Once Upon A Time…
There was an expat woman who had two sons. That’s me. And, while pregnant with my first son Enlai, I read the books, the articles, and the blogs. I listened to the well-intentioned, albeit sometimes bizarre advice from the legions of mums who came before me. You know the stuff I’m talking about – the stuff you sop up and aim to implement in hopes of making your child a happy, healthy, polite, self-confident, curious, sensitive, kind, appreciative, funny, courageous, aware, eco-conscious genius.
I planned saucepan, lid and wooden spoon concertos with some background Bach or Tchaikovsky for good measure. I practiced building amazing structures worthy of architectural awards from blocks, books, rattles and stuffed toys. I considered converting half of the nursery into an artist’s studio so Enlai was allowed ample space for creative endeavours. And, if this didn’t work out, I thought of how I might resurrect Michelangelo so he could give private painting and sculpting lessons to my son. My then husband had to put a halt to my lunacy when I told him we should mull over renovating our bedroom so as to accommodate a mini gym for Enlai’s physical activities.
Toward the end of both my pregnancies, I realised that it wasn’t about going to extremes to ensure Enlai or Lumen became über human beings. It was about our relationship and feeling connected. And since the first day both my sons were born, I have aimed to nurture our connection.
In so doing, I found myself performing some sort of fandango-foxtrot-polka dance to entertain them while waiting in a queue or for a light to change. I had a complete stranger come up to me and pat me on the back, saying, “It’s okay, love,” because she thought I was singing aloud to the inside of my coat. Once she realised I had a baby in the baby carrier inside my coat, she told me to sing louder because “babies love the sound of their mum’s singing”. I took her advice and was singing loud and proud until I heard a chuckle come from one of Enlai’s instructors when she heard me singing a French song in what were anything but French words.
Fostering our bond has not been all about embarrassing myself. It has meant having the fortunate opportunity to accompany my sons on countless trips to museums and art galleries, zoos and aquariums, and parks and playgrounds, as well as to an assortment of classes, playgroups and story times. I want Enlai and Lumen to have a variety of experiences, and in these early years, it means everything to me to be able to be there – not just physically, but emotionally – while they have such experiences.
At its core, Oomphalos represents the importance of putting the “oomph” – the vitality and energy, the thing that makes it special – into a parent’s or carer’s connection with a child. Before a child is born, the umbilical cord served as his or her lifeline. The child’s omphalos – Greek for belly button – is a physical sign of this earliest connection.
Beyond my own positive experiences in nurturing my connection with my little guys, I was compelled to launch the Oomphalos blog for several reasons: reading the Good Childhood Inquiry®; being part of a group of several mums and babies who were kicked out of a local coffee shop for being “distracting”; and knowing firsthand the importance of a support network for first-time mums.
It can be very isolating being a new mum and reading blogs and joining online forums provided me with an opportunity to meet other new mums during a very important life transition, giving all of us a chance to discuss the intricacies surrounding first-time motherhood. I have met a wonderful group of mums who hail from Australia, China, Germany, Spain, England, Mexico, Israel, and the US. This group has in fact served as a second family to most of the mums. Perhaps not the most titillating topics for others, we discussed leaky boobs, poo colours, sleep schedules, the changes in the dynamics of relationships with partners, how best to travel with babies and toddlers, and where to go to find assorted baby accoutrement, among an endless list of other topics.
Alas, I really am just an expat woman who has two amazing, loved-up sons. If it means anything to you, I have a BA in Communications and an MFA and have worked primarily in PR (and I apparently have a thing for acronyms). What should mean something to you is that I adore children, always have. I was always the one grown-up at the children’s table, the one making goo-goo faces at babies in shops, restaurants or public transport, and the one whose nieces, nephews, cousins, godchildren, and friends’ babies would be willing to give a reference for. Just tell me how you would like it – in dribble, crayon, scented markers, or glitter.