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 .....


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 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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