David Bowie is a lyrical genius. This song in particular is getting serious airplay on my iPhone lately. Probably because in the past few weeks (actually, the past few years), I’ve had quite a few big changes that have left me happy and sad and all the colours in between.
Sadly or not so sadly, depending on how you look at it, change is inevitable. It will keep you on your toes, and often the best way to deal with it is to roll with it. To face it and change with it. (I could add that in an embarrassing mondegreen I also thought Bowie was saying that he couldn’t change time, which makes a lot more sense to me than the actual lyrics of trace time, but I won’t go there.)
So, what’s been happening around here that’s left me feeling all sentimental and soppy? The end of an era, really. It feels like the interval between primary school and high school, or high school and whatever came after it for you (university for me), or the end of university and entering the big bad real world. It’s moving countries or leaving lovers. It’s the old bitter-sweet grief for the past, the good and bad bits of it, and anticipation and hope for what lies ahead. It’s the end of maternity leave as I’ve known it.
The past nine or so months have flown by in a sleep-deprived, tea- and chocolate-fuelled, walking, swimming, TV series haze. Through this time, I’ve done a lot, but not done half of what I had planned.
I think of the gardening I didn’t do, the renovations that still need doing, the stories and blogs I didn’t finish (or even start), the business I never set up, the university work I didn’t revise, the baking that never happened, the new recipes I didn’t master, the books I didn’t read, and the TV series I never watched.
I had high hopes for maternity leave and now it’s drawing to a close, I’m going to miss it.
I hear the theme song to Downton Abbey and get sentimental flashes of sitting on the fit ball, bouncing and singing Little Red to sleep, or curling up on the couch for a break while she naps, sipping a cup of tea and inhaling a lactation cookie or four as I watch Mary rebuff her latest suitor.
Now the weather is cooling again, I sit on the deck with a blanket around my shoulders and write this, remembering the mornings I meditated out here, all rugged up in the winter sunshine, while Little Red napped.
I think of writing at my desk, sometimes alone, sometimes with Little Red snuggled into my chest with me typing one handed before I resorted to playing nursery rhymes on YouTube to entertain her because I was too tired to do anything else.
I think of those first few days of breastfeeding awkwardness and agony before we gelled. And I think of the hours I’ve spent feeding her, in the morning with my mum sitting beside me, drinking tea, knitting and watching ABC News; in the afternoons at mother’s group or watching The Chase; at dinner time as I shovelled dhal or salad into my mouth with a spoon, trying not to drop too much on the baby as I balanced her on one side; and in bed as my eyes involuntarily closed no matter what time of the night it was, and I’d wake minutes or hours later, Little Red asleep in my arms, my boobs hanging out, my chin on my chest, my neck and back aching.
As the girls in my mothers’ group and I have started carving out time for ourselves and creating lives that no longer revolve entirely around nappies, feeding and sleep (actually, food and sleep are still high on the list), our catch ups are becoming fewer and far more inbetween. And it’s not just the excuse for a chai latte and sweet treat I’m missing.
These beautiful, intelligent, loving, creative, clever, strong and resourceful women, whom I met when Little Red was just six weeks old, and I bonded over milky vomit, breastfeeding and wind woes, pelvic floor discomfort, swaddling dilemmas and sleep deprivation (ours and our babies’). We all had the same shell-shocked look in our eyes at the start, and I think we all experienced sheer panic and overwhelm at the responsibility before us. We fumbled and felt our way through those first few weeks and months, gradually growing in confidence and supporting each other in times of self doubt. And now we are gradually taking small steps away from each other as our lives change and grow in new ways.
A few weeks ago, Little Red started going to daycare. I spent the first day she was there in a confused blur of conflicting emotion. I felt the first real sense of freedom and independence I’d felt in almost a year. That mingled with an overwhelming, niggling feeling that I’d forgotten something really important, like my arm or leg or phone. This was coloured by a sense of love, yearning and loss, like those pangs of heartbreak you experience when you get unceremoniously dumped in high school. I was surprisingly a little teary that first day, but I kept busy by painting the kitchen ceiling, seeing a movie and getting a massage. I fought picking her up early and went for a walk instead. And when I did collect her, I hugged her hard and smothered her with kisses until she went to bed.
Little Red seems to be thriving at daycare and the staff there are lovely. But each day she is there, I fight the mother guilt that I should be more of a 1950s-style housewife, content with household duties, baking and childrearing (I’m sure my boy would like this too). This is oh so not who I am. Instead, with some time to myself, I’m a happier, slightly more balanced me, with more love and patience to share around.
I have postponed my return to work for a few months, so I can I finish the final semester of my course (yay!). I feel more and more like pre-baby me, just with more to do each day. My brain is very slowly catching up. When I finish my course at the end of May, there will be even more changes afoot. I’m not sure what shape these will take yet, but I’m sure they’ll be as exciting and amazing as I make them.
And that’s the thing. Change can be good or bad, depending on how you view it and what you make of it. We are programmed to change and progress. If we weren’t, if we never, ever changed, we’d still be living in caves or roaming the wide, open spaces and sleeping under bushes. Granted, not all progress has been for our benefit (hello nuclear weapons) but most of it has, on a physical, emotional, spiritual or mental level (or some combination of any or all of these).
Change makes you who you are. You can fight it all you want, but change will happen, and really, like fighting a rip in the ocean, it’s so much easier to just go with it, to even encourage it, so you can keep breathing, keep living. And I for one quite like my cushy bed and four walls. Don’t you?