Facing the Beast from the East..

Woke up with a Headache

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I’m having a baby.. but I can’t handle pain… I’m just not prepared!

Having a baby?
My God, no way
I’ll never cope
Take it away!

Oh, you know I don’t mean it
It’s just that I’m scared..
I mean, I can’t handle pain
I’m just not prepared!

I’ve heard that it’s bad,
The birth, you know;
So I don’t want to do it..
But I’ve no choice now…OH NO!,

Now it’s 7 months later
And my baby is here;
It was a wonderful moment,
I had nothing to fear!

Of course I had pain
But it wasn’t THAT bad;
I’d do it all again
And no, I’m definitely not mad!

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Kids: life’s tools…

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My kids I love them very much,
But I still don’t think they know;
How much they mean, how much I care,
And the lengths to which I’d go.

Because they are my world. My hope?
That they treat life with respect;
And are good and caring and kind,
With manners they won’t forget.

Life’s not easy, but as a child,
They have freedom to do what they like:
Not constrained by adult pressures,
They could even – and do! – go on strike!

But Adulthood has obstacles,
And I want them to be prepared;
As we can’t always protect them,
Yet we don’t want them to be scared.

So we will give them tools for life,
To help them along their way;
We’ll share experiences, and our
Wisdom… until our dying day.

Motherhood…

Motherhood had never really been my thing but with my mid-30’s approaching, it was a case of now or never. I reluctantly agreed to ‘go for it’ and shockingly, one month later, I was pregnant.

We were gob-smacked!

It was one thing to say we’d try for a baby, but another for it to happen so quickly, even though I’d done the ‘sticking your legs in the air after sex’ thing to give it a helping hand. We still didn’t think it would happen, at least, not that quickly!

The youngest of four children, I have always been the ‘career’ one. My brother and sisters all got married and had children while I was busy enjoying my job, having boyfriend problems and fighting shy of commitment.

To me, having children would have been to sacrifice a happy, carefree, selfish life for nappies and sleepless nights. Not on your Nellie! I couldn’t see the attraction and when babies were ‘shown off’, I couldn’t understand why everyone got gooey-eyed. Apart from which, I’m allergic to pain and didn’t really fancy giving birth!

So, I couldn’t quite believe the pregnancy test was positive after years of avoiding the possibility. I was in a state of panic and fear, while my husband was in a state of satisfied superiority that all men seem to adopt when they get someone pregnant so quickly.

As the pregnancy progressed, we became oblivious to the impact that having a baby would have on our lives. Between a threatened miscarriage, studying for exams and renovating our house, we didn’t have much time to dwell on ‘life after birth’.
But at seven months, I was admitted to hospital. I went into panic mode after I had steroid injections to strengthen the baby’s lungs in case she decided to make an early entrance. I wasn’t quite ready for the birth experience, especially after I overheard an eerie, ear-piercing wail from somewhere down the hospital corridor.

Five weeks later, after a further four admissions into hospital and without the benefit of attending antenatal classes, our daughter arrived. She was three weeks early. I suffered hours of agonising labour (in my back) in the hospital before giving birth to an audience of my sister, mum and husband (he arrived at the hospital with an hour to spare).

After the birth, I was so elated it was all over that I went into shock.

It had been a difficult five weeks and birth; the hospital midwife didn’t realise I was in labour so only prescribed paracetemol, even though I was doubled over on the floor, unable to speak with the worst pain I have ever experienced. Not a bad thing as I can now boast a natural birth, despite it not being by choice.

I held my daughter only briefly before giving her to my husband and mum to look after and then proceeded to phone close family and friends from the hospital bed! I had switched off from the pain and having the baby. I viewed it as ‘job done – that was a piece of cake’.

Then it hit me over the next few days. Not just the pain, but also the overriding sense of responsibility that comes with having a baby.

Practical things like how do I stop her crying? How on earth do I get the vest on over her head? How do I bathe her? How much food should she have? Things I had not thought about before because we were so worried about her just arriving safely and being healthy.

But more important than that was the realisation that her whole outlook on life will be determined by how we bring her up: will she be well balanced and kind, wise, confident, sociable, respectful, independent, patient?

We will influence many of her characteristics. What a massive responsibility! Bigger than any financial services product launch or media campaign I’ve been involved with.

And I hadn’t bargained for the heart wrenching, overwhelming feelings of love, protection and tenderness, which I now feel for my daughter.

I go gooey-eyed when I see her. I look into her eyes and cry at her perfection and marvel at the miracle that can conceive a child. I am fascinated that I carried her, a little person growing inside me for so long.

I love it when she looks up at me with her deep blue eyes while I am feeding her, so innocent and placing all her trust in me. I have cried when she has cried, not wanting to see her in pain, and know I would give my life for her like a shot.

Yes, it’s sleepless nights, dirty nappies and a lifelong commitment. It’s singing nursery rhymes instead of pop songs and it’s total unselfishness (goodbye to long, leisurely soaks in the bath and spending an hour getting myself ready in the morning!).

But it’s also a raw, deep, all-consuming love which is worth any sacrifice.

(Written in 2003, after the birth of my first daughter).

The County trial…

Right, so the eldest is now on a 3 month trial with the County swimming club after winning the overall BAGCATS award for her age at the recent ASA County Championships and at the end of the first intensive ‘swim camp’ session, all athletes and their parents had to stay for a talk from the head coach.

We were told in no uncertain terms that the athletes were on the start of a journey that would require significant commitment and dedication from the athletes AND their families. We were warned that this would not be easy but the athletes had been put forward for this opportunity because they are deemed to have ‘potential‘.

‘It all starts here,‘ the head coach told us.. ‘You’re at the bottom of the British swimming ladder and I’m a very small cog in the overall swimming machine…but, and I’ll make no bones about it, we are looking for swimmers to stand on the podiums…we want Olympians’.

I could hear the rustle of paper and looked across at Carys, who was sitting next to a new swimming friend she had made earlier during the swim session. She was quietly giggling while unwrapping and eating chocolate!

Mmm, good impression she’ll be giving, I thought, as I gave her a stern look to listen to the coach. However,as I watched her, she was calm, unfazed by it all and just seemed confident and happy – with a few more giggles thrown in every now and then between her and her new friend!

As the coach continued with his talk, he made it clear that at the end of the three camps, the Club will pick their new recruits to join their Club to train to become regional, national, possibly international and hopefully for some of them, Olympic swimmers!

We’re giving you the opportunity, it’s then up to you what you want do with it’, he said as he finished his talk.

We understood the messages loud and clear.

When we got home, we asked if it was still what she wanted.

Without hesitation she stated she WILL be in the Olympics, ‘though I’m not sure what in yet‘ she finished, casually, referring to both running and swimming, where she is County Champion in both sports: she loves and excels at both.

Well, I’m sure we’d all agree it’s easy to say at nine years of age that you want to be an Olympian – with so many years in between that can change your outlook, your desire, your motivation not to mention the possibilities of injury – but I have to admire her current focus and determination: when she wants to win a race, she’ll pull out all the stops and usually achieves it.

We have no doubt this will be a very tough, very demanding journey, and we don’t know how long it will last, but if she get’s in to the Club, what a fabulous and exciting opportunity!

So yes, if Carys is lucky enough to get selected, then we’ll support her all the way.

The adventures of the missing Big Issue Seller

‘Hello my love!’, the big, cheeky grin accompanied the cockney greeting that bellowed out. ‘You alright? You ‘ave a lovely day!’

My local Big Issue seller near Euston was always smiling, a trendy looking guy with curly hair, maybe late thirties, very personable and always up for a bit of cheeky but fun banter with the commuters. It became a routine part of my journey to see him either on the way into work, or on the way home, come rain or shine.

For the first couple of days he was missing, I didn’t really think too much about it, I just missed seeing his smile and exchanging the brief but regular ‘hello’.

When it became a couple of weeks with no sign of him, and a new Big Issue seller was in situ – a middle aged foreign lady who adopted a completely different, more woeful approach, sitting on the floor wearing a headscarf, rocking backwards and forwards and barking out the occasional single word to passers by – then I felt uplifted, hoping he had got himself sorted and off the streets.

Then much to my surprise, he reappeared one night as I was rushing for my train. As I walked closer to him, he acknowledged me with a grin and having a couple of minutes to spare, I couldn’t resist saying I’d missed seeing him around.

‘Well’, he started. ‘I ‘ad a letter from the Tax office a few weeks ago, but you’ll never believe this..’ He looked at me, holding my attention, and I began to imagine the worst, that he’d been in jail…’they told me they’d made a mistake and they’d sent me a tax refund of £700! So I blew the lot on a flight out to Los Angeles!

I stared at him, my mouth wide open in shock but then I couldn’t resist sharing his big grin as he continued ‘And I can tell you this..it was THE BEST Fxxxin time I’ve ever had in my LIFE. It was amazing!’

I was literally ‘gob smacked!’ My grin still on my face, I had to continue my journey but I gave him a hug and honestly replied that it sounded amazing and what a fab thing to have happened to him.

He was absolutely over the moon and my grin remains, even now, as I think about the adventures he must have had over in the US. Where and how he stayed I dread to think… I can only imagine.

But a few months on and he is once again ‘missing’ – he only stayed a short while after his ‘adventure’ so unless he moved his patch, he must no longer be a Big Issue seller.

I only hope this time he really HAS had an opportunity to move his life on..whether it be off the streets in the UK or maybe – and now I’m grinning from ear to ear again – he’s gone back to the US!

My imagination runs riot, but whatever you’re doing Mr Big Issue near Euston, I wish you well and much happiness…

Special Easter Sunday

As a non Catholic, taking my devout and very non Catholic mum to a Catholic Church on Easter Sunday, may seem rather odd.
While my mum might not agree, to me it was perfectly natural and absolutely the best way to spend Easter Sunday morning.  And, as usual, it was packed, much to my mother’s surprise!
My hubby is Catholic and our two girls go to a Catholic Primary School. I’m not at the stage of wanting to convert to Catholicism – there is so much I don’t align with in this faith – but I do however, really value the strong sense of community, and pulling together, and friendship when I enter and spend time in our local Catholic Church. My girls would love me to be Catholic, like them, but I currently don’t see it as an issue, especially as I go to Church as often as they do and do most of what they do when we’re there.
Having been a key support for my eldest during her Holy Communion, I know the Priest very well – we established a mutual common ground in the writing of poems! – and he welcomed me into the Church with open arms. No preaching, no trying to convert me, just accepting me, irrespective of my faith.
I had always found churches to be very cold and austere and was never encouraged or brought up to go to Church,  despite being ‘C of E‘. My Dad was Catholic however, and i can always remember the story of when, after he was really ill in hospital, a Priest came to see him and actually REFUSED to pray for him, because he then found out my dad had got married in a C of E Church!  Needless to say, this is why my mum is not a fan of The Catholic Church!  I, however, entered a Catholic Church after my dad passed away (many years later, I hasten to add), and gained enormous comfort from it’s warmth, a warmth I never felt in a C of E Church.  It really helped me through a very difficult time.
Compare the Priest above to my local Priest, who will visit, counsel, support and pray for ANYONE who needs it, whether Catholic or not.  He is outspoken, abrupt, but has a heart of gold and everything he does, is all for his  congregation.  He would also be great Company over a pint!
That’s why I liked going to church on Easter Sunday.  The feeling of family, the familiar faces, the sense of belonging to a Community, all the basics that in the current stressful and pressurised world we live in, is a welcome and easy release.
So one of the best bits is that after Sunday Mass, a few of us go to the Church Hall, all the kids run riot and we mums and dads sit with a cup of tea and a piece of cake or biscuit, and have a good old natter!