Decade

By Shay Bayton


For the month of May on the Mona blog we are featuring stories from our community of motherhood and mothering. The experience of 'mother' is universal: we all have one, we all know one. Yet it's so personal and intimate that we can't know what it means unless we live it, and not all of us will or want to, and that's ok. Modern society demands so much of what a mother should be, often snuffing out the humble reality that 'mother' is not something that can be bound to gender, blood, age or even species. The work we are featuring this month shares the stories of mothers in rural and regional Australia; their own unique, messy, honest reflections and experiences. We hope you enjoy.



I’m a decade into mothering.


I realised this as a I did the mental calculations of all the upcoming occasions and their accompanying to-do lists all women have in their heads at any given moment. My youngest is starting the preschool-get-ready-for-big-school-soon program. Ok got it. We are ready for this step. That’s an achievement for both of us right? My last baby in his last year of preschool.


My twins have turned seven. Right then, it’s time to rearrange their room. No more of that flimsy kid’s furniture. You know the kind? Little chairs, and matching tables that hurt to get up from because you’re practically sitting on the floor. Tick, done. New furniture. Why did I ever buy bunks though? They only ever sleep side by side every night.


My oldest is about to turn ten. There it is, the realization: a decade. Stating the obvious perhaps but the word decade sticks in my mind. I’ve been mothering for a decade.


Shouldn’t I feel like I know what I’m doing by now every day?


A decade of newborns, toddlers, little kids, little kids telling me they’re big kids. Is it possible to remember every single night, every single feed? Every back and forth in the rocking chair, every tiny cry in the pitch black, the smell of milk soaked into us both and everything that we touched. All the lukewarm baths, so many pats on the bum and shhh shhh shhh in the dark quiet hours. Swaddling and skin to skin, prayers for just a few hours of sleep before dawn. Big eyes and little smiles that made me cry, filled my heart to bursting then shattering it into a million tiny pieces knowing it was me who had to keep you safe and sound.


I walked past my mirror once in the haze of blurry nights, home alone with newborn twins feeding, so much feeding, so much milk. A toddler across the hall sleeping through. I was past exhaustion. (There’s no way to describe that feeling, none I know of because none can do that kind of newborn-twins-tired justice). It’s a moment snagged in my memory, though that mirror. I struggle now to even remember which baby I was holding. I had likely lost my mind by then and perhaps cried as many tears as the babies on most nights, but that mirror stopped my pacing and rocking and shushing.


Is motherhood always a slow tide shifting underneath you? When you think you’ve found your feet on the shifting sand the water rushes back in to unbalance you again. Will more decades come and strike me the same as I think about their passing birthdays every year?

The baby was tiny. Like a fresh-out-of-the-humidicrib premmie that I’d been allowed to bring home to fatten up. I’d warn a path pacing in front of that long, wardrobe mirror. I seemed so large taking up all the space and the baby only a speck on my shoulder. A tiny thing, a broken little bird I held in my arms. I kept that baby in my arms even though they ached. I’d mouthed silent sentences to no one that I couldn’t do it - it was more than one mother could handle. I held that sleepy baby till my shoulders ached, and my feet were sore. I kept that baby in my arms until it was time to lay them down to be replaced with another wailing bundle.


I went back to that mirror sometimes, always in the soft light, always in the long hours before dawn. I knew they would wake one after the other and then the toddler at sunlight as the twins settled for a long nap. Going back to that mirror saved me more than once. I needed that visual reminder of how tiny they were, how much bigger I was, how capable this body could be for them even when I was sure my mind had gone. My brain struggled to comprehend that time was passing and that years would go by and somehow I’d find myself standing at the end of ten years.


It's been a decade of days and nights. All the details I have folded into every day of their little lives. It’s not exactly a loss I feel here, just a slow shift. A change that’s coming in, slowly but surely like a tide taking over.


Is motherhood always a slow tide shifting underneath you? When you think you’ve found your feet on the shifting sand the water rushes back in to unbalance you again. Will more decades come and strike me the same as I think about their passing birthdays every year?


Should I know more? Have pearls of advice ready to hand out to those starting their first years of motherhood? Mothers still burping and swaddling tiny bundles, mothers still bleeding, aching, and feeding from their own bodies. Perhaps I should but I’m sure I don’t. The best I can offer is a kind smile in passing at swimming lessons, a wave at drop-off and some small talk when it’s required of me. I do see them all though, taking their first steps along this path right alongside their babies first words and last feeds.


What’s the right saying here? From little things big things grow, including me.

That’s the best I’ve got in this last decade of mothering? It’s been a busy ten years.






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