Tag Archives: father

Practices of Parenting

EmergingMummy.comA blogger I read regularly, Sarah Bessey, has been hosting a Practices of Parenting Carnival this week, where she invited readers to submit posts on their practices of parenting via a link-up. (You can find all of Sarah’s original practices of parenthood posts here.)

The response was extraordinary – 117 posts and counting! I linked up my Peace Like A River post, and over the last couple of days I’ve looked at all of the other posts that bloggers linked to on Sarah’s site.  They were heart-felt and moving and some were gorgeous. Here are seven that stood out to me.

Making Mama (and Papa) Art: This is a beautiful post, one after my own heart, about writing notes and letters to our children, “because the written-words seem to go beyond the everyday-words.”

In which I assign beauty: “The best way I can make the world a better place is by sending my little people out into it as the most compassionate they can be, and so I tattoo this message beneath their skins, in their hearts and in their sights and in their bloodstreams: this world is filled with beauty. That person is filled with beauty. You are filled with beauty.”

I love the message of this post – a message so closely tied to gratitude. There’s something in me that jumps up and down and says a big “Yes!! It makes the world and our hearts a better place when we notice and celebrate beauty”

The practice of a happy bedtime: “Our happy bedtimes benefit both my children and myself.  It is a chance for all of us to let go of the failures and frustrations of the day, as well as all of the worries of tomorrow, and just remember how much we love each other.”

I love bedtime. I the peaceful grounding provided by all the little bedtime rituals, and the big exhale that comes when I crawl into bed and know that the busyness and demands of the day are done. I liked this reminder about the important role parents play in kids bedtimes when they’re young.

Parenting in our little village: “This is what joyful parenting looks like to me. Not just staying at home with my kids, but taking them out into the wild and woolly world and engaging with it.”

This post challenged me. I want this sort of rich and multi-cultural parenting circle. But as crazy as it sounds, given where we live, this is something we do not have going for us here yet. Or maybe I should say, “this is not something we’ve worked hard to get going for us here.”

Speak out love: “The idea that somehow it can get a bit old, or tired, to hear “I love you” too much doesn’t stick either – I would much, much rather be told it too much, and say it too much, than to spend each day longing to hear those words, or not knowing how to get them out.”

I was raised in a loving home and I can still find it uncomfortable to say these words out loud. Why is that? Mike’s much better at giving these three words away than I am.

The practice of creativity: “There is something sacred about the act of creating together. I wrote about why I want to raise creative children, and I know that the best way for me to do this is to live creatively in front of them.”

This challenged the writer in me. Writing is a solitary creative pursuit and it was a good reminder to start thinking about how to involve kids in creative projects that we can do together.

Watering weeds into flowers: “That day I didn’t want to pay the price for future fond memories. Right then, that day, I didn’t want to be yelled at about tightening the straps of tiny shoes. I wanted to do my work, alone.”

I liked the way this was written – a good example of storytelling without hammering home the message too hard.

Do you have a Practices of Parenting you’d like to share? Leave a comment below, or a link to your own blog post. Then head on over to Sarah’s blog and link it up there.

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All’s well that ends well

Yesterday one of my good friends, Abi, left this comment on my post about joy: “the sight of mini-Mike grinning as he leans back in the safe nook of maxi-Mike’s knee definitely came as a welcome joy-boost.”

Today I have for you a one minute video, in two acts, of Dominic in that “safe nook”. The first time Mike showed it to me I said it wasn’t funny. Then I had to admit that it would have been a bit funny… had it been someone else’s child.

Without further ado, here are the adventures of Mike and Dominic at 6am.

30 great gifts for pregnant women and new parents

I get more referrals to my blog at present on the topic of gifts for pregnant women than anything else, so in the spirit of giving readers what they want I thought I’d do a follow up post on presents for new parents.

(Sidenote: This whole giving readers what they want will not extend to addressing certain other search terms that have recently led people to my blog, including “humans breastfeeding monkeys”, “sexy massage near bumrungrad hospital”, and “koalas drinking beer”. I will also not be answering the question, “If I’m 21 weeks pregnant is it safe to swim with dolphins?”, although if I had to venture a guess I’d say yes. I haven’t heard many stories lately of dolphins ramming divers.)

So, without further ado, here are 30 great gifts for pregnant women or new parents. I’ll start with baby-focused gifts and move onto gifts for Mum, because the sometimes depressing and sometimes wonderful fact of the matter is that once that baby is born they tend to come first:

  1. Lullaby/baby music: My favorite so far is Dreamland: World Lullabies & Soothing Songs. Great melodies, and because the songs are not in English the lyrics don’t get stuck in my head.
  2. An iTunes gift card so that parents can buy lullaby music or music to listen to while feeding.
  3.  A small set of I-pod speakers for the baby’s room so that parents can slip in an iPod rather than messing around with CD’s.
  4. A play gym: The one I got at Target only cost $30 and it’s some of the best money we spent since Baby Fabulous (he’s sleeping right now, so he’s earned that nickname for the time being) arrived. The play gym is also light enough to carry internationally in a suitcase. I can’t believe we almost came back to Laos without one.
  5. Toys to hang off the play gym.
  6. Soft cuddly toys for the crib.
  7. Baby books: I don’t think you can ever have too many of these. The word on the street is that the best baby books are the ones that adults really like to read aloud – ones that rhyme and/or have clever storylines. Check out this post for some great options: What do writers read to their own kids? Five authors share their favorite children’s books.
  8. Colourful mobiles to hang over crib or change table. Be wary of picking ones that are too heavy in case they happen to fall or get tugged down onto the baby.
  9. A My Baby’s First Year book or calendar. Someone gave us this cool blank calendar that you decorate with the accompanying stickers that celebrate things like “baby’s first smile” and “baby rolls over”. I think this calendar would be even cooler if there was a sheet of stickers for events like “baby’s first projectile poo” and “baby first vomits in freshly washed hair” and “parents first dinner date post-birth” (not to mention some other less PG-rated stickers). Alas, I couldn’t find those sorts of stickers anywhere. If you wanted to jazz this gift up, you could make some.
  10. A diaper bag for traveling that includes a roll-out change mat and cold storage for at least one bottle. You could also stock it with travel wipes, diaper disposal bags, and diapers.
  11. Baby clothes in sizes of 6-9 months or bigger: New parents tend to receive lots of newborn clothing that the baby outgrows very fast.
  12. A nightlight to plug into the bathroom or the baby’s room. This is invaluable for those middle of the night feedings when you want to keep the ambience dim but don’t want to trip over the dog.
  13. A U-shaped pillow: These are good for breastfeeding but also versatile enough to be excellent for when you’re travel on a plane, etc. It was a lifesaver on our recent flights from Australia to Asia.
  14. A baby carrier: These can be expensive, so you might want to liase with the parents about which brand they’d like. We settled on the Ergo.
  15. A baby monitor: A baby monitor with audio and video is enormously useful, especially if you live in a split-level house. These are not as expensive as you might think – we got ours on sale for $100.
  16. A bed sleeper: These little cots can be placed in the bed between the parent’s pillows, allowing you to sleep your baby close to you without worrying you’ll squish or smother them on those nights when you have to put the dummy in 132 times or pat them to sleep .
  17. A travel cot: These are little cots that pack up small and light. The Samsonite one that friends gave us packs up into something the size of a large book that weighs only 600g. When unfolded it can sleep a baby up to a year old and is mosquito netted.
  18. Then there are always purely practical presents such as… a pack of cloth diaper squares to be used as “spew rags”.
  19. Diapers. If parents are planning on using cloth diapers like BumGenius etc, those things are expensive and you need about 20 of them. If they’re not using cloth diapers they’ll need literally thousands of disposables. This is one gift sure to be used.
  20. Baby wipes. Another gift guaranteed to be used.
  21. A good quality fluffy towel for the baby.
  22. Lanolin cream for Mum. Breastfeeding can be very painful, particularly at first. Get high quality lanolin cream like Marcalan that she doesn’t have to wipe off before feeding – this can be a sanity saver during the first couple of weeks.
  23. Nappy rash cream like Desitan or Amolin.
  24. Books for Mum: Don’t go for pregnancy books – most women facing labour and delivery for the first time have researched it thoroughly already. Think about getting her a novel or a book relevant to the period after the baby is born instead. A personal favorite of the moment is Vicki Iovine’s very funny Surving the First Year of Motherhood.
  25. A Kindle: If Mum doesn’t already have a kindle and she likes to read, this will allow her to read while breastfeeding. You can easily hold it and turn the pages with just one hand.
  26. Gift certificate to Amazon to help Mum buy books she wants to read while feeding.
  27. A voucher for a massage, manicure, or facial: The first massage I had post birth was one of the most pleasurable physical experiences of my life. This gift is even better if it comes with an offer to mind the baby while you use it.
  28. Babysitting: Offer to mind the baby while Mum and Dad go out to dinner or lunch together.
  29. Housekeeping: Whether it’s just one or two visits, or several months worth, this gift will be greatly appreciated by a new parent who doesn’t have to spend precious “baby is asleep” time scrubbing a bathtub.
  30. Meals: Make them and drop them off or provide gift vouchers for take out. This takes one thing off Mum (or Dad’s) to-do list for the day.

Any other ideas for useful or fun presents? Add them below to help give others inspiration.

If you enjoyed this post, stick around! Check out this post for more gift ideas: What do writers read to their own kids? Five authors share their favorite children’s books

Subscribe to my blog by RSS or by email (enter your email address top right) to receive updates about our adventures in parenthood and in Laos, and check out some of the following pregnancy and parenthood-related posts:

  1. Koi Maan Luuk: Or, I Am Pregnant
  2. Finding Out You Are Pregnant, In Slow Motion
  3. Life Lessons on Pregnancy and Breastfeeding from Cows
  4. Ten Good Things About Boys: Attaining Synthetic Happiness One Gender Stereotype at a Time
  5. Lessons in breastfeeding from cows, take two
  6. Tough Love Take One

Looking Like Love: A Letter To My Parents

It’s been five months since I stepped off the plane from Asia, roundly pregnant at 28 weeks, and saw you both there waiting for me and smiling. The hills here were green, the cool air smelled of wet eucalyptus and the pancakes that we stopped for on the way home were heaped with berries, tiny crimson waterfalls falling from the stack. As I unpacked in this bedroom later that morning I thought that five months seemed like an eternity. So many milestones in life had to come and go before I would depart – Mike’s arrival after ten weeks apart, the baby’s arrival, then Mike’s departure, then Mike’s return. As I hung up my shirts, I found it impossible to fathom that I would ever leave here again. But next week, now, I will.

Just before his last departure, Mike asked me over dinner what I wanted to remember about this time. The first thing that came to mind was that I wanted to remember how special it has been to come home at 35, half a lifetime after I first left, and experience so many of the good aspects of being parented again while I was in the process of becoming a parent myself. I wanted to remember the precious mundane of this time we’ve had together as well as the epic. I wanted to remember moments like these…

I’ve been home four days and I’m still nervous about driving on this side of the road again. Mum takes me to my first appointment with the obstetrician, then shopping. I try to protest that I don’t need any clothes, that the ones I salvaged from the communal stockpile of maternity clothes that get passed around among expatriates in Laos will be just fine for the next three months before the baby comes. I am overruled. As Mum is marching me into changing rooms she says I will thank her later. I am far less ruffled by this particular maternal prophecy now than I was at 14, and when I wear that grey tracksuit jacket every day for two weeks straight, when I am fifteen pounds heavier and needing clothes suitable for leaving the house, I do.

I am 31 weeks pregnant and Dad suggests a walk. I don’t really want to drag my baby bulk off the couch or circumnavigate my belly to get sneakers on, but Dad reminds me that I’ll feel better if I make the effort. Now we’re outside in that magical hour of almost evening. The golden light is skimming over the grassy fields, filtering through the gum trees, dancing on the dirt road ahead of us. We talk of work and family, and frustrations and joys – occasionally breaking new ground in this familiar conversational territory. Halfway up a hill we spy wallabies feeding in the glade below. I watch them bound away, envying their speed and grace, not to mention their birthing process.

I am 35 weeks pregnant and Dad is working in South Sudan for a month. Mum’s presence in the house prevents the quiet from feeling empty, and I am amazed at how busy life still feels even now. I am wrapping up consulting work. I am talking to Mike on skype. I am driving to doctor appointments. I am napping. I am melting dark chocolate to make elaborate biscuits with malted coconut icing. Mum says she is glad I’m around, even if I make an astounding mess in the kitchen each time I bake and by the way how do I generate that much washing up? I point out that I clean up after myself (in this area, anyway). We smile. We spend easy evenings watching crime dramas and reruns of Friends. It is the middle of winter but life has the peaceful feel of a still lake on a summer day.

I am 38 weeks pregnant and it’s the night before Mike’s arrival. The thick blue and grey wrap that I commandeered from Mum’s closet two days after I arrived keeps the cold at bay as Dad and I eat Thai food under the stars. After dinner we walk next door, into one of the happiest places on earth, and Dad spends too much money on gourmet ice cream to take home because he knows it will make me smile. Later that night I wake up at 3am to pee for the third time that night, come downstairs in the dark, and help myself to seconds. As a teenager I would have covered my tracks. Now, I leave the bowl in the sink.    

It’s 5am. I’m two days overdue and finally in labour. You’ve heard Mike stirring and come out to find out if all is well and kiss me goodbye. Already in the car, half gone on this journey into pain, I say I don’t want to be kissed, I don’t want to be touched. I know you won’t mind. Later that evening, after my life has changed forever, I will ask over the phone if you could please stop and pick up a pizza on the way to the hospital. When you arrive Dad also presents sorbet, Mum gives me prunes. “Now is not the time to get constipated,” Mum says knowingly. The idea is inconceivable – I am propped up in bed, sitting awkwardly on an hour’s worth of stitching and with the miraculous trauma of the day on replay in my mind. I tell you not to worry, that I have decided to deal with that issue by just never pooing again. No one argues with me. You beam and say that you’re so proud and that Dominic is beautiful. I look at that little bundle in your arms and wonder how on earth he happened.

These are those first days home from the hospital – a bewildering blur of baby, broken sleep, and breastfeeding woes. Dad is helping Mike dig a hole so that we can plant a tree to commemorate Dominic’s birth. Mum is making lunch, and dinner, and lunch, and dinner. Dad is building a fire to keep the living room warm and we eat in there – watching the flames fashion coals, watching Dominic asleep on a blanket on the floor. Mum witnesses our first fumbling attempts to burp our child, to bath him. She thinks we aren’t dressing him warmly enough. Demonstrating unusual delicacy she bites her tongue, wondering how much advice she should venture to dish out, but I discover an advantage to having a child so many years safely distant from my own childhood. Advice is generally welcomed rather than merely tolerated, or ignored.

Dominic is five weeks old. Mike has left again, bequeathing me the baby and a score of love notes hidden in such unlikely places that I will still be finding them three weeks after his departure. Slowly, slowly, I start to find my feet in this mothering role. I venture to think that just maybe I’ll be able to join good friends for five days at a reunion. I don’t know how many times I’ve circumnavigated the world alone now, so I am amused and mildly exasperated when Mum reminds me to start packing no fewer than four times in the days leaving up to departure. It gives me the warm fuzzies, though, on the morning that we do leave to hear her telling Dominic how she’ll miss him and to find that Dad has gathered me a pile of useful miscellaneous to take – the phone charger, sunscreen, a hiking headlamp in case I need to get up in the dark and can’t find a light, two bottles of wine to share. The car is full of petrol. “It shouldn’t need to be refilled,” Dad says, “but if it does, don’t forget that it’s diesel.”

It’s 5am and Dominic is seven weeks old. I’m getting up, fumbling for the dimmed lights, stooping to pick him up for the third time tonight. I’m too tired to sit to feed so I take him to bed and lie there beside him, satisfying his demanding little mouth with my body. He kneads my breasts with small fists and makes little mewling sighs of relief as he eats. I feel like echoing them. For I know that Mum will probably turn the handle to my bedroom sometime between 5:30 and 6am, as she’s done most mornings for the past month, carry him away, and leave me a cup of tea and the chance of some more much-needed sleep in his place.

I came alone almost five months ago, and a week from today I will leave as part of a family of three. I return to all the adventures and frustrations of Laos with new responsibilities. I return determined to think through qualities like love, joy, and peace during the year ahead. I return hopeful that I will, increasingly, embody these qualities. It is perhaps harder to define what love means than to describe what it looks like, but as I work to understand and live out love in this new family that Mike and I are creating I remain unfailingly grateful for my first family and the example that you set as parents – then and now. Thank you for, so much of the time, looking like love.

Lisa

This post is part of a series on the fruits of the spirit. The current theme is love. Where have you seen love this week? What did it look like?

Dear Dad, Love Dominic

Dear Dad,

Happy first Father’s Day! It’s too bad that you’re in Laos and I’m in Australia on this day, but when we were up together this morning at 3am Mum told me you had to go back to Laos in September to work because there are lots of mothers there who don’t get enough to eat and have trouble producing enough milk to feed their babies. She sounded really sad when she said it – like she might cry. I think she often thinks of sad things when she’s feeding me alone in the dark. Why is that?

Anyway, I miss you. I mean, Mum is great – all soft and squishy and she just smells so delicious with all that warm milk flowing underneath her skin, like a giant custard tart, don’t you think? But even a very little man cannot live by milk alone, and I was getting used to you and me having special times together. Mum’s not nearly as happy to see my eyes wide open at 5AM as you are, and I had all sorts of special things planned for us to celebrate this first Fathers Day. For example, I was going to wait until right after you undid my diaper and then do a giant poo all over the change table. Good times. And when you were holding me one-armed against your shoulder I was going to throw my head back and go all rigid– that’s always good for giving Mum a mini heart attack. She is afraid you’ll drop me one of these days but I know you won’t. Ever since I’ve been born Mum’s been afraid of all sorts of new things. Why is that?

Mum misses you too. While I was having my breakfast this morning she was talking about all the things you’ve been doing for her this last three weeks that she’s going to have to do herself now – like all the laundry, my daytime diaper changes, making breakfast, sterilizing the breast pump, and following up on paperwork. I wanted to tell her that she should be grateful that she’s not living in the 1800’s in a sod house on the Missouri prairies because then she’d have to do all that laundry by hand and I can bet you’d have been too busy farming to help her with it, much less bring her raisin toast and vitamins in the morning. But I had my mouth full, and I’ve been told it’s not polite to speak whilst eating.

Anyway, I thought you’d be glad to know that Mum has pretty much changed her mind about not coming back to Laos with you in October. She says that being in Laos with you is narrowly beating out being in Australia without you. I’ll keep you posted if things change on that front but I hope they don’t, as I’m really looking forward to meeting Zulu. Grandad’s horrified at the thought of you letting “that dog” come near me. Mum’s tried to tell him that she’ll be very careful with me around him, and that this is a dog whose mouth is so gentle that he can carry a baby chicken for two blocks and not kill it. Grandad countered by pointing out that the reason Zulu was carrying the baby chicken in the first place was that he grabbed it during a morning run when he was supposed to be following Mike’s bike and then scurried home with it still in his mouth the instant he knew he was in trouble. I’m not worried though, I’m a lot bigger than a baby chicken. Mum says I’m such a pork chop that holding me makes her back hurt, so that little dog doesn’t stand a chance of carrying me off anywhere.

It’s soon time for me to eat again and I don’t see Mum anywhere around here. I have no idea where she is – maybe doing those many loads of laundry she was talking about – so I’m going to have to sign off so that I can work myself up to yelling for her to come fetch me. I hope you have a great Father’s Day, even though we’re not together. Mum tells me all the time that I have the best Dad in the whole wide world, but I don’t need her to tell me that. That one is obvious.

Can’t wait to see you in a month.

I love you,

Dominic

It takes a village

I wrote the following on Tuesday. It’s now Thursday. C’est la vie at the moment…

This time last week I was still two hours and 15 minutes from giving birth. Last night as I was up between midnight and 2, and again from 5AM, I was somewhat comforted by the thought that as hard as the night was feeling, it wasn’t a patch on how difficult that night of labouring had been the previous week.

Mike and I have been flooded with cyber love in the past week – receiving hundreds of notes and comments congratulating us and wishing us well as we embark upon parenthood. One of those emails said, “I’m sure Dominic will give you a whole new way of thinking, living… and writing!”

I can already see the truth in that statement. Dominic has definitely given me a whole new way of living – I have done very little but feed, sleep, and eat what has been put in front of me since we came home from the hospital on Friday. And not having had more than three hours sleep in a row for a week now is certainly doing some funny things to my thinking.

As for writing… yes, that’s going to have to take a backseat for a while. And what writing I can do, I suspect, will be along the lines of vignettes that I jot down when the odd free moment pops up. And most of those vignettes in the next little while will probably be baby-related because, well, there isn’t really much life outside of baby for me at the moment. I trust that that will change again at some point in the future (possibly when my body is not being used as an all you can eat buffet for eight hours a day). In the meantime, however, I’ll try to continue posting the odd story or random thought of the day now and again.

There are a lot of things I could write about at this point – labour and delivery, post-birth surprises (both good and bad), and the emotional roller-coaster of this last week, to name just a few. And perhaps I’ll get there eventually on those topics. But today’s thought – and the thought I’ve had pretty much every hour since arriving home – is that I really do not know how single parents manage this.

They say it takes a village to raise a child, and now I have a new appreciation for why. When you’re trying to feed a baby every three hours, it seems more than one person can manage well to feed, burb, and change the little being, as well as get enough sleep yourself to stay sane. And that “caseload” doesn’t leave any room for eating, drinking, and showering, much less grocery shopping, cooking, laundry, filing the paperwork for the baby’s birth certificate, and learning how to assemble a breast pump. I have never been more grateful for a proactively supportive spouse and parents as I have been this week, or for hot running water and a warm bed. I get completely overwhelmed thinking about the challenges faced by new mothers in refugee camps and rural villages. And I have no idea how single parents do it, either.

That’s it for now from the McKay newborn nursery (where we saw a wallaby eating in the garden this morning when we were nursing). It’s now 11AM and I hear a baby starting to stir and make the “I’m a hungry guinea pig” sounds.

Family talk about the memoir

It started shortly after I arrived here four weeks ago. Mum was asking me where I was up to with my next book, and I told her that my agent, Chip, had it and was getting ready to send it to interested publishers next month.

“And how many of those are there?” She asked.

“I don’t exactly know,” I said. “But he said there are at least half a dozen people who’d like to see the full manuscript when we’re ready.”

Mum looked… well, “doubtful” is too strong a word. More like “slightly confused.”

“But… why?” She asked.

“What do you mean, why?” I repeated.

“Well they haven’t seen anything yet, so how do they know they want to see something?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “Some of them read my last book. Some of them have been browsing the blog. Maybe some of them owe Chip a big favour. I don’t completely understand how it all works, to be honest.”

“Me either,” Mum said. Then she went a step further. “Also, I just don’t see how this book is going to appeal to as wide an audience as your last book.”

“I think you’re wrong there,” I said. “If it sells, and that’s still a big if, then I think this book has the potential to appeal to a far larger audience than Hands did.”

Mum did not look at all convinced.

This was not the end of the conversation – this topic has come up several times during the last month. Just the other day we were talking about Francine Rivers’ new book and I casually mentioned that I thought her first book, A Voice In The Wind, was the best she’d ever written.

“I think that of a lot of authors,” Mum said.

“Yeah,” I said, “Like Bryce Courtney and The Power of One…

I was going to go on to list others but Mum got there first… with my name.

“Maybe like Lisa McKay,” she said.

“Mother!” I said, laughing but amazed. “What a thing to say!”

“Yes,” she said, only slightly abashed. “I guess it is.”

So, yesterday as we were driving into town, I brought it up again.

“Do you really think this book isn’t going to do well?” I asked. “I mean, for starters, you shouldn’t be comparing it to Hands because they’re totally different genres. One’s a suspense novel and the other is a reflective memoir woven around a romance story.”

“I guess that’s true,” Mum said. “And I haven’t read the whole thing yet so I don’t really know.”

“What??” This time I was honestly shocked. “You haven’t read the whole thing? Quite apart from the fact that that could deeply wound me if I were more fragile, how do you know I didn’t say something about you that you’ll hate?”

“Oh,” Mum said. “I trust your filters.”

This was getting truly bizarre given that exactly a month earlier I had been sitting across the breakfast table from my parents, having just disembarked the plane from Laos, while they asked me not to put anything on the blog about them without their prior approval while I was living at home.

“Well if you haven’t read the whole thing,” I said, “and you admit you don’t know all that much about the publishing industry, what would possess you to say things like ‘I don’t think this book will do as well as your first’?”

Mum squirmed just a little, unusual for her.

“I never meant to say that,” she said. “I guess I just meant to say that you had such an amazing experience the first time around being picked up by the first publisher you queried, and getting almost universally positive reviews, and having everyone tell you that you were wonderful… and it might not be like that this time around. I guess I just don’t want you getting your hopes up too high.”

“That is a very fair point,” I said. “But here is my point. With something that’s as deeply personal and important as this sort of project, maybe if you can’t honestly say, ‘Wow, I think this book is going to do just great’, maybe you should reconsider whether you say anything at all at this stage of the process. And, if you do, maybe you should work harder to phrase it more softly. You could, for example, say something like, ‘I’ll be interested to see if this book turns out to be as universally well-received as Hands.’

“That is also a fair point,” Mum said, as she pulled into the parking lot.

There was a brief silence.

“So, are you finished?” Mum asked, looking commendably grave given that she was clearly also battling the strong temptation to laugh.

“For now,” I said, getting out of the car.

“OK then,” Mum said, swinging into task mode. “Could you please stop and pick up the bread and then I’ll meet you at the grocery store in five or so minutes?”

“Sure,” I said.

Five minutes later I was standing just outside the grocery store having been waylaid by tempting tables full of bargain books, when Mum approached.

“I thought I’d find you here when I saw the books laid out,” Mum said. “And have I told you lately what a smashing success I think your next book is going to be?”

As I laughed she leaned forward and kissed me on the cheek.

Koi maan luuk (or, “I am pregnant”)

Koi maan luuk was the first Lao phrase I learned in the new year, and you would have already known this piece of news for at least a month if you lived in Laos. You would know this because you would be the deceptively reserved-looking Vietnamese woman who runs our favourite grocery store and you would ask me the first time you saw me after I’d been away for Christmas: “So, any news to tell me? Any news about a baby?” And I would look totally stunned at being accosted with this query over a basket full of milk and pasta, and then shrug and tell you.

Or you would be Mike’s work colleagues offering me glasses of beer at an event – and there is apparently only one acceptable reason to turn down beer in this country. So I would shrug and tell you.

Or you would be some stranger meeting us for the first time and right after you ask us how long we’ve been married you’d ask us whether we have kids. And, then, when we answered “no”, you’d look worried and ask us whether we will have them? Whether we are, in fact, even trying? So I would shrug and tell you.

Apparently there’s none of this “waiting until three months” thing here, pretty much the minute you find out you’re pregnant, it becomes public knowledge.

I find this practice both refreshing and confronting. Refreshing because you then have a damn good explanation for why you’re always wandering around looking like you might throw up at any moment. And why you’re so wiped out sometimes that you can’t get up off the couch and go out with work colleagues. And, let’s not forget, why you can’t drink beer or homemade whisky.

But it’s also confronting to have this big life event out there as fodder for the communal discussion mill. Everyone’s so happy for you when they hear. They smile really big and say they’re thrilled, and that you must be, too. Often in those moments I wonder whether I look thrilled. I doubt it. I probably look confused, which is fair enough, really, because what I’m thinking is usually some combination of all of the following at once:

  • Oh that’s right, I’m pregnant. I momentarily forgot.
  • Yes, I’m happy
  • No, I’m terrified
  • Actually, I’m hungry
  • Is it too late to push the reset button?
  • Oh, wait, maybe I have to throw up. Yes, I certainly am pregnant.
  • Yes, I am happy. Yeah. Happy.
  • No, I’m terrified…

And so it goes.

I’m not terrified about whether or not I’ll be a good mother. Even though I’ve never really been a kid-person, I reckon I’ll be pretty good as a mother at least 80% of the time. Even if I’m not, Mike’s going to be a great dad, so the baby’s covered. No, true to form, I’m worried about me. I like my life right now. I like my marriage. And I’ve heard babies described as “hand grenades” in relation to both those institutions.

Oh well, I have nine months… scratch that, six months now… to get used to the fact that this particular hand grenade is coming. And that I have to give birth to it.

Gosh, I wish babies came out the size of hand grenades (healthy, of course). I mean, don’t you think koalas have it all over most other mammals in this area? Baby koalas slide on out of the womb when they’re about the size of a jellybean and (pink, hairless, blind, and without ears) nonetheless manage to crawl unaided up their mother’s stomach and squirm into that warm, furry pouch. Then they just hang out there for six months drinking milk until they grow eyes and ears and stop looking so much like a maggot. That’s so the way to do this birth thing. Plus, I bet koalas don’t get morning sick.

Morning sickness… don’t get me started. Next week I might tell you all about how Mike and I found out that I was maan luuk ourselves, and if you’re really lucky I won’t tell you about morning sickness (or, as it should really be called, all-day sickness).

Until then I leave you with a photo and a grandparent-anecdote. After I posted about playing with monkeys last week, my grandfather (who got an iPad and his first ever email account for Christmas) sent me the following…

Hi Lisa,

It’s only me trying to learn to type. If anyone told you that an iPad was easy to learn, especially an 86 year old, don’t you believe them. I am finding it hard to find the letters as they are not in alphabetical order.

We have just been viewing your letter on the monkey visit. What good practice for you. He looks cute, but I think you may be able to do better than that.

Love, Pa.

We’ll see about that, Pa. We’ll see.