I spent the weekend at my parent’s house with my one-year old son, as our new house was being painted. We arrived back home late Sunday morning to be greeted by my husband’s happy smile, the burning smell of fresh paint, and the chaos of the contents of our kitchen spread throughout our new living room.
“So what do ya think?” my husband said.
“Wow, it looks so different. It looks really nice,” I said.
“Orhhhh!” our little boy whooped, his lips curved into a little ‘o’ with his bright rounded eyes.
The old remnants of the house it used to be finally gone; this house was starting to look like our home.
I saw this place a few months ago. We’d been talking about buying a house, but Sydney housing prices had skyrocketed, and so we decided to wait until we could afford to buy a house in the suburb we wanted to move into.
Months later, I was working on my novel, and I had just finished my fifth draft. I needed to take a break and so I went for a walk and saw a townhouse open for inspection. I had a look around but it only had two bedrooms – too small. I got talking to a couple who had also just looked at the property. They told me that they’d just come from an inspection down the other end of our street. My ears pricked up.
“It’s about to close soon so you’d better hurry,” they said. I ran down the hill as fast as I could. I saw the ‘open inspection’ sign and hurried in. It was a ‘do-er upper’ alright, having been rented out for years. The kitchen was a tired cornflour blue with the stove shoved in the corner where there was no ventilation. But as I walked into the living room the vista before me took my breath away. The back of the property opened up to a garden of Eucalyptus trees and native plants, a grassed area for the children to play, and I could hear a birds chirping in the trees!
I asked the real estate agent to hold the house open as I wanted my husband to have a look. I ran down the street and flung our door open. “But I thought we were going to wait,” he said. We put an offer in that afternoon and it was two months ago that we moved into our first family home – two weeks before Christmas.
We’d sold our two-bedroom unit, and with that said goodbye to our former lives: lives before babies; lives when we could pick up and go wherever and whenever we wanted to; lives when my husband and I could sit on the sofa together and watch a DVD uninterrupted, late into the night sipping wine, with morsels of imported cheese.
It was a time when we could be engrossed in conversation about each other, work, or world events over dinner at an upmarket restaurant. Where once our home was filled with designer vases and sharp edged minimalist furniture, we now have gates installed at the bottom and top of the stairs, bright plastic toys over a spaghetti-stained designer rug, and vinyl flooring and carpet instead of hardwood polished floorboards for the tumbles of little bodies learning how to crawl and walk.
And for the past six weeks we have been madly renovating whilst my husband has been on holidays, before baby number two comes along.
Lying on our red leather sofa, I was exhausted from a long day spent coordinating workmen, choosing lighting, bathroom accessories, kitchen cabinets, tiles and paint colours, whilst waddling around the house after my toddler to keep him out of danger. I vowed never again to buy and sell a home – and then renovate – whilst being pregnant and with a young child!
Our son toddled over to me and placed the palm of his little hand on my stomach. Softly, ever so tenderly, he rubbed my belly and looked at me and said “bab”.
“Yes honey.” I said. “It’s a baby; there is a baby in there.”
He then toddled over to my husband and tugged his daddy’s hand towards me, placing it on my stomach and said, “bab, bab.”
“That’s right mate, there’s a baby in there, you’re gonna have a little baby brother or sister.”
Our boy grinned; my husband and I had a moment. Our son then placed his hand on his dad’s protruding belly and said, “bab”.
“No honey, there’s no baby in there,” I laughed.
“Gotta start my Triathlons,” my husband muttered under his breath.
Later, I looked out of our upstairs bedroom window; the sun was going down for another day with Mother Nature presenting a splendour of gold, oranges, pinks and blues.
That night the summer heat was heavy in the air. Our son wriggled, tossed and turned, doing somersaults up and down the bed. He karate chopped our sides, trying to settle and fall asleep. I was like a beached whale, feeling the heat radiating off my husband drowning in his own sweat. I couldn’t take it anymore and so I grabbed my pillow and a sheet from the linen cupboard, and in the dark, I crept down the stairs to sleep on the living room floor. There I found relief and peace.
I lay alone with my baby inside of me. I could hear the cicadas buzzing through the open windows. The night was still and quiet. I closed my eyes and imagined.
I see my kids’ little legs running around the house, I hear their infectious giggles as they play together in the sandpit in the back courtyard, and I smell the aroma of thick hearty homemade soup on the stove and bread fresh out of the oven from our kitchen as our family gathers around our dining table.
I heard the rumble of thunder and I opened my eyes. I watched the night sky light up, the black silhouettes of the tall trees outside in the garden illuminated by the lightening. A gust of wind shook the leaves, and then disappeared, leaving a cool breeze. I slowly fell back to sleep listening to the pitter-patter of rain, thoughts of my baby, our new home, new family, and the beginning of this new life.
“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”*
I’ve always been aware of gender conditioning and actively tried to combat any lingering prejudices or stereotypes in my own parenting, even down to encouraging dolls with my boys when they were little. It’s great to read people writing about gender issues they’re experiencing with their kids. For too long these subjects have been discouraged or silenced. I’d love to publish some more creative writing on this topic, especially if you are struggling with a child who actively tries to move away from gender normative preferences. A society where everyone can be themselves – thanks Gloria for those aspirational words.
* Gloria Steinem