But new baby land reminds me and sharpens in me a haunting desire I've glimpsed and chased after most of my life. It's a desire for less and more, for a simplicity which is hard won and carefully pursued. It is a sense of a life which is perhaps only a short distance wide, but miles deep. When I'm at home again with a fractious baby and unsatisfied pre-schoolers who need another story, another cuddle, a peanut-butter and banana sandwich - the longing comes to the fore again.
I wish we lived in community.
Yes, I know. Community is messy and sometimes invasive and hard work and compromise but nevertheless… I felt the yearning last Sunday at our kids dedication where I worried not one iota about when my 3 month old took her nap. Why? Because between the bosoms of three loving grandmothers and several aunties (by blood or by bond) and a basketful of other experienced mums there was never a shortage of someone to hold a sleepy baby to their chest and do some snuggling (quite the opposite in fact!) I wished, not for the first time, that my day-to-day life included a few more generations of women around me to share the early baby load. It's no great chore to hold a sleeping baby or to read to a small boy. Preparing dinner can be a simple joy and listening to the ups and downs of a 5 year old's latest flight of fancy is lovely but when trying to do them all at the same time and alone it becomes the stuff of nightmares. I look at the women at church who are eagerly awaiting the arrival of some grandchildren and think "come over to my place any night between 4 and 6pm and you can cuddle, read and play to your heart's desire - Please!!"
I've been reading a lot lately. Breastfeeding, that amazingly productive but simultaneously unproductive necessity has driven me to the couch and sparked a return to my kindle reader. Isn't it amazing how you have no time when you're home with a three and five year old - I mean I would never have found time to read before little Tess came along, but now that I'm breastfeeding I find myself chewing through books because there's really little else one can do (except madly try to referee lego-induced fist fighting of course). And I've dusted off the Anne of Green Gables series and am plowing through the latter work of L.M. Montgomery like a Jersey cow in an oat field (see what I did there?)
Oh and doesn't it just make me want to don my long skirt and apron and get to churning some butter or baking some bread. There's a simple wholesomeness to the world L.M. Montgomery creates that has me hating my modern conveniences and yearning for a simpler existence. In fact most of the books I really love were written in a time or a place where people lived smaller, simpler and less crowded lives. When they thought about cooking dinner their choices were limited to local, seasonal and homemade - these concepts have been commandeered by the boutique and expensive end of the market now. When a woman was engaged she spent her time preparing not for her wedding day but for her wedded life. She made the sheets, the tablecloths, the clothes and the homewares that would fill her new nest. When she fell pregnant she would begin knitting, sewing and preparing the simple necessities for the new life to come.
I know that in reality the old fashioned village world of Anne Shirley (or Blythe - spoiler alert) was actually full of poverty, ignorance, tragedy and injustice. It's not a utopia and I am very aware that I have won the lottery of time and place to have been born into middle class Australia in the 1980s. But there are so many things to be learned from the life and times of our Great-great-grandmothers.
The things we fight for, wait for or make with our own hands are so much more satisfying and valuable than the things we picked up cheaply or easily in a consumer experience. The friendship we do face to face are stronger, richer, harder and more valuable than the quick online curations of interesting instagram partners. When we winnow down our belongings, social circle and schedule we invest much more deeply in the few, valued items that are left. In a culture where we have so much of everything why are we haunted by a feeling of scarcity?
As I traverse this simple season of caring for the primal needs of a brand new human I am struck again by the simpleness of our truest needs. To be held, nourished, loved and understood by those closest to us, to love and nourish in turn. These little limbs don't care how co-ordinated is their outfit or how well curated the nursery décor, they know only the importance of good milk, warm hands and kind words.
For the other mums of nurslings out there, I wish you the gift of being able to share the warm, milky days with others who can help with the burden. I pray that we would get better at saying no to excess expectations, yes to help, and be vulnerable enough to keep reaching over the clutter of information overloaded social media and into the messy joy of reality.