March, April 2019

These past few months at home with our baby Jones have been a huge blessing.

And it might take me a little while to tell you why…

In short – matresence. A word that I’ve only recently stumbled across but that epitomises my journey over the last few years.

I didn’t come into this thing called motherhood with arms wide open.

I knew even as a child I knew that I’d someday like to have children of my own. But I definitely wasn’t one of those girls who dreamed of being a mum. I only remember having one doll my whole childhood which didn’t interest me all that much except that you could make colours appear on her face when you rubbed it with a wet cloth. Climbing trees and building cubby houses and sandcastles were my thing. Dolls, babies, and playing mums and dads didn’t really interest me. That was true for most of my teens and twenties too. (Not the playing part, the whole concept. You know what I mean).

When I fell pregnant with Archer I felt excited, but also a little awkward about it. Although at the time Reece and I talked often and hopefully about having kids in the near future, this pregnancy came as a surprise. I felt like I was a passenger, willingly and curiously going along for the ride.

I’m not sure how to write that without sounding ungrateful. It wasn’t a conscious decision to be that way, and it’s only looking back that can I see that that was how I felt.

And let’s get really honest now. Even when Archer was born, I felt more traumatised and relieved than in love. That used to make me think that there was something wrong with me, because at the time, the only other birth stories I’d heard ended with words like “and then I saw his/her face and I was instantly in love.” My story didn’t sound like that.

Although everything generally went well with his delivery, I still felt like I’d been hit by a bus. Breastfeeding was incredibly painful and invoked fear and cringing in me 8-10 times a day. For me it was a journey that started with bleeding and an overabundance of conflicting advice and ended with round the clock expressing, bottle feeding, washing and sterilising. And of course there was the rude shock of sleep deprivation.

I absolutely did not feel like myself- like my body had been taken over again but with far more intensity than during pregnancy.  I remember crying to my mum a week or two after Arch was born, “Is it ok if I feel like he isn’t worth it?” To which she graciously and confidently replied “yes”, reassuring me that it would come with time.

As the weeks months went on I fell completely in love with this beautiful boy. I loved going back to sleep with him in the mornings after Reece left for work. I loved walking him in his pram around our neighbourhood and taking him to parks and swimming lessons as his tiny body grew bigger and stronger. I loved sharing the joy of his smile with our families via Facetime and when we came back to Australia for visits. I loved seeing this big wide world with with such wonder again because I was so excited to share it with him “Look Arch, there’s a duck!”, “Do you hear the birdies?”, “Wow, look at the moon tonight!”. Those moments became the highlights of my days. I just about exploded when I got to see him experience snow for the first time.

But it still took me a long time to feel like myself.

I started working part time again as a photographer when he was 5 months old. Most of my work was based at home, so then began the wrestle between getting stuff done and feeling like I was being a decent mum. Actually it probably started way earlier, but with cooking and laundry loads rather than with editing and emails.

We were also in the midst of a major, sheets-for-walls, replace-the-roof-and-90%-of-the-weatherboards renovation. Basically the entire shoddily built house was gutted piece by piece while Reece and my brilliant builder brother, Jordy had to figure out how to put it back together again. My jobs were figuring out how to make it look aesthetically pleasing and keeping everyone fed. This project took up a lot of headspace for us both, and created a lot of tension. And dust.

Another thing I had not yet realised about myself was that I got a lot of satisfaction and value out of ticking things off my to-do list. And a baby got in the way of that. A lot.

I wanted to feel like I was succeeding at something in life, and motherhood still felt like my side-hustle. I loved Arch with all of my heart, but most of the time it just felt like he was my best little buddy rather than my son. It made me sad and a little jealous that being a mum didn’t come as naturally to me as it seemed to for others. Me and motherhood were at odds and I didn’t even realise it. I felt a wrestle and a conflict within me but I didn’t understand why.

The beginning of my undoing was Shauna Niequist’s “Present Over Perfect.” I saw the book cover on social media and knew straight away that I needed to read it before really even knowing what it was about. I was able to borrow it from our little library down the road which Arch and I frequented every week for new picture books. From the very first page I cried. And I cried in every single chapter thereafter.  If anything in this post resonates with you, I’d absolutely recommend reading it. It has changed and continues to change me. I won’t go into the details of the book except to leave you with its’ tagline- “Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living.”

From that point on, there has been a slow, steady unravelling in me. A quiet surrender of all that I thought I wanted for all that I now know I’m meant to be. A letting go of finding worth in achievements and success, and a shift towards uncovering life’s real gold. Found in the purest and simplest things. Found in this great privilege of being everything to another and being chosen to shape who they will become.

I remember one day shortly after we moved back to Australia, with my head and my knees pressed against my parents’ timber floorboards, letting tears flow and letting go. Giving up the fight I hadn’t realised I’d been fighting. Melting into motherhood.

I’ve still fought against it many times since – this ever changing territory still often feeling uncomfortable and painful (ESPECIALLY with a threenager). But it no longer feels unnatural or foreign to me. It’s a part of who I am.

                                                                                ~

It wasn’t until Arch was well over 2 years old that Reece and I were ready to think about getting pregnant again. The adjustment to parenthood took as much a toll on him as it did on me. Not to mention the renovation, selling our house, moving countries and starting a new business. But we finally collectively felt up to the challenge at the start of 2018.

This time around, I was more sure of myself when I got the positive test result, more comfortable in my pregnant skin, and more excited and optimistic about sharing my life with another little person.

As my belly grew rounder and the due date got nearer, there was still a small, flickering fear in me. Fear that having a baby would take me all the way back to that place and to the person I was 3 and a half years earlier – uncomfortable in my own skin, resistant to change and awkward in my most important role.

I wasn’t so much scared about labour, but of the days that would follow. The recovery, the endless breastfeeding, the lack of sleep, the feeling of losing yourself to sustain another.

But let me tell you with tears in my eyes and all the thankfulness in my heart that that has not been my story, in fact, it has been quite the opposite.

If you read my last post, you’ll probably know that giving birth still isn’t something I’ve grown to love – as beautiful as it may be for some. And it still wasn’t love at first sight for Jones and I. That came in the days that followed. But walking out of that hospital, not 4 hours after he was born, I felt like myself and I felt ready to go home and be the best mama I could be to these two precious sons of mine.

Although the general assumption has been that I’d really be feeling the stretch of adjusting to having another child, I strangely feel more at ease now as a mum of two.  I feel like after 3 and a half years of motherhood,  I am finally finding my feet.  It has flooded my life in the best way and I’m all in, surrendered to the wild ride, wherever it may take us. 

I’ve  come to a joy-filled and grateful resolution that being a mum and a wife is absolutely the most important thing I’ll ever do. Probably the most challenging too, but utterly worthwhile and deserving of the best of me. I’ve also had the huge revelation that mums, for the most part, are the ones who get to have the biggest influence on shaping humanity. What a beautiful and weighty privilege. 

My Jones has been the sweetest baby, right from the very beginning. He first followed my voice and then my face every chance he got, and now endlessly bursts into excited grins when he sees me. His face lights up even when I pick him up for those middle of the night feeds. It’s pretty lovely.

I gave breastfeeding another try and although it hasn’t been totally smooth sailing, it has come far more easily this time. It’s a huge weight off not having to worry about pumping, packing and reheating milk every time we leave the house. Instead of seeing feeding as a burden, I’m now so thankful for my portable milk supply.

My postpartum recovery has been a blessing that I didn’t see coming. I exercised regularly during this pregnancy and I’ve been amazed at how much it has helped my body heal and regain strength. I mostly did hill walking for exercise when I was pregnant with Arch and although that was great for my fitness, it did not do the wonders that all sorts of squats, lunges, and leg raises did in helping keep me strong this time around.

These are just little details that are totally dependent on the season and the baby, but  details nonetheless, that have been like balm to my once worried soul. The biggest gift is that I’m loving being in this season more than I thought I ever could.

It has crossed my mind, that when I put this story of mine into words, it might sound like Archer got the raw end of the deal – being born to this rookie, rigid mum, while Jones arrived to one who is far more embracing and at home in her mum shoes. But then I realise that it’s been this journey with my firstborn, with my wonderfully curious and confident, blue-eyed Arch, that has shaped my heart and made me into a mother. And I feel so lucky to have grown into this role with and because of him. Both these boys have my heart and I’ll forever be grateful that I was hand picked to be theirs.

Matresence. (Noun) The process of becoming a mother.

                                                                                ~

“Don’t forget, you are new here too sweet mama. 

As you ease into your postpartum body, the achey womb and leaky breasts and that soft tummy skin, remember that you are home, in yourself, even if it feels foreign for now…

As you stretch into the role of mama- or mama to many- remember, you too have just been born.

– Catie Atkinson

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January/ February 2019

Hiiiii!

I came on here intending to write a short post about our start to the year – which mostly centred around the waiting for and post Jones’ arrival… but somehow I ended up writing my whole birth story. Or a condensed version of it anyway… It’s still pretty lengthy so if you’re not into that kind of thing, scroll on down. They say a picture says a thousand words, so I probably should’ve gotten a birth photographer and saved us all the time… ha! Reece did his best to take a few photos with my camera, a handful of which I’ve included here. Nothing too full on, I promise.

Our beautiful boy, Jones Ocean arrived at 9:36am on the 24th of January.
He is 11 weeks old already which of course has gone way too fast.
A couple of weeks ago I googled “how long is a baby a newborn for?” And was totally disappointed when it told me “”0-2months”. Jones had just turned 2 months. Great. Over, just like that. 

For my own little reasons, I had been expecting him to come early. So when he arrived 8 days after his due date, it felt like I’d been waiting an eternity. I was struggling to stay positive and patient towards the end.
I prayed daily for patience and for strength for when the time came. I tried to rest as much as I could and enjoy the space and quiet. Our families so lovingly had Arch with them a lot during these days. Hence the quiet.

The night I went into labour, Arch was staying at my mum and dads house so I was able to focus on my contractions at home without having to worry about waking him. I laboured at home through the night, then we decided to head to the hospital around 4:30, arriving there at 5am.
It was a bit early really (not just because the sun wasn’t up yet). My contractions were still 8 minutes apart & my waters hadn’t broken. But I had been told by my midwife and others that your second baby usually comes pretty fast, that your contractions can ramp up just like that & all of a sudden your baby could be crowning while you’re pulled over on the side of the motorway. (My midwife actually asked for the colour, make & model of our car for this reason, just in case).
We did not want a roadside birth. So off to the hospital we went.

Needless to say I was expecting for things to move along pretty quickly. At least quicker than they did with Archer.
(I laboured mostly at home with Arch, and left for the hospital when I was 8cms dilated, so it all felt pretty fast once we got there!)
That was not the case.
My contractions ramped up gradually once we arrived. I was kindly reprimanded by my midwife for not eating breakfast.
She offered me Vegemite toast from the hospital kitchen to which I replied “um, thanks but I don’t eat gluten”
So off she went in search for some electrolyte ice blocks to at least keep me hydrated.
Reece was up for some Vegemite toast though. He sat in a chair in the corner having his tea and toast and chatting with the midwives while I bounced on a Swiss ball and paced the room, as the contractions crashed and subsided.

Our birthing suite was 3 levels up with a big window overlooking cane fields and the distant Great Dividing Range.
We got to see the moon fade and the sun rise over the lush green countryside on the day that our beautiful Jones arrived.

As the morning went on, my midwife & student midwife were in and out of the room, letting Reece and I have our own space, knowing that there wasn’t much action happening just yet. They did try to break my waters to move things along but said baby’s head must be pressed right up against the membrane, so they couldn’t grab a hold of it to burst it. 

Reece walked with me as I paced the room, encouraging me with my breathing and letting me squeeze the life out of his hands when I needed to. I remember at one point telling my midwife that I felt sick, like I might need to vomit. She said that was a good sign and that things were starting to get serious. She let me go on a little bit longer, quietly observing, before telling me I was ready to hop in the bath (yep, water birth).

Even at that point, the reality of holding our baby in my arms still felt a long way off. The contractions still felt far apart, and the last I heard I wasn’t fully dilated. My midwife told me to keep drinking water, she thought I was dehydrated and that was why things were moving slowly. This was a bit unsettling for me because basically I just wanted it to be over. The idea of possibly being in labour for a few more hours made me feel pretty overwhelmed.

Archer’s birth had felt like it was something that just happened to me. The contractions kept coming and coming and the urge to push was absolutely uncontrollable. With Jones I felt like I had really to focus to move things along. 

While waiting for that same urge to come, my midwife told me “when the next one comes, try pushing.” I guess I didn’t take this too seriously because I always heard that you don’t make the pushing happen and that pushing prematurely is not a wise thing to do. I was checked at some point here and told that I was fully dilated, but was still waiting for that urge to come. 

When I overheard my midwife say quietly to my student midwife around the corner “She’s not pushing enough. She’s wasting her contractions.” I got really determined.” I knew I wanted to be on the other side of this birth and I knew now the only way to get there was to there was to get serious and make it happen.

I had been kneeling and resting my head and arms over the edge of the bath. My midwife suggested I turn over, pressing my back and feet against opposite ends of the bath, using it to push against when the contractions came.  

One thing I was sure of with both my labours was that I never wanted to think or say “I can’t do this.” Instead, I gritted my teeth and growled through the contractions, and whimpered “please, please let it be over soon” when they subsided. 

Pressing my feet against the side of the bath while contracting really helped me to push downward and I could feel then that things were finally moving. Reece sat on the Swiss ball just on the other side of the bath with his arm outstretched so I could grab it and squeeze with all my might. I bit him a few times too. Really hard. 

He and the midwives encouraged me through each contraction and pretty soon I was told that the baby was coming. Oh those sweet words of relief! But really, that’s when the business starts. And what a crazy mother business it is. As each contraction approached, I was reminded to make it really count and push as much as I could. “Ok, ok” I’d say, and put my game face on. At one point the pain was so intense that I kind of felt like I was losing my mind. Shortly after, with a few more of those pushes that make you feel like you’re a crazy, wild cave woman, I was told my baby had hair. “That’s great,” I thought, “now let’s just get it out of me.” 

By then it was constant, teeth bared, howl inducing, everything-within-me pushing, with a few deep breaths in between to keep me from turning purple. And then with one last heaving, almighty push, he was here. Our sweet baby Jones. He was pulled up out of the water and put on my chest as my support crew praised my efforts. I held his soft tiny body in my trembling aftermath of exhaustion and relief. With tears in his eyes Reece told me “he looks like Arch, babe!”

What a joy it is to meet this sweet little person you’ve been carrying around, preparing for, loving and thinking about for the past 9 months. Getting to know my Jones day by day has been the best reward for all that hard work.

I won’t go into the post delivery details except to say that it all went really amazingly well and we were bundled up in the car and ready to head home by 1:45 that afternoon. (With midwives to visit at home the next day and regularly for the next few weeks.)

I was incredibly blessed by our midwifery group practice care both during the pregnancy, birth & postnatally. Their natural, laidback approach helped me to be more relaxed through the whole process and trust in my body’s ability to do what it needed to do. I know that so often things don’t go to plan with pregnancy and giving birth so I feel very blessed to have had things go as well as they did and am really thankful for the beautiful people who helped walk me through the journey.

I am absolutely loving spending my days at home with Jones. It’s certainly not as quiet or as slow paced as having a first baby, but such a special time all the same. I’ll write more about life with him in my next post. Until then, here’s a collection of some moments in the weeks that led up to – and after his arrival.

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September October 2018

Some ordinary days and some special moments from our last couple of months. In September we celebrated Archer’s third birthday which was bittersweet as I imagine every birthday will be as our babes grow older. I feel incredibly proud of every milestone he reaches, but they do often leave me feeling “where did my baby go?”

My time in general with Arch these past few months has also been bittersweet in many ways. The more I know him, the more I adore him and his precious little heart. He really is the sweetest boy I’ve ever met (mum bias). But man, does he push my buttons like no one else can. I have found myself in tears more than once as this wonderful whirlwind of a three year old expands his independence and pushes every boundary he can find.

I can only imagine the challenges that we’ll face with a new baby thrown into the mix. I don’t think anything can really prepare you for growing your family, for adjusting to two in very different phases of life, when there has only ever been one. He and I. But I will welcome it with open arms and throw myself into the season and all it’s heart expanding craziness.  I’ll be the best mum I can to these incredible boys I’ve been entrusted with and try to be kind to myself when I don’t meet my own probably-way-too-high expectations.

In these past months we also celebrated our newest nephew coming into the world. He has captured our hearts and we are so grateful to have him here and to be a big part of his world as he grows. Cuddling him and smelling his newborn freshness is getting us pretty excited to meet our own boy very soon. Only about 8 weeks to go now (son, please have some grace for your mother in the scorching heat of a Queensland summer and don’t be 6 days late like your brother was).

Until next time, xx

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Cookies!

We are big cookie fans in our house, they are my absolute favourite homemade treat as well as Reece’s most requested lunch box snack. I usually make up double batches of everything and then freeze them so there’s always some on hand. Reece actually loves eating them frozen, and I love warming them up so the chocolate goes all melty (because chocolate is pretty much mandatory in any cookie for me).

My dad is a huge Anzac biscuit fan and for many years they’ve been his Father’s Day present from me or my sister. He doesn’t want or need much else, but a big batch of homemade Anzacs always makes him feel  loved.

So in honour of Father’s day this weekend, I thought I’d share two of our favourite cookie (or biscuit) recipes here.

The first are I think the best cookies I’ve ever had the joy of eating – 5 ingredient peanut butter chocolate chip cookies from one of my favourite food blogs, Pinch of Yum (See recipe on their site here). The cookie dough is grain free, dairy free and refined sugar free but you’d never even know it. The peanut butter gives them the most amazing soft and gooey texture, something you’d expect from a cookie with a lot of butter. So here they are, with some photos of a batch I made, fresh out of the oven.

5 Ingredient peanut butter chocolate chip cookies

Ingredients:

2 cups coconut sugar

2 eggs

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp salt (totally doesn’t count as one of the 5 ingredients)

1 & 1/4 cups natural peanut butter (smooth or crunchy)

1 cup chocolate chips (or chunks of dark chocolate – I use 70% or over so the cookies are still dairy free).

Method:

Preheat the oven to 175°C. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper.

In a medium bowl, combine the coconut sugar and eggs and whisk until smooth. Then whisk in the vanilla and salt.

Add the peanut butter and mix with a wooden spoon until well combined. It will start to become very thick. Add the chocolate and stir until evenly spread through the batter.

Bake for about 12 minutes or until the cookies are just golden at the edges.  Let the cookies rest on the hot baking tray for 2 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack to cool completely.

These cookies keep well at room temperature for about 4 days, and freeze well for up to 3 months.

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Now for the Anzacs. This recipe is one I’ve been using since I was a kid from the Women’s Weekly cookbook that my mum has had in her cupboard since the dawn of time. I don’t eat these kind of biscuits anymore because they have a few ingredients that I try to avoid. But I still make them often for my family and can guarantee by how quickly they get eaten that this recipe is a winner.

Anzac Biscuits

Ingredients:

1 cup rolled oats

1 cup plain flour

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 cup desiccated coconut

125 g butter, chopped

2 tbsp golden syrup

1 & 1/2 tbsp water

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)

Method:

Preheat oven to 160°C. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper

Combine oats, sifted flour, sugar and coconut in a large bowl.

Place butter, syrup and water in a small saucepan and stir over low heat until smooth. Stir in bicarbonate of soda. Then stir this mixture into dry ingredients until well incorporated.

Roll tablespoons of mixture into balls. Place 5cm apart on trays and flatten slightly. (They will expand quite a bit.) Bake for 20 minutes or until golden, cool on trays.

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Whether you want to try one of these recipes out as a Father’s day gift or just to eat yourself, I hope they are enjoyed! And a big Happy Father’s Day to all the wonderful men in our lives. xx

March April 2017

Autumn! I think our time in Christchurch has left me loving and appreciating this season more than I ever have before. I never thought I’d say this, but I’m actually hanging out for the cool change of winter, and even missing those frosty, misty, Canterbury mornings (although I’m sure they are a lot more romantic in my memory than the cruel, hard reality of scraping the ice off your windshield before you leave for work…)

Our last couple of months have held lots of magic little moments… and plenty food that was apparently special enough to be photographed!

Below you’ll see, amongst other things, Arch jamming on the xylophone at our local farmer’s market, a late afternoon at our new favourite swimming spot, a night sky – shot by my little brother, great job Davey 😉 A weekend away with my Reece – so needed and so good for the soul. And a morning the Currumbin Eco Village. This was a special day… no agendas, just hanging out with our boy and taking his lead on what interested him the most.

You’ll notice a few photos of me in this post. Sometimes Reece likes to turn the camera on me which I think is a good thing… if he didn’t, we’d have a lifetime of family memories recorded without me in them. In a couple I look a bit more put together which is great, & in a couple of others… not so much. But the latter are the photos that matter to me more. A full heart, playing with my boys & appreciating the simple things in life. I don’t want my appearance to matter to me so much that it keeps me from loving a photo of me at my happiest, or my realest. I still see imperfections in each one of these photos, but I don’t want to be about perfection. I really don’t.

As time goes on, I want to see less photos of me where I’ve got my makeup & hair sorted (this is a rarity anyway) and the lighting and the angle are just right..
and more photos where I’m being kind, filled with joy, and loving people. That’s worth so much more to me than a split second of appearing perfect…

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January February 2018

Here’s a little bit of what the rest of our summer looked like… feat. my sister’s bridal shower/picnic (special mention to the incredibly delicious grazing table and ever jaw-dropping Christchurch scenery. And! my now married sister!), Byron farmer’s market, an Archer Dylan visits Bangalow photographic essay, multiple trips to the ocean, a real classy family photo. And a wallaby. All in all I think it’s safe to say we had a great couple of months. Hope you did too! x104105106107108109110111112113114115116118119120121122123124125126127128129130131132134135136137138139140141142143145

November December 2017

Although every season has it’s wonderful and not as wonderful bits, summer is generally our favourite… lots of time at the beach and outdoors in general, celebrating Christmas with the ones we love most, the best fresh mangoes, stone fruit and berries, (to name a few) and time off work to just be a family and enjoy eachother. It’s good for the soul and comes just when you need it the most. Here’s what parts of some of our days looked like… (And can we just pretend November is summer because it felt like summer to me!)12345678910111213141516171820212223252627282930313233343536373839404142434445464748