Mother's Day - it seems like a good time to ponder motherhood. Usually on this blog I just talk about my book babies but today I thought I'd talk about my real baby. My real baby isn't a baby anymore and probably wouldn't appreciate me referring to her as such at the tender age of fifteen.
Motherhood is a very strange thing. It's only fairly recently that it's becoming a mother has become a choice. Before decent contraception most women became mothers whether they wanted to or not. In the latter part of the 20th century women in the developed world finally had the option to opt out of motherhood.
What an awesome thing that is - that ability to make a choice to determine when and how many children you can have from none to umpteen if you wish. I went to Catholic school in the 1970's and many of the kids I went to school with were the youngest of seven or eight kids. . Most of the kids I knew who were the eldest had one or two siblings. Times were changing and fast (regardless of what the Pope had to say about it).
Of course it's not that simple. (Although to be honest if you don't want kids it is pretty simple to avoid it - but I think that decision is still a tough one for a lot of women.) Plenty of women never meet a partner to have a child with or they meet them too late to safely have a child. In Australia adoption is almost non-existent in the 21st century so those people are out of options. Reproductive medicine does amazing things but not for everyone and not without cost and emotional consequence. For every story of delight, for every cute IVF baby foot I've kissed I know a woman who tried and failed. So it's not the great panacea many think it is.
I always knew I wanted to be a mum. Always. I haven't been certain of all that much in my life as I am a notorious second-guesser but that I have known down to my core. I love babies and toddlers. I'm never happier than when I'm hanging out with a baby.
When a friend has a baby I can't wait to get my hot little hands on it. I love everything about them. I know lots of people find tiny babies scary but I just find them miraculous. From their little yelping cries to their tiny feet I adore them.
I was certainly nothing but enamoured by my own little miracle when she arrived. I know part of that was because I'd been told that I wasn't going to be able to have kids. My husband and I actually had an alternative life planned out where we sold our house, bought an apartment, rented it out and moved overseas. (I didn't want to stay here and be the sad friend no one wanted to tell they were pregnant because she'd cry. I didn't want to spend my life at baby showers and christenings putting on a brave face. I didn't want to be pitied.) And then by some miracle I got pregnant and along came Charlotte.
I don't take motherhood for granted. (Have I taken my own mother for granted from time to time, for sure). I adore my fifteen year old but if I had a time machine I'd take it to spend a day with the baby version of her, and then the four year old Charlotte and then maybe six year old...well you get the idea. It does go by too quickly. Blink and you miss it.
There are women out there today longing to be mothers and for them today feels entirely hopeless and my heart breaks for them. There are women who were sure this time a year ago they'd be mothers this year and their grief is real. I don't think as a society we're especially sensitive to those women. Their sadness and struggle often makes people who have children feel awkward. Some people who "just have to look at their husband and they're pregnant" just don't even understand what that longing is like.
There isn't much one can do to solve the problem except choose our words and actions kindly. Censor your phrases like "You don't know how hard it is" around these women. Smile at your kids when they walk into the room - look like your grateful they exist, complain about Tarquin and Tania a little less loudly and a little less often. Don't ask people "when are you having your next child?" or even "When are you two having kids?" It isn't much but if it was a struggle your child was facing. as a mother, wouldn't you want people to treat them with kindness and understanding?
Is it really Monday again? Did I really not put up a single blog post in a week? I guess that's two yeses.
I'm such a slacker! (That's me in the picture!)
Lately I've had that overwhelmed and underachieving feeling. I get it every now and then and I can't quite shake it off. Sadly it doesn't spur me on to do more it just kind of immobilises me.
Little things and good intentions slip by unattended to, unfulfilled. Opportunities are squandered.
It is very annoying.
Maybe it is because the sun is finally out, after an insanely wet winter, but I feel like I started shaking that off again over the weekend. I made a few plans for myself. Plans that don't require me to work in with others and that I can quietly look forward to.
I'm a planner by nature, but I'm married to the man least likely to make a plan. His grave stone could read "Here he lies, he didn't plan to die."
Don't get me wrong I like to be spontaneous but I also like some structure. A girlfriend and I say we like "organised spontaneity". I'm happy to go off on a whim but damned if I don't want to take the bus schedule, some snacks, bandaid, some ibuprofen and a jacket just in case.
Putting a few plans in place both for my work life, my writing and my home life help.
Meanwhile I'm plugging away at Book 2 in the Upper Crust Series and deciding which book to write for NaNoWriMo in November. It will either be Book 3 in the series or the sequel to Mr Right and Other Mongrels (if you have an opnion, do let me know).
This song is very much the soundtrack in my mind at least for Book 2 in the series. So it's today's Musical Monday offering. And it really is a beautiful song.
This is my stop on the TV Done Right Blog Hope being hosted by the lovely Deb Name Krane.
I really struggled to pick a show for this. I had lots of old-school options running through my brain.
It seems like TV done right speaks to you at the age and stage you are at when it aired. Melrose Place speaks to the young single looking for love or The Gilmore Girls to the woman with kids who still wants to be smart and sassy while building a community while Buffy the Vampire Slayer makes us all want to go back to high school for a do-over, oh yeah, and to save the world while we’re there. (That was especially true when you had to wait a week for each new episode, before Netflix, pay per view and DVR players.)
I had a lot of Australian examples I considered (I’m talking about you such as A Country Practice and E-Street) but I decided I’d pick a show that everyone could relate to. Just for your information, in Australia until about ten years ago we only had four television stations. It was a safe bet whatever you were watching your friends were watching. TV unified us probably more closely than in countries with wider choice. Our programming was drawn from the UK, the USA and Australia. We got foreign shows up to six months later so we waited and sweated on those new episodes even though word had long leaked out about what happened months earlier.
In the end I’ve chosen to talk about Ally McBeal which began in 1997. My reasoning, apart from the fact I loved the show particularly in the early years is that it spoke to me at that time very loudly.
If you didn’t watch it or are too young to remember it the show centred on a young lawyer called Ally McBeal and the antics or her friends and colleagues. She started working at a law firm, Cage and Fish and discovered her ex-boyfriend and his new wife worked there also. (Awkard!)
Here are some of the reasons I loved the show:
Lots of the action of the show took place in the unisex bathrooms of Cage and Fish. At the time unisex bathrooms were quite controversial. Conversations were over heard, people emerged from cubilces and clients were frequently astounded by the mere existence of the unisex nature of the bathrooms. The truth is lots of conversations in office do take place in the bathroom, you do need to check who is in there before you open your mouth, they are both a private and a very public space. Making them unisex just brought everyone into the conversation.
Dancing babies or Ally’s imagination and having a theme song
Ally had a habit of seeing things that weren’t really there. Mild hallucinations, or too vivid an imagination that she couldn’t quite control and while she tried to work out what was real or not it made her seem a tad bizarre. I enjoyed seeing a smart successful woman with an under-current of quirky imagination and it was a good reminder that even as we nod and smile we may be off in another place all together (By the way they use this device in very popular Australian series Offspring.)
One of the ideas that haunted Ally was the need to have her own theme song and she struggled to find it. It was a problem that plagued here through legal cases, friendship dramas and a string of boyfriends (hello Robert Downey Jnr!) She was changing so pinning down just one song was too hard. I am still trying to find my own theme song.
The bar downstairs
These lucky characters worked in a law firm in Boston with a bar downstairs. It was pre-karaoke so they sometimes just stormed the stage and started singing. I loved the idea that at the end of the day these people, who were very quirky and flawed got together and had some fun.(There was also a regular singer at the bar Vonda Shepherd who appeared every week)
This show had a rich cast of odd ball characters. I loved Richard Fish with his unique language and cadence and his penchant for older women. The Biscuit aka John Cage was a really fun, and somewhat absurd character and while I his improbable love for Ally was hard to watch sometimes he was smart and funny and despite his weirdness was always included in the group.
Work was fun
This show made going to work in a boring office job look like it was actually pretty fun. That’s probably why it spoke to me, I’d not long left college and I was growing up. I wanted to work with my friends, have our own language (Bygones anyone?) and go out drinking after work. It was a show about grown-ups doing a grown up job and yet it was sometimes hard to spot an adult in the room. That’s why the show worked. Ally and her colleagues were much crazier than the rest of us but what they were going through and struggling with was what most of us in our 20’s at the time were dealing with – office politics, friendship, romance and finding your place.
I don’t think Ally McBeal stands the test of time as well as some shows but for it’s time it was fun, it was innovative and it read it’s audience really, really well.
P.S Apologies that the post isn't very visual. We lost power in a storm and unfortunately the library internet is rather unreliable.
In honour of my novella release this week I thought I would share a recipe for an Australian meat pie with you.
I think most countries or cultures have some form of a pie or pasty be it an empanada , a Cornish pasty or a pot pie.
In Australia we have local cake shops in every suburb that sell meat pies and sausage rolls. They are the ultimate take-away food. Long before the Colonel, Golden Arches or various pizza chains graced our shores in the 1970's this was the food we ate. We enjoy them at sporting events in the same way an American might have a hot dog.
(My dad has a sister who lives in LA. When they come to Australia my mother gets out the good silver and serves up Aussie meat pies to them at the dining room table. It's the sort of food you dream about when you are far, far away.)
In Any Way You Slice It, Piper the main character has a chain of food trucks that sell only pies and while she serves a variety of flavours, the classic meat pie is the corner stone of her business.
This is a family pie that I make in a family sized pie plate but it can also be made as 4 individual pies if you have individual pie plates. This is one of my daughter's family favourites.
Australian Meat Pie - serves 4
1 quantity of shortcrust pastry or one pie shell (I'll post my recipe soon)
2 small or 1 large onion diced
500g beef mince
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons of soy sauce
1 beef stock cube
2 cups hot water
2 tablespoons cornflour
2 tablespoons water (extra)
1 sheet puff pastry
1 egg yolk.
1. Heat oil in pan and add onions, cook stirring until soft. Add mice, cook stirring until browned.
2. Stir in sauces, stock cube and water (I dissolve the stock cube in water first) simmer 15 minutes. Stir in cornflour and extra water. Stir over high heat until it boils and thickens. Cool.
3. Grease a pie plate with butter or olive oil and roll pastry to fit pie plate. Cover pastry with baking paper, fill with dried beans or pie weights and bake in moderate oven 8 minutes. remove beans and cook a further 8 minutes.
4. Fill pie shell with meat mixture. Brush edges or pastry with egg yolk and press puff pastry on top. Cut to fit. You can use any scraps to decorate. Brush pie with more egg yolk. Bake in oven 20-25 minutes until golden.
Don't forget Any Way You Slice It, An Upper Crust Novella will be out later this week.
I don't usually do personal posts but today I am making an exception.
My daughter was born fourteen years and one day ago.
Everyone talks about the memories of the day their child was born which, of course, is a huge day. There is so much anticipation, so much waiting and then what an outcome! I have lots of memories of the day she was born and like many children she loves that story and it has been oft repeated.
Where my waters broke (hardware store), how we then went to the hospital and they said I had to go for a walk to start labour (didn’t help), how we went out to dinner (still no action), how we watched Forrest Gump on the television (that’s why she liked Bubba Gump’s restaurants in America), how I spent the night alone at the maternity ward (super weird). She knows she was born at 6pm and that she was just over 6 pounds. She knows that I was in the shower when my parents arrived and that my husband had her tiny little self wrapped so tight my mother thought she’d been born without legs (probably would have mentioned that on the phone). She knows who visited that night (my folks and my sister and her husband and her 3 month old cousin) and she knows that I simply couldn’t sleep because I had to keep looking at her – and her legs of course.
So that was an amazing day twenty four hours.
This however is the story of the day after she was born which I will always remember as one of the loveliest days of my life. (Let’s face it the result is fabulous but lovely isn’t a phrase I would use to describe labour).
Before I go on, you need some background. I only have one child. I refer to her as my miracle. The miracle is not in her ongoing fabulousness but in the fact she exists at all. After a period of time best forgotten, I was told more than likely I wasn’t going to be able have kids. This was devastating for me, because I absolutely, one hundred percent wanted them. It was even more devastating because my husband is a kid magnet. He’s never met a kid he didn’t want to dangle by their ankles, chase around the yard or give a piggy back to. (In fact, true story, when we visit friends with small children they’re pretty sure he’s only come over to play with them, and so are their parents). So I layered that on the already large mound of Catholic guilt and sadness.
We were so convinced that we weren’t having them that we had a plan B which was fully worked out and involved moving to Europe (partly so I didn’t have to watch all my friends have kids). At the time we didn’t tell many people because it was sad and depressing and that’s not who we are. (And to be honest couldn’t discuss it without crying) And then we got pregnant and it was amazing. That euphoria was followed by the pregnancy from hell. The first twenty plus weeks carrying a plastic bucket everywhere and the last eight weeks, having Braxton Hick’s contractions every 10 minutes.
What we knew then were two things. I wasn’t good at getting pregnant or being pregnant. Still, we didn’t care because we were going to have a baby and we knew the odds were we were only having one so damn if we weren’t going to be grateful.
Anyway the day after my baby was born I sat in the hospital holding this perfect little human and waited. I waited for visiting hours because I knew that people were coming. I knew that the minute they could there would be people bursting through that door to meet her. It wasn’t about me (maybe a little) but it was about her.
And I wasn’t disappointed. There was my friend Kylie who waited with her face pressed to the glass of Australia’s fanciest baby shop till they opened to buy her the perfect outfit (which I still have), there was another friend who brought the baby some divine hot-pink sunglasses (which we still have) because what day old baby doesn’t need sunnies? There was my grandmother who came with my aunt and my 11 year-old cousin, who co-incidentally I had been a nanny for years earlier (which fed my love of infants). My grandmother was just shy of 90 at the time and lucky for us it was a lovely, tiny baby that even frail old ladies could lift and carry. Lucky for us it was a pretty big room. It even had a rocking chair nanna sat in to cuddle the baby.
You get the idea. And still they kept coming. School friends, college friends, relatives…
That tiny little human got handed to everyone in the room. She didn’t cry and she didn’t fuss and (neurotic mother of only child that I am) I was deliriously happy about that.
Some of the faces are a little blurry now, but the feeling and certain moments of that day shine like crystal in my memory. It was a day of love and joy. It was a welcoming to the human race. It was a celebration of her arrival. It was a show of community.
It was love.
I’ve always felt that day stamped the way that the people in our lives would treat her. Almost without exception the people in that room are still in our lives. Almost without exception their faces still light up at the sight or the mention of her. Many of them acknowledged her birthday yesterday.
Some of those people even though they’re in their forties and she certainly isn’t she describes as friends even now.
You can’t protect your child from the pains of growing up. You can’t stop the bullies or the mean girls. You can’t make their decisions for them and you certainly can’t change them (even if you wanted to).
For me knowing that however the rest of the world treats her she was welcomed in a circle of love has always given me strength and comfort, hopefully for her it’s done the same.