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A Babywearing Life September 29, 2010

Next Wednesday, the 6th of October, marks the beginning of International Babywearing Week. Of course, round here every week is babywearing week. The small one will be fourteen months old at the end of IBW and he will have been carried in some kind of sling almost every day of his life.

In the early days we would tuck him, tiny and curled, into a chocolate brown peanut shell sling. So small that not even a finger or toe poked over the edge, I could walk around the local shops and often people wouldn’t even realise I was carrying a baby. Then we discovered the miracle that is the wraparound carrier – the hug a bub. A gift from the BLF, this soft and stretchy, pistachio green, organic cotton carrier was my outerwear for months. Well, not just my outerwear – small has been worn by the beloved, The Nanna, The Granny, the LMFs. Where the one-shoulder sling could be a little awkward (I always felt I needed to cradle it with my opposite arm), there was virtually nothing that couldn’t be achieved with small in the hug a bub, although I did draw the line at mowing the lawn. Before small was eight months old we had travelled overseas twice, both times taking the hug a bub instead of a pram. This was partly habit and convenience, but partly because both the beloved and I suffer acutely from Pram Shame. Pram Shame is some kind of allergic reaction to being exposed to Pram Rage, you know… ‘Out of my way! I have a pram! Coming through! I Have A Pram! MOVE! I HAVE A PRAM!’

Nearing one year old, small was starting to seem a little heavier in the hug a bub, stretching it a little more, wanting to look around a lot more. He’d got big enough that stretching around him to reach the kitchen bench, the ironing board, or the keyboard was getting harder and if he was awake and facing outwards his efforts to ‘help’ were getting downright dangerous. I really needed something I could use to carry him on my back. Now we have the Ergo Carrier, with its handy pockets for my keys and the nifty little sleeping hood. It’s fabulous. Although, when I see the group of Burmese parents who gather at our local library, their babies and toddlers tied to their backs with blankets, I wonder if I really need anything that fancy.

Why do we wear our baby? Because we wanted to Attachment Parent – even though our own version of AP has shifted and evolved over time , because it’s easy, convenient, time-saving, sanity-saving, loving, nurturing and fun. For all of these reasons and more. We want to know this tiny person intimately. We want to parent him responsively. We just love it!

So, if you’re a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, cousin or friend of a baby, big or small, why not try it? Leave the pram at home. Strap your baby to your front, your back, your side and go about your business. Find a Babywearing Week event near you and meet some fellow baby-wearers.

Or join me for mine: a Babywearing Walk on Saturday the 9th of October!

International Babywearing Week

A Babes in Arms initiative, sponsored by ERGObaby

October 6-12

 

After the horse September 27, 2010

Filed under: Breastfeeding — titchandboofer @ 2:00 am
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Breastfeeding has been getting a lot of exposure in the past couple of weeks. Dr Jennifer James sparked a a slew of newspaper articles, television news stories and current affairs program stories with her proposal that infant formula should be available on prescription only. At the same time there have been a few articles and television stories popping up here and there, debating whether or not women should or shouldn’t have to, or want to, cover their babies and their boobs while breastfeeding in public. Usually I’d be thrilled that a topic so dear to me is getting this much airtime, but at the moment I’m in an ambivalent kind of fug. In fact, it’s not so much ambivalence as a quiet sense of hopelessness. If only the media was buzzing about the value of breastfeeding, the value of mothers, about increasing support for women to initiate and sustain breastfeeding, and about helping women mould their lives around their need to breastfeed instead of the other way round. Then I would be delighted. But it’s not. To me the focus seems so negatively skewed. There’s a prevailing defeatist attitude that while women might want to breastfeed, most of them will be failed by their inadequate bodies or their sick babies, so they might as well opt out from the beginning.

This is absolute crap. Yes, there is a tiny percentage of women (<10%) who physically cannot breastfeed because they just don’t have sufficient breast tissue, or they don’t have their breasts anymore, or they’re being treated with the very rare medications that are not safe during breastfeeding (note to all: commonly used antibiotics do not fall into this category). The rest of them are not failed by their bodies or their babies. They’re failed by our peculiar society, with its distrust of the unpredictable rhythms of the human body and its voracious, conspicuous need to consume and control. Articles like Breast is best, but don’t ditch the back-up are just a literary and, in this case, actual advertisement for artificial feeding – the original article had an active Google advertisement for Nutricia smack bang in the centre. I could go on and on about the enormous infant formula companies and their ability to profit from fear-mongering. But really it is as simple as this – there is no money to be made from breastfeeding women. Except possibly for the people who make these (Oh Hathor, thank you. On days when I really feel the whole world is mad, I visit your blog and am instantly cheered up.). So, it doesn’t matter that breastfeeding is the biological default – I would say it’s the normal thing to do, but statistically that is a doubtful statement these days – it will still be advertised as too difficult, inconvenient and easily and safely replaced with powdered, modified cow’s milk. Is there another mammalian species on earth that fails so comprehensively at feeding its young that it chooses the milk of another species instead? Somewhere in me is a lengthy opinion about shared breastfeeding and community and donor milk, but that’s for another day.

Sometimes it’s just exhausting to care what choices we make as a society. So what if breastfeeding is the default setting? So is spontaneous, unmedicated vaginal birth. So is boys having a foreskin on their penis. Who cares if it’s the best choice, with long term health consequences for mothers, babies and society? So what if women are encouraged to opt out of doing something because they might not succeed, or it might hurt, or their partner won’t be able to bond with the baby, or they won’t be able to have a drink, or they might want to go to a wedding, or they won’t be able to buy enough stuff to sustain the local baby emporium? Why even bother trying to stop the juggernaut? Let people opt out. We can opt out of every other potentially uncomfortable thing in life. Why should this be any different? Even goddamn Pass the Parcel at children’s birthday parties has a prize in every layer these days, so kids don’t have to feel the discomfort of not winning. If that’s life when you’re four, why should adulthood be any different? And isn’t that the beauty of choice? So that people can make choices for themselves and their children even if the consequences are negative and irreversible.

That’s how I feel when I read the news these days. If people don’t value breastfeeding, if they’re not taught and supported to do it, if they’re misinformed, if they’re hindered, if they’re shamed for doing it in public, if they’re harassed for doing it for more than six months, if they suffer through difficulties over and again with no help, or if they just don’t want to do it, making infant formula more difficult to access won’t change that. But if we can fix everything else? Then absolutely…I’m on board!





 

The high road September 26, 2010

Filed under: Beautiful baking,Cakes to covet — titchandboofer @ 9:12 am
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There are times when one’s beloved is not. There are times, in fact, when your significant other might actually be a bit of a bastard. For one of my lovely midwife friends (LMF), today is one of those days. And isn’t it so tempting, when your spouse is being a bastard, to just be a bastard right back at them? You might not want to actually speak to them, but you do want to stay close by, just to let them know – through the mediums of stomping, door-slamming and heavy sighing – that you are wronged and they are responsible. Unfortunately, like me, my long-suffering LMF is sharing her life with an irredeemably stubborn and obtuse Polack. And like me my LMF has come to know that Polacks pay no attention to the subtext of stomping, door-slamming or heavy sighing. The Polack assumes that if you have stomped into another room, you want to be in the other room alone and that maybe you’re just feeling a little heavy-footed today. No amount of exaggerated huffing or avoiding eye-contact will make the Polack realise they should be apologise for a wrongdoing. If they were wrong, which is of course pretty unlikely, they would have apologised already. Obviously.

So, my LMF did not stay home today and wear herself out with foot-stampery. She went out and bought the bastard a birthday present. Then she came here and made him a birthday cake. Because, as anyone sharing their life with a stubborn Polack knows, there’s just no point holding a grudge. They only get confused.

Bastard Husband Guilt Trip Cake*

*adapted from The Australian Women’s Weekly Cakes & Slices

200 grams of dark chocolate, chopped roughly

1 tablespoon of instant coffee

1 tablespoon of boiling water

150 grams of unsalted butter, at room temperature

125 grams of caster sugar plus 2 tablespoons extra

3 eggs, separated

1 cup of plain flour

Filling:

200 grams of pure cream

1/2 tablespoon of instant coffee

1/2 tablespoon of boiling water

1 tablespoon of icing sugar

Icing:

140 grams of dark chocolate, chopped roughly

140 grams of unsalted butter

Preheat your oven to 190 degrees celsius (170 fan forced).

Grease and line a 23cm springform tin.

Melt the chocolate in a small heatproof bowl over hot water (set a small pan to simmer, then turn it off). Set aside to cool to room temperature.

The original recipe suggests adding a tablespoon of water to the melted sugar. Reading this, I thought ‘hmmm, that will seize the chocolate’. Then I thought ‘maybe this is a magical exception that the AWW has somehow created’. It is not an exception. Adding water to melted chocolate makes it seize. Do not do this. It’s a quick way to waste a lot of chocolate. Whenever you’re reading a recipe, listen to your instinct. They are not infallible. On the upside, redoing the chocolate part gave us the idea to add coffee and make this a mocha sacher torte.


In a medium bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.

Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Dissolve the coffee in the boiling water.

Add the coffee to the mixture, beating well to combine.

Stir in the melted chocolate.

Sift in the flour and stir well to combine.

In a medium bowl (glass or metal) beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add the extra caster sugar and beat well until the sugar has dissolved.

Gently fold the egg whites into the cake batter.

Spread the batter into the tin. Bake for 30 minutes.

Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

When the cake is completely cold (this can be hastened by putting it in the freezer for 15 minutes, which is helpful if all the children in the kitchen are driving you mad with their restlessness) cut it in half horizontally.

For the filling:

Sift the icing sugar into the cream.

Whisk until thickened slightly.

Dissolve the coffee in the boiling water.

Whisk into the cream and continue to whisk until spreadably thick.

Spread on the bottom layer of the cake. Replace the top layer.

For the icing:

Melt the chocolate and butter in a small heatproof bowl over hot water.

Set aside to cool and thicken. This may also be hastened by putting it in the fridge, stirring regularly until it reaches a spreadable consistency.

Spread all over the top and sides of the cake.

Take it home and give it to the undeserving bastard. With love.

 

So long and thanks for all the apples September 24, 2010

Filed under: Beautiful baking,Cakes to covet — titchandboofer @ 10:02 pm
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The Nanna and Coach have gone off traveling once more. They travel every couple of months, be it to cling to the bunks of a ship in the wild Antarctic seas, or to venture all the way to London’s borough market and bring home muesli. I am a little sad, as their absence means no Nanna Day each week for the small person and no Family Dinner Night each week for all of us. I’m also a teeny bit jealous, itching to go somewhere hot and sticky, where coconuts with straws are sold from roadside carts and you can swim at dawn – when the baby wakes up – and snooze in the afternoon. But I am also a little happy, as their departure means we inherit their perishables: salty black olives, fillets of snapper, bulbs of fennel, fancy yoghurt, extra eggs and shiny, crisp Granny Smith apples.

Farewell Cake

3 small Granny Smith apples – peeled, cored, quartered and finely sliced

250 grams of blackberries (frozen is fine, even preferable as they will hold their shape better during mixing)

350 grams of self-raising flour, sifted

250 grams of dark brown sugar

250 grams of natural yoghurt (or flavoured, whatever you fancy)

2 eggs

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

125 grams of unsalted butter

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsius (160 fan forced).

Butter and line a 23cm springform tin.

In a small bowl, melt the butter and set it aside to cool.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, dark brown sugar and cinnamon, whisking to break up the sugar (you could sift it, but that’s far more time consuming).

Add the apple and blackberries and stir gently. I didn’t want to make the blackberries mushy and turn the whole cake purple.

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs lightly. Add the yoghurt and melted butter, whisking to combine.

Add this mixture to the flour, sugar and fruit.

Fold gently until combined. The batter will be dense and sticky.

Scrape into your prepared tin.

Bake for 1 and 1/4 hours.

Leave to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. Lovely eaten warm and not at all bad cold either.

It’s quite a dense cake, thickly studded with the tangy, juicy berries and slivers of apple that still keep a bit of bite to them. Slightly cinnamony, but not at all overwhelming. In fact, if you love cinnamon you could add an extra half a teaspoon and be very happy. We ate it all by itself, but a big dollop of creme fraiche or real vanilla yoghurt couldn’t hurt. And needless to say, it goes very nicely with a great big mug of tea.

 

Conflict resolution

Filed under: Days of our chickens' lives — titchandboofer @ 11:14 am
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Management

The House

Faux-Farmville

Agnes D. Hen

HOPO

The Yard

Faux-Farmville

24th September, 2010

Dear Ms Hen,

We write pursuant to your letter, dated 17th September. Firstly, we regret to inform you that our planned Yard meeting has been postponed once again due to conflicting schedules. We hope to set a date in October that will suit all parties. However, in the interim we have several suggestions with regard to the grievances you have so comprehensively detailed.

We are disappointed to hear that you feel your position as HOPO is under threat. From our perspective, there is no other hen for the job. Mrs Poulawitska is clearly being a Pain in Your Wing, but she has neither the experience nor the competence to oust you. Obviously the job is not always going to be Grain and Dust Baths. There will be times when you need to take your title literally. Our advice: Peck hard and Peck often. A more drastic measure is Hypnosis, although clearly this should be a last resort. You may refer to The Yard Policy and Procedure manual to guide you through the process. Essentially you Wing The Offending Hen, pinning her beak to the ground, and scratch a line, extending from her beak into the distance. This should immobilise her for some time, enabling you to assert your authority and settle The Flock.

As for the junior members of The Flock, we require your patience and understanding for just a little longer. Their positions in The Yard are only temporary. Once their capabilities as Layers or Crowers are discerned, their contracts will be terminated and they will be redirected elsewhere. In the meantime do not feel compelled to keep tabs on them. Their adoptive mother is their immediate supervisor and we will not hold you responsible in the event of Attack or Abduction. We apologise for the disruption but caution that other temporary junior positions are likely to arise in the future. It is not always possible to negotiate far in advance, as the hens of your flock may Go Broody at any time.

Lastly, The Crow. We are acutely aware of The Flock’s distress and the need for action. Management has also felt the negative impact of the Crow keenly. Plans for a Scarecrow are on the table but, as you know, the wheels of bureaucracy grind slowly. To view and comment on the plans please contact our front desk and book a time. As an interim measure we commit to Active Pursuit of The Crow whensoever this is possible, as well as early and more frequent collection of Eggs.

We hope these suggestions assist you in working effectively as HOPO.

Yours in gratitude for your ongoing support of the Faux-Farmville Kitchen and Garden.

Management

 

Switch September 22, 2010

Filed under: Parenting — titchandboofer @ 10:18 am
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Conversations in our kitchen

*           *          *

Beloved is holding the small person, looking out the back window to the garden, appearing thoughtful.

– Now I’m home with small more often, perhaps you should tell me what needs doing in the garden so I can help.

Really? You want to garden?

– Well, yes. I might need something to do.

– Okay. There’s heaps of stuff to do at the moment. Do you want a list?

– Yes. But you can only write one list, you can’t lose it and rewrite it over and over again. Just stick it on the fridge.

*          *          *

List is written. List is on fridge. I go to work. I come home.

Good day?

Yep, small slept well and we spent a bit of time in the garden.

– Oooh, nice. What did you do?

Just some weeding around the raised bed in the middle of the garden.

Hmmm.

Was that on the list?

– No. But it was just weeding.

*          *          *

Later, I take rubbish out to bins. Bins are in garden. In the most non-checking-up-way I can muster, I investigate the site of the weeding.

You know the weeding?

– Mm hmm.

Not actually weeds. Actually bulbs. Gift from grandfather.

– Oh.

 

OMG NVB!

Filed under: Midwifery — titchandboofer @ 9:17 am
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Some days being a midwife is hard. It’s tiring and emotionally draining, frustrating and noisy, complicated and messy and sad. Days like this pass slowly. A visitor tells you that you’ve got the best job in the world and you feel like snarling ‘Sure, underpaid servant to an overwhelmed public health system. Super’. There are hours of never really finishing an endless string of overlapping tasks, being snappy and snapped at, stomping down the hallways, trying to ignore the constantly ringing phones, running out of everything useful and going home exhausted to slump on the couch and whine. And other days it’s totally fantastic – still noisy and messy, but joyful and energising. A visitor tells you that you’ve got the best job in the world and you smile smugly and give them chapter and verse on which university course to apply for. The work flows, nothing seems like a chore, there is enough of everything – time, rooms, heatpacks, thermometers – midwives joke with the doctors, births are uncomplicated, breasts work, and you go home buzzing on a high that can last for days. These are the days that bind us to the job, that mean we keep turning up despite the crappy pay, the dreadful cafeteria coffee and the rotating roster. Yesterday was one of these days for me.

Yesterday I was truly able to be with a woman as she laboured, breathing with her as she stood and rocked through contractions, kneeling by her side as she knelt, eyes closed, under the heat of the shower, squatting by the bath as she swayed and roared and pushed. I didn’t have to be in three other places. No one interrupted, bursting into the room to yell Have you got The Keys? Her family didn’t ask her irritating, irrelevant questions mid-contraction. There were no complications, no continuous monitoring, no drugs, no doctors, no phone calls, no-one hassling for the room, no machines that go ping. There was simply a woman, encircled by her mother, her aunt, her boyfriend and her midwife.

She arrived just two hours after her labour began, teary, scared and wanting a way out. Already working hard, her labour racing ahead like an express train, destination babyville. She laboured, breathing hard, yelling, swearing she couldn’t do it, really really couldn’t do it, wanting something, she didn’t know what, just something. She knelt in the shower, looking so peaceful in the soft spaces between the rocking contractions. After a while it wasn’t enough. She needed something more, something to hold her tired body up, something to lie her head on, dark, heat. Sinking into the bath, she had a few moments of relief before labour surged on. She pushed mightily, roaring with effort and yelling with frustration, just pull it out, pull it out, pull it out. So soon, her baby’s head is out, waters unbroken, membranes shimmering over the baby’s face under the water. A pause. Then all of her baby, slipping out, gathered up, held to her chest. She holds her daughter, whispering to her, shielding her eyes from the flash of cameras, already a mother, protective and fierce.

She is a mother and yet still she is an eighteen year old girl. Labour over, the roaring labouring woman retreats and the teenager I have never met returns. She is sweet and naive and funny. And she has a posse of bubbly, glossy eighteen year-old friends. About three and a half minutes after she has climbed out of bath and into bed, her naked baby warm against her chest, they spill into the room. They’re all hair and eyeliner and heels and iPhones. Uncertain for all of a minute as to where to look, sit, stand, the excitement takes over fast and they’re fine again. Then it’s all ohmygod!!, look at it I mean her it is a her right? was it like hard? what are you gunna call it I mean her? ohmygodwhat’sthat? is that meant to come out? did you have like heaps of drugs? it’s so cool you’re breastfeeding your boobs are so totally awesome right now! yeah, I put it on facebook already, it I mean she is so cute! you need some pink things, I’m totally buying her a pink dress tomorrow! I can’t believe you have a baby! I am a hundred years old. And I am so proud of her, this teenager I have never met before, as unfazed she lies naked in front of her friends, breastfeeding her new baby girl, telling them how hard it was but how she did it all herself.