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An impulsive decision to move house June 5, 2011

Filed under: Moving house,Parenting — titchandboofer @ 5:32 am
Tags: , , ,

There is no dithering around here. Individually, the beloved and I are not slow to make decisions or act on them. Together, when we’ve joined our decision-making forces, we are like lightening. For the beloved, I believe it’s because she just doesn’t like to get bogged down in some lengthy, time-consuming, emotional process of reflection and analysis. Nor does she get paralysed by the fear that fixing on one thing will mean having missed out on something better that is hovering just around the corner. She is not, however, at all impulsive, but rather sensible. As for me, I feel like I’m both impulsive and stubborn, willing to leap into something immediately and then steadfastly justify my commitment to whatever the thing might be, regardless of its actual value. Kind of like an enthusiastic puppy who chases after an improbably spiky stick and then morphs into a slavering bulldog, unwilling to drop it even as its spikes are chipping my teeth and piercing my gums. I also don’t get paralysed by a fear of missing out on the undiscovered, mainly because part of me thinks I can just have everything eventually. Over the years I’ve decided to describe the combined effect of these traits as ‘decisive’. Fortunately, the beloved’s sense usually tempers my ‘decisiveness’ and my ‘decisiveness’ can occasionally override her sensible caution. So, between us, we get things done and generally have a lot of fun, without going bankrupt or getting seriously injured.

The day before Easter Saturday, back at the end of April, we decided we had to move house. I was standing in our bathroom and said ‘I think we should move to a bigger house’. The beloved said ‘Hmmm. You’re right.’ and that was that. Not for no reason, mind you. Living here with one child is absolutely fine and even with two it wouldn’t be that cramped. But it’s like the age old argument of ‘can’t have more than three kids – we’d need a bigger car’…sounds perfectly reasonable on the surface, but life with children is never just about your own children, unless you have no family or friends. And for us, most days, life with our children also means life with the LMFs’ children, currently numbering four, soon to be five and eventually maybe six or more, who knows? And while we all love our children so so dearly, sometimes we just want them to all go and play somewhere else in the house, far far away from the heavenly peace of bitching about work over a cup of tea. Or you want one group of children to be able to play unhindered, while another lot sleep undisturbed. In this house, nothing is far far away and no-one is unhindered or undisturbed.

Aside from this, we were just ready to move on. This house is great. We’ve had a lot of fun renovating and redecorating. It’s been our first home that we’ve shared as a family and for me, the first place since my family home that isn’t a scuzzy share house. But this house is also bound up with the beloved’s family, and her relationship with her family. It was her grandparents home, which sat empty after they both went into a nursing home. Initially we were reluctant to move in, despite it being to our great financial advantage to do so. In our ideal world we would have stayed in the inner northern suburbs. You know, with all the other trendy lesbian couples and their Subarus. But we made the sensible choice and moved out here, to the peace and green and family-friendliness and almost complete lack of nearby cafes. And now we love it. We need the family-friendliness and we wouldn’t want to move away from the nearby LMFs and their families. And we make the most of the one good cafe. But we want a place that is really ours, with no history, no family ties.

A brief tour through our renovation:

Before: Yes, the world’s most migraine-inducing wallpaper. Sadly we didn’t photograph the carpet in this room before we ripped it up, but picture this: a sort of green and brown fleck. Gorgeous.

After: You can’t see from this angle, but the wall heater and air conditioner are gone, replaced with ducted everything. Heaven.

 Before: Also sadly, no one photographed my one-woman-and-a-hammer removal of the old kitchen. It was brown.

After: The fridge is not really seventeen feet wide. But it is quite large, thanks GG and The Doctor.

 Before: There was linoleum. It was sort of green.

After: But not nearly so pretty as this.

So, the Tuesday after the Friday before Easter Saturday, we looked at the first house on our shortlist. It was too small. On the Thursday we looked at the second house. It was too dark (and had no parking). On the Friday we looked at the third house. It was perfect. So we bought it. Yep. Just like that. One week. Leaving only one tiny problem. Our house wasn’t even on the market. Putting our just-get-it-doneness to the test, the following two weeks were really just one long blur of finding, coordinating and working out how to pay a collection of different tradesmen. Like pregnancy, it seemed to take forever, but then was over in a blink. And there we were, in our freshly painted house, with it’s freshly shorn garden, adorned with it’s sparkly new light fittings, void of it’s three-generation collection of stuff-shoved-under-the-house, decluttered of everything except a stack of glossy, real-estate agency advertising material. And now all we can do is wait; no lists to tick off, nothing to throw out, nothing to clean, nothing to pretty up, nothing to do except to try and quell the nauseating anxiety that the house won’t sell and we will be screwed.


Anyone need a house?


An unexpected career addition June 3, 2011

Now that the beloved has become a Sacred Vessel the time is ticking down on the clock of my part-time work (when I refer to ‘work’ in this post you can just assume I mean work-outside-the-home – I’m fully aware that staying home is work). Our arrangement is very simple: between us we need to earn the equivalent of one full-time wage. We work the same job, at the same place, so this is pretty easy to arrange. When small was new, I didn’t work at all and the beloved worked a lot. As small has got older, I’ve picked up my hours and the beloved has dropped hers. Income stays the same, one of us can always be with small and work is happy. The beloved has done a sterling job at being the primary wage earner for the past two years, with barely any complaint, and I’d love to imagine that, come the end of the year, I could just pick up my hours to full time and smoothly, uncomplainingly change places. But I just don’t think I can do it. It’s not that I don’t want to do actual work, although if both of us could just stay home with our babies and money magically appeared in our accounts I’m sure that would be great. It’s more that the idea of going back to being a full time, shift working, ward based, hospital midwife makes me want to cry. I love Midwifery with a grand passion and it will no doubt be my primary career for the rest of my working days. So if working in hospital only meant full time Midwifery, I would be as happy as a clam. But it doesn’t. Working in hospital means a little bit of Midwifery, mixed in with a whole lot of Obstetric Nursing, a whole lot of Crappy Hospital Politics, a fair bit of working with People That Make Me Want To Stick Pins In My Eyes and all too regular exposure to Seeing Women Being Ignored, Abused, Belittled and Mutilated. It’s not all awful, there are other excellent, skilled and compassionate midwives and doctors to join forces with in our efforts to Combat The System. But it’s an old, entrenched System and it’s exhausting to be in a near-permanent state of Combativeness.

Ah, woe is you, you may think in a sympathetic fashion. The following may temper that a little – a couple of months ago I did have the opportunity to go back to my caseload midwifery job, the one where I take on the care of five women per month and follow them through from early pregnancy to post birth, going on call for their labour and birth and working closely with a team of three other great midwives. Caseload is brilliant, far less soul-destroying than ward work, challenging in a positive way, better paid and overall deeply satisfying. But it is also exhausting. Being on call means a constant awareness of the women in your care who are nearing term, or who have particular issues earlier in pregnancy. It is an enormous emotional, mental and time commitment for yourself and the people close to you. You cannot plan to do things on your days on call, and if you do make plans you need to be able to drop them at the last minute. Your family has to tolerate you being called away in the middle of a meal or the middle of the night. Last year, when I found out that one of the LMFs was leaving her position in the caseload team to go on maternity leave, I was keen to fill her place. Then obstacles kept jumping up – life with small got more and more challenging, the caseload team manager drove me round the bend, the beloved became a Sacred Vessel and I slowly realised that I had things going on in my life that I wanted to be able to do on a regular, planned basis, commitments that I didn’t want to give up on.

One of these things was seeing my personal trainer, who is awesome in her energy and enthusiasm and commitment to her clients. Like most people, I’m basically lazy when it comes to exercise. I either need a project to work towards, or it needs to be something fun and difficult (which explains the ten years of circus arts being my primary exercise), or I need to be bullied into making a long-term financial commitment. It also needs to be nearby, not outrageously expensive, not lonely but not in a big impersonal group and mainly indoors. So that rules out joining a gym or running, thank god. This year the beloved started seeing the awesome personal trainer, who lives and works in the next street and whose enthusiasm stretches to being hugely encouraging without actually making you cry or vomit. Then the beloved talked me into going, too. At the time, I was driving a million miles every week to do hula hooping with my old trapeze coach. He’s great and also hugely encouraging, but mainly in a brutal, tell you to suck it up and run round the block wearing a bin bag under a jumper until you are much skinnier kind of way. Hula hooping was also getting challenging with a toddler on the move, who wanted to be closely involved. So on the whole, a personal trainer in the next street, who was cheaper and didn’t advocate any kind of bin bag wearing was quite appealing.

Never fear – I am slooooowly winding my way to the point. Other than being positively enthusiastic about training her clients, our personal trainer is always on the lookout for new and interesting classes to add to her group training program. So when she heard I was into hooping she decided I should teach classes for her. After the initial feeling of EeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeamInotvastlyunderqualified?eeeeeeeeeeeeee, I got excited and then I got Really Excited. Now I am five weeks into teaching an eight week course for beginner hoopers and I am Loving It. And now our lovely PT is planning some kind of hula hooping empire for me, so I continue to be Really Excited. Not only is teaching hooping fun (and often hilarious for all), it means I have an option for mixing Midwifery with Something Completely Different in my quest to both be the primary wage earner for our family and be emotionally and mentally satisfied at the same time. I don’t ask for much, do I?



*This is Not Me. This is Gypsy, the daughter of my lovely but slightly brutal trapeze coach…she is awesome.

Stay tuned for Chapter 4: an impulsive decision to Move House…


The creation of a whole new person June 1, 2011

Aside from the utter exhaustion of feeding our small person and the other tiresome and frustrating aspects of parenting any kid, there are also the really lovely and funny and generally awesome aspects of watching a growing person unfold in front of you day by day. It can be pretty interesting seeing it in your close friends’ kids, but it is absolutely fascinating in your own. I can’t speak for all parents, but I spend most days lurching from the proud delight of ‘Look! He can load the washing machine…he’s a genius! And see how he struggles to get those big towels in…so persistent, such a great problem solver! And so so so so beautiful!’ to the teeth-grinding frustration of ‘For christ sake Beloved, he’s on the dining table again. I’ve told him a hundred and eighty times. He’s so bloody stubborn and willful and unheeding of his personal safety. Poor kid, he’s just like me.’ And I love this feeling, the gratification of seeing parts of yourself appear, blended with the curiosity of discovering the other parts. This is not to say that any child is only the sum of their genetic parts; every attribute, every habit, every skill being ascribable to one or the other parent – one of the miraculous parts of personhood is the emergence of the completely new. But I think there is a desire in every parent, even extended family members, to search for themselves in the new generation, to tie them to their ancestry and feel part of something bigger. My family may not be the closest knit band of dysfunctional individuals, but even they will proudly attest to small’s behaviours being ‘A Family Trait’ with absolute conviction.

For the beloved and I this is a doubly fun exercise, as the small person is the product of conception with an anonymous donor. We know some things about the donor: his height and eye colour, his cat allergy, his detached earlobes, his lack of acne as a teenager, his self-assigned celebrity lookalike, and his motivations for being a donor, amongst other things. Before small was even conceived the profile seemed comprehensive, with three generations of medical history and little things like favourite books and music. But the more small grows, the scantness of this information becomes more obvious. What age did he walk? Did he have eating and speech issues, too? Did he have a fascination for laundry appliances? Who knows? And, in a sense, who cares? Small is, as the saying goes, his own person. He will continue to grow and learn and unfold before us, regardless of what we do or don’t know about the donor, or even about me. It isn’t with sadness or regret that I talk about this, but just with the growing realisation that the beloved and I have of what it means to be lesbian parents using an anonymous donor to have our children.

Yes, children, plural. Somewhere way back even more than a hundred years ago, last November, the beloved and I started to consider having another baby. Who knows? we thought, it may take ages to happen. So if we begin to think about starting to think about it and maybe plan a bit  and check out our options and whatnot then there will be at least two years between small and the new baby, maybe three years. In our typical style (as the LMFs can attest to), this vague idea turned to an actual initial appointment date within the space of about a week. Somehow the stars had aligned – the roster gave the beloved and I days off together, the airfares were cheap, the appointments were available, the money was miraculously there. Small was conceived at an interstate clinic, back when it was illegal in our home state of Victoria for single women or lesbian couples to access fertility treatment. Since then the law has changed. In fact, the bill addressing this issue was passed through parliament on the day I found out I was pregnant. And for about a minute we considered having treatment here, cutting out the hassle of flying interstate and juggling work and money and small. But it was a short minute. Going interstate to sunny Queensland meant being able to use the same donor and being treated by the same excellent and lovely staff. Queenslanders might be offended by this, but we thought it was pretty ironic that we had access to such great care in the great redneck state.

Anyway, off we trot in December for the initial round of appointments with the fertility specialist, his practice nurse, the other nurse, the counselor, the pathology nurses and the semen coordinator. As an aside, this fertility guy is hilarious – somehow he can say things like ‘yep yep, take that, then do the rooty rooty rooty every day until your next appointment’ (overheard phone conversation, clearly the rooty rooty isn’t going to help us so much) without seeming like a total bastard. After the forty-eight appointments and several hours of small galloping his crocodile all over the clinic, we’re all set – schedule of appointments, schedule of drugs, bag of drugs, letter to accompany drugs onto plane, pathology slips and ultrasound slips. Still it doesn’t really seem real that we will actually end up with another baby. Oh, it could take ages, we say. Hmm. Then, early this year, the stars of rostering and cashflow not so well aligned, the beloved returns to Queensland solo for her first attempt at being transformed into a Sacred Vessel (or Getting Knocked Up, whichever terminology takes your fancy). The next day she returns, unbeknownst to us all…. a Sacred Vessel (ie. pregnant, if you hadn’t already made that leap)!!

And so a whole new person has been created. Another growing being to love and marvel at, feed and clothe, wake with and snuggle with, carry about and entertain. Another combination of genetics to discover. According to the beloved this baby’s Polack tendencies are already showing – it’s already cheaper than the small person (hahahaha teehee teehee, fertility treatment humour). But really, how will small and new baby be alike? How will they differ? How will small cope, absorbing another person into his world, a person that shares the focus of his mamas? How will we cope? How will our mothering roles stay the same? Change? Blend and develop? What will it be like for the beloved to be the foggy, fuzzy breastfeeding mother? Will she still remember to pay all the bills for the household, like she does now? What will it be like for me to be the working-away-from-home-almost-full-time mother? Will I get sick of being the only one able to change the cat litter? And why, you may well ask, would the beloved being a Sacred Vessel have prevented me from blogging? Fair question. Although she is well and blossoming and glowing and such, she has been basically comatose for the first trimester of her pregnancy and sort of out of commission on the home front. She has also been Eating Healthily since the start of the brief pre-pregnancy planning period, which has sadly eliminated the baking of Sugary Delights from my day to day life, and no baking = no particularly interesting food to blog about. And perhaps most significantly, the knowledge that, at the end of the year, I will need to be the primary wage earner has got me plotting and scheming of ways to achieve this without working full time in the hospital. Which leads neatly into the story of: an unexpected Career Addition…


The utter exhaustion of feeding the small person. And other small things. May 31, 2011

Filed under: Breastfeeding,Parenting — titchandboofer @ 7:21 am
Tags: , , , , ,

Way back a hundred years ago, in February, I wrote this lengthy post about the trials and tribulations of trying to make the small person bigger via the magic of formula. In the first few weeks following the commencement of the Forced Formula Regime things were looking pretty positive. Small was drinking about half his required amount of milky toddler delight, gaining motor skills at a great rate, sleeping like a champion and generally being a happy camper. As third world baby disappeared and cheekily fiendish toddler emerged I was having a brief reprieve from feeling like the worst mother ever (and yes, I shall exaggerate as I wish).

Four weeks into the FF Regime we checked back in with Dr Tactless. Despite my previous experience of his uncharming way with words, I was feeling confident. Small was drinking! He felt like he weighed a goddamn ton! He could take off his own jumper! Win! Win! Win! Or not. Dr Tactless was underwhelmed by small’s progress and even more underwhelmed by his measly weight gain of a microgram (or something equally inadequate). The only thing he was satisfied with was the raft of blood test results, showing no malabsorption problems, no vitamin D deficiency (Ha! Suck on that Tactless. Call my baby pale indeed.), no infections and only apparently borderline low iron stores. His assessment was that the iron would come up with the increased intake of magic toddler milk (stay tuned for more on this later). His advice at this point was that we should really be trying harder to increase his intake and that we should resume trying to get him to have solids. But don’t get into a battle. Make it fun! Obviously, being pretty defective parents, we had Never Thought Of This and Just Weren’t Trying Hard Enough. Equally obviously, Tactless had forgotten having the identical conversation just four weeks before. Anyhoo, home we go to continue the FF Regime and add in a little Eat Your Goddamn Weetbix Funly. On the formula front there were no dramas, but to say that progress on the EYGWF front was slow would be an understatement. Like a dead snail trying to navigate coffee grounds. A good day would see the small one actually swallow about six teaspoons of mashed/pureed something. More would go in and then have to be fished out by the beloved or I later so that he could open his mouth again. Similarly slow was the small one’s acquisition of actual words. We had brought this up with Tactless. His response was ‘He can make sounds, he’ll speak when he’s ready. I’m not concerned.’ (Remember this folks).

So, to the utter exhaustion part. I do sense that some of you may be thinking ‘Meh. Frustrating yes, but exhausting? Really? Other people have Much Bigger Problems.’ Which is undoubtedly true, but trying to constantly rank yourself on a scale of Other People’s Problems is an endless and fruitless task. Yes, other parents have to provide full time nursing care to children with severe cerebral palsy, others need to learn how to resuscitate a baby with persistent apnoea (look it up), others just get to faff around and feed their kids chips and get their nails done. Whatever. For me, the small one’s eating is exhausting. Remember the 100mls over 4 hours bit? Extrapolate that to 800mls of formula, three attempted meals and two attempted snacks per day. My world narrowed to Feeding Small. From 5:30/6:00 o’clock in the morning to 7:30 at night, I mostly tried to feed Small. This was not fun for either of us. I could sit with him for an hour over breakfast and see him swallow two teaspoons of weetbix. And that was on a good day, if the weetbix was absolutely the perfect texture. Too thick and he’d just get all gummed up like it was brown glue. Too runny and it would be everywhere but in his belly. I would try and manage his routine so he had time each day when he wasn’t being asked to eat, when he would get to do normal toddler things like play and climb and dig in dirt. And I would bitterly watch other mothers get irritated by toddlers who constantly harass them for food. That is the day I looked forward to, when small acknowledged hunger and sought food from me. So there was no blogging, no reading of lovely trashy novels, no baking of sugary delights. If I wasn’t feeding small or trying to brighten up his day with sand and buckets, or working, or sleeping, I was slumped on the couch watching reruns of 7th Heaven, wallowing in being worst mother ever and fighting off the gnawing anxiety of destroying small’s relationship with food for life. The weight of being told – and believing – that I had caused all of this by breastfeeding too long and too much was too heavy to shrug off.

Another four weeks pass in much the same way, April begins. We return to Dr Tactless, knowing already that we’re on the brink of firing him, that we shouldn’t be seeking help from and paying someone who consistently contrives to make us feel worse about our parenting. We know better now than to go into his office feeling confident about any progress small may have made. Again his weight gain is impossibly small, although he has grown in height amazingly. Still no words. Still we are Not Trying Hard Enough. Three exchanges during this visit confirm that we are done with this man:

1. It is a warm day and we are carrying a sippy cup of water for small.

Tactless – This is what I mean. You should be taking EVERY opportunity to get calories into him. I don’t recommend offering him water at all.

Me – But he gets very constipated with only formula.

Tactless – Water is what we give people who are trying to lose weight, not gain it.

*     *     *     *     *

2. On the topic of Small’s lack of talking

Tactless – I’m very concerned that he is not talking. At this age (nineteen months) he should have at least ten words. By two he should have fifty words! And I don’t think he’s going to swallow the dictionary overnight.

Me – Four weeks ago you weren’t concerned at all about his speech, what has changed?

Tactless – Now you do know that you should talk to him?

Me – ………………

*     *     *     *     *

3. Later, also on the topic of talking

Me – Should we take him to a speech pathologist?

Tactless – Well there’s no scientific evidence to back up that sort of thing.

Me – Surely his speech and eating are connected?

Tactless – I think it’s really his personality. He’s obviously very stubborn

Hmmmmmm. Done with this man. So. Very. Done.

Despite the supposed witchcraftery of speech pathology, our next step is to find whichever coven a good one hangs out in and take the small one there. Fortuitously, The Nanna and Coach know someone who knows someone and thither we go. And she is lovely, no cat or broomstick in sight, very cheerful, very positive (oh the blessed relief!). Within ten minutes of talking through the small one’s history, watching him interact with us, watching him sign and listening to what sounds he can make, she has a preliminary diagnosis. And it is not that I have breastfed too long or too much. It is….drumroll please…… Verbal and Oral Dyspraxia. The ultra brief, layperson description is that small knows stuff (like that he has to swallow what’s in his mouth) and he can do stuff (like swallow) but the pathway between knowing and doing is disrupted and not under great voluntary control. So he’s not just the world’s most stubborn baby. And it’s not that we’re Just Not Trying Hard Enough. And whilst no parent wants there to be something wrong with their child, I am indescribably relieved. I am floating with relief. I am overjoyed to have an answer that is not simply a way of blaming me or my child for not getting it all right. Want more good news? According to the speech pathologist, even if we did nothing, small will be fine eventually, just frustrated and delayed. And the something we can do? Speech training. And as his control over speech improves, so will his control over eating and swallowing. Just like that.

Interestingly, statistics suggest 10% of children will have a form of dyspraxia. 70% of these will be boys. Even more interestingly, Dr Tactless and the speech pathologist have shared many patients with this problem. Yet he never mentioned this.

Just last week we took small off to a new paediatrician. We shall call him Dr Lovely. I have worked with Dr Lovely on many occasions and have only ever seen him treat mothers and babies with respect. Why it didn’t occur to us to go to him before, I don’t know. Anyhow, Dr Lovely’s take on small?

– Number one issue: low iron. Supplement iron and he’ll sleep, feed, concentrate and generally feel better.

– Reduce formula.

– Increase food, even if it’s the few foods he can handle, like perfectly textured weetbix, rice and all it’s derivatives, nutella and peanut butter.

– Carry on breastfeeding if we fancy.

– Unconcerned re small’s size. Actually noticed my own smallness and – shock! horror! – related that to small’s genetic potential.

Lo and behold, within one week our lives have changed again. Small is eating! Meals! With minimal peanut butter related bribery! And small is speaking! Just a few words… for example: I say “you’re a cheeky boy” and he replies “I cheechee!”. And so I continue to float with relief, unburdened of a layer of mothering guilt, delighting in the further fiendish unfolding of small’s toddlerishness. Time once enslaved to Feeding Small can instead be devoted to Keeping Small Away From The Stove and buying bigger toddler shoes and, well, blogging.

*     *     *     *     *

Stay tuned for chapter two of “A goodly four months of procrastination” – The creation of a Whole New Person.


No no, not abandoned

In brief, the top five reasons for my neglectful treatment of this blog:

1. The utter exhaustion of Feeding The Small Person

2. The creation of a Whole New Person

3. An unexpected Career Addition

4. An impulsive decision to Move House

5. I just wasn’t Feeling It

*      *     *     *     *

And so “A goodly four months of procrastination: A work of non-fiction in five chapters” is born…


Fun parent has left the building February 9, 2011

Grab your cup of tea and a large snack. This will not be brief.

Here I was almost six months ago, mother of a one year old who had zero interest in expanding his diet, and wrestling with the questions of follow versus lead, surrender versus control. My enthusiasm to embrace small’s transition to toddlerhood and our family’s transition out of the hazy circus of babyhood meant that the pendulum tipped to lead and control. And for a time all was well. Somewhat smugly, I felt I had achieved quite a coup: the small one ate a small amount of food and continued to breastfeed a large amount of the time. Huzzah  for extended breastfeeding thought I. Time whooshed by. My work hours stretched into two days a week, the beloved’s compressed to three or four. At some point, small let go of his hatred of bottles and cups. Freedom! The beloved could give him expressed milk and no longer had to plan their day strategically around small being brought in to work for a breastfeed. We could even (gasp!) go out without him, just the two of us.  Just look at us go! Embracing change left and right! Ah, the maturity.

Summer arrived, rainy, humid. Ate a lot of ice cream, lurched onto the mad pre-Christmas treadmill of catching up with friends, worked a bit, got chiropracted a lot (yes, well, if other people can make up words, I don’t see why I can’t join in), got sucked into the shopping frenzy, and expended a lot of energy secretively hiding and wrapping presents. And some time in there the small one just kind of stopped eating again. One day I realised I was still carrying around food for him every day, still offering him three meals plus snacks, but that it was all going uneaten. He was toying with his cereal, having the odd rice bubble or bran flake, crumbling his previously beloved fruit bars and mooshing them into the furniture, turning his nose up at toast, hiding his dinner under an upturned bowl, not really ever eating. He was breastfeeding as much as ever, maybe more, with night feeds escalating wildly to the point where once he grabbed on he wouldn’t let go until dawn. Bloody hell it was exhausting. What to do? I stopped expressing at work, reasoning that a drop in supply might increase his appetite for the alternative. I tried to reinject a little stability in his day, making sure we were at home for mealtimes and sleeps, not varying the food too much.  In the new year I made just one resolution: to night wean.


Oy, the trepidation. I had toyed with the idea of night weaning for a while, longing for sleep like a strung out addict. I talked at all and sundry about it. Predictions were dire and unanimous…night weaning and bed-sharing would not be compatible, small would not be off the boob until he was out of our bed and he wouldn’t get out of our bed until he was out of our room and presumably wouldn’t be out of our room until he bought his own house some time in 2039. What the hell, I thought. Can only give it a go. I struck a deal with the small one – you can have all the cuddles you want, all night, but it’s last drinks at 10pm then the bar will reopen when it is light outside. Miraculously, with just one night of outraged shrieking, we succeeded. Yes, he may sleep on my head, or at least on 70% of my pillow, and do a bit of break dancing and occasional squawking through the night, but it’s surprisingly easy to sleep with a toddler on your head and not on your breast. He even stopped the hopeful groping after a few nights. Smug parenting moment. Sleep. Bliss. But mysteriously no increase in appetite. Still no eating. And still attached to the breast at any opportunity through the day. It dawned on me one day that whenever I was stationary, he’d come for me like a homing missile. My latest theory is that the breastfeeding weight loss starts when you start running away from your toddler.

And then it was January. Lazy, sandy, lolling January. Still no eating. No talking. And not really growing much either. And then he got a virus, not a bad virus, just persistent enough for us to go to the GP. Unsurprisingly the GP said ‘small is too small, take him to a paediatrician…really, it won’t be that bad, he won’t bite you’. Coming not long after the new and disliked maternal child health nurse snippily said ‘well, I have to tell you to see a paediatrician, even if you won’t go’ and right on the back of a close friend having the courage to tell us that she didn’t think all was well with small and his food strike, it was the straw that broke this mama’s resolve. I’d grown hardened to the insensitive, offhand and sometimes plain ridiculous comments coming from any old schmo in the street. It’s hard to hear but even harder to ignore it when it comes from someone who loves you and your baby dearly.

So to the paediatrician we went. Grimly prepared, list of questions in hand, contents of Blue Book virtually memorised, I felt like I was going to sit a test for which I couldn’t possibly study well enough. Yes, this could be taking a healthy wariness a little too far, but the clawing anxiety was hard to suppress. What was my worst fear? Being told ‘you must wean and give your baby formula’. And what happened? I was told ‘you must wean and give your baby formula’. It played out like so:

Me – So, I have x, y and z concerns. I’m not really concerned about his size. Genetically, he’s going to be small.

Dr Notsochatty –  (after about twenty minutes of silently examining, weighing, measuring, charting and noting developmental milestones) None of x, y or z are concerning to me at all. These things will be fine. He is too small. It’s a very simple issue – not enough calories.

Me – Why doesn’t he seem hungry? Why doesn’t he take the abundant food or drink offered to him? I assumed he would instinctively take what he needs.

Dr Tactless – He is like a baby in the 3rd world. He’s just used to not getting enough so he doesn’t ask for more.

Me – Wow. That makes me feel great. So, I have been effectively starving him for months. But he seemed so happy.

Dr Slightlyobtuse – Lethargy can look a lot like contentment. The solution is to wean and put him on toddler formula. He needs to be having (tappity tappity of calculator) one litre a day.

Me – I’m quite devastated. (trying not to embarassingly cry) I don’t want to wean him completely. I still feel there is value in breastmilk for him.

Dr Sceptical – What’s your problem with formula?

Me – Urhh. That’s not really what I have the problem with. I have a problem with weaning completely.

Dr I’mdonenow – Well don’t then. Just make sure you give the formula first. We’ll see you in 3-4 weeks. If he’s not improving we’ll look at admission to a hospital or a mother-baby unit.

Me – ……………

That was that.

I thought ‘I could fight this, I could ignore this advice and carry on waiting for small. But why did I come here? Wasn’t I ready for something to change? Yes. We have tried it small’s way and that hasn’t worked. So we’ll try this other way’. And before I could get distracted by the competing voices in my head, I stamped over to the supermarket and bought a tin of toddler formula. On the up side, it is organic.

Then we went home and I was introduced to a new side of the small person – the you-thought-I-was-stubborn-before-ha-you-aint-seen-nothing-yet side. Again I say – goddamn genetics. Since before I was pregnant I was repelled by the advice given to always dominate your child, to show them who’s in control, to wield all the power, to not give the inch for fear of losing the mile. I so dearly wanted to respect my child’s individuality, to recognise the limited ways he has to voice his own wants, to honour his right to exercise his own willpower. I didn’t want to get into power struggles with him. I wanted to negotiate peacefully…….. It’s fine. You can get up off the floor now. Wipe away the tears of laughter. Oh ho ho ho. And yes, I have met toddlers before, but obviously mine was going to be special and different. Be careful what you wish for indeed. Small obviously feels that his right to exercise his own willpower is indeed honoured.



So, the formula. The first day I managed to cram 100mls into him. It took four hours. Mainly he did angry backbends over my lap, his face contorting in his efforts to escape what was effectively waterboarding with powdered milk. God it was dreadful. Not only was I the worst mother ever, with my third world toddler, but now I was torturing him. But as the week has unfolded, things have improved. Cooperation up, bodily restraint down. And despite my scepticism, and being completely aware of my ability to rationalise any decision I’ve made, the regime is working. This week has been like watching the small one come out of hibernation. He’s more vibrant, social, curious, vocal. His concentration span has soared. His sleeping has improved out of sight. He’s incredibly affectionate. It’s amazing to watch.

Yet painful. While I’m grateful that there’s nothing wrong with him that food cannot fix, it kills me that he’s been doing without for months. It challenges my faith in extended breastfeeding. It really challenges my faith in baby-led weaning/solids. It scares me that this could have gone on for longer. It makes me feel foolish for being so, so sure of my convictions.


Hold on February 7, 2011

January has passed, in a sticky blur of mango and sand. Summer is always like this for me – Christmas whizzes by in a frenzy, then I wallow through the first month of the calendar year, letting the garden, my hair and the lists of postponed stuff and phone calls grow to unmanageable proportions. At heart I’m still on school holidays in January and this feeling doesn’t dissipate, no matter how far from actually being in school. Aside from regular games of slow-motion chasey, the small one and I have mainly lain around, on the beach, in the pool, in the wild grass of our yard, and on the floor of the living room, listening to the pock-grunt of tennis and reading Moo, Ba, La La La forty hundred times or so. The few days I’ve worked have been slow and quiet, long hours of sitting with women while they breastfeed, interrupted only to help plough through the Christmas chocolates.

But now it’s February, the true start of the year. Crammed weeks of delayed appointments, maniacal list-crossing-off activity, actual work, shonky parenting* and a happy happy return to baking. Our poor, neglected oven isn’t going to know what’s hit it. Christmas brought a heavy windfall of recipe books…Jose Marechal’s Secrets of Macarons, Tim Halket’s Five Fat Hens, a book of afternoon slices to drool over (ginger cheesecake, earl grey tea custard, oh my), The Original Australian Women’s Weekly Birthday Cake Book (!!! clever, clever SF) and Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Cake Bible. The latter alone could keep me occupied for months, and to begin – something simple and ferociously indulgent:



Chocolate Oblivion

455 grams of your favourite dark eating chocolate, I used Old Gold which is only about 50% cocoa

225 grams of unsalted butter

300 grams of eggs (weighed without shells – 5 or 6 large)



Preheat your oven to 220 degrees celsius (200 fan forced)

Grease and line a 20cm springform tin and set aside with a roasting pan

Break up the chocolate and chop the butter roughly. Put them both into a large metal bowl over a pan of just simmering water. Stir occasionally until melted and smooth. Take off the heat and set aside.



Break your eggs into a large glass bowl. Get your handheld electric mixer ready. Place the bowl over a pan of just simmering water and beat the eggs on high speed until they are warm-hot and foamy. Take off the heat and continue to beat on high speed until the eggs are cool.



Fold the eggs gently into the chocolate mixture in two-three installments, folding until no streaks remain.



Pour the mixture into the prepared springform tin. Place the tin in your roasting pan and fill the roasting pan with very hot water (up to about 3 cm up the side of the cake tin).

Bake, uncovered, for 5 minutes. In the meantime, butter one side of a piece of foil.

Place the foil over the cake and bake for a further ten minutes. The cake will still look fudgy in the middle – this is good.



Take the cake out of the oven and out of the water bath. Cool on a rack, in the tin, for 45-60 minutes, then refrigerate for a few hours.

When it is nicely firm, very carefully remove the springform side of the tin. You may need to gently run a palette knife between cake and tin first. Cover a plate in cling film. Invert the cake onto the covered plate, remove the base of the tin gently. Lastly, invert the cake onto a serving plate. Slice generously.


Eat. At room temperature it is silken and ever-so-slightly melty. On a hot day, straight from the fridge, it is cold and densely fudgy. We went through two cakes in a week, with a little help from the LMFs. No sugar, no flour. Really, it’s damn near a health food.


*More on this shortly.