The Cup.

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It’s just a cup.

It’s not even a fancy cup, it has ‘made in korea’ stamped on the bottom. Recently my grandmother has been downsizing the items in her house and when I go over (which I should do more often but my life consists of work, work and a side order of work at the moment) I find she has piled a bunch of items on the bed in her back bedroom for myself and my mother and aunties and cousins to pore over like a garage sale. I collected a variety of mugs from the back bedroom – mugs are always in short order in my house because small children are butterfingers. Each mug reminds me of my grandparents home but I’m particularly protective of this one which no one else uses because it’s kind of unassuming.

It reminds me of my auntie for reasons I can’t put my finger on. I suppose I must have hidden memories of her using this mug – none of which I can recollect with any sort of clarity. But it reminds me of her so when I drink my tea out of it in the morning I am saturated in memories of her, my auntie, as she was when I was a child, long straight dark hair that I coveted, and her quietness.

My other auntie was 15 years older than me and I felt like she was a sister, other members of the family babied me but she called me out on my bullshit, didn’t let me win at monopoly simply because I was little and spent an entire summer eating ice blocks and trying to complete Mario Bros on my NES entertainment system. She was a friend, a confidant, a playmate.

My auntie with the mug was more elusive, quiet and calm. She would take me in the early summer mornings down to the pool where she would do laps and teach me to swim like a frog. She sat me on her lap and showed me how to form the letters of my name. When I told her my dreams she would ask questions as though they were important and not just a child’s nightmares. I see her in the garden watering the gerberas. I see her in the kitchen washing dishes. I see her turning up to the house like a celebration, for our missing piece had returned home.

And I love this cup.

Purple Flowers.

It’s been just over a year since I began this blog. The day I actually broke went unmarked in any calendar because I’m not sure exactly what date I would go from. Breaking happened slowly, me fraying at the edges for two years before I tore apart all at once.

And I have gotten so much better. I get up and go to work, assisting other people. I come home and I work quietly, editing for photographers and carefully correcting colours and clearing newborn skin. I take my children to school and their appointments. I lie beside my small children at night and read them bedtime stories. I go with my lover to lunch and he eats the rest of my salad when I can’t finish it. Together we take the children to the beach where my daughter collects and entire basket of shells and we have to convince her to ‘leave some for other people’. I buy myself bedside tables from Ikea and he convinces me to sit on the trolley on the way back to the car and runs with the trolley until I’m breathless with laughter and fear we will crash into a column. I pay bills. I do my hair. I’m blissfully normal.

I sleep.

And this is not something I take for granted anymore. Some nights when I don’t have an early shift I sleep for 9 hours. This time last year 5.5 was normal. This time last year I woke to darkness every day and watched the rising of the sun and tried to breathe and survive. Now days I still sometimes wake before the sun and I watch it rise in my car with a cup of tea in a travel mug as I inch along with the other commuters.

I try to dream.

And my dreams are of fairy lights and lace. My dreams are of plaster dust and lavender. The crown of a newborn head, tiny crescent fingernails. My dreams are of wrinkles and white hairs. I throw the tablecloth of my life out before me and smooth it flat, I am careful to choose what I lay upon it. I watch the wheel of life turn and feel no sadness at it’s passing.

I wake one morning and reach for my camera. My four daughters and I escape the house like puppies set loose and we enter the outside which is different with a camera. Inside the lens everything fits into a box. We find some purple flowers in the grass by the side of a road and we stop to shoot in them. Inside the lens it doesn’t matter that cars are driving past and construction is happening beside us. It doesn’t matter that this spot is actually an overgrowth of weeds. The mosquitos are invisible in the shot. Inside the lens it only matters that there are purple flowers on the ground springing from the grass like hope and that is all I show you. Life is different, so easily distracted by the noise of everything you barely notice the purple flowers. I had driven that road every day but I didn’t see them until I went looking for magic.

That whole year I spent trapped in my own mind, fighting for a way out. Looking for a door.

I was the door.

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Surprise Me.

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For me, this was a week like any other. I took my children to school, I ran errands, I went to the dentist, I edited photos, I had brunch with my partner, I laughed with my daughters, we discussed a crush my son has.

But this week it just felt like a torrent of horror and grief descended on our state. Amusement park rides killed people, a bus driver was set alight, a woman found dead, two people were shot in the suburb next to me. It felt like the end of the world and I mean that in no small way. It felt like Armageddon coming. It felt like the beginning of the end.

And I had no words.

No words.

I couldn’t express my individual grief about these situations because nothing I could say could fix anything and the problem was bigger than me.

We discussed the US election that truly fills me with fear and not just because someone I am frightened of might win but because the support lent to that individual scares me too.

I don’t know what kind of world I’m leaving for my children.

Sometimes I regret having children for that reason. When I was a teenager – before I was a mother – my family seemed too large to be damaged. I felt like as a child I was more fragile and therefore the worst that could befall someone would surely befall me first. But as soon as a child of my own womb was placed in my arms I realised fear for someone else. For all the times I could not protect them. We talk about sleepless nights and endless questions and even broken hearts but the worst thing about being a parent is realising your own powerlessness in the face of the world. Knowing the only thing standing between them and the cruelties of this place, is you. And you are found wanting. The dangers seem insurmountable, and your own fragility – which seemed a blessing as a child – is now a flaw. From the moment a child is born they are on a journey growing away from you. If your do your job well they will be ready to fly long before you are ready to let them go. My eldest is 18. I’m now not sure I will ever be ready. Is any parent?

That powerlessness is sometimes the reason I lose my breath and think, “Why did I do this?”

The answer, of course, is hope. Disturbingly tenacious, hope outlives us all. We have children even when we are surrounded by cruelties because we hope. I remember one time when I was about 16 my grandfather saying he thought my generation would be the one to fix the world, now that is a hope I pass on to my own offspring. I think every generation must carry that, the silent prayer that whatever we didn’t fix our children may be the ones to do it. It’s an unfair burden and I’m sorry.

I posted on Facebook the other day that cruelties fail to shock me anymore. I’m no longer surprised by intolerance or bigotry. What continually moves me to tears is kindness. The first responders at Dreamworld. The taxi driver who ran towards a burning bus while others ran away to rescue those inside. The people that listen to your story and offer you a gentle word. Always in times like this I have to remind myself that while the world is frightening – people are good too. That I cannot protect my children from cruelties but I can shape them into the kind of people that do surprise me. Our grief always sits side by side with our hope. We have to tip the scales ourselves.

32.

The other day we were sitting at the table and because it was my birthday someone mentioned getting older and I said I liked 32. That I could have stayed 32 forever. And you said, “But that was before me!”

But it wasn’t.

I reconnected with you halfway through 32, we saw in 33 as a couple. Whenever I think of 32 I think of you. I think of the way you blew into my life, unexpected – and I bloomed. You took years off my face because love is a kind of elixir for life. I shone. Sparkled. And people noticed because all my friends would comment on the way I had come out of myself. You could send me a simple text that said, “Hey kitten” (something I thought I would have hated had anyone else said it, you were an exercise in exceptions) and my day was made. I became fascinated by photographs of us together because it felt like I had never seen my real face before. I barely recognised me.

None of this is to say it was simple or easy, because it wasn’t. At first there was so much vulnerability in loving someone. And I fell in love with you so quickly and so hard. I didn’t really mean to but once I started I realised I wasn’t going to miss this for the world. Eyes open. That’s how I fell in love with you. Your attention to detail felt indulgent. Of course I made a study of you too. Hours spent tracing the lines beside your eyes that fanned out like gentle sun rays. I loved them because they spoke of how much joy you could find in life that you smiled so much. I loved them because I felt unbelievably blessed to be lying there beside the man who was once the boy who I had spilled dreams to, almost two decades before. Oh yes, I felt vulnerable in the beginning. When I realised I was falling in love with you I cried to you on the phone. I cried to my daughter in the kitchen. But then I threw all my chips in because I had a sense that this could be the greatest adventure I was ever going to go on and I didn’t want to miss it.

It wasn’t always easy. But your conviction never wavered, your love was a constant. It wasn’t always easy because life isn’t always easy but loving you was the easiest thing in the world.

Why 32? Because 32 was the year I went on the bravest, most important journey of my life. 32 was when I stopped being who I thought everyone wanted me to be and decided to find out who I WAS. 32 was when you slipped your hand into mine and said, “Let’s do this.” 32 was when I stopped letting life happen to me and I chose you with a deliberateness that was breathtaking. I remember lying there and I thought, “Just look at him, one look and you will know.” And I raised my eyes to yours and you held my gaze, a question answered.

Yes.

32.

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Grateful.

He’s so patient with me. I feel guilty because I can only imagine it’s like buying a car you think is solid and then it turns out to have problems you can’t fix. So every time I can’t do something and he says it’s okay, smooths my hair, kisses my forehead, I feel like…”I’m sorry I did this to you.”

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In some ways that was why I needed to plan a weekend away, although it was midweek. Because I thought, if I’m close to the ocean I can retreat if I need to but it still looks like I’m getting out, doing things. Because it’s been a really really long year. And I did it, you know? We walked along the beach and I built a sand turtle and a sand flower and he made a sand heart until the tide came in and tried to soak us both. And we went to lunch and we went to dinner, even though at dinner the only table was near the door and in the middle of the room so I had to keep reminding myself that people weren’t looking at me and no one cared. “It’s like the gym,” I said to myself, “Everyone worries people are watching them but no one is because they’re all just there to work out.” So I made MYSELF look at other diners so I could see they were too busy with their company and their food and no one cared about the small woman by the door.

Such tiny steps that I don’t even feel like I’m moving until I look back and think, “You’re miles away from where you were months ago when you couldn’t make it to the kitchen. You have come so far.”

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I think I just keep waiting for it to be easy. But I think maybe…maybe it will never be easy. Maybe I will always have to pay a price to leave the house. Maybe everyone does. Because one thing I have learnt in the last six months is we are all a little damaged. Most weeks someone writes me to say, “I feel that. What you wrote? I feel that too.” And I never would have known. Sometimes it feels like everyone has it together and you’re the only one losing your shit. So maybe we all have something we just struggle with and push through. People are such amazing creatures. We can be so nasty and so cruel and then sometimes…divinity. Bravery. Compassion. Fierceness.

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One day when I am better I am going to write letters to everyone who helped me. And he will get the first one. And I will send them out, written in my own hand, thank you, thank you, thank you. For your patience, for your support, for your empathy. Thank you. I am grateful for you.

Showing Up.

Turns out learning to live is a lot like physical therapy after a body trauma. At first it’s really hard and – to be completely honest – not exactly fun. Then you get a bit stronger and a bit more use to stuff and now I’m in this odd place where I think, “What is this feeling?” And I realise I’m LOOKING FORWARD to something. I can’t recall the last time I looked forward to something.

It’s a two steps forward, one step back dance for a long time. Really, in the beginning I was just logging time on this planet. There didn’t seem much point to anything. In the beginning the only thing I enjoyed was work. Nice little parcelled out editing jobs because it was something I could achieve. I could look back at the end of the day and think – I did 600 photos today. I could scroll through them and feel like I changed something in the world. Small, insignificant, but something. Work, in the beginning, saved me. On days I worked my mood chart was better. It gave me a sense of purpose. Still, every time a job rolls in I think, “I love this.”

Then it was tiny outings. Maybe I made it into the shops to buy milk. Maybe I managed to walk into the school to grab the kids instead of waiting in the car.

I drove 400ks round trip.

I had tea with a friend.

To begin with those things I MADE myself do. This person is expecting you. So I took my sense of duty and I exploited it.

One time last year? I decided to live because my friend asked me to model for her. Literally decided I didn’t want to let my friend down so I had better live. I exploited the shit out of myself to make myself turn up to life.

It is awkward for me to talk about that. About feeling so bad that I weighed up the pros and cons of being alive. But I try to be honest here. I try to come to you with my vulnerability because I know too well that we hide the ugly parts of ourselves. Every time I bare my skin to you and show you my scars I’m being brave – because it’s easier to hide. I know…. Oh, I know….

But THIS week.

This week I showed the fuck up. This week I wrote myself a list of 10 things and decided I was going to be alive. If my brain could teach me how to hide then surely I could rewire it to be happy. To be present. And now I sit here thinking, what is this feeling? And I realise it’s looking forward to things. And that is being alive.

I’m alive.

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That time my daughter needed an exorcism.

Do we even like being parents anymore? I’m joking, obviously but I go through memes and photos and posts every day taking about a) how hard this gig is and b) how we all need to self medicate to survive parenthood.

And the funny part is, almost all the things complained about are the parts of parenting I secretly don’t mind so much. Like the fact my five year old will come and ask me something and use a word that isn’t correct or say a sentence that doesn’t make sense, and when I say I don’t understand she will repeat the EXACT SAME WORD just slower or louder like she is speaking to someone of incredibly low intelligence.
“What day is tomorrow?”
“Friday.”
“No. What DAY is tomorrow?”
“Tomorrow is Friday.”
“No. The day after today. WHAT DAY is it?”
“Dude. It’s Friday. I don’t know what answer you want.”
“The day after today.”
“Tomorrow?”
“Yes. What DAY is that?”
“Tomorrow is Friday.”
“No. WHAT…DAY…IS…IT?”
“….you need to go play.”

It’s infuriating. It makes me want to stab myself to death with a spoon. But it’s absolutely hilarious and that’s what I love about parenting.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been on this whirly-gig for almost two decades now. But all those things that drive you insane today? Funny as shit in 5-10 years time. Trust me. One day your house will be clean, your car won’t have smashed milk arrowroot on the carpet, your kids will hold conversations that actually make sense and you will MISS this insanity.

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Let me tell you a story. It’s one of my favourites. To set the scene my eldest daughter is 7 years old. You wouldn’t know it to look at her now but she had this incredible temper when she was little. In fact, most people unless they experienced one of her infrequent but volatile rages wouldn’t have believed me then. This particular day it is summer and I am getting the kids to school. My Nanna took us because I didn’t drive back then and I was about 25 weeks pregnant with my first son and fourth child. Nanna was waiting in the car with E who was 3 and going to go swimming with her auntie that day. I am walking a 7 year old J and 6 year old B into their catholic school. Everything is fine.

I think I need to stop here and explain that I carry large with boys. Like, I’m big. With girls I have a teeny compact rockmelon under my dress, with boys…let’s just say that I was once stopped at 15 weeks pregnant with R and asked how much longer I had. (I may have growled at them).

Anyway, I’m waddling along and I mention to B that it is water play at her class today. She had swimmers and a towel and her class was going to play with sprinklers and buckets of water and have a grand old time. J says, “Why does she get water play and I don’t?”
I explain that her class is having a water play day, I don’t know, I don’t make the rules. She immediately launched into how unfair this was. B getting water play and E getting to go swimming.
“I can take you swimming at Nanna’s after school,” I say.
Not good enough. J is saying that is also unfair because then her sisters have done two water things and she has only done one. Her friends wave hello. She glares at them. She is beginning to melt down. She starts screaming she doesn’t want to go to school.
“I DON’T WANT TO GO TO SCHOOL! I DON’T WANT TO GO TO SCHOOL!”

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I kiss B goodbye and push her towards her classroom and away from her sisters wrath. People are staring. The bell rings and it’s assembly day so kids begin to move towards the hall. Throngs of children and me clutching my demon child’s hand while she struggles to free herself all the while screaming at the top of her lungs, “I DON’T WANT TO GO TO SCHOOL!”

At the doorway to the hall the Principal comes up to us and tries to talk J into coming inside and – I shit you not – she HISSES at him. Then screams in his face those same words. He retreats. I don’t blame him.

At this point basically every head in the school is turned towards my daughter wailing. People whisper to B who is sitting placidly with her class. Privately she looks pleased because she will forever be known as the ‘good sister’ and also because she will have mad street cred for living with such a crazy person and surviving.

I realise I cannot take her in. This temper tantrum will run it’s own course but she absolutely cannot go to school today. So I turn to J and I say, “Okay. We are going home.”

But I do it in that mum way. You know the way. Like, your voice is totally calm but the kid knows shit just got real. And J looks at me and knows this so she starts screaming, “No! I WANT TO GO TO SCHOOL!”

She’s hysterical. I half drag her towards the exit. She’s screaming the whole way, “LET ME GO TO SCHOOL! LET ME GO TO SCHOOL!”

But I can’t back down because I made a call and kids smell weakness.

She is digging her heels in and I’m so big and pregnant, you guys. But it becomes clear the only way I’m getting her back to the car is if I carry her. So I heft up this 7 year old on my belly while she is kicking and screaming and yelling, “LET ME GO TO SCHOOL!”

I am headed towards this little path behind the church and there are colourful flower beds. I see the parish priest walking a visitor around them, both marvelling at the roses while I am heading towards them with a kid that looks like she needs an exorcism. Just before we get to the priest and companion, J does this wild whole body buck that because of my centre of gravity being off due to massive belly sends both of us sprawling on the concrete, my shoe breaks, my skirt rides up and I skin a knee. I burst into tears.

Here we are. Both of us crying, me bleeding, one shoe and the priest looking on in horror. J sniffles and looks at me and says, “Please mummy. I don’t want to hurt you…..but I will.”

The priest recoils and retreats to the safety of his rose bushes.

Five minutes later I am hobbling back to the car, broken shoe in hand, both J and I crying and Nanna jumps out and says, “What happened?!”

Where to begin?

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Now, as far as shitty parenting days go, that was right up there. It was so far up there. It’s one of my top 5 Shitty Parenting Moments.

But now we laugh about it. So I guess it’s also one of my top 5 Most Hilarious Parenting Moments.

What I’m trying to say is the real shitty stuff is the stuff you will never laugh about. Sickness, broken hearts, those heart stopping moments when you think ‘there but for the grace of God, go I’. You’ve probably all had one of those. The day to day with kids is hard work, I’m not devaluing that, but it’s fleeting, man. It really is. But it’s so fucking good as well. The hard stuff is part of the tapestry of your parenting journey. It just wouldn’t be the same without it.

So, yes. Drink your wine, eat the chocolate, sneak the good ice cream. But try to think, “Will I laugh about this one day?” “Will I miss this when she is walking out the door on a date at 18?” For me the answer is almost always, yes.

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Save Yourself.

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Years ago someone told me a story about their best friend. In this story the best friend (from here on out known as The Woman) was madly in love with a guy.

Over time my memory of the story and what I pictured has merged so I’m going to tell it like I pictured it, it may not be exact and I am going to call it creative license or avoiding libel – take your pick.

Okay.

So the woman is madly in love. She is young, 19 and stunningly beautiful. Tall with long dark hair and wide set blue eyes. The man she is in love with is a bit of a bad boy. When I imagine him back then I picture someone a little like one of the guys from The Outsiders, rough and slicked back hair and maybe he wears a leather jacket and rides a motorcycle. They dated for a long time and she really wanted to marry him. But he didn’t seem like he was ever going to propose so she decided to call his bluff. She left him. Let’s take a second to applaud this woman for leaving someone who wasn’t giving her what she wanted or needed from life. This is very hard when you love someone.

Shortly after she found another man and he proposed and she accepted. Now here is the part that is sad. She thought the Outsider was going to stop her. In the weeks leading up to the wedding she expected he would roll up on his motorcycle and confess his love. She believed he would realise that he was letting this amazing, funny, beautiful woman just slip through his fingers and say, “I love you. Pick me.” Because that is what all women really want (and probably men too) – to be chosen. Day after day.

Right up to the wedding, as she was saying her vows she completely expected the Outsider to turn up, bust down the doors of the church and announce his objection. When the ceremony ended with no sign of him she couldn’t believe it. She was shocked and desperately heartbroken that he had let her go without a second thought.

This story has a happy ending because the woman was actually very happy with her husband, they had kids, travelled, lived life and loved each other until the very end. But that is not how it began and that is not the point. It could just as easily have gone the other way and she walk out of there miserable and stuck until one of them realised they needed a divorce.

So the point is, many people have spent too long waiting for something or someone to show up. Have spent days that spiralled out into weeks or months or years even waiting for their Outsider to come and change their life. I do it all the time, I make promises to myself that if this one thing happens then I will do this. I wait for other people to change their mind. I wait for someone else to tell me I’m valuable, wanted, loved, worth it. You cannot hinge your life on hope. Hope is a valuable ingredient in life, essential in fact, but it’s a lot like flour…unless you add in some eggs and milk and sugar, you ain’t never going to have a cake, baby. Stop looking for your Outsider to come save you.

Save yourself.

Dad.

I’m going to tell you a secret. It took me years to love my dad properly. I didn’t understand him really. He was never a mean dad, he joked with me, I have a picture of us on the beach, him giving me a piggy back so I know he played with me when I was small. But as a child I took those things for granted. But mum was my go to, alright. I knew mum bought all the birthday and Christmas presents and Dad was just as surprised as me to see what was inside, I knew mum cooked the dinner and washed the clothes.

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My dad, seemed this odd mystery to me. He disappeared in the morning before I was awake and came home and lay down on the couch where most nights he promptly fell asleep. He was always really into things I didn’t understand, like cycads and palms and occasionally I would be pressed into watering these which I really begrudged. He was always finding things he loved and bringing them home like rocks and cow skulls and broken birds that would chirp on top of the bathroom mirror light where it was warm while I brushed my teeth. He would sometimes say to me, “What do you think of this design? Do you think it would make a good chair?” And I would be bewildered by this because I didn’t know if he was planning to quit his job and become a chair maker. One time mum and I had to role play customers while he pretended to sell us smoke alarms. The falling asleep on the couch alarmed me. My friends and I creeping by him on the way to my room dodging the cup on its side on the floor where he had been practising his putting before he fell asleep. Sometimes he would have two TVs going in the same room – both on sport – and he would be asleep in front of them.

It took me years – I’m embarrassed to admit – before I realised he was sleeping because he was exhausted. My dad would get up early and go to work and often stop by the family farm on the way home to round up cattle or feed them or fix something. I never connected these absent hours to the sleeping on the couch. He worked and worked and he was tired. In my childhood innocence I didn’t connect this with the yellow pay packets that came home, with the clothes on my back, with the food on the table, with the tennis lessons or tae-kwon-do lessons or those Christmas presents he was just as surprised at as me when I opened them.

It took me years to think…oh. My dad went a great many years dreadfully under appreciated by me. When I sit with him now a part of me whispers “I see you, I see you, I see you.” because for years he was invisible to me. And I learnt that my dad is funny, he tells hilarious stories. He is quirky. He is kind to animals which I think shows great character in a man. He will fix something before he throws it away, or at least have the intention to. He loves my mother in a way that blows me away. Years ago on my wedding night my mother fell asleep and he came in and stroked her hair and said, “God, she is so beautiful.” And I thought how magical to have someone love you so fiercely even while you’re asleep that he blurts out his love and you never even know.

So there it is. My dad. Happy Father’s Day. I see you.

The Hardest Thing about Parenthood.

I’ll tell you the hardest thing about being a parent. Or actually, what for me has been the hardest thing about being a mother. The invisibility.

There are dozens of ‘hard things’ and the hard stuff happens immediately. It begins right there when you see those two pink lines on the little white wand you just peed on and realise that you can say goodbye to soft cheese for the next 8 months (I know friends, it was a struggle for me too). You feel tired, emotional, your skin stretches and warps over your abdomen and you watch as stretch marks bloom across you. I remember one night going to sleep with perfect breasts and I woke the next morning to step in the shower and caught sight of my chest in the mirror and thought I had those strange marks from sleeping all over my breasts until I realised they were stretch marks that literally appeared overnight like magic. Across my thighs they were deep, painful looking scarlet scars as though I had been whipped. I looked down once when I could still see my calves and was fascinated by the fact I had a lone red tendril of stretch mark on my calf, far from my stomach that was the cause of all this. And that’s before we hit hyperemesis, SPD that literally crippled me (although I was fortunate enough to suffer no major lasting effects), gestational diabetes.

Then labour. The pain that comes with opening a portal to life, the panting, the pushing, the sweat, the blood.

Swollen breasts filled with milk. Cracked nipples. Post partum bleeding. Sleepless nights. The perfume of baby powder and newborn and underneath it all the faint sour smell of baby vomit on your shirt you didn’t notice until you were in the shops grabbing bread because – goddamn it, do we ALWAYS need bread in this house? Where does it go?

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The teething, the worry of SIDS, the baby check ups and doctors appointments, the growth charts and milestones: check, check, check…

Baby proofing and blending of foods and patience until you think you might explode from buried frustration. Endless on loop soundtracks of the Wiggles, or Thomas, or Strawberry Shortcake and barbie shoes that never seem to exist after the first five minutes of leaving their box.

Clothes and washing and which school is right? Are they happy? Are other kids mean? Is MY kid mean? Homework and more doctors visits and fever in the night that leaves you sleeping on the floor by the bed sponging a scalding forehead with a tepid cloth and praying the panadol kicks in soon.

Head lice and parent/teacher interviews and costumes and parties. Christmas presents and birthdays and school discos and is my child happy? Is he happy? And oh, my heart is breaking. And vomit buckets being emptied.

Football games and netball games and swimming lessons.

A thousand sandwiches.

Which high school? Should I let her wear make up? Is she too young? And teens with boyfriends and parties and leaving you and leaving you and leaving you. And you have to balance your protection with your need to see if she can fly. Will you fly? And heartbreaks and colds and doctors visits and the orthodontist and talent quests where she sang like an angel.

Bearing witness. Day in day out. Endless. A hundred things. A thousand memories and you are their keeper.

The hardest thing is the invisibility. Of knowing there is not a single time they will remember all of those thankless things you did because you loved them until they are the keeper of memories for their own children.

But writing them out just now, they didn’t feel like that much of a hardship after all.