Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Then, for many years, my sliding door to a different world stayed shut, the reality of my life good enough to experience in and outside my head - only occassionally would I become an intrepid traveller again as I washed the dishes, or rescued orang utans from the wild as I read The Tiger Who Came to Tea for the 63,839,586th time.
But now, I find myself living parallell lives every day. Not some wild escapism, not some far flung adventure, but simply the imaginings of what would have been, to soften the blow of what is. Three months ago my life changed for ever, for the worse. Since then I have tried to come to terms with loosing the mum I knew and adored, while learning to deal with the reality of a mum who barely knows my name and who will never share my life again. From the second hubby came into my hospital room in the dead of night to tell me my mum had had a massive stroke, my life split into two - the life I was planning and the life I am being forced to live. The last three months as I struggled with a new baby, I have dealt with the reality of waiting to see if my mum would pull through and then deal with having her settled at home, incapable of rational speech, thought or action. In my head though, I have lived through daily phonecalls, regular visits where she would hold my baby in her arms adoring her with song and praise, while sending me off to bed. I lived the experiences I knew we would have had, enjoying a cup of Earl Grey and a Butlers chocolate, showing off Ruby to strangers in the queue, reading stories to the girls. As I stood alone in my kitchen, the phone in my hand but no number to dial, I closed my eyes and pictured her coming off the Belfast train - 100 memories merged into one real moment, the smell of 'Beautiful' greeting me with her warm hug, tales of her conversations with strangers on the seat beside her keeping us company all the way home. As she walked through my front door she would say, "I love coming into this house, " and we would sit down with a cup of tea, children scurrying around us and she would be proclaiming Ruby to be the most beautiful baby she had ever seen. I lived every memory of the past to get me through the present.
And so it was at Christmas. Mum and dad were due to come down to us this year, and like every year, I was going to take Mum to the National Concert Hall, and on Christmas Eve we would all sit down to the Christmas Ham dinner and then wrap ourselves around the fire, wine glasses glistening in light of the flames, stuffing Santa sacks. In the morning, as the girls giddy with Santa surprises would be shouting "Nanna Look!" when her bed-bedraggled head curled round our bedroom door, she would sit on our bed and share their excitement. We would have a walk in the snow and then, a little drunk perhaps, try to produce a christmas dinner in the right order before finding just enough room for a couple of chocolates by the fire at the end of the night. Instead, their car did not arrive this year, bringing bags and bottles of goodies. I didn't book any tickets at the National Concert Hall. I hung up the lights and carefully placed decorations knowing they would never be seen by the person who would appreciate them the most. And when it hurt too much, I slid open the door and lived the version where their car drove up and they bundled into the house laden with love. I heard my mum say the house looked beautiful.
And on Christmas day, as my mum lay in her bed and we pretended to be merry the sliding door jammed and I could no longer soften the blow. This is how it is now. I have to organise our baby's christening knowing my mum won't be there. Plan a family holiday without her. Walk past the phone and not pick it up. But at least for a while yet, I can climb onto the bed beside her, the smell of my Beautiful rubbing onto her skin, and hold her hand. The past and the present still in tune.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Roles were defined and refined. We all knew were we stood. My mum was my mum. I was her daughter. Then I became a mum and I had daughters. So far, so simple.
Now... the roles are blurred, the lines in the sand rolled over by the waves of catastrophe and stress. Now, my mum no longer looks after me. I look after her. I brush her hair and put on her makeup. I clean her house. And my daughters? Well, I do look after them too - although they do their fair share of brushing my hair and applying makeup - some days I look like The Joker. Although I'm not laughing much. The angst of my mum's demise, and the sleep-deprived stress of a new baby have combined to make me 'grumpy mummy' as now defined by Daisy. "I'm not grumpy all the time", I insist, but she gives me that look that only children can give. The look that says, "yes, but it's the grumpy times that count."
And to rub it in, she brought me down to earth yesterday. As only children can. I was in my usual 'get-out-the-house-with-two-children-and-a-baby-dressed-fed-and-somewhat-intact-by-half-eight-in-the-morning' mode when the final hurdle of getting laced runners on Daisy's feet (why oh why did I not buy velcro???) was a hurdle too far. I lost the plot and threw a tantrum. It was quite impressive too. At one point the runners where hurled across the room.
As I strapped everyone into the car I took a deep breath and sheepishly apologised for my outburst. "It's just hard," I explained, "Getting everyone out in the mornings with no help from you." Daisy looked at me - not unlike my mother used to, it has to be said, when she was making an annoyingly accurate point - and said, rather aloofly.
"Yes mum, but we are little people, and you are the big person."
Ouch, but true. I am the big person, and no matter where the lines are, or what the roles are or even if I have no idea where I stand anymore, I should remember that at least. Parented by my child. Sounds just about right at the moment.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
As I make some Christmas presents, sewing on buttons, Daisy asks me to teach her and so I hand her the needle and guide her to push it in, and pull it through. A flashback. Mum making my dress for my first formal dance, allowing me to sew a few stitches.
As I fight the urge to delve under my duvet for a stolen moment despite the hungry mewls beside me from Ruby, two little heads peer round the bedroom door, and seeing me awake, leap onto the bed and snuggle beside me chirping and chattering under the duvet. A flashback. An uncountable number of mornings lying beside my mum, putting the world to rights. And not just as a child.
I am still shocked by what has happened. She lies downstairs, bedbound and trapped, while I wander round her bedroom upstairs, her things as she left them. Her clothes hang in the wardrobe, many bought with me on one of our outings. She will never wear them again. Her jewellery glistens in the drawer, each piece with a story. She will never wear them again. Her photos, her books, her momentoes of life scattered around the room like moments in time. She will never touch them again. And I realise what her most important lesson has been. None of those things mattered. She was always insecure about not finishing school or having a big career, or having any accomplishments. Yet, everyone who knows her, loves her. She invested her time on people. What she didn't realise is that the things that make a person great is not a list of accomplishments or a long CV. At the end of the day, as the last few weeks have shown me, the only thing that matters, the only thing that determines greatness is the love you leave behind. And if the love we leave behind is the greatest accompishment of all..... then my mum is the most accomplished person I know. And I will do my best to pass on that lesson too....
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Dear Ruby Rose,
You are 8 weeks old and glorious in gorgeousness. You've had a hectic beginning being looked after by so many people while I see your Nanna in hospital, but you cling to me and look so bright-eyed you convince me it's all ok.
I am meant to be your teacher, your protector, your guide, but it is you who is keeping me grounded, secure and in the moment. It is you who pulls be back over and over again from the edge of darkness when my mind and heart wander to my loss and grief. And while my heart aches for my mum, it soars for you.
Every baudacious burp, every satisfying suckle, every cheerful chortle and every gratifying grin; every little squeak like a mouse, every stretch like a little frog, every mew like a kitten, you push away the shadows. And my mum loves you, even in her absence. When I dry your chubby little legs after each bath, my mum's voice whispers over my shoulder,"dry her properly, get all those little creases in her arms and legs." When I sing you a lullaby at night, the song she taught me floats in the air. When I throw my arms up in despair when I can't work out why you are screaming while trying to get the girl's tea, her voice laughs beside me, "well, you did choose to have three!" You are loved not just by me, but also by those who have loved me.
I hold you close in the darkness of night, alone while the house snores quietly. I smell your head and know that while my world might be shaking, I will keep steady for you. You are beautiful. You are perfect. You are mine. And even though this is the saddest time of my life, I am the happiest woman alive.
Friday, November 12, 2010
I thought I had to live my life before I had children.... that they somehow represented the end of something. I never realised of course, that they are the beginning. Why did I waste so much time? Why didn't I give my mum many more years to enjoy her grandchildren?
My generation thought we were having it all by pushing motherhood later and later...... but I'm beginning to fear that we made a huge mistake. Now I think our generation will be left with nothing - no support systems, no guidance and no energy to help our children when they need us most.
Why did I wait so long? And another huge thank you to my blog-brethren - your support is so lovely at this time....... xx
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Mum is off the critical list, and has been transferred to Belfast, alert enough to know who we are and what is going on. Great for us to have a little of her back (albeit a silent, parlaysed her) but awful for her as she is trapped inside a redundent body unable to express herself other than through half a smile and two bright blue terrified eyes. On good days, when she recognises me and touches my face, I am strengthened - like my lipstick reward of old when the taste of her lipstick when she kissed me as a child made me feel invinsible. On bad days when she is lost to me, I can hardly muster the strength to keep going. I spoon feed my mother, and come home to feed my children. I rub moisturiser on her drying out skin, and come home and rub oil on my newborn's growing skin. Two ends of the lifecycle spectrum and I am in the middle.
But. I must learn from my parent to be a parent. She taught me to carry on and find the good in the bad. Yesterday my baby smiled at me for the first time, and so did my mum. A new phase begins. A long phase of development and rehabilitation. They both need me..... and those smiles will have to give me the strength. Thank you also for all your good wishes and thoughts - my friends keep me going too.....
Friday, October 8, 2010
I am a young mum, and am too young to loose my mum.
Who will call me every morning to see how my night has been?
Who will I call every afternoon to hear how her day has been, and be told how cold it is, even when it's 20 degrees?
Who will call me every evening during the kid's tea, saying "I know it's a bad time, but...."?
Who will fix my knitting?
Who will turn their face to the sun with me as we sit outside and watch the girls play?
Who will hold my hand, despite me being 40 years old?
Who will stroke my face?
Who will tell me I'm talented and amazing?
Who will tell me I'm spoilt and need to grow up?
Who will help me make all the forthcoming birthday cakes?
Who will I call when I can't make gravy?
Who will I want when I'm ill and no-one will do but her?
Who will I share all my joy and pain with?
Who will I share my everyday moments with over a cup of tea and a chocolate ("You can never have a cuppa without a bite of chocolate")?
The void she is leaving is too dark, too deep, too dangerous, too frightening to behold right now. All I can do is hold her hand. I suspect my three girls will hold me back from the edge.
I hold her hand every day, a hand that has touched and guided me my entire life.
I stroke her face, a face that has filled my vision more than any other face in my life.
My heart is breaking, and the person I need to fix it can't help me any more.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
For so long you have lain on my lungs and my spine, my stomach shoved under my left armpit, my bladder squashed somewhere behind my right buttock. But three days ago, they lifted you out and laid you in my arms, your head laid on my heart. For something so small, babies have an incredible capacity to fill every atom of the world around them - you are not yet three days old, yet I hardly remember life before you. You have filled every breath. My lungs are back in place, but the air in them is bursting with the smell of you. We are cocooned in our little world, the occassional visitor entering our womb of wonder but leaving us again. Your gorgeous ginger dad is delighted - his first excited words: "she's a red-head!" I'm not at all convinced but I'm not going to burst his ginger bubble yet. Daisy and Poppy, your sisters are smitten, and you are already accepting of being pulled and prodded.
Monday, September 20, 2010
As a child I always wanted to be different. I didn't want to fit in, instead I strived to stand out. I don't know why. I lived in my imagination, creating stories and imagined experiences, desperate for my perfectly fine, but ordinary, life to become extraordinary. That ambtion took me to Pakistan as a teenager to teach English, threw me into the scrum of women's rugby, led me to lead an orangutan through the jungles of Borneo and release it into the wild. With every book I devoured, with every word I ingested, my appetite for adventure increased.
I never wanted "the norm" and so I surprised myself along with everyone else when I married the man of my dreams, a wild-hearted adventurer and lover of life. And then it all became a bit serious - we had babies, we had losses, we had job-enforced separation, we had money issues, we had stresses. We had some laughs, we had lots of joy and even the odd little adventure. But I started to feel that old feeling of ordinaryness - a statistic even. Even my heartaches were numbers - one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage. Older mums have a harder time keeping pregnancies. It frightened me.
But as I feel the last kicks of my baby before I hold her in my arms tomorrow, I know that my life is utterly extraordinary. The sheer amazingness of the girls, the joy of being loved by a great man, the thrill of being a mum. In doing the ordinary, I found the extraordinary.
Life is not made extraordinary by the things we do. Life is made extraordinary by the people we love. And tomorrow, I meet a new love of my life. Extraordinary, don't you think?
Thursday, September 2, 2010
My name is Alana Kirk and I am a blogging basket-case, a creative couch-potato, a literary lout. My beautiful baby (the blog) has been neglected and abandoned in favour of my beautiful baby (in belly). There have been no words of wisdom, no funny fables and certainly no insightful...well, insights. As my stomach has swelled, so my brain has diminished until all I am capable of (until about 4pm anyway) is basic speech and a vague responsibility for my two children. All other tasks have turned into Mt Everest - impossible, dangerous and too bloody daunting.
Which leads nicely onto my theme for this rather tardy post.... great expectations. Do they help us strive forward and attain new heights, or do they crush us until we are quibbling wrecks of self-preceived failure and un-ticked lists? I've always thought the former, always lived on lists and always moved my little world continually forward. But now, to be honest, I am feeling a little deflated (despite my inflated body). I am finding the expectations on me from my family, my hubby and my children (expectations no doubt I have created through years of frenetic functioning and copious coping through everything) too much. Way, way, way too much. I am utterly exhausted. Six pregnancies in 5 years, three babies - well, two and one imminent), writing, living, and yes, I admit, far too much baking and decorating. I'm always the one who copes, so when I realise that at this precise moment in time - as my body defies gravity, my sleep-deprived exhaustion defies death and lengthy lists of to-do are lengthier lists of not-done - I am not coping, those that see me (I'm hard to miss) are not really seeing me. They are not seeing that I need not to have any expectations on me. That I am scared and incompetent and emotional and needy - all the things I am ususally not. But it works both ways too. I have great expectations of them, and how anyone live up to those? And so I conclude before my head explodes from thinking too much instead of mulching more brain cells.
Maybe we should all take the great away from expectations. Maybe we need to have real expectations. To completely ruin a beautiful saying ... give me the serenity to accept the things I can do, the courage to let go of the things I just can't right now, and the wisdom to know the difference. So with that I sign off with a flourish, and will NOT go and cook another 42 cottage pies for the freezer and instead sit down with a cup of tea. And a lovely (bought!) chocolate muffin. And it may be some time before I work up the energy to write again. Sorry.
Sunday, August 15, 2010
Sunday, August 1, 2010
No - 'fitting it all in' now refers to my near frantic frenzy of to-do-lists I have to tick off before I get too fat to waddle and then too tired to bother.
I have emerged from my sloth-like caterpillar stage, through some imaginary hormone happy chrysalis, into some energetic, creatively juicy, albeit rather heavy and un-graceful butterfly, fluttering and muttering to myself as I prepare our household for the onslaught of a new baby. How could something so small, require so much preparation? Thinking, list-making, knitting, shopping, cooking, decorating, did I mention shoppng?, preparing bedrooms, making childcare plans.... never mind preparing our two girls for their little steps into the big worlds of school and montessori.
Between the sickness and tiredness of early and mid pregnancy I had to abandon many of my regular activities and focus on the essential.... like feeding my children. But now - resplendent in bulbous blooming bountiful energy - I have finished my novel. It is done. It is printed and I even posted it to an editor for some feedback. It may of course spend the next thirty years in my desk drawer, but it is done. But that's not all! I've made the curtains for the baby room, bought the beds for the girls, moved the cot into place, bought the buggy, and I've even made the To do list for Daisy's birthday party in October and bought her presents (yes I know, but it's only 3 weeks after the birth so I need to have it done!). I still have a list that hangs down to my feet (though thankfully I can see neither the end of the list or my feet). I have finished articles for Christmas deadlines, and bought 20 pie dishes for my culinary challenge of filling the freezer with nutritious food so nobody starves in the first few weeks. Daisy's school uniform is bought (though not labelled - add to list!), I've been reading Poppy books on starting Montessori, I have even - yes, may I stand proud and non-apologetic - bought some Christmas presents. And I've even returned to my blogging world and caught up with some old friends..... if you are still with me - I've missed reading your stories and am loving catching up with your hurly burly lives once more.
It feels good to be alive again, and now as I tick, tick, tick my lists, I count the days until the sleep sloth of sweet surrender mists over me again as the sweet smell of my new baby's head renders all my lists meaningless.
But for now, I am leading the charge on those lists like a demented dragon. No wonder then Daisy looked confused the other day when hubby told her she couldn't have something because he was the boss and said so. She looked at him, genuinely baffled, before replying, " But daddy, that's not true. Mummy is the boss."
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Friday, July 16, 2010
Monday, July 5, 2010
To my mum, who is rather sensitive about her thinning hair, Daisy declared:
"Nanna? I can see your head through your hair!"
She was then accosted by Daisy's best friend Mia: "You are a very old lady. But I like you!"
Being pregnant, it was only a matter of time before Poppy announced "You are fat!" This is a slight improvement on last summer when I was sunning myself in the garden when Daisy started pointing at me and counting, 1,2, 3, 4. I asked her what she was doing....
"Counting your rolls."
It's tough being a mum. I was recently sent off with my tail between my legs after being informed, "You are not pretty today." (Apparently I made the mistake of wearing blue jeans - these are unacceptable in the world of pink dress wearing daughters.)
And today, in a pique of annoyance at not being allowed another bun, Daisy stamped her foot and said, "You are HORRIBLE! I'm going out to dance in the rain!"
And she did. So I did what any self-respecting fat, ugly, horrible mummy does - I joined her and danced in the rain too. That got a lovely "I love you mummy" so all was well with the world again.
Sunday, June 27, 2010
Nowadays it seems so much more complicated. While me and my peers rode on the shoulders of our forbearing feminist barrier-breakers, we travelled the world, climbed the corporate ladder and took our rightful place on a bar stool. As we come down from those dizzying heights though, we find ourselves struggling not only to cope with pregnancy and parenting at the tail end of our body's best breeding window, we find ourselves struggling to cope with becoming pregnant at all.
I'm one of the new feminist statistics - pregnant at 40, exhaustingly extolling the virtues of late parenthood as I bring up two toddlers with no surrounding extended family, while secretly wishing I was actually ten years younger (as opposed to just looking ten years younger!) And I play perfectly into the fearful facts of delayed reproduction - three miscarriages in six pregnancies, my grief and loss hidden behind the awful commonness of my experiences. For it is not just me. All around me my peers - from my closest buddies, to my wider network of friends and acquaintances, we feminists are still fighting for our place in society - but this time, our place as mothers.
Infertility. Miscarriage. Chromosomal issues. Unexplained problems. A few years ago it would all have been about cross-stitched gifts and congratualtions, now it seems more about crossed fingers and commiserations. And so as I navigate the current wave of friend's frustrations and disappointments (while keeping quiet about my own little window of wonder), it was a super shock when I heard recently about a friend's good news. I almost burst with delight that someone else would be finally sharing the joy I feel right now. Nature's rainbow amid the cloudy skies. It shocked me how rare it has become.
And although I often think about what would have been if I had started my family earlier, thoughts pushed aside as I account for every year of travelling, career building, party pleasing as ones I would not have given up, will I be telling my girls to try for families earlier? Yes, I think I will. And not just because if they have inherited my dodgy X chromosome they too will be susceptable to a much greater risk of miscarriage, but because simply I would wish on them the rainbow, and not the clouds. And as I read in today's paper that doctors have now devised a test that could tell young women the precise age at which they will no longer be able to have children, perhaps the next generation can ride on our shoulders as well as the shoulders of our predecessors, and from those dizzying heights finally make the choices they need to make to have fulfilled and happy lives.
Monday, June 21, 2010
I am increasingly becoming an (albeit suntanned) beached whale as my baby cooks nicely in my tummy, and I cook beautifully in the sun-shine. I'm slowing down, being forced to watch a bit more from the side-lines rather than centre stage as the girls play and posture in summer silliness. They are funny little mites, and I settle down in my front row seat at the most amusing, amazing show on earth. And I need my rest, because it all kicks off in September. Usually I'm a mess at times like these (Daisy just finishing Monetessori for good) unable to let go. But this time I know September is going to be full of new beginnings.
Daisy starts school - a seismic shift in my parenting experience, mother to a schoolgirl.
Poppy starts Montessori - after three years of being home with me this is a huge step for us both.
And my new baby arrives - a unique show beginning all over again.
Three stages, each with its own challenges and triumphs, each mesmerising and unmissable. Three little people embarking on three huge steps of their lives - and I not only get to watch, I get to clap and cheer and hold their hands. Pass the popcorn and show me the emergency exits - I suspect come September I'll be too stressed, sleep-deprived, hyper, emotional and exhausted to appreciate any of it!
Sunday, June 13, 2010
I won't go over old ground here. Suffice to say loosing three babies took its toll and took time to try and deal with. When the draw of diving into a depression of grief became too tantalising, I had to make a decision that I wasn't going to let my losses become the over-riding force in my life. That has to be my gains; our girls, and now my third baby on its way.
But there are still moments. Moments still given over to my lost children; moments that belong to them; moments of longing and lost memories. But they are moments amid the mayhem of life and living, happy loud days where the sound of Daisy singing and Poppy laughing fills the silence. And my moments are easier because I know definitively that my babies were lost. I know absolutely they had died. And I know why. I know my chromosome disorder meant they were never going to live. I am lucky.
For the countless women reading the paper with me today who have also lost babies and do not have those assurances, I cannot imagine their pain. The ultrasound scandal that has jammed the Irish radio airwaves and blackened the newpapers has opened up raw wounds for so many vulnerable parents. As more and more women emerge to tell their tragic stories of being told their babies were dead, booked in for D&C's, but somehow had the instinct and strength to fight for second opinions only to discover their babies were alive and well, more and more women who didn't fight, who couldn't insist, who believed the authority bestowed on medical staff - and will now never know if they lost more than their dreams must be feeling the earth has shifted on its axis.
I have felt my losses all over again this week, and my heart aches for those women forever haunted now by the thoughts of 'what if'......
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
- Pass the Marlborough Lights love
- Another cocktail? Sure, make it three.
- Do you sell Ambre Solaire oil?
- Let's go to that cosy little restaurant and have a long romantic night
- Let's go clubbing!!
- We can walk around these ancient Greek ruins and then have a bottle of Rose for lunch
- Oooh - Shops!! I'll meet you in an hour.
Here's what I said on a holiday with two young children and pregnant:
- Put your hats on girls.
- Have you put cream on the kids?
- Shall we just go to bed when they settle? It's been a long day.
- Don't run round the pool!
- KEEP YOUR SUN HATS ON!
- NO! You'll turn into an ice-cream if you have any more.
- OK, no more ruins. Let's find a playground.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
The kids sceam, the cats meaow and as soon as I sit down, the baby kicks the hell out of me.
"Take it easy," they tell pregnant women. Are they having a laugh?
But the other side of my brain is happy and relaxed. Whenever the frenetic fury of the other side stops squawking for a moment, my happy side realises that this is actually the time of my life. I have two glorious, gorgeous girls, one gorgeous, glorious guy, and one much loved, much wanted, long awaited baby on the way. My mum and dad, and brother's fmaily are close, alive and well.
My life is hectic, and rushed, and chaotic, and challenging, and exhausting and exhilerating, because my life is full. For the last two years, grief and confusion has played a large part in our life and the loss of three babies will always be felt. But. My life is alive and filled with love and laughter. I may be exhausted most of the time, but I am also grateful. And I need to tell the other side of my brain to chill out a bit more. This is the time of my life, and I want to live it.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
There are mornings as I lay in the yet unseen bedroom, my eyes still shut, and I wonder what new things I will learn today. After a lifetime of learning, I seem to have gone on sabatical since my girls were born. And what makes my eyes spring open and stare, slightly perplexed, at the ceiling, is the vast dark abyss of the things I don't know.
I read an article recently about a man. He's the top dog at the British Museum. He has touched history (literally), he has studied life, he has experienced knowledge I could never attain. His whole life has been about discovery and learning. There are days I feel my whole life is about wiping bums and finding good deals on fresh fruit. Then I watched an interview with the award-laden Irish author John Banville. Litering his literary library, his knowledge in Greek and Roman mythology was so ingrained in his everyday thoughts, it didn't even seem like something specific he knew. It was just knowledge that I did not know.
I don't have a specialised subject. All those years of travel and working and reading - what did I actually learn? My geography is appalling, my third world development politics faded as my management skills took over - and lets face it - there's not a lot of knowledge there. Yes, I've read lots of novels, but what have I learned? Surely someone as widely educated and travelled and well-lived as me should know a few things? The essence of French cuisine? The planetary portfolio? The names of common plants and flowers? The bird species of Ireland? How to download the footage from my video camera to my computer?
So I have to start cramming. I have to put down my novels and pick up my text books. I have to get off the couch and go back to night school. Maybe once the baby's born. Ok, definitely once the baby is sleeping through the night. Maybe next summer. In the meantime I'll just have to wing it. But then again, not always. Yesterday Daisy asked me why I loved her. Ah. That I know. That I can answer that. Easily.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Monday, April 12, 2010
My hubby is an oncologist who gets up at 6.15 every morning and is out of the house by seven before the girls wake up. He leaves work early so he can see them before they go to bed and then works every evening catching up on patient's notes and paperwork. He's busy. He's tired.
I'm on my sixth pregnancy in 5 years (my third baby) and have been pregnant two and a half years of those five. I don't sleep well, not helped by Poppy who decides to visit me at least four nights out of seven - often wearing a tutu. I have no childcare, and as well as looking after them and the home, I try to write magazine articles, blogs and a novel. I'm busy. I'm tired.
So sometimes we need a night off. The spare room in our house is not the Room of Resentment - it is the Bedroom of Bliss. We've never ever used it as a retreat from each other, but we often use it as retreat from the children. It is the Reward Room, the place we offer up to each other as a treat to refresh ourselves and get a good night's sleep. "Why don't you sleep in the spare room tonight?" is one of the nicest things hubby can say to me!
The other day I mentioned sleeping in the spare room to my mum and she raised that ever-expressive eyebrow (I've mentioned before how much my mum can say without actually talking just by raising her eyebrow - I've tried but I just look like someone whose face lift went wrong). "That's not good for a marriage you know," she claimed. I knew better than to argue (merely rolled my eyes - standard response to raised eyebrow - we barely have to talk). But I did ponder it. And as such, I've decided to go public with my findings.
THE SPARE ROOM IS A MARRIAGE SAVER. I'll tell you one thing that's a marriage breaker - Exhaustion, along with its team mates Grumpy, Short-temper and Snappy. If they are not controlled on a regular basis, then the spare room would indeed be used for altogether different reasons. So I just wondered... is anyone else a closet Spare Room User? Does anyone else want to come out and admit that closing that spare room door is the best part of the week?
Thursday, April 8, 2010
Thursday, April 1, 2010
So even though I've spent the last few months cajooling, negotiating, discussing, demonstrating, bribing, pleading and begging Poppy to consider giving up her nappies for the pleasure of pants, and been met with a definite 'NO!', I haven't been able to envisage a world without them.
And then yesterday my world shifted on its axis. Poppy announced she wanted to do a wee wee on the toilet, strutted off to the loo, promptly did her business, wiped and flushed and sauntered out with that look I've come to know so well. The look that says "on my terms, Mummy. On my terms." Two hours later, a poo was delivered with the same aplomb and we haven't looked back since. And just like that I'm living in a nappy free world. I am no longer a nappy changer. (I'm well aware that in exactly 26 weeks and 3 days it'll all start over, but I can enjoy it for a while!). I'm slightly at a loss.
I shouldn't be surprised though at the suddeness of it all. I saw that same look when I was trying to encourage Poppy to walk. She refused. Point blank. Then one day she promptly got up and strolled into the kitchen with a backward glance to my dropped jaw that said with a wink, "Gotcha."
I have a funny suspicion that I'm going to be gotcha'd quite a lot over the next few years.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
How preposterous us pre-parents were! Actually I was fairly strict at the beginning and the TV was never put on before Daisy went to bed for her first 18 months. And then I needed to feed my new baby which Daisy took great exception to and suddenly Dora became my new best friend.
Now four years on, I still have some issues with TV - I only let them watch taped stuff so they don't get exposed to adverts. They get half an hour at lunchtime (although I have to confess in my pregnancy fog of late, that might have been extended to an hour when that sofa gets a bit too comfy for my weary self), and half an hour at bedtime.
So admittedly we all know TV is good for us parents - a little in-house babysitting so we can send an email or make the tea. But I also think it does have value for them too. At least, my girls' current addiciton is. Who'd have thought a little pink pig called Peppa would make parenting so much easier? She's fiesty (but polite), curious (and smart), sociable (and kind), loving (and funny). Her family are a little madcap but they also do lots of everyday things - Peppa goes to school, she loves her friends (and falls out with them), her family go on outings, they talk about stuff, they have lots and lots of fun.... and they teach my girls quite a lot! Now I'm able to say things like "well Peppa always eats her dinner", and Daisy says things like "Peppa goes to the museum, can we go?" We even dealt with riding a bicycle the other day because Peppa had finally managed it!
Now everything I need to explain I can use Peppa as our perfect example. Admittedly English hubby is less enamoured and I'm secretely delighted that Mummy Pig is rather fantastic and Daddy Pig is a bit of a bumbling idiot....... but, his payback is that my little Irish girls now talk with a perfect English accents! Ah, how I eat my pre-parenting words as I curl up on the sofa with the girls. TV is good. Now, where's the damn remote.
Monday, March 8, 2010
- The colour purple
- The way Poppy looks at me when she is naughty
- Lists - making them, colour coding them, crossing them off
- Planning and organising.... it's an affliction I know...
- The crackle of a fire and the heat from the blaze on a cold windy night
- A heartbeat at that first scan
- When a little hand reaches up into mine when I'm walking down the road
- My husband's laugh
- Daisy's goodnight kisses
- Stepping off a plane on holiday and feeling a foreign sun welcome me
- Green chicken curry
- Sunday's at home, pottering in a sunny garden with the girls running round throwing sand on the lawn.
- Disappearing into a book and feeling like I live there on the pages
- Every single thing about Christmas
- Driving in the car (alone) and listening to music (other than the Wheels on the Bus) very very loudly
- Colin Firth as Mr Darcy jumping into the lake
- Saturday morning cuddles in bed with the girls, all warm and entangled
- My family - and the fact that 40 years on I still want to spend time with my mum, dad and brother
- The knowledge that the first half was great, and the second half will be even better because I will get to watch the best show on earth - my girls growing up
- The thought that I'm going to spend the next 40 years of my life with him and them
So there we are. The celebrations are over, the presents unwrapped, the balloons burst. Back to getting on with this 40 year old life.... and just so I don't get carried away with all the love and affection I've received the last week, my girls know just how to keep me grounded. When I told Daisy I was forty last week, she was quiet for a moment and then looked at me forlornly - "That's old. Are you going to die?"
Thursday, February 25, 2010
1. The smell of my husband's skin, especially on his neck
2. The sound of Poppy's laughter, and Daisy's giggles
3. The feel of the sun on my face
4. The way the first sip of Gin & Tonic tastes after a long day
5. The way I feel when I write something good (like standing on top of a mountain)
6. Standing on top of a mountain
7. The smell of M&S chocolate chip cookies as they are taken out of the oven
8. The possibilities of life
9. The purr of my cat at my ear
11. Looking at my babies in the dead of the night, their faces perfect in sleep
12. The smell of bread
13. The surprising sound of birdsong when I realise winter is over
14. The smell of tropical sea
15. The memories, so many, so varied, so intrinsic
16. The smell of the pages of a new book (and even better, the smell of an old book)
17. My mum
18. My girls, my oh so funny, smart, loving, beautiful, astonishing, wondrous girls
19. My girlfriends, without whom life would be a mere shadow of what it is
20. Colour coding, lists, and planning - I'm salivating at the mere thought of it.
I could go on, but this burst of bustling energy is slowly fizzling out as the fog of nausea returns, like a curtain announcing the end of the play. Time to retire until they open again. I might just drag my forty year old ass upstairs and look at my girls as they sleep. Always good to do something we love.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
And while a little heartbeat wildly beats alongside mine, my other wild hearts continue to run riot amid my nausea fog. Today it was my make-up drawer. The sight of my Benefit liquid rouge spilt all over my bedroom, mixed madly with my mascara and nailvarnish would normally have me hitting the roof. But today, I sat on the floor, and laughed. A hearty, heartbeating laugh.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
I'm having a good hour, so I've rushed to the laptop. (I should probably be rushing to do the ironing, hoovering, stocking the freezer and all those other neglected jobs but hey, I'm not feeling THAT well). Despite this being my 6th pregnancy, I had STILL forgotten how debilitating the tiredness is and how devastating the nausea. I must lie on the floor at least 6 hours a day, and then go to bed at 8pm. The girls have taken to talking to me with their heads tilted to the side, since they rarely get me in a position where they have to look up to me anymore. I groan a lot too. Not sure it's as affective as the ginger tea, but I do it all the same. And as I lounge (groaning) on the sofa, the girls are running a little wild. Yesterday, as I hugged the floor they floated into the kitchen. How much harm could they do? Quite a lot it seems. They decided to do the washing up (sad indictment of my lack of energy these day that my four and two year olds feel they need to take things into their own hands....) I finally dragged myself into the kitchen at the sound of shattering glass.... it looked like the early stages of the sinking of the Titanic, everything within a little arm's radius of the sink had been submerged in suds - including my radio.
Later, after I'd cleared up, I let them go upstairs to dress up, thinking "I'll just lie down...." When I eventually called them for dinner, I misinterpreted their sheepish grins - their outfits were a tad Vivienne Westwood. It was only when I dragged them upstairs for bed almost dead on my feet I discovered their secret. Their floor had disappeared. Completely. In it's place was a sea of clothes. Every single item of clothing from their two chest of drawers, their wardwrobe, their bedding, the (extremely full) laundry basket and anything else they could get their hands on. It was almost too tempting to just lie down on it, but I resisted and it took me 45 minutes to refold and put everything away. My pregnancy fog clouded my anger, and I had to even suppress a smile.
It's like they've been let off the leash, their imagination no longer constrained by my boundaries and presence. My good hour is up, I feel the wall of nausea wrap itself around me so I am off to lie (groaning) on the sofa. And they can run a little wild. I'd say it's good for us all.
Monday, February 8, 2010
This has been one of the most difficult weeks of my life. The Geneticist threw up more questions than answers. My head is swirling and every time I try to think of something else, I eventually come crashing back down to this dark unknown road all over again. As those of you who know me by now, know I'm a type A, list-upon-list, micro-managing, uber organising kinda gal. Having what I deem the most important parts of my life out of my control is like not being able to wake up from a nightmare.
It's not just that I have a rare chromosomal disorder anymore. In between getting the tests done and being called in urgently for the results, I found out I was pregnant. Delirious and determined, I absolutely believed this baby would stay. Three miscarriages was just bad luck, and my luck was going to change. And then the shocking news that it wasn't bad luck at all. It was bad chromosomes.
So now this doesn't just affect my beautiful girls, it also affects my unborn child - my dream third baby that I have fought and grieved so hard over. And this is what I know. I have a 40% chance of losing it. If I don't (and these days tick by slower than purgatory as I try and notch up enough weeks to make it more and more viable) I have a 50% chance of having a healthy girl or boy (with my good X chromosome). But I have a 50% chance of having a baby with my defected X chromosome. If a girl, she (and my two girls who we have not tested yet) have a 10% chance of having fertility and ovarian dysfunction. This ranges from the pretty bad (what I have) to the bloody devastatingly awful (no eggs, no ovaries and no prospect of natural puberty). I can't even take my head there. If it's a boy, because of where the chromosome break is, they suspect he would have significant learning (and possible physical) disabilities. I don't even know where to begin trying to figure out what I even think about all this. All day nausea (a good sign, right?) is draining me pretty low, not leaving much for this, the biggest thing I've ever had to deal with.
I write this because A) it helps to get it out, and if I repeat it enough it might start to make sense to me, and B) because I might be a bit distracted over the coming weeks and withdraw a lttle from my beloved writing world and women.
While I don't want this to take over my life - I have two beautiful girls to raise and an unborn child to nuture - I need to take time and space to work through this. So please forgive my silence while I try and deal with this. The other possibility of course, is you'll have to forgive my endless witterings - I don't know which way it will go yet.
So thank you again, to all my virtual and physical friends - I couldn't do this without you.
Sunday, January 31, 2010
Except this. When my dodgy X chromosone meets my husbands (perfectly good) Y chromosone when we conceive, we produce a fetus that is incompatible with life. And that is what they were. Three pregnancies incompatible with life. Which is funny, in that heart-breakingly awful sort of way, because I thought they were wonderful beginnings of life. We are seeing a Geneticist on Wednesday to try and find out what implications my 'disorder' (thanks, like my chromosomes are guilty of disorderly conduct) have on my girls, me and our chances of having another much-wanted baby.
So on one hand, I now know why I have lost three babies and there is some comfort in that. Not enough to take away my grief, but enough to know I hadn't done something wrong. On the other hand, a whole scary vista of not knowing has opened up before me. And there may not be any answers. Out of 7500 people on the UK's Rare Chromosome Disorder Support Group database, only 7 have a pericentric inversion of their X chromosome, and none have what I have. None. My consultant has never come across this in 20 years. When my husband said I was one in a million, it seems he was being very conservative.
And my chances of having another baby? My head is hurting from the swirling odds, and statistics and percentages that actually tell me nothing. But all I know is this. Somehow, in the chaos of my chromosomal catastrophe, two miracle girls emerged in a statistically sinister environment where the odds were not stacked in their favour. I have been incredibly, incredibly lucky..... and that, more than anything else in the last few days, is what has turned my world upside down.
Monday, January 25, 2010
But once or twice recently I’ve caught myself looking at her and feeling a little off colour. It’s not that my rose tinted glasses have slipped off – she is as dynamic and dazzling as ever. It’s just that there has been the hint of a haze of green that clouds my eyes. I’ve actually been feeling a twinge of jealousy. Is that awful?
Her life sprawls before her like a long lazy summer’s day, while I feel a chill in the air as I enter the autumn of my life. Is this normal? I think of all the life and loves she has yet to experience, all the excitement and energy she has yet to enjoy. Her life is like a beautiful map – a chaotic ramble of roads and avenues unknown and unexplored. Mine resembles a shopping list – things to get before I run out.
But then as I snuggle her up at the end of a long day of shared moments together (making collages) and shared moments apart (like this one, where I ‘do important work on the computer’ at the kitchen table and they play beside me lost in their imaginary world of Peppa Pig figures – life imitating art more and more!) and she asks me to tell her a story. As I rack my brains, she prompts me to tell her about when I was a little girl. And I sit on the floor beside her, stroking her long hair and I tell her about my eating so much chocolate one Easter, I threw up. I tell her about my rabbit who nearly bit my dad’s finger off. I tell her about the elephant that chased us in Africa. “You were chased by an elephant mummy?” I was. And many, many, many other adventures and excitements and experiences, many in far away lands, that have made my life incredible. And in telling her, I suppose I will relive them again. And I realise that while she has her whole life ahead of her, I have half of mine behind me and it is a map littered with roads and avenues explored and enjoyed. And hopefully I have another half yet to live, more paths to travel, unknown and unexplored, and the difference is now her footsteps will walk alongside mine.
And so I embrace that smidgen of envy and mix it up with large dollops of pride…it will keep me reminded that I must keep making my life – and now hers – extraordinary.
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Thursday, January 14, 2010
This is me and my mum at Daisy's christening. I love this photo for so many reasons, the obvious one being the sheer joy and happiness and love we all share - three generations of smiles. But it also represents the beginning of so many things. A new relationship with my mum - one based on our love of my children, and her being needed once again, after years of being pushed away by an independent, cocky teenager and twenty-something. It represents the beginning of my life as a mum, an incredible journey that I am still only on the first tentative steps of. And finally, it represents the beginning of my writing career - this picture was included with my first ever published article called Mothers & Daughters (www.alanakirkgillham.com/Publishedarticles.html ) that began a new era for me and hopefully the stepping stones towards a lifetime of writing .
The future is impossible without the past, and often I have struggled with managing the two forceful elements of my life - the pre-children and post-children me.... and yet my mum has been the bridge between the two, keeping me sane and intact while while I often unravelled. Three generations of smiles are still smiling, and that makes me happier than pretty much anything else.
Sunday, January 10, 2010
I regard myself as a feminist, and here’s why. I believe in my potential – not just as a woman, but as a person. I believe in my daughters’ potential, and will make it my life’s mission to ensure they know that they have every opportunity open to them to suceed in life. Suceed in career, in love, in knowledge and most of all, in happiness. But I’ve been rather confused of late, unsure what legacy as a stay at home mum I’m leaving my daughters, and by the (seemingly minority) opinions I have that there’s nothing wrong with girls being princesses. Did this mean I was no longer a feminist?
I started out believing the tired old crap I learned by rote…. “all men are bastards.” I actually used that phrase in my youth…. yet my brother is one of the best men I know. I didn’t think for myself, just took on board the beliefs (wrong as it turns out) of others. But at uni, I fell apon a course that changed (literally and literaryily) my life. Through Women Writers and the words of Virginia Woolf, Mayo Angelou, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Margaret Atwood and others, I began to empower myself and open up my mind to the realisation that feminism has nothing to do with men, and everything to do with women – strong, brave, kind, loving, generous, creative women. I built my life on their teachings, and they journeyed with me on many roads. I travelled the world, I broadened my knowledge, I made friends, I worked hard and strove harder. I did my best and did well. I had a wonderful career and I found love. The perfect feminist life: all the brilliance with none of the bluster; all the vigour with none of the violence; all the adventure with none of the aggression; all of the loving and none of the hating.
And then my world turned upside down. I became a mother. I fulfilled the role my body, my biological engineering, my nature and my nurture was destined for. It was less a case of earth mother and more a case of coming down to earth with a bang when I gave up that career to stay at home with my girls. I loved my job but I loved being wth them more. It was that simple. I have no regrets whatsoever about giving up my (paid) job but I often worry and wonder about how I look to my girls -the personification of all I had fought against. They see daddy go to work while mummy washes the dishes. But then I realise that actually it was my most feminist of all my actions – making the choice that best suited my lifestyle. And the one thing Virginia Woolf wrote about in her essay A Room of One’s Own, and others that blazed (braless or not) the way for women, was not actually that we just have to reach to pinnacle of the career ladder, but that we have options and choices available to us to follow the best path to reach our own potential and development. For me, that was the choice to take time out from my career to focus on bringing up my girls while they are very young.
Into this came the blogging debate. “Prissy” was used regularly to describe (you could almost see the lips curling in scathing disgust) the awfulness of daughters loving pink. 'Pink is the problem' was the message. But I kept asking myself why? I kept asking why ‘tomboy’ (a kowtow to the ‘men are better’ attitude that supressed women for so so long) was a better message? If a girl likes pink, let her wear pink. Surely that is what Virginia and others fought for – our right to be who we want to be? Our right to be feminine and still achieve all we want?
Daisy is a pink girl through and through. At one point she would only wipe her bum with pink toilet paper. Poppy however is red. And occassionally orange. I love both of their individuality (sure many other girls are into pink, but because it’s Daisy’s own choice, her own nature that views the world through rose tinted glasses despite the fact I had never dressed her in pink previosuly, that makes it her individuality). She also likes digging up worms. Wearing pink doesn’t make her a prissy princess, any more than liking worms makes her a ‘tomboy’. It makes her her. She might like watching Snow White, but she’s smart enough to know when things don’t seem right to her. I was singing The Sun Has Got His Hat on last summer, and she turned to me, and said “No mummy I think the sun has got HER hat on.” Quite right, I thought. We went out to build a snowman yesterday and she said, “Actually mummy, why don’t we build a snowgirl.” Quite right, I thought.
So now that I feel ok that despite my dishwashing she will naturally grow up in an environment where it won’t even occur to her that she can’t achieve anything, and already questions the masculinity of phrases (like Snowman), and that the women around her – me, her godmothers, my friends , her family – are all vibrant, smart women, I’m brave enough to enter the blogging debate again, and this time, defend my pink position.
I believe those who diss girls for being ‘girlie’ are doing them - and all women - a great diservice. They should be allowed to be exactly the girl they want to be. A good parent will teach their daughter to be happy and confident with who they are, and smart enough to always strive for their potential, whatever colour they wear – that is what feminism is. Are Disney’s princess stories bad for them? I don’t think so. Yes, the stories are old fashioned – and isn’t that a good talking point? But they are also all, without exception, about good beating evil, about kindness and generosity over nastiness and selfishness, about overcoming challenges to follow your dream. Isn’t that what feminism is teaching us?
We were watching Sleeping Beauty the other day, and I could see Daisy was a bit agitated. “Why does she keep sleeping through everything?” Quite right, I thought. So I’m a stay-at-home mum, with a pink princess for a daughter. Am I a feminist? Damn right I am. Because I made choices that made my life amazing, and I will let my daughters do the same. My girls won’t be sleeping through the action, but they may be wearing pink.
What do you think? If you disagree, let’s talk. I’m ready this time.…. And for those of you who haven’t already, please go and join Judith’s Room – Virginia’s legacy of wonderful women who have made choices to make their lives extraordinary.
Postscript- 3 days later - Just asked the girls what they want to be when they grow up. Daisy said "builder" and Poppy said "a man." You gotta laugh!
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
1. We moved into our family home, the place I will sleep (hopefully), laugh (definitely), cry (probably), and write (inspiringly) as we raise our children and deliver them out into the world loved and laden with encouragement.
2. Our family holiday. It was local, it was wet, it was windy and it was wonderful.
3. My summer off with the girls. The first time I realised I could let go a little, and enjoy (while not being pregnant or breastfeeding) long days of just being a mum in the sun, picnics and adventures galore.
4. Our extended family holiday when the Kirk Clan descended on Dublin, little people laughing while big people ate – bliss.
5. After a hard day at home with the girls, coming home in the evening with a glass of wine to my blogging family – wonderful women who teach and inspire, and challenge and support and encourage and make me feel I belong to something amazing. Oh wait… I do!
And so I offer the High Five tag to the following…. And I’m sorry if she’s been tagged before but I have to add Josie in there,
Sleep is for the weak
High Five y’all, and here’s to the many highs to 2010.
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
Lots of “oh, I’m going to plan my weekly menu every Sunday so I know what I’m cooking all week”s, and a few “Right, no more chocolate Monday to Friday”s and even a couple of “right, I AM going to get up at 6am and go for a run”s. But while we are busy renewing ourselves, the reality that January 1st is in fact just another day with no actual seismic shift in the universe is demonstrated by our children and the ever constant certainties of parenting that show no regard for new years, never mind new decades.
Despite all my resolutions, the revolution of parenting remains as dormant as the snowdrops. As I contemplated the ten new things I was going to change this year, I realized they have no impact on the ten old things that will stay exactly the same:
1. There will always be another poo-ey nappy to out-stink the one before. It will always be done seconds before you leave the house.
2. Kids will ALWAYS get sick on a bank holiday when the doctors are closed.
3. Kids will always get sick – and pass it on to you – when you have visitors so they all get sick and you get labeled the House of Pestilence.
4. There will always be some smug single man who designs children’s toy packaging for a living. He may even do it as a hobby, since only someone with a passion for destroying the fraught mind and fingernails of mothers everywhere can come up with the engineering feat that requires a screwdriver (I kid you not) to unpack a Peppa Pig toy from the packaging.
5. They will always wake up before me, and I will always want to go to sleep before them.
6. They will never eat their home cooked tea with same wild abandon they eat chocolate and sweets. I will never get over this.
7. There will always be dishes to wash. Always.
8. They will always start screaming and fighting as soon as I start talking on the phone.
9. They will always show up the child in me. The petulant, tantrum throwing, sulky, “It’s MINE!” selfish child that is.
10. They will always make me smile. Even through gritted teeth.
So, five days in, and the hinge has fallen off the chocolate cupboard so often has it been raided in its groaning post-Christmas splendour; I haven’t managed to actually leave the house, let alone go for a run (I’m blaming the pestilence and the snow)…. (and the large amounts of left over chocolate); this is the first thing I’ve written in 5 days (see next excuse); and I’ve got stuck into The Wire series 4 boxset with such vigour the TV is smoking. So on the whole, my Try Again Year has already sludged down the slippery slope to Same Old, Same Old Year. Good to know some things never change. Even in a new year.