds in one swift motion. Enter Valco Snap 4 stroller. It was very well priced (just over $300, unlike other strollers that retail for an incredulous $900 upwards), it is easy to handle, it’s light and folds in ONE SWIFT MOTION. I was totally sold.
  13. Tooshies by TOM wipes. Best. Wipes. Ever. And the cute packaging is a total bonus.
  14. Purebaby singlets. Lovely organic cotton singlets. Need I say more?
  15. Eco.baby nappy oil. Again, made of organic ingredients, this is the only nappy oil that has actually worked consistently. The moment I see a bit of redness or the beginnings of nappy rash, I apply this oil generously and by the next nappy change, it’s cleared up.

Featured image source.