On having a slow year

As I lay in bed last night listening to the pop of fireworks I thought back to the year that was 2018. Of course, no New Year’s Eve is complete without a reflection back to the events of that year, and usually I write an entry in my diary, processing all that happened and looking forward to the new year with new perspectives and goals.

I didn’t do that this year. In fact, I don’t think I’ve done it for the past few years because… kids (a most convenient excuse for everything I “can’t” do anymore). Instead, my yearly reflection was spurred by watching other people’s IG stories sharing their “best moments” or achievements throughout the year. Welcome to the new age right?

What watching these stories did for me though was ponder on what I myself had achieved through the year. What were my “best moments”? I didn’t travel extensively as others did, I didn’t start a new job, I didn’t complete my degree. We started homeschooling but I struggled to establish a routine or any consistency due to my efforts of juggling three young children, one of whom was breastfeeding for most of the year.

This year, I felt like I was constantly on the cusp of something happening, but I couldn’t quite get there. It was endless days spent overwhelmingly alone at home navigating the world of motherhood and raising my young children. It was me, constantly grappling with myself, my frustrations of not being able to do all the things I wanted to do in the way I envisioned myself doing them and trying to come to terms with my sense of disappointment and ultimately, a sense of failure. It was the year of some hurts settling and easing and making their way out of my heart, to experiencing new griefs and losses. I turned 30 this year, entering a new decade of my life and wondering if I was the person I had envisioned myself to be at this age. It was the year that my children pushed me to question my perceptions of who I was, of what my character was made up of and what my values truly were. Was I a worthy example for my children to imitate? Were my actions reflective of the values I proclaimed I ascribed to? It was a year of constant mistakes… every single day was as full of mistakes as an egg is filled with yolk. I made mistakes up until the very last day of the year…

This year could be described with one word: slow. It was slow, but it dawned on me that it was not stagnant. I may have not taken great strides in a worldly (shareable) sense, but all the struggles I just described have set me on the path of progress. Progress in the form of self actualisation, of inward growth and for the first time in my life, a deep understanding of who I am.

Because staying at home with my three young children grounded me to one physical place which became our battleground, our haven, our fertile plain for growth. Sometimes it may have seemed like we were stagnating in the four walls of our home, unable to step out into the wider world, becoming too comfortable in our safe space, but on the contrary we were breaking comfort zones. Being forced to spend every single minute of every single day together ultimately resulted in a deeper understanding of each other, of our characters, of our weaknesses, of our faults, of our strengths and therefore, of how to love and nurture one another in a way that was sensitive of the other’s unique personality. It forced us (parents AND children) to learn how to put our self aside and prioritise the other.

When day by day I found the reality of life reshaping my former dreams of what life would look like, of what homeschooling would look like, of what I would look like as a parent, even as a person, I felt keenly the paradox of choice and destiny. Of not being the One who has ultimate control. I learnt to recognise signs, to respond to them and allow them to shift my perspectives. And that doing things differently to what I had envisioned was not failure, but a sign of growth, of being flexible and responsive to my reality.

I learnt that navigating loss and grief and hurt demands to be talked about. With the right people. With people who will listen without judgement and offer the right advice at the right time. I learnt that hurt is a prerequisite for growth. It takes time for the lessons after loss, anger and betrayal to be learnt, and therefore, we should afford ourselves that time. Sometimes though, some hurts are so great that we, in our limited capacity as human beings simply cannot understand the wisdom behind that hurt. Such as having a miscarriage, or witnessing practically your entire race be thrown into concentration camps, ahem “re-education camps”.  And sometimes we are not supposed to know the wisdom behind such things. They are beyond our capacity as humans to fathom. We leave it to God, and our faith in Him and His Wisdom carries us through the hurt. I was reminded that hurt is universal. That suffering a miscarriage for example is not unique to one person. Even witnessing the genocide of your people is not unique. And it helps in those times to remember that you are not alone in your suffering. It may not take the hurt away, but not feeling alone in your hurt helps.

And finally, I felt that this was the year that I learnt to stop falling back on excuses and to simply act. If I felt lonely and unable to find a community that I felt comfortable in, then instead of waiting for one to fall in my lap, I should go out and make my own community. Instead of railing at the lack of a village, I should form a village of people around me by making the effort to be in contact and be a support for them. Instead of constantly thinking “I can’t do this or that because of kids etc.” I should do what I can within my confines for my health, for my spirituality, and that ultimately, working on bettering myself as a person will naturally make me a better parent and result in healthy, happy children.

It’s impossible of course to fully explore all that I have learnt this year. And no doubt every year will serve to teach me more with new experiences, losses, hardships and hurts. Before I used to fear future challenges, uncertain of whether I could face them with strength. Now I am comfortable with the idea of meeting challenges, knowing that challenges and mistakes and failures are inevitable, that the lessons to come from them take time, but that ultimately, this is what growth looks like, that having the freedom to experience mistakes and lessons is a treasure in and of itself and that this is living…

If you are scrolling through Instagram watching other people’s highlights of their year and feeling inadequate because you have nothing to share, know that you are not alone. If you have had a great and successful year, hats off to you. I am truly happy for your success and achievements. But know that some years are slow, some years you feel stuck in the same place, seemingly unable to move forward. And that’s ok. It’s a long life (insha Allah) and there will be many many years ahead of you, all different to one another. And sometimes, those “slow” years (that actually whipped right on past and left you behind) are sometimes the years that sow the seeds of true growth and progress.

So that’s the recap of my year. Not exactly something I can share on an IG Stories Highlights Reel, but necessary for me to put on digital paper, so to speak. After all, we do live in the new age right?

 

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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On love…

There is much to say about the consequences of the individualistic, self-centric world that we live in today.

One consequence is the impact it has had on relationships and people’s views of what a relationship should look like.

More specifically, people seem to have a keen idea about what a relationship should offer them, not what they can offer in a relationship.

What many seem to frame their relationship around is what it can do for them, how their partner will make them feel, what their partner should do for them.

I don’t think this only applies to a marriage-relationship though. I see that most relationships, friendships, even filial relationships are based on need, rather than sincere concern for one another.

Where people will only give you a call when they need something from you. Or when they will only reach out to you when they want to call you to something that they are organising, and need your support for.

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And these days, it’s barely a phone call. Mostly it is a text message. Or a Facebook message. Or WhatsApp. Or Telegram. Or… God knows what other form of social media we flood our phones with to ‘stay connected’. Forget actually visiting each other, or just dropping in to each other’s homes, unannounced, without fanfare or giving people the heads up.

When we were kids, our pantry was always stocked with sweets and biscuits for the guest who unexpectedly dropped by, or my mum would always make extra for dinner because it would either be eaten as leftovers the next day, or in the that case somebody dropped by close to dinner time.

We would often drop by friend’s homes as well. If they lived close enough, we’d take the opportunity of a soft, summer evening and walk to their home to share a cold drink and eat some fruit. The parents would chat whilst the children ran amok in bedrooms with toys and played games outside, being eaten by mosquitos and trying to catch our breath in the hot air of summer.

But beyond just the visiting and dropping in, I think we’ve also lost the skill of knowing how to go above and beyond to help others in need. We are so busy and caught up with our own lives, that we wouldn’t even know if somebody was in need, unless they shared it on their social media. When a family member falls ill, a mother has just given birth, when someone has injured themselves, when they have lost their job and have a family to support, or even simpler, if their car broke down, if their children fell sick, how do we as a community rally to support them?

Let’s bring this back to individual relationships, such as a husband and wife. Do we enter such a relationship with expectations as to what the other person can do for us? Give to us? Do we enter the relationship with visions for what it will look like for us, rather than ask ourselves what we will be bringing to the relationship… Do we ask ourselves how we will support our partners in their times of need, or just generally? Do we take the time to figure out their needs, their unique quirks of nature and do our best to aid them, to support them, to be patient with them, but even more than this, to intentionally set out to do our best to enrich their lives? To put aside our own ego when say, we’re arguing, and just let them have it out? Do we do our best to SEE the other person, to see what they are experiencing, to pick up on the fine detail of their emotions day to day, and how it wavers? Do we take the time to devise ways, gentle ways, soft-hearted, fun and caring ways to aid them? To uplift them?

Don’t try to constantly seek your rights, your wants, your needs from others.

Love is doing for the other person what THEY love.

This is Love…

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