This month I have interviewed a beautiful friend and mumma. She has a huge passion for mummas in the community and making sure that no one has to do this journey alone. From creating and organising mums groups to opening her house up for regular playdates and cooking meals for others, Amy is one of the most welcoming and caring people I know. During this time, although she constantly looked as calm as any other mum and with a smiling face, she was facing some huge challenges in her and her families life. There was nothing that she could do to change the situation but I wanted her to share with you about how she as a mumma and wife showed strength and courage through these struggles.
1. Apart from being a mum, what do you do with all the free time that you don’t have?
Free time…my goodness isn't that a changing concept as a mum! Call me a dag but I still love the simplicity of grabbing a great take away coffee and edible treat and wandering around nice shops outside of my local area or heading to a beach where I can look at the ocean and be reminded of just how big the world is (outside my domestic bubble!). I used to love reading a donna hay magazine here and there, but I can’t remember the last time I found time to do that! The last magazine I bought was to take to hospital when our second child Benson was born and no exaggeration, I don’t think I read it for six months…in fact…what happened to that magazine…hmm…
I've spent a lot of time the last few years helping mums find mums groups in our area in the hope that they will find the friendship and community that most mums seem to really crave. It’s been a treat to see people find that and in return I've made some amazing new friends of my own.
I also love catching up with friends for coffee, having people over, finding great food spots with dishes I’d never make at home, and eating out in general. Ok I think most of my ‘free time’ activities revolve around food!
2. Can you share with us your story of having your three beautiful children?
I feel like it’s a real privilege to be able to answer this question…the fact that we have children and there are so many who can’t, has me feeling incredibly humbled to write about our story. Craig and I had always wanted children…the negotiations for how many started long before we got married...he wanted 6…I wanted 2… we settled on 4…(not sure if we’ll get there but who knows!). After trying to conceive for some time, we were told that due to medical issues we wouldn't be able to have children. We really couldn't believe it. The grief was overwhelming and that day I felt like something in me died. There were months on end of ‘no you’re not pregnant’, ‘we need to run more tests’, so many tears, and so much heart ache. I remember feeling like my insides were screaming…“Don’t you understand I WANT A BABY!!!! I CAN’T wait another SECOND!!” This incredibly powerful maternal instinct had kicked in. There was a big void on the inside. I remember making meals for friends who’d had babies before me and just standing in my kitchen crying…not because I wasn't happy for my friends, but because we desperately wanted a family. It felt like time was passing by so fast and our opportunity was slipping away. After various IVF treatments (which can be pretty invasive in more ways than one), we finally fell pregnant with our first child. I think it took a few months for it to sink in that it was actually happening and I can’t begin to describe the happiness we felt. The day little Johnny arrived was the best day of our lives and the joy was indescribable. We were enjoying it so much that we thought, ‘we don’t know how long it’ll take to have another baby so we may as well start trying again’.
In many ways the journey to having our second became more painful and confronting than the first. Why? We had now experienced the love and joy a child had brought us and we knew what we were missing out on if this didn't work. Having Benson was taking so much longer than we thought, and after a year of IVF treatments, I had all but lost hope. Craig was confident we would have another child, but I’d allowed doubt and disappointment to totally affect me. In addition to our own battles every now and then there was the ‘trying to be helpful’ voice of a few saying… 'you should just be grateful you even have one child'...We were so grateful we had one, but one was never the dream… What used to play over in my mind was sometimes, ‘How bout you tell me your dreams and I'll pour some water on the fire that’s in your belly...’ It felt like that’s what their words were trying to do to me. I share that not because it upset me that people said it, but to illustrate that if we listen to that kind of stuff it can begin to break down our hope, allowing ourselves to be talked into settling for something we were never going to be happy with. And if you can’t dream, well, for me life would be a little lack luster. One thing I worked really hard at in this journey was not taking my pain out on my family and friends… It’s a very emotional and tiring journey and as a girl it’s easy for the emotion to affect every single area of life. I kept telling myself, ‘although my heart is breaking and I'm in pain on the inside, this is not my WHOLE life…I don’t want this to completely damage every other part of my life, especially my friendships.’ Particularly when for the most part, these people were trying to love and support me. By compartmentalizing a bit, it made every day life that bit more manageable…I grieved when I needed to (sometimes on my own and sometimes with Craig or friends), and made sure that on good days when there were plenty of wonderful things in life to enjoy, that they were my focus. (This was definitely a choice at times).
We took a few months break from it all, and with Craig’s encouragement I got my head in a better place and we continued on, and a few months later, Benson turned up. He was the happiest, most smiley baby I’d ever come across. His joyful personality was a huge blessing considering the two years that followed (more of that story later). Around 18 months later, in the middle of us having no income and a pretty crazy period, we decided to try a one-off IVF cycle…I remember saying to Craig as we drove to the clinic, “babe what are we doing? We can’t afford this!?”…he said, “We’re not going to put our lives on hold because of money; we want a legacy of children.” Um ok…yeh good point, thanks husband.
Well to our absolute surprise it worked! In the middle of the hardest years of our marriage to date, we fell pregnant, and little Ruby arrived 9 months later. And so we have three children, three little miracles. Which is just amazing to me. (And what’s crazier is that Craig started his new job the week after she was born…how’s that for timing hey?)
3. How did you see yourself as a mum before you became one?
I think for years I saw myself as a pretty domestic stay at home mum and spent a lot of time trying to picture a baby on my hip, because it was the only thing I ever wanted to do (me+studying+career focus=not my dream). My dream had always been simple, be a mum and help women in some way. In the lead up to becoming pregnant and being a mum I thought I knew what I was doing and would be totally fine. Then I had a real baby and realised I had no idea what I was doing! Thank goodness for good friends hey?
4. Can you give us three rules you made pre-mum that you have now broken? Have you stuck to any?
I'm laughing at this question before I've even started answering it, mainly because by nature I'm a bit of a rule keeper and I'm thinking, ‘only 3 pre-mum rules?’ I probably had a list a mile long! In saying that though, there have been both rules and non-negotiables...but some of my rules were:
1) I will never bribe my child to do anything…HA!! Call it what you want (incentive, encouragement, reward, motivation) but all you have to say is, “if you don’t eat all your dinner there’s no dessert”…and you've just broken your own rule. Of course breaking this rule has ended up being a positive on many occasions so I think I've decided it’s not always a bad rule to break (in the right context of course).
2) Bedtime needs to be consistent. Weave kept this one. It’s always been important to us to have some time at the end of the day to wind down and chat before we inevitably fall asleep on the couch or drag ourselves off to bed. It’s worked well for our family and we've been fortunate that my husband Craig has been in a position to be home in time for dinner and a quick rumble with the kids before their bedtime. (I take my hat off to all you mums whose husbands get home late).
3) Once the toy boxes are full, that’s it. This is one I've broken over and over. I thought it would be good to teach the kids that we don’t need every toy that the toy shop is selling, and for them to appreciate whatever they have, so my little ‘idea’ (which sounds so much nicer than a rule ha ha), was that once their toy boxes were full, if they were given new toys, then they needed to choose some toys to either give to friends or donate to charity…well…it only took one birthday and Christmas to break that rule and I've been living in a toy jungle ever since! It never hurts to start with a good theory as a parent and then change it later (?). I would actually love to implement this again one day when my brain has space for it, but for now, this rule remains broken.
5. What do you love most about being a mum?
The part about being a mum that I love the most is seeing the return of affection from my kids. All those kisses, cuddles and squeezes I gave coming back to me sincerely and unprovoked. Those cute little moist lips hitting my cheek and a quiet voice in my ear. The first time Johnny said ‘I love you mumma’, and every time since, has filled my heart and at times seems to put the whole world back into perspective. I remember when Johnny arrived, Craig used to say to me, “you’re smothering him” because I couldn't stop kissing his soft, warm, squishy cheeks till they smelt like spit…My reply was, “well I’ll smother him as long as I can until he says I can’t anymore”. Thankfully he’s now 5 ½ years old and still loves to be smothered any time day or night. You have to give it and take it whenever they’re happy to give and take it right!?!
6. What are some of your challenges as a mum?
One of my biggest practical challenges I've had as a mum is not having the support of family close by. You know, those days when you need to ‘just run to the chemist’, or ‘go get some nappies’. We all know ‘mums’ are pretty much the only people we can call on when gastro hits the house because no one else is willing to risk catching it themselves and infecting their own family! (which is understandable!). Over the years we've made some amazing friends who have become like family, so although it’s not quite the same, they have made a big difference to our life.
My personal challenges have been (and I'm still working on!!) not getting flustered too fast when things go pear-shaped, being too hard on myself that I'm not being a ‘good enough mum’, and being tired all the time (don’t think I'm alone on that one!). I realized recently I was starting to ‘feel old’, probably because of feeling so tired. We were all hanging around the pool and thanks to the inspiration of two friends and a 5 year old, I said to Craig, “do you reckon I could do a back flip into the pool?” He goes, “yeah for sure you could”…so without thinking about it for too long I did it! Felt like it took about 10 years off my mental head space. Go on…you try it…I dare you!
7. Who are your mum people and how have they influenced you as a mum?
I suppose one of the positives of having to wait a bit longer for our babies to arrive was that quite a few of our friends had had babies before us…hello there’s nothing like friends who are that bit further along the journey right? One of my friends in particular who currently lives a few hours away (how dare she ha), has walked me through the early childhood years every step of the way (in the baby days, on the phone on a daily basis!), and been an amazing sounding board to discuss any parenting topic. To be honest I'm convinced I would've found motherhood hard and scary without her.
I also have some amazing close friends who have ridden the highs and lows of our personal challenges with us while navigating our little people through it.
One of my friends who’s a bit of a ‘mumpreneur’ as they call it, has really helped me see that little people are only little for such a short time, so make the most of it and worry about achieving other things when the time is right (she’s one of those people who you can catch up with, talk for hours about dreams and aspirations over countless cups of tea, and drive away feeling completely motivated about the future, yet content in your current season…). My other mum people are definitely the beautiful mums group girls who have helped burn hours of daylight over fun weekday mornings and friendship. We all need our mum friends badly don’t we!
8. Your family experienced some tragedies and tough seasons over the last couple of years. How did you handle this as a wife and mum whilst dealing with your own emotions and heart break as well?
We have had an interesting few years. Just after Benson was born we lost my brother to suicide; a week later my husband was made redundant from his job, resulting in no family income for over 18 months, our home was robbed on Benson’s 1st birthday, lost another family member suddenly, Craig snapped his Achilles tendon, I broke my toe (twice in 8 weeks grrr), as well as lots of little things going wrong for us. It seemed like a never-ending period of hardship.
I was very aware that there were times it could be about how I was feeling and there were times it couldn't. When it came to the loss and grief I went through and the nature of those losses, I had to be really selective about my behavior around the kids. They absorb so much, and at times I had to stick my head in the pantry and have a cry or ‘go to the loo’ to let it out…they saw the grief sometimes, but they didn't need to see it all the time. Craig and I had our own ‘having a rough dad today babe’ days, and at times I had to choose to put my own challenges of the day aside and support him in his (you know, swallowing that knot in your chest and that girl in you that wants to completely blurt out exactly how she’s really feeling), and that worked vice versa between us. We shared the journey together. I guess that’s the part about marriage where you have to choose to put the other person first and consider the whole picture, not just the part about how you feel (that whole, ‘for better or for worse’ line in vows…well, we were living through the ‘for worse’ part). But we did make sure we talked often and Craig was really supportive when I felt like I was struggling, which made coping a lot easier. He had lost his own brother to suicide two years earlier, so he could certainly empathise with me.
I had plenty of moments where if I thought too long about the reality of challenges we were facing, it would become overwhelming, but I have a faith that helped me see beyond that. What I was also surprised about, was that as the challenges piled up it seemed to grow in me this determination that whatever we faced was not going to take us down, because at times it sure felt like we were fighting a losing battle.
Another thing that helped me handle things better was that we wrote down the things that were important to us on paper, and blu-tacked them in a few rooms of our house. We made sure that we were always on the same page so as a wife and mum it helped me keep a holistic view of what was going on and where we were headed (with our personal and financial goals) without drowning in the issues of the day…For example, me going grocery shopping and my stomach turning in knots and my forehead breaking into sweat as I put things in the trolley, when my head was saying, “Amy, there’s no money to pay for this.” Taking things one day at a time and maintaining perspective was never truer in my life than during these years.
9. Tell us a mum moment of yours (funniest, grossest, sweetest)
Ha well you could call this a very gross and very humbling moment in my motherhood career!! I was potty training one of my boys, and he was sitting on the toilet saying, “can you see it mum” (his #2 of course)…all of a sudden ‘it’ hit the water and toilet water splashed up between his legs and got me right in the face. I felt so special in that moment (!) I mean really…how gross is that!! Note to self…don’t stand so close to the toilet.
What would you say to a mum who is facing one struggle after another and feeling at a complete loss?
I would say with a reassuring smile on my face and a tear in my eye for your pain, ‘whatever happens girl, don’t lose sight of the dreams in your heart, they are truly unique to you and your purpose in life, and whatever circumstance you face, stare it in the eye and dig as deep as you need to, to find the determination to overcome it. There are beautiful things on the other side. (And I PROMISE you, the ‘other side’ exists…even if you can’t see it right now).’
© The Realistic Mum
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