Thursday, 15 December 2016

The Season of Right Doubt

            
                                             

We Recently saw my gorgeous nephews at my brothers 30th birthday celebrations! Love watching them play together, Clara learned to clap from Josh and watching him motor around started her on the crawling track..!

She is now officially on the move, meaning nothing is safe...especially the Christmas tree.

Term at Cambridge is finished so our mornings have slowed down a bit as we take time to enjoy the advent season. This year I am using this collection of poems to reflect...



Something striking me at the moment is the idea of advent as 'The season of right doubt' this is from the poem 'November Sonnet' by Elizabeth Jennings. The thought behind this is that it is necessary to embrace darkness and doubt as part of our spiritual journey, especially in the run up to Christmas when the world is dark and cold. In so doing we are able to look to the Joy and light that accompanies Jesus coming.

This week we heard deeply saddening news, Diane who was our friend and the vicar at St Phillips, (our sending church) has unexpectedly died. So we are celebrating her life and are encouraged by the promise of Jesus returning when we shall see her again. She was amazingly faithful and especially loved the season of advent and Christmas, she understood better then anyone the promise of more to come, I know she is with him now in glory.

Every blessing as the advent season continues.
    

Thursday, 1 December 2016

When in Cambridge...

This is bringing me (and Clara) quite a lot of joy at the moment...



The arrival of the bike seat lessened the sting of a week struggling with Chickenpox! Quarantined from all our usual baby groups me and C have been going it alone, and frankly there's no one i'd rather be stranded with...




However we are both feeling the lack of company now the week is drawing to a close...Heres to better health next week!

Sunday, 20 November 2016

The Invisible Umblical

My little one is sick
and I am much too tired for nightmares,
but leagues away my mum wakes up 
a cold sweat all about her. 

Worried on my babes behalf,
 a child once removed,
The spooling thread of mother love
 stretched farther than she'd choose. 

We used to be so close, you see, 
our heartbeats knit together, 
but now I face the world alone
 even when I'm near her.

And it's the same for her, 
at seven months she feels it strong, 
turns around to check on me,
 a seconds parting is too long.

I look at her my tiny girl, 
so peaceful in her slumber, 
Will I wake up some day I think
 worried for her daughter? 

So time turns and turns again
as daughter becomes mother
hearts expand to its refrain
stretching yet still further.


                      

I wrote this when Clara was poorly last month, its still a little rough around the edges but I wanted to share.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

The Thief of Joy

They say that comparison is the thief of Joy.

This is something I've been thinking about a lot recently and seeing as this blog is ostensibly about looking for ways to encounter Joy I figured that it was time I wrote about my recent encounters with the Thief of Joy..

This has been a problem for me for a long time. In this perfect Facebooking generation, we often don't cut ourselves or those around us much slack when it comes to reality. 

I vividly remember looking through the pictures of a mutual friend when Facebook was still new on the scene, she had long glossy hair, even longer legs and her life seemed to be one glamorous outfit and photo shoot after the other. She also jumped off stuff. A lot. I think mainly because it showed off her legs to perfection but there may have been a more practical  reason, who's to say?

Since being pregnant and becoming a mother this comparison has jumped up a notch (or ten!) this past academic year at Ridley there were ten babies born. So that's ten different sized bumps, ten mums with different needs and opinions and ways of doing things, ten different labour stories and ten wonderful, unique children born by the end. 

Even though in theory I know that the beauty is found in the differences I still found it a struggle to avoid comparison. 

On a couple of occasions during my pregnancy I was left completely crushed by an offhand comment someone made and I, in turn probably said some unintentionally insensitive things myself. 

It's so easy to forget that everyone's experience is different. I learned fast that I could not generalise based on my limited knowledge of what happened to my own body during pregnancy and birth. 

 It is such a vulnerable time, this growing and nurturing of a small human. 

If I thought it would get better once she was born then I was wrong. Emotions are running high in those first weeks and months with private battles being valiantly fought behind closed doors that we know absolutely nothing about. 

The mum of three who you regard as an oracle might actually only just be keeping it together feeling completely exhausted. Or the one who rubs you up the wrong way by exclaiming every week that your baby is huge, could be struggling from the constant fear that her own child isn't putting on weight fast enough. 

Even Post Natal Depression can be hidden by wonderful mothers who are secretly wrestling with untold pain and guilt, all the while carrying on in a heroic fashion. 

Over time I have come to the conclusion that it is inadvisable  to make any kind of specific comment about someone else's child, whether you perceive it to be a compliment or not, it can be received in the wrong light. 

Instead I try to be overwhelmingly positive in a more general way to hopefully encourage, also to be as open as possible about my own insecurities and concerns as an antidote to prideful comparison. 

Oh and I also deleted Facebook so no one can be fooled by my perfect profile picture. 

This is surprisingly hard and I do still struggle all the time with comparing Clara's progress to others, it's crazy - why am I in such a hurry for my little one to grow up?

 I recently came upon a Hollie McNish poem which exemplifies this. Here is an excerpt from it but I highly recommend the whole poem and her book 'Nobody Told Me'

From 'League Table Toddlers'

'As we pressure ourselves in league table fights 
I wonder if mother Theresa slept through the night,
Whether Gandhi crawled first or went straight into walking,
whether Rosa Parks spoke before others were talking. 
Whether Emmeline Pankhurst used a bottle to sleep,
 if Nelson Mandela sucked a dummy for peace.

And I smile like I care as I listen to those, desperate for babies to get up and grow. 

Then I stare at your eyelids sheltering dreams and I smile for those things that you're not going to be.

So please remember my dumpling, I could not care less, whether your stage is an average an advanced or a best. 

Let your legs rest a little,
Roll around a while more
Save your words for a rainy day 
And chill on the floor.


So when you finally stand up you won't be pushed down
and when you take your first steps
you'll step well and walk proud.'



                                  

                                'When I grow up I want to be a Christmas tree!'

Sunday, 23 October 2016

The First Bug; A Play In Seven Parts.

Act One; Vomit 

It all started on a Friday. Called down to crèche with the simple words 

'She needs you'. 

Cuddled and fed her but rather than having the usual soothing affect  it had the opposite i.e. It all came back up, and I mean ALL. 

This was bad, very bad. The other mums were all making sympathetic and kindly noises whilst quickly moving their children away from the vicinity. I realise that I'm that mother, the one who brings her poorly kid out in public and unwittingly starts an epidemic, I feel awful. 

It was unsurprising that I would feel upset but I was unprepared for the guilt. Was it something she'd eaten? maybe something I hadn't spotted as I distractedly checked my phone while my girl, opportunist that she is, picked something delicious looking off the floor. Or worse, was it something that I cooked for her? Was my somewhat haphazard and less than careful weaning schedule at fault?

So I took her home where she proceeded to vomit up everything else I tried to feed her, multiple baths and outfits later and she succumbed to sleep.
I phone my doctor dad for reassurance which he duly gives but there is nothing to be done and we just need to ride it out. Not what I wanted to hear.

Act Two; Diarrhoea 

You can't possibly imagine how much poo one baby can hold until this happens. I was attempting to dam the projectile flow with a towel whilst trying to calm Clara and simultaneously shouting at the top of my voice to Matt who was cooking our (as it would turn out) ill fated breakfast and listening to loud music in the kitchen. Between the two of us we managed to get her into the bath, mop up and disinfect the changing table, I then put on wash load number 3,  after a quick soak in miraculous vanish. Washing machine has developed untimely gap in the seal possibly from sheer overuse and kitchen floor gets gradually soggier with every load, hey at least I won't have to mop. 

She sleeps for two hours and I take my book into her room and sit in the rocking chair watching her instead of reading.

Act Three; Quarantine 

We accept that this is not going away and cancel all our plans. Saturday fades away into wash cycles and on demand feeding. I haven't fed her on demand since she was a tiny baby as she responded really happily to a four hour feeding schedule from being quite small, but all that's gone by the wayside as I attempt to get as much fluid as possible into my (suddenly tiny looking) daughter. I sing to her as I try and get her to eat, 'Yellow' by Coldplay pops into my head, I come to the line 'For you I'd bleed myself dry'. I feel the truth of that as I feed her again and again and then hold her as she cries and it all comes out the other end. The word 'futile' comes to mind. 

Act Four: Dad Down 

As the three of us sleep I am regrettably awoken by more vomit, this time not Clara but Matt, I get up with him and make sure he has everything he needs, setting him up in the spare room before Clara wakes for a feed, end up sharing a bed with small daughter not husband for the first time, though to be fair she takes up a lot less space! I am secretly quite relieved matt is ill as it proves it's a sick bug and not anything more preventable. In your face guilt! 

I now text everyone I can think of to beg for prayers for my immune system as there is no way I can be sick too. We all wake up feeling V sorry for ourselves and collapse on sofa to watch trashy TV.

Act Five: Sleep is for Wimps 

I eat the majority of a chocolate brioche tear 'n' share, mainly because there is no one to share it with (that's my story and I'm sticking to it) Clara, presumably fed up of waking up in a puddle of sick/poo has given up altogether opting instead for a serious sleep embargo. I quietly tear out my hair and put on another load of washing. 

We take her out in her pushchair in the hopes of a sleep and bump into handsome couple from next door who I have never met before getting into their snazzy non poo covered, child free car. We get into (a far too involved) conversation about children's sick bugs I'm left wishing I could have left them with a slightly less disgusting first impression...

Act Six; Soldiering On 

Baby appears to be getting worse not better, I panic and call my parents again. Dad suggests a rehydration solution and praise the Lord she decides it's delicious and drinks nearly a whole beaker of the horrible stuff. My worry is slightly curbed.

Matt has been working on a sermon for the evening service at church all week, he is unsure about whether to go or not. I've heard the sermon and it's excellent. Selfishly I want him to stay and help with Clara as I know bedtime is going to be a nightmare this evening. I manage to swallow these feelings however and he heads off freely into the evening.

Act Seven: The Reward 

I go for walk with Clara in the sling and then come home and get a vegetable stew pot for my supper on the go while she's still happy in the sling (its been a while since that brioche.) Bath goes smoothly and then I embark on 'bedtime'. 

This is a marathon not a sprint.

Read, Feed, cuddle, rock, cot, cry, sing, change, feed, cuddle, rock, cot, scream, feed cuddle rock, cot, wimper......sleep.

Silence.

I tiptoe downstairs and get the washing out of the machine and hang it up, poo stains are all gone and it makes the house smell like fairy, lovely. 

Then I sit and eat in the perfect quiet. 

Bliss. 

FIN 



Evening walk pre bedtime shenanigans. 

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

6 Months of Mama

So, Clara Evangeline, what are you into at the grand old age of six months? 

Firstly you are the most alert, curious and inquisitive baby I have ever met, you look at things as if you are already trying to work out how to take them apart. Even strangers in restaurants comment about this and your long hard stare has been known to stop people in their tracks 


You don't always smile straight away but when you do, you do it with your whole being, and the room lights up.

Your favourite song is currently the grand old duke of York and you flap your arms to it in a hilarious way, actually arm flapping is your general way of signalling total enthusiasm and approval. 

In the mornings you shriek excitedly about life and sound a bit like a cross between a pterodactyl and a cat with its tail trapped in a door, I have learned to love this noise even at 6:am.

Your favourite toy is currently your heuristic play box which has all sorts of interesting textures in it for you to explore. (You had a thing for the purple hippo for a while but you're over it) you also have a penchant for cramming your bath time flannel in your mouth whilst completely ignoring your 'official' bath toys. 

We swim together every week which you love, you kick and splash your arms madly (I've taken to wearing my goggles) and are pretty happy to get dunked under by your over enthusiastic parent.

You can roll over and sit up by yourself, and are desperate to crawl. You weigh a whopping 20 pounds, are extremely long legged and have two marvelous teeth. You've always eaten well and It has been a total joy breastfeeding you. You have also just started eating proper food and so far devour everything in your path.






This month you held your hands up to me to be picked up for the first time, I melted on the floor.

We've dragged you along everywhere with us this summer (as you might expect!) Camping, festivals, the beach,  swimming, long car journeys, weddings and tons and tons of new people. All the things we've done you've taken in your stride with your characteristic calm. I am so grateful for that.

You adore your dad and watching the two of you together is my hands down favourite thing to do, he sings you silly songs and gives you upside down eskimo kisses which makes you laugh like crazy. 

In short you are the most incredible human I know and I love being your mama. 

As for me..

Six months after birthing this 8 pounder I am feeling really well. I am physically almost as good as new, which after a bad tear is nothing short of miraculous (props to my surgeon).  My body is back to something resembling normal and I even taught myself to run over the summer and can now do 5k!

I really am loving being a mum. Clara is changing all the time (size routine interests etc)  so in some ways it feels like running really fast on a treadmill that keeps accelerating. This is completely exhausting and mind boggling and inexpressibly wonderful.

All in all I am so grateful for this little girl and the journey we are on as a family.

I'll finish with her monthly mug shots (or should I say rug shots?!) 




Friday, 30 September 2016

A little Bit of Space

Summer is over and I am feeling in an embracing sort of mood. I am ready to welcome the rain and the cold, the dark nights and soggy leaves. Clara is sleeping off a cold and Matt has thoughtfully gone out for a couple of hours. He is a careful observer of his wife and he knows when I need some time to myself, often before I do.

Alone time has been pretty scarce these last six or so months and I feel it keenly. My personality type is ESFP (google Myers Briggs for clarification!) this means among other things that my feeling function is introverted. This was best evidenced on the night Matt asked me to marry him when after saying yes, I disappeared off for a while by myself, ostensibly to change my outfit but retrospectively it was to have a moment to myself to acclimatise to the tidal wave of feelings that accompany a proposal.

That explains it on a grand scale but what this means in my everyday life is that I need time by myself in order to process my emotions, In fact I struggle to feel anything at all unless I've been able to give myself some time and space to do so. 

Being a mother is many wonderful things but it really doesn't lend itself to lots of alone time which is hard. It affects everything for me, and especially my ability to write. 

In the rare moments that belong to me alone I am desperate to put pen to paper but I just can't. I'm struggling with correspondence and where once I was a prolific journal writer I seem unable to articulate anything at all. 

It sometimes seems to me that my inner voice has just gone a bit quiet. 

So bare with me as I stutter and stumble out a little bit of my heart, forgive me any moments of inarticulacy, I am just touching base with my own self again. 

This summer has been unforgettable. I think I will remember it always as beautifully sunny and spacious, it was time spent with people we love in some amazing places, camping for the first time with C, swimming and singing at the top of our lungs in the car on the way home.

I've even been able to take up some (very slow) running and completed the 'couch to 5K' podcasts! But my above all favourite thing has been to watch our girl change and grow before my very eyes.
This felt particularly special as Matt has been on holiday for the past three months and was able to witness it all with me which was such a privilege. 

Having said that. Co parenting in such close quarters has been fairly challenging, I think if I'm being honest we're both looking forward to having some time away from one another as term begins again. 
The space (and sometimes lack of it!) that exists between each person in a marriage is really important, we've been reading 'the Zimzum of love' by Rob and Kristen Bell and would recommend it. 

Something else on my mind this summer has been adoption. We've been talking a lot on long journeys home about what we want our family to look like in the future and this is something that comes up again and again. It is very scary but the call to family, and to children in particular is a strong one on my life and I am hoping that adoption will be part of that. We've been reading Krish Kandida's book 'Home for Good' which feels as good a place as any to begin. 

In short, I feel stretched and full, exhausted exhilarated and hungry all at once. 

In some ways I am a million miles away from the girl who first started writing this blog, she had time to walk for hours by herself, to pray and take glorious pictures of the things that she found. She had bundles of energy and was an observer of beauty, at least partially because it helped to silence the great loneliness inside. 

If you'd have asked her what she wanted in life she would have pointed at me. 

Amazing. 

Strange then that now, just sometimes, I long to be her again, even though I am so happy right now, never again will I be, not a wife, not a mother. 

There was a time in my life when I thought that this; marriage and motherhood was the destination. Now I can see so clearly how much more growing I have to do, how much more richness there is yet to come.




Dolphin Watching!


                                       Pictures from our recent holiday in Northumberland

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Changed

I'm awake,

I lie flanked by the twin pillars of my husband and daughter, alike in their ability to slumber in bliss.

Not so me. The heat is keeping me up and the relentless moonlight. 

I long for a big window to dangle my feet from, or the eucalyptus tree from my childhood, the platform for my loftiest prayers.

But here I am, in Cambridge, swathed in another chapter of my life, deep in the heart of my little family. I can’t venture very far away because, you see, they need me.

I am more real somehow here in this moment of life than I have ever been. I find myself washed up on the shores of motherhood, and it's already something that I love, that I am good at. I delight in being the lynch pin, yet sometimes my very indispensability is overwhelming.

She is four months old now, and my own eyes surprise me, as they look intently back at me from her little face, following me as I busy around a room. Often I am awarded a gummy smile and her Dad's ears lend her a slightly pixieish air. She is becoming more herself everyday, spending her time working it all out, rolling over and fighting with her pet squid, sometimes all at once. She has an easy-going nature and seems content enough to be carted along wherever we are going; as long as we remain the constant in her little world she is happy.

Motherhood is all humbling, all consuming, I think of the day she was born frequently, I had hoped to be 'over it' by now (whatever that means!) but I'm not, I keep revisiting the 12th April over and over again in my mind, the pain and the joy, the before and after. I think it's because of the transformative nature of her birth. It was the day that I became someone the same but also very different.

I've wanted to write for a while now but everything is a bit fuzzy round the edges and not an awful lot of coherence is emerging from it all. It vaguely worries me but then I remember that this is a season and it too shall pass. Being a mother is both transformative and permanent yet mothering a small baby is a wonderful, hard and temporary state.

One day she will no longer need me like this and I confess that I'm terribly afraid that when that happens I will discover that I am the one who has been hooked from the off. She might not need me but I desperately need her.

So for now I remain a mess of contradictions, the desire to be by myself again is measured against the need to always be near her.

I will finish with some thoughts on early parenthood from Laurie Lee from his essay. 'The Firstborn'

‘I have got a daughter whose life is already separate from mine, whose will already follows its own directions, and who has quickly corrected my wooly preconceptions of her by being remorselessly different. She is the child of herself and she will be who she is. I am merely the keeper of her temporary helplessness…’

‘I hope she’ll be free. I want her to be free from fear to enquire and get answers, free to imagine and tell tales, free to be curious and show enthusiasm…if she’s a success I’ll be pleased but I’ll not care if she isn’t, may spontaneity and warmth be her main achievements.’

Laurie Lee ‘The Firstborn’ various excerpts






Sunday, 15 May 2016

A Gradual Slowing


Clara is a month old. 

Its been a whole month since this happened...



Time has done all the cliched things it's meant to do when you have a new baby and worked its speedy magic. 

As I progress into new motherhood I a learning lots of new things. Among these are gems like;

1) If your feet are getting wet, you probably forgot to use a breast pad. 

2) After a huge nappy explosion it is advisable to check your own outfit for signs of poo, not just the babys.

3) It is possible to breastfeed alongside doing pretty much anything else, brushing teeth, eating, cooking etc 

But perhaps the biggest lesson I am learning in this season is to slow down.

Physically, after the birth I was a mess. I sustained a third degree tear which meant that my movement was slow and painful, even sitting down was a challenge. One month on despite healing miraculously quickly I am still aware of the repercussions of this. 

Yesterday I left the baby with Matt and played ultimate frisbee for a couple of hours with friends. I found myself laughing with the sheer joy of running, of having my body to myself for a while. 
Today I am in pain again, feeling frustrated that healing is a process. That my muscles can't do the same things that they could before a long pregnancy and a protracted birth. 

I have predictably ignored the good advice to take it easy. I quickly decided that the wisdom of 'sleep when the baby sleeps' was for wimps, and determined that I would carry on as always. But as I am learning, even with a placid baby jobs have to be achieved three times as fast.  

Taking stock at the one-month mark I realised how quickly this little one is changing and growing. I don't want to miss these moments, the way her face looks after a good feed, milk dribbling ecstatically down her chin (see left!), her first wonky attempts at smiling and the way her hair is still so soft like goose down.

Because the truth is that we are on the clock. From the moment a child is born the time seems to accelerate, blink and she's a teenager. I can’t stop her growing up, and of course I don’t want to. Instead I need to slow down and enjoy the ride.








So I plan on doing more of this….  




and less rushing around!

Monday, 25 April 2016

Clara Evangeline

She arrived!! Safe and sound and only 8 days late on the 12 April at 2pm

I am extremely impressed with my body which pretty much took over like a boss and I benefitted hugely from the exceptional support team of Matt and my mum who were both fantastic, praying and cheering me on through the rough patches. I highly recommend them to anyone giving birth! 

The experience was overwhelmingly positive, in part due to gas and air, the discovery of which which made me veeerrryy happy about halfway through! unfortunately during the pushing the spirit was willing but the perineal muscle was weak and I sustained a third degree tear (nasty) so had to get rushed off to surgery for stitches soon after she was born.

I am still hobbling around feeling as though I've had an unfortunate tussle with a blender. 

Healing well though and she is an absolute delight, her little milk Dracula face after a feed absolutely makes my life.

So many things to remember from these days;

bath temperatures and car seat buckles, leaking boobs and nappies filled, blissful milk smell and baby wearing in the hard moments, eyes (slightly slanted like mine) open and taking it all in! Dinosaur shrieks and happy babbling, milk comas, floating around in the bath for the first time with a look of remembering on her wise young face. Stitches and hobbling painfully, story telling the most epic moment of my life, washing loads and laxatives, hiccoughs and babygros, teamwork on a new level and so so much more - no wonder we're exhausted!! 

she is beautiful and seems pretty laid back so far... 

Here she is..







Thursday, 31 March 2016

Spring

I love this time of year

Signs of Spring finally emerging, a bit of warmth back in fingers and toes.  

This morning I am taking my cup of tea by the river in my parents garden.  

We got engaged on a good Friday, and drove to Shropshire in dazzling sunshine that weekend to celebrate with family. 

Last year over Easter we made the decision to start trying for a baby, looking out over this very same river, impressed by our own nerve, it felt like jumping into the deep water, way over our heads.

And now almost exactly a year has past and our baby is imminent (if I could only manage to persuade her that coming through my ribs is not a viable exit route!) 

This morning she's elbowing me as I soak in the early morning peace, a forcible reminder that I'm about to be asked to leave this train at the next station to the resounding cry of 'all change'

I am scared of course, mainly of the uncertainty to come, the physical pain of labour and the huge changes that parenthood will inevitably bring. 

But here by the river on this almost Easter morning it's hard to be anything other than absurdly, Overflowingly grateful.







Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Once upon a university town…

Whiling away my maternity leave I have found a novel way to pass the time.
I have been on a college grand tour, a self imposed challenge to visit every undergraduate college in the university before baby makes an appearance.

I thought of the plan because I often find myself getting a bit resentful about the amount of green space in Cambridge, which is hidden away behind ornate (and so often closed!) doors.
This feels like an injustice when the open green spaces amount to not much more than scrubby areas of grass, greatly lacking when compared to the beautifully landscaped, lush and sculpture bedecked secret gardens the colleges are harbouring.

Some of the colleges are open to visitors for free, others charge a handsome sum for entry and some are only open at certain times to protect student lives from hoards of tourists.
My goal was to get into every single college without spending any money or getting in anyone’s way. I managed this with a little sneaking and some confident striding!

My favourite thing about the project was the amount of variation between the colleges. They range from the very oldest (Peterhouse founded in 1284) to the newest (Robinson founded in 1977). 
I wanted to visit the 29 ‘official’ colleges from the Cambridge website though there are other colleges in Cambridge apart from these.

I snapped a picture of something within each of the college grounds which took my fancy, each college has little quirks and beautiful bits, even the newer and less famous colleges had really charming parts, secret gardens, peaceful chapels and stunning stained glass windows were just some of the treasures I came across.  

My personal favourites from the project were Downing, which is open to all and has a beautiful library and Pembroke which was just completely charming. But I also loved the gardens at Murray Edwards College, the chapel at St Catherine’s and the secret swimming pool at Emmanuel.

The stained glass window I’ve chosen from Gonville and Caius was dedicated to my great grandfather Ronald Fisher who was a renowned Geneticist and Statistician. He was also a Fellow and then President of the college for many years. I believe it has something to do with his work into the ‘Latin Square’. 


All in all, I feel that I know this place a little better now and will be able to find some pretty shady spots to rest in when the sun is out this summer!











colleges in order of appearance (left to right) 

Christs, Sidney Sussex, St Johns, Trinity Hall, 

Downing, Murrey Edwards, Gonville and Caius, 

Corpus Christi, Pembroke, Magdaline  

Queens, Clare, Trinity, Lucy Cavendish 

St Catherines, Peterhouse, Emmanuel, Saint Edmunds 

Jesus, Robinson, Fitzwilliam, Churchill 

Newnam, Kings, Hughs Hall, Selwyn  

Wolfson, Homerton, Girton 



Sunday, 14 February 2016

Valentine

There has been a plague on our house these last few weeks. 

Last year for valentines he brought me a slinky night gown, this year I gave him a nasty cold - you win some, you loose some. 

So the past two weeks has been a litany of complaints. Coughing sneezing and sinusitis, wakeful nights and self pitying days. First me and then him. Between us we have conquered enough tissues to fell a small forest. 

And this is life, imperfect and messy and happening all around us. 

He is my Valentine, this snotty feverish mess in bed next to me who badly needs a haircut. 

And I am his Valentine, 8 months big and snoring like a trooper (the beautiful miracle of pregnancy!) 

So I am finding poetry in the prose this February. 

In the way he held me upright in bed for an hour one night when I was so so so tired and the coughing wouldn't stop. 

The way I cycled out late hunting for strepsils for him and then took his temperature about a thousand times to make sure that his fever really had broken. 

Even in the loss of patience and grace and the realisation that we still have a lot to learn about loving one another well. 

Despite all this, I feel absurdly grateful because I know that love grows here.

It's hanging out on the crowded bedside table with the bacteria, lemsip and cough medicine, making its home in small gestures and kind words. 

So this post is a tribute to my husband. 

These days we recognise both strength and weakness in each other. 
Because yes, it's true that we are fragile, selfish people made out of 100% human. 


But it is equally true that we are much, much better together than we are apart. 




Sunday, 7 February 2016

A note to the child who has colonised my insides


 Firstly (and I must get this out of the way because it is the most important thing of all)

How I love you.

My surrender to you has been voluntary and total.

It is not just my body you have taken but my mind as well, I think about you all the time, picture you all elbows and knees for those are the impressions you share with me. 
Your face remains a blur, a secret yet to be told.

These days as we jostle for space it makes me think about autonomy.
 I was never much good at sharing yet here my body is a forerunner - instinctively siphoning off the best portion of me.
 I can only hope before you get here that my heart and mind will have learned the trick.

My life is about to changed beyond recognition
Yet I am counting down the days.
 I'm someone who jumps at the chance to leave work early and yet I am desperate to embark on what might well be the hardest work of my life.  A paradox of desire.

And I worry.
I worry about everything. questioning our ability to provide everything that you will need, physically, emotionally and spiritually, whatever that might be.

Sometimes in the quiet dark I panic that you will grow to dislike me.
 I am everything and nothing to you now but that too will pass.

You will become a toddler with a will of your own, a girl and then a woman.  

But who?


So come please baby.
Come quick and safe and be more marvellously you than I could possibly imagine.


Sunday, 3 January 2016

Reflections on the Season

Boxing Day 2015 and I have reached saturation point. Time to go outside, to be alone for even just a little while. 

Christmas has been Christmas this year, family food and presents, blessing upon blessing all soundtracked by  my small nephew yelling, WOOOF at the dogs. It's hard not to be amazed and almost slightly embarrassed at what I sometimes consider to be the sheer dumb luck of a healthy, wealthy happy family living in a privileged time in a rich culture.

This year has been characterised by death and life, I know that every year features them but this year they feel particularly close to the surface.

Here in the mid winter death seems prominent. Wind rattles across the countryside,  the spot where our family dog was recently buried is still a wound in the middle of the orchard.

My dad and brother dug the hole last month and planted wildflowers on top. The promise of new life but not until the spring. 

Friends lost a beloved son this year, there are no words to reconcile a hurt like theirs. So we haven't tried, instead we have been attempting to take this fragile and wonderful life less for granted in response to the beautiful life of their boy. 

Events in the world this year have also brought death to the forefront. Terror and gunfire writ large in newspapers, the stuff of horrible nightmares. 

Even our baby is bringing us to consider death, wills and guardianship. Our own mortality suddenly coming to the forefront even as she gets stronger.

We've reflected on the way we fear death in this culture. How we so rarely come into contact with it that when we do the shockwaves are crippling. 

Even for those blessed with long life the end is, for the most part sanitised for friends and relations, care homes and palliative solutions to pain, we love to put things in their proper place and in doing so can dull the impact of death. 

Yesterday my father reflected that it was the realisation of his own mortality that was the clear turning point and prompt for him to embrace faith when he was only ten years old. 

Maybe in a world where people are no longer willing or able to consider death we also forget the need to consider what comes next. Forget to consider who or what might be the author of this mess of love and life and pain and what does it all mean anyway?

What significance does the birth, life and death of Jesus have on us today? 

For me, the wonder is that he came to be part of this. All of it. Gestation and bloody labour, puberty, family and community. In short he lived through the pain, frustration and incandescent joy of the human condition. 

Immanuel; It means God is with us. 

And he is. 

This year I have seen people stay firm in this belief through the very worst that death can throw at them and this example allows me to keep engaging in the business of loving this broken world. 

So hears to 2016,


I expect it will be wonderful, and terrible in equal measure and I hope that You and me will be able to embrace both, call it all life and know that We are not alone