Conjugal controlled crying

My husband and I had a discussion last night about a few important decisions we have to make.  At one point I suggested something, he disagreed and in frustration, I promptly burst into tears.  He responded with,

“Darling, you can’t cry every time I disagree with you.”

To which I tearfully replied, “Of course I can, where have you been for the last 10 years?”

In times of marital conflict, I can be uncontrollably emotional. This is a hereditary affliction that has plagued my grandmother, my mother and probably my oldest son, Secundo (he is showing early signs of being a weeper).  Its symptoms include a rapid reddening of the nose, difficulty in swallowing and then speaking, quickly followed by tears, a loss of coherence and then dignity (in that order).

My husband jokes that he has done the conjugal equivalent of controlled crying on me. In the early stages of our marriage, exhausted and confused by my tears and inability to settle myself, he swaddled me tightly (metaphorically speaking, although sometimes I would like to wear a onesie and be wrapped in flannel) and left me in a darkened room.  Sitting quietly outside the door, he initially agonised over my enraged crying. Wracked by self-doubt and self-recrimination, he wondered whether Ferber and Ford were in fact sadists.  Eventually he became immune to my tears and I learned that I could not get what I wanted by crying.  Not even a shush-pat from him.

However, the self-settling training has not actually controlled the crying.  I still need an outlet for all that emotion and whilst my husband is required to bear the brunt of it under contract and statute, my girlfriends are governed by that great time-honoured pact between women that allows and enables us to tell each other anything and everything about our relationships.

Since returning to Australia I have been reminded of this.  Catching up with old friends, our conversations are seamlessly picked up at the same place they were left, unaffected and uninterrupted by the continents and years that have passed between us.

There is a common theme to these conversations – we spend a lot of our time talking about our partners: what they should have done but didn’t; what they said they would do but didn’t; what they should have known they were supposed to do but didn’t…

This makes me wonder about my husband and his friends. When they meet for “football and a few”, is the few actually a similarly cathartic complaining session involving a few theatrical renderings of my latest trangressions?  Do they talk about their frustrations over our many failings, perceived and real?  Or, do they (actually) notice our many failings and fail to find them annoying enough to discuss? Do they simply not need to discuss? Or when my husband says to his friend Jon, “Can you believe that referee? It was so obvious Lampard got it over the line. Video replaying at the international level is the only answer. England was robbed.”, is this code for, “Can you believe my wife?  It is so obvious I was going to do the dishes/put the car keys back in the [her] right spot/move my piles of incompleted and unfiled admin from the dining table. Why won’t she just let me finish this game of Wii football?”

Amongst my girlfriends, the venting can be petty and petulant. It can be vicious but it is absolutely necessary.  At the end of it, two transformations take place in my mind:

(1) The catharsis returns peace and perspective. A cloud is allowed to rain itself out (cue Jimmy Nash) and what is left is clarity about the many wonderful things husband did on the same day he played Wii football for hours and ignored the admin he promised he would do. And the misplaced car keys return to being just misplaced car keys, not the manifestation of a deeper more sinister problem.

(2) The genetically inevitable emotional outburst shared with girlfriends who empathise enables me to get most of the tears out of my system, crying out my grievance in unhelpful and often irrational language; so that by the time I talk through my grievance with my husband I can be honest, respectful, tactful, and only a little tearful.

Now that is controlled crying.

What would you say if you ran into….?

Have you ever played the “What would you say if you ran into…?” game?

For example, what would you say if you ran into the first boy who broke your heart:

“Oh hi X, has it really been 15 years? Time just flies by, especially as I am a very busy Pulitzer-winning journalist and astronaut.”

The Primrose Hill residents amongst us are of course quite accustomed to running into famous people.  And we know the drill.  Keep it casual, don’t make lingering eye contact and don’t say anything that lets on you read about them in Grazia this morning.

My brother-in-law is an actor and in the early days of his career he used to invite us backstage to meet his fellow cast mates. My husband and I would be introduced and despite intensive coaching from my brother-in-law, we simply could not carry a conversation with these artistes.

It’s not that we were star struck, half the time we did not realise the stars were stars. We found it hard to say (as we had been instructed): “Love your work” (when we did not know their work); “What a powerful play” (when we thought it was pants) etc.  Even when we did love their work or we did think the play was powerful, the pressure to spontaneously articulate this without sounding like a crazed groupie rendered us mute.  Needless to say my brother-in-law stopped asking us backstage.

I was reminded about the “What would you say…” game because last night I watched a documentary about Michael Kirby, one of Australia’s greatest judges and defenders of human rights. As a law student I interviewed him once for our law school magazine.  I was so nervous and excited about the interview that I could not eat all day.  By the time the interview started, the heady combination of hypoglycaemia and adrenaline had me more vacuous and verbally dyslexic than usual, and I was so hungry that my stomach grumbled the whole way through. Thirteen years later, in 2008, I saw Justice Kirby at JFK Airport.  I was so excited I nearly jumped the Immigration queue and ran over to him, desperate for him to autograph my passport.

Thankfully I saw the armed guards in time and self-preservation prevailed.  Getting gunned down in front of Justice Kirby and being posthumously represented by him in Duck v Bush & US Airport Authority in the subsequent racial profiling/wrongful death case, is not how I intended to introduce myself to the great man.

If I ran into Justice Kirby I would want to say:

“Justice Kirby, you taught me that the law must be empowering, it could be transformative and it should be kind.  You inspired me to reach out for a career that I might otherwise have been too afraid to try.  I wanted to say thank you.”

However, if I ran into Justice Kirby (and I firmly believe that one day I will), I would probably just say:

“I, um, I, um, I love your work.”

What was I thinking?

A year ago, my husband and I had one of the most important conversations of our marriage. It went as follows:

Me: Do you think we should have another baby? [We already had three children at this stage.]

Husband: Hmm. In for a penny, in for a pound.  That’s what I say.

Me: No one says that.  And exactly which one of our children is only going to cost us a pound?

Husband: Four would be great. [Says he who does not have to bear or breastfeed them].

I’d like to say that this brief exchange was laden with deeper meanings, subtext that only we could understand, layers of consideration and contemplation.  Sadly not. In retrospect it seems we made this very important decision in less than 5 minutes.  My husband usually needs 6 months to research and meditate on most decisions, so I have no idea what got into him on this particular night. Perhaps the football was starting in 10 minutes.

And so, in retrospect I would like to question my own reasons for wanting a fourth child.  Let me start by polling my girlfriends on “Why 4 art thou?”:

(i) The trendy baby – apparently four is the new three

My mother chose my clothes until I left home.  This means that I was the only 18 year old in smocking dresses, skivvies and batik prints. Whilst my friends were in stonewash denim and ruffle skirts, I often went to birthday parties looking like something out of an Enid Blyton book.

I think this upbringing stunted the development of my own sense of fashion, and my ability to accurately identify, read and emulate social trends of any sort. Four may be the new three, and three the new two, but I only know this because self-confessed trendy people have told me so.

(ii) The competitive fertility baby

I blame Angelina Jolie for this. She floats around with the United Nations at her heels and then effortlessly brings forth her own genetically perfect offspring like Ceres herself.  And never once does she look like she’s been chucked-up on. What are the odds of that with 6 children?

Point (ii) is probably related to point (i). The theory goes that any one can have three children, but it takes a true superwoman to have more than that; to out-do the pack; to dare, bear, deliver and rear a fourth.  I admit I am a very competitive person (see my post For whom the bell (curve) tolls) and have on occasion lost perspective in my desire to win. For example, I can be mean to my team members whilst playing Articulate, especially if they’re stupid (no one wants to be on my team any more). However, even I don’t regard fertility as a competition but as a blessing, randomly bestowed on some and even more randomly denied to others.

(iii) The Back to Work? No way baby.

At some point our children grow up and spend more time at school than at home.  It happens remarkably quickly and despite our stated desire for this and for more time for ourselves, time to “reclaim our lives”, when the time arrives, we don’t know what life it is we would reclaim. May be our old life (and career) is irretrievably buried under the never-ending laundry pile. May be our confidence is buried there with it. May be there are about three jobs in the entire world that allow and enable you to be the kind of mother and the kind of employee you want to be. Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, authors of Womenomics, would argue there are limitless jobs like this because it comes down to your confidence in your power to demand them.  At least I think that’s what their book says, I’ve lost it somewhere in my laundry pile. But every woman reaches this terrifying juncture and sometimes the fear of the unknown (work) outweighs the fear of the known (baby).

(iv) The patriotic baby

In 2006, Peter Costello, the then Treasurer urged Australians to have more children; to “have one for mum, one for dad and one for the country.” It seems I am a patriot and never to be outdone (see Competitive Fertility above) I have had two for the country. Or perhaps it is one for each country (Britain and Australia) whose citizenship I hold. When my fourth baby was born, my uncle (an ardent believer in a free and separate Tamil nation) congratulated me on bringing more Tamils into the world.  It seems my civic duty extends to replenishing the diaspora and our ancestral village in Sri Lanka.

Finally, in search of reasons and even a rationale, I polled myself:

(i) Sibling empathy and envy

I have only one brother whom I absolutely adore.  My husband also has one brother who is one of his best friends.  Throughout my life I always wished that I had more of my brother and I envied those with many siblings.  My theory is that by having multiple children, I am giving each of them more of the other. More siblings to support each other, make each other laugh and accept each other. It is a flawed theory, I know.  They may all hate each other but here’s hoping otherwise.

(ii) Baby lust

We enjoyed all of our children and we simply enjoyed our third child too much.  We were older, more comfortable and more relaxed parents. We fell completely in love with him and he gave us a false sense of confidence that we could do it again.  He released some wretched hormone within us that gave us selective amnesia.  We forgot all about the sleepless nights and the late night runs to A&E.  We were stupid and I blame him completely for it.

There are times when the 6 year old, the 5 year old and the 21 month old are playing together beautifully, running around with their toy instruments, circling the Newborn who is wearing their tambourine on his head. It is very Von Trapp.

And then there are times when it is very Lord of the Flies.

Who knows why we thought it was a good idea at the time. It has been about 12 months since that fateful conversation, and three months since we had our Newborn, and I can honestly say it is still a good idea. An outstanding idea in fact.

For whom the bell (curve) tolls

Last week my 6 year old daughter Prima received her first school report.  Her class was graded in key areas such as English and Maths on a bell curve and she was ranked on the middle of the bell.  Not the top, not the bottom, but in the middle with most of her year.

I am embarrassed and ashamed to admit I was deflated by this, disappointed even.  I may be her mother and not an educator but I think Prima is special. My reactions to the report covered diverse emotions:

Disbelief – How was it possible that Prima’s obvious intelligence was not obvious to her teacher?

Outrage – How did her teacher not realise that Prima’s rightful place is at the top of the bell, not the middle?

Confusion – In Prima’s previous school in London she was at the top of her class.  Despite what we see on Eastenders, I can not believe that the average Australian is smarter than the average  Brit.

Concern -Is Prima’s profound shyness masking her true intelligence and giving a false impression of her abilities? The impression or perception of intelligence being just as important as its reality.

Guilt – How have I failed my child and should I be doing more to support her education?

Fatigue – How much more can I actually do to support her education?

Paranoia – Will this clearly false impression of her intelligence, formed when she was only 6, prejudice the next 15 years of her education?

Super paranoia – Will this clearly false impression of her intelligence prejudice the rest of her life?

More guilt – Am I a bad mummy for thinking the above thoughts rather than simply being satisfied with the report and Prima’s achievements in it?

To put all of this into some perspective (and to offer a weak defence), Sri Lankan Tamils are the kind of people who:

– compare their babies’ apgar scores with (and against) each other;

– instinctively want to get “full marks” on all tests, including the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Test;

– ask “what happened to the other 2%?” when you manage a grade average of 98%;

– want to have more of anything than other people, even if they really didn’t want the anything in the first place;

– don’t believe doing your best is good enough if Your Best is not The Best.

I’ve tried hard to shake off my cultural conditioning.  I’ve had years of expensive life coaching to control the over-anxious, over-achieving lawyer within me and the impulse to compete and compare.  Instead, I religiously repeat the following mantra to my children: Doing your best, trying your hardest, learning and having fun is the most important thing mummy wants.

I wonder if my children sense I am faking it.

Today Prima had one of her friends over for a play date. The little girl’s mother and I hesitantly chatted about the recent school report.  Valiantly, I feigned delight and enthusiasm for the report for a while. Eventually the pressure of the pretence was too much.  I broke down and admitted to my disappointment about the bell curve.  I felt like an overbearing alpha mummy who was foisting the full weight of unrealistic academic expectations on my daughter’s slender 6 year old shoulders.   I was relieved when the mother (a non-Sri Lankan) confessed to exactly the same disappointment and embarassment at her own feelings.

Laughingly we agreed that:

– such craziness was thankfully not confined to one culture;

– the bell curve was anachronistic, misleading and clearly flawed;

– we were both either completely justified in our concern or we were both overbearing alpha mummies. Either way, we were certain we were at the top of the bell curve.

Things I miss about London (Part 1): John Lewis

Today I was walking through David Jones, a department store considered to be Australia’s finest.  I was lost and alone, with no one to turn to, and confused that the nursery section was not on the fourth floor right next to “Place to Eat” where it should have been. And it struck me. I missed John Lewis.  

There is the informal familiarity, the sense when you walk in that you have come home. This is not because the customers all look like your gran, or because your house is full of John Lewis’ trademark furniture. There is something soothing about the layout and lighting. It isn’t designed to dazzle or confuse you, it is trying to guide you to the section you need rather than trap you in the section you should avoid.

There are staff everywhere, wearing that classic badge that glistens in the comforting lighting like a beacon of hope. Remarkably for a department store, the staff want to help you, they seem to know their products and when they don’t know, they disappear and actually reappear with someone who does know.

The cafes (such as Place to Eat) have healthy children’s meals and whilst they are overpopulated with the over-60’s, these diners don’t mind if you flash your stretch-marked and sagging post-partum belly and boobs whilst you feed yet another baby there. The cafe staff don’t seem to mind that whilst I am mentally and physically regrouping for the next phase of shopping, my children are making elaborate structures out of sugar sachets, spilling some (a lot) as they go.

John Lewis stands by its warranties, its quality and as it says, “Never Knowingly Undersold”. Shortly before we left London, my son’s scaletrix car broke.  Without hesitation they sent me a new set and asked that I send in the broken set using Freepost.  A friend suggested that as we were leaving the country I should keep the tracks from the old set and build a super-circuit for my son.  I just could not do it. There is a lifelong social contract between the store and its customers.

Years ago, my husband attended a meeting with senior executives at John Lewis.  One of his colleagues jokingly mentioned that in her online shopping, she had received a salad from Waitrose (part of the John Lewis partnership) that was past its expiry date. Shortly afterwards, the branch manager at her local Waitrose made a house-call with a fresh salad. True story, now the stuff of urban legends.

John Lewis does not take itself too seriously, realising that it is only a department store (not a “lifestyle space”) but equally, taking it’s role in our consumer community seriously enough, with an outstanding record for corporate social responsibility. Unlike Selfridges, the staff don’t look down on you, and unlike Harrods, the customers don’t look down on you. It truly feels like a partnership.

From time to time I unpack one of our boxes from London, and find that I have used a John Lewis bag to wrap something.  I admit I take the bag, hold the reassuring diagonal green stripes to my chest and sigh.

Cleanliness is not next to Motherliness

It’s official, I smell. It’s been 8 days since I washed my hair and 3 days since I last showered.  The last time I addressed my leg hair was when I was 36 weeks pregnant and I was grooming myself for the hospital.  At that time I could not actually reach my legs and so had to train Secundo, my 4 year old son, to use my epilady.  I told him it was just another Nintendo Wii contraption (for mummies) and as he seems to have a special aptitude for this game in all its forms, he was remarkably adept at it. Of course our Newborn is now 10 weeks old and the current length of my leg hair is probably unprecedented in the Western world.

Two observations:

1. According to Tamil culture, a new mother and her baby are not allowed to go to the temple until 31 days after the birth.  One would think this restriction was designed to protect the mother and child from exposure to disease and germs.  However, the restriction is couched in the language of cleanliness.  Or rather, the disturbing language of uncleanliness. A new mother and her baby are considered “unclean” for 31 days.  We all know childbirth is messy but having done it four times, and despite my own cleanliness OCD, to my mind all that fluid, blood and tissue that comes out is nothing but the best mess in the world because there, swimming and sliding out with it, each time is a beautiful little Duck baby.

2. My husband showers every single day. How in God’s name does he manage it? Before he showers, he very sweetly checks in with me to make sure it is ok if he leaves me surrounded, out-numbered and alone with our brood, bless him.  I have nothing but admiration for him as he hugs me in the morning and I breathe in his fresh, smooth soapiness whilst he breathes in my fermented, regurgitated milkiness.

In the morning, after I have made multiple beds, fed multiple children, mediated multiple arguments (usually about whose turn it is to choose the television programme), I am lucky if I can scrape together a portion of porridge (usually from the children’s bowls) and brush my teeth.  In fact it is possible I did not brush my teeth today either.

My point is that there is always something else that needs to be done, some child-related task or chore that I will squeeze in on my way to the shower, and then some child-related responsibility or emergency that completely hijacks my hygiene. It is simply one verse in the much larger poetry of prioritisation.  You know the one ladies – there is always something else for some one else that needs to be done first. Ask yourself, does it need to be done first or do we feel it should be done first.

At our temple there is a sign reminding people to take their shoes off and wash their hands before they enter. It says “Cleanliness is next to Godliness.” From where I stand, with the Great Unwashed, cleanliness may not be next to motherliness but motherliness has to be closer to Godliness than our temple priest is prepared to concede.

Television: Law & Disorder

It’s killing me.

Today I brought Secundo, my beautiful little 5-year-old son, home from school.  He was very excited about his day, and more excited that I let him press some buttons in the car. He was happy.

On entering the house, he realised that his sister had arrived earlier and she had contravened the Television Watching Act 2010 (the lawyers amongst you may not be familiar with this obscure but important piece of legislation, it was enacted after Duck Parents v Duck Children 2009 ended in prolonged and eventually unlawful whinging).  The law states that “no Duck child may watch television unless a quorum of Duck children are present or have approved the watching.”

Secundo has a particularly strong sense of justice (and injustice) and was outraged that my daughter Prima dared to defend her contravention.  She had apparently secured permission from the Executive (or at least one half of it) to watch 5 minutes (which of course turned into 30 minutes).

This ignited a heated debate about the television law, appropriate exception and waivers, extenuating circumstances and loopholes.  Neither of them can remember to brush their teeth at night but they both have a litany of each others’ violations recorded in their tiny minds.

Secundo’s tearful outrage followed by Prima’s whingeful defence followed by Tercero’s sympathetic mimicking woke up our napping Newborn. By this stage I was ready to beat the plasma to death with my breast pump, thereby destroying two hateful machines in one go.

Thankfully I had to leave the house to pick up my husband, the half of the Executive that had thoughtlessly allowed a 5 minute waiver of the Television Act 2010, precipitating the latest round of filial bickering, whinging and wailing.

On the ride home we went over the rules together (please see above) and added a new amendment, “no Duck parent may issue a waiver to the Act without permission from the other Duck parent.”

When we came home we found four little Duck children, their faces tear-stained and tired, but calmly and happily sitting together, in front of the television.

Everything tastes better with bacon on it

Today I have eaten (in addition to three wholesome meals):

  • one large bowl of cookies’n’cream ice cream;
  • 6 pieces of Cadbury’s Marble chocolate (if you have not tried this you really should);
  • 3 marshmallows;
  • another marginally smaller bowl of cookies’n’cream ice cream;
  • 4 cheezels; and
  • 4 tablespoons of Milo (straight from the tin, no milk).

The British pound continues to tank; the housing bubble in Sydney looks unlikely to burst; my stomach muscles are not knitting together and if I poke my belly I can actually identify all my vital organs; my 9-week old still wakes throughout the night and my 20-month old has recently learned to throw himself on the floor thrashing and screaming.

And so, I have substituted the vitamin supplements that are supposed to promote lactation for comfort eating everything from the snacks my mother has illegally bought my children (marshmallows, cheezels), the snacks my well-meaning aunties bring when they “call on” us (Cadburys, Lindt balls if we are really lucky) to the snacks that are timelessly comforting (ice cream, Magnums and Milo).

None of the above promotes lactation, but all of it makes me feel better briefly (I feel better more continuously if I snack more continuously).  Not sure what the Australian Breastfeeding Association would say but unless they can strengthen the pound, strengthen my stomach muscles or control my toddler, I don’t care.

And as a reformed vegetarian, I find at the moment, that everything tastes better with bacon on it.

Baby born

Birth Announcement

On Monday 29th March 2010 at 4:56pm Australian time, we welcomed into the world the latest (and last), the fourth (and final) little Duck.

Our son (hereafter referred to as Newborn) has broken all previous family records for being a runt, and clearly takes after his father’s side – weighing an impressive 7lbs 14oz. I could tell the heavy weight champion was going to be just like his dad when he failed to show up several weeks early like all the others – preferring instead, like his father, to arrive just on time, and only when absolutely necessary.

My husband thought that going to full term would be good for the baby as it would give him more time to grow bigger (unlike the others).  As he was not about to give birth to a watermelon and split open like a piñata, it was hard for me to take his medical advice seriously.

Details of the Birth

And so, on 29th March, the baby’s expected due date, I went to the hospital for a routine 40 week appointment.  My midwife examined me and declared that I was actually 5cm dilated (ie. in labour and half way there).  She asked me “Darl, are you sure you don’t feel anything?  No pain or discomfort?” To which I replied, “Since 2003, I have been pregnant every single year aside from one.  I am always in some kind of pain or discomfort, but no, I don’t feel a thing.”

The midwife then called the Delivery Suite in the hospital to say (in a thick Aussie accent) to the delivery midwives, “I’ve got a lady down here who is in labour but doesn’t realise it – I’m sending her up, she’s gonna give birth today.”

Two hours (and two OK! Magazines) later, no sign of baby or labour pains, but I was three-quarters of the way there apparently.  The midwife broke my waters for me (more out of boredom than anything else) and after another half an hour of no activity, no pain and no sign of labour, I went straight to the final stages.  50 minutes later we were holding our son.

Details of the Name

We have struggled (once again) to find a name consistent with the other children.  My husband originally wanted to name this child “Sachin” but I was concerned that after naming our other children after sacred caves, mountains, temples and a great Hindu king, we really could not name our last child after Sachin Tendulkar, even if he is the greatest cricketer of our time.  My husband corrected me – apparently he is The Greatest Cricketer of All Time and he has many fine attributes that we would want in our own son:  dedication to the game, a strong leader and team player; consistency and of course many lucrative product endorsements.

We have finally agreed to name Newborn after the Buddha, who gave up his kingdom, riches and family in search of the reasons for and an answer to human suffering. His inward journey led him to the meaning of true happiness and he shared these truths with the world when he became the Buddha, the Enlightened One. We have also given our son the middle name of Sachin, in case he gets teased at school.

Last week, my grandfather took Newborn to his shrine for the traditional blessing and welcome.  This is my Appappa’s 11th great-grandchild and the 4th generation of a large and loving family.  It made me both happy and a little sad to see my grandfather slowly place holy ash on Newborn’s forehead – a blessing from the oldest to the youngest.

We have given Newborn an enormous name for such a little boy.  We hope our son’s outward journey in life is a safe and healthy one; and that his inward journey leads him to lasting happiness like the Buddha.  We also hope that like his middle-namesake Sachin (and irrespective of what the Buddha said about detachment from material wealth) little Newborn earns many lucrative product endorsements and has better hand-to-eye co-ordination than his mother.

Duck Formation – the etymology

In 2009 we moved back to Australia because I promised my mother and grandmother that I always would.  The “back” refers to me, the Australian amongst us. My husband is a born and bred Londoner who agreed to come with me, on the promise of an eternal summer (ok, may be I exaggerated the climatic calibre of my homeland).  

We left behind a life in London that we loved:  a close community of friends in Primrose Hill, jobs we found rewarding and extended family for the children to grow up with.

We left the certainty and order for uncertainty and chaos.  We arrived in Sydney, job-less, property-less (although not homeless as are now living with my parents), the British pound has never been weaker, the Aussie dollar has never been stronger and house prices in Sydney continue to rise.  The children are registered at so many schools here that I need a spreadsheet to keep it under control.

We knew what we were leaving behind and we imagined what we were going towards.  This blog is my attempt to record the chaos and stay sane through it all.

I’ve called it duckformation because one day shortly before we left London we took the kids to Trafalgar Square for a Divali celebration.  Lured by the intoxicating smell of garam masala and carbon monoxide, we found ourselves in the thick of Bollywood dancing masses.  Sensing danger and the need to quickly navigate through it, my husband shouted “Everybody, duck formation!” and the Duck’s (a 6 year old, a 4 year old, a 12 month old and a heavily pregnant me) immediately arranged ourselves into single file, tightly packed and walking in my husband’s much wider slip stream.  We were our own little flock and somehow we knew how to navigate together.

And so this blog is about our efforts to navigate our new life, together – in duck formation.