Monday, 10 March 2014

The 1st Year of Motherhood: A Retrospective

To commemorate surviving my first year of motherhood, PJ, Pretend Journalist, is back to interview me on those first 365 days. Any resemblance to an actual interview, with persons living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

PJ: Wow. Last time I saw you, you were big as a house. I guess that basketball finally decided to make it’s way to the court. When did she finally arrive?

KW: Jan 5th, 2013. She was 15 days late. I was beyond ready and by ready I mean over it. Clearly she arrived on her own sweet time. Hard to believe she is over a year old already.

PJ: Well, it’s not really that hard to believe actually. It’s just simple math or maths as they call it in the country you’re living in.
KW: I know it’s just one of those cliché things Moms say that feels so real when it’s your child. It’s the longest days, but fastest weeks kind of time thing.

PJ: So what do you remember about those early days?
KW: Oh man, I remember quite a bit - the exhaustion, the hormones, the my life is just beginning/my life is over feelings,  but at the same time a lot is really foggy. I do remember very clearly being at birth care in Warkworth and holding Hazel, she was a day old, and it really hitting me that she was mine. That finally she was here and just weeping. I was so happy. The joy was overwhelming. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced and still is. Having a child is indescribable.

PJ: Well for the readers at home and my editor I’m going to need you to try to describe it.
KW: It’s primal. I feel connected to other women who are moms even if I don’t know them. I’m not kidding when I say that I see a woman on the sidewalk pushing a baby in her pram and think you go girl. I don’t know how long it took you to get out of the house today, but you did it and you’re a rockstar just for doing what you do. With that being said, if I was to meet said woman and find out  we had way different parental values or style I probably wouldn't be inviting  her over to drink box wine with me, if you know what I'm saying. This parenting stuff is weird.

PJ: And boring. Why are new Moms soooo boring?
KW: Oh I wish I could disagree with you, but that is often the case. Now that I’ve been through it I think I understand why.  Having a baby does make you fall in love so there is that aspect of, “BUT DON”T YOU UNDERSTAND I HAVE A BABY!!” Look at my BABY!!!. Baby baby baby.

And then due to babies high level of need, whether you like it or not they become your sole focus because they are depending on you for everything. I know it's obvious, but it's worth remembering.

Also, you are just so freaking tired because you are not sleeping. My mind literally rejected anything above 3rd grade reading level. I wanted to want to care about world news and other people’s lives, but it was hard to. I was so exhausted that even though the adrenaline carries you, you are still are only barely functioning. It takes effort to be interesting and fun and if all energy goes towards the baby, well guess what? You aren’t going to be topping anybody’s list of who to bring to the opening of that art gallery, that turns into a juice bar, that turns into a an underground club, that was just a experiential art exhibit all along. Lucky for me my social life is practically non existent so it wasn't much of an adjustment.

PJ: Speaking of adjustments, what do you think has been the hardest thing to adjust to?

KW: I think the 24-7ness of it. I mean the day in day out stuff  is harder with a baby no doubt, but to me it's all doable. The part that takes getting use to is how it doesn't really ever stop.

For example,  I'll do something with Hazel that I think is engaging and interactive, like some silly game that involves building towers out of pillows and hiding under sheets. And it is fun. She's laughing, I'm laughing, all is merry and bright and then I'm like ok that was great I'm over it. I'm exhausted from fake falling into this pile 100 times and I would like to just sit here for a few minutes. We did do that for at least an hour right, look at the clock. nope. 18 minutes. 2 more minutes and I could have counted it as my cardio for the day. It goes without saying it's absolutely worth it just takes some getting use to.

PJ: What has been most surprising about motherhood?

KW: How much it changes your perspective, your relationship, and your boobs. Not necessarily in that order.  Also, how much fun it can be.  Oh, and I didn't realize how much it would make me miss and appreciate my own mom.

PJ: What are some of your favorite memories of the first year?

KW: Definitely all the milestones - rolling over, crawling, her first steps, and meeting family and friends for the first time, but then there is just so much humor in parenting. The time we went to see Adam at work and she managed to do a poo waterfall out of her pants onto the carpet as we talked to one of his  coworkers. The time my midwife came to do a house visit and she weighed Hazel is a flour sack. 

And the number of times I will see something brown in our home and wonder if it is poo or chocolate. I wish I was kidding. I mean I eat a lot of chocolate and Hazel does a lot of poos.

It's fun to think back to the first time we took Hazel on a plane. I don't think I even realized then how much we would travel with her, but she has been amazing. Travel is such a big part of our lives that it was such a relief to know she could fit right into the mix.

Other happy memories are just simple stuff - Adam and her in the pool in swim class, days at the beach, seeing her with my niece and nephews, discovering what foods she likes, pretty much anything that makes her laugh, and lots of other stuff that I can assure you would only be interesting and amusing to myself and Adam.

PJ:  What do you think you are most proud of so far being a Mom?

KW: Probably that when Hazel is older I can look her in the eye and tell her I never #hashtagged anything.  

PJ: How do you find staying home?

KW: I never pictured myself being a stay at home mom, but here I am and more days than not I really enjoy it.  It's kind of like being shot in the heart a hundred times a day with a hundred little arrows that cause your heart to burst with joy, while at the same time being hooked up to a machine that slowly drains all your energy, mental acuity, and standards for what a clean shirt really is. 

PJ: Will there be a Real Housewives of Auckland and will you be in it?

KW: I'd have to say no to that, but if there was I'd watch it! Down the road, I'd love to go back to practicing therapy. I do miss it, but I feel fortunate that for the time being I get to be home.

PJ: How do you think being a mother in New Zealand is different then being a mother in the US?

KW: Probably in lots of ways and many that I don't even realize. I know the midwife model they use here is much different then the typical patient/doctor experience in the US. I was allowed to go 2 weeks past my due date, which I'm almost positive wouldn't have happened if I was at home. The fact that my midwife did home visits until Hazel was 6 weeks old was amazing. I talked on an earlier post about Warkworth Birth Centre and what a wonderful experience that was.  Basically, hours after I delivered in a hospital I was in the car heading to a "house" in the country where I spent 4 days with round the clock care learning how to breastfeed, bathe, and care for my child all in the comfort of a private room with all meals provided. And it was all free.

In fact, healthcare is free for the first 5 years of a child's life. Women get a year maternity leave and your place of work has to keep your job for a year and then you can tell them if you will be returning or not. Most everyone is set up with a "coffee group," a group of women all having babies at the same time.

My group has met every week since the babies were born, or bubbas they are often called here. Our coffee group also has a private facebook group where we can go and ask each other questions, offer support, share everything from a baby clothing sale to a babysitter. It has been an incredible resource.  There is also Plunket which I have mentioned before that offers all sorts of resources, from car seat rental and installations to a family centers where you can get help on nursing or sleep issues, even taking a nap of your own.

There are  other things like toy libraries and toy vans that drive around in the summer and set up at local parks that I'm pretty stoked to have at my fingertips.

Many places from cafes to the bank to wineries often have toy boxes in them for the children to entertain themselves.  Clearly, New Zealand is family friendly, which is definitely something to get excited about.

PJ: Sounds like it. Well that's all the time we have for today. I think I'll stick to just having my pet bird for the time being but if I ever decide to have a kid I'll look you up. Oh and btw, you have something brown on your shirt. Just thought you should know.

*Top and bottom photos by AK Vogel