My Child is an Explorer.

If my hunch is correct, and I think it just might be, then I need to get comfortable with the idea of raising an extroverted child. I remember realising I was an introvert and feeling like ‘oh yeah, that’s it, that’s me’. I think it’s only natural to assume you’re going to have a kid that’s just like you. I mean, who else do you know as well as yourself?

Haha, how wrong can you be.

This child is an adventurer. He is bold and fearless. A born explorer. He lights up around people; smiling at strangers on the street, chatting with the man in the chemist or the woman in the bank or the little girl in the doctors waiting room. He loves nothing more than being outside, unrestrained and wildly free. He’s only 11 months young and I am already in awe of the ways he pushes himself, determined to a fault, perhaps. 

No doubt I will find the endless chatter hard. It already is and he can’t form actual words or pose impossible existential questions yet. The need to turn every possible item into a drum and drumstick, creating deafening but hearty ‘music’, seems to be an early and easily mastered skill to him. I might run ragged chasing him up the stairs, or lose the plot trying to change the nappy of a never-not-moving baby but I hope that I can find the patience to understand that we are different and that’s ok. I hope he learns the same.

Of course, things change as they are wont to do. Perhaps he will become a shy five year old or a timid eight year old, or a borderline hermit in his middle age. I doubt it but, you know, perhaps, perhaps, perhaps. 

I hope that I can always meet him where he is and let him know that as long as he’s doing his best, then he’s doing pretty ok.   

Indigo + Shibori with Kathryn Davey

When Tadhg was six months old I left him (in the capable hands of his dad, not, like, on the street) for an afternoon of alchemy. I joined Kathryn Davey and a group of equally eager women (and one man!) to learn the art of shibori folding and indigo dyeing.

Kathryn lead us through the simple steps of setting up the dye bath as she poured mystical sounding powders into a vat of water. We followed her hands as she folded simple cotton offcuts this way and that – chatty and excited to get down to it.

Dipping the cloth in and out of the indigo vat tested our patience. We each weighed up dipping again for a deeper blue or unfolding the cloth to reveal the pattern. It sounds silly, but it was oddly thrilling. The whole process is a little bit magical, as first your cloth looks greeny-yellow but as it hits the air and oxygen begins to act upon the dye it turns a beautiful shade of indigo blue. The more times you dip the darker the blue becomes.

A warm sense of camaraderie rippled throughout the group as we complimented each others patterns (mostly happy accidents, we unanimously agreed), chatted about what to make next, how to make polka dots and how we’d get the blue off our hands (babywipes, it transpires). A motley mix of ages and stages kept the conversation flowing. Some people came with friends and others, like me, were alone. 

At that time it was the perfect escape. A short reprieve from the all consuming task of motherhood. I came home with lots of unique indigo shibori cotton scraps, a beautiful dyed scarf, dirty hands and a freshly buzzing creative spirit. I have some tentative plans for where I’ll take my indigo stained fingers next – keep your peepers peeled

If you find yourself in need of a creative refresh I could not recommend a workshop with Kathryn Davey more. Check out her upcoming workshops here. She also sell indigo kits so you can easily prepare a vat for yourself at home. I’m waiting for the weather to warm up so I can make a vat outside. If that all sounds a bit too messy Kathryn also sells lots of beautiful handmade goods that she has dyed using indigo and other natural materials. I have my eye on the indigo crown for a certain tiger’s first birthday. 

 

9 Months

Tadhg was nine months old yesterday. So that marks nine months as a mama for me. Though really it feels like longer, that whole limbo period while you are pregnant but not yet a parent is odd and confusing and so very full of anticipation.

I always like looking at those pinterest-y type ‘nine months in, nine months out’ photo comparisons but I don’t have any to share here. There is exactly one photo of me from my pregnancy where you can actually tell that I am knocked up and I doubt it needs to be published here or anywhere. 

When I look down at my child now it is hard to fathom how my body ever housed his. He is all fat limbs and squidgy joints, calves that cannot be contained. He can grab and clamour and scratch and climb. He crawls and stands and thrusts his body with such force that he can move his highchair back from the table inch by inch. When he was born my aunt likened him to a velveteen puppy – a more accurate simile does not exist. He’s like an awkward teenage dog now, full of energy and excitement with very little sense, always bumping into tables and knocking over cups.

Tadhg likes to laugh, fake cough and he says dadadadada and go go go and gagaga as if he is making fun of baby talk. He is a powerhouse, determined, strong and focussed. He gets into everything and seems attracted to danger – Tadhg’s favourite things to play with include, but are not limited to: radiator knobs, the dog’s water dish, plugs, sockets, wires, cutlery, the fireplace and the dishwasher. I try to teeter the line between hovering over him and giving him freedom to explore. It does mean that he falls sometimes, or crawls through a puddle of water, or half eats a Christmas decoration. 

It’s been nine months of wrestling tiny buns into cotton nappies, breastfeeding, crying (him and me), and a deep and intense love, unlike anything I’ve ever known. That right there is the recipe for figuring out how to be somebody’s mum. Redefining my relationship with Rich was an unexpected part of this whole mamahood gig. I won’t lie, it has been challenging at times. Learning to be parents and co-captains of our family takes its toll on us both in different ways – especially when its three in the morning and nobody wants to bounce the baby back to sleep. Thankfully, for the most part, when one of us is at our most frustrated the other is feeling a little more zen. 

The pendulum has swung consistently back and forth between challenge and triumph since Tadhg arrived. It’s pretty much just normal life, intensified.

The Hours

Somewhere between half past six and eight o’clock we wake up. Or rather, the baby wakes us up. He shifts and rolls and scoots his little body around, rubbing his nose and scratching at his face. I pull him closer in a feeble attempt to lull him back to sleep. Sometimes it works. If it’s closer to six than eight I cling to that feeble attempt. 

This morning I had to wake him up. It was after eight, Richard needed a shower and Tadhg needed to wake up (so that he could go back to sleep – morning nap time is my saving grace). I whispered his name into the warm crevice of his neck and opened the blinds a little bit. His eyes lit up as he looked from his mama to his dad. He is habitually covered in kisses. It’s impossible to resist. 

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We eat meals as a family now. He clenches soldiers of toast in his chubby fists, only relinquishing one piece when presented with another. Every mealtime a new skill is improved upon – he brings food to his mouth with a startling accuracy, he accepts the spoon into the crook of his hand and manoeuvres it straight into his mouth (most of the time). This week he really got to grips with the sippy cup. It’s strange the things that make your chest swell with pride. 

My day is punctuated with breastfeeding. We don’t have a clock or a schedule. There’s a certain sound, a certain wiggle in his body that signals hunger – I can’t pinpoint exactly what it is I know it when I see it. He seems hungriest in the morning. He eats fast, always eager to see what else is going on in the room around us. He pulls off to shout or exclaim or flash a quick grin before returning to the task at hand. It is infuriating and adorable and a pain in the neck and all the things that babies (also read: humans) are, wrapped in one. 

During that precious morning nap I try my best to ignore the detritus falling all around me and sit at my laptop and work. For the past six or so weeks I have been freelancing intensively. I did some casual work up until around October, but when it rains it pours and all that. I am immensely grateful, not just for the extra income but for the chance to use my brain and body and skills for more than just baby survival tasks. My own mama comes and takes Tadhg for a walk usually for an hour or so as I hustle. How nice it is to tap away on my keyboard without also bouncing a baby or chit chatting or feeling guilty for not doing those things. The idea of mom guilt is bullshit, in case you don’t already know. 

We eat lunch. I feed the baby. We laugh and play and I fish pieces of broccoli out of those delicious neck folds. 

In the afternoons we try our best to venture out: to the park, the shopping centre, around the block to walk the dog, to the supermarket, to my sister’s house. For sanity’s sake it is a necessity. I’m trying to buy less on these outings. It’s so easy to fill the day with errands and tasks and purchases, but it is not always necessary. 

At half past five every day (or, more accurately,  every day I notice that it is half past five) I think to myself Neighbours starts in five minutes. We got rid of our TV and I haven’t watched neighbours for a long time. But for many years it bridged the gap between finishing school and having dinner before starting homework. It’s somewhat engrained in my psyche. 

Shortly after that I think where the efff is Richard?! The best whatsapp message I get every day is On the way, x. As much as I like our kid, it’s the best thing ever when his dad comes home and I can check out for an hour or so. 

We eat dinner as a family. Introducing Tadhg to new food is such a joy – sweet potato, beetroot, puttanesca, natural yogurt, sourdough toast, avocado, big orange wedges, kimchi, banana muffins, giant pasta, smoked salmon – there hasn’t been much that he won’t try. Then it’s bath/play, change, pjs, snuggles, bouncing on the exercise ball (oh what’s that? you just lie your baby down and he goes to sleep himself?!) and Richard and I watching as many episodes of The Good Wife before we both pass out. 

These are the days; the pattern is pretty consistent but the colour is constantly changing. I wouldn’t give it up for the world. 

 

 

Catching Up on Life.

It has been eleven weeks since our baby joined us earth-side. He smiles, laughs and coos now. His arms flap in excitement and his legs kick like crazy. He makes his presence known and cries when discomfort or boredom strikes. He can also tolerate chilling in a bouncer or his high chair for a few minutes. Right now he is asleep in his cradle in our room while I type this on the sofa. That fact alone is a revelation. We embraced the fourth trimester to the fullest – but I won’t lie and say that coming out the other side isn’t a little bit sweet. 

It’s hard to describe how quickly time is passing. His body is growing and he is all cheeks and double chins. His hands are fat and his rubber band wrists are deepening by the day. Before I had a baby I knew that it would be hard. I was prepared for the crying and the discomfort and the ‘babies be babies’ unanswerable questions. I was prepared for the love too. It’s the kind of love that makes you involuntarily grit your teeth because it’s all so cute it hurts. I wasn’t prepared for the monotony or the boredom or the loneliness. Babies are sweet but they are not good company. I am the first mama of any of my friend groups and at the breastfeeding meetings I feel a generation younger than everyone else. Husbands and house-hunting are not really on my radar right now. (Though if I win the lotto house-hunting is top of my list…just pass me the ticket!) 

We named our baby Tadhg Cian – Cian after my cousin and Tadhg because we liked it. We call him Tiger-Tadhg. Every day we love him more. He likes to be cuddled and kissed and having his face rubbed. 


It’s been 17 weeks since our baby was born. Six weeks since I wrote the above thoughts. I had no recollection of what I wrote, or that I even wrote it. Just like I rarely remember what day it is or if I brushed my teeth this morning (I did, today, for the record). Babies will do that to you. They are all consuming little beings.

I can’t even begin to unravel the past four months. How did I feel when my baby’s hot, damp, heavy body was placed on my chest for the very first time? It was a lifetime ago. I hardly recall how much it hurt and how I cried as soon as I saw my own mama, the weight of the past 14 hours suddenly washing over me. Who was that girl crying desperately in bed, wishing it would all be easier, wishing someone else could just feed the baby, just once? My body felt more foreign than ever before. And yet, I wouldn’t swap it for anything in the world. It has all been the making of us. 

“Whatever happens to you belongs to you. Make it yours. Feed it to yourself even if it feels impossible to swallow. Let it nurture you, because it will.”  
– Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things.

Cheryl knows a thing or two about new mama-hood. 

Our days have a rhythm to them now. I won’t bore you with the details but yesterday I got two solid chunks of ‘nap-time’ where Tadhg slept in his crib and I got to revel in the gloriousness of being alone. Right now he is screeching at me from his bouncer, a grin spread across his face. He smiles so readily. First thing in the morning when he mooches and groans all I have to do is say ‘good morning’ and look into his eyes and he BEAMS at me. Rich tries to get his attention and he complies with a flashy grin but quickly returns his heart eyes to his mama. After waking multiple times a night to feed and comfort him, I have to admit, it feels pretty good. 

It is still lonely, and it is still strange to stay at home every day. I think the only way this would all feel perfectly balanced was if I had two bodies and could send one to work and leave the other at home with my boy. That’s not going to happen anytime soon and so I’m practicing making peace with the present.