Based in Brisbane, Australia, ANNABELLE CHAPPLE is a new mother, and writes a monthly column all about it.

Monthly Motherhood

Monthly Motherhood

As printed in My Village News May 2019

I recently watched Warren Buffett being interviewed by US presenter Charlie Rose. I didn’t walk away with investment strategies or wealth creation inspiration. Instead I pocketed a single phrase uttered by the American investor, who’s said to be worth more than $86 billion, on the value of time, “It's the only thing you can't buy. I mean I can buy anything that I want, basically, but I can't buy time.”

Even though this interview aired in 2017 I think there’s a reason it has only now implanted stickily into my brain, I’m viewing life through the new lens of motherhood.

In the past 14 months many friends have tried to understand this change in my life and the truest comparison I can give is to a rollercoaster ride: it’s highs and lows, it’s twists and turns jerking you here and there, it’s sudden troughs walloping you with gut-wrenching fear and it’s soaring peaks sparking stomach-flipping joy.

I started my journey into motherhood at the ride’s steep drop. There was no slow incline with those warning ‘click, click, clicks’, just a mighty ‘whoosh!’

My waters broke as my husband and I had decided to turn in early for the night. We were on our “baby moon”, a few days stolen away on the Sunshine Coast, a final weekend of just us six weeks before our baby’s arrival was supposedly due.

Two ambulance rides and a stopover at the new Sunshine Coast University Hospital, we finally did make it back to hospital in Brisbane.

By 4:21am the next day we had a breathtakingly beautiful little girl in our lives, Matilda. Years earlier when we were only dating we’d chosen the name, romantically. But now it’s meaning, “strength in battle”, was taking a deeper tone as our Matilda was headed to Mater Hospital’s Neonatal Critical Care Unit. She was there two nights while her breathing was monitored by several nurses, including one named Chloe who texted us multiple evening photo updates so we wouldn’t feel so apart from her. Matilda then faced a further 10 days in the hospital’s Special Care Nursery learning to suck feed before she was given the all clear to be in our room then to come home with us.

What ensued over the next three months was the regular Mum learning on the job stuff, worryingly asking those questions no one can answer: is she hungry? Is she tired? Is she too stimulated? Is her tummy sore? Is she too hot? Too cold? Does she love me?

But also: Did that person wash their hands before touching her? And get their Whooping Cough injection? Will she get sick if we leave the house? And why do people keep emphasising how tiny she is - don’t they know that’s the worst thing to say to the mother of a premature baby?

I had high anxiety when it came to maintaining Matilda’s health in that early period. I suppose because my husband and I had waited so long to bring her home from hospital (though not as long as some of the other incredibly brave parents we met in Special Care) and did not want her going back.

Now, with each passing month and incredible milestone our radiant and cheeky Matilda reaches, my anxiety lessens. I am seeing a psychologist to give me tips too. But every now and then, if an illness crops up or if she falls too hard while gleefully practising her running trot then, ‘click, whoosh’ I’m on the rollercoaster drop and my stomach is falling out from under me.

 Like so many other female health concerns that are widely experienced and rarely talked about, I know I’m not alone in the trauma I carry from my daughter’s birth and have experienced comfort in sharing it.

While time is an even scarcer commodity for me now I am a mother of a bouncing 14 month old it also seems to have slowed down in a wonderful way since Matilda came into our lives. Finally I’m smelling the roses at New Farm Park, savouring the joy she takes in tasting a scoop of creamy white froth from a Flat White, pausing to quack at the ducks waddling alongside the river at Merthyr Park and smiling appreciatively at the truck drivers bound for apartment sites who peer out their high machinery windows and jauntily wave at our little babe. 

There is joyful energy in almost everything if you take the time to see it through a child’s eyes.

To all the selfless mothers who wake up and lovingly strap themselves in for a daily rollercoaster ride to who knows where, I see you, I salute you and I want you to remember, the days are long but the years are short. Happy Mother’s Day!

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