Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Always plant the seed ...

In the late 1970s, a newly-migrated English mother found her experience at a Queensland baby health centre less than ideal. She was prompted to do something to make a change and decided to train as an infant welfare nurse. She and her family relocated down to Melbourne and by 1984, she was working in that role at a centre in Frankston.

Fate rolled the dice and in March, I duly began taking my first-born along to that same centre for her regular checks each week. And Liz was my nurse. I joined the new mums group she set up - leading to life-long friendships. I read the notices displayed on the wall about the local NMAA group which I had heard about at my antenatal class. But I was young - not yet 21 - and nervous. I needed a push. Liz pushed me. She said I would love Nursing Mothers and I should go along.

I finally got the nerve when Melissa was 10 weeks old and three pieces of puzzle fell into place to make me brave: Liz was going to be at the meeting as guest speaker. Breastfeeding Counsellor and Group Leader, Chris, I had met when she spoke at that antenatal class. And the meeting hostess Marg had been one of my favourite teachers at high school! So I went.

The rest, they might say, is history.

But it is also current: Chris is STILL a Breastfeeding Counsellor, with 30 years to my 20. Marg is still in my life as a Facebook friend. And Liz and I reconnected when the ABA Breastfeeding Centre where I work was set up in the community where she was working as coordinator of what is now known as Maternal & Child Health. For six years we have been working alongside each other toward a common goal - to improve breastfeeding rates in the community.

Yesterday, I was honoured to attend Liz's retirement function. I was not the only past-client of her's in attendance: Bernie had also been nurtured by Liz three years after me and her path led her into midwifery, where we worked together for many years as part of my weekly postnatal visits to the local hospital as a volunteer Breastfeeding Counsellor. And then she continued along her pathway and trained in MCH and is now stepping into Liz's shoes as acting coordinator!

So the lesson is - where you see potential growth, plant the seed and nurture its growth. It will mature and bloom under the care of others and, if you are lucky, one day you will see it blossoming and sewing seeds of its own.

I asked Liz to have her photo taken with me, to sit on the shelf alongside those with some other mentors of mine - Chris, Mary Paton who founded NMAA/ABA, Sheila Kitzinger who motivated my pregnancies and births and Pinky McKay who validated my parenting choices. All are women who carefully planted seeds and allowed them to grow and all women I call friends.

Happy World Breastfeeding Week :)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Organising Bug

Don't stand still around me right now - I am bound to pop you into a labelled box!

I am in the midst of my organising bug and I can't do anything about it. It happens once or twice a year and has me unsettled, as even sitting staring into space I am plotting how I could purge and sort something. Nothing is safe - my home, my workplace, my car ... my daughter's homes!

But I have had a light bulb moment about it this time around: I know the basic reason behind my need for order is that I grew up in a home that was cluttered and disorganised. Both my parents hoarded in their own ways and I craved my own space where I could find calm and order. But I struggled through much of my adult life, as I was raised without the life skills to achieve my goal. I married a man who doesn't like to throw out stuff which might be useful and we birthed children who had no good examples to follow.

Until I yelled STOP. It took the diagnosis of chronic health issues and the realisation I could not rely on doing everything myself. Unemployed after a major health crash that left uncertainty about my future ability to work, I immersed myself in developing strategies and techniques to reduce the clutter and organise every aspect of life so it could almost run on auto-pilot if needed. That was 12 years ago.

The first shock was finding that I was far from alone and my parents were not unique. I found online communities where others faced the same challenges. We supported each other and learned from our shared experiences. I did my best to give my children the skills they needed and to delegate tasks to everyone so it wasn't all dependent on me. Mostly, it has worked.

But what is behind these bursts of satisfying but unsatisfied decluttering and reorganising? Where was the pattern? I have worked out it takes over when I am in one of two modes - ironically I have always described myself as flat out or out flat! - and these are the triggers for me. When I am over-busy, with lots on, I crave order and the ability to function with a certainty that what I need will be where it should be when I need it. But the other trigger is when my body is struggling physically - this is also a time I need to be able to function with minimum effort, without searching for essentials or having to use my limited energy for the most basic tasks. Then - I need order and even though I am least able to enable it at those times, it is amazing what I can get done in tiny bursts, followed by rest. And it gives me what I crave most of all - a sense of control in my life.

So, bear with me. It will ease soon and you will safely be able to put something down without me whisking it away to a new home. I will go back to my usual clutter-tolerance level and will stop twitching. But in the meantime ... arm chair organizing is the order of the day! Sit. Think. Act. Sit..... if you need me, I will be at Ikea!

Saturday, July 21, 2012


I have been on Pinterest for over a year now and I am loving that so many of my friends are coming on-board - my happiest achievement this month is convincing both my daughters to join :) And I do find lots of ideas that I incorporate into my life - and LOTS more I plan to!

But this past day or so has seen a Pinteresting chain of activity I wanted to share:

I saw and Pinned this:


The Pinterest Facebook app shared it on my Wall and my friend Del saw it. Then she made this:

Del Smith

Which inspired me even more than the original, as she used cheap canvases and attached the whole Post-it pad. I loved it so much, today I did some shopping and some crafting and made these!:
Photo: Ta Da!

And that is the beauty of Pinterest: great ideas are put out there where we can all share and be inspired and put our own twist on them. I made one each for my daughters, my co-worker and myself.

Monday, July 16, 2012

A comfort of books

I don't remember the first book I ever owned. But I do remember my favourites from kinder:
- Harry the Dirty Dog & Ping. 

That was only 44 years ago!

My cousin Connie read to me from Pinocchio - the very same, battered copy I still have.

In primary school, I remember being told very firmly (and not at all gently!) by the librarian that I was not ALLOWED to touch the chapter books, I could ONLY borrow the picture books. But the yearning to move into those secret worlds of text-only was so strong.

I think it was my Grade Five teacher Mr Webster who introduced me to Ivan Southall's books - which I never see or hear of these days - Ash Road and Hills End were my favourites. They are still on my shelf. Australian stories, so different from my beloved Enid Blytons ... they sit nearby. The Chronicles of Narnia - my gorgeous, well-thumbed The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe: torn apart by my first-born, replaced and her firmly addicted.

Op shops provided an abundance of vintage stories for girls - school stories, horse stories ... I would pounce upon the rows of faded blue or green covers - often suffering the disappointment of finding only BOYS stories! I still have all those girls books - stripped, by the innocent me, of their annoying dust jackets, much to the angst of the adult me as they multiply the books worth: ironically as I now collect those I never owned, at much more than op shop prices.

My first adult novel - loaned to me by the boy who shared my desk and my last-name in Grade Six. Jaws. My local beach never felt quite as safe after that. Nor my vocabulary! It sits on my shelves. Lying awake into the wee hours, too frightened to sleep, finishing The Exorcist as a teenager. My entire, battered collection of horror stories have their own shelf - Damien of The Omen, Rosemary's baby, Amityville Horror.

Historical romances, mostly from the local library, took me to another world and fed my craving for British history - and local as well. The Australian series, by William Stuart Long AKA Vivan Stuart, sit on my shelf - along with the disappointment that the author died before completing the saga from the arrival of the First Fleet to modern day.

The 80s - Lace! Harold Robbins. Danielle Steel.Barbara Taylor Bradford. Wonderful, trashy and grist for my insatiable appetite for books. I haunted the second-hand bookstore for paperbacks and consumed them - first in the long days of unemployment and later in the spare moments between caring for my small children (probably when I should have been doing housework!) I still have many of them - they make me smile to see them sitting on the shelf.

I always loved a good murder and the 90s brought so many! My shelves filled with the black jackets - Patricia Cornwell, Michael Connelly, The Kellermans (Jonothan and wife Faye: I am yet to read any of their son Jesse's works!). Inspector Morse (as big as a horse in my mind, as my brain had been infiltrated by all my children's own books!).Elizabeth George. Robin Cook (a conspiracy behind every door) most of these are still on my shelves.

Into the new century and into more cosy works. Rosamunde Pilcher. Maeve Binchy. Marian Keyes. Suddenly, the Irish were everywhere! Edward Rutherford's epic historical sagas. "Chick Lit" - followed by "Hen Lit" as I was getting older and the genre aged with me. They are all on the shelves. 

I began Bookcrossing, which led to random reading. I loved the idea of releasing books into the wild for others to find, but loved my collection too much to make much of a dint in the process: I sought unwanted books in bulk through Freecycle and other sources and I bought discounted, second-hand copies of favourites specifically to give away!

Village tales and cosy murders are my current fad, stacking up nicely on the shelves. Or not. Ebooks and audio books are downloaded into my tablet. Amazon, Book Depository, Audible, Kobo - new ways to buy books in all formats.

Alongside the fiction, my collection of non-fiction grew. Biographies and memoirs are favourites. When my health restricted my lifestyle, I would take off to Provence or Tuscany, cycle around the world or hitch a ride with Michael Palin on his travels. I would choose a country for the winter and read as much as I could based there. The shelves grew.

My journey through parenthood is marked by books - and augmneted by my work in supporting parents and my fascination for the old. A collection began with my own reference books, grew to include vintage and retro and even included the "bad books" which I shelve upside down to mark my disrespect. Now my daughter is planning a family and I need to make sure she reads the most current, not the oldest! I shall sort into year of publication.

Hobbies and interests, popular culture, history, health, women's issues ... all represented, shelf after shelf.

So, you see, it was no spur of the moment decision, but a long-held dream, finally realised this weekend which led me along a pathway I have traversed for almost 50 years, which led to .....

Seven matching (Ikea Billy) book cases spanning the long wall of our lounge room. Replacing mis-matched options begged, borrowed and made-do for all the many years since I left home 30 years ago and filled with my treasures. Will I buy more books? Of course! And will I cull to make space for them - yes. I have always culled my collection, although it might seem otherwise. But some books will be with me when they cart me off in the future - and my kids have strict instructions to keep only what they want but to find good homes for those they don't.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Dear Me ... letter to myself 20 years ago

Over breakfast this morning, I watched this on Youtube

I so wish I had done something like this! Why didn't my father think of this when he used to follow us around with that Super 8 camera? *

But it stuck in my mind all day - 20 years ago. What would I say to myself back in 1992? Although I didn't know at the time, it was a big turning point in my life and my progress through the next 20 years would have been helped with a bit of advance knowledge, so ...

Dear Yvette-in-1992,

Hey! So that computer your Dad passed down to you last year, the one you wondered what you would actually use it for? Yes - the one that doesn't have a hard drive and you have to keep stopping games to change the floppy disks over? Well, turns out I found a few things you can use them for - quite a few actually! So hang in there - but here's a little saying for you "Save early, save often". Try to remember that, much less stressful.

So, look at you with all your little ones - busy hey? Not a lot of sleep and lots of time in the car, right? But how cute are they? And all that hard work is worth it - thank you for dedicating yourself to raising three wonderful children, its made my life much easier. Here's a sneak peak-ahead for you.

That? Oh, its called scrapbooking. Actually, you could help me out a bit with that - can you take more photos please? I know it is expensive to get the films developed and you don't always have the money, but I really do appreciate the memories to look back on. Oh - you have about four years: can you find some time to sort those photos and get them out of those awful magnetic photo albums, its not good for them, you (are going to) know

So now the baby is a year and half, how are you going with looking after yourself? Getting lots of exercise with riding your bike to playgroup every week with Elin and then family bike rides on the weekend - you are probably as fit as you have ever been. If you could keep that up, I would really appreciate it ...

... because I have some difficult news to share with you. Um, you're not quite as healthy as you think. This really hard ... look ... you see, oh - we have Multiple Sclerosis. Hang on, don't panic - you won't notice anything for a few more years. But when you do, you aren't going mad and you are right to keep pushing for a diagnosis - but that will take five years more, so you need to be patient. In the meantime, can you lay off the sunscreen a bit? Turns out all that avoiding the sun you do is affecting how much vitamin D we get and I am really running short!

But thanks for the moisturiser - keep up the good work! And don't worry too much about those grey hairs - I worked out a great solution ;) That - its an emoticon. A smiley face winking. Yes, I am serious. It isn't a silly word. Google - that's a silly word. And you know that rose tattoo you have been wondering about for the past ten years? We finally got it a few months ago! But I changed the design a little ...

Now -  its nearly our birthday, last year before a big one! Yes, it is exciting for you to be nearly thirty, isn't it? So old! I mean, you are the same age our mum was when we were born and she was considered elderly! Oh - Melissa is that age now! Twenty-eight! No, she hasn't got any children yet - no, not married either. Doing? Oh, well she got back from her UK trip on Friday! I know - we always wanted to do that, didn't we? (I'll let you in on a secret - we aren't dead yet, there is still plenty of time!!)

Oh - hey, thanks for all the hard work making costumes and dress ups for the kids. I know you put a lot of effort into it. And one day, you won't need to do all that sewing! - that will be a relief! Grow out of it? No, not really ...

Kaitlyn? Yes, she is still a sweet thing - no, never did go off the rails as a teenager (even though you think she might after being such a delightful toddler!). She is married and looking forward to starting a family soon. No, it isn't a surprise, is it? By the way - if you think she is baby-mad as a pre-schooler, that's nothing!

And how are you coping with Kieran? Yep - hardest baby of them all! So unsettled and still sleeping in your bed, breastfeeding all day and night - and everyone's a critic, aren't they? And trying to get vegetables into him! I know! Well, you can relax on that front - he still won't eat them and I gave up trying about ten years ago! Oh, but he is such a lovely guy! So witty and such a brain - I have conversations with him that remind me of talking with Dad - only without the bad bits. He is physically like him too, skinny, wiry and strong as an ox. Still lives at home, not studying or working ... but I am not stressed over that: he was destined to take his own path in life, right from the start. Computer mad - studied them and spends all his time online ... Oh, um ... there's this internet thing. ooh - while I think of it: watch out when you are feeding him and nearly finished typing that booklet for Nursing Mums. Make sure he can't swing his arm out and hit the reset button! Did I mention "save early, save often"? Anyway, he helps me fix my computer problems these days, not create them ;)

Yes, that does look like that silly box-thing from Dr Who, doesn't it? Yes, I do remember how we groaned when that came on TV when we were a kid and we had to change channels quickly. BTW - don't blink. What? BTW? Its text shorthand, like on a mobile. No - not the things hanging over babies cots! A phone. Oh, forget I mentioned it! Just remember - don't blink!

Ah - Nursing Mothers'! You just qualified as a breastfeeding counsellor a few months ago, didn't you? Wow - took two years to get through the training and then 6 months waiting for the final assessment (after the assessor left your folio sitting on her desk for ages). Have to stay around as a volunteer for a few years to make that all worthwhile! How long did I do it for? Um ...

It was a good thing you did do that training though. Your gorgeous niece Lynden and nephew Jordan - sweet babies they still are - are only the beginning: there are seven more to come - plus four that Rod's cousin will have in the same time period! Family gatherings are going to be a bit chaotic for a few years!!!

And you have a new puppy! Silky! Oh, darling Silky - she is such a life blessing. Treasure her - she is with you for the long run and will be a great comfort when she is older.

Still married? Yep - coming up to 30 years next year! Does Rod still ride to work every day? And with the family every weekend?

No - he doesn't cycle ... to work ... or with the family ...

Hey - you had your school reunion this year! Wow - look at everyone all grown up! And your closest friends - you just don't see them that much now, do you? Don't worry - you just need to make the time and it will happen.

Well, it's been lovely to catch up with you, Yvette-in-1992. I wish I had time to tell you more - but then, that would spoil the surprises! Spoilers!

From my family ....

... to yours!

I might just leave the last words to Dr Seuss (yes, I know you are a little sick of reading him - and you despair of Melissa ever becoming a competent reader ... relax, that will be the least of your concerns!)

So ...

Good luck!

* My Dad did create a time capsule, of sorts, on film for my friends and I. Enjoy! (Parts one and two)

Monday, July 2, 2012

Save some energy for the next bit

Pregnancy lasts a long nine months for many women, but some see it as a bit of side-action to their normal life and continue going at full speed right up until the birth.

A couple of bloggers I follow are examples of this second type and it feels a little like watching a train-wreck about to happen.

Because I spend my life working with women on the other side of birth, I get to see the fall-out of women who worked right up until labour began, those who were exhausted before birthing, those who have no energy left for the really hard-yards that are the postnatal weeks.

Gone are the days when maternity leave commenced 6 weeks before the due date and the mother-to-be spent her time resting with her feet up, organising those tiny singlets in drawers and re-reading her books about birth and beyond.

Today's first-time mother-to-be is just as likely to be caught out with labour starting at work, her hospital bag at home - still not packed - and exhausted after a marathon weekend trying to achieve things before the birth. Far from ideal preparation for a physical activity that, while normal and just what our bodies are designed for, will tire and fatigue even the fittest of women. And for too-many women, this is not about choice, but lack of choice. Workplace demands simply don't permit the winding down a woman physically needs and maternity leave is precious and seen better spent at home with the new baby than "wasted" before the birth.

And women adding another child to their family are often in an even less ideal situation - one blogger, having an elective caserean today, has spent the past weeks overhauling her entire household so her family will cope with her absence and her status update just last night showed an exhausted woman trying to conquer Mt Fold-More before falling into bed. Let alone a bad way to approach the birth of a baby, it is destined to be a harder recovery from surgery.

Again, I reflect on unexpected outcomes of the Women's Movement, where women simply wanted the option to do it all but sadly ended up with the expectation to do it all at once. "Pregnancy is not an illness!" they told us. "Women birth at the side of their fields and quietly keep working" is a dreadful myth, based on no traditional practices and completely overlooking the culture of mothers to be withdrawing into a women's-only space for the birth and a 40 day recovery period.

Surely in this modern world we can come up with a system which respects the female body at the time of  physical demand, which supports the mother-to-be to conserve her energy in those important last weeks and allows her to prepare mentally and physically. Perhaps we would see less post-natal depression, less overwhelming breastfeeding problems, less disappointment if we allowed some mental space between the work-world (be it at home or in the workplace) and the birth-world?