Reading Proverbs 31 as a mother

I’ve always felt the woman in Proverbs 31 to be a ridiculous overachiever who all women are encouraged to strive to be. I mean she makes clothes and sells them at the city gates for crying out loud.

It wasn’t until I read these verses as a new mum that I suddenly could see some similarities in our lives. Now, I don’t claim to be as accomplished as she by any means, but if you’re a mother perhaps you too will resonate with these verses in the same way, and if not maybe you can you see your own mother in them?

Verse 13. She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands.

How much of motherhood is hands on? Changing nappies, making dinner, cleaning floors, furniture and clothes. The only difference between 21st century mothers and the Proverbs 31 woman is are we doing it willingly?

Verse 15. She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens.

Hands up who’s had to get up at night to feed a little babe? Or rise in the early hours when it’s still dark to get on top of some of the household chaos? Sure the context is different, I mean I ain’t got no maidens, but the sentiment is still the same.

Verse 17. She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong.

Many mothers like to keep physically fit in one way or another. From the gym to pram walks or joining family cricket games, somehow we find time to also look after our health.

Verse 18. She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night.

I know a lot of busy wives and mums who run their own little business to turn a profit on the side of their full-time family life. Often these women work at late hours after everyone else has gone to bed in order to get it done.

Verse 21. She is not afraid of snow for her household for all her household are clothed in scarlet.

Women have great foresight. We are always prepared and we always want the best for our family. Just like the Proverbs 31 woman, we organise new clothes before a change in season, no one is going to go without. How often do our husbands ask for something only for us to say, ‘I already bought you a new one weeks ago’? Mothers are great at anticipating needs.

Verse 26. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. 

It might be hard to see yourself in this verse but you’re there. When you’re giving your teenager advice you’re speaking out of your learned wisdom. When your over enthusiastic toddler accidentally whacks you with a toy for the tenth time that day and you chose to show them what gentleness means, instead of yelling at them to calm down, you’ve put kindness on your tongue.

I’m not saying I achieve all of these things all the time, but when I think of the Proverbs 31 woman in context of motherhood I suddenly feel like she’s not so unattainable; and that maybe striving to be like her is a little more worthwhile and possible than I first thought.

Three months post partum and fitter than ever

If someone ran a marathon and then spent the subsequent few weeks letting their bodies recover from the grueling effort would you say that series of events made them lose fitness?

No. I wouldn’t.

Then why do we say pregnancy and birth reduces a woman’s fitness?

Don’t get me wrong – and I want to be very clear here – one cannot and should not exercise at an intense level while pregnant and each woman should be extremely mindful about how they return to exercise after giving birth. However, the mindset that because I needed to reduce my exercise for 9 months and then rehabilitate my body afterwards means I am somehow weaker than before, could not be any further from the truth.

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A marathoner spends week in week out training for this intense experience that is race day. Workouts and meals are all planned to prepare the body to handle the demands that running 42.2kms will place on it. The moment the runner trains for is brief in the scheme of things – only four or so hours compared with the weeks of training – and after the race is run, recovery is vital. It will involve plenty of rest, good food and a much lighter load of movement.

The very same can be said of a woman’s pregnancy journey. Nine months of her body and mind preparing in the lead up to the most concentrated and intense moment of her life.

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Nearly 20 hours of labour with my daughter was more than just a means to an end.

It showed me I am stronger than I could have ever known.

It showed me I am braver than anyone could have made me believe.

It showed me I can endure more than I would have thought possible.

The same is true for all women. Swap 20 hours for your number, swap labour with c-section, swap pregnancy with IVF journey.

And after these 9 months, after those many intense hours people may say things like ‘you’ll bounce back’, ‘you’ll lose the baby fat’, ‘you’ll get your fitness back’, ‘you’re body will feel less broken one day’.

Oh mumma your body was never broken. Your fitness never left. You just ran a marathon and you got SO. MUCH. STRONGER.

 

 

My birth centre birth story

I want to share my birth story as nothing more than an encouragement to other women that birth can be positive and things can and do go smoothly.

I know during my pregnancy I heard about a lot of different birth experiences, and while a couple of them were positive, from many of them I felt increased anxiety as I heard about all the things that went wrong and the interventions that took place.

Absolutely those things can be necessary and I’m so glad that in all the stories I heard, healthy babies were born.

From start to end, the birth of our beautiful girl was covered by God’s hand and she followed a textbook perfect entry into the world.

This is not a retelling to brag about how things went or to say this is the way other mums should journey their labour – not at all! My hope is this is simply an encouragement to  expecting mums that you don’t need to fear it.

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My plan was always to give birth at the Family Birth Centre, which is attached to King Edward’s Memorial Hospital. To use the birth centre you agree to a drug free labour, however if you change your mind or circumstances change during the labour they can move you to the hospital to get what you need. This appealed to me because I’ve always felt quite uneasy around the intense hospital atmosphere but I was also glad to know that should something not go to plan I would be in the right place to get the care I needed.

Probably one of the most attractive things was that the birth centre offers water births. It wasn’t something I had ever thought about until getting pregnant, but as someone who loves to swim it felt like it just made sense. If you want a water birth you definitely can’t have an epidural so this was one of the main drivers behind why I chose to go drug-free (as well as some information I turned up through research about the effects of an epidural on the labour) However, while no epidural was a goal I also said to my husband I never wanted to feel like the option was completely off the table should I really need it.

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On a Monday at 1am – 11 days before our surprise gender baby’s due date – I woke up to realise my waters had broken. I instantly went into shock at this point thinking ‘Oh my goodness I’m having a baby today’ and ‘how crazy is this only 10-15% of labours start with the water breaking’. I hopped into the bathroom to wait out the gush and started googling what to do if your water breaks but you don’t feel any contractions yet. The consensus was to try and sleep since this will be your last chance. I grabbed a towel and hopped back in bed but my mind was too far gone at this point.

I chose not to wake John as our birth classes had reminded us to let partners sleep if labour starts in the middle of the night as it will be long and best to have someone who has had some rest. I also knew I didn’t need to call the midwife unless the fluid was discoloured, but to wait until morning. It was pretty crazy to be experiencing all this and not yet able to tell anyone!

Not long after I started feeling mild cramping and noticed it was coming and going. I downloaded a contraction counter and timed them as I lay in bed. From the get go my contractions were about 3 minutes apart and lasting 30 seconds. This didn’t really line up with what I had read about early labour contractions starting as long as 20 minutes apart, but since they weren’t very sore I didn’t worry. I’m still not sure why they were so close together throughout my whole labour the furthest apart they got were 5 minutes.

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Giving up on sleep I moved into the lounge to start putting into practice some of the pain management techniques I had read about. I started just by counting 1 to 8 over and over through each contraction and progressed to walking around with the count each time.

At 4.30am I woke John. I wanted to give him more sleep but I also really wanted his help to put on the TENS machine, which they say to use as early as possible before things get too painful. Despite using the machine for 14 hours, I never felt like the TENS actually helped the pain but it was a nice distraction and at least made me feel like I was doing something to combat it.

I called the midwife around 6am to discover my midwife would not be able to attend the birth and someone else would step in instead. I wasn’t too concerned by this as I knew it was likely to happen and every midwife I had met at the birth centre I had felt very comfortable with. After I let her know where I was at she recommend I lie down, try to sleep if I can and also to eat plenty. This was her advice for several hours as I called back each couple of hours with an update. Needless to say I could not sleep, but I didn’t mind the lying down as much as I thought I would. I also tried taking in food in small doses.

As the day went by John notified work that he would be taking his leave now and we let our families know what was happening. We watched a bit of TV to help the time pass and tried to have some lunch. The hours actually seemed to whizz by as by lunchtime I couldn’t believe I had been at this for 11 hours.

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A plan was made to come into the hospital at 6pm for antibiotics as it would have been 18 hours since my waters broke and the baby would be at risk of infection. However at around 3pm there was a noticeable shift. My contractions were taking all of my focus now, I was banging stressballs on the fitball and making loud ‘Ahhh’ sounds to work through the pain. After one ended there wasn’t quite the respite as before, I still felt pain in between and was shaking a lot.

The midwife asked if I could try 10 more minutes at home, but to pack the car and then call when we were on our way. John got all our gear together while I sat on the floor and told him what things we needed. I thought maybe 20 minutes had past by the time we hit the road but it turned out John had stalled us for almost an hour! He was afraid we might get there too early and be sent back home.

The car ride was intense. I remember telling John off for doing less than the speed limit on the freeway. Here, I was banging my stress balls on the dash each time a contraction came. We got to the birth centre at about 4pm and things had progressed even more. A midwife had to help me through the front door. They did a quick examination and then said I could hop in the bath. I later found out that upon arrival I was 9cm!

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This was definitely the hardest part of the labour. I remember crying a bit and asking if it could all stop (all of which I hear is a pretty normal response at this point). I took some gas after a while because I had a hard time breathing through the contractions and fighting the urge to push when it was still too early. Having my support people here (John and the midwife) were what got me through. I felt like I must have broken John’s hand every contraction and the midwife was an amazing guide, completely calm and gentle but with the confidence I needed to see.

About 2 hours after arriving at the birth centre our beautiful daughter Bethel Anne was born. It was a very exciting moment to discover we had a baby girl. I was in shock when they handed her to me because it was almost as if I had expected to recognise some part of her but I didn’t and my first thoughts were ‘who are you?’ I was not in the least surprised that she had plenty of hair like her mum though.

 

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Overall I had a 19 hour labour with 17 hours at home. The midwives were super impressed with how everything went, even my blood loss was very minimal. One midwife even suggested I could opt for a home birth next time – not that I’m thinking about a ‘next time’ right now! I did suffer a second degree tear though and needed some stitches at the hospital.

After the placenta delivery, the stitching, feeding Bethel and having her checked by the pediatrician we had a very short cat nap and were discharged 7 hours after her birth at 2am. I do wish we had of been able to stay that first night but since there were no complications we were well aware of the quick discharge protocol of the centre.

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I left that place having been through easily the most intense experience of my life. Physically and mentally it was incredibly demanding but I was also so encouraged by the staff and my loving husband. I also knew that things could not have gone more perfect and have no doubt God had His hand around our little family the whole way through, and still does as we learn to navigate this brand new season.

The best of Far North Queensland

From our time exploring Port Douglas and surrounds here are the top things I would recommend are worth your time and money investment.

The Great Barrier Reef

There’s no denying that this was probably both John and I’s favourite experience. Neither of us are big on swimming with fish so it took us right out of our comfort zone but we knew we had to do it.

Because we weren’t so keen on seeing the really big fish we decided on a half day cruise that took us to the Low Isles. This meant instead of jumping off a boat into deep water we could enjoy the reef by wading out from the beach.

I was a little skeptical that we may not see as much being so close to shore but I needn’t have worried at all. As soon as we swam out we saw abundant, colourful coral and fish, including some pretty huge ones. We were also treated to several turtle sightings, which is what i had hoped most to see, small reef sharks (eep, this made me a bit nervous but I am so glad we saw them), and even a cute little starfish lying on the sand.

We were definitely not bored for the few hours we were on Low Isles, but at the same time were more than ready to hop back on board the boat for a muffin and some tea to warm up when time was up.

Even though we only saw a little part of it, I was completely blown away by the beauty of the Great Barrier Reef. I sure hope we can look after it for generations to come.

Sea turtles often mistake plastic bags for food. When a sea turtle eats several of these they are no longer able to swim down to the bottom of the ocean and camouflage. Sadly, the bags cause them to float and subsequently they are easy prey. I’m glad to see society is becoming more aware about the dangers of plastic on our marine animals.

The Daintree and Cassowary Falls

In a spontaneous decision while away we joined a tour to explore the Daintree. With just us and another couple on board it was practically a private tour and so much fun.

The day started with a crocodile cruise, where, despite the cloudy conditions, we did in fact see a couple of crocs on the go. Then it was on to a beautiful place in the heart of the forest for some morning tea – scones with jam and cream, yum!

From there we headed to a private property to take in Cassowary Falls, all the while the drive took us through the absolutely gorgeous scenery of the Daintree Rainforest. You could feel the temperature in the rainforest was substantially cooler than Port Douglas as there are so many huge trees fighting for the sunlight and creating a gorgeous canopy above.

Once we arrived at the farm we hoped into an open back jeep and went on a four-wheel drive adventure to the falls, clinging on for dear life but laughing lots. The waterfall was picture perfect and so tranquil. I can’t imagine having something like that on my land. Our guide had brought some food for the fish in the deep water. I had changed into my bathers because I was definitely keen to swim where there was a waterfall, however I quickly changed my mind once I felt the temperature of the water and discovered just how many creatures lived in there!

The fish food drew swarms of fresh water fish, including a catfish, an eel and several fresh water turtles (much less cute than the sea turtles but cool nonetheless). John and I even managed to pat the eel! Definitely not something we thought we would do. For the sake of some cool video footage I even mustered up the courage to stand in the middle of all the fish while our guide threw in some food that caused them to thrash about my legs. I did not enjoy that one bit!

Cassowary Falls and all its wildlife were definitely a highlight. I loved seeing so much nature.

Mossman Gorge

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The day we left for the airport we decided to check out Mossman Gorge at last, and I am so glad we did. Just 10 minutes drive north of Port Douglas, this beautiful part of the Daintree has so much to offer.

There are several walking tracks with the longest being a loop of couple of kilometres. I wanted to head out on that one to see as much of the rainforest as we could. So, after finishing the smaller routes we took the long one. It begins with a suspension bridge over the gorge and then continues up for a little way before the official track starts. Unfortunately, in my pregnant state I wasn’t quite able to tackle the whole loop and we had to do an out and back route but it was a lovely walk. We saw a few bush turkeys out there, as well as some geckos, plus the rainforest itself is exceptionally pretty.

After all the walking we headed back to a part of the gorge that offers the perfect place to swim, with a little beach-like entrance and a place clear of boulders. The day we were there was a ‘no swimming’ day but many people were still. I was keen as the water was crystal clear and it is such a beautiful spot. As long as you stay out of the currents and rough waters you should be fine. However, since the water comes down from the mountains underground before being exposed to the sun in Mossman Gorge, it is incredibly freezing water. A quick in and out dip was all that was needed to feel refreshed.

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Kuranda Skyrail

On the drive back to Cairns is the Kuranda Skyrail and Railway, a cable car and old train experience. We chose to do both to get to and from the village of Kuranda at the top.

We went up on the skyrail, which takes about an hour and half because you can get off at a couple of stops along the way to explore the rainforest. There are some beautiful views from above the treetops in the cable car. Along the way you also see the impressive Baron Falls, both from the cable car and a viewing platform. During the train ride back down towards Cairns the falls are also a stop off.

Once we reached Kuranda we had some lunch and did the butterfly sanctuary. I really enjoyed the butterfly sanctuary. There were so many colourful variants and some absolutely huge butterflies. They would also land on you if you were wearing white or bright colours.

We took the railway back down – an hour and 45 minute journey through lush forest, tunnels and past waterfalls. It took us almost a full day to do both the skyrail, railway and the Kuranda Village.

Docking at Port Douglas

Port Douglas, Queensland.

Never heard of it? Or heard of it but don’t really know what the deal is? Well you’re not alone, before I spent a week there this winter I hadn’t much of an idea what the place was about either.

Before getting married early last year, I won a Facebook competition (way too exciting because I never win anything!) and the prize was a fairly decent $1000 travel voucher. Normally I wouldn’t find this so hard to spend, but having just gotten back from a huge European honeymoon (I will blog about the other locations at some point I swear) I didn’t particularly feel in the mood to book another holiday. It wasn’t until a few days before the voucher expired that I settled on booking a week in Port Douglas in tropical north Queensland.

There were a couple of reasons for the location that I knew very little about. The first was I wanted a holiday so different from our honeymoon; this included just one location, a warm climate and somewhere that was conducive to relaxing and wasn’t going to make us feel like rushing about and doing a million things. The second reason, I will admit, was Instagram. No, I don’t mean I had seen some great ‘grammable opportunities and so I wanted to replicate that — although I would soon discover just how picture perfect this place was. I actually saw a post by Rebecca Judd of her family holiday in Port Douglas and it just looked so relaxing that I thought it would be the way to go.

Turns out after finding out in March/April that we were pregnant, a relaxing holiday (now babymoon!) was just what was needed.

We spent 7 nights at Peppers Beach Club in a spa suite, which gave us our own little spa bath on the balcony. It was bliss. The lagoon pool is gorgeous, although it was pretty freezing to swim in. I had booked us in for the buffet breakfast everyday too so we didn’t have to worry about getting out and about to eat. It wasn’t anything too impressive but more than enough options for the two of us who stuck with muesli and yoghurt every morning.

The hotel is in a great location. Port Douglas is a small town but some of the hotels sit a fair way from the main shopping/dining precinct. Every day we walked to the main street to grab a meal or just take a stroll. From Peppers it’s also a very short walk to the stunning Four Mile Beach with views of the dramatic mountain ranges. If you walk straight through town from Four Mile Beach for about a kilometre you’ll hit another beach on the west coast, meaning you can both see the sunset rise and set over the ocean in Port Douglas.

Port Douglas was the ideal base from which to explore tropical north Queensland, we headed out on day trips to Mossman Gorge, Kuranda and the Great Barrier Reef, all of which I hope to detail here soon.

Paris is always a good idea

Paris, France

February 8, 2017

France. My European home. Now I get to share it with my love.

After spending two months on exchange in Dijon at the age of 16, returning to France on subsequent trips felt very much like returning to somewhere so familiar. I understood the customs, I knew how to navigate and I could communicate with the people. I couldn’t wait to share this place I’d spent so much time in and grown to love so much with my husband on our honeymoon.

Paris greeted us with a smoke smog that was to linger for most of our stay, which was a shame but even that couldn’t kill the beauty of this city – though I don’t think it helped John’s cold that he’d developed before the wedding.

We were staying in our first AirBnb – a little apartment in Montmartre. The stairs were a bit of a killer but the location was fantastic – on a surprisingly quiet street near the Moulin Rouge (ooh la la!).

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The weather was a shock to the system even though I’ve done several European winters. You really have to spend your time flitting in and out of shops and cafes to stay warm.

I had a few places I wanted to hit up while we were here – either for a revisit or to catch something I had missed on previous visits – but of course when you’re a part of someone’s first trip to Paris there are a few obligatory places you have to go.

So over the next few days we made our way to the Champs-Elysées and its Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower, the Sacre Coeur, the Louvre and the Notre Dame.

 

The highlight of these for me was the Notre Dame. I’ve been inside it before but never climbed it and the view was gorgeous. The main reason I loved it though was because as soon as we got there it started snowing a tiny bit. Snow wasn’t even forecast for our time in Paris and I practically squealed with delight when it began. By the time we reached the top of the cathedral more snow had come in and it was truly magical. It was also John’s first time seeing falling snow.

 

To warm up we found tea and hot gaufres (waffles) at a nearby cafe while the snow kept falling outside. Honestly, this was the stuff of my dreams being in snowy Paris with my husband!

L’Arc de Triomphe was also well worth the admission. There’s not quite as many stairs to climb here but the 360 degree view is truly spectacular, as you watch cars zoom dangerously around the ginormous roundabout and check out the sights down the twelve main streets that lead from it. On a clear day I’m sure you could see a long way off, but on our visit we had to embrace the smog adding to the atmosphere of our photos.

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There are a couple of places I just love in Paris and I was excited to see them again and show these to John. The first was Shakespeare and Co. I spent ages in here on my last visit. Much to my delight John fell just as in love with it as I did and we had a great time picking out a couple of books to take home, playing on the typewriters, exploring little nooks and he even played some tunes on the piano (which did actually ask people to play on it). It’s a booklover’s dream place to stay all cosy on a freezing winter day.

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The famous Parisian macaron house of Ladurée was also on my hit up list. They may be pricey but nothing compares to the macarons here. Last time, I just purchased a salted caramel macaron at their airport store. This time we found ourselves in a queue at their restaurant on the Champs-Elysees. This place was seriously beautiful. There seemed to be a million different rooms in the building where diners were taken to tables. The carpet, walls, ceiling, chandeliers and tables and chairs were all like dining in Versailles itself.

We ordered a selection of macarons to sample and a chocolate frappé each. Hands down, best iced chocolate drink I’ve ever had, but way too small to satisfy.

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The rest of our time in Paris was spent just exploring the streets – my favourite way to get to know any city – and enjoying lots of the local cuisine (namely sweets but we did throw in some French onion soup for good measure).

Unconsciously Absorbing the Emirates

Dubai, U.A.E

February 7, 2017.

 

 

The idea behind a stop in Dubai was to give us a more chilled journey from Australia to Europe post the wedding madness. However, as good as it was to crash on a horizontal bed for one night I’m still unsure if a few hours layover was worth it, especially as we were setting the alarm for another extremely early morning flight!

If nothing else it was the opportunity I had wanted to set foot outside of the airport this time and experience a culture so different from our own.

Well, I didn’t have to leave the airport to get my first taste of that. What was to become quite the hassle during our European travels began on day one as my 20kg suitcase slid round the conveyor belt of baggage collection with a very obvious defect. Yes Emirates, thanks for the missing wheel from the get go.

I’m not the sort of person to let these things just slide so I marched right up to the baggage service desk to let them know about the damage. While waiting in line two men appeared alongside me also needing assistance. When the woman had finished with the man in front these men proceeded to move towards the counter first. I was overtired, over-traveled and not in the mood so I also edged forward making sure they were very aware I was there first. I got next to no acknowledgement, and if it wasn’t for the woman at the desk who had noticed me I would have easily been pushed aside. Even when she explained I was next they were not willing to concede.

It was an extremely unsettling feeling to be treated this way by other adults. This was not to be my only experience of this either. On our return home I also found myself pushed to the side at checkouts by other men and downright ignored. It was an eye opening experience to the local culture. At the time I was so tired, so sick of traveling that I found it too much and returned to John in tears. It really got me thinking about how crippling the restrictions placed on women in these parts of the world could feel. I’ve been so blessed to live in a country when in my eyes I’m treated as an equal to men and it’s not something I’ve ever had to think about.

All that being said, Dubai is a magnificent place. I have never seen anything like it. Driving through felt like being in a futuristic city with road bridges high above the traffic, looping over everywhere. After spending some time in our hotel, and doing our best to not give in to the desire to sleep, we set foot outside into pleasantly mild weather and a bustling city.

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We were staying in downtown Dubai with a view over a construction site, but handy proximity to the world’s largest shopping centre.

We didn’t much feel in the mood for shopping but we didn’t need to do that here. We were thoroughly entertained for ages with the 10 million litre aquarium and we didn’t even pay to enter the exhibit!

The shopping centre also has an indoor ice rink, countless levels of stores, a more cultural marketplace and an outdoor dining precinct where we watched a light, fountain show while enjoying our greasy Five Guys’ burgers.

We caught up with some of my family while over here too, which was a great opportunity.

After an all-too brief night’s sleep we were up bright an early for our next flight to Paris!

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