Tuesday, 30 April 2013

My new breast friends

Breastfeeding has many benefits of which we all know but for me personally breastfeeding has helped me establish a better relationship with my breasts.

My breasts and I didn’t get off to the best start. I spent much of my early teen years looking down at two budding nipples protruding from a flat surface that eventually grew into two molehills.
I first realised my body was changing at about 11 years of age. I still remember my Dad telling me, “You know, I think you should wear a bra now. At your brother’s birthday party today I could actually see your nipples through your white shirt.”

Thanks Dad, so subtle and sensitive.

My mum who overheard the conversation told my Dad that I was still too young for a bra. They began arguing about my breasts. Right there in front of me. I lay there in the darkness of my room, shocked and embarrassed. Welcome to puberty.

Two years passed and at 13 I was still bra-less. I was the only girl in my sport’s class wearing a crop top. It was in these change rooms, with all of the other developing girls boasting of C cups and underwire bras that I began to feel left out.
I wondered if puberty had taken a detour and focused its attention on my underarms and eyebrows. They seemed to be growing hairier by the minute.

My self-consciousness over my breasts only grew worse that year after my boyfriend dumped me. For the past two days of our relationship we had been clandestine lovers, secretly holding hands behind the bike shed at school. Then suddenly he dumped me. I didn’t have to wait long to find out why.
In our science class that afternoon he typed into his calculator the numbers ‘55378008’ (which spelt ‘boobless’ when the calculator was turned upside down) and passed it around the room. Everyone was in hysterics. I remained stone-faced and stoic as a little tune played around and around in my mind, “I must, I must, I must increase my bust.”

As my teenage years rolled on I slowly started to see the benefits of their small size. Exercise was certainly not a problem. No sports bra needed. I didn’t get breast sweat on hot days and guys looked at my face not my chest.
When I hit my early twenties, I met and married a wonderful man. Then after a year of being married, I fell pregnant. I discovered that pregnancy is full of terrible side effects – nausea, vomiting, constipation, hemorrhoids – and one very good side effect – hormone induced breast implants. I was thrilled! I finally had a cleavage and my bras actually fit me. I never felt so womanly. I could wear low cut dresses and not feel like I was 12 years old.

Things got even better when my little girl was born and my breasts turned into a fulltime milk-making factory. Well, hhhhello mama! It was like I finally hit puberty. While the other mums on the ward cried over their sore, swollen breasts I couldn’t stop checking myself out. Neither could my hubby.
I ended up breastfeeding for 17 months and I am now currently breastfeeding my baby son who is ten months old. Unfortunately for m, a woman’s breasts do adjust according to their babies’ needs. So I didn’t remain busty like Pamela Anderson for long. But I could at least fill a bra and I’d even grow in size if my baby skipped a feed.

With this new-found acceptance of my bosoms I feel it’s only fitting to apologise.
So, dear breasts, bosoms, boobies, whatever, I know we haven’t always got along but you have proved me wrong in regards to your potential. Sorry that I was at times ashamed of you, that I tried to build you up with tissues and padded bras. Sorry that I never thought you would amount to anything. I was wrong. I’ve now grown to love you. You hold gold ammunition, you have been life-givers to my two babies, you are unique, you are intelligent in producing milk at the right time, and you are sensual – no matter your size. Thank you for who you are, who you both are, the bigger one and the little-bit-smaller-one. You are now my new breast friends. Just please don’t disappear once I wean my boy in a few months time!



Thursday, 25 April 2013

Life lessons learned in a public toilet

Last week I had an interesting experience in a public toilet involving a 94-year-old woman, poo & latex gloves.

Sounds scary? Yes, it was.

But it was also an incredibly humbling experience. Let me give you the details before your imagination runs wild.

My three-year-old daughter Issy and I were exiting the public toilets when a nursing home bus driver approached me and asked if I could give a continence pad to the elderly lady in one of the cubicles.

I hesitated but I told him it was no problem and walked back inside to find her.

I expected that I would knock on her toilet door, a wrinkled hand would stretch out, take the pad, and she'd say thank you. THE END.

But instead I walked in to find the toilet cubicle door wide open and a dear old lady walking towards me with her underwear around her knees and her wrinkly bottom out in the open.

"Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear," she said, over and over again.

 That's when the smell hit me. She had completely soiled herself. And it was no small soil. This was a possible post-laxative soil.

I turned around to see Issy behind me, staring in shock, her mouth wide open. She waited just inside the door as I collected some toilet paper and helped the lady back into the cubicle.

I then went and asked the bus driver if there was someone on the bus who could help but he explained that the usual female bus driver wasn't available that day. There was no one else to help.

It was down to either me or him.

"Do you think you could help clean her up and get her changed?" he pleaded with me. "I can bring you gloves."

"Yes, I'll be fine,” I said, feigning confidence. “I am a mum. I deal with poo all day!"

Back in the cubicle, with Issy by my side, I began handing toilet paper to the elderly lady. She tried to clean herself but it was just going everywhere. The smell, oh the smell was just like nothing else. In this moment, I resolved within myself that no matter what I have to do, I will help her walk back to that bus with her dignity intact and the poop out of her pants.

I gently explained that I would need to get her changed into a fresh pair of underwear (the incontinence nappy), donned a pair of gloves and set to work.

The humiliation she felt was evident. She kept laying her head into her trembling hands and taking small, sharp breathes.

“Oh dear, oh dear,” she kept saying over and over again.

She told me she was 94 and remarked, "I am not doing too bad for a 94 year-old am I?"

"Ninety-four! You are doing really well for ninety-four," I said.

As I helped her lift her legs out of her pants and put a nappy on, she looked up towards heaven, and said, presumably to God, "You better be watching this!” She then turned to me and said,

“Thank you, oh, thank you dear."

After I had her completely dressed I walked out to let the bus driver know she was okay. I came back to find Issy handing the elderly lady’s walking stick to her.

“I helped her mum,” she said with a smile.

I felt so proud of her.

Once we had waved off the nursing home bus, Issy and I walked hand in hand back to the playground where we had left our friends.

“Mum, you were so caring to that lady,” Issy said. “You're such a caring mum. I think you can get a sticker when you wake up.”

I laughed and then she asked her usual string of questions, “Mum why did you help her? Why did you do that? Why couldn't she go to the toilet by herself?”

I explained everything as best as I could.  

We can teach our children many important things like brushing their teeth, eating at the table and using their manners. But I think it's in situations like these that children can learn the most important lessons in life.

Today, my little girl saw what it was to care, to truly care and help someone. To respect the elderly, to care for those in need, to choose to take part in an act of kindness and restore dignity to those who may be hurt or unwell.

It’s in doing these types of things, which I don’t do enough of, that we can also teach our children that it's through helping others we find our place. We find purpose, a sense of belonging, of being who we were made to be.

In spite of this, I am not going to start searching for more elderly bottoms to wipe anytime soon!

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Cleaning like it's 1938

While begrudgingly cleaning my house this morning I wondered how often I really need to clean. I am not talking about putting toys away but about hygiene. I put off most of the big cleaning jobs, week after week.

In the last six months my shower has been cleaned twice. The toilet gets a weekly clean but the shower is forever avoided. Mopping the floor is another neglected area. The last time I mopped the floor we were in the middle of a gastro outbreak.* The kind where vomit ends up on the floor and you really just can't use a tea towel to mop it up.

Have you ever wondered how often you need to be cleaning certain things? I started an online search but this only led me to find hundreds of cleaning freaks who were spruiking their OCD-style cleaning schedule. No thank you!

Cleanliness = happiness according to my nana's 1938
domestic science handbook. 
I then began an offline search and found an old domestic science book my Nana gave me. It was written in 1938 and was full of all kinds of old fashioned cleaning goodness.

According to the author, "cleanliness is the foundation of modern life" and that it is because of cleanliness that "we can all live together in comfort and happiness."

It sounds like cleanliness is the answer to achieving a happy household or even, dare I say it, world peace.

The reader is urged to keep three things in mind when maintaining a clean household:

  • Flies are evil - Flies are described as deadly creatures that harbour the "summer diarrhea that kills many babies annually".  

  • Heat - Heat is a good bacteria killer. One of its best uses is natural sunlight. The author suggests that a housewife can simply, "open [the] windows and strong sunlight will kill most germs in a couple of hours." Now this is too easy!

  • Ice - Food on ice is an "excellent hygiene method." No mention of a fridge here. It is 1938 after all.  

In looking at these three simple cleaning criterias I don't feel so bad. Time to rip off my apron, open the windows to let the sunshine in, put the food on ice, get my fly spray ready and put my feet up!

I would be quite happy cleaning 1930s style.

* This post was actually written a couple of weeks ago and since then I have been forced to mop the floor more times in this last fortnight than I did all year! There have been a number of wee-wee accidents, large spillages and mud trampled through the house that has moved me to such great cleanliness. With such a clean floor I am thoroughly enjoying dropping food and eating it straight off the floor without a worry.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Embracing that lost feeling

Lately I've been feeling a little lost.

I've been lying in bed on a number of nights thinking, "What the heck I am I going to do with my life?"

Most days I love my life. I love that I can spend time with my two precious kids each day and watch them grow, play & engage with the world around them. I love the opportunity to be outdoors on warm, sunny days and the freedom I have to explore parks, playgrounds, & playgroups. But I also feel like I am missing out on something, like my life is slowing dwindling away.

When I left school I was quite ambitious. I had dreams, dreams to be a journalist who would uncover the big stories, a journalist who would write about injustices and bring the truth to the light. I also had dreams to travel the world, to experience life in third world countries and to travel across Europe. Thoughts of children were far, far away. I remember saying to a friend that the last thing I wanted to do was to, "finish uni, get married and be stuck at home with kids."

But when I met Luke, my husband-to-be, I became all giddy and weak at the knees. He swept me up in the euphoria that often accompanies young love. I even followed him to Santiago in Chile to live with him and a Chilean family for two months. I loved experiencing life with him and I also loved the daily adventure of an entirely new culture and country. I felt so alive!

When we got back to Australia, I just wanted to get married and travel more of the world together. So, when I was just 22 years of age we decided to marry. Just one year later, at the age of 23, I was pregnant.

This was quite a surprise. Yet, I embraced it and was thrilled about the little life growing inside of me. I also spent a lot of time thinking how the trajectory of my life was going to change. At the time I was working as a copy writer after a short stint as a journalist at a local paper. I hadn't really established my career or traveled to the places I had long dreamed about.

I realised I would have to give up my dreams for a little while. In doing this I feel as though a little piece of me has been squashed down inside. I feel like I had to extinguish a fire that burned so deeply within me - a desire for adventure, for world travel and a fulfilling career. I've really had to change to become a mum. Each and every day I've had to lay down my selfishness, my own wants and dreams.

At this time in my life it's not about me. That, frankly, is tough. The world tells us that life is all about ME. The media tells me that I can have it all. That I can pursue a career and have kids. But personally, I don't believe that. Well, I don't believe you can have it ALL at once. Something has got to give. I don't want my kids to miss out on having their mum at home at least for most of the week. So I've chosen to sacrifice my career, for now anyway.

Yet I still worry about whether I've made the right decision. My heart tells me, "yes." My brain tells me that it will soon turn to mush and my creative energies will dry up. I also worry I will be too “old” and inexperienced to get anywhere once I finish having children. I wonder if I should start something new...perhaps study or work from home? But how do I find the time?

I have a fear. My fear is that in 10 to 15 years time when my children are all in school and I am in my forties that I will be lost. That I won't know what to do with myself.

It's because of this fear that I've been lying awake at night. I am trying to figure out how I can be here for my kids and also work out my own life. I don’t want to lose my identity in my children.

I do pray about it, “Lord what should I do with my life?” There are moments when I hear a whisper. Those times when I am sitting in the sun, watching my children play and I am just completely captivated by these beautiful little people. It's like God is whispering into my heart..."Do you see this? How beautiful is this?"

I don't feel this is an answer but a reminder of how blessed I am. I wouldn't change anything. I am happy with how it's worked out. I am also realising that it's okay to be in this place. This mixed up place where I am trying to figure myself out. I am going to choose to embrace it as I think that it's an important step in moving forward. Not sure where I am going yet but I'll be sure to enjoy the journey.

"In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps."

Proverbs 16:9