We had lunch today with Betty and my Mum and Lance. It was lovely. Then Mum stayed and helped me cut out some sewing and took this photo which I quite like despite the bluriness (perhaps it's because in this one I don't look like ten tonne tessie, ahem). Any way I now have a box packed. Two skirts, a pair of jeans, two tops and three pairs of jeans for Grace. And some wool and crochet hooks, just in case I run out of things to do. I'll be pleased if I get half of it done. That is, if I don't have a little reason to come back home early.The family consensus is that I should still go away. It's been planned and arranged for a while. And nothing may happen this weekend. But if it does, I'm only a mobile call away and I'll be back. Wouldn't miss my first day of auntiehood for quids.
So. I wasn't going to post anymore body shots because I'm finding the whole body challenge deeply weird. Not that weird normally puts me off, but all these itsy bits of bodies feel a bit disembodied and sort of creepy. Maybe it's me, or I'm being a bit prudish. But then last night, I was looking through my outtakes from the lemon tree, flash at night session, and I thought, I could do something with this. I know, they're my feminist pits (bits) and I lay in bed thinking about the title to this post and giggling under the doona. My inner seven year old thought it would be very funny to post a picture of underam hair on the internet. A little bit rude, even. Hee, hee.
This picture reminds me a little of the underarm shot in the liner notes to Sense and Sensuality (1982) by the Au Pairs. This and Live in Berlin (1983) were my favourite records during my hardcore feminist years. I wish I hadn't gotten rid of all those records, I'm feeling a bit punk today and think I could listen to Headache for Michelle right now. They were heady days, those days from second year uni on. The feminist collective battle between the radical and liberal feminists where I got to be the vibes watcher, charged with pulling women apart if the struggle became too heated. A women's peace camp at Cockburn Sound. Actions, protests, a women's magazine. Lots of dancing and parties too. We were on fire and ready to change the world. And in the main, we were hairy. Shaving was definitely not hip, although lipstick worn in an ironic way was. Along with dresses from the fifties and sixties, worn with stomping boots. As the years have passed, I vacillate between shaving and not shaving various bits of me. It's really not at all important, but I would hate to feel that I had to. Especially my underarms. And hair or not, I still call myself a feminist. A bit soft around the edges at times but growing stronger again. Especially since becoming a mother, but that's a whole other story.
May's challenge is street photography, which I am hugely excited about. No doubt it will push my comfort zone in new ways and be a huge technical challenge with a slow point and shoot camera. But I am really looking forward to the openess and outsideness this challenge. Anyway, it's still April, so you can see more bodily parts here. Really, it's not creepy at all. Just a little strange. In a good way.
Anyway, back to the fun times. On Thursday night, Grace went to stay with Nana and we went to see Wilco play at the Palais. Owing to a mix up with taxis we got over the other side of the river just in time to grab a maccas. Now I remember why we don't eat it. But the fast food experience was a surreal fit with the night and we made it to our seats just as the band began to play. The opening was a corker, big loud wall of noise stuff. Not the sort of music I associate with Wilco at all. And indeed the whole performance I felt I was listening to a soundtrack from my life, only rocking right out. I did take some pictures, which I felt really self conscious about, because there seemed to a flash going off or an led screen somewhere the whole time and it just seems kind of rude. Our visitors thought that the Melbourne audience was a bit stilted, or to put it in Tasmanian, had their heads up their arses. Still, a fine time was had by all. Especially me. It was just way too exciting being out at night with a big pile of people.
Afterwards we hailed one of those minivan taxis and went to a Brunswick street bar where I further explored the combination of medication and beer, inhaled a lot of passive smoke and had a little sleep on G's shoulder before waking up again. It was still hours to bed time. When Grace returned home from Nana's on Friday morning, she was a little taken aback by all the strange people crowding round the sunroom table and making their beds in unusual places (at least no-one slept in the shed, although Mr Herbert wanted to pitch a tent in the backyard, but luckily he found somewhere else to stay). Grace quickly found her feet and zoomed about saying hello and watching what was going on and getting away with all manner of scampiness. The rest of Friday was filled with girlie lunch, shopping, challenging shrink appointment, lots of talking, take away curry that was far too brightly colured to be good for you, more talking and drinking and smoking. And from then on it's all a bit of a blur of sensible parent moments and mookish chaos.
There's been coming and going, eating and drinking. Mornings and afternoons. Lots of music sessions in the lounge room. On Saturday night before her bed time, Grace sat next to me on the couch and listened to an awesome practice, her eyes big and darting between the three guitars. My favourite was Don't go in the rock and roll river with your boots on, which in song has tricky phrasing and a very catchy lilt. It could be about the way I'm feeling now or it could have whole other meanings to be revealed in due time. I would have let Grace listen to the 3CR radio show but she was fast asleep. As I should be. You can see the whole thing in pictures here if you really want, but that's probably really only interesting for mooks. Instead, do youself a favour and go listen to the songs at mooksinspace, Drive me Home being another of my all time favourites. Now I really must go to bed because the weekend is over. Sigh. But man, it was good to swim in that river again. Even if it was just a little paddle.
One of my hands, under the lemon tree at night with the flash. I think it looks a bit creepy and last night it didn't feel too good at all. Now both my hands are totally pain free. I've been good and had a rest from the computer and the mouse. Topped it off with the most extraordinarily painful neck and shoulder acupressure massage this afternoon. At one point, I thought I might throw up, but the feeling passed and I floated into the sound of the shopping centre drifting by, other people's children having tantrums and the odd relaxing music they play in the massage shop. The bit I like the best is at the end when the masseuse slaps and then smooths their hands across your shoulders. I carry all my anxieties and a whole lot of tension in those shoulders and when I walk away from one of these massages, it feels as though a bracelet of rocks has been unshackled from my neck. Now I can use my camera or make dinner or brush my teeth without grimacing.
Which is good, because we're about to be invaded by interstate visitors. Bedding has been aired and pillows found. The house has been cleaned and arrangements have been made for Grace to stay at her Nana's for a night so we can go out to see Wilco play over the other side of town with said guests. Will most likely be shambolic and fun. So I might well be having a bit more of a rest from the computer. Or not. We'll see.
Visit the strange and beautiful worlds of bodily bits here.
Every day I seem to read something new about how to save water, power, energy and thereby save our world from imminent catastrophe. But there's something that most people here in Australia still do, and that's hang our washing on the line to dry. I love the sight of nappies flapping in the wind and clothes on hangers drying into shape. Really, I do. (Not so keen about folding but that's another story). It's one of those household jobs that gets me out into the garden early in the day and then again just before dusk. Time to savour the sights and smells of the day. A simple task that stretches my body and gives me a moment to think and reflect, or to chat with my little helper.
I know I have an inane obsession with all things laundry, but I loved reading Toni's beautiful ode to the joys of the washing line. It reminded me that despite my occasional whinging, I really do enjoy that part of our domestic routine. And I like watching the inbetweenness of washing on the line. The work of washing has been done and the task of folding and putting away is yet to come. I find something restful about that, even if I'm quite busy. Toni's also set up a Flickr group for lovers of the clothesline, Beautiful Clotheslines. And beautiful it is. I encourage you all to go on over and contribute, if that is your bent. Following on, Amy posted about resolving to use a clothesline. There is so much I take for granted here.
According to Project Laundry List, there are whole housing developments in the US where people are prohibited from erecting clotheslines or hanging their washing outside. Which I'm guessing is for aesthetic reasons. So many people use their dryer for every load of washing, even in summer. Imagine that, every load of washing. No sheets smelling of sunshine, no temporarily scratchy towells, no wistful sights of the washing across the back fence. Now Project Laundry List also promotes National Hanging Out Day on April 19. I'm not sure whether it has much of a following but it's a good idea I think, and I thought maybe us bloggers could do a beautiful laundry meme. So, this is what I thought. Post a picture of some washing on the line, or on a rack and write a little something about the good side of natural drying. (By the way, I'm not for one moment saying that there aren't times in one's lofe when a dryer isn't useful or totally justifiable, of course there are.) Anyway, the washing out to dry could be yours, it could be your mum's, it could be in a backyard, or on holiday or hanging from an apartment building balcony, it could even be a picture from a children's book. Let's celebrate the homey beauty of washing out to dry. Anyone up for it?
I'm not going to tag, because it's not a tagging sort of meme I don't think. But I'd love to know if anyone decides to take it up. Because clean laundry on the line is beautiful.
Nearly everyone had the digital camera out at some point, so I'm expecting some new Flickr photos eh? I'm on a mission to get every digital camera in my family linked up in Flickr, even if it's in a private group. What's the point of all this clicky, clicky if we don't share?
I'm tired. It's been a big couple of days. Grace was so good today, she said thank you for her presents and only had a few little wobblies. Except for the big one before bed time, but we'll let that one through to the keeper because it was a big day and there was chocolate and not much of an afternoon nap. Like we say around here, it's very big, being little.
Oh, and go the mighty blues!!! I think I might have to jump on the footy bandwagon this year. It's so much fun if winning is involved.
The day before I was scheduled to go to the hospital for the 41 week, let's talk about induction appointment, my mum took me shopping. The whole idea that being on my feet and walking around might get things moving. So we went to Dimmys in Coburg and some opshops. Mum smoked in the car, which she hadn't all pregnancy and we ate bad sweets, probably the cheap and nasty liquorice allsorts. It was quite hot for April.
I went into labour at about six in the morning. I was sleeping alone, G was on the couch due to my snoring. The pains woke me up and were coming every six minutes. I went outside and walked around the garden. Everything was clear and liquid. I woke G and told him. At about ten I rang the hospital but because my waters hadn't broken they advised me not to come in yet. I spent the day at home, walking round the garden in the autumn sunshine or on the couch. I played Pass In Time by Beth Orton a lot.
The day before Grace was born. I was big. I wish we'd taken more photos and not hiding behind the corn.
When we got to hospital, we were sent straight upstairs because of the special clinic I had been in. (If I'd have known this, I might have gone a little earlier) When the midwife examined me, I was 5 cm dilated and this was it. No going home. Sent G off to ring Mum, gave him the wrong number, found the right number. G came back and we settled in. I was managing the contractions by changing positions and breathing. I got a mat on the floor and asked G to sit where I could lean on him.
Mum arrived and things got more full on. I started using the gas and um, vocalising. Mum was really, really great and at the change of shift we got a new midwife, Nicky who was also excellent. G didn't get really involved and was pretty tired - he had been looking after me all day. The room was taking on a women's business feel. In retrospect, I could have asked someone at the beginning to give him jobs to do and help him get into the rhythm. But as it was, it was better he waited in the lounge, popping in and out.
I had a shot of pethodine which was great with the gas. It all became very intense and vocalising gave way to plain old yelling. This was really great in a way but might have been a bit disturbing if you were next door. I didn't care. Later, as my waters hadn't broken and things were stalling, the doctor broke them with what looked like a crochet hook and showed me a little bit of black hair. Around this time, I got rather tired of it all and wanted to stop and not have a baby anymore. Then I chucked. That felt great. Really. I think I needed to be empty. My body had no energy to waste on digestion.
I think I was polite to my attendants and spent time chatting with them in between contractions. I can't really remember the transition but then all of a sudden it was time to push. No more gas and no more yelling. The first part of pushing was really scary and painful. I spent time on my knees on the bed and towards the end on a birthing stool, straining like I was doing a big crap.The second midwife held a mirror under me as her head was starting to crown. They moved me back onto the bed, sitting with the soles of my feet together. It looked like I was going to tear bigtime, so the midwife made a little snip. This was the point of pushing right past the fear and the midwives and my mum coached me through it. Despite the pain, it was actually quite exhilarating. Elemental.
The moment of giving birth to Grace's head hurt like f*ck and was fantastic all at the same time. Then she slithered out, pink and screaming. It felt, great, ecstatic, beautiful. One of those moments of unity with the universe. She was given to me right away, all covered in gunk but wide awake and present. It was pure joy to hold her skin to skin, on the outside of my body. Mum went to get Gerard and he was smitten from the first moment.
The placenta didn't deliver and there was talk of theatre. G and Grace spent some time in another room and I overdosed on the gas while the doctor removed it manually and stitched me up. I became quite disinhibited and started regaling the nurse with some of my stories from my dance party days. It was a wild old time. Grace and G came back. Grace had her first feed and we all hung out. Mum and G went home for some sleep at about six. Someone held Grace while I went to have a shower. I was enjoying the hot water and began to feel faint. The next thing I remember was the nurses laughing as they tried to get to me. I was put in a wheel chair and taken back to bed. At least my hair was clean. Definitely too much gas.
Grace wrapped in a blanket Mum made. One of those hospital photographer pics. I love the expression.
The next day on the ward, I lie in bed and watch my daughter in awe. So beautiful, so precious. Falling in love, holding her in my arms with her head in my neck and feeling the softness of her skin, time melting. Lots of vistors and celebration. Everyone says she is a beautiful baby and I am swelled with pride. People say that some babies are ugly, but I haven't seen one yet.
So my little baby is two now. And in a quick trick of time, no longer a baby. She runs, has lots of words in a vocabulary that increases daily and fumes with rage when she can't get her point across. She loves honky tonk music and rock and roll. Everyday is an adventure. She wants to do everything herself but still comes for a cuddle when things go amiss. We're having a family lunch (with cake and grilled corn, among other things) tomorrrow when she can unwrap even more presents and run from person to person. Shouting, jumping, dancing and hopefully some scrunchie smiles.
Happy Birthday Grace.
And I do remember a certain aloneness, a feeling that I had already told my sad story to anyone who could listen, yet needing to tell it again and again. That people wouldn't know who I was if I didn't. And I think that for many of us, telling the story is a major part of the healing journey. When you tell a story, those parts that cause the most pain and sorrow become translated into a narrative which I think becomes a handle with which to carry the story around. Difficult stories probably need to be told many times over before they become a part of us that is bearable to carry. There are other stories that are just so profound they also need to be told a fair few times, like for example birth stories. I've noticed that since becoming a mother, this is often a bonding point with other mothers (do you sense I might be looking forward to writing Grace's here on the interweb? ooh yes. Friday). Indeed, our mothers goup did not even begin to gel until we'd told our birth stories and and a fair bit of our reproductive histories.
Not that everyone tells their stories the same way. I probably fall well and truly into the spill your guts style of blogging. I've always been like this, but it's a trait I've learnt to curb in my daily (as in offline) life as I've got older. This tendency to tell all has probably also been muted by having a partner who knows it all anyway. So when I started blogging, I thought it would be a refined sort of craft blog. Perhaps I even had a fantasy of my life being like that and maybe I still do (laughs), but you know, you go with what you've got. Which definitely has it's good points. And I do love to read blogs where the writers are way more circumspect about their affairs and reveal their stories in more subtle ways; creating a garden, making art, with music, through the very actions of daily life. Just because the expression is different, doesn't mean it isn't there.
So back to sharing on the internet. When I was in the darkest months after the birth and death of our son, I read every single piece of writing I could find that was even close to what we had been through. My hunger to hear the stories of others was insatiable. I didn't know about blogs then, which is a pity, because I think it would have helped. This is one of the reasons I don't make my blog unsearchable, even though after reading some of the search strings, I'm very tempted. Because every now and then I read a search query and I know there's a woman (or man) out there desperate for a story, wanting to know that they are not alone. And now, a few years on, when I read the difficult stories from other bloggers, I am always deeply touched. Saddened too, because although I may feel some bond of shared experience, obviously I would never wish this sadness on another. But it's also a great honour to be part of their healing journey. Even if sometimes I don't feel I can comment because I don't know them or because I've clammed up with my own feelings. So thank you to everyone who's read my story, thank you to everyone who's shared their story and thank you for the lovely comments. The internet can be a beautiful place.
One of the reasons I keep doing the self portrait challenge is that I like the way it makes me think on a theme for a month and then takes my writing and photos somewhere out of the routine of daily life. Yet sometimes it all intersects. Grace's second birthday is in less than a week and I find myself reflecting somewhat on my journey as a mother, how I got to be here, living this life with my precious and beautiful daughter and her Dad. This month's theme is the body and I started thinking of those parts inside of me that make life and I thought, wow wouldn't it be great to look inside. Then I remembered that I had, on maybe thirty occasions, and it wasn't always that great. Grace was born when I was 41 and is the result of my seventh pregnancy.
The first time I got pregnant, when our love was still young and when I hadn't really figured out that love could poke holes in your contraceptive resolve, it was all over within a week of taking the test. I imagine we might have kept on with the pregnancy but with the next one everything seemed shakier, so we didn't. I just couldn't see how people like us could be parents. Then followed a year of blackness when we battled our demons and ultimately became stronger as a couple, became people who could make a go of family life. Finding out that I was pregnant in 2002 was joyous for us, our families and our friends.
Our son, Frank was born just short of twenty weeks gestation, after a decision that I still find it hard to be at ease with. So coming up to Grace's birthday, there's this uncomfortable thought that comes sneaking into my mind that if things had gone as they should have, if there hadn't been all that sorrow on the way, then we mightn't have this Grace living amongst us. Then there's this other thought, that maybe she should have an older brother. But then we might not have had her. And I have to stop thinking because if I do, I can't bear it. Not any of it.
After our son was born, I had another two pregnancies in quick succession, both babies died inside me, one too early to tell and one of gentic causes. We found out that I have a blood antibody which causes clotting and miscarriage (and is helped by aspirin of all things). So I had my age and my blood working against this desire for motherhood, an urge that sometimes consumed every single part of me. My body was racing towars the reproductive finish line and could do nothing right. Could not do this one simple thing (really, I know it's not simple, not at all) and make me a mother, make us a family. I tried to let it go and then became pregnant again, another genetic disorder, another baby dying inside me. Was it my former lifestyle? Too much pot, acid, speed, party drugs? The doctors always said no, and I saw other women who did the same or worse have succesful pregnancies, even before they had left that lifestyle behind, which I already had. No, it was my body, something wrong inside me. In a place we kept looking at but couldn't change.
So when on holidays in 2004, I accidentally became pregnant with Grace, I held my breath everytime I got up on the ultrasound bed. Steeling myself for bad news and being shunted off into the quiet room with the tissues while we waited for the doctor to come and arrange the next step. In the six weeks up until the thirteenth week, I had an ultrasound every Thursday and I always took someone to the hospital with me. Just in case. Each time we saw the little beating heart, I breathed a little easier. And when she was born in April 2005 (birth story to come later this week), wow and double wow, I knew that I would always love my belly. No matter how wobbly it gets.
Explore the world of bodies here.
Ooee, what a week it's been. Three days straight at work, a sore neck/shoulder/arm from spending far too much time on Flickr looking at groups, guilt for all the other things left undone and a growing fear about what it'll be like when I return to work full time. Yesterday work was strangely fun, well at least once I'd called home to check Grace had recovered from the almighty wobbly she threw while I was in the shower and realised that mummy was going. Of course she was fine and I really hadn't expected that she wouldn't be, but it's not something I'd like to have in my head all day.
Anyway, the result of working three days straight is that I didn't have to work today and next week it's just Tuesday, so I'm planning to spend heaps of time with Grace and get some stuff done round the house and in the garden. Really. And I got cracking today. The planned great house decrapulation is moving at snails pace (how predictable) but today I cleaned and sorted my sewing space in the backroom. First I cleared the sideboard and took down the pictures and mirrors and cleaned the wall. It's old weatherboard so it gets dusty and insecty. Then I put it all back together with the new shelf G made me to sit on top of the sideboard thingy. All made out of wood he had in his timber rack, some from my dad's house, some from a skip down the road. He was very proud that he didn't have to spend a cent. I'm really pleased that my stuff is now arranged neatly rather than piled higgle-de-piggledy. And he loves to make me shelves. So everyone's a winner.
I've been strict with myself and offloaded any failed or never to be finished projects. Now I just have a small basket of alterations for Grace (she's long and skinny so waists always need to be taken in) and a little light mending. When those tasks have been completed, I'm going to try and make us some new winter clothes. Because once again some of my work outfits are a little strange and daggy. And even then, I don't think there are enough possible combinations to see me through a full week. Maybe I should go shopping as well, but I do have some ideas of easy things to make. Whether I can translate those ideas into wardrobe staples, well that's another thing.
I've rearranged l little since I took these photos, but it's so nice to walk past and smell the furniture polish. To look in my dish of buttons to be sorted, to see the rows of cotton in the box next to the sewing machine. To look at my favourite tins, the Soviet Union tin I keep metal studs in (that I'm not good at using, buttons seem easier) and the blue Dorcas pin tin I bought at a market because I remember that's what my mum used when I was a child.
So tomorrow I'm going to do the windows and in the afternoon sit with the sun (or light) streaming through them and sew. Looking up occasionally to watch the clouds and the leaves and the sky.
Today at work a colleague told me that she thinks I've lost weight. I'm hearing her words and the waistband of my favourite winter trousers that I got out of winter storage last night is pinching slightly. Eventhough they're the very forgiving trousers that saw me through the winter after Grace was born, when I stacked on the weight. The ones that I had to take in after I went to the gym three times a week and dieted without giving in to temptation. So I said, no I don't think so. And she said, yes I'm sure of it. She's somewhat on the large size herself and was trying to be nice. She probably even thought it was true.
I've fallen of the wagon bigtime. I can't bear to go to the gym anymore. I just do. not. want. to go. I walked everyday during our holiday at the beach and felt fantastic but it's not the same when you're back in your workaday routine surrounded by traffic fumes and the days are getting shorter. I'm thinking about walking home from work a couple of days a week but then it means I have to catch public transport in the morning, which means getting up earlier. And I'd get home later. Everything I think of seems to involve giving up one of the small parts of the day that belongs to me. So even though I know it's in my best interest and that I'll sleep better and feel better, I'm dragging my heels.
To be honest, I'm kind of bored with my body issues. I'd like to let them go, to not have to think about any of it or to will myself to change. If there was a magic wand, an easy solution that didn't involve pain or special effort, I'd be in. But that's not how life goes, is it? So I guess I'll make an effort. Of sorts. Yep.
So I'm showing you a picture taken sometime around Christmas during a patch of cool weather. I was playing around with the remote control on my camera. I doubt I'm wearing a bra, so the line is pretty natural. Fulfilling the challenge this month to show "your good bits, bad bits, wobbly bits and sexy bits. Photograph it all and show us your body. - I don’t expect to see any traditional portraits, no pretty faces or full body shots, rather bits and extracts of your self." I don't know that I can call it a good bit or a bad bit any more, it's just a bit. Just the body I live in. Go see other bits here.