Your hand is sticky in mine. I want to let it go, so I can stretch my legs for a bit, but I can’t bear the thought of waking you, so calm you finally are. Your eyelids are moving restlessly, your breath tiny puffs of air that disperse with a small sigh into nothing amongst all the other sounds. I hear them because I hear only you, you who lay before me so fragile and innocent, all chubby cheeks and tiny teeth. You don’t belong here, in this world of harsh sounds and bright lights. These people do not love you.
The first time I met you was when I became your mother. I stared into your eyes and thought ¨I want to sleep!¨ There was no great moment of awe-inspiring love, no instant connection that all the baby books assured me there’d be. The only thing I felt was a pain between my legs and across my breasts that drummed its way into every thought and each nano-second of sleep. I craved you instinctively, but it wasn’t until later that that all-encompassing love began. At some point I woke up and just saw you differently, noted each eyelash and fingernail as miracles, and realized that I was completely and hopelessly in love with you.
I remember the way you’d grasp my finger and gaze into my eyes while you nursed, full of cooing sounds and gentle burps. Then there were the times when you’d vomit down my back or release a brown-coloured explosion (occasionally at the same time, always in public). I remember how proud I was when you began to move on your own, and how my heart pounded as you took your first steps before toppling over. Your smile was – and still is – a beacon of pure joy with the power to infect me with happiness, while your kisses would work their way through my skin and all the way to my heart.
If it sounds like Mummy is a bit silly, the truth is – I really am! My son, being your mother is the endeavour of a lifetime; an all-consuming train ride (albeit one where the driver has no idea what they are doing). I spend my days second-guessing if you are warm enough, running through a tirade of incomplete thoughts, and tripping over dinosaurs. Before I sleep, I think of you.
One day you will become a man and you won’t need mothering like this. You’ll push me away and tell me to ¨stop it¨ and ¨just act cool¨, and by then I’ll have forgotten saying those exact same words to my own mother. You won’t feel the binding us mothers feel, not until you welcome your own child – that’s if you become a father at all. One day it will be me who needs help, and if I live to be old and frail I will consider this a life well lived.
Sorry, I have woken you. I know it is hard; the noise here is unrelenting. They have marked your skin, and I can see a trickle of blood falling from your hand. It has swollen up; your fingers are now purple and look like a plump Christmas ham.
It feels like so long ago when you stopped breathing and convulsed in my arms. How many times did I picture this moment when I was a new mother, so terrified of every little thing, so fearful you’d be taken away from me? I always thought I’d fight like a mother lion protecting her cubs, baring my teeth at the onslaught of danger and refusing it passage. But when you turned blue all thoughts flew from my mind and I was helpless. My magic didn’t work for you, not this time.
Sleep easy, my son. The people in this hospital will be your heroes, they fight for you.
And I am here.
This was written during the time of M’s hospitalization, again at the public hospital, Roberto del Rio, and also for seizures, just like the time E was hospitalized for the same at the same age. While this time round things were greatly improved, the service and medical advice were not what I would consider good, and again it was a difficult and slightly traumatizing experience.
Some days I look at that door and imagine leaving. Some days I try and picture what my life would be if i’d not had children. Some days all i want to do is go back in time. Then I feel guilty. All the time I feel such overwhelming guilt for thinking things contrary to the ´motherhood is perfect´ideal that so many people perpetuate, or wanting something that I – as a mother of two beautiful children – shouldn’t want.
Getting dressed would be a great start!
The guilt started when I was pregnant. My first pregnancy was an accident that happened with a man I hadn´t known long and who I wasn´t formally committed to. I felt the first lashings of guilt as I wondered how we could get this to work – was I being too selfish? – and how the flying heck was I going to be able to care for a newborn when I was terrified of the things and had the uncanny ability to make them cry. I obsessed over everything during that first pregnancy – I only ate certain foods, omitted everything else that could bring some kind of risk to my growing fetus, exercised, read up on the benefits of Mozart for babies, sang to my stomach, played my flute and regular recordings of Chilean music (I went back to NZ), planned my natural homebirth (best start for baby, right?), stocked up on organic and all-natural everything, made my own babywipes (no chemicals for my son!) and tanned my nipples in the hope they´d harden up in time for breastfeeding, although I wasn´t too committed as I knew I´d just be a natural because I wanted it (LOL – read about my breastfeeding horrors here).
I also worried excessively. According to all the baby books, my diet had been less than perfect when I fell pregnant. I also had smoked cigarettes and drank alcohol because I found out at 7 weeks). And surely – somewhere along the line – I´m sure I´d eaten ceviche (I was in Chile). And every now and then I´d give in to temptation and whirlwind emotions and binge eat my way through a bag containing Twisties and Whittakers Peanut Slabs (I would sell a kidney for either of those Antipodean treats right now!). I ended up putting the baby books at the back of the wardrobe because they made me feel so scared and guilty, and they only ever saw the light of day when I´d dig them out to see what kind of fruit my baby was that month (I still have no idea what size a kumquot is).
Skip forward to pregnancy number two, and guilt struck again. This time it happened when we were in the sh*t financially and were living on a weekly food shop valuing CLP$20,000. Getting pregnant was happening easily for us, which must have been hard to deal with for my sister in law who was in a ´perfect´ relationship and was going through endless fertility exams and treatments to fall pregnant (and yet my brother in law was never tested – go figure). And then I went into labour at 26 weeks. I´ve never been so scared in my life. Had I eaten something bad? Was it my body? Was I not eating enough nutrients? Worse – was I rejecting my own baby? I was terrified for baby M – whom I loved before even meeting – but I was also terrified of all the needles, drugs and exam results. It was also bloody humiliating to have to call over a lady with a potty every time I needed the toilet, and relieve myself lying down in the bed. I also started to feel upset at the thought I wouldn´t likely have the perfect birth experience I´d been dreaming of. Back at home, being on strict bed rest drove me out of my mind and, even though I loved my unborn child, I had to fight the urge to get up and do anything. I felt sad I didn´t get to take E to his first day of jardin, and check it over to give it the Helen seal of approval. During this time I had to give my trust completely to my partner and an endless stream of doctors, nurses and midwives because I literally couldn´t protect my child in any other way.
(Perhaps now would be a good time to give you a brief overview of my time in San Jose Public Hospital in Independencia. The Urgencia was absolutely horrendous. I waited a long time to be seen (I´b been to Clinica Davila first and there was a marked difference). It was really dark, hardly anyone around, and there was a heavily pregnant woman screaming in pain for HOURS who was left unattended and I heard her being treated nastily by the nurses. I went over to her and rubbed her back, because even though I was in early labour, this poor thing really needed help. After this, I was transferred to the labour ward, with ten other women who were in the midst of full labour beside me (let me tell you, nothing is as scary as being in labour beside ten other screaming women who are forbidden to sit up in their bed, and forbidden to have visitors). I was here for a day and night. After this the risk of popping out M early was lessened, so I was transferred to the regular maternity ward. This was really nice!! The staff were helpful, came right after I called them, I was given food whenever I wanted it (really sugary but at least I got food), and all the doctors kept me updated and answered all my questions (unlike when E was hospitalized at Roberto del Rio). After my week´s stay, I had to return to San Jose for all my checkups. This was awful. They don´t take appointments, you just have an allotted time when you have to go join the queue … beside at least 100 others. Despite being on bed rest, I would have to stand for around 6 hours to wait for my turn. The doctors and midwives I saw were always friendly, but they were crazy overworked. Despite everything, I got my perfect birth with M, with my regular holistic midwife as after so many weeks it wasn´t dangerous for M to be born. I gave birth (with Fonasa) in Talagante Public Hospital. My midwife was beyond amazing and I stayed just one night afterwards but it was really pleasant -I can´t fault the place).
When you have more than one child, everything becomes different. In a way you segment, because you have to give so much more of yourself to your family, and what you give has to be equal. It gets really hard to think of yourself as anything other than a mother, and when they all start crying at the same time it gets really hard to just take a breath and deal with it, and the crying rings in your ears long after they stop. As I work from home and my partner is almost never here as he works during the day and studies at night, it can seem like a lonely life. Let´s get real, babies and toddlers do not make the best conversation partners and in all honesty playing Thomas the Tank or knock down the blocks expires in funness pretty darn quick. Sometimes it almost feels as though my brain is rotting away up there, or at least drowning in nursery rhymes and tears, many of which are my own.
As an expat, you have the additional pressure of being without the support network you would likely have in your home country, as well dealing with both a new language culture. Making friends with Chileans can be difficult as they aren´t stereotypically very open or trusting, and while you can make easy friendships with other expats who are in a similar boat, the truth is the time will come when they – or you – will move on. Throw in a cross-cultural relationship and boom – you find yourself in a multi faceted pickle sometimes!!
I was recently given some advice from a fellow expat who describes herself as a ¨trailing spouse¨, one who follows the work commitments of her partner around the globe. Her advice is golden, and here it is in a nutshell:
Make time for yourself and check in on your own thoughts. Maybe this means waking up before your family, doing a guided meditation, twerking like Beyonce when they fall asleep (I do!), learn a new hobby, WHATEVER, as long as it is for you.
Start networking. Doing things you enjoy will introduce you to like-minded people, or use Facebook groups like Discover Chile: English Speaking Moms to set up playdates, or connect with a global network of expats with Facebook groups like Two Fat Expats or I Am A Triangle. You won´t click with everyone and friendships take time, but putting this effort in is a great way to meet people and get things off your chest.
Have a think about what you are interested in, or what you liked before you had children, and find a way to bring that back into your life. Whether that is charity work, cooking, yoga, dance, reading – it all counts! Many suburbs offer classes at their local municipal library or you can find free online courses all over the internet.
Nutrition. Food is what fuels you so make sure you are getting enough of the good stuff. A great tip is to hard what might be unappetizing to you inside a smoothie, and there are heaps of ways you can get food delivered direct to your door. Try La Paloma Saludables or if you are in Santiago/Viña del Mar area, you can sign up for organic meat from the Cow Share initiative.
Finally, talk. Let it out. I have been told I am too honest, that I overshare and make people feel uncomfortable, but also that my honesty has helped people to recognize the truth about their own feelings and speak with their partner or even a professional. I believe talking can be cathartic and is a great way to find out what is really bothering you.
What other advice would you give? Please give this a ´like´ if it resonated with you and remember to follow me on Facebook or WordPress to keep updated about new blogs! I am also on Instagram, where you can see photos from my daily life in Santiago. Have a great day and SMILE please!! Smiling – even if you force it – is a great way to boost the good vibes inside 🙂
I was recently gifted a bar of Obolo Chocolate (blog coming soon!). I took the kids to bed, had a steamy shower (with my favorite product ever – see below), put on some fresh pajamas then sat down and took my time eating it. Each bite was delicious and for a split chocolate-y second, I felt myself completely relax – in other words I mellowed and the mellowing was glorious. I aim to reach this ¨mellow point¨ every week because I believe it is so important to never forget that, although we are mothers, we are still women with our own needs, dreams, fears and wants. What follows is my list of recommendations to get you smiling, enjoying Chile or helping another to feel happy.
25 Things Mamas in Chile Should Do
Tell one person about the amazing work of Adopta Perro Santiago. Originally started by Suzie Beaven but now continued by Helen and a team of volunteers, they rescue and care for Santiago street dogs before finding them their forever-home. Santiago (and much of Chile) has a real issue with dogs living on the streets, often abandoned and in need of urgent care. To battle this, there has been a movement away from buying dogs in favor of adoption but there is still some way to go. In fact, our own dog Luna was previously homeless (read her story here). The team at Adopta Perro are currently rebuilding their dog shelter after recently losing their land, and currently house their dogs in either temporary foster homes or in dog shelters that they pay for out of pocket. Add them on Facebook to see their current work or send a PM to see how you can help.
2. Go on a date night! And it really needs to be at night, underneath the stars, so that you feel like a grown up, and you absolutely must wear that [clothes item you´d forgotten]. There are so many options! Try Zully in Barrio Concha y Toro if you like your table strewn with rose petals; visit Como Agua para Chocolate in Bellavista if you want food to be your aphrodisiac; or stop at Casa Luz in Barro Italia for stunningly presented dishes in a beautiful spot.
3. Invest in something that makes you feel amazing. For me that is Ro´s Argan Body Conditioner by Lush. While I am not a fan of Rose, this product is my must-have because it smells divine and lingers on your skin long after the shower has finished, making you feel soft, moisturized and (dare I say it) oh so sexy! For a bit of face pampering, I can´t fault their Full of Grace facial serum that smooths my skin like nothing else.
4. Eat chocolate!! And by chocolate I mean the organic cacao delights made by Obolo, a small award-winning business started by an American expat called Mark. Cacao is really a wonder ingredient, full of magnesium, calcium, iron and antioxidants that can help stabilize your mood and lift you up when you stumble into those dark spots of your mind. But I´m sure you didn´t really need a reason, right?
5. Take your kids somewhere to get their creative juices flowing. I believe that the only reason I can write well is because I love to read and creating a love for reading is something that I think is so important for children as it nurtures so many skills while also being something calming and fun. A fellow expat who shares this belief is Danielle, and she is doing something amazing to promote kids reading in English, something called Little Readers Book Club. Take your kids along to one of the sessions but for those of you who can´t, perhaps try bringing books into your life a bit more, whether by including a story as part of the bedtime routine or by gifting books on birthdays. For Spanish-language books, check out Pajarito de Mimbre – they really are a gift that keep giving! Another brilliant spot for kids is the MIM (Museo Interactivo Mirador) museum, in La Granja, which is an interactive madhouse that will entertain the whole family.
6. Find something small you love in each day. This technique really helped me after my first year in Recoleta, when it felt like all I saw was peeling paint and dog poop, and all I heard was car horns. I tried to find something small that I liked in the area around me and, after a while, all that peeling paint et al started to disappear. I started walking around noticing all the character all the houses had, how bright and colorful they were, and all the other little things I´d previously been blind to. In fact, I wrote a blog about it – this one – and it was all the positive feedback that prompted me to go on this blogging journey!
7. Take on the hard water battle that is destroying your hair … and win. Step 1: buy a water filter. These last about 6 months, are inexpensive to buy and make a huge difference to your water quality. Step 2: buy Godiva shampoo + conditioner. This shampoo comes as a solid bar, which means you save on packaging, and lasts forever. It also smells divinely like jasmine and softens your hair like NO OTHER shampoo I have tried here in Chile (I have tried so many).
8. Visit one museum for a culture hit! The Pre-Colombino Museum is amazing for anthropology buffs like me, but you might also enjoy the Fashion Museum (Museo de la Moda) in Vitacura or the Open Sky Museum (Museo a Cielo Abierto) that displays street art on the sides of apartment blocks in San Miguel.
9. Support local – support Chilean wine! Do I really need to give you a reason?! Visit Matetic to make a day of it or check out Attilio & Mochi to see what passionate winemaking looks like. Or just buy a bottle (or two) and enjoy a night in.
10. Put aside time for just you. You might like to go for a coffee or cake with a friend (try Pasteleria Lalaleeulu), but for me I like to have some time alone, to either talk with myself and make sense of the jumble that is my brain, or simply to just be in silence. My happy place is the shower; this is the place where I get all my best ideas like the plot line for my book, songs or things like Organizacion Ojos Abiertos. I love things that make me feel and smell good (hence my slight Lush obsession) and I recommend Hecho con Amor Natural, a small venture just starting out that creates handmade soaps and relaxing bathsalts.
11. Order a family portrait … in watercolor! Siski makes the most fantastic paintings that you will always treasure (along with a treasure trove of other beautiful things).
12. Feed your family something that has known the touch of grass and sunlight, even if it is just every now and then (which is what we do). We buy a couple of whole chickens from Stefanie at Agricola Tinajacura and then stock up the freezer with homemade stock.
13. Smile! And smile even if there is no-one else around. Smiling is so much more than just the movement of your face – it has the ability to influence your mood and make you feel good. Have a read here.
14. Take your makeup off before you go to bed. This step is even more important when you live in a polluted city like Santiago. I recommend Weleda 2-in-1 Cleanser + Toner which is made from all natural ingredients. I also recommend Weleda Cold Cream which is much more luxurious and creamy than it sounds, and one of the best moisturizers I have ever tried.
15. Go somewhere – anywhere – and hold your partner´s hand. Doing this always makes me feel happy.
16. Take a moment to be just with your kids, without any distractions. In our house this means either coloring pictures of Thomas the Tank, playing with Thomas the Tank, dancing to music of Thomas the Tank or making up our own Thomas the Tank songs (E is a tad into Thomas) but it really can be anything. For my work I am constantly on the computer or on my phone and its really important to me for my children to see me give them attention, just for them. Even better if you go outside into nature.
17. Remember that there is always someone out there who has it a little bit harder. Read: Santiago´s Children.
18. Know about, share and perhaps get involved in the amazing efforts of Abrazame. This is a social effort run by volunteers that aims to bring love, care and opportunities to babies, children and women who have been abandoned or left orphaned. One of their many amazing objectives is to visit babies in hospitals to cuddle, play with them and give them love. According to Abrazame, some 200 babies are orphaned and more than children 40,000 abused each year, and more than 11,000 live in orphanages. Anyone can apply to help: fill out the form here.
21. Go on a day trip. My favorite place is La Campana National Park but you are in Chile – this country has everything you could want and more! If you do head to La Campana, combine it with a visit to the Alpaca Farm at Quintessence, one of the largest and most acclaimed in the world.
22. Go on a BubDate (yes, I am still trying to make this word happen). Some recommended places where you can let your nuggets run wild while you sit serenely back with a coffee include: Coco Cafe (Providencia), Cafe Tropa (Providencia), and Gluck (Vitacura).
23. Support small and local! Click here to see my directory of providers.
24. Enter this Giveaway before you go to win a trip to Viña Aquitania. All you have to do is ¨like¨ my Facebook page to be in the draw to win. This is my way of saying thank you to readers for continually showing support for my blog! It will be drawn Friday 9th June and you get a double entry if you follow me on Instagram too @querida_recoleta.
25. Tell someone – anyone – that you love them. Send a text, email your mum, cover your child´s face in kisses, but whatever you do do it now. and tell them to pass it on.
What would you add to this list? Please share and don´t forget to follow me to stay tuned for more blogs like this one.
I´m not completely sure when it happened, but happen it did.
It wasn´t when I gave birth, and it wasn´t during my breastfeeding trials either.
I think I can identify one moment in particular that has caused me to admit that I, Helen Cordery, a woman with 29 years on this planet, am no longer functioning as myself. I am Mother. And I can crookedly trace that moment back to September 14 2016.
The date when my 2 year old became a 3 year old.
(To those of you reading this without children, or still at that stage where your offspring are all squishy, cuddly and (dare I say it) unable to form complete sentences, you may be a little confused or even think I´m dramatizing an evet as wonderful as toddlerhood. But there are others out there who are living this reality with me, and who have lived it many, many times … and to those ladies, I salute you with respect).
September 14 2016 appeared, for all intents and purposes, as an ordinary, innocent date. The sun shone and cracked through air still bearing the touches of Autumn´s chill, panaderia staff rose early and churned out the day´s supply of bread, dogs went for their usual wander around the neighborhood leaving their gifts for those unlucky souls trudging their way to work, and at least half of the residents of Chile looked outside their window at the mountains and let out a little sigh.
Well, my son rose on that particular day and thought ´the time has come´.
It was not to be a day just of Thomas the Tank balloons, colorful cupcakes, forgotten wrapping paper and healthy-snacks-to-prove-a-point, for this was the singular moment in my son´s life when he realized who he was.
And that he was no longer my baby.
Perhaps my greatest challenge these past 29 years has been acknowledging and dealing with the fact that my son is his own person. He is not someone I can just dress in any old clothes, or tell to eat his dinner, tidy his mess, or be nice. I can not just hug or kiss him with abandon, like I would when he was smaller, when I´d squeeze him so fiercely because he did something so cute that I just couldn´t contain myself.
The day E turned 3 (or there abouts) was the moment when he grasped fully what ´No´ meant, and that he had every right to say it.
And say it he does.
In fact, it feels like all I ever hear these days is a big, fat, loud ´NO!´ and this word … this word makes me want to throw every single item we own and hold dear out the window until there is nothing left but a plate that is finally empty, because it´s 1.35pm and jardin started 5 minutes ago.
This word grates on my last nerve and consumes every inch of my brain because it seems like now there are no longer enough hours in the day; time is ticking on and you, beautiful, infuriating child, are not helping us to progress through it.
And this is what I mean about now being all Mother.
Each day starts and ends almost exactly the same and I, as the Mother, am the sole person responsible for keeping it that way (you don´t want to know what happens when the routine breaks – think tears, lots of tears, them and me).
I am driven by this purpose, and although it may seem like all I am doing is keeping a baby, toddler and 2 adults on schedule, what I am really doing is fighting a war.
I battle the clock, where each tick leads me further and further away from where I need to be. I battle my partner, who often appears to be completely oblivious to the chaos unfolding around his feet (usually E and M fighting). I battle the endless dishes, the washing that never seems to dry because we have now entered the six months of the year when Santiago is not a desert and more like one overflowing drain (go to Huechuraba in the rain and you will know what I mean). I battle work deadlines, the stress that winter brings to my children´s immune systems, endless assignments that are far too advanced for my poor son to comprehend at his jardin and now I battle the constant sound of ´no´ ringing in my ears.
When I was pregnant, my mum bought me a Baby Record Book. We both thought this would be a lovely memento to have of my first child´s early years. I sat with this Record Book resting on my ginormous stomach, chewing the end of my pen, while pondering about those big, important questions that you only think about when you´re pregnant with number 1. The book told me to write down Our hopes for you in the future. ¨Be strong, know who you are, act your age & don´t grow up too fast¨ was some of what I wrote down, when E gave me a chance (he was always kicking away). And that is exactly what I got.
I have a son that is like me in so many ways – who speaks his mind, is strong and likes to laugh – which is exasperating at times, but are qualities that have always been so important to me. It is difficult sometimes regularly but as a parent your role is to guide your child not force them, to lead by example and not by pressure, and to show them love when it all gets too much and they fall apart. I wrote in my Record Book,´I hope you always have a parent who shows you love and is present´and this is the greatest lesson I have learnt across my adult years on this earth: you will lose control at times and so will I, a bit, but I will always strive to be someone that is with you and for you, in that moment.
I am not a perfect mother – far from it. And my son is not perfect either – far from it (though maybe to me). They say control is an illusion but I think it means balance, as we live each day moving between the ´yes´ and the ´no´, the right and the wrong, the good and the not so good, looking for – aiming for – that moment when it all balances out, the world is smiling and you look into those tiny, round eyes and see nothing but happiness.
What the Words Mean
Panaderia – place where they make bread (most corner stores serve fresh bread morning and night)
reSometimes I wonder – what is love? When I think about it I don´t find the answer in a single word. When I grasp its depths I find everything but also nothing; its explanation always eludes me.
Love is a smile, a laugh, a look, your child´s hand in yours and the feeling of those tiny fingers.
Sometime it´s in the pang of noticing something that you´ve not seen before – a freckle, how long those arms have gotten around your neck, the nostalgia as you fold away a tshirt that no longer fits for the last time.
Love is every time you kiss their cheek, wipe away their tears and convince them to swallow their medicine, a damp cloth laid upon their burning forehead.
Love is there every time you watch them run, jump and sing, colour over the lines and as you display each masterpiece on the wall until they make the next one. It´s watching them laugh with their friends and run away from you, their goodbye lingering in the air like fairy dust – so special, fleeting and fragile.
Love is bearing their pain with yours and allowing their weight to fall on your back, and telling them the truth. It´s sheltering their dreams when the sky is stormy and holding them when they have nightmares. Love is feeling them need you – closer, close, and far – but allowing them to fall. It is about showing them that the world has darkness as well as light, warmth as well as cold, and that good and bad lies in everything.
Love is about frustration and sadness, laughter and euphoria, anger and despair, confidence and strength. Sometimes it means standing tall but feeling small, being sad but also happy. Love embraces contradictions and says sorry, and it is always there.
Love is never a word but always a feeling. Its tips touch higher than the highest mountain and reach deeper than any ocean. Love is my children, to whom I gave life and from whom give me my life.
Being a mother has been about letting go. Letting go of my waistline, and my ability to jump on trampolines or do any other kind of excessive movement without making some kind of embarrassing sound. Sometimes it has meant losing my cool over something as small as the dishes, or letting go of all sense of sanity as I peruse my sons dirty nappies with the enthusiasm of a kid on Easter. It has meant letting go of a series of firsts (steps, words, haircuts, kindergarten …) until the time comes when my children just don´t need me anymore. It has also meant saying goodbye to me – the old me. The me that would dash out the door on a Friday night without a second thought. Who would dance to the sweet sounds of something without thinking if it was appropriate music or not, or if I was dancing appropriately for someone with a family at home. The me that could go out and then spend all the following day wallowing in my own misery.
Being a mother hasn´t meant that I can´t go out, it has meant that my priorities have changed. Every time I walk out that door and away from my children, I do so incomplete, for I leave something behind. My children have a piece of my heart wherever I am, as well as a good portion of my brain given all the utterly useless thoughts I make over them.
I could never say I regret this life, because my bones ache and literally shake inside my skin if I contemplate a different life, but sometimes I do find an inner voice whispering about all the changes that have occurred since being a mother 3.6 years ago.
Perhaps the greatest change has been the transition from woman to mother. Obviously the second after I gave birth became pregnant I became a mother, that is obvious, but since when did I lose my womanhood to everyone else around me?
Blame it on the routine, the monotony of settled life if you will, but nothing had prepared me for this colossal change. My body and mind changed forever after I had my first son, and apparently so too did my sex appeal. Despite that one time when I was wolf whistled while pregnant, I feel almost completely invisible. I don´t just mean in a sexual attraction to others type of way – I feel it about myself too.
I find this feeling stifling and even upsetting at times. There are days when I try desperately to find the woman beneath. The woman who has dreams and plans, independence and confidence, and who makes sex a priority because its a time that is personal and private, a moment shared with another adult that is so firmly rooted in the now that there is almost no room for any other thought.
Perhaps this is one of the biggest mistakes that new mums can make: being so overwhelmed and overcome by their child that they lose their identity a little bit. This by no means suggests that I am linking a woman´s happiness to a man, or that women should forget about the man´s needs – no. Instead what I am trying to say is that feeling like a woman – a confident woman – should not be forgotten as a priority too. Maybe we all have something different that makes us feel this way, but the what it is isn´t important, the result is. And feeling good, confident, strong, sexy – surely that is something all women should feel, mummies included?
Floating … please take my hand James McAvoy … I mean Ewan McGregor – oh ok you´re both in my dream, I´ll accept that. Just please keep speaking Scottish. This is amazing … wait why are my children in the water too? And they´re drowning – this is a NIGHTMARE! Wake up, wake up!
So much crying … that is real crying. Oh no, the baby is waking up. 5 more minutes! Wait please don´t leave me James! Not you too Ewan!!!! Noooooo!!!
I should get up. I´ll get up. Does he not hear that noise?!
My boob feels so empty. It has no squish now.
Am I the only one who sees a kitchen full of dishes and thinks to DO THE DISHES!!!!
I´d love just one morning where I get breakfast in bed. And a sleep in. Hint hint hint hint hint HINT!
You´ll make it? Best husband ever!
I am so hungry. What is taking so long?!!! Why he is going so slow – is he doing everything separately?! Just multitask OMG!
What is the baby eating? I really do need to vacuum.
During the Day
Son lets play!! Yes I´d love to play Thomas! Let the baby join in, Emilio. Emilio? Emilio! Emilio – EMILIO!!!!! Not the eyes Emilio!
No don´t draw on the – be careful of the – don´t drop the – watch out!!
*cry a little bit*
I hate this sometimes.
I feel awful. I love my life – I am the luckiest person in the world.
I miss working. I miss cramming up my day with important stuff. I miss money!
Urgh I want to lose control! Give me wine! How much can you drink while breastfeeding again?
All that pumping and dumping seems like a lot of work.Will wait a bit longer. But I will lose control one day!
I just farted. Pretend it was the baby. Why does this keep happening now?!
Time to go shopping. What to wear? Haven´t worn that in a while – wait can´t breastfeed in that. I´ll wear – wait, can´t do it discreetly in that one. Ah fuck it – no-ones looking at these flabbyflabs anymore!
At the Shop
He doesn´t need a lollipop but thank you. Yes my baby is fine, thank you. No he isn´t too big, just those gringo genes!! Yes he seems warm enough – another blanket would probably kill him but thank you for that. No lolly for the baby, but thank you.
Breastfeeding and walking – I am a mummy superstar! Self five
At the Nursery
I have to buy WHAT?
My son is two, he can´t possibly do that even with adult help. Oh I have to make THAT?
Hmm what can I bribe him with today?
This doesn´t end.
Is that a vein popping out of my head?
I really need a minute to myself
Oh poor darling.
I am the worst mother ever.
Did that count as a balanced meal?
Better put him in the bath now before the baby cries. Wait – baby is crying. Do it with baby crying or do it later?
Later. Oh man it is late!
Please don´t pick Thomas for the fourth consecutive night … yay Thomas!!!! Better sing him the songs too. Will he get too cold tonight? But it´s hot now – aaahhh Santiago has crazy weather!! Ok, I´ll read another story.
Cuddles are just the best ever. Look at that little face, those little eyelashes, his little nose … what is that in his hair? Better check he doesn´t need the potty.
Hurry up on that potty, son!
Your cheek/against mine/that is/the most delicious thing.
Delicious. Scrumptious. Splendiferous. Roald Dahl – man I can´t wait to read those books again. I mean for the children and everything.
I could cuddle forever … and he´s asleep – RUN!!! Now to check the baby.
Some Time Later
Time to dig out all the adult treats!!!
Food, food – where is the food?!
Am I eating too much? I´ll never get rid of this floppy stomach.
Ah fuck it – I have TWO kids!!! Where did I hide that chocolate bar again?
Crying baby on TV. God am I lactating? This is so embarrassing.
This scene between the child and her mother is making me well up. I´m so sensitive these days.
Aaaagh don´t wake up!!! Please, please, please. I still need to take a shower!
My bed feels so good I think I might disappear into it … oh hello! Are we cuddling tonight?
Some time later (but not that long)
If we woke the baby up it is your turn.
On Date Night
Pushup bra oh yeah!
I wonder what the kids are doing.
Hmm what to say? I want to be funny. And sexy.
I hope the kids are ok. Should I call and check?
Gosh look at that couple. Were we ever like that? Do you know, I just can´t remember!
I want to have sex like a porn star. Lets do it!!!
I thinkI ate way too much. Wait I need to pee – AGAIN!
Did I take the meat out for tomorrow? Internet bill is due too!
Right now, Max is in that stage where he can´t stop going backwards. At the moment he is currently bashing his head into the sofa, destroying a Sophie the Giraffe teething toy and simultaneously crying and laughing. He sounds like an ewok. Should I go rescue him? Yes …in five minutes.
We don´t have a full-length mirror in our house. I turned it sideways and hung it on the wall to open up our teeny tiny bathroom. I haven´t seen my bottom half in months, only my boobs which have been out so much they are no longer interesting. They have taken quite a beating lately. Max is like a flaming grizzly bear sometimes and the last few weeks it seems like I´ve been feeding him every half an hour (I want to say not literally but …)
In fact, my breasts have seen so much action in the restaurant recently – on the side of the road, in the supermarket, on the metro – that they have lost all hint of sexual connotation. They are literally non-things in the bedroom (they aren´t big anyway, to be fair). This depresses me for two reasons. The first is I was enjoying not needing a pushup bra (I wrote pushchair there like five times – doh!) and that amazing feeling that I still had cleavage in a granny bra (oh the comfort!). The second is that they got crazy sensitive in the months after Max was born and things were coming very easy (if you know what I mean!). Now nothing happens!
The other day I took the mirror off the wall because I dug out my winter leggings and they seemed tight (around my calves of all places!). Maybe some of you will be annoyed that this was an issue for me but honestly I nearly burst into tears. I went my whole pregnancy thrilled about my weight (I gained 7kg) which was all gone a week after Max was born, something I didn´t try to achieve it was purely due to all the vomiting. With Emilio I put on 18kg so it was something I really noticed because every second person was telling me how huge I was (thank you, considerate friends and strangers). But in the last two months something strange has happened to my appetite. I am eating – A LOT. I have been crazy, crazy hungry and – because this is Chile after all – I have satiated my hunger with marrequeta, that ubiquitous bread people wax lyrical about. All that bread has gone straight to my hips. My thighs. My calves, ankles, arms, face, stomach – everywhere except my breasts, basically.
This has bummed me out so much that I have literally gulped back a tear every time I have gotten dressed in the morning (or at noon – meh). It had even started to affect those (rare) intimate moments with my partner. I would run away, turn away, cower in the dark, dress in sacks and squeeze into jeans and get all aggressive with my muffin top.
It was exhausting.
Focusing all that hatred and negative energy at myself in a moment when I was already fragile was like half pressing a self destruct button.
So I stopped.
The time came when I had to make a choice – either go forward and be happy, or go forward and be miserable. My decision was sparked after hearing my own mother say something negative about herself when showing her our holiday photos. I told her she had to pay a thousand pesos every time she said something bad about her appearance. I realized I should apply the same advice to myself.
I can´t tell myself to love my body when there are so many things I would like to change, but I can tell myself to have some respect.
I made a human being!!!
My stretchmarks are battle scars, they circle and lead away from my bellybutton like lion claw prints, evidence of the amazing achievement it is to grow a baby beneath them. The pouch that hangs over my jeans or that dangles like an alien life form when I lean forward is the remnants of the home I had built for my sons, a home that protected them and nourished them when they couldn´t survive any other way. My aching nipples and limp, fluctuating breasts are the single source of life for Max – they perform tiny miracles every half an hour. My body has worked and is working HARD, doing something that so many people around the world crave to be able to do. I am blessed to have my body, and am so lucky to have it work the way it does, albeit with a few varicose veins and cellulite ridden pockets of skin here and there.
So I have come to the realization that this is my present. I don´t know what the future may bring but for now I am drawing strength knowing that my body is strong. This realization spreads to all corners of my life – yes, even to the bedroom – because I refuse to be a victim to more evil thoughts. Confidence is what is sexy – own your body, ladies!!
The Mummy Diaries are my own diaries based upon my life as a mother in Santiago. I publish them because I believe that there are many universal themes that we mothers come across, but these themes are not always touched upon publicly so it is easy to feel isolated – especially if you are an expat (like me!) living in a foreign country. I fully subscribe to the idea that communication is everything. Share your thoughts below, get in touch privately, talk to your friends – but if this is not working please get in touch with a healthcare professional. For those living in Chile, I can recommend an amazing nurse who is fluent in English, Spanish and Arabic, who can point you in the right direction.