I still remember the day.
The very first day that I was left alone with the tiny little thing. I was petrified. This little thing didn't come with user manual.
I rely on manuals; for guidance and reassurance, so I can tackle it with confidence and familiarity.
What was I supposed to do?
The night before Toby went back to work, I struggled with momentary resentment. I was scared of the concept of being solely responsible for our new born baby. I was envious that he will be able to slam shut the front door next day and wiz back into the normality of his everydayness. I felt hard done by the lack of existence of my everydayness; aloneness; the ability to enjoy my own company.
Everything I knew and was comfortable in was gone, overnight.
Being mum didn't come natural to me.
Hold your breath right there if you're thinking I am being an ungrateful first time mother being miserable for the sake of moaning. Because I am not.
This new job of being mother hit me really hard. Although planned and prepared for, it was a mayhem.
I loved having her. I felt truly amazing being able to give birth. I felt like a super hero.
I didn't mind having to change dirty bottoms ten times a day. Those sleepless nights weren't too much of a big deal whilst my body pumped out the adrenaline. I could watch her face all day long and be amused by the tiny weeny movements and the sounds she created. Sometimes I worried she was too quiet and other times I worried because she won't stop crying. Many nights I stood by her cot holding my breath so tightly in an attempt to listen if she was still breathing so I can be assured to finally roll into my bed knowing she's alive; that I haven't failed as her carer; that I have accomplished another day of being 'a mother' - a word that felt so alien to me at the time.
Heavy dose of caffeine kept me going by day and steady supply of wine gave me the strength to look forward and survive another day by night.
But I was lost. I felt incompetent.
Everything felt so infinite. It was relentless. I couldn't shout time out. I was so lost I didn't even know who I was anymore. I just wanted to figure out who I was. It felt as if though I've been put through the washing machine. It stripped me, washed every inch of me, spun me round the few times, squeezed me out empty.
I suppose you could say identity crisis. Or perhaps it could have been a form of post natal depression. In either case, I was fortunate enough to be able to see it through.
It was and still is tough going at times though. Even with the most loving husband on your side, even with the most supportive friends standing by your side firmly, the truth is, that the real battle of learning to be the best mum you can be when everything is so alien and unfamiliar, and trying to finely and carefully tune yourself back into this new found identity without upsetting the dynamics of your newly formed family, can really be somewhat lonely. Because, as I happen to discover my fellow mama friends, a lot of us, still, for whatever the reason, find it hard to speak out and share the true feelings. We, for some reason tend to fluff it up. Because, deep down, we know majority of general public will expect you to bond, be maternal the moment that you give birth. And whilst nursing and caring for your new born, you're almost always put under the unspoken pressure of to be that perfect earthy mother.
It took me a while. A while to understand and articulate what was exactly going on in my head. What it was exactly upsetting me and made me feel confused and unhappy.
And I am happy to say, once the hormones settled and the reasonable amount of time had passed by, those tiny little things and feelings used to bother me started to fade away.
I understood our relationship now has different meanings and we're now no longer dynamic duo but a trio.
Do you know what, actually what really affected me was in fact, the fear; fear of finally becoming a proper grown up; the changes that I cannot predict or dictate. The prospect of life-long project that I am ultimately responsible to influence and nurture really did take my breath away. It was a fair weight to carry. Every night, I tucked myself under my duvet deeper and deeper in an attempt to escape that sinking feeling.
Tiredness, no actually, exhausted sleep deprived body, as well as hormones can really do funny things to your mind.
Braised Radishes and Toasted Freekeh
Serves 2 as side
for the radishes
120g radish, cleaned and quartered
1 small shallot, finely sliced
1 clove of garlic, finely minced
sage leaves, finely sliced
250ml chicken or vegetable stock
1tsp white wine vinegar
little olive oil
salt and pepper
for the freekeh
pinch of salt
some extra virgin olive oil
pinch of chilli flakes
1/2 lemon juice
good handful of parsley, finely chopped
salt and pepper
Koreans do cooked radishes very well.
Although strictly speaking this recipe isn't rooted in my heritage, this, I could prepare and make well under an hour, and be completely satisfied with its simple offerings and feel completely at home.
Peppery radish cooked mellow in sort of dirty sticky buttery way with nutty wheat grains dressed perfectly with little chilli flakes, generous coatings of olive oil and the sharpness of lemon cutting through the rich butter, indeed, is comforting.
It's what I'd say easy food. I can it the lot.
First thing's first, place the pan over the low heat, melt butter with little oil to stop it from burning and gently sweat shallots and garlic with little salt until soft. Add radishes and sage, and fry them off a little for couple of minutes. Then goes white wine vinegar followed by stock. Your choice of stock should cover the radishes really well.
Over the medium to low heat, you will continuously cook radishes for about 35mins or so until it's soft and coated well in glossy sticky buttery mess.
If at any point you require more liquid to loosen it up, just add little water as and when.
Season when ready.
Braised radishes itself can be a great component to any roasted meat, if that's where you're going with it. I'd just make sure to increase the volume that I cook. Depends on the quality of radishes you source, you might need pinch of sugar to balance the flavour. I also find good glug of white wine helps to give the wonderful sharpness as well as some extra herbs such as tarragon.
Whilst braising of the radishes are happening, melt some butter in a small sauce pan over medium heat, add freekeh with little salt and toast until nut brown, to the point when you think it's slightly over done.
Add water just enough to cover the whole thing loosely and lower the heat with the cover on.
Cook for around 10 mins or so on the lowest heat possible. I use diffuser to do this. Then turn the hob off. Let it sit for another 5 mins. This will allow the grain to cook slowly in residual heat that was left in the pan. In return, you will be guaranteed with nutty crunchy golden bites.
Toasting of grains really intensifies the nuttiness. If you're not used to freekeh, you could do exactly the same with cous cous, bulgar wheat and quinoa. I often use mixture of some or all. Once you pimp up your grains this way, I promise you that you will never go back to your old ways.
Now the assembly.
In a large bowl, put both the radishes and freekeh. Add pinch of chilli flakes whilst both of the components are warm. Add good helpings of olive oil as well as parsley and lemon juice. Season to taste.
As with most of recipes, this is the sort you can add and experiment as much as you'd like depends on what is available in your larder.
Toasted pine nuts may also be welcomed as well as good handful of sweet raisins or sour cherries.
It's an idea I'd like to share.
Now go, go, go and make yours.
12 months on, I am in a much better place.
I seem to have slightly clearer visions on what kind of mother I'd like be and feel content the way things are going. Well, for now anyway.
You know, it is true. Time really is a healer.
I hope you're all well.
And thank you for patiently waiting, as always.