Surrender to Motherhood
A friend handed me this word, scrawled on a small bit of paper, when I was nine months pregnant with my first child.
Surrender. During the 36 hour labour I think of the word often. This is the moment to learn that there are two of us in this birthing equation. I might have a carefully worded natural birth plan, but then there is embodied reality. Antibiotic drip, gas breathing, water injections, some sort of crazy heroin like thing that I can’t remember the name of, epidural, HE’S STUCK- emergency caesarean. Surrender. I did it. I got through the birth. He’s here.
Wait, there’s more?
There’s day after day of this parenting gig. Endless nappy changing, breast feeding, sleep deprivation. Logistics, so many logistics. And there are so many parents to compare myself to. Parents who keep clean houses, look like they’ve showered, have make up on! Parents who even in the early months manage to keep a part time job, cook healthy meals, watch the news. I am making less and less intelligent choices, and keep finding myself in the morning lying on the couch, boob hanging out, baby’s legs hanging off the side, with repeats of Seventh Heavenstill playing on the TV. How I wish I had babies when Netflix had been invented.
I’m trying with every inch of my being to surrender to this monotony. People tell me to enjoy the moment, to try to be present, to be grateful, that this time will go so quickly. “The days are long but the years are short”. Presence pressure is crushing me. I’m so shit at being present. I get advice to write down the little things my children do. I try to keep a journal. I found it the other day. It just has one sentence:
“Silas is 2. We had a shower together today. He asked me why I didn’t have a penis. Did a dinosaur bite it off?”
This journal sits with all the other journals I’ve started in my life. They never have more than one or two pages written in them.
I crave community and other people to enjoy my child, and soon my children, with. They are two years apart and it is tough going. We live a little bit out of the town of Kyneton and those five kilometres feel long in the early years. But there is one thing that makes me feel connected and alive and myself: throwing a big mother fucking birthday party. We have one every year, for both children. I invent crazy fantasy adventures and make family and friends dress up as characters to take the children on treasure hunts through our property.
Probably because of the emphasis I place on birthday parties, my daughter Matilda loves birthday parties more than anyone I’ve ever met. She lives in her imagination this child, her pragmatic brother does his best to rip her out of it, but she stays strong, talking to her imaginary friends and making fairy potions every chance she gets. She starts talking about her birthday parties a day after the previous birthday and asks each day how many sleeps she’s got to go. I pride myself on co-creating these events with her- they are child led experiences that celebrate her unique quirkiness and imagination.
This time, it’s her 5thbirthday- that’s a big one. It’s November and she is set to start school in a couple of months. She has decided on the theme — it’s to be an “Everything Potato Party”. She does love potatoes. She sends a brief of the cake design to her Uncle Drewe via text message- he’s a professional cake maker and she has learned that he can make anything that she requests. It’s given her a rather false view of the world. In the past she’s had a fairy princess cake and her brother once had a Spinosaurus eating an airplane. This year she takes it up a notch:
“Dear Drewe. This year I’d like an everything cake please. A pink cake with white dots. A potato on top of the cake with insects coming out of the potato. Everything on the potato: eyeballs, a wand, hair, eyelashes, poo, dog fur and grass sticking out of its bum.”
Drewe gets right onto it. Yes. I am facilitating the most child-led celebration a community could hope for. A party all about potatoes that will have a potato poo cake at its centre. I am so good at listening to the creativity of my child. Smug mother score: ten out of ten.
The day of the party arrives and we’ve done little planning. Luckily my parents are here and I put them to work on the catering. Potato salad, chips, baked potatoes, fairy bread. I have fantasy adventures to create. We make a potato crown for Matilda and one for her Grandpa Tim, who is going to play the part of ‘Everything Potato King’. We hide jacket potatoes around the property for some sort of potato adventure hunt. It’s a hectic morning and Matilda isn’t happy. She’s pulling on my dress, asking me to come to her café . Just afterthe thing I’m doing, I say. I say ‘just after’ 500 times a day. She isn’t interested in making her crown or hiding the potatoes, she wants me to sit down next to her sandpit, so she can make me some food. “Come on Matilda, you’re a big 5 year old girl now, you can help with the planning. “
The morning passes and the guests start to arrive. I don’t go to Matilda’s café, I’ve run out of time. The party rolls along without a hitch, the cake is a complete hit with kids and parents;
“how did he get that dog poo so shiny!?”
“There’s eyelashes on the side- and insects on the top!”
“Did Matilda really ask for that cake?”
“Yes,”I say proudly, “isn’t it wonderful? All Matilda’s idea.”
Everyone has a great time, besides the minor glitch where Grandpa Tim, the Everything Potato King, goes off script and develops into a scary character who threatens to rip the kids arms off if they can’t find a foil wrapped potato on their potato hunt. This is funny for everyone except one girl, who we find quietly weeping because she can’t find a potato and is scared for her limb.
The guests start to leave, only slightly grumpy that this party doesn’t have lolly bags because of the moral superiority of the mother of the birthday girl. Matilda is very sad to say goodbye to her friends and comes over to sit on my lap.
Did you have a good time? I ask her. She looks at me. She’s thinking. She doesn’t say anything when she’s processing.
“I’m not big Mummy. I’m still small.”
“Now Mummy. Will you come to my café?”
We walk over to her café table and I take my regular seat. She takes my order, chocolate balls and chai tea.
“Mummy, today would you like to make it with me?”
This isn’t usually allowed. I go over to the mud pit she’s made in the middle of the sand pit- this is where she excavates for her chocolate balls. She carefully adds water to the pit and puts her hands in. She invites me to do the same.
“Doesn’t that feel nice mummy?”
We look at each other. I drink her in. My five-year old girl.
“What do we do next?”I ask her.
“We just do this for a while Mummy. We feel it on our hands.”