K.Z. Barton


Fruit Platter for an Autumn Picnic

Image description: a white man, woman and toddler seen from behind, walking through a nature reserve. The man and woman are standing on either side of the child, holding one hand each

As we made our way through the morning brightness of the supermarket carpark, my culinary expert, who also happens to be my two-year-old son, discussed our possible fruit choices. Inside, each colourful item was chosen through one of two methods: either my expert immediately saw the correct choice and I was swiftly informed if I made a poor selection (the strawberry punnet was replaced forthwith) or my expert had to take time carefully weighing up all the potential options. Oranges were gently and reverently picked up and turned around until we had exactly the right one.

After a quick stop for a takeaway coffee, my expert and I returned home to make up the platter. My expert took a directorial role from his learning tower, though he deigned to assist with washing and drying our vibrant bounty. I sliced, scooped, arranged and placed the fruit in the locations selected for me. Once each piece of fruit had found its home in the platter, we saw before us a melody of sweet, tart and juicy reds, greens, oranges and pinks.

The platter was consumed at a nature reserve. A group friends sat at a picnic table, squinting into the glare, surrounded by bird calls and sudden, delightful bursts of laughter. The remains of the platter are now tucked safely in a Tupperware in the fridge, ready to be enjoyed tomorrow as part of one little expert’s lunch.  

So I breathe

Oh, little one. 

This year there have been plenty of days that seemed to exist in an unending haze of exhaustion and the stress of working from home while making sure you felt seen and loved. 
But then there are the moments when I hold you in my arms, cuddled against my shoulder, and I just breathe you in. And I remember that this time of being your whole world is so very fleeting. And that sooner than I want to think about, I won’t be able to carry your weight like this, cocooned and protected in my arms. 

So I take a breath and pay attention. I feel the rise and fall of your chest, your heartbeat, the one I used to refer to as little horses during all the long monitoring sessions of my high-risk pregnancy. I try to absorb the very essence of these moments through my skin and into the core of my being. 

I take a breath.

Day 1

Dear Wolfgang,

Labour was long and hard and not at all what any of us were hoping for, but the second I saw your little head emerge, nothing else in the world mattered. And then you were on my chest and everything was simply perfect, because you had arrived.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt such overwhelming happiness as I did in our first few moments together. You were screaming and covered in goo and everything felt exactly right. It no longer bothered me that it had been almost 26 hours from my first contraction to the time you arrived, or that my plan for a low-intervention, pain-relief free birth only lasted 22 hours.

I felt like such a failure when my body couldn’t seem to reach full dilation and get you into a position that would allow you to be born. Our obstetrician wanted to try an epidural and syntocinon as a last-ditch effort before taking us in for an emergency c-section. I was connected to so many wires and had a big needle in my spine (all things I’d been determined to avoid), and yet, your birth was exactly what it needed to be. I got to push you out and feel every second of your entrance to the world (the epidural only numbed one side). I had lots of tearing and needed so many stitches, but I wouldn’t have changed a thing, because all the medical intervention meant that we were finally able to work together and bring you earthside.

My body is so sore, but it fills me with so much wonder that it was able to bring you into our lives. Nothing will ever be the same, and we wouldn’t want it to be.

For now, little wolf, please be patient as your daddy and I learn how to be parents. We are going to make many mistakes, but lack of love will never be one of them.

Day 2

Dear Wolfgang,

The midwives warned us that the second night would be the hardest and they weren’t wrong. I can’t imagine how difficult this must be for you. Only a little over 24 hours ago you were floating weightless in my tummy. You didn’t have to worry about trying to breastfeed or the harsh realities of wind, poop and nappy changes. Everything was calm and you never had to deal with feeling too hot or too cold. This world is so loud and bright and some days just existing is ridiculously tough, especially for one as tiny and new as you.

Tonight, you just want to lie on Mummy or Daddy’s chest, and you know what? That’s absolutely fine. For now, we’ll take turns napping with you while the other one stays awake to make sure you’re safe. This is what family does. And you’re our family, Wolfgang, and we’ll always to whatever we can to minimise the noise and the cold and the harshness.

I’m just glad that Daddy’s chest is such a soft landing pad.

Day 3

Dear Wolfgang,

Breastfeeding is hard. I’m sure some new mums find it easy, but as beautiful as it can be, it’s also frustrating, exhausting and painful. And it doesn’t help that every midwife is telling us different things. It’s great having help with latching and positions, but I’m about ready to take you home and just go with what works for us.

We’re both so new at this (and my milk hasn’t even come in yet) and some feeds we work together like champions, whereas others, I’m in pain because EDS means my joints can have a hard time holding you in place, and you get frustrated because you just want to enjoy being cuddled and go back to sleep. And yet, we’re all trying to make you feed more to help my milk come in. As a result, we both end up in tears.

My goal is to exclusively breastfeed you because I want you to have all the immunity benefits, but like with everything since you’ve been born, I think I have to let go of my preconceived ideas and just wait and see what works for us.

Day 4

Dear Wolfgang,

As I write this, you are fast asleep on my chest. I feel like I could happily hold you forever—if only I didn’t need sleep or food. I really hope we can make baby wearing work for us, because having you so close just feels right.

We’re finally home from hospital and I already feel so much more relaxed. It’s such a relief to not be faced with so many differing opinions about everything we do together.

When we left the hospital, they were still concerned about your weight loss since birth. My milk has come in and you’re doing really well at feeding (even though I have to wake you up for some feeds), but I can’t help but worry that you’re not getting enough. Even though you, me and your daddy are starting to find our own groove with caring for you, it’s still far too easy to worry that we’re doing things all wrong.

I want you to thrive and I hate the idea that something I’m doing/not doing could negatively affect your growth or development. Your daddy thinks we’re doing great, and I do too, most of the time, but as a mum it seems impossible to go forward without any self-doubt or anxiety.

For now, I’m going to enjoy every moment of our cuddles and feeds, and I will make sure to seek help if we need it, even if just to reassure. I love you, little one. I hope my best is always enough.

Day 5

Dear Wolfgang,

I’m pretty sure I was hit over the head with the baby blues yesterday. Everything felt insurmountable and I kept bursting into tears. But, this morning, I finally feel like me again.

Our first night at home was amazing. Besides waking for feeds, you only had one little grizzle. It shouldn’t be surprising that getting a bit of sleep has made everything more manageable.

Since our first feed this morning, you’ve been happy sleeping in your bassinet, which has meant that your daddy can have some extra rest (he looked after you while I napped last night) and I’ve actually been able to brush my teeth, eat a whole bowl of porridge with fruit, and drink an entire cup of tea. Today I’m just grateful for the little victories.

I can see your nanna parking her car, so I’d better go and let her in. I know she’s looking forward to some of your cuddles (who wouldn’t).

Day 6

Dear Wolfgang,

This morning I managed to shower, actually wash my hair and get dressed in fresh, clean clothes. I came downstairs and you were just waking up for a feed. In between swapping breast, I changed your nappy and I ended up covered in projectile poo. I didn’t even know that was possible, but somehow poo ended up all over my chest. You were still hungry, but there was poo on my breasts, so I hopped back in the shower while your daddy held you and you screamed. We managed to finally finish off the feed and you went to sleep in your bassinet like a little angel.

I’m so tired I could cry. In fact, I have cried, several times today. It took me three hours to manage to make (and eat) my lunch, and I’ve lost count of how many loads of washing your daddy has done. Since the projectile poo this morning, I’ve also been hosed down with pee, and somehow poo ended up on our doona when a nappy leaked (thank goodness we have a spare).  I love your daddy so much because throughout all of this we’ve still managed to hold each other and laugh.

Wolfgang, I don’t want you to think that I hold any of this against you. It’s actually quite the opposite. In amongst all the chaos, I keep thinking about all the things I adore about you. Here are just a few:

  • I love the way your ears wiggle when you’re nursing.
  • I love the squinty look you give me when I’m cradling you in my arms.
  • I love how cute you look in zippy suits that are just slightly too big.
  • And I can’t get enough of holding you close and smelling your little head.

We’re all in this together, and exhausted or not, I don’t think I could love our little family more.

Day 7

Dear Wolfgang,

Today the tiredness has hit me all at once. We had a long night of cluster feeding and you daddy and I struggled to get more than an hour of uninterrupted sleep at any one time. Even though we’re in the depths of sleep deprivation, I’m so relieved that you’re starting to ask for some of your feeds. We hate waking you up for nursing sessions. You seem to sleep so deeply and we can see that it’s such a struggle for you to stay awake and eat. I hate having to keep you up, but right now you need the milk. Hopefully, as you get older, you’ll still have the knack of sleeping so well.

We’re getting better at nappy changes, but it’s still hard to hear you scream when we undress you. We try and distract you with toys and singing, but you still make sounds of such heart-rending distress. Your daddy and I both get stressed out by your crying and it becomes nearly impossible to not snap at each other.

Your daddy has been incredible this whole week. He has grasped parenthood with both hands and works to anticipate all of our needs. When I’m over tired, I can be hyper-critical (both of myself and others). Your daddy doesn’t deserve this, and I’m so glad he accepts my apologies with such grace.

Tonight at 10:30pm you’ll be a week old. You’ve been with us such a short time, and yet I can no longer envision our lives without you.