I Am, I Do

Cutting Through The Bullshit

There’s a quiet still in my house that can only come from it being 6.15am on a Sunday morning. My husband is asleep, the baby is asleep… even my chow chow is curled up and breathing deeply.

It’s a nice place to be. It’s a nice thing to sit in the thick of. And, I’ve realised, sometimes you need moments of pure silence so you can hear yourself the clearest, and the loudest.

Over the past few days I’ve been meaning to find a moment to sit and reassess. Check in with myself and make sure everything’s on track. I’m generally in a good rhythm, but sometimes I can miss a beat.

Missing beats, for me, aren’t necessarily big things. They’re little things that, over time, add up until suddenly I find myself wondering…what am I doing?

You know what I mean.

The meeting you agreed to, but probably shouldn’t have. The coffee date you wish you hadn’t have made. Time spent doing a favour for someone you don’t even like…when you should have just said no. The phone call you keep taking. The salesperson you allowed to sway you, just a little.

I saw a dear friend yesterday, Gaynor Alder, and she said something that I know is true (and couldn’t have come at a better time):

“You’re all about cutting through the bullshit. It’s what I love about you.”

I have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to bullshit. I just can’t stand it and I’ve no interest in playing with it. But, like anyone, from time to time I find myself dancing in a little pile of it, because I think that’s what’s required to play along… but it isn’t.

And the reality is that now, more than ever before, I’ve got the best ‘excuse’ for my zero tolerance policy. He’s about 57cm long and cute as a button.

A couple of months ago, my best friend Mickey told me that after you have a child, you really reassess what’s important in your life. Your friendships, your job, your commitments, everything, because your time is so precious. And you do, even in a subconscious way. Sometimes, even before your baby has entered the world.

Since having my little boy, I’ve been surprised at how determined I am to do better and be better. My passion for my work has not trembled. But my time has, and with that, my questioning of what I want to value my time with.

Do I want to travel to and spend time in meetings devoid of actual purpose? No. Do I want to sit and meet with faux friends, the ones who natter on about their everything, but fail to ask how you are? Hell no.

I want to sit in meetings that matter. Meetings that achieve things. Have coffee with people that allow for a two-way conversation. I want to work, and write, and continue to grow Onya Magazine, and O&S Publishing, and run camps for kids and be a goddamn firecracker, but I don’t want to waste any time.

So I’m reassessing. I’m cutting through the bullshit. I’m making sure I’m on track. Not missing any beats.

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I Know, I Write

When You’re Pregnant, Everyone Has An Opinion

First published in Onya Magazine, February 6th, 2013.

It’s interesting being a pregnant woman.

Suddenly, everyone* has an opinion on your body, what you should and shouldn’t be doing, eating and drinking.

Don’t eat poached eggs. Don’t eat ham. Steer clear of coffee. Watch those steps. Don’t lift that. Don’t do this. Don’t try that.

This morning, I heard Chrissie Swan’s tearful and heartfelt admission about struggling to quit smoking while being pregnant.

“Over the last year I have taken up a habit I thought I kicked for good years ago, smoking the occasional cigarette, in total secret and never more than five a week. I never told the chippy (her partner) or my friends I’d taken it up again and I’m not sure I ever would have come out of hiding and acknowledged I was addicted, but this week a pap photographer snapped me smoking a cigarette whilst alone in my car and I knew it was only a matter of time before it became public.”

I’m not here to debate the rights and wrongs of Chrissie’s admission and I won’t get into a debate about it. One tweet this morning was enough for me to realise that some people are all black and white, unable to see the grey. The very same people are full of their own contradictions, but somehow fail to see them. And I refuse to argue with people like that because their blinkers and attitude bother me. Immensely.

I wish Chrissie all the best in quitting her smoking habit – for good. As someone who has never smoked, I have no idea how hard it is to quit, but I have a huge amount of respect for her addressing the issue in the way she did, without making excuses. I’ve got no doubt she’s an amazing mother. And instead of beating her down, I hope we can find ways to support her, and others in similar situations.

When you’re pregnant, people don’t just have opinions on what you should do and eat, they’ve also got opinions on how you should look. I’ve been told everything from, ‘wow, you are huge’ through to, ‘you don’t look pregnant at all!’ At over six months pregnant, I do look it. But I think I look exactly what I’m supposed to look like at this stage of my pregnancy. No two bodies are the same, so it makes sense that no two pregnant bodies are going to be the same. There’s no right way to look. And often, when we’re presented with an image of pregnancy, it’s not an accurate one: a model parading maternity clothes with a belly bump clasped around her waist is not an accurate depiction of a pregnant woman. Kudos to the magazines and online stores that use real, pregnant women to showcase their fashions and wares.

I don’t buy ‘women’s magazines’ (I’d rather stab myself in the eye with a fork) but I was flicking through the latest issue of Woman’s Day this morning, and I saw this:

Post-Baby Bodies

And I instantly thought, ‘fuck you, Woman’s Day.’ Perhaps the caption ‘they’re in no rush’ was meant in a positive way: ‘Hooray, they’re in no rush to be super slim, how refreshing!’ but I’m not so sure it was.

The focus on women’s bodies post-pregnancy (or any time at all) is not healthy. It’s not constructive. It’s not even important. Where is the focus on health? On happiness? On a happy heart and mind? Why don’t you publish that, Woman’s Day?

I’ve met pregnant women obsessed with their size. Obsessed with exercising and following a strict eating regime. I’ve read countless pieces of information in websites and books explaining what to eat, when to eat and how much to eat. That it’s not necessary to eat for two. And it isn’t – rather, as your pregnancy progresses, so too does the need for you to up your calorie intake.

I don’t eat much junk food. I cook a lot of meals at home. I eat a well-balanced, varied diet. I love fresh food. Fruits and vegetables and grains. Some days, I eat pretty much the same as would I would pre-pregnancy. On others, I’m ravenous every two hours. I listen to my body and feed it regularly – as and when it needs it.

Seeing your body change when pregnant is quite incredible – it’s amazing, but it’s also frightening, at times. The last thing pregnant women need to be told is how pregnant they look. I can’t bend down in the shower to shave my legs properly; do you think I need anyone telling me my belly is growing?

It’s not the right or the responsibility of anyone to pass judgment, comment or advice onto pregnant women. Perhaps an obstetrician, or a GP, when approached and questioned, but it’s not up to you or me.

Eating a sandwich with fetta the other week, my lunch companion questioned whether I should be eating that particular type of cheese. Drinking an iced coffee the other day, the waitress wondered aloud whether it was ok for me to be doing so.

Um, what?

I know being pregnant means being slightly more cautious with certain foods and environments, but it doesn’t mean you can’t live. Or eat. In fact, I’d go so far as to surmise that our obsession with eliminating so many food types is half the reason we have a generation of children walking around allergic to every second food group.

I spent half the summer scoffing prawns and fresh seafood. I’ve eaten camembert. And prosciutto. And I don’t need the pregnancy police telling me how or what to eat. I buy good quality, fresh food and I won’t take policing from someone who defrosts their dinner in a microwave every night.

I’m much more concerned with being healthy, strong and happy. And my focus – and that of the pregnancy police – should be directed towards parenting and raising well-adjusted, empathetic, educated children, rather than worrying about the contents of my sandwich.

*Usually strangers.

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I Am, I Write

Pregnancy Is Not A Disease

First published in Onya Magazine on December 12th, 2012. 

You may know because I’ve told you, or because a little while ago I blurted it out across social media, but if you don’t, here’s my very special news: my husband and I are having a baby.

Finding out I was pregnant was an incredible moment; excitement, joy, anticipation, wonder and incredible happiness all rolled into an emotion so strong it made my stomach do back-flips and my eyes run with water for about half an hour.

My husband Kaz and I hadn’t been trying for very long. As in we started trying in mid-August and were four weeks pregnant in mid-September. Having heard of and read about so many couples who struggled for such a long time – or continue to struggle – we feel incredibly lucky and blessed for it to have happened so fast for us.

For the most part, my pregnancy (so far) has been wonderful. I had two weeks where I felt slightly nauseous – a kind of hung-over, dead-headed feeling that was only lulled by food or naps. I had some light bleeding, at around the 10 week mark, which was frightening and nerve-wracking, and despite the ‘threatened abortion’ diagnosis I received in the emergency ward, ended up being quite ‘normal’ – a large number of women will experience similar symptoms in early stages of pregnancy. I’ve discovered that having a Rhesus negative blood type means I need to have a few injections over the course of my pregnancy, to avoid any complications for future pregnancies.

Despite these small hiccups – hiccups that are incredibly mild compared to what some women go through – I have had quite a smooth run. I’m 17 weeks into my pregnancy – a few weeks shy from the half way mark – and I’m feeling good. Really good.

Waiting to cross the 12 week milestone felt like an eternity; now the weeks seem to be flying by.

I’m not anxious about any aspect of pregnancy; I haven’t had any freak-outs and I’m prepared to tackle whatever hurdles and challenges we’re faced with as and when they hit us. The thing with pregnancy is that there are no guarantees – at any point – and you have very little control over how or what you experience. I believe there’s no point in stressing or worrying over things that are out of your control, but let me tell you, if you’d like to stress, there’s probably no better time to than during pregnancy. Books, magazines, websites and people will tell you all of the things that can go wrong and all of the reasons why. If you allow it to, it can seriously overwhelm you.

I like being informed. I love reading, learning and knowing what’s happening to my body and baby each week. Name a pregnancy book and there’s a very good chance I’ve already read it.

But here’s a tip; don’t Google anything. Particularly if you’re concerned or worried about something. The Internet is full of advice and many an answer… from unqualified people. Just because someone has had a baby – or ten – does not mean they know what they are talking about. Every pregnancy is different and not all symptoms or issues are alike. My advice would be to speak to your obstetrician, GP, midwife, phone Nurse On Call, your health fund’s support service, a hospital or all of them at once; just don’t Google.

In saying that, there are a couple of reputable websites out there. Baby Center Australia and Essential Baby are two that I have found to be handy and well-balanced with solid advice. If you must Google, do so wisely.

My attitude towards my pregnancy is very much the same as my attitude to life; roll with the punches, enjoy the journey, be happy, be positive, make good choices and seize the day.

I’ve quickly realised that I don’t control my body anymore; it controls me. I need to feed and nourish it regularly and provide it with time to rest when it tells me it needs some.

I’m not stressed about my body changing. It will do what it needs to do. I’ve got a belly going and it’s kind of wonderful. I don’t fit into many of my clothes. Every day I notice a slight change and it’s all exciting and new. I might feel differently if I was experiencing ill health but fortunately I’m not, so my experience is lovely. I can do everything I did before I was pregnant, except bikram yoga, but I’ll be back there when I’m ready.

If I put on extra weight, it’ll just take me some extra time to lose it. I’m eating sensibly, like I always have, but I’m certainly eating more, because I’m hungry every few hours. I’m not obsessed with watching my calorie intake (how anyone can do this during pregnancy is beyond me) and I’m not on a strict exercise regime. I walk, I stretch, I have some days where I do more than others.

I’m not writing a birth plan, because I don’t really plan. I mean, I’ve never even written a business plan, or a list of goals. So my birth plan is this; have a healthy baby. I’m not ruling out or being gung-ho about anything. I’d like to have a natural birth but I’ll do whatever is required to deliver a healthy baby. I have no idea of my pain threshold, what kind of labour I might experience, or what complications might pop up along the way. Writing a birth plan seems like a jolly good waste of time to me. My obstetrician knows what I’d like to have happen, but also knows I won’t bite his – or any midwives – heads off if it doesn’t.

I’m being very picky and choosy with the advice I’m taking on board. Let’s be honest; all types of people can and do have children, but it doesn’t make them all intelligent, empathetic, loving people who think, feel and live in the same way you do. My sister-in-law is like my baby bible – after four kids and working in childcare, she really knows all the tips and tricks. I trust her and her advice. And yes, of course I have her on speed dial.

I’ll listen to anyone with regards to pregnancy and parenting and I’ll read a lot, but ultimately I’ll get through and stumble and survive and raise this baby in a way that’s in keeping with the values my husband and I have and the kind of people we are.

We love babies. And kids. When you’re pregnant, people love to tell you that your life will never be the same again. And some of them mean it in a way that implies you’ll never be yourself, or step out of the front door again. I’m not sure if some of these people are slightly intellectually challenged, or incredibly lazy or disorganised, but I’m tipping most people expecting a child know their lives will never be the same again.

And I don’t want my life to ever be the same again. I want my life to be multifaceted. I can’t wait to start a family with the man I love. I can’t wait to have a child to love, and raise, and teach, and enjoy life with.

I’m not romanticising parenting; I know it will be hard. Challenging. Tiring. I know there will be moments where I feel like tearing my hair out. Where I wonder how I’ll survive. Where I just want some beautiful, wonderful sleep.

But Kaz and I wouldn’t have decided to bring a child into the world if we weren’t prepared to have it disrupted, interrupted and turned upside down. We want that.

We don’t think children are annoying, we don’t believe having a child means you can never function as a human again, we don’t believe our own dreams have to be put on hold and we certainly don’t believe a baby will be the end of our living lives.

This is what I know to be true, more than anything else:

Pregnancy is not a disease. It’s not permanent. And I am not the first or last person to experience it.

I hope you will continue to join me as I share my experience – I’ll be honest, as always.

This is going to be fun.

Image credit: Kathryn Sprigg

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