Trying to hang onto the tiny moments

xav july 2017

I’m so scared I will forget the countless precious moments floating in and out of my day.

I read an article ‘Don’t let me forget their littleness’ and wanted to capture just a little of my own sense of awe and fear.

Each night at home I have this perfect moment, it’s all mine and his. He’s just finished his last feed of the day and has drifted off to sleep in my arms. At the end of his last sip he turns his little head and nestles into my chest some more. I run my finger over his pink, round cheeks and his skin feels so soft. Please don’t let me forget this feeling.

I then wrestle with this perfect moment and selfishly want to keep him in my arms, especially if the day has been hard, but I know I need to put him to bed as quickly as I can. I’ve learnt the hard way through previous failures that I have at most a five minute window before the noise of the house will wake him. I want to remember that sensation of selfishness and keeping him in my arms.

I often wish I’d chosen a more useful path in life, like a nurse or teacher, but now I sometimes feel that breast feeding has given me a chance to feel like someone who has a purpose. This reflection comes with no judgement; breast feeding has been the biggest challenge of the last eight-and-a-half months, but I never want to forget those moments.

Our bald little baby has also started to grow hair. I tell him, he was in such a hurry to come out he forgot to pack some, but now delicate, feathery little strands of mostly blonde hair are growing across his head. I want to remember his bald baby head and not forget how his baldness made him look more surprised.

Right now he has the happiest gummy smile, but even as I write this a big, bad tooth is forcing its way through his bottom gums. Please don’t let me forget the most incredible smile I have ever seen.

He’s more and more starting to really reach for my attention and this week has handed me books, I’m sure he doesn’t understand what you do with books, but he seems to know I want him to pay attention to them and likes to look at my face as I read them to him.

We were able to spend some time with my parents over the weekend. Watching the joy on their faces as he slobbered all over them, and they promised to fill him up with ice cream and biscuits is something I never want to forget.

All the moments from the first gurgle or cry of the morning, watching him eat normal food and try different flavours, wrestling him to sleep when he is so tired he is cranky, watching him trying to crawl and trying to stand up, playing and singing and swinging him in my arms as we dance. All moments I try and score in my memory in the hopes of not forgetting.

It seems a paralysing joy, but at night when I go to bed I’m grateful for every moment, but scared I’ll forget all that happened.

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Why midwives should be celebrated

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Our whole experience with midwives from pregnancy to our baby’s arrival has been wonderful.

During the pregnancy our midwife was reassuring and patient and would let me listen to the baby’s heart beat whenever I needed to make sure everything was ok in there.

One of the greatest joys in the early months was thanks to her suggestion, as she pressed her monitor into my belly and explained what we were hearing she said why don’t you record this on your phone.

It was one of the most miraculous sounds and made me cry, she let me know it was a good, strong heart beat and all was well. My husband was away at the time and I was able to send it to him, and I know he shed a tear or two as well.

She was the one my husband called when my waters broke and calmly told him to take me to the hospital and the baby was on the way.

From the moment we arrived at the Maternity Ward we were treated with the kindest and best of care.

Over the next couple of days through the birth and short stay in hospital, I met the most incredible women.

All had special stories, some had had worked in remote locations around Australia, some had worked overseas and some had dedicated their lives to the Mums and Bubs of the New England North West.

And I loved hearing their stories, funny moments and great distractions from a long labour, and some tender reflections of how much these women love the mothers and babies in their care.

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There was hand holding and support, but there was also critical decision making when things were not going so well.

And they were there for me; I knew I was safe and I knew they were checking on Bub.

I don’t know if I’ll ever have the words to express my gratitude to these wonderful women, but I will be forever grateful.

On International Midwives Day, I just wanted to celebrate the incredible midwives in our community and say THANK YOU!

AFLW makes its mark

headerLast night my husband bounded into the lounge room, (after a 40 degree day that much enthusiasm was exciting to see) he grabbed the tv controls and said “the footy is on”.

Like a bear coming out of hibernation, he had awoken as his beloved AFL returned to his tv screen.

And what a cracker of a game it was, the inaugural AFL Women’s game between Collingwood and Carlton and it was brutal, fierce and skillful.

We’d missed the first quarter and by the time we tuned in the crowd was howling with excitement.

Twitter was telling us the game was a ‘lock out’ and disappointed fans were sharing photos on social media

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While another part of Australia was waiting to watch two 40 something year old men two-step around a boxing ring, some literal knock-outs were happening at Ikon Park.

In the second quarter former Matildas goal keeper and W-League star and now Carlton midfielder, Brianna Davey was involved in a tackle on Collingwood midfielder Emma Grant. Grant had to be assisted off the field and took no further part in the game after failing a concussion test.

Thumping tackles were a constant of the game with dislocated shoulders and bleeding cuts above the eye forcing other players from the field.

Davey had a stellar game, 26 disposals and a goal in the 11th minute of the third quarter.

It was a goal that showed how years of being one Australia’s best soccer goal keepers had perfectly prepared her for ALF; taking an easy catch in safe hands, she then lined up the posts and connected her boot perfectly with the ball.

Off the field a shocked looking AFL CEO, Gillon McLachlan spoke to fans outside the park apologising for having to lock the gate as the stadium was full.

Even during sideline interviews with the 7 tv team, he seemed overwhelmed by the scale of the crowd response.

The stand out player of the game was Carlton’s marquee signing, 23 year old Darcy Vescio with four goals and the love of the crowd.

She owned the field and looked unstoppable.

It was Carlton’s game 1.5.11  7.4.46, but a special piece of history belongs to Collingwood’s Jasmine Garner who kicked the first goal of the game and AFLW competition.

After the game the ‘kick to kick’ was brilliant, hundreds of fans ran on and the post match interviews were all the more interesting as onlookers tried to get their mugs on tv.

During those interviews it was a simple question from 7’s Samantha Lane that landed like thud, and brought the star of the game Vescio back to reality.

“How will you go back to sign writing after this, you’re a sign writer right?” (according to Wikipedia Vescio is graphic designer and created the Carlton women’s team inaugural guernsey)

Vescio paused “.. yeah I don’t know”

And there was the not at all subtle reminder of the constant battle for equality for these players.

I don’t know if it was a calculated question from Lane, but yep, after proving their abilities and tasting life as professional athlete, all these incredible women will head back to work after this seven week season, and I suspect many will work through the small season.

Here’s how the pay scale works the top two players on each team get about $25,000 for the season, and then $10,000 for high profile players and $5,000 for every one else, while in comparison it’s been reported that the average salary for a male ALF player is $300,000.

The tv, radio, and online coverage of the game has been great and I hope the rest of the season receives the same attention.

Lots of sports women around Australia were watching the game last night, some envious of the results-

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Hopefully with results like this for AFLW, other codes will start to see the value of marketing and promoting more women’s sports.

I’m yet to decide on an AFLW team to support, but the bear that has just awoken from hibernation has suggested that in this Sydney Swans house Carlton is not a good choice,

So I’m off now to try and figure out why the Sydney Swans don’t have a women’s team?

Hold them close

nappiesThis week after talking to our community health nurse I stopped the very early morning feed with my three month old.

Xavier’s weight and growth are progressing well, but with one less feed I was also advised to increase his afternoon and evening feeds to make sure he was still getting enough milk.

It’s made a world of difference to me; it’s the first time in three months I’ve been able to sleep for more than four hours, although I still wake up, turn on the torch light app on my phone and check he is ok.

One of the comforts during those late night feeds and even after a torch lit check has been reading the posts on my mother’s group face book page.

Knowing they are up bleary eyed like me, with exhausted limbs in dimmed lighting, feeding or just in a sleep deprived mesmerised state starring at their babes somehow made me feel part of some kind of privileged world.

I also found another comfort from the realisation that thousands and thousands of women across Australia were going through the same love soaked sleep battles.

My husband and I quietly celebrated this three month anniversary with a hug and were grateful we reached the milestone in good health and without too many fights, and while we shared that moment a family in another part of Australia was told their three month old had been taken from them.

Watching the news from the Melbourne Bourke Street tragedy has been more like a nightmare. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-01-23/bourke-street-melbourne-3-month-old-victim-identified/8205856

I’ve cried quiet tears and held on to my three month old even more tightly and can barely imagine the unrecoverable heart break.

Next week I’ll hold Xavier in my arms as I take him to his first swimming lesson and Gymbaroo class, while this Mother I grieve for in Melbourne will be without her cherished treasure.

There isn’t a part of my life that isn’t filled with Xavier at the moment; when I wake up my breasts are heavy with the milk my body has been making to feed him, there are soft fabric reading books on our coffee table, teething rings in the freezer ready to go for any emerging tooth and bills and Medicare paperwork to complete, and I can’t bear to imagine any of that taken away from me.

A support fund for the families has been established, I don’t know what good money will do for them but I hope it helps.

The details are: Westpac Banking Corporation, Bourke Street Fund, BSB 033 009 and account number 668251 or via the website:www.vic.gov.au/bourkestreet.html.

I’ll pray and shed more tears for this family and their child, and hold my Xavier all that much closer.

The most incredible thing

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So, the most incredible thing has happened.

On the 21st of October something I only dreamed of, something my heart hoped for, but something my brain always told me to try and keep grounded about happened.

Like so many people, we’d been trying for a few years and the fear and finality of the journey were always caught in my throat.

But our little man arrived safe and well and beautiful (I guess all mums say that don’t they) and now we never want to stop holding him.

I remember so clearly the night he was born; staying awake till the morning, keeping one hand on him to make sure his chest was still rising up and down as his first breaths rushed through his little lungs and to make sure I could feel the tiny pulse of his heart beating as he gently settled into the world.

I watched and watched and from time to time his fragile eyelids snuck open to try and understand what was happening, sometimes he made funny little gurgles, or sucked on his bottom lip or grabbed onto my finger so tight; but mostly he was quiet and just nestled into my chest or the blankets in his cot.

The beating of my own heart that night felt like a huge grandfather clock and the tick-tock so heavy and loud I thought for sure it would keep him awake.

I look at him now and know that I love being his Mum. I know the shapes his face makes as he tries to wake up, the dark grey ring around his big blue eyes, the dark blue veins that run under his fair hair and skin so pale it’s like Irish Belleek China. I know the size of his ears and the little rolls of skin that fold on his neck. I know how his second toe is longer than his big toe (like his Dad). I know he has little muscles in his arms like an AFL player and I know he gets little boogers in his nose that nearly block his whole nostril.

I know his eyes so well, but most of the time I struggle to understand what they are trying to tell me, or what the tears mean. It’s those eyes that stay in my mind as I lie in bed at night, what are they trying to communicate and what do they need?

I find myself crying most days. Is it a form of post natal depression? I have no idea. But a lot of the time they are happy tears, happiness so big that it takes over my breathing, swells in my throat and clouds my eyes.

I cry over beautiful songs that now seem to have new meaning and even news stories that break my heart. Before I would watch tv news bulletins and listen to radio news and either think or talk about the different stories, or even laugh or complain about something stupid that was in or a part of the story. Now so many of the stories are too sad or horrible to listen too.

Will all this increased sensibility go away? Who knows? I’m not the first and won’t be the last mother to feel all awash in a sea of emotions.

It has changed the way I feel about my Mum and what she much went through. The sacrifices she made and the lack of support.

From the terrible conditions at the hospital where one nurse instead of giving her the gas to help reduce the pain of childbirth instead sucked it down for himself, the lifelong damage and pain a badly inserted epidural caused and no support whatsoever with breast feeding.

I know we’re incredibly lucky to have received the support we did from the wonderful midwives at Tamworth Base Hospital.

For years I found it so difficult to listen to interviews or read articles about people trying to have babies, and acknowledge the at times overwhelming pain those commentaries caused, so I’m sharing this only to tell a little personal story of what the last 12 weeks have been like.

So, the most incredible thing happened, I became a Mum, my husband became a Dad, we became parents, our little family of two grew into three and it has changed everything.

Buried Country

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The Tamworth Country Music Festival to me is so many things, but this year it has been one of the most moving.

In the blur of the festival I received an invitation that I didn’t pay any attention to, I had my radio brain on and this just didn’t fit into my plans.

During the week I had been trying to cover a lot of the stories from the Aboriginal Showcase and had the chance to interview the Brisbane band Mop and The Dropouts, and suddenly one plus one became two and I went back and re-read the email invitation.

So just an hour before the ‘open-rehearsal’ gig started I grabbed my long suffering husband and dragged him to a suburban part of town.

There tucked away in a side street we stepped into a small crowded studio, Paul Kelly is stretched out on the floor, Catherine Britt is sitting cross legged tapping away, Leah Flanagan is sitting down gently swaying to the music and Roger Knox is tapping his feet.

The Buried Country House Band has invited some of the nation’s great Aboriginal artists to perform a few tunes.

Warren H Williams is playing and before his next tune, he talks about the faded painted back drop of gum trees on a starry night; it was a place he says he first recorded ‘It’s Raining On The Rock’ with John Williamson, and he starts to play the tune.

Just outside the open studio door in hushed voices author Clayton Walker and musician Lawrie Minson are catching up for the first time in 30 years.

It’s sticky and hot inside as the evaporative air conditioner struggles to keep up with the odd humidity of Tamworth this summer, a studio full of people and the front door constantly opening and closing as more and more people come and go.

I grab a quick chat with Clinton Walker outside in the heat as the music continues inside.

He is overwhelmed by how it has all come together as he moves from adapting his book ‘Buried Country’ from CD to a stage show.

Driven by nervous energy and an insatiable curiosity he says it’s all about the story telling and it’s always been a part of his life,

“Growing up under Joh BjelkePetersen inculcated this politicisation that I didn’t think at the time, back in those days hanging out with the Go Betweens who would share the stage with Mop and The Dropouts, and we would all get busted and that was the scene and I have been there ever since,”

As we talk I can hear the powerful, tormented and aching voice of Leah Flanagan singing Bob Randall’s ‘Brown Skinned Baby’.

“Next year is the 50th anniversary of the referendum and bringing all those stories together will be something I hope to do” Clinton says as he explains his plans for the gathering.

“We’ve been deep in the music game and this sort of music, is music that is as great as stuff that is really popular, I’m not trying to be disingenuous, you can’t buy a hit, but if you do things with the right heart – you might get there,” he says.

He hopes to tour the show with the Buried House Band and vary the talent from place to place, showcasing musicians who have not been celebrated and include new young talent.

Back in the studio Frances Peters-Little walks to the chair in the centre of the studio, a buzz in the aging equipment catches her off guard as she talks about singing her father’s song ‘Yorta Yorta Man’.

It’s a calm and peaceful interpretation of a song so many people watched the great Jimmy Little perform on stage and brings a few tears to the eyes of the small audience.

Armidale’s LJ Hill is next and shares an emotional memory of his mother and praises the legend of Roger Knox who humbly waves away the accolade.

His beautiful song ‘Pretty Bird Tree’ echoes around the room as he shares the story of the Namoi River.

I really hope all Australians get a chance to see what we saw.

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the beginning

sunriseIn radio you learn to tell a story in 40 seconds, then social media comes along and you learn to tell a story in 140 characters.

For so many years I’ve been condensing stories, journeys and emotions, I’d now like to try turning my hand to writing for a little longer.

So I thought I could use just a little space to look a bit deeper, peer in behind the scenes and share some of the things that seem to end up being forgotten.

From news, to sport, people who are just amazing and whatever else comes my way, I’m excited about the chance to explore words again.

Often under pressure to pump out around 500 words, smash out the newsworthy quotes and get the story online, I wonder what is left behind? What is forgotten? What is overlooked? So maybe I can spend some time exploring the forgotten space and finding some of the lost yarns.

From the space I’m currently spending time in around the New England and North West of New South Wales to my home town of Sydney and to wherever the journey takes us.

Reflecting on extraordinary people leading change, those who pursue their passion like an art form, some of the unusual things people say and do and even inside peculiar conversations; I think we’ll find plenty of paragraphs.

So it’s just a beginning and who knows where it will go, I just hope my little laptop and country internet connection are up for it!

(the photo is a sunrise over Walcha taken by Alastair Rayner)