This question has come up in a few conversations with friends of late. Maybe we are at the age of reminiscing. Maybe like when you are unwell and think back to the days of good health, as you get older your mind goes back to the more carefree days of one’s youth. Watching my boys though would I want to be 17 and nearly 21 again – no way! Yes, I would love the wrinkle free face, no grey hairs hiding amongst the blonde and the waist that most belts wrapped around twice. I would love to feel the “in love butterflies” when “that” person’s name comes up on your phone. (I can always tell by the grin on their faces when that happens.) I listen intently as the boys share their worries, all real and valid for them, but sometimes on the inside, I’m thinking these are the best years of your life. The freest you will ever be. You are going to be OK. You are going to more than OK. You are going to be amazing because you both are. If but they knew it.
Anyway, I digress. Back to the question – when was the happiest time of my life? It takes me less than a second to answer, and I have been answering it the same for 20 years.
Andrew and I had lived in many rental places together. We then went on to buy a maisonette in Torrensville. We made a lovely home there, and we were really happy.
We eventually got married, Andrew needed many years to think about that, but that’s a whole other story. We had recently been on our overseas trip and on returning had grown tired of living with a common wall between our noisy neighbours and us. We wanted the next stage of housing. A family home.
We found one in the leafy, eastern suburbs of Dulwich. It was our dream home at the time and had a mortgage which made our hearts skip a beat. Well, not mine, I was just thrilled. I had drawn where I was going to put our furniture on the floor plan after the first open. Andrew, however, looked a little pale when we were successful at the Auction.
We both had good, well-paid jobs and with our double income, we were financially okay. We set about making minor renovations and buying more furniture as it was twice the size of our first home. It was so much fun. We loved being so central to the city, and this was back in the day of Adelaide hosting the Grand Prix. We could walk to the track, minutes from our front door. We had cafes close at hand and often walked to the Parade for dinner. We felt like we had “made” it.
Next step was trying for the baby I had yearned for years. It didn’t take too long really although me being so impatient made it a more stressful time. I think I spent a small fortune on pregnancy tests each month; “just in case the first one was faulty” and I had a temperature chart that was degree perfect in its accuracy lol. After months of negative results on the “pee stick” one morning the dreaded one line turned into two. We were thrilled. Telling our family and friends was just the best and my Mum and Dad’s reaction, in particular, was priceless. They were so excited to finally be grandparents.
My pregnancy however…………….well let’s just say that there are people who enjoy being pregnant. There are people who “glow” when pregnant. I was neither. Nauseous the first three months and then puffy and bloated I could not wait for it to be over. I ended up in the hospital for a couple of nights when I was 7 months along as I was fast running out of room housing the long legged baby within. We were told that I needed rest and to avoid any stress. Andrew stayed with me until he was kicked out by the nurses each night. It was the AFL finals that weekend. Think back to the 1996 Preliminary Final where Sydney was playing Essendon. Tony Lockett marked the ball in front of goal after the final siren and went on to kick a point which put Sydney into the Grand Final. All who know Andrew will be aware that watching that game with him was anything but stress-free!!
Two long months later on a warm Wednesday morning, November 13th, Jesse finally arrived. An incredibly heavy, (to me) 7lb 9oz baby who made a speedy arrival – 3 hours and 15 minutes to be precise. No time for drugs which was rather brutal for me I must say but made for a very quick physical recovery.
I would like to say that I was overjoyed to finally hold my baby in my arms but the truth was I was absolutely terrified. After the first 48 hours of visitors, celebratory phone calls, gift and floral deliveries I crashed in a heap. And in a heap, I stayed for about 5 weeks. I was a hormonal mess, and the only person I wanted was Andrew. I wanted to remain in the hospital forever. In the room I never left, not once in the 5 days, I was there. I had a sign put on the door for any visitors to check in with the nurse before seeing if I would see them. The answer was always no. I wanted no one. My wonderful Dad came to see us on his way to work one day. He and Mum had bought Jesse’s coming home from hospital outfit. The nurse came in to say he was waiting outside and I just said no thanks. Can’t see him. Remembering that makes me feel so sad. I cannot fathom feeling so sad that I couldn’t see the Dad I adored and the mental picture of him leaving that outfit with the nurses and then walking out of the hospital back to his car……………………..Well, it just goes to show how hormones can play havoc with your mental health.
Andrew was fantastic. He would come to the hospital at 6.30am in the morning. By 10.30pm at night he would finally go home after several failed, earlier attempts which would leave me in tears. Ironically Jesse was mostly perfect in the hospital. He didn’t cry much and was a very cuddly boy from the get go. I just could not come to terms with how much I loved him. The realisation that if anything happened to him, I would die. The realisation that he depended on me for everything. Me, the girl who loved kids, most people’s first choice of babysitter had no confidence in her ability to care and know what to do with her own child. Go figure!
We had a lovely male mid wife who had become a Dad for the first time 6 weeks earlier. On the day I was going home, still crying, he came to reassure me I would be fine, “Lory, my wife and I are nurses, and we are fumbling our way too.” That actually did help a little.
The drive home was terrifying. The sun was glaringly bright after being in a room where I had barely opened the curtains for a week. We got home and put Jesse in his pram. Andrew had cooked a beautiful meal and had done all housework. I didn’t have to do a thing except look after myself and Jesse and unpack my hospital bag. I couldn’t even do that for another month.
Before long Jesse started to wake up and was hungry. Luckily breast feeding came very naturally to me after the initial pain of the first few weeks, but as this was only Day 6, I was incredibly sore and in need of a nipple shield. A dime a dozen you can get them at any chemist but no. I needed the exact one I had in the hospital. The exact one I had accidentally left behind in my room. Completely irrational and convinced that I couldn’t manage with anything but THAT one Andrew said he would drive back to the hospital to get it. “What??? Leave me with the baby ALONE???” Yep. I had lost the plot.
So over the next few weeks, I existed in a blurry, teary haze. I refused most visitors, my Mum and Dad included. I felt self-conscious trying to bath Jesse or even changing his nappy because I was unsure if I was doing it perfectly. I would get him to sleep, and he would stir an hour later. I was a failure. One dear friend at the time who broke through my no visitors rule suggested that I wrap him to keep him secure and settled. She said it so carefully, incredibly mindful of how sensitive I was. I will never forget the kind look on her face as she gently picked Jesse up and wrapped him tightly like she did her own son. Like I had wrapped her son. Of course, it worked, and Jesse slept for 3 hours. It was a miracle. He was wrapped tightly for the next 2 years lol.
My lowest point during that time was one morning at about 630am. Andrew was at work. Jesse was asleep, and I was trying to decide if I had time for a shower before Jesse woke up. Should I risk it? Should I wait to feed him first? Should I put him in the pram in the bathroom while I showered? Decisions, decisions. I couldn’t make one. Who can I ring so early I thought. My good friend Jodie had recently had her baby boy too. We had worked together and had shared the worries and the joy of falling pregnant close together. I dialled her number. She answered in her usual bubbly voice, and I just cried. I can’t even recall what I said, but I can remember everything she had to say. She was marvellous. She assured me that I was the best person in the world for Jesse because I was his Mum and that I was an expert on his needs – nobody else. She talked to me for about 20 minutes in a very calm, measured, kind voice. She went on to send me a card with a guardian angel attached to it a few days later. She had copied a poem about the power of the love of a mother. I have it to this day. She made me feel slightly capable, and I have never forgotten how she, probably unknowingly, helped me more that day than anyone had up to that point.
One morning the following week I woke up and I was quite literally, just like that, back to my old self. I had a proper shower, did my hair and asked Mum to come with me to the CAFHS nurse to get Jesse weighed. She was thrilled. We pushed the pram along the lovely streets of Dulwich to the local hall, and the nurse unwrapped Jesse and weighed him. He had put on so much weight, and she turned to me and said: “Well, you are doing an excellent job.” I was elated and virtually skipped back home.
Clearly, I had been suffering from a hormonal imbalance of some kind, an extended baby blues period we called it. Whatever you label it I was glad it was over and with that came complete clarity. I was absolutely confident in my ability as a new Mum. Jesse and I were a team and so in love with each other. And, just like that, from that day forward the happiest time of my life began.
We were quite literally joined at the hip. Jesse was a clingy baby and not very friendly outside immediate family and close friends. He certainly wasn’t a baby that liked being passed around for a cuddle or having people peer into his pram. Yet if he were on my lap he would sit happily for hours.
We would go to the park and lay on a blanket and look up at the clouds – for hours. He was that easy and happy just laying together. We would go for long walks or sit in the garden. I absolutely devoted all my time to play with him. I had not a care in the world. He was my sole focus. Not much housework or cooking got done I can tell you, but I would not have changed a thing. Luckily I have an amazing, understanding husband.
So after a rocky start, the first two years with Jesse were the absolute happiest time of my life. Every single day I woke up and couldn’t wait to spend it with my little buddy. That smile first thing in the morning…………………nothing in this world is better than that and I can honestly say I treasured and enjoyed every minute of that time. He taught me the true meaning of unconditional love. Love that is terrifying, all consuming and limitless but oh so rewarding and joyful.
And that dream house in Dulwich, the one with the two income mortgage. We sold it. I had intended on going back to work when Jesse was 6 weeks old. Instead, I didn’t go back to work permanently until he was 7 years old. A decision we never regretted and one forever appreciated by me. If not for Andrew’s support I would never have had such a wonderful (eventually) foray into motherhood and the desire to do it all again and complete our family with Matthew’s arrival three and half years later.
And, just like that, the happiest of days become the most treasured memory. There have been many happy times since, and much more to come I know, but I don’t think I will ever have such an intense, special time like that again.
What was the happiest time of your life?