Brace Yourself Quietly: In The Breath Before Change

Photography: HADAS Images

By Cathy Oliver


I remember my mum telling me about a time in her life when she recalled feeling deeply happy. Shortly after giving birth to me, she was walking through town with me in the pram basking in baby love and the pride new motherhood brings. She had lost her “baby weight” and felt strong.

A simple memory, but a powerful one.

Happiness as an experience is difficult to encapsulate in words, or to envisage/interpret in our own minds. But in those moments of deep contentment, when the jigsaw pieces that make up our life seem to slot neatly into place, the pillars that hold our sense of self are stable, we love and we feel loved, an imprint is left on our mind.

Later, we might recognise this as happiness.

It is rarer, I think, to fully grasp that we feel joyful or happy in a particular moment. We are distracted by thoughts and sensory experience. We have busy lives with few opportunities for reflection.

Alice (my daughter) turns three in June. Three!

Over the last year in particular, as our communications have developed, these tangible moments of warm joy have emerged in my awareness, slowly at first, then cascading like glints of sunlight in a waterfall.

I find myself marvelling at her, bursting with the childlike excitement that makes you want to jump around, squeal, clap and laugh just for the sake of it. I am not only immersed in these moments, but fully conscious they are happening.


Mondays and Tuesdays are perfect. We swim, we bake, we dance, we sing, we play, we spend our afternoons snuggling peacefully. I have toned down TV time with a surprisingly calming and nourishing effect on my attitude and the way we interact.

On Fridays, I’m excited for Andy to come home, anticipating weekend picnics and park trips; new adventures and memories made.

We are as flawed and imperfect as any other family. But our imperfections are built into the fabric of who we are, and who we are together is beautiful to me in every form.

Sure, she has her demanding moments and emotional outbursts. She’s almost three and processing a lot. She wants to do everything in her own time; more power to her – but we don’t escape the excruciating debacle that is trying to get a pre-schooler dressed, down the stairs and out of the house without losing patience (yes friends, I’m blaming my perpetual lateness on my child).

These are only moments though, small drops in an ocean of days that otherwise leave us happy and fulfilled. And they can actually be really funny. Her incessant running away screaming with delight is hilarious, when I’m not late for work. And just yesterday the way she expressed her demand for chocolate buttons, for the fifth time, was so adorably assertive Andy and I looked at each other trying desperately to suppress a mutual burst of laughter.

We are as flawed and imperfect as any other family. But our imperfections are built into the fabric of who we are, and who we are together is beautiful to me in every form.

It hasn’t always been like this. Far from it.

There were days filled with anxiety and vomit, weakness and exhaustion. Days I felt I had worn so thin I could unravel into threads. But the challenges we overcame have faded now.

This age is my favourite yet; by far the easiest stage in my parenting journey. I know more hurdles lie in wait, but for now I’m acutely aware that I’m living days I’ll consider amongst the happiest in my life, and I feel endlessly grateful for that.


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