Thursday, 8 December 2011

Dear Beloved Friend

Dear Grandma,

Two years today you glided peacefully, unknowingly from this existence. I've been thinking about you a lot recently. I miss you dearly; your sharp observations, your quiet elegance, your down to earth Yorkshire pragmatism. I miss tucking into a fish and chips tea with you soaked in salt, vinegar and brown sauce whilst cozily slumped in front of the TV.

I wasn't able to say goodbye in the traditional sense. I was heavily pregnant at the the time. Treacherous, icy weather thwarted Younger Dad and I from making the 200 mile journey up to your snowy funeral and final resting place on the Winter Solstice. So I held my own memorial at home. I bought flowers, lit incense, wrote and read out a heartfelt letter, played music, sang, ate mince pies and drank Sherry in your memory. It was my dedication to you. My thank you to YOU for many years of your warmth, kindness and love.



I shed tears but not as many as I expected to. The emotional sieve curbed much of my grief only allowing it to lightly trickle through. It was actually hard to let go. My sadness restrained. This was in part to the fact I was still carrying my baby. I didn't want my sadness to affect my little girl.

I wasn't just sad though. I was also relieved and glad that you'd passed peacefully. I like to think you were carried away like a tiny delicate feather floating and dancing ever higher on the under current of a gentle breeze.  You were ready to leave. The last five years of your life weren't pleasant as your joints twisted, froze and groaned in pain. Your fingers permanently curled as if purposefully holding onto the last vestiges of life.  You didn't enjoy the languid approach of death's embracing arms in that pee smelling living graveyard of the old people's home. 90 years was enough. It was time to go.

I remember the last time we spoke. You had the last laugh. You reminded me with a mischievous glint in your eye that I'd always maintained I would never get married or have children. Oh how things changed. I also remember reminding you that you no longer needed to hold onto anything or anyone. It was okay for you to go when you felt safe and ready.

Like the transparent innocence of a newborn's gaze the brightness of your soul shone through your sky blue eyes during those final years and months. Your perceptive stare pierced through my defence into the core of my being rendering me tearfully moved each time I spent time with you at 'the home'. We leave this material existence with the incontinence and dependency of a baby but if we are lucky also with the hushed wisdom of a life lived and the forgiveness to let go. I like to think you were blessed with this when you departed.

You weren't just my Grandma. You were a dear friend and a mother too. My memories of you are endless. Right now when I reminisce my mind conjures up images of making cheese straws on a Sunday afternoon, clumsily toppling in your silver ballroom shoes, home made chocolate and toffee, your perfectly styled hair, the best Yorkshire pudding ever and a sublime seven months living with you after a particularly bad time in my life.

So today Grandma, I raise my glass of Sherry to you.

Thank you.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Guest Post - 'Confessions Of An Older Mum – or – Lessons In What Really Matters'

By Anne Whitehouse author of The Life Alchemy Blog.

Her fascinating blog based on her experience as a qualified therapeutic healer delves into all aspects of holistic and spiritual healing for mothers and offers practical guidance for making positive transformational changes in our lives.

Enjoy .....




CONFESSIONS OF AN OLDER MUM - OR - LESSONS IN WHAT REALLY MATTERS


It's a normal Saturday afternoon, and I am sitting in front of the television cuddling my four-year-old daughter.  An advert for a well- known moisturiser - the one that fights those seven signs of aging - comes on.

"Mummy, you must buy that," she pipes up, "so your skin can be beautiful." Oh dear, I think.  "Isn't Mummy's skin beautiful already?" I ask her.  My hopes aren't high...

"No Mummy, yours is all splotchy," she answers, innocence oozing from every pore of her perfect peaches-and-cream complexion. "If you buy that cream, you can be beautiful."

"Your skin is already beautiful, Mummy," counters my eight-year-old son hastily. (I've been training him for a lot longer!)

It's true, I'm an older mum!

So, what put me on this path to delayed parenting? Well, quite simply, I was the proverbial career woman. A baby would have ruined  my scientific career.  Although I knew I wanted a family at some point, it definitely wasn't going to be in my twenties.  However, when I turned 32, my biological alarm clock went off: I wanted a baby and I wanted one now!

Alas, nature isn't always on board with our plans, and it took me over two years to conceive. I then discovered that I suffer from childbirth phobia (tocophobia) which produced panic attacks, nightmares and palpitations. I suffered excruciating pain in my pelvis - my ligaments now had the consistency of over-cooked pasta - and I found myself struggling around on crutches.  They advised a C-section, but I had some deep-seated belief that if I didn't give birth 'properly' I would have failed. Understanding is power, I told myself, and I began researching every single empowering technique available to the aspiring Earth-Mother.

So, armed with another hypnosis tape, homeopathy, aromatherapy, music, flower remedies and a crate of Lucozade, I confronted my fears and embarked on a 'natural' water birth.

What a disaster! I won't dwell on the birth. Suffice it to say that a large-headed baby wedged in an OP position in my pelvis, a quick first stage labour and no anaesthetist on the ward resulted in an agonizing ventouse birth.  The good news: both I and my son survived.  The bad news: permanent damage to my pelvis, and PTSD for me.

Still determined to be a good mother, I attempted breastfeeding. Would he latch on?  Would he hell!  So, I began an intensive regime of expressing. But six weeks later, I was struggling to produce even 50mls of milk a day.  Instead of feeding being a close and loving time between us, it had turned into one huge nightmare.  I felt depressed, stressed and inadequate, and I was completely preoccupied with my utter failure as a mother.

Thankfully, one day I woke up to what I was doing. Looking at my son's little face and big blue eyes, I saw that I had got my priorities completely wrong. Did it really matter that he had been wrenched out of me with a glorified vacuum cleaner?  Did it really matter that I couldn't even produce enough milk for an hors d'oeuvre? Was I really going to allow these trivial details to ruin the experience of having my long-awaited baby?

....That day I ditched the expressing, and remembered that I had been given the most wonderful gift in the universe.

Pregnancy number 2 aged 36: this sadly ended in an early miscarriage.

Pregnancy number 3:  I was now 37, but I conceived easily.  After my first traumatic birth experience, I was offered an elective C-section which, this time, I accepted. My daughter was born at 37 weeks: another huge-headed baby in the wrong position!  I tried to breastfeed, but she had no more intention of latching on than her brother had done.   I gave up after a couple of days, put her onto bottles, and we were both happy.

This time there was an important difference - I had learnt that having a healthy baby is all that really matters.  It isn't an exam: there's nothing to prove. The result: instead of beating myself up and ruining those precious days, I simply enjoyed the wonderful gift of my little girl.  I recovered far quicker, I was happy, relaxed and confident. I even had more energy, despite having to look after my boisterous son at the same time.  I had learnt that if I needed medical support and powdered milk, then that was ok, and I was grateful for them. This time I honoured the needs and limitations of my body and was able to embrace motherhood with a joy that had escaped me the first time.

Were the self-help therapies I had used in my first labour useless?  Absolutely not!  They empowered me to face my fear.  Had it not been for the position of my son's head, those techniques may well have given me the natural birth I had wanted. It just wasn't meant to be that particular time. I realise now that my experiences were necessary, as they have led me to help other women recover and reclaim their happiness after miscarriage and traumatic births.

Today, at nearly 43, I have my precious son and daughter, aka Lego Ninjago Boy and Fairy Princess.  I don’t have the time to feel old!  The joy our children have brought into our lives is indescribable. As for the timing...it was simply perfect;  I had already had my 'high-powered' career, my husband and I had already had ten years together.  When we finally had our family, we were ready to do the parent thing whole-heartedly, without
reservations, resentments or regrets. Being an older mum was definitely the right choice for me.

Looking back on it all, I realise there was another lesson too.  While it would have been nice if I had done it all the natural way, it doesn't matter that I didn't.  I learnt that there is only one thing that defines what kind of mother you are:  how much you love your children.  I love mine to bits and am thankful for them every day.

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Sunday, 4 December 2011

Question Time - 10 Things

The very imaginative Mummy Plum has asked me to reveal 10 things about myself in ...

...... QUESTION TIME .....

THE RULES 

1) Answer 10 questions
2) Tag someone to do the same
3) Return to the original blog post when you have completed your 10 questions and comment, so we can all find out more about our fellow bloggers.

1. Describe myself in seven(ish) words
5' 3", honest, chit-chatty, humorous, stubborn custard fiend

2. What keeps you awake at night?
I sleep lighter than a feather. Anything stirs me from my slumber; Younger Dad breathing, Younger Dad snoring, Younger Dad trumping, mice getting high on crumbs in the kitchen and any nocturnal squeal from Little A. I also have this habit of waking up just before Little A cries out in the dark. It must be that psychic mummy baby connection thing.

3. Who would you like to be and why?
I sometimes fantasise about a brighter, energised, joyous, fully awake me in a parallel universe. In this reality I am not a mum. I feel ALIVE.  I am pursuing a fulfilling career as a therapist. I have time for exercise and spiritual pursuits like yoga, tai chi and meditation. I eat freshly prepared organic meals everyday. I travel and explore the world further than my local high street. I enjoy quality time with Younger Dad and all our friends. I can come and go as I please and stay up into the wee hours enjoying film after film or the stimulation of a page turning novel or revel in sparky conversation around a dinner lit kitchen table.

I love Little A with all my heart but I often miss my old life dearly. I miss my me time. When I reflect upon my alternate reality I realise that with a little patience, imagination, and magic dust I could conjure some of it into this existence with Little A.  It's a question of intent and balancing my priorities.

4. What are you wearing now?
I am going to describe this from the bottom up.  I am wearing my dark brown year old Ugg boots of which the right boot already has a small hole over the big toe much to my continual annoyance. My legs are clothed in an old pair of dark blue jeans and my torso is masked by a two year old Mothercare M2B black and grey stripped maternity top. Nice.  I really do need some new clothes.

I am also being 'held up' by a pair of granny sized pants which hark back to my post c-section op days and a discoloured, totally unattractive nursing bra, yes, 22 months on my hefty GG mummy boobies are still lactating and Little A can still be found propped up at the milk bar mornings, nap times and last orders before bedtime. I guess the milky bar is on me then as Little A doesn't have a tab.  Anyways my 'shabby chic' is off set by make up disguising my haggard face although there's no concealing the puffy bags pulling down my eyes like the weight of the Atlantic sinking the Titanic. I am also wearing my shoulder length mousy hair in a high pony tail.

5. What scares you?
The thought of any harm coming to Little A terrifies me. For over a year I was plagued by vivid intrusive thoughts of macabre things happening to her like being carried away by rats, a stranger breaking in and kidnapping her in the dead of night, or of her falling into a fire and burning to death. It makes me shudder just writing that. These intense thoughts were just one of the variety of PTSD symptoms I experienced since Little A's birth.  Fortunately the trauma focused therapy (EMDR) I am currently having has made a very positive difference. I can honestly say I am no longer traumatised and the thoughts are evaporating like cotton wool clouds on a blue Summers day.

6. What is the best and the worst thing about blogging?
Blogging is great for unscrambling myself and processing my thoughts and feelings. I'm finding it a really beneficial creative outlet. Coming from a therapist, its very good therapy. I've also come into contact with some wonderful women who have really brightened up my life. You know who you are ladies! In some aspects blogging has offered more support than my NCT group. I can really relate to the blogs I read. I love their honesty, openness and authenticity. I feel part of a wider community of wonderful mothers who are doing their best to understand themselves and better their lives.

The worst has to be what I am struggling with at the moment, the dreaded bloggers block.  I am finding it really hard to write.  My mind has transformed into a barren dusty windswept desert devoid of an inspiration and the oasis of words, pictures and ideas which I seek is shrouded in a fug of woolly mist. There is probably so much I could talk about but I am finding it a challenge to simply tap out that first sentence. Help!

7. What was the last website you looked at?
Amazon which is probably one of the best sites when it comes to the annual slog of Christmas shopping.

8. If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?
I would stop being so hard on my myself and mother myself a lot more.

9. Slankets: Yes or No.
I had no idea what one of these was until I just had a peek on Amazon.  Very attractive. Some even come with ergonomic pockets to elegantly house a remote control in. Will be seducing Younger Dad in one of these. Once its on, how do you get it off? Anyways whats wrong with a warming dressing gown and bed socks.

10. Tell us something about the person who tagged you.
Mummy Plum writes a gorgeously descriptive blog. Even though she remains anonymous you really get a sense of her behind her colourful words. She's sensitive, thoughtful and mature. Personally I think she should seriously consider turning her eloquent hand to fiction.  Two posts I thoroughly enjoyed were Getting My Groove Back: A Day to Myself and Making Friends: A Tale Of The Coffee Shop Girl. She's also project managing the restoration of the West London equivalent of Hogwarts affectionately known by her as Faulty Towers.

I’m tagging another fantastic blog to take the baton and write to the finishing line - The Bling Buoy.
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