Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Return from Hibernation

I apologize for not being attentive to our blog. Sometimes when there is too much to write, I’m unable to get anything down at all. Blame it on being too busy, blame it on the constant influx of new experiences and the lack of time to process it all, or blame in on the hazy time that is maternity leave. Now as things pick up with our return to AU and my return to work, I suddenly feel that urge to write. But where do I even begin? How can I convey what a whirlwind these last few months of new parenthood have been? The first time Eric and I laid eyes upon our little girl, the wonderment of her first coo and her first laugh, the joy of having her meet her grandparents and their joy in meeting her, the weird body changes, the trauma of labor and delivery, the insecurity, and emotional turmoil that goes along with having a baby… really, it’s all just so overwhelming!
Perhaps the best way to do this is just to type away and see where it takes me…

Our time in Minnesota was first and foremost COLD. It was one of the coldest January’s on record and after having missed an entire winter, we realized how intolerant of it we have become. Where was our thick Midwestern blood and our “It’s not that bad” attitude? Instead, Eric and I couldn’t believe the shock of the temperature on our bodies. To add insult to it all, we both suffered episodes of high-fever-absolute-knock-out winter flu that we thankfully didn’t pass on to our daughter.

Poor baby had to be bundled up in a bunny suit and hauled around in a car seat and a pre-heated car. Her entire head was one layer of eczema upon another. She learned to do “the arch” where her entire midsection would try and buck out of her car seat. This was usually accompanied by sputtering protests and eventual screaming.

The lesson learned is that newborns and winter are very confining. To all those who have experienced this for longer than the measly two months that I endured it…you have my complete sympathy. I get it and acknowledge the difficulty of it! For your struggles, I think you should all be allowed to spend the winter in Hawaii.

The good of the trip, was EVERYTHING else. We got to catch up with friends and family and had time for baby to charm the heck out of her grandparents. Christmas with a baby takes on a whole new meaning and I actually cried in church when I heard the story of Jesus’ birth. Yeah, I know, I’ve heard it a thousand times, but it was suddenly so real for me.

Madden’s grandparents all wanted to see her many times and I loved it when they held her and she smiled for them and cooed. Even better still was when she fell asleep in their arms. When my parents and my in-laws opened the door to their homes, their eyes would immediately look towards the car seat draped over Eric’s forearm. It was always an afterthought to hug and kiss us, their adult children. And you know what? We wouldn’t have had it any other way.

We stayed in Red Wing with Eric’s parents for Christmas and two other times but based ourselves mainly at my mom’s in St. Paul. Her place is a 1 ½ bedroom cottage for seniors. We had our fair share of attention having a baby around there. Space was at a premium in my mom’s little home but she was content to have us around and I haven’t spent that much time with her since I was in high school. I loved being in her pleasant company and she was so happy to have her grandbaby in the next room. I’m sure after TWO months of us however, she’s a bit relieved to have her place back to herself.

We anticipated that when we were home, we would go out with friends and shop and see movies… who were we kidding? We were still very much in new parent phase and mainly we just played with our little Madden. She was only seven weeks old when we went home and there was a great deal of growing both mentally and physically during that time. We were exhausted, I was still struggling with nursing, and we were trying to get baby to sleep when we slept. One would think that two whole months would give us a great deal of time, but the baby learning curve took up the majority of that. I managed to take in two movies and feel there should be some sort of reward for that –even if I cried throughout the first movie because of separation anxiety…

This winter brought new joy in simple things. Heck, we were just happy to make it out of the house! It was wonderful to see friends, play dominoes, go up north, have pictures of Madden taken, go to dinners in people’s homes and out, enjoy lazy breakfasts, play oodles of cards, play with friends kids, get lessons in Photoshop, or just meet for a coffee.

Life couldn’t be the crazy kind of cram-as-much-as-you-can-into-a-moment sort of existence that I tend to pursue. It all had to move slower as there were good hours and fussy hours, nap times, necessary nappy changes, and feeding schedules to manage. When I look at those words written out, it all seems so limiting. But strangely, it wasn’t. It was actually a bit freeing. Why is that? Nothing had to be perfect. Ahhh. That was it. It was finally a time where I could be forgiving of myself for not getting things done in an exacting way.

And yes, we enjoyed for the very first time some activities that requires one have a kid in order to participate. Hooray! We have both wanted to go to kid activities for years. These activities included Breakfast with Santa at my high school and attending the Red Balloon book reading for babies and toddlers. Admittedly, I got more out of the book reading than did Madden, but hey, I had a kid and could therefore not be turned away. Just think of all the years of children’s museums, silly little board games, county fairs, and Pixar films ahead of us. Tee Hee.

When we returned to Melbourne, it was hot. I’m not talking just Mexico-in-winter kind of hot…it was 100 degrees hot. We went from craving pot roast and potatoes to feasting on fruit and any beverage with ice. It actually felt wonderful to be able to open windows, to sit outside, and not to have to wear 5 layers of clothing nor bundle the baby. We went to the pool, took long walks in the evening, and generally enjoyed just being outside.
However, after just one week here, there was suddenly a heat surge to 115 degrees accompanied by gale force winds. Both natural causes as well as arsonists conspired to create one of the worst disasters in Victoria’s history. Over twenty bush fires raged out of control and the loss of human life is astonishing.

The message has always been the same for those living in the country side; you can flee early or stay in your home to defend it against the fire. It has actually been successful in the past and people have been able to save their homes. However, when you put together the terrible heat, dry brush due to a 10 year drought, and the strength of the wind that was present that day, the end result was raging fire tornadoes that destroyed everything in their path. No person defending their home with a garden hose stood a chance.
It was awful, stupid and senseless. The stories that are emerging are dreadful and the news has been running nightly disaster relief efforts and bushfire tragedy stories since that day. It’s impossible to escape.

One of our good friends here works at an agency that does mapping and disaster planning for emergency services. She has had to listen to the 000 (our 911) calls from the people trapped in their cars and home during the fires. When she talks about the tragedy, her reaction is one of anger.

From our vantage point in the city, we were in no danger. The fires that burned out of control for days remained at least a 30 minute drive from the city. However, the city remained smoky and smelling like a campfire. We chose to keep baby and ourselves inside when it was windy because the air quality outside was so bad. The only effect we witnessed was that dusk brought spectacular sunsets of beautiful oranges and reds that bounced off the smoke in the sky.

Beginning to emerge from all the rubble are stories of heroism and unlikely survival. A benefit concert has taken place and donations have been rolling in for the victims of the fires. Hope is infiltrating.

Well, that’s it for the time being. It’s back to work, back to life, and back to this foreign country we have embraced for now. Madden is in daycare a couple days a week, she’s busy growing, and just sprouted her first tooth. Eric is back looking for work and contented being a “manny” three days a week. He’s been attending meetings with the other stay at home mums and having a great time. I’m back to work part time for now and enjoying my days with my little family. My favorite times are when we head to the pool together.

It’s the lazy days of summer and I want them to go on indefinitely. Too bad winter and work will get in the way of our fun.