Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Gallery / Sleep is For The Weak: Emotions

This week, The Gallery & Sleep is For The Weak have teamed up for the theme of emotions.

I've known for a long time that I need to write about Jake's illness and hospital stay. What I've written is just the tip of the iceberg and I'm not terribly happy with it, but it's all I can manage right now. And that's ok, because I have to start somewhere.


The first night in hospital,
before we knew.

In the pediatric ICU

A few hours before we took you home.


The worst I’ve ever felt

The night you were admitted to hospital on a drip for dehydration - that was the start of it. Following months of pain and illness that doctors could not identify or take seriously, you suddenly started vomiting. You refused food, were lethargic all day and hadn’t weeed in your nappy all day. We took you to A & E again, and this time had the fortune to meet a Doctor who was duly concerned. More blood tests were ordered and you were force fed dioralyte, which you vomited. So they put you on a drip and we were admitted overnight.

You’d been constipated for months and even that night, all the Doctor on duty, the third one we saw, could say after looking at your x-ray, the x-ray that only happened because your Daddy insisted on it, was, “It’s just really bad constipation. We’ll give him a glycerine suppository to get things moving.” The nurses on the ward were wonderful. They brought in a bed rather than a cot so that I could sleep next to you. Your Dad and I took turns watching for signs of poo, and adjusting your IV line when you thrashed about or turned over in your fitful sleep. Some time near dawn, there was dark blood and what looked like coffee grounds in your nappy. I knew it was blood straight away, even in the dark. The nurses weren’t sure, but I knew.

In the morning, a new Doctor came on duty, a consultant. Someone more careful and thoughtful. He looked at your x-ray again and asked us questions and he listened. He didn’t take notes while he spoke to us, his eyes didn’t stray to his shoes or wander off to something more pressing in his mind. He looked at us and he listened. It struck me that it was the first time we were really being listened to.

After listening to us and going away to consult his colleagues at the Royal London, he came back. He sat down and told us that they didn’t know exactly why, but that you were seriously ill, very seriously ill. I was holding you at that time, your head was slumped on my shoulder, still lethargic. I was suddenly hit by tears. Up until that point, I hadn’t really been afraid. Not really. Up until that point, I had no idea what fear really was. I held you closer to me, trying not to shake. When he left, I allowed myself a little cry. The tiniest of cries. And then that was it. I had to be strong. I had to hold it together for you. And I did.

I didn’t cry again for the rest of your time in hospital. Not when we were taken to the Royal London in an ambulance, not when we were told you had to have surgery, not when we were told, after your surgery was a success, how close we’d come to losing you. Not when you were in the ICU, connected to all those machines. Not when I realised I wasn’t going to be able to breastfeed you anymore. And not even through all the ups and downs we went through in the month that followed before we could finally take you home.

I don’t know how I did it. I don’t know where my tears went. I’d never been so afraid, so worried, never so aware of everything I had to lose. But I couldn’t cry.  The day of your surgery, when we were waiting to hear how it went, your Daddy cried. The next day, when he went home to pick up some clothes for all of us, he cried. But I didn’t.

Since we brought you home and started putting it behind us, I’ve been expecting those tears to appear, to pour through me like a flash flood. But they haven’t. I love you more than anything in the world and my loving you brings up the fiercest of emotions in me. I’ve cried from exhaustion and cried with joy, but for the worst feelings in the world, for the worst I’ve ever felt, there are no tears. Is it because it’s inconceivable? Losing you is inconceivable, so mourning that loss is unthinkable. Sometimes I fear it means a part of my heart has hardened, that something in me has been lost, even though nobody seems to notice it. But then you smile or look at me or call me Mummy or ask for cuggles and all of me becomes love for you. Even when you’re screaming. Even when you’re so cross with me you do the opposite of what I ask. Even when you’re glaring at me, defying me, daring me, you’re the most wonderful person in the world.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

29.6.10 ~ sometimes it is

Jake’s started repeating things. This morning we started with knickers. Then he was saying every fifth word he heard on Squiggle It. Luckily he hasn’t picked up any swear words yet. It’s been a much better day today. Went to playgroup and bumped into the Mum I met in the playground two weeks ago. She invited me to lunch on Thursday. Then Jake and I went shopping. I bought a whole roast chicken. And some cherries. Then we went to the park and later I walked him up the road to the marshes so he could fall asleep. It worked.

Monday, June 28, 2010

28.6.10 ~ not my finest hour

Picture a flame running along a mile of fuse to dynamite. That was my day. Jake didn’t want to go out and I didn’t insist. Instead, he pushed his doll pram around, played with food-coloured ice cubes and poured water on the kitchen floor while I made lunch. Then we painted and it was fine till I decided to take pictures. My refusal to hand the camera into his paint covered hands didn’t go down well. Then he had a mini nosebleed. And he ate chocolate out of the bin. There were two buttons left in the packet we threw away the other day. They were still in the packet and it wasn’t our manky kitchen bin, but still. Even if I am slightly impressed at his ability to find chocolate. He was hungry and instead of telling me, he went looking for chocolate. Chocolate I didn’t even know we had. Did he learn that from me?

Then I wasn’t able to get him down for his nap. Until late afternoon, his energy was quietly focussed. Then it tipped over. By 8pm he was overtired and spent two hours crying and resisting sleep. I lost it and threw things then hid in the bathroom. Jake didn't see the throwing but he came after me crying “Where Mummy gone?” and I shouted that I was fucking off and leaving. Nice one Tammy.  I barely even felt anything. Is numb fury an emotion? Luckily Paul stepped in. And told me what I needed to hear.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Weekend Diary

26 & 27 June 2010

Got back to yoga class after a month off. Even Hayley’s gentle classes are challenging. But always rewarding. It always amazes me that after years of doing yoga and doing a particular posture, one word or adjustment from her and suddenly I get it. Everything falls into place and my practice deepens even more. Paul took Jake to play with his cousins and he had just dropped off when they got home, then woke up again on the way to his bed. I couldn’t get him to nap and Mr super-toddler stayed up till 10pm without any sign of grumpiness.

Took Jake to Highbury Fields but it was crowded and the water fountain wasn’t working so we went to the park near Russell Square instead. I’d forgotten it was there, but it’s a gorgeous peaceful park with lots of shade and a fab water fountain and not as many children. I often think Jake prefers parks to playgrounds so this was ideal. He ran around with glee, waving at dogs and horses and eventually braved the fountain. Once he got started, he didn’t want to come out. He fell asleep on the way home, moments after asking for his sunglasses.


Friday, June 25, 2010

26.6.10 ~ 100 word diary

After two weeks of going out every day, it’s great to have a chilled day at home. Aside from the fact that it’s too hot, airless and cloudless to venture out, I’ve cooked lunch for Jake for the first time in ages - homemade salmon fishcakes (as opposed to sandwiches) and what’s more – he ate it! We had half an hour in the "garden" earlier, but there’s no shade and too many spiders. Even Jake found it too much and has been happy being indoors. If it weren’t for his current bath-phobia, we’d be in a tub of cool water now.

I'd like our garden a lot more if it wasn't
at the bottom of these stairs.
And don't even get me started on the spiders.

Call this a paddling pool? 
Man, I'm outta here.
We so need a garden makeover.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

24.6.10 ~ 100ish word diary (on social swinging)

Jake loves the marshes and Springfield Park so much, he’d rather we go there than local playgrounds. “Choo-choo train, quack quack?” is how he puts it. It’s a 3 mile round trip walk almost every day, but I don’t mind. I love the sense of space and we see something new each time. (Today it was a three-legged labrador, another labrador swimming in the river and a pair of blue damselflies.)  On the “social swings” there (as I call them because they are set in a pentagonal frame and face inward so the children look at each other as they swing - not what you thought, was it?), Jake suddenly came out with this: “Oh! Dizzy!” and then, shaking his head, “Never again, never again.” The things he picks up!

A labrador fetching a stick from the river quickly attracted
every child in sight.

Counting words

It occurs to me that I've never explained why I write my 100 word diary entries. Or more specifically, why 100 words. I got the idea from the 100 words site. 100 words a day is not that much to commit to, especially as a full-time Mum. Doing it every day builds up a cherished collection of daily snapshots, of little details I'd otherwise forget. But the precision of it, having that limit, means choosing your words carefully. What really counts? What is it that I really want to say? It’s a valuable daily practice that is entirely stress free.  (100 words)

You may have noticed the 250 word a day icon that has just appeared in the sidebar.  That's a new challenge.  To write 250 words a day on top of the 100 words I post here.  Most days, I already do that.  But I want to aim to do it every day.  I won't necessarily be posting those words here, but the icon is to remind me that I've taken the challenge.  I still shy away from labels, from calling myself a writer.  Because to use that word usually sparks questions like - what are you writing and have you published anything?  I write.  I now write every day.  I write to make sense of life, to remember things, to capture moments that have touched me or pained me or which elude me.  I write to try to discover the heart of things.  It doesn't necessarily mean I'm working on a novel, poem or short story.  I can still be a writer and not be writing any of those things.  So that's why I'm taking the challenge.  Because a writer writes.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

23.6.10 ~ 200 word diary

Jake is 23 months old today. Earlier this week he let me read him an entire book from beginning to end. Usually he flips the pages when I’m mid-sentence then he wanders off. The book was “Go to sleep you crazy sheep” (rather appropriate too) and it was read before bedtime on Monday. Maybe it was a delaying tactic, but he seemed to enjoy it and keeps asking for it.

I started counselling today. I’ve been meaning to go for about a year. My weekend gave me the push I needed. It was like opening the floodgates. I joked during the session that I could be in therapy for years. It felt great.

When I went to pick Jake up from nursery, he was in the middle of drawing this. His drawing is really developing, he’s holding pens differently and he’s more deliberate with his lines now. I love it.

It was too hot to stay out too long after nursery so I got him a strawberry Cornetto and we came home. I didn’t watch the England game. Jake and I had a nap instead. Well, the first hour was spent persuading Jake to lie down. Then we fell asleep. He’s still napping.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

22.6.10 ~ 100 word diary

Had a lovely afternoon at Coram’s Fields. Jake didn’t fall asleep on the way home though and didn’t have his nap till after 5pm! He wouldn’t go upstairs so I persuaded him to lie down on the sofa with me. He fell asleep within minutes, hugging his water cup.

Getting him ready for bed:

Paul: It’s hot, shall we put him in a short one-sleeved onesie?

Me: Are there one-sleeved onesies?!

Paul: Yeah, you know, for children of one-armed people.

With the kind of madness I have to deal with, is it any wonder I’ve lost my grip on normality?

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Gallery: Creatures

This week's theme for The Gallery is Creatures. 

Jake loves watching, playing and conversing with all kinds of creatures...

but our friendly neighbourhood cat is his favourite.

21.6.10 ~ light

Paul and I found ourselves awake at 4 this morning. It was already getting light. When I heard the first bird singing, I said, “Oh no.”

“What?” asked Paul.

“Birds singing.” I whispered back.


Despite another sleepless night, and waking up woozy, I’m feeling hopeful. It’s the summer solstice and one of the first words I read today were these: The light in me greets the light in you. Darkness cannot overcome it. ~ The light in me greets the light in you. Darkness cannot overcome it. ~ It’s going to be my mantra today. Happy Solstice everyone. Namaste.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Confession with evidence

Tonight I let Jake eat exactly what he wanted for dinner: a chocolate digestive, Pom Bear crisps and half a slice of bread.  And he ate it while we watched Dr. Who.

It's been a hard day (see my weekend diary post), and Jake hadn't had his usual 2 - 3 hour afternoon nap and Paul had rather unwisely left me home alone with our child for the company of some friends and a football match.  So this happened.  When Jake saw me whip out the camera he even held up the evidence to be captured. 

Getting him to bed was not as hairy as I thought it was going to be.  He was very tired and had been crying for a little while.  When I took him up, he turned on the bedside lamp and screamed to go downstairs.  Instead of automatically turning the light off, I just did nothing for a bit.  I let him calm down, handed him a tissue, let him wipe his nose then just looked at him with as much non-intrusive "It's okay mate" as possible.  He started chatting to me a bit, then let me sing him some songs and cuddle him.  I was whisper-singing to him, our noses touching and he was asleep within 10 minutes.  That was at 9:20, a rather reasonable time too.

Weekend diary

19 & 20 June 2010

I’ve been feeling depressed all weekend. If I’m honest, it’s been a throbbing vein beneath the surface of everything for a long time. Sometimes it’s worse than others. Sometimes I’m barely aware of it, sometimes I break through and breathe what feels like new air and everything seems more than fine. But most of the time, I’ve been drowning under waves of anger, bitterness, resentment – old and new, fresh and foetid – waves with ferocity and power that can last for weeks at a time, months even. I lose perspective, I lose a clear sense of myself and others, and disappear.

Today I exploded over nothing. It was horrific. I cried for hours then crawled under the duvet and stared into space, only rousing myself if I heard Jake ask for me. Otherwise, nothing existed except telling myself to let go. It started off as raging, then giving up, but then became letting go. In those hours, something kicked in, some survival mechanism, some small voice that made me realise that I’d been allowing all that anger, bitterness and resentment to consume me. And I can’t let it. I have a choice. It’s taken me a long time to see it.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Just doodling

I did this during the England v Algeria game last night.  At least something good came out of it and I didn't completely waste 90 minutes of my life.  And it felt good to be doodling aimlessly.


Friday, June 18, 2010

18.6.10 ~ 100 word diary

Jake and I stayed in this morning. I did laundry while he mopped the carpet. I did some leaf rubbings and Jake drew with two crayons simultaneously. He also scribbled the air above the carpet and said “Not carpet”. In the afternoon we met Paul at Finsbury Park and took Jake for his follow-up appointment at the Royal London. He’s been fine on the Movicol and growing and developing well, so we don’t have to go back for 6 months. His weight gain puts him in the 50th centile. As Paul said, Jake is now average! We couldn’t be happier.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

17.6.10 ~ 100 word diaries: on being inspired, maybe making friends and being hot

I wrote a lot yesterday so I didn’t write a 100-word diary entry. But something I want to remember from yesterday are the words of a Raramuri tribeswoman from the documentary series Tribal Wives. Raramuri means to walk strong, a person who walks towards well-being. “Walk your life”, she told the white woman living with them for a month. I found those words very beautiful. Simple, deep and true. When I heard them they dropped into me like pebbles into a well. I also discovered this, and now I want to write these words on 'genius' cards of my own.


Today I edited and posted my piece about my struggle for a homebirth. I was surprised at the vehemence of emotion it stirred up in me, even now. Also – I might actually have made a new friend. For the first time ever, a not-scary Mum at the playground started chatting to me and then asked if I’d like to meet up some time. Her younger son is one month younger than Jake. She spoke about the unfriendliness of playgroups and how hard it can be to talk to people and we exchanged numbers. I’m feeling cautiously optimistic. Time will tell.

Favourite Jake-speak from today:

Oh!? Dizzy! (after running round in circles)

Oh! Wow!! Trees! Sky! Wow!

Hot mummy, hot mummy! (after I took his top off saying it was hot and that mummy was hot too)

When I told him we were going to play in the playground, he said play and said and signed toys. Later he asked for a ball. I said I only had a tiny ball. He said and signed, tiny ball. Awight. Tiny ball, put in park?

After playing in the playground, he ran onto the grass in the park and said Sit, pease? Then he pointed to the picnic blanket in the pram. So I spread it out. Then he sat down and asked for pasta. The last time we had a picnic in that park (weeks ago!), we’d eaten pasta.

He also said the longest complete sentence he’s ever spoken. And I can’t remember what it was!

Writing Workshop: She

For this week's Sleep is For The Week's writing workshop, I chose the prompt She.  Or rather, it chose me.  As soon as I saw it, words started pouring out and I could barely keep up.  As a result, this post is very long!  I've tried to edit as much as possible, but I had a lot to say and I've been waiting nearly two years to say it.  There's a lot more to say, but I'll save that for another time.


She was obviously in a bad mood and didn’t care who knew it. She entered the room and didn’t bother looking at me. It’s not uncommon to be greeted this way by doctors in this country. But I was 40 weeks pregnant, hot and already stressed about what “They” were going to say to me, so it wasn’t a good start. With her head in my notes, she stood in silence for a good three minutes and then said, “So you’re here to be induced are you?”

I was so alarmed I didn’t know what to say. She threw my notes on the table with a slap and started pulling on latex gloves. I was gripped by the irrational notion that she was going to do it right here, right now. Then she looked at me. I hadn’t answered her question.

“No. I’m not even due till tomorrow.”

She stopped. “So why are you here then?”

I knew it had been a mistake.

35 weeks into my pregnancy, we were forced into an unexpected house move. We'd found a flat in an area of London we already knew, but it meant moving out of borough, where I had a community midwife I liked and who was supportive of my decision to have a homebirth. When I told her we were moving, she told me that I could still have her as my midwife, but it would mean I’d have to have my baby at North Mid. If I wanted to have a homebirth, I’d have to register with my local midwifery service based at Whipps X. I was gutted.

I was able to register with the same health centre that I'd been with the last time I lived in Walthamstow. I’d had a supportive GP there, so I was hopeful. They also had a community midwifery service, so I could be seen at the health centre or at home, without having to go to Whipps Cross for my checkups.

I met my new community midwife. She was pleasant, if a little distracted, and she knew the North Mid midwives I mentioned and spoke fondly of them.  When I told her I wanted a homebirth, she wasn’t enthusiastic, but she wasn’t negative either. In fact, she merely said ok, wrote something in my file and left it at that. I thought it was a good sign, but it wasn’t. A couple of weeks later and puzzled that, at 37 weeks, I still hadn’t received any information about my homebirth, I asked her about it more directly. She acted as if it was the first she’d heard of it. She pulled out my file and furrowed her brow and informed me that I had fibroids.

I already knew this. My 12 week scan had shown that I had three small fibroids. When I had my booking appointment at North Mid, they automatically ticked the “birth in labour ward” box on my forms without asking or telling me. When I asked my community midwife about it later, she said they probably did it because of the fibroids, because it could be seen as a risk factor, but she also said that they should have discussed it with me first. When I told her about my desire for a homebirth, she said it shouldn’t be a problem, but it did depend on the size and location of the fibroids. She referred me to her Supervisor of Midwives who looked at my scan and was not in the least bit concerned and said there was no reason why I couldn’t have a homebirth. My 20 week scan showed a slight increase in size in one of the fibroids but they were still tiny – approximately half an inch in size. My midwife team were not concerned and kept my risk status as low, so I put it out of my mind and got on with enjoying my pregnancy.

But now they were suddenly a problem. When I explained what the midwives at North Mid had said, my new midwife looked very nervous and decided to put me on the phone to her supervisor instead of talking to me herself.

I was completely unprepared for the onslaught of negativity that came next. As soon as the supervisor started talking, I felt like the decision had already been made for me. Even though she started her sentence with, “Of course we can’t tell you not to have a homebirth…”, it was exactly what they were telling me. And the way they persuaded me to change my mind was by saying that I would very likely bleed to death, and by making me feel like I was a very silly girl who had no idea what I was getting into, it being my first baby, and that in a perfect world, we’d all get what we wanted, but what was most important was my safety and the safety of my baby. By the end of the five minute conversation, I felt upset, ashamed, humiliated and terrified. It was only after I left the office after meekly telling my midwife that I’d changed my mind that I started to feel FURIOUS.

Still shaking, I got on the internet and did as much research as I could about fibroids, post-partum haemorrhage and homebirth. What I could find said pretty much what the midwives at North Mid had said – it depended on the size and location of the fibroids. Given that mine were tiny, in a position that were not causing any problems and would not block the birth canal, and given that I’d had a completely healthy and trouble free pregnancy, I started to suspect that the negativity I’d faced about having a homebirth had little to do with me and everything to do with institutional attitudes.

I talked to a local NCT homebirth contact, Paul, my friends, a friend of a friend who was a midwife and then I phoned the supervisor back and told her that I changed my mind. I told her about my research and that I wanted to proceed with a homebirth anyway. To my surprise, her attitude towards me completely changed. Instead of being hostile, she was suddenly warm. She said she was sorry if she’d seemed negative before, but just wanted to keep me informed of the risks. When I asked her if she could provide me with statistics to back up these risks, she could not.

I should have left it at that, but their talk of risk really got to me. (Medical attitude to risk is something I could write a whole other post about.) What if I really did bleed to death? The last thing I wanted was to leave my baby motherless. What if I really was being selfish to insist on a homebirth? Reading articles about post-partum haemorrhage is not what I wanted to be doing at 38 weeks. What I wanted was proper support. What I wanted was an honest discussion about the risks involved, the real risks, as they applied to me. I wanted answers. So I decided to make an appointment with a consultant. I told the supervisor of midwives about this and she advised me against it. She said that they were unlikely to be sympathetic, but if I wanted to go ahead, then I could ring her and ask for her support if I needed it. I should have listened to her.

My appointment actually went well. I got to see the consultant himself and he was lovely. He said everything looked fine and when I asked about the fibroids, he waved away my worries as if they were flies. He used his fingers to illustrate how small they were to me and said not to worry. But he also booked me a follow-up appointment at 39 weeks. I wasn’t sure why, as I’d been seeing my community midwife for all my appointments. I later twigged that it was simply because it was the way the system worked. I’d unwittingly put myself in the system when I booked the appointment and now they were keeping me there. I knew I could cancel it but I decided to keep the appointment because I hadn’t discussed the homebirth with him. I’d been so overjoyed when he waved my fibroid fears away that I completely forgot to bring it up.

When I went to the next appointment, it wasn’t the nice consultant I got to see, but a junior doctor who looked like he’d just finished college. It was unnerving, but he was at least extremely polite. When I told him about the homebirth, he didn’t know what to say. At first he was quite positive when I’d told him what the consultant had said. But he had to go and talk to his registrar first. When he came back, he was no longer positive. He gave me almost exactly the same speech that the supervisor of midwives had given me about the risks of bleeding to death. He just delivered it with less drama and tried to be helpful by suggesting that I book in to their birth centre instead. I’d already been down that route as an option and been told that my fibroids had suddenly given me a high-risk status which meant I couldn’t use the birth centre. So it was a choice between the labour ward or home.

I told him about my research and asked for statistics to back up their fears. He spoke to his registrar again. He came back and said there were no statistics but that “it happened enough” for it to be a worry. He then became all patronising and told me to go away and think about it, but that if I did want to proceed with the homebirth, I’d have to sign a disclaimer that I was doing so against their advice. They then booked me an appointment for the day before my due date. I left feeling shaken and furious.

The next week was not a happy one for me. I veered from feeling calm and confident in my own convictions to worrying that I was going to die in labour and never get to know my child. I don’t know if that disclaimer actually existed, but if it doesn’t, it’s as good a scare tactic as you can get.

Going to that final appointment terrified me.  All my instincts were telling me to cancel, but I must have some deep-rooted need to obey authority, so I went anyway and asked Paul to come with me for support. Even Paul was unprepared for what happened.

I explained to the doctor in the bad mood that I was there because I’d seen the consultant and these series of appointments had been booked for me. She examined me and that at least brought a smile to her face when she told me that Jake was in a good position and that his head was 3/5ths engaged. It was the only consolation I took from that appointment.

I plucked up the courage to tell her about the homebirth. She raised an eyebrow and sniggered. She flicked the pages of my notes and asked me how far away from the hospital we lived. We’d researched this too. It was 10 minutes without traffic. She gave me a half-hearted spiel about the risks involved. Luckily her mood meant she was in no mood to try and talk me out of it. She sat down, wrote something in my notes and it seemed to be over. Paul and I were relieved. She didn’t mention the disclaimer and we sure as hell weren’t going to.

Then, out of the blue, she said she was booking me in for an induction for 10 days after my due date. I felt like I’d just been slapped. I was so shocked, I didn’t know what to say. Even Paul was shocked. We sat there in stunned silence.

Without looking at me she gave me another spiel about why it was in the best interests of the baby to induce if it hadn’t arrived by then. I’d read all about the prevailing medical attitude to babies being overdue and how inductions were more likely to lead to interventions like caesareans and I should have been prepared to fight my corner on it, but I just felt drained. As I sat there wondering how to take it and whether saying nothing meant that I would be obliged to come in to hospital and be induced, the nurse who’d been in the room stepped in and handed me a leaflet saying, “This is just an INVITATION to induction. You don’t have to accept it, and you probably won’t need it. This will tell you more about the process involved.”  I could've hugged her.

It was just the system. I kept repeating this to myself over and over as we headed home. It was just the system and I did not have to be part of it.

In those last few days, I immersed myself in things that made me feel joyful and human. Music I loved, reading, dancing, food I loved, sleeping in the afternoon, going for walks (waddles), reading about natural birth, and drawing my naked pregnant self. I talked to Jake and told him that everything was going to be alright, that we would be in this together and that I couldn’t wait to meet him.

A friend, a mother of three, who’d listened to all my fears and worries reminded me that I was being strong and amazing because I was already fighting for what was best for my baby before he was even born. And I kept remembering something that a midwife friend of a friend had said to me, that in her experience, the most important thing a woman in labour can bring with her, is belief in herself. That’s what it came down to. Did I believe in myself?

I never imagined that this question would come to matter so much. I’d always struggled with fear and self-doubt, especially so in those last few weeks before Jake was born. But believing in myself had never been so important. The night before Jake was due, I got up, wrote copious amounts in my journal and then let go. I made peace with my decision and let go.

Jake was born at home less than 2 days later. I had a 7 hour, trouble-free labour on gas and air. I didn’t even bleed very much. My blood loss level was just below average, not even heavy by normal standards. Everything went well. It’s a testament to how smoothly my labour went that I remember more about what I went through to have my homebirth than the labour itself.

All in all, I had 5 midwives attending to me at one time or another during the birth. Thankfully my assigned midwife, the one who’d put me on to her supervisor, was not on duty. The midwives who were there were wonderful – strong, vibrant, joyful, funny, supportive, but not in our faces. Not the least bit institutional, yet utterly professional.

Writing about this two years later still makes me angry.  The hospital literature about birth says all the right things but unhelpful, disempowering attitudes are still deeply ingrained.  I remember reading their leaflets about giving birth in hospital and not one of them mention risk.  I was the only one in my NCT antenatal group to choose a homebirth.  Of the remaining five women in my group who gave birth in hospitals, three ended up having caesareans and another had an episiotomy.  But when it comes to homebirth, the hospital literature is all about risk, and therefore fear.  It's that spreading of fear that really angers me.  It's insidious and harmful and completely unnecessary.  But I don't want to end on a negative note.

After it was over and the midwives left us alone to get to know Jake, I was holding him to my breast and it hit me that while I was worrying and stressing and going through all that unnecessary fear, Jake was just getting on with it.  He'd been getting ready to come out and it was like he knew exactly what he was doing.  It was as if he'd been looking after me in there, with quiet knowing strength, just waiting to come out and meet us.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Gallery: Motherhood

This week's theme for The Gallery is Motherhood.  Not only is it impossible to pick ONE photo that's supposed to sum up what motherhood means to me, all the entries are being printed off for an exhibition! 

It's been fantastic looking back at all the photos we've taken of Jake.  As it's about motherhood, the photos of Jake and I together have mostly been taken by Paul.  I couldn't pick just one, but the one above is my favourite.  To me the most important thing about being a mother is the relationship I build and have with Jake, and the heart of it is pure joy.  The joy of being alive, of being together, of being able to know one another, and most of all, the joy of loving and being loved. 

Here are some other photos I couldn't resist throwing in too...

The joy of co-sleeping.
Here, Jake is a week old.  When we fell asleep, he'd
been more in the middle of the bed.  Paul tells me
that within 20 minutes, he was firmly wedged in my armpit.
He still does that now except with a headbutt thrown in.

Do you see that cheeky grin on his face?
This is just after he chucked some blackberries at me.
What you don't see is the big chunk that went down my cleavage.

This photo I did take myself. 
It was August 2009 and shortly before Jake's illness and hospitalisation.
It was one of the last times I was able to breastfeed him.

The whole time that I breastfed Jake,
I had no qualms about letting him fall asleep on the breast.
Really, my first year of motherhood consisted of breastfeeding
and then holding him while he slept.
Then I had to stop and he had to sleep on his own.
This was how he often fell asleep in hospital, holding on to my top.

Everything changed when Jake became ill.  It was a nightmare we are still coming to terms with.  But normal took on a new meaning for us.  Now, even through the hardest days when he's driving me up the wall, I'm still grateful.  Because he's here. 
Before Jake arrived, I had vague notions about what being a mother would entail.  Most of them were from scary stories other parents had told me which I tried not to think about because I wanted to live the truth of my own experience. 
It turns out that many of the scary stories are true, but so is this:  it's a cliche, but motherhood really is the best thing that's ever happened to me. 
Thank you Jake, for making me a Mummy.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

15.6.10 ~ 100 word diary which is actually 300 words today

After not having suffered from hayfever for 5 years, I suddenly started sneezing like mad yesterday. I thought I could take it, but when it started again this morning, I took an antihistamine. My bladder control is not what it used to be and I just can’t deal with the whole sneezing-means-weeing-in-my-pants thing today. Especially not after two consecutive nights of 2am poopy-butt changing and toddler-headbutting interrupted sleep.

It’s an interesting experience, looking after a toddler on antihistamine wooziness. On one hand, it’s rather liberating. The control freak in me was notably subdued and gave way to a rather happy eh-who-gives-a-shit me, which was not the catastrophy I’ve always feared. On the other hand, a measure of alertness and clear speech is also useful when caring for a toddler, especially near open water and bridges and such. Well, I’m happy to report that he is in one piece and happily snoozing after our morning in Wilkinson’s followed by another wander through the marshes. We took a different route today, one which afforded a better view of the “choo-choo ‘rains!”

Also, I went to Wahaca last night and had one of the best meals I can remember. Proper Mexican food, simple, fresh and super tasty and best of all, bloody affordable! M and I had drinks, shared 5 plates of street food and a pudding, for £15 each, including the tip. But, going out on a Monday night is a little weird. I usually go out on a Wednesday and waking up the next morning is a nice boost cos I’m still on a wow-so-that’s-what-normal-feels-like high from the night before and there are only a couple days till the weekend. But today, it’s still only Tuesday! I’m not complaining though. There are still a few hours till the drugs wear off.

Helping out in Wilkinson's

Up Please Mummy?  Come on, this way.

Black bean tostadas (my personal favourite)

Clockwise from left: potato taquitos, pork pibils, chicken mole soft tacos.
We also had broad bean quesadillas which I didn't photograph.

Not matchbooks but Serrano Chilli seeds to take home and grow.

Monday, June 14, 2010

14.6.10 ~ 100ish word diary (our morning of aimless meandering)

Jake had a runny tummy overnight. When I told him I needed to change his nappy, he said “Awight”, got up and lay down on the changing mat. So sweet and well-behaved at 2am! And this morning I took him for a long wander in his buggy through Walthamstow Marshes & Springfield Park, passing train lines, bridges, canals and boats. He waved at his beloved “choo choo ‘rains”! and a nice man on a boat even honked the horn for him. He walked as much as he wanted, got plenty of fresh air and fell asleep on the way home.

I love the sense of space – both inner and outer – that the marshes provide. We’re so lucky to have it on our doorstep. This is what I love about London. It isn’t always what you think it is. Sometimes, it’s even better.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


I got a year of my life back today. Well, 6 months anyway. I woke up and realised that since I was born in 1972, I am not in fact 39. I’m 38! It may not seem like much, but to me, there is a big difference between 39 and 38. I don’t even know how it started. You’d think I’d remember a thing like that. It has happened before. A few years ago I told someone I was 35 when I was in fact 33. But that mistake only lasted for a few moments rather than for several months.

12.6.10 ~ 100 word diary

Yoga got cancelled. I watched Grey’s Anatomy, drew some lotuses, made an aubergine and tomato pasta. Correctly predicted the score for the England v USA match and rather enjoyed cheering on USA. Also listened to the Lightning Seeds’ Pure on youtube - I hadn’t heard it in years. It made me all nostalgic for my youth. Even though I know I was going through hard times then, I clearly remember feeling hopeful about the future. What will I remember about now in years to come? I still feel hopeful, but these days my hopes are for Jake rather than myself.