You’d think I’d be getting used to my girls growing up because they all are. I just filled out the form for baby girl to go to kindy yesterday. Kindy!!! Next year. Next year just isn’t so far away.
I’ve never been much of a motherhood planner. I have liked to say that having four children is far more to do with a lack of planning than a great life plan. I’m finally getting that there is no plan. Except this one. The one that’s playing out now. I do not doubt I was meant to have four children, but I will admit being taken aback sometimes at how it all came to be.
Number 2 came along unplanned. Her father and I had been together for a bit over a year I think (oh dear it gets a blurry all this time later) and he was working away. He was excited. I was hideously nauseated (it seemed to get worse with every pregnancy) and spent a lot of time on the floor with my head on the carpet praying to feel better soon. I was living on my family farm and running our tourism business, so for the most part I just had to get my shiz together and entertain people, clean accommodation, run activities for school groups, make lots of muffins and salads for BBQs and generally be a fully functioning domestic goddess and farm girl all rolled into one. My biggest girl was 7 and fairly self-contained. She played a lot with the chooks, ate well, went to school happily and went bed easily.
The night before my number 2 was born we hosted a dinner in our shearing shed for 150 people – astronomers mostly – on tour to explore the Midwest for the SKA (square kilometre array) project (read massive radio telescope in the outback). It was the 29th July and she was due on the 30th July. We had filled the Shed with wildflowers, local Aboriginal history and artefacts, our family farming history and caterers, tables, food and drink. Late in the night, one of the guests (who I’m thinking was an astrologer rather than an astronomer, or perhaps a bit of both) put both hands on my massively massive 39.9 week pregnant belly and said “oh you still have a while to go my darling”. I recall wanting to snot her, or burst into tears, but instead I bravely carried on.
In the morning, we started the big clean up and conveniently in the middle of that I went into labour. It was a 1.5 hour drive to the hospital and my only memory was being on my hands and knees in the back of the car about 5 minutes from the hospital saying “I don’t care what you say; her middle name is going to be Honey!” Her middle name is Honey.
After the beautiful hippie fest that was my biggest girl’s home-birth, the hospital birth 7 years later was a bit of shock. Not so much the hospital. The midwives were lovely and respectful of my requests for no drugs and natural delivery of the placenta and I had my husband and 2 beautiful friends there. The shock was just that it hurt so fucking much, and I have always been a super brave kind of person and it fucking hurt. My biggest girl stayed until close to the birth and then she went off with her Nan because she’s never seen me wild eyed like that. And I was totally QUIET. Not peaceful quiet, but the kind of quiet where if I spoke I would have said “Give me some fucking drugs and cut this baby out of me”. And then she was born, and that bit was and always is amazing.
John Butler played that night at a local pub, and he played “Peaches and cream“. My friends who were at the birth went. This song will forever be her song. I’m not she even knows that.
I left the hospital after less than 24 hours. I was home at the farm when she was 4 days old planting trees with a group from TAFE with her in the sling. I imagined that she would just fit into this life that I had crafted like my biggest girl had and I would be this glowing hippie mum with a 7 year old and baby living her life in the bush with her man and her family. She wasn’t up for that plan. My number 2 had colic. Or something. I’m not sure I even know what colic is, even though I read everything I could find on it and tried every remedy possible for the 6 months after she was born that she cried and screamed for hours every evening and would NOT SLEEP. During the day. At night. In the car. In the pram. Ever.
Sometimes I look at the photos of that time and see this woman and I cannot remember ONE THING about her. Auto-pilot central. The business ran, and the people who came I would say would never tell you that they weren’t looked after. A few wise older women (whose children had long left the nest) would look into my shadowy eyes and ask if I was OK, and I would brightly smile and tell them I was fine and we just needed a bit more sleep. I remember understanding how people hurt their babies. I got good at walking away sometimes, just for ten minutes to breathe, and then coming back to smell her baby head and rock. Almost catatonically. But rock we would. For hours if we needed.
And then one day, about 4 years later, it got easier. She slept. I didn’t work all the time. We lived in town where there was day-care and gymnastics and dancing classes and friends with kids who didn’t live a minimum of a 45 minute drive away. And I got to appreciate her spirit. Her strength, the way she would not settle for what she didn’t like. How she always knew what she wanted to wear and eat and do. How clever her little athletic, energetic body was. How she needed less daily sleep than my biggest girl. Her style. Her. And I got excited about what it was like to have more than one child, and the possibilities of them. And for the first time ever I wanted to have more children. And that’s how Number 3 came to be.
Number 2 is 11 now. She is still all of those things. She’s also a big sister, a carer and a mother hen of baby girl. She fights with Miss Moo, but then right now we all do because she’s 6 and she’s….well 6. She adores her biggest sister, like worship. Her athletic energetic body loves to dance and do gymnastics and jump on the trampoline doing tricks. She still has her own clothing style, and her room style and loves to play imaginative games where she’s a grown up. Usually a teacher in knee high boots with lots of paperwork and clip boards and she gets to boss the ‘children’ around firmly, and clip-clop around in the driveway. She’s still a child. But then she’s 11 and she has booby buds and pimples and moods and eye-rolling and exasperation that I do not get her. When she was a baby and wouldn’t stop screaming I wanted her to grow up so much. Now she’s 11 I like that she is still a child. But in reality she’s teetering on the edge of the next bit.
Number 2 is 11.