Sunday, December 18, 2011

(I suppose) It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

In the UK, it starts to feel Christmassy as soon as the clocks go back and the nights start drawing in. It’s dark when you leave the house and it’s dark when you come home. The Christmas lights dazzle in the drizzle from the extravagance of Oxford Street to the fairy lights in the neighbours window. When I think of Christmas I think of the cold and the snow and the smell of pine needles. Which is why, since moving to Australia, the Christmas spirit has totally evaded me. 

December seems to creep up on me. Yes, there are decorations, but to me they are so utterly incongruous that they may as well be invisible. I don’t expect to see them, so I don’t. It all feels a bit odd. Like we are pretending that it’s Christmas.  

This year however, I have my very own ‘little helper’ to remind me what Christmas is really about. G has been pointing out the decorations in the streets and shop windows with excitement and wonder. “Star!” she exclaims pointing wildly at a lamppost as we walk past. At first, I don’t have a clue what she’s on about and assume I’ve miss heard her. “Yes, G” I answer. But then she points again and insists “STAR!”… and what do you know?! She’s right. There are stars lining the street. There are brightly coloured flags, there are trees and lights and little G loves it.

I start to see it through her eyes. G doesn’t know about the cold and the snow and the dark. She hasn’t the first clue what ‘Christmas’ is either, but, hey, she knows there is something going on.

Earlier in the week I took the girls into the city. I carry baby C in the sling and let G walk, she holds my hand and hops up and down as we amble towards the bus stop.  Once on board we sit ourselves down and G happily waves at the other passengers “HI!” she says. Then we sing ‘The Wheels on the Bus’ (no points for originality, but an entertained G is better than a bored G. Especially on a bus). We’re still singing ‘The Wheels on the Bus’ when we arrive at our stop 20 mins later.

We have a look at the big Christmas tree in Martin Place (“Oooo! TREE!!”) and then walk up to David Jones department store to see the Christmas window displays. G was beside herself. She pressed her little face up to the window and pointed out all the things she could see. When we get to the window with the Santa display I crouch down to G and point at the puppet Santa dozing in a rocking chair. “That’s Santa!” I say.

G gazes up and smiles “Santa!” she repeats. I love the way she says it, she makes it sound magical! She has awe in her little voice, her eyes light up and then, out of nowhere, I have a lump in my throat.

Suddenly I’m filled with childhood memories of trips to London to visit Santa at Selfridges (and singing carols outside Selfridges waiting for it to open because we got there at the crack of dawn to miss the rush) and decorating the tree and making Christmas cards and baking mince pies. And I realise, it doesn’t really matter if I feel Christmassy or not. It’s not about me anymore. It’s about my children. And all the children.

Christmas carols filled the air and my precious girl began to dance. And I danced too! I may have had a few odd looks but if I did, I didn’t notice – I was too busy recapturing the Christmas spirit and having fun with G.

Happy Christmas everyone!

Monday, December 5, 2011

A Birth Story

At precisely 8pm on Monday, 7th December, 2009 I had the first contraction of the 20 hour labour that ended with the birth of my beautiful daughter, G.  It came as a bit of a shock. Not because it was earlier than expected, my due date was the 8th (putting G into the 5% of babes born on their due dates), or because I wasn’t ready for it; after all, I’d spent weeks sipping raspberry leaf tea, eaten my body weight in curry and spent hours bouncing precariously on an exercise ball. It was a shock because it hurt. A LOT. I quite clearly remember thinking; “bugger”.

It’s not that I was anticipating a pain free labour, I’d done plenty of reading and my husband and I had attended a seven week antenatal class to prepare us (led by two old biddies that used a variety of medium such as videos, posters and, er… a knitted uterus to terrify the living crap out of us). I understood that they don’t call it ‘labour’ for nothing. I just wasn’t expecting it to hurt quite so much.

After speaking to the hospital and establishing that I wasn’t in labour at all, I was just in “pre-labour”, it became apparent that it was going to be a very long night.

“Try and get some sleep” the midwife at the other end of the phone advised me. Pah! As if!!

I didn’t handle it well. I cried. I moaned. I complained. My husband spent the night preparing heat packs for my back and timing contractions with a stopwatch. It went on, and on, and on. And on, and on and on.

At 12 noon the following day we left for the hospital. I somehow managed to lower myself in to my husband’s sporty Subaru (which has since been replaced with a nice sensible family car) and braced myself for a rough ride. There may have been some shouting… Well, ok, there was some shouting. Speed bumps? In a sports car? when you’re in labour? Not fun.

At the hospital I was assessed by a friendly midwife. There was a horrifying moment when she suggested that I still had a way to go and might be more comfortable at home. Get back in the car? No way lady!

It turned out to be the right decision, it may have taken me a while to get going, but once I reached ‘established’ labour (otherwise known as ‘crapping hell this hurts’) it all happened pretty quickly (although not nearly as quickly as labour number two – but that’s another story). I was given gas and air (ahhh) and an enormous bath was prepared.

When I describe G’s birth now I use words such as ‘straightforward’ and ‘fine’ and I guess it was both of those things. I’ve forgotten the pain (mostly) and instead remember the utter euphoria I experienced when my newborn baby was placed on my chest. I remember looking at the little face and feeling completely smitten.

I looked up at my husband and said: “A little boy”. Such was my certainty that we were having a boy, I hadn’t brothered to check if I was right.

“No!” he said, and almost in unison with the midwife “It’s a girl!”

We had a girl. Our wonderful, amazing G had arrived and our lives would never be the same.

G will be turning two this week. She is a little girl now; she has a personality and a sense of humour. She is cheeky, she is determined, she is beautiful and oh how I love her.

Happy birthday G.