I was coping so well…

….And then suddenly, I wasn’t.

I’m not sure of the exact moment when I came unstuck. It’s not surprising really. I rarely sleep more than a few hours at a time. I work from home and look after my baby. Sometimes, I can’t believe that even after fourteen months of motherhood I still haven’t crumpled into an exhausted heap onto the floor. I just keep on going, happily, most of the time. But then something happened to my momentum.

It was probably a few incidents; of unravellings, like a knitted scarf with a loose stitch. You just have to pull it a little bit for it to start to fall apart.

It could have been a couple of weeks ago, when I picked up my one year old from her cot,  and she threw up. In my mouth. It was like a mother bird feeding a baby, in reverse. The truth is, I’ve had better meals.

A few days later, I was on a work call, conducting a phone interview with a general manager for an article I was writing. Before the call, I had made a tiny wish that the same baby would sit quietly for the entirety; that the most I’d have to deal with mid-conversation were cute coos and sweet squeaks. But no.

Baby, who for the first five minutes, squirmed silently on my lap, decided it was the perfect moment to unleash a furious torrent of brown liquid from her nappy. It exploded out the sides, oozed down her legs and across mine. It was on the couch. The carpet. In my hair. I was supremely impressed at my ability to maintain my composure, but I had to cut the call short. It’s not easy to preserve professionalism when you’re sitting in the middle of a raw sewage situation.

For a few weeks, I struggled. I wept. I felt like I had cement in my shoes. Everything was heavy. I felt irritated at my darling baby who cried when she should have been sleeping and threw her food on the floor with all the petulance of a fully-fledged toddler. I couldn’t bring myself to reply to text messages. I felt insane, like an old gate without hinges. And yet, even then, I couldn’t help thinking about how lucky I was. 

Lucky.

 

You see, I have an innate positivity that’s inherent in my nature. I can’t shake it, much as I sometimes want to buy all the balloons and host a pity party for one. I have too much to be grateful for. A brilliant husband. A beautiful, funny, flame-haired baby. A colourful, creative, entirely lovable family. A sweet little doggy. More friends than I ever could have imagined. A roof over my head. Sunshine. Safety. Beauty.

Any time I’ve ever undergone any sort of adversity, I’ve reminded myself that no matter how crummy my day is, there’s always an antidote.

It’s called perspective.

As composer and lyricist Irving Berlin said, “Life is 10% what you make it, and 90% how you take it.”

In other words (courtesy of the inimitable Oscar Wilde):

“The optimist sees the doughnut, the pessimist sees the hole.”

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Ode to a pigeon

There’s no denying I’m having trouble juggling the things I want to do with the things I have to do. Paid work versus writing my blog, for example (Er…. hello old blog! I’ve missed you!). Or tidying the ever growing mountain of mess in my room versus lying in bed with the covers pulled up, and not moving for days.

Anyway, one of the ‘have-to’s happened last week when I took Marnie, my sweet, sleep averse baby, to Tresillian, where they teach mothers how to teach such babies how to get to the land of nod. A baby-sleep boot camp of sorts.

It was intense. Physically and emotionally draining. The soundtrack was the sound of screaming babies, over which classical music blared, to drown out the screaming babies. Every night, when Marnie woke – hourly, half-hourly, sometimes ten-minutely – I had to jump out of bed to settle her back to sleep.

By the third night, I was so delirious with the exhaustion that comes with (eleven months of) extreme sleep deprivation, that the nurses were left to look after the baby while I lay paralysed by waves of nausea and vommed violently into the bedside bin. At 1am they called Tutti to look after me, and the next morning, two days before the end of the program, they sent me home.

But two good things happened.

The first is that Marnie appears to be (slowly) getting the message (even if she did wake 6 times last night and finally at 4.45 this morning, and I have been up since then as a result).

The second, is that on night two, in a strange moment of sudden inspiration, I decided to write a poem. Well, I decided to add to a poem – I wrote the first four lines at uni and always really liked them. Who knows how or why the urge took me to tap this out on my keyboard as I sat on the bed, insane with tiredness as I waited for Marnie to wake up for the millionth time. All I’ll say is this – you just never know when inspiration will strike. Always carry a pen and paper. And with that, I’ll just leave this here:

Ode to a pigeon

Oh pigeon how you coo and strut
As though you own the street
There’s no denying you’re a slut
A scavenger. A cheat.
Your feathers they are drab and grey
Your eyes as black as soot
And always without fail you have
At least one mangled foot.
You do not fly with style or grace
It must be said in fairness,
Your pea-brain has not gifted you
With much spatial-awareness
You scavenge in the garbage bins
You kick, and peck and sit
Wherever you feel comfortable
You care not where you shit.
Oh pigeon with your beady eye
Your little sharp dull beak
Your grubby wings, that flap sky high
You’re anything but sleek.
And yet dear pidge, when you I see
On any given day,
I cannot help but feel depressed
That you’re so dirty grey
You’re blatantly unpopular
And even though you’re dumb,
If you come near, you needn’t fear

I’ll
spare
a
little
crumb..

. .

.

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Face Furniture: Present-day perspective and retrospective

If there’s one thing Tutti’s always been known for, it’s her incredible collection of specs. She’s blind as a bat and a certified four-eyes, but wow she makes it look good. She’s always said that if you have to wear glasses, you might as well make them interesting, and as we all know, Tutti has interesting in bucketloads (and then some).

Enjoy this gallery of Tutti’s frames galore.

About 27 years old and rocking the owl eyes.

She even makes the '80s look good. That's me on her knee, less bald, still funny-looking.

She even makes the ’80s look good. That’s me on her knee, now less bald, but no less funny-looking.

Tutti (and the Guru) wearing what I used to call her Dame Edna glasses. People used to look at her like she was an alien when she wore these. She still has them, and they’re still amazing.

Matchy-matchy and resplendent in florals with Christian Dior on her face.

Tres Chic, Tres Tutti.

Beauty personified.

Asymmetry is the new black.

Not actually a cat person. Definitely a diamante person.

Typically silly in MiuMiu frames.

More of the MiuMiu. More is more.

Eye of the tiger (stripe).

Smiles and stares on the stairs.

Smiles and stares on the stairs.

Squares, in circles, in the sun.

Tiger scarf. Thierry Mugler sunnies. Alistair Trung Dress. Cock bag.

Tutti tried these on at an amazing glasses shop in Double Bay called Eye Scene. She looks like an alien in the best possible way.

Tutti bought these Paloma Picasso sunnies at a market in London for almost nothing. Lady Gaga has them too.  

Paloma Picasso again. I too feel that happy when I have a coffee in my hand.

LA Eyeworks in the hallway. 

Do my glasses look big in these? (Karen Walker!)

Drinking coffee, in her cool glasses, in a big hat. As you do.

Drinking coffee, in her cool glasses, in a big hat. As you do.

These glasses are a brand called Slow and Steady Win the Race. Loud and quirky also win the race! Tutti wins the race! I’ve stopped making sense now. Glasses.

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Smacking heads

Yesterday evening, as I was peering into the red, furious face of my eight-month-old baby, just before she vomited with fury all over me, as a protest against going to sleep, I thought to myself, sometimes, being a mother is a tough gig.

For three and a half hours I patted and shushed as she screamed and flailed like a small angry gnome. And when, unable to bear the hysterical wailing, I relented and picked her up, she stopped crying, looked at me and laughed.

Downstairs, everyone was eating spaghetti bolognese – everyone except me – as my pint-sized slave-driver ensured my plate went cold. Baby wept. I wept. “Go the F to sleep,” I pleaded. I might as well have been smacking my head against a wall, for all the notice she took.

It’s karma, probably. I wasn’t a perfect baby myself – nor was I an angelic child. I remember going to the park with Tutti, Fluffy and her friend Terri and thinking it would be a good idea to push the swing as hard as I could, with Tutti standing unawares in front of it. It smacked her right in the head. She sent me to sit in the car in disgrace, where I watched Fluffy and Terri play without me, and I cried.


Anyway. This morning the baby woke up all sweetness and smiles. The air was frosty but the sun was shining and I breathed a sigh of relief that night time was behind me (for at least another 10 hours) .

The baby was at her typical daytime, happy, bouncy best – not least because the incredibly kind folk at Fisher Price sent me a Rainforest Jumperoo for her to try and I can stick her in it and actually get stuff done while she squeals with excitement at the music, bounces on her tiny feet, spins little spinny things around and watches the flashing lights. Every day I put her in it and it’s the same level of excitement (she’s like a goldfish…). Being able to detach her from my person and listen to her being happy rather than screechy has revolutionised my day indeed.

Smiles. Brought to you by Fisher Price.

But now it’s night time (again). I’ve just sat down again after being almost deafened by screaming (again) and thrown up on (again). I’m pining for day time already, for the smiles and the squeals and excitable bouncing.

And one day, I’ll tell her the story of how she was terrible at sleeping and just about drove me crazy. Just as Tutti reminds me of how I caused her morning sickness that ruined her European holiday. And smacked her in the head with a swing.

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Moments

I had a bit of a ‘moment’ on Friday morning, as I was driving Matty to the station. I’d woken up feeling irritated, sort of grumpy, a bit dissatisfied like when you’re really, really hungry and the only thing that will suffice is a burger and chips, so you go to a restaurant, and when your order comes, it turns out it’s nouvelle cuisine and your burger is  ‘deconstructed’: a few crumbs of dehydrated bread, a sliver of wagyu, a microscopic cube of pickle, and a light sprinkle of microherbs atop an artful smudge of sauce.


“I feel like I haven’t achieved anything,” I said to Matty.

Matty reminded me that indeed I had achieved things – not least in the last seven months: birthed a baby and written and edited not one but two magazines.

I wrote and edited this. The Edition, issue 1.

But that wasn’t quite what I meant. I’m not discounting the fact that I’ve managed to create a gorgeous, flame-haired, mini-human whom I love ferociously, or, that frequently, after putting mini-human to bed at 7pm I work happily on aforementioned magazine until midnight or 1am.

I gave birth to this. Marnie.

It’s more a feeling that I don’t have enough space, at the moment. Space to do the things I’d do if I had more time for myself: regularly updating my blog, for example, or painting again once in a while, or practising the piano so I don’t lose my very limited repertoire completely. I have so many ideas for the children’s books I want to write and illustrate and the jewellery I want to make and the sculptures I want to create – but there’s just no space. Not an inch.

I drew this. ‘Horse on Motorbike’, charcoal on paper

I feel overwhelmed by all the things I need to do: I have so many phone calls to make, to friends I’ve neglected as weeks have turned into months; there are a million clothes to fold and put away, but no matter how much I do, the mountain of mess gets bigger, not smaller. I’m feeling deafened by so much social media screaming for attention: the Instagram narcissists vying for likes, the Facebook braggers and the oh-my-god-you-have-to-click-on-this-or-life-won’t-be-worth-living clickbaits. (I try not to click! But I do, and then I fall headfirst into a meaningless internet vortex).

I painted this. ‘Tutti after chemo’, acrylic on canvas.

I’m exhausted. So exhausted. The baby never sleeps, and when she does, it’s in fits and starts. An hour here. Forty minutes there. She wants to be attached to me all the time. I’ve become a half-adult half-baby hybrid. Exhausted. Exhausted.

Even so, a very wise and dear friend recently reminded me that although life with a small baby can be tough, these are the years I’ll look back on as some of the most beautiful of my life. Just like the pain of childbirth, I’ll forget the crosseyed-with-tiredness delirium and the feeling of being suffocated by unfulfilled ambition.

Instead, I’ll remember how precious it was to have a baby yet unable to speak but so hilariously expressive. Who squeals with arm-flapping excitement when I walk into the room. Who has the juiciest, most kissable cheeks and hands you can’t help but squeeze; so small and pudgy, with dimples where her knuckles should be. I’ll wish I could hold her – as I do now – as her eyes flutter shut and she nuzzles into me like the sweetest, warmest, milk-drunk koala. Even for a moment. You see, the thing about moments is that they’re fleeting. They slip from our grasp and tick-tock away no matter how hard we try to hold onto them. So I know what I have to do. I have to lower my expectations of myself. I have to put down my mobile phone.  I have to be in the moment with my sweet little baby and remember that one day I’ll look back and wish I could be exactly where I am now. Right here.

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Tumbleweeds

I’ve been a terribly slack blogger lately – if slack can be defined as juggling a VERY AWAKE six-month-old baby, with a freelance job which I do from home – while simultaneously trying (and failing) to put the aforementioned sleep-averse baby to sleep. 

Anyway I decided I really didn’t want to go another week without giving you SOMETHING to look at, so please enjoy these shots of Tutti today, in all her bespectacled, black-hatted glory.    

         

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