I keep thinking back – comparing my experiences with Elena, my feelings about all this new baby stuff, with the last time around. My memories are skewed and patchy, even though it was only just over 18 months ago. A lot has happened in that time: earthquakes, novel-writing, moving to the other side of the world…

I don’t remember how long we let Louis cry it out before we caved and got him up out of bed.

I don’t remember what I did when I wasn’t feeding Louis, during the day, in those first weeks when feeding the baby takes up about a third of every day.

I don’t remember falling asleep so quickly and easily… ever, really.

But I’m not just thinking about the past. I’m thinking about what comes next. Tomorrow we go into Paris to see friends. Louis will have a blast with their kids and us adults will chat away most of the afternoon easily, and probably with some good food/drink for accompaniment.

In a few days Mum and Dad are off to my sister’s wedding in Ohio. Then, ten days later, they’re back, with my little bro. I’m looking forward to his visit, to showing him a bit of France. He hasn’t traveled much and I anticipate his joy and interest in all the new things he’ll see in his short visit.

It’s summer – and the hot, sunny bit is still coming. I’m looking forward to my body and energy returning, to being a bit more mobile, to taking Elena and Louis to the park by myself and feeling the rush of empowerment that comes with finding that I can do this whole mother-of-two thing without losing my mind. If I’m lucky I can do it without losing my cool too often either.

Lots of friends and family are visiting over the summer. And when we’re not busy socializing and sight-seeing I have writing to do and a new routine to establish. I do like routines.

Come September I’m hoping Louis will be going to the Halte Garderie – like kindergarten, I guess. We have also been planning a holiday for the end of September. My parents will be back here again then and we’re going to rent a house together for a week or two. In fact we spent most of yesterday looking up accommodation options and sights to see all over the south of France.

It’s good to have exciting things to look forward to. My sister and her new husband might be coming for Christmas and next year Luuk’s parents… Our 18 months here are going to go insanely fast.

Among all this looking forward and back, I am trying to also be present here and now. Elena might be my last baby. I found pregnancy really difficult this time around and frankly have no desire to go through childbirth again, even though the second one was way easier than the first. We did talk about having four, once upon a time before we even had one. Two, on the other hand, means we can take a taxi, drive a normal car and have room for luggage, and we can do all sorts of things more easily because the ratio is 2:2. As soon as the kids outnumber the adults life has got to be more challenging, and travelling, more insane.

Even if we do one day have more children, I’ll only have this time with Elena once. Also, this time in France is pretty special and might only be for 18 months. This phase of Louis’ life is a constant reminder of how quickly things change. He’s growing and learning and changing so fast. I was flicking through photos today and saw some from when we first arrived in France.

Louis in February

Just 4 months ago he was a baby. Now he is definitely a toddler, a small child.

Yesterday, chilling out.

He’s walking, nearly running, communicating much more clearly and obviously understanding nearly everything we say.

Lapping the house – video of Louis from yesterday evening.

He’s trying to talk and copying a lot of our words. He’s helping with household tasks and sitting through meals in restaurants and giving cuddles and kisses to his grandparents, parents and little sister.

I fed Elena for an hour this afternoon. I was so bored by the end of the time – partly cause everyone else was out and so I had no conversation to pass the time. Being present can be difficult. But presence is so vital, for two reasons:

– to appreciate all the goodness and fullness of life.

– to faithfully tell honest stories about life in my art.

So I’m trying to remain present. I’m also trying to slowly start up some of my good habits and routines again, without putting too much pressure on my tired, healing, hormonal body.

Today, after over 10 days off, I started writing again. I stared at the last three lines of dialogue from two weeks ago for quite some time. The blank page below taunted my fuzzy head, but then the coffee kicked in and I was hyper-aware my time was running out. Elena was in her bassinet at my side, content for the moment, and everyone else was out. Neither would be true for long.

So I wrote.

Elena started fussing. I stuck my pinky in her mouth and kept writing, one handed.

Mum and Dad came home, then Luuk and Louis, and I kept writing. (Someone took Elena off my hand – literally – and someone else fed Louis dinner. Go team.)

I paused at 490 words, tempted to stop. But no: 500 is a good round number. And then, all of a sudden, I had 695 words!

I suspect creativity begets creativity. After my writing burst this afternoon I cooked dinner. It was leftovers night – refurbished leftovers. Last night’s curries came with too much rice… I added tomatoes and lemon rind, cream cheese and creme fraiche, egg and flour… fried it all up, and voila! Rice balls! Yum.

Also had leftover flat breads and pasta sauce. Put together with some basil, salami and mozzarella… pizzas!

Pizza and Blue Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms

Also made yummy salads with toasted walnuts and buttered baguette crutons, cherry tomatoes and chevre chaud (hot goats cheese). Yum.

Three courses of creative food. Doing art is definitely good for me. The whanau (family) are not complaining either.

In other news, Elena is still very sleep and we wake her for almost every feed – even in the middle of the night. Newborns aren’t meant to go too long without food, but if I don’t wake up one night she might just sleep through.
I know better than to think this is the way things will remain, but I can hope. Breastfeeding is still going well, and if feeding and sleeping are both going well then parenthood, or at least new-parenthood, is going about as well as it possibly can.
I’ve only had a few emotional moments – no doubt thanks to the excellent support team I have around me. I’m getting daily massages, my housework and dishes done for me, drinks delivered on request and babysitters on-call when I need to nap. Had a lovely nap this afternoon before my writing/cooking creativity burst.
There’s definitely a connection.