Saturday, June 04, 2011

Interview with Tori, Barn Hill WA

Tori Swedosh is just on 37 weeks pregnant with her third child. For the last five months she has been travelling around Australia in a caravan with her husband Greg and their children Jasmine (10 years old) and Finn (nine). I caught up with Tori at Barn Hill, about 120km south of Broome, to find out how the trip and her pregnancy have been travelling.

Greg Swedosh: So Tori, you’re just over 36 weeks pregnant. How’s that feeling?

Tori Swedosh: It’s very interesting. Mostly it’s quite good. It’s been a lot of different things. I haven’t hated being pregnant. I really like some bits of it. I love feeling him kick inside me. I feel like I have a little hot water bottle attached to me and when I’m feeling a little bit lonely I just know he’s there. That’s nice. I don’t like it when I’m feeling sick, which seems to be quite often in the scheme of things. But I know it’s just when I’ve overdone it. And then there’s other times when I’m scared, really scared, about him surviving inside me and making the whole journey. And then what it’s going to be like when he comes out.

GS: Why have you felt scared?

TS: Well it’s so close now. If something was to happen to him, it would just be awful. Stupid things. I was so sick after the whale sharking. I couldn’t walk for a day and thought maybe I’d hurt him somehow. Or Rottnest Island when we rode all over the island in the heat. That was a bit stupid. I don’t want to miss out on stuff just because I’m pregnant. It doesn’t seem fair.

GS: In what way do you think the trip has been different because you’ve been pregnant?

TS: Well I’ve needed a whole lot of extra help. I’m not really very good at asking for help but you guys have all been really great in looking after me. The children especially too. And missing out on stuff like going to Karijini. Couldn’t do that. But you know I didn’t feel too bad about it. It’s sort of like when we went to New York and I was so hungover I couldn’t get out of bed for a day and Sheri came and said “what a colossal waste of time”. Looking back I suppose it was, but that’s just what I was doing that day. It doesn’t really matter where I am. And I never think it will be the last time I’m ever somewhere. We’ll probably be up in this part of the world again sometime. If I hadn’t have been pregnant, I would have loved to have walked the gorges. This trip could have been really physical and adventurous, but those things haven’t been able to happen quite so readily.

GS: How has it been living in a van in different locations?

TS: Mostly good. Sometimes it gets a little bit small and I find people following me around when I really want to be on my own. But that’s ok too. It’s not a feeling that lasts very long that one. I don’t really like being penned in the corner of the bed, especially now being so big. Climbing over is a real effort. So I do wish the bed was the other way, but it’s not, so anyway… Cooking’s been ok. I don’t think we’ve eaten as healthily as we could have or would have if I wasn’t pregnant.

GS: What’s been the most difficult aspect of living in a van?

TS: Mostly it’s been good I think. It’s a very comfortable van. Sitting around the table is a bit awkward, where two people are always hemmed in. And I always have to sit on the end now because my belly doesn’t fit. There’s not really anything that’s difficult about it.

GS: What have you enjoyed most about van living?

TS: That we’re all together all the time. So my talking about those feelings of wanting to be alone, I guess everybody has those, but mostly it’s been great with all of us spending heaps of time together. You working and not being able to play all the time has been a bit hard. But that’s just the way it is.

GS: So how’s everyone getting on?

TS: I think mostly pretty well. It would be nice to have a little more kanoodling but it seems physically quite difficult. But I like watching the children play together a lot. They get along so well. I think they’ve become really close over this trip and that’s been really lovely to watch.

GS: How have you seen their development on this trip?

TS: They’ve grown up a lot. Just watching them interact with other people. Being not so scared to speak to grownups. The imagination involved in certain things. Funny comments that are made. Definitely they’ve grown up. Just the way they interact with each other. I think they’ll be really close forever.

GS: What about the home schooling? How’s that working out?

TS: I think it’s fine. I don’t think they’re missing out on anything. I like listening to the amount of work you put in to the maths classes. For me and the English, it’s just going through the books to keep them up to speed with what they would be doing at school and slowly introducing writing stories every week and doing projects. I think it’s fine. I hope they’re not missing out on anything.

GS: What do you think they are getting extra that they wouldn’t be getting at school?

TS: Amazing experiences. All that snorkelling and seeing those fish and the coral. Swimming with whale sharks. Different situations. Different people.

GS: How has it been being pregnant on the road?

TS: There’s been a couple of times when it’s not been very good. People saying things that get stuck in my head and get me scared. Having appointments change or being cancelled and really feeling that I just wanted to be reassured that everything was ok. One way that it’s good is that if I am knackered, which this last few weeks I have been a lot, there’s nothing I really have to do. I can just lie down. I can read. It’s not like it has to be very physically demanding. It’s just a different sort of a trip. It just disappoints me that I can’t necessarily do all of the stuff that I would have done. But I also like the fact that I was working so hard before we left home and now it’s nice to have some time not to have to do anything.

GS: How has the logistical side of things worked with doctor and hospital appointments?

TS: I had a schedule of dates for the various tests and so forth and have just called up local doctors or maternity wards to make appointments in the various places. It’s all worked out fine.

GS: Have you found them to be supportive?

TS: It’s kind of odd. Because you’re not their patient and they don’t know you, they’re probably not quite as supportive. That midwife in Karratha that I rang… she freaked me out saying “you should be in Broome. You should be doing this. You should be doing that”. I know how I feel. And I don’t think I’m stupid. So I don’t feel I need to rush anything because what’s the point of sitting and waiting around in Broome for six weeks, when we could be somewhere lovely if there’s nothing wrong. But she made me feel unsure about myself and my feelings. It made me question my own intuition about this. If it was my first child, maybe, but because it’s my third child, even though it’s a long time between drinks, I sort of feel I know what’s going on with my body. And especially having taught yoga. Before I left home I felt a real connection with myself and my body and I felt I knew myself very very well. I felt secure in myself and what I was physically able to do. And although now I run out of steam, I feel I have a good connection with what’s going on.

GS: What reactions have you been getting from other people?

TS: It’s a funny one because I’ve realised I really just don’t like bringing attention to myself all that much. I’m actually quite shy in very many ways. And when you’re pregnant it’s the first thing people notice. So sometimes if I’m feeling self-conscious, I can get a bit shitty. I’m more than just a big pregnant belly. I just hate people staring at me I think.

GS: What have been the physical aspects of this pregnancy?

TS: I’m finding now that my balance is quite tricky, which I hadn’t had before because I’d been doing so much yoga. I find waddling quite frustrating. I just have to be slow and I guess that’s the good thing about being on this trip. I don’t have to be fast. I just waddle behind.

GS: What about emotional aspects?

TS: Up and down. It’s such a journey of emotion. There’s people who think that having the baby is the most wonderful thing in the world and I guess it is, but there’s times when you just feel like a big heffalump. There’s times when you feel nauseous. It’s frustrating. I don’t seem to be able to recognise when I get too hot and I end up in tears because I feel so rotten. Scared. Happy. Just a whole host of emotions.

GS: What have you missed from home on this trip?

TS: Friends. Just hanging out some times, some nights. Because I can be a bit of a loner easily, which isn’t a very good place for me to be. I’m actually much better when I’m around people. I get too stuck inside my head. And this is a really awful answer but lying on the couch and watching tele. Just sometimes. Just to have that easy comfort. Oh and a toilet just next door. I have missed that.

GS: How has the whole toilet thing been?

TS: It hasn’t been as bad as I thought because I believe that some women who are pregnant have to go to the toilet all the time. But I haven’t had that so bad. I can make it through a night without having to go.

GS: What’s the worst place we’ve been for the toilet situation?

TS: The first Yardie Homestead toilet was a bit gross. But I kind of got used to it. The Coorong. Having to go outside and dig a hole. Because there was no way I was going near those toilets with all the flies. That was horrible that place. I think the Coorong wins the prize.

GS: What haven’t you missed or been happy to be away from?

TS: Routine. I haven’t really missed being exhausted from working so much. The physical aspects of my job were in the end actually robbing me. I felt that there were times at the end of last year that I was pretty depressed because I was so tired from everything I was doing. So I think it’s been a good journey in that way. A good learning experience to be not quite so full on. But things seem to be very black or white for me in a lot of ways. I’m still struggling with that balance. I don’t know what will happen when I get home. What I’m going to do. Because I do like to feel useful in some way.

GS: What’s your favourite place you’ve been or thing you’ve done on this trip?

TS: We’ve been to some very nice places. I really liked Coffin Bay. That was beautiful. And because it was the first place with loads of animals and it was a nice bush camping experience with not such bad toilets. I loved staying with Jo. Her family were so welcoming and it was so interesting living in another family’s dynamic. They made us so welcome even though they were going through tumultuous times. Which I sort of suspect they do a lot of. I really loved Exmouth. Snorkelling Oyster Stacks was amazing. Whale sharking was fantastic. It’s a special place up there. Just lovely. Margaret River seemed very nice but we didn’t spend enough time down there. But I kind of figure we’ll probably be back at some stage.

GS: Any places you really haven’t enjoyed?

TS: I didn’t like the Coorong, as I said. It was so hot and there was no escape. And the kids just hated it there which makes everything really awful. That creepy place Jack Point with all the spiders. That was really weird. Mostly it’s all been really interesting. It’s been amazing really. I don’t know how it will be to go home and be stuck in one place.

GS: What are your expectations of Broome and what our living situation will be there?

TS: I don’t really know (laughs). Who knows? It’ll all be fine.

GS: Do you feel nervous about it at all?

TS: I’m not really sure how it’s going to work with a baby. I’m not really sure how it’s going to work with visitors like your mum, or Kym if she comes up, or Lynne if she comes up. I’m not sure how all that’s going to work. It’s usually nothing like you think it will be anyway. But I would hate for people to come up and me just to be in this state of mind of “Can’t do anything. Baby”. I do remember that about the other two being little. If I could get one thing done a day I was doing really well. And I don’t even know where that time goes or what you do with it. If I could wash the floor, or maybe cook a meal, that was like “oh my god, I got something done”. And I remember it being like that for some time. So I’m not quite sure how it’s all going to be. I don’t know how the house is going to be. I don’t know how we’re all going to fit. But we always seem to pull it all together somehow.

GS: After Finn was born, you suffered from post natal depression. Are you concerned about that this time?

TS: No. No I’m not. It’s 10 years later. I recognise those symptoms. I reckon I was a little depressed last year. As I said before, from exhaustion. But like with the rest of the trip, I don’t have to do anything. I can just lie on the bed with the baby all day if worst comes to worst. I think it was a big chemical thing. I think I’m more in tune with myself. And I just create space around me a little bit more. And not feel the pressure of having to have everything perfect, like I do sometimes. It’ll be interesting. I’m sure there’ll be chemical ups and downs but I know there are ways of curing them now. That was such a black cloud, that horrible bit.

GS: Are you confident of being able to travel on the road with a baby?

TS: I gotta say I’m a bit worried about the trip to Cape Leveque now after just coming down that 10km track to get here. It was so bumpy, I was thinking about a little neck and a big head sitting on that little neck. We’ll have to play it as it comes I think. I don’t know.

GS: Are you happy that this is the choice that you’ve made, living on the road being pregnant?

TS: Yeah, depending when you ask me. Sometimes I wouldn’t recommend it to people. But it’s been good to be close to my family and I’ve enjoyed the adventures. And there’s just going to be more and more I guess, with extra people involved. I know I’ll look back on this like when we travelled around Syria and Jordan. Those memories are some of the strongest, happiest memories I have. So I’m sure this trip will be too. We’re just lucky we’re in a situation where we can do it. So, yeah I am happy.

GS: Living in close proximity with people you get to learn a lot about them. What have you learnt about Jazzy on this trip?

TS: She’s very smart. Smarter than I expected. She’s very much like you. She’s got your feet. She’s going to be fine in life. She’s just so together.

GS: What have you learnt about Finn?

TS: He’s like a big golden retriever puppy. He’s very loving. Very cuddly. It’s funny because sometimes he’s very self-assured and other times he’s such a little boy. He’s still at that age of just discovering himself. I guess there’s still more to be learned about him.

GS: What have you learnt about me?

TS: I’ve been amazed how you’ve been able to do everything. You hitch the van up. You set it all up. You go to work. You fly away and do jobs. You come back and you put the WiFi up the tree so that everybody’s computers are working. You cook fish for us. You’ve just been doing everything. I think I would have been pissed off by now if the roles had have been reversed and you were the one lying down not able to do much. You’re very capable, but I always knew that. You’re a really good Dad. And, I’m glad you chose me. [GS: This is clearly my personal favourite part of the interview]

GS: And what have you learnt about yourself?

TS: I don’t know. It’s been a very different time for me. I just feel like I’ve grown up a bit more. I’m a bit more stable in myself. And… I’m a lot like my mum. I look in the mirror and I often see her face in my face.

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