Five…

It’s been five years. 

Five long years since I’ve heard your voice. Five long years since I’ve held your hand. Five long years since I’ve laughed alongside that booming, contagious laugh. Since I’ve seen that twinkle in your eye. 

Five, long, painful, deliriously happy, juxtaposing years. 

It seems fitting then, that this week, we let the world around us in on a little secret. One we’ve been carrying for eight weeks. One I wanted to share with you the moment I found out. A secret that you would be so damn excited about. 

A baby brother. Your fifth grandchild. 

The fourth who’ll never know you. 

After growing up surrounded by females, I’m shortly going to find myself in a family of boys – the girly girl who spent my childhood on the dance stage and the netball court will have to learn how to deal with growing boys. I’m sure you’re laughing your head off up there! 

Sometimes, I’m not sure how I feel, doing all of this without you. There’s so much I want to know, so much that only you can share. I often hear your voice in my head as I’m saying things. I often hear my own voice coming out exactly like yours would – with the same intonation, the same phrases. 

Sometimes, I go back to those last moments together and I can’t remember anything except how your hand felt in mine. Other days, I go back and I can see everything clear as day in front of me. And I relive it, over and over again. 

A lot has happened in the past five years. There have been losses, weddings, holidays, house moves and work moves. There have been first steps, first words, babies and more babies. Yet, sometimes it feels like yesterday that I was arguing about where we were going to host what would be your final Shabbat dinner. Despite my protests that we would bring it all to you, you were determined to be in my first home as we celebrated our first Shabbat as a married couple. I still remember schlepping all the food back and forth, the veal scallopini sauce spilling in my car, as you yelled from your bed that I had to get a move on because everyone was due to arrive at my house within a couple of hours. I remember you staying until the very end, despite your exhaustion and your pain. 

I remember coming to your house the following morning, and the moment we realised that this was it. The moment we called the doctor, the moments of pure clarity and the moments where I felt like I was talking to myself, yet little movements from you told me otherwise. 

As this little life grows inside me, I grapple with the idea of doing everything all over again without you; with the future our family is going to have with such a presence missing. 

I know it can be done. We don’t have a choice. But I don’t like it. 

I wish more than anything you could be surrounded by your grandchildren on a Saturday morning after they’d all demanded to spend the night. I wish you could watch your grandchildren grow. I wish you could know all their quirks, their personalities, their strengths and their gaps. I wish you could see how their relationship together continues to blossom. 

I can’t wait to see how your precious grandchildren grow – all five of them. I just wish you could see it all too. 

Working Mama

Yesterday morning as I was pottering around the house, cleaning up after the weekend and starting to create some sort of ‘order’ around the mess my son continually makes, I turned around to find our little cherub sitting in my office chair at my desk. When questioned what he was doing, he simply stated that he was ‘sitting at his desk, working’ like it was the most normal thing in the world.

The thing is, for him, it is the most normal thing in the world.

I started working again when he was four months old. All he can remember is that daddy goes to an office to work and that mummy works from the desk at home. In fact, whenever I drop him to kindy he always tells me that I need to go home to do my work.

History repeating itself

Having two working parents is something I really want for my children. Of course, it has to be the balance of work that I can still be there for my kids – hence my writing career. But it’s so important that my children see that both parents have an equal role in our household. Really, it’s history repeating itself.

My sister and I grew up with two working parents. My dad ran a business and my mum was a school teacher. My dad was, and still is, also heavily involved in community work. So, while there were times when we didn’t see our dad before we went to sleep, he was always there when we woke up. And our mum was always there after school for us. Being a teacher at the same school we attended meant she took us and brought us home each day. While being a teacher, of course meant the hours were fantastic for her young kids, we still understood that our mum was working. Often, she would have report cards and exercise books sprawled out on the dining table as she marked her kids’ work after dinner, while we sat aimlessly in front of the television winding down after a long day.

Hard work was something my parents always instilled in us. They taught us that we could have and be anything we wanted, but that the only way to get there was to put in the hours. We were taught from a young age that a mother’s career is just as important as a father’s. And I will forever be proud of the impact my mum had on thousands of children.

Also, let’s face it, I didn’t spend six years at university to not utilise my two degrees.

And according to all the reports, children who have working mothers actually do better in life. Winning!

The proof

According to a Harvard Business School study, daughters with working mothers are better educated, and sons with working mothers do more housework and grow up to share the childcare duties. To me, this makes sense.

My son sees mummy working on weekends when necessary. He sees daddy cooking dinner at least once a week. He sees both mummy and daddy cleaning up, and both mummy and daddy doing the kindy drop off and pick up. He sees, for the most part, an equal playing field. The fact that both mummy and daddy are in the kitchen is so ingrained in my son that he often pulls his chef outfit on and tells us that he’s making dinner. Excellent! I wonder when I can actually put him to work in the big kitchen?

I love that my son understands that mummy works. I love that he sees both of his parents contributing to his home life. I love that when mummy is working on weekends, he gets quality time with his daddy, which both of them completely relish. I love that when mummy goes away for work, my son feels complete control because he knows his daddy is there and that his daddy can handle absolutely anything kid-related.

I think it’s so important that my children see that I have a life outside of being their mummy. And while my kids will continue to be my whole world, it’s so important that they see there is still a little place for myself and my career there too.

 

Five books you and your toddler will love to read together

They say that reading to your children helps development in a number of ways. In babies, it helps them become familiar with sounds, words, language and images. While they may not be able to respond, eventually, your babies will really appreciate the value and joy that reading a good book brings. If they’re anything like my two-year-old, reading will soon become their favourite pastime. My husband and I love reading to our little one, and he loves looking at all of the pictures and trying to read the books himself. Sometimes we find him on the floor of his bedroom flicking through his books on his own. And there are definitely some books out there that you’ll love reading together. Here are our top five.

Any of the ‘that’s not my…’ books.

These ones are absolutely gorgeous to read and the best thing about them is that they’re tactile. You’re little one will love feeling the bumps, scruffs and lumps on each page as they learn all about animals, transport, monsters and fairies. The publishers must be doing something right because the series has sold more than 20 million copies worldwide. For us, I love watching my son make his way through the books as he discovers radiators, eye-patches, tails and udders. Plus, whenever he picks up the Pig book, he snorts, which is downright hilarious, so they’re obviously teaching him something.

The Very Cranky Bear series by Nick Bland

This one has been read so much in our house that my husband and I can now recite it word for word. Need to read a book in the dark, no problems, just pull out The Very Cranky Bear! The cranky bear is also itchy, noisy, brave, sleepy and hungry so there are lots of varieties you can pick up. It’s so addictive that my son has even been known to request the book three times in a row before going to bed, flat-out refusing any other story. What’s so good about the books? Firstly, they rhyme, so they’re easy to read and easy to listen to. But more than that, each book has a lesson to learn. And while this will probably go over your toddler’s head to begin with, it’s something they can learn as they grow.

Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes

I could put anything by Mem Fox on this list and you’d be guaranteed to love it, but there’s something about this book that gets me – every single time. Maybe it’s because baby fingers and baby toes are so darn cute. But it’s also probably because as you read it, you figure out that no matter where a baby is born, whether it’s the hills, the ice or in an eiderdown, they’re absolutely precious, even down to the three little kisses on the tip of their nose

Spot books

There’s nothing quite like instilling a sense of curiosity in a kid. And that’s exactly what the Spot lift-the-flap books do. While it may not help children learn language or anything like that, it sure is exciting for the child to discover what’s underneath the flap. This gets them involved in the book which can really, only be a good thing. Plus, these Spot books have entertained my little one for hours (ok, let’s face it, minutes) on end as he opens and closes the flaps and looks at the pictures. He even finds them at his grandparent’s place so he can read them there too. Just be aware, there may be some sticky tape needed to conduct some repair work when the kids get a little too enthusiastic.

I’d Know You Anywhere My Love by Nancy Tillman

Okay, here’s where we get sentimental. This book is the epitome of emotional for parents. We decided to buy this one for our son’s first birthday and it’s definitely one of his favourites. You know why it’s so emotional? Because it’s all about a mummy and a daddy being able to recognise their child, no matter what shape or form he takes. While the concept of it may be geared towards children who are slightly older, your little ones will adore the animals on every single page. And it gives mum and dad an opportunity to test out those animal noises too.

Want to know what else is on high rotation in our house?

  • The Ugly Five by Julia Donaldson
  • I Just Couldn’t Wait to Meet You by Kate Ritchie
  • Anything by Dr Seuss (obviously)
  • Don’t Call Me Bear by Aaron Blabey
  • Oi Dog by Kes and Claire Gray
  • Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker (because, diggers)

 

Mama needs a break

I absolutely adore my son. He most definitely gives me a reason to get up in the morning and I can honestly say that my heart is fuller since he arrived on the scene. And when he’s at daycare or I’m away from him, my heart literally (ok, not literally, but very close to) breaks. I miss him. He is constantly on my mind. Is he sleeping ok? Is he eating? How awful I feel knowing that he may be crying and I can’t be there to comfort him. Sometimes when he’s sleeping, I miss him too much I can’t actually stand it. But all of that love, that unconditional love of a mother, doesn’t mean I don’t need a break. I’ll admit that I’m a better mum because of the time we spend apart. And I’m not ashamed to say it.

Here’s the thing. Parents are not bad people or parents because they hand their children over to others. While care may be necessary due to work commitments, it’s a-okay to find someone to look after your child or children while you take a little break. It could be something as simple as a coffee down the road without a little person whining or stealing the chocolate from the top of your cappuccino (which let’s face it, is the best part), or something a bit longer like a massage. Or shock horror, a whole day to yourself, to simply recharge.

I went back to work when my son was four months old. I work from home, so I had the luxury of working when he slept. But I still needed a day to sit at my desk and really knuckle down. I needed a block of more than 40 minutes. Thanks catnapping child! Enter our exceptional family.

Since my son was six months old, I have driven him to my in-laws one afternoon and he has been delivered back to me 24 hours later. When my in-laws aren’t available, my dad or my aunt steps in. The day is out of necessity. But that night, holy moly, that night is heaven on earth. Not only do my husband and I get a date night, but we also get a full night of undisturbed sleep. While on every other night, we sleep (read: I sleep) with the knowledge that we need to listen out for our son if he needs us, one night a week, we sleep deeply. And I wake up rejuvenated. I knock out eight, sometimes nine hours of solid work. And when my son comes home, I envelop him in a massive cuddle, and we play. And you know what? I have the energy to play. I have the energy to smile and laugh. I have the energy to cook for him. And the best part about it is that I don’t have to dig deep for that energy. It’s there because I’ve had a break.

I know this is a luxury that many parents don’t have. I thank my exceptional village each and every day. Hell, I’m thankful for them each and every hour of every day. I know there are parents out there with no family around. There are single mums and dads who are doing it on their own. There are parents out there who work such different hours to provide the best possible lives for their children that they see each other for merely an hour a day. I never ever take our situation for granted.

But to all those parents out there who have help available, whether it’s family, friends, childcare or a nanny, never be ashamed to accept it. Never feel guilty for giving your child over to other people. Never feel pressured into doing absolutely everything yourself. If you have people around you, view the situation like this: your child is loved. Those people can give your child even more love. They can provide laughter and playtime. They can provide comfort through the tears for you and your child. Children thrive on love. Let your family, your friends, your childcare teachers and your helpers shower them in love.

And let yourself take a break.

Mum manual

They say life doesn’t come with a manual. It comes with a mother.

But what happens if you lose your mum before you become one? What manual do you have then? There’s no instruction book on how to raise a child. And even children who are related will still be raised differently.

My mum made me who I am. Together with my dad, she shaped me. I have the attitude, personality, drive, determination and love because they gave it to me. That probably means that I have everything I need to be a mum. But it’s not enough.

On days like today, four years since she passed away, I miss my mum more than anything in the world. I miss the wisdom. I miss the answers. I miss the wit and the laugh and the hugs and the kisses. I miss the coffee dates and the aimless television dates.

About a month ago, I said something to one my mum’s very good friends. It was a random statement that I can’t even recall – obviously not something too important. She turned around and in her words, said to me, “gosh you sounded just like your mum when you said that”.

It makes me incredibly happy to know that I sound like her. Sometimes when I’m saying things I can actually hear her voice in my head saying it in exactly the same way. But it also makes me incredibly sad. What I wouldn’t give to hear her saying it instead.

It’s funny the things you miss. I never thought I’d miss her voice. Yet, every time I sing Baby Mine or You Are My Sunshine to my son, I can hear her singing off key in my ear. And I wish more than anything that my son could hear it too.

I never thought I’d miss her nagging. But yep, I miss that too.

There were times when I was growing up that I definitely did not appreciate the dozen or so phone calls that would come through during the day. If I could only go back in time and relish the conversations. I’d take 1000 calls from her every day if I could.

Probably what I miss most though is nights when after dinner, my dad would head to his study to get a couple more hours’ worth of work in and my mum would head to her bedroom to watch TV. I’d crawl into the big bed with her and we’d watch. While we’d watch, we’d chat. She would ask me how my day was and what was in the works for the following day. Occasionally she’d reach out for my hand, just because she could. Despite having another television in the house where I could watch whatever the hell I wanted (not her Sci-Fi crap), I’d still head to her room. Just so I could hang out. Eventually, my dad would come to bed and kick me out but those couple of hours, even though we weren’t doing anything exceptional, were the most special hours of my day.

Life doesn’t come with a manual. And sometimes, it doesn’t come with a mum. I’m raising my son without my mum. And it’s tough. Sometimes, even four years later, I find myself randomly starting to cry. Not for any particular reason, just because I want to ask her something. Or because I’m having a really tough day, and despite the fact that I have a multitude of people around me who support me and love me unconditionally, she’s the only one who I want.

My son walks up to pictures of my mum and very proudly proclaims ‘Nana’. He doesn’t know what Nana means just yet, and he doesn’t know or understand why she’s not here. But the fact that he knows who Nana is, that’s pretty special. I know he’ll grow up with her around him, purely because he has me for a mum. And I’ll make damn sure he hears all the stories – funny, happy and sad. I’ll make sure she’s part of his life. Because even without her here, she’s making her mark and I’m pretty sure she’ll continue to do so.

Three

Jess & Daniel_0364

It’s been three years now. It never gets easier. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, whoever said ‘time heals all wounds’ was talking complete and utter bullshit. Nothing heals the wound of losing a loved one. Time just ensures you become a bit more capable of managing the wound; allowing the wound to weep and then stitching it back up to face another day.

Today I had a distraction. I had two beautiful distractions this morning actually. Your two little grandsons. The third arrived in the afternoon, oblivious to how tough the day was. Bounding in and tackling his little brother, who himself, just hours before had been tackling his little cousin to the floor. Oh, what fun we’re going to have with the three of them. Already they’re shaping up to be a pretty formidable and absolutely hilarious little trio, who despite being so young still, have each other’s backs.

Let me tell you a bit about your youngest. He’s named after you, but I’m still waiting to see whether he shares any personality traits of yours.

He’s a little quiet achiever… or as we like to call him, a silent menace. While Rocky will tell the world when he does something cheeky, Rafael will silently complete his task and then sneak away, waiting for someone to notice that he has done something naughty.

He has his daddy’s eyes and his mummy’s nose. And some of the expressions he makes, I swear, we have the same photos of me as a baby.

He is inquisitive like his daddy. Just like we used to lose Daniel in Fiji, only to find him on the other side of the pool doing backflips and somersaults, I lose Rafael in the apartment all the time. He explores his surroundings. At times ‘rearranging’ his books in his room, other times pulling all of his bath toys to the floor creating puddle after puddle in the bathroom. And sometimes I find him playing with the vacuum cleaner, despite being petrified of it when it’s on.

But it’s me he takes after in the sunny personality stakes. He has the brightest smile. And no matter how cranky or tired he is, he always seems to flash it. He’s cheeky and funny, and friendly as anything, happily chatting away to whoever is in his vicinity.

He also has boundless energy and is bloody determined. Don’t you dare get in his way when he wants something. He knows what he wants and he’ll stop at nothing until he gets it.

But there’s no doubt about it, he’s absolutely exhausting. He never stops and at times it’s absolutely relentless.

If I didn’t say it to you enough (and I really don’t think I did), thank you for everything you did for me. I now understand what it takes to be a mum.

Since becoming a mum myself, I have realised all the sacrifices you and dad made for us as kids (and continue to do so). I’ve also realised just how easy it is to love someone so unconditionally that it feels completely like second nature. He is my whole world. And no matter how tired I am, how sick I feel or how much I just want a moment to myself, the moment he smiles, my heart melts and I am 100% his again.

I just wish you were here to meet him. Because I know you’d love him just as much as I do.

Birth story: How I coped when my ‘birth plans’ went awry

My first pregnancy was classified as ‘high risk’, with elevated blood pressure and gestational diabetes. Still, the majority of my pregnancy was relatively straightforward and uneventful. That was, until week 37.

Although both my blood pressure and diabetes were borderline, I was monitored very closely. I didn’t require any extra tests or medical intervention but I took my blood pressure at home, I checked my sugars and my diet and exercise regime changed. I saw an endocrinologist and a diabetes nurse.

Of course, this meant that our birth plan was very much in the hands of the professionals.

When we first saw our obstetrician, while labour was preferred, we were all of the belief that whatever needed to happen to keep the baby and me safe was fine by us – including a caesarean section.

Our aim was to get beyond 36 weeks. Because of the elevated blood pressure, there was a high possibility that the baby would need to come early. For 36 weeks, my blood pressure remained stable. There were even times when it dropped below normal. Winning!

High blood pressure and a false alarm

At the end of week 37, my blood pressure reading came back sky high. The second and third readings (taken two and 30 minutes later) were also high. I called my obstetrician. The result: head to the hospital.

Off I went, advising my husband to be on call should the doctors decide it was time. I was monitored for a few hours and, luckily, sent home. All was right with the world again.

But it did give us a very big scare.

Getting ready for induction

At our next appointment with our obstetrician, the decision was made to get the baby out to avoid him going into distress.

Imagine my husband’s face when our doctor said he’d see if he could get us in that night. White as a feather!

Rather than surgery, and under our doctor’s advice, we chose induction. We were still aiming for a vaginal delivery. By 10pm Saturday night I had been induced.

By morning, I had endured three unsuccessful and very painful attempts to break my waters. That was when the anaesthetist arrived. My lovely, caring, unbelievable obstetrician said if they were going to put me through that kind of pain again, I wasn’t going to feel it.

Following the fourth attempt, despite not feeling anything, the machine next to me said I was having strong contractions about 10 minutes apart. We were well on our way.

Four hours later everything went haywire.

The decision to have an emergency caesarean

With our final check, there was still too much fluid around my baby and things were getting a tad too dangerous. For fear of us both going into distress, my doctor said in a very calm and encouraging voice that we’d meet our baby within the hour. I was being prepped for surgery.

The anaesthetist returned to top up my epidural and within 15 minutes he and my husband were wheeling me down to surgery. No time to wait for a porter!

Bright lights greeted us. There were nurses, a new midwife and a surgical assistant to meet, people talking, beds moving. Everything was happening very quickly and yet, despite being classified as an emergency caesarean section, everyone and everything was calm.

My husband held my hand, our anaesthetist narrated everything, the surgical assistant told me to take a big deep breath, there was a push on my tummy, a few tugs, and then heavenly newborn screams. Within minutes, my son was in my arms.

Dealing with a ‘failed’ birth plan – 5 things that helped

1. We tried (and failed) to sleep

Our night was very disruptive with midwife visits and hourly checks. So, we rested. Regardless of how this was going to go, we both needed as much energy as possible.

2. We talked about our little baby

We discussed names (because we still hadn’t decided on a boy’s name). We considered how our life was about to change. Talking kept our minds off everything that was happening; it gave us some control.

3. We kept our families updated

While some couples choose to keep quiet, and others tell the world, we kept it in the family. We texted and called to include them in our birth, meaning we could give them information without numerous phone calls coming through.

4. We listened

The incredible medical experts around us told us exactly what was happening and why. When they said to wait, we waited. When they said to take the gas, I took the gas … and then spat it out. We wholeheartedly put our trust in the team and because of that, we were calm. Nothing was unexpected and we were prepared.

5. We laughed

A lot! In fact, within the first hour of being admitted my husband had me in stitches by accidentally brushing his teeth with Deep Heat.

While an emergency caesarean section wasn’t the birth we imagined, things ended up fine.

Some women plan to give birth naturally and end up under general anaesthetic. Some think they’re going in for surgery but their babies just can’t wait.

At the end of the day, my little boy is here and I have a scar just above my pubic bone. Regardless of how he entered the world, he’s a happy little Vegemite who constantly gets into mischief. And isn’t that the most important thing of all?

This post first appeared on Babyology.

Fed is best

Choosing to bottle feed my baby saved me from post-natal depression

I’ve never been that comfortable with my body. When my friends would be changing in the open locker room for sports classes, I would be hiding in the bathroom stall. This didn’t change when my now husband and I started dating. Being comfortable around him changed, of course, when I had our baby. There’s something about recovering from a c-section and not being able to even dry yourself after a shower (among other things) that throws all modesty out the window.

When we found out I was pregnant, my immediate reaction was ‘oh my gosh, I’m going to have to pull my boobs out in public’. The thought alone made me feel queasy. I know there are wraps and covers you can use to protect your privacy, but even that seemed unpleasant to me. I knew, deep down, that even in my own home, I would have to take myself out of social situations to go and feed in private. This is no way for a new mother to feel.

And, when it came to my emotional state, this was only one element that needed to be considered.

Taking stock after loss and grief

Losing my mum aged 57 and my nana, and falling pregnant, all within 18 months of each other meant a whirlwind of emotions. Having gone through such trauma in such a small amount of time, I knew that I was susceptible to post-natal depression.

Let’s be honest, while things are slowly changing, many people don’t talk much about PND. I, myself, have been very open about it, knowing that my circumstances could result in some very low days and knowing that I may need some extra help to get me through. I have been careful to acknowledge my feelings. I have let myself cry, and straight after my tears have fallen, I’ve peeked in on my sleeping baby and all seems okay with the world again.

Finding my feet without my mum

I have been very aware of the fact that my mum isn’t here to help me find my way through temperatures, vaccinations and everything else that comes with a child.

I have an incredible support network in my father, my sister, my in-laws, my extended family, and of course, a very doting husband. But, to be frank, when you’re that close to your mum, no one can ever replace the advice she would have given you.

I have also, however, been very careful to acknowledge my good days. And by acknowledging my feelings and allowing myself to wallow and feel sad, I’ve realised there have actually been far more good days than bad.

Breast or bottle? The choice was a hard one

When it came to feeding, I agonised over my decision for quite a while. My husband and I talked for hours on end about what was better – formula or breast milk, boob or bottle.

And at the end of the day, we both decided, that no matter where our child’s food came from, a fed baby is a happy baby. And a happy, relaxed mummy, is a happy, relaxed family.

I know breastfeeding comes with a multitude of difficulties. I’ve spoken to many friends about how hard it can be. I’ve also spoken to those same friends about how incredible the experience is, how close they feel to their children when they’re up at all hours feeding – just mummy and child.

Bottle feeding was the right choice for us

But truth be told, I’ve bonded just as much with my little boy. We talk while we feed, we smile at each other, we sing. I can see his beautiful little face light up when the bottle comes near his mouth.

Whenever people ask whether we’re bottle or breastfeeding, the subsequent question is always whether it was a choice to bottle-feed. Yes, it was a choice. I recognised that my emotional fragility could impact my relationship with my baby. I recognised that breastfeeding would make it much harder for my son and I. I recognised that the best thing for my little family was that I was happy, comfortable, and able to get out and about, ensuring my mental and emotional state was cared for. And I recognised that by bottle feeding my child, someone could help me look after my baby if I was ever feeling too sad to care for him to the extent he needed.

I’m fortunate that I was able to pre-empt these things

For many women, PND creeps up on them, like those little monsters your children are convinced are under their beds.

We need to talk about the impact PND can have on a family, and how the ‘breast is best’ message can sometimes hinder a new mum’s ability to enjoy the time with her child.

We need to acknowledge that while breastfeeding is great, it is not always best; fed is best.

We need to acknowledge that many mums cannot breastfeed. And we need to acknowledge that many mums choose not to – and that’s okay too.

We need to acknowledge that bottle feeding has its place.

I know I’m not completely out of the woods when it comes to PND. It can happen weeks, months, even years after giving birth. But I believe I’ve made the right decision in trying my best to pre-empt it and combat it.

My baby has had formula since birth and he is thriving, he is happy, and he is perfect.

This post first appeared on Babyology.

60 today

_mg_6899Today, my mum would have turned 60.

Today, is also two months since my son was born.

It’s been a bittersweet two months… moments of pure joy tinged with moments of pure heartache.

While I clearly remember the 24 hours before my son arrived, I don’t remember much about the hours after the birth.

Mostly, I remember holding my dad’s hand as I lay in bed, a bit spaced out from the drugs and hormones.

But I also remember looking around and noticing that while my baby boy was surrounded by aunts, uncles and grandparents, there was a very special person missing. And she should have been holding my other hand at that moment.

These past two months have been filled with first smiles and first chats.

First sleepless nights.

First coughs and first hospital stays.

The moment I was told that while it wasn’t an emergency, we had to head to the hospital to get our baby looked at, it took all of my willpower not to pick up the phone and call her. We sprung into parent mode, packing bottles and formula, without actually knowing how long we would be there for. Packing clothes for the baby. I guess it’s the life of a parent when you pack everything for your child and completely forget to pack anything for yourself.

Just before midnight, I found myself heading home to get what I would need for the next 24 hours. And I couldn’t help but think how my mum felt when I was admitted to hospital for weeks when I was just a few months old, quarantined with a gastro-bug.

As I lay in the hospital bed (if you could even call it that) while my son was hooked up to monitoring machines, coughing and spluttering, and listening to the other children around us, my heart broke time and time again.

All my baby wanted was his mummy, and all I wanted was mine.

I know there will be lots of firsts ahead – first solids, first steps, first words.

And while I know each will be marked with pride and smiles, I also know each will be marked with longing. Longing that mum could experience my baby’s firsts too.

A little while ago, I wrote about grief and mourning and whether you ever stop grieving. I really don’t think you do. And having my son has confirmed this. Because I will forever be grieving about the memories my mum won’t be able to share with her grandchildren.

Today, we’ll have lunch with her friends. We’ll have dinner as a family. We’ll try to enjoy our day as best we can.

In a perfect world, there would be a big party planned for this weekend, because my mum never did anything by halves. And there was no way she would ever give up the opportunity to throw a party.

But the world is far from perfect. Our world is far from perfect.

We just have to learn to make do in our imperfect world – without mum.

I know there will be lots more fumbling through the darkness as I figure out how to be a mother to my little boy. I know that I will forever be asking what my mum would do in every situation.

But I also know that as long as I raise him the way my mum and dad raised my sister and I, Rafi and I will be ok.

We’ll just fumble together and find a way through it all.

Two

Dear Mum,

Today, almost to the minute in fact, is two years since you passed away. Two years since I last heard your voice. Two years since I last kissed you, hugged you. Two years…

A lot has changed in two years. A lot that I know you would have wanted to be part of. There have been holidays, new jobs, new homes, birthdays, celebrations, heartbreak.

You have a new little grandson and he’s perfect in every way. You also have another little grandchild on the way. I’m sure the two of them will get up to lots of mischief, encouraged, of course, by their big brother and cousin, otherwise known as the co-conspirator. I’m also sure that you would egg them all on… if only you were here.

When Rocky was born, we had to do the shasha without you. We spent the day laughing at the memory of making the shasha for Liv. The memory of running around the big glass dining table putting all the lollies in the bags, rushing to get it all done before the children descended on the house. This time, we put more people to work. As I sat, with Liv by my side, putting the chocolates into the bags, all I could think about was how much you would relish being there. You would be head of the table, bossing us all around, giving us jobs.

A lot has changed… and yet so much has stayed the same. Eerily the same. And I find it strange how life can go on so normally following such a trauma. There are days still when my heart hurts so much that I can’t just pick up the phone to hear your voice. I don’t anticipate that ever changing. I don’t believe you’re ever too old to need your mum. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think of you.

Every day I miss you more and more. It’s harder on days like today. Days where the heartache is so crushing that you feel like you are drowning in a sea of rocks. And yet it’s just as hard on happy occasions, things to celebrate. Because you would be front and centre… if only you were here.

Yet every day, I hear myself sounding more and more like you. And while that’s heartbreaking in itself, it brings me comfort to know that you’ve instilled in me so much of you.

It brings me comfort to know that so much of you will be passed down to my baby. My baby who already knows the sound of its nana’s voice. And whenever it hears you, it does a little dance. I hope it has your loyalty, your vivaciousness, your protectiveness. And I hope that it will feel your love. Because I know you’re never that far away.