I’m not there yet. I can’t see the lemonade. Or the tequila shots. All I can see is a truck full of lemons. All I can taste the bitter sting of loneliness and of disappointment on my lips, down the back of my throat. I have to remind myself to breathe at times, and other times the pain in my heart is so intense, I have to blow the air out, release the pressure, like you’d squeeze the air out of a beach ball at the end of summer.
I’ve never fallen victim to depression – sure as a teenager I went to see a shrink because of my ‘depression’, but I wasn’t medicated. In my early 20’s I went on anti-depressents for a while, but I didn’t like how numb it made me feel. That’s not me. I like to face myself head on.
Back then I decided to quit smoking at the same time, so I’d end up walking to the gym and exercising two, three times a day… just to keep my head busy, stay active. But this time I just feel numb. Tired.
So here I sit, so anxious I can’t bear to leave the house some days. Singing ‘The Hanging Tree’ to myself over and over to stop from collapsing in the supermarket because I want to scream, just run through it screaming. I’m not suicidal, I don’t want to kill myself but I visualise what it would be like slamming into the back of a truck, driving into the sea, just checking out, for a while. But I can’t because there are two little lives that depend on me, and no matter how many tears I fight back, no matter how many pillows I scream into, no matter how desperate I am for safe arms around me, I could never endanger them. Never hurt them.
I trust this will pass. Everyone has bad days, sad days, I guess this is that darkness before the dawn. Maybe when I get through this the healing can begin, and I can find a way forward. Maybe this pain is that final dying off before regeneration can begin.
And then one day maybe there’ll be beauty again. Maybe someone will see my soul again. Maybe I’ll be enough, for me.
I’m not bashing McDonalds here. If I’m going to eat fries, I’ll eat theirs. If I’m going to pick up something cheap on the way home, it’s going to be their sweet chilli chicken wrap. Back when I was a student I had an impressive collection of Happy Meal toys. So understand that I’m not standing on a pedestal and waving a finger at people who eat at McDonalds, but I saw the new McDonalds Ad on TV tonight and it is honestly everything that’s wrong with our view of childhood today.
No running by the pool
Yeah, okay, there’s some sense in not running by the pool. But I’ve heard people say the same about the park, the playground or even their own gardens. If a child was running at 30 miles an hour I’d understand. I’d also be impressed. Don’t let them lose out on the opportunity to experience and manage risk because we’re afraid of bumps and scrapes.
This excited boy drags his parents into a museum. They can’t walk fast enough. He finally sees what he wants to show them, and puts his hands up on the glass. Not on an ancient artifact, just on a bit of glass, that someone will be cleaning later on anyway – and he’d just been holding his mother’s hand so we know he wasn’t covered in ice cream. Way to deflate the kid’s enthusiasm. And tomorrow he doesn’t want to go back and we say he’s not interested in history, or science.
No bouncing on the bed
Okay, here again, it’s not their bed. Fair enough. And it’s not great for the bed. That’s why my kids need a trampoline… this is obviously a child with a lot of energy, and bed shopping is boring.
No fairground ride
Actually my daughter was refused a ride on a roller coaster recently and I was really very glad about it, having gone on it myself. I’m an adrenaline junkie, and I was mildly terrified. Sometimes these things have valid reasons. Sometimes they have ridiculous health and safety limitations. How many kids today have never even climbed a tree? Not because it’s more dangerous, but because we are afraid of their pain. We are afraid of them evaluating risk in a safe(r) environment.
We got stuck on a different roller coaster at the same park recently, and had to sit in driving rain for 15 minutes waiting for the fire department to come help us walk along the tracks: 7 meters to the public platform. Along a solid pavement. It was ridiculous. Health and safety leaves us with a generation of people who are incapable of understanding their limitations because they’ve never been allowed to test them.
No adventurous cycling (with helmet on)
The boy tries to make a ramp with his bicycle. It’s not even high. But no, no… too what? dangerous? puh-lease.
Keep off the grass
I understand the concept of other people’s property, and that children need to learn respect for things that aren’t theirs, but really? Keep off the grass? Isn’t that the bit they play whatever sport it is on? Is a young boy running on the grass on his own going to wreck it? I doubt it. I sincerely doubt it!
Avoid the puddles
Why? Because his feet might get wet? His shoes might get muddy? Well, that would have been a lesson well learned. Jump in puddles, get wet feet. Now, instead, outside is just another boring place where you can’t have any fun.
But by all means, run into a fast food restaurant and have ‘quality time’ eating processed food
But don’t worry kiddo. There’s always McDonalds. There you can hear ‘yes’. There you can have fun, and laughter and freedom to truly enjoy the best that childhood has to offer. With your cardboard children’s meals and plastic toys. (Yeah, I know, my kids have it sometimes too. That’s HOW I know.)
This advert does not make me want the chicken wrap I so enjoy (when I don’t think about the farmed chickens.)
It makes me sad for a fictional boy named Harry and all the children like him.
It makes me want to run my children barefoot down a hill to jump in puddles and leap over logs. It makes me want to carry an extra tin of plasters for every little booboo that teaches them to fall and stand up again. That teaches them just how far you can pull a branch before it snaps, that teaches them how unpleasant thrown sand in the eye can be. That teaches them that if a fall from knee-height hurt, a fall off a cliff will be fatal. That peers don’t always have the best advice or intentions.
It makes me grateful that my children are free range and hopeful that somewhere out there, when they’re grown up and looking for partners of their own, there will be someone left who had a freerange childhood too.
I’m a mean mama. I love you so much, that sometimes a mean mama is the best I can be for you.
There are so many things in this world that I wish to protect you from, to keep you from, to keep from you that sometimes it means that what you want in the now I have to say no to because I want to keep you safe.
Yes, I want to keep you from predators and yes, I want to keep you from people whose love for you may be more about themselves than you. And yes, I want to keep your body safe and your belly full and your learning continual and your development appropriate, but I also want to keep your mind.
I want your thoughts to be of adventures and mysteries, I want your dreams to be of fairies and ballerinas, or trucks and superheroes if you wish. I want your biggest dilemmas to be whether you should bring the red spade or the blue spade to the beach, if your new friend in the park will l be there again tomorrow or not or whether you will walk or take a scooter.
I want to wash copious amounts of muddy trousers and scrub grass stains out of the knees, to have to carry a spare set of wellie boots for when yours are full of puddles. I want beach toys and wooden food and glitter to litter my floors and to be sweeping up sandpit sand for years to come.
I want equal wardrobe space for fancy dress as for clothes, and to be ‘persuaded’ to take a fireman, fairy, pirate or princess with me on every milk run.
There are many years ahead where you will worry about your appearance. There are tears that you will cry over boys and lovers and friends come and gone.
There may be a time for you to care about what’s popular, what’s hot, what’s happening in the world around you, but that time is not now.
Now is the time for a clean fresh face, and a wardrobe that allows you the movement and freedom of childhood without trying to make you into a mini-woman. Now is the time to enjoy fanciful stories and childish movies. Now is the time to live to the fullest and enjoy a kind of freedom you will never again experience, a kind of life you will only appreciate years after its gone.
My girls, a time will come where you will wear make-up and listen to music with themes that don’t belong to childhood. A time will come where your choice of outfit might make me cringe and your choice of entertainment might leave me questioning where I went wrong. I know it will because it came for me, as it does for everyone.
Even Peter Pan grew up eventually…
But innocence lost is lost forever. Childhood left behind is a street with only one direction. There’s no turning back time.
I will do my best to keep you young, to hold on to your youthful days, to be the buffer against words like sexualisation and objectification, and a torrent of marketing that tries to tell you what “stuff” you need to be popular, or beautiful, or loved. I will cocoon you, so that the subjects and realities of teenage years or adulthood become known to you then, and not a day before.
I will be your fortress even when you wonder why you can’t do the things other kids are allowed to and I will be you shield till such a time as your decisions are made by your desires for your life, not those of your peers, or characters in TV shows and magazines.
At times you may hate me, but in time I believe you will see that it was always about what was best for you and one day as you watch your own daughters hurtle with frightening velocity from infancy you will understand that sometimes “you’re being mean mama” is just another form of my deep and undying and eternal love.
Today I took my girls to watch the Cinderella movie, and as it was about to start, I found myself wondering if I was doing the right thing introducing or worse, underpinning the story of a prince that comes to save the princess, whose contribution to king and kingdom is pretty much her beauty. (Do princesses ever get old with saggy bums and boobs?) I shrugged it off in the end because it’s a story, and one the girls have read and heard before anyway.
About half way through the movie, I began to think about the change to Disney movies over the last few years: Brave, Frozen, I’m sure there are more, where the hero is actually a heroine, and girls aren’t being told they are helpless individuals with only their looks in their favour anymore… for the most part.
I was so impressed with how they ‘did’ the new Cinderella movie. While they didn’t actually change any of the story, the bits they ‘filled in’ changed so many of the morals of the story. Cinderella, while a bit of a victim of her circumstances, and of the ‘way’ things were done in specifically Elizabethan England (think Jane Eyre, and marriages made for fortuosity) was still the master of her own mind; she still chose her responses to what was done to her; she still managed her emotions and tempered what she thought by what she believed in. Perhaps because her foundations in “a golden childhood” were so solid, and forged in love, or perhaps because of what Viktor Frankl 1 calls self-actualisation, whereby some people have the ability to see joy and beauty no matter their circumstances. Whatever the reason, the character Ella, who slept in cinders for warmth, was able to be who she knew herself to be, irrespective of the cruelty thrown her way.
Forget about princess and true love! THAT is a message for today’s young women!
No one is coming to save you. No one is perfect, any more than you yourself are perfect. Prince Charming will someday let you down. Just as you will let him down. Because we don’t die at 35 any more. Our years as adults are longer now, and someone, somewhere will disappoint you, hurt you, betray you, break your heart, or worse, your trust. And what matters is not what others do to you, but what you do with yourself after that. And how you respond when a time comes when you are the one with the power.
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
Ella’s mother, on her deathbed, tells her young daughter to face life with courage and kindness. I’ve been thinking about this all day, and I can’t think of better mottoes for life. Everything can be filtered through courage and kindness. Tough love takes courage, forgiveness takes courage. Standing up for yourself takes courage. Not hitting back takes courage and kindness. And the whole world would be a different place if in our interactions with others, we always asked ourselves first: is this kind? Is what I’m about to do or say, kind.
As we were driving home I asked my girls what they thought of the movie, and of course they loved it. They thought the dress and the shoes were beautiful. They thought the castle was magical. They thought it was terribly sad that Ella’s mother died, just like Nana (although I was informed it wasn’t exactly the same, since she died in the day and Nana died at night. How do those minds work?!)
But they didn’t see Cinderella as a helpless girl, they didn’t see the prince as her ‘saviour’. They saw a girl who kept her head while those around her were losing theirs (thank you, Rudyard Kipling 2) and was rewarded for it in the end. Our journey home was spent chatting about courage, and kindness and what they mean to us in the real world. What choosing a life of courage and kindness means between them as sisters, between them and children on the playground, when they’re faced with bullies and mean people, how those mottoes are implemented in our lives.
As far as lessons from movies go, I’ll take this one and run with it, for if I can send my girls into the world strong enough to be courageous and gentle enough to be kind, I will consider it a job well done.
I don’t comment on the news much, largely because I don’t watch the news too much, but this week there have been two ‘stories’ that have been inescapable and as a result, unavoidable. First, this headline:
More than 40% of schoolgirls aged between 13 and 17 in England say they have been coerced into engaging in sexual activity, a study has found.
and second, well it’s not a headline, but it’s everywhere. From a well known paint brand advertising it’s 50 shades of grey paint, to an insurance company quoting 50 shades of insurance to the madness that is this ‘much anticipated’ movie – apparently cinemas across the country are sold out tonight.
Now look, I don’t care about what other people do in their bedrooms – or everywhere else in the house in the case of co-sleepers. I don’t care what the next person’s proclivities are. It makes no difference to me if you read the books or will watch the movie. I didn’t read the book, simply because I don’t have time to read anything these days, and prioritise those things that are valuable to me. That’s not me being smug or haughty either – I simply didn’t read it. Not because of the subject matter, and not because of any self inflated sense of morality or prudishness – I just didn’t, just as I won’t go and see the movie, since I don’t remember the last movie I saw without children!
But something that bothers me, is the surprise with which people responded to the first headline, when you consider how many of those same people are tonight in the cinema watching the movie in the second!
If you plant a tomato seed, folks, you’re going to harvest tomatoes.
Whether it is or isn’t, it’s our job as parents to protect our children & equip them for life
We can’t have an adult world driven, motivated and revolving around sex (and money and power) and be shocked when our children are dragged into that world, even if it is kicking and screaming.
Again, don’t misunderstand me. In your marriage, in your relationship, whatever floats your boat – go for it. If you want to get moralistic and spiritual about it, even the Bible says ‘In the marriage bed, nothing is unclean‘, but don’t act surprised when the child that learned to speak by hearing you speak, who learned to eat by watching you eat, who learned to act as you act is able to coerce or be coerced into ‘sexual acts’ if you – if we – introduce them to them to it vigorously and with enthusiasm and excitement and fan fare.
As adults we have a responsibility to set the standard for our children – and we all know, if not from our own time as parents, then from our time as children, that children are smarter than we give them credit for. They can smell our double standards. They know when we’re living to two sets of rules.
I remember things that happened to me when my parents weren’t around. When we were with ‘trusted’ friends. I know what I got up to when my parents weren’t home. What I watched when they were sleeping, what I read when they thought I was asleep – and that’s in a world before internet, and 24 hour TV, and most definitely in a world where ‘sex sells’ meant a scantily clad model stood next to a new car in advertising.
I’m not trying to ruin your fun, and I’m not saying don’t enjoy the privileges of adulthood, but if you’re going to expose your children, even passively, to matters of sex, then equip them too, and do it proactively, because innocence lost is lost for good. The wolves are out there waiting, we don’t need to truss up our babies.
A few months ago, we had a good look at our lives, and came to the conclusion that we weren’t exactly doing the best we could with our lives and with that, the lives of our kids.
Our home was crowded, cluttered and overwhelming. The children’s wardrobe was so full of clothes, it was bulging at the seams. No matter how many loads of laundry we did, it was never enough. I did a preliminary clean up of all Aviya’s clothes, and removed no fewer than 200 – two hundred – items of clothing, still leaving more clothes than she could wear in a month!
Ask my girls what they’d like to do, and the answer was always something that started with “watch” or “play” (a device). Ask them to play with their toys, and it would end up with boxes of toys strewn over the room, nothing really played with, everything just thrown about, and either an epic mission to get it all back in place, or I’d have to do it myself – clean up would take longer than play lasted, time after time, and it was becoming disheartening.
I felt like a failure as a mother. All our PlayLearning, all our Montessori style set-up and my kids had no imagination, no motivation and no interest in anything not screen based.
So we decided it was time to simplify. It was time to empty the house of everything that wasn’t necessary, beautiful or valuable (sentimentally or financially.) Trust me when I say it was a big job.
I went through the children’s clothing and removed everything that had even the slightest stains. I removed everything that was too small. Everything that for some 2, 3, 4 or 5 year old reason they decided they didn’t like, or didn’t want to wear.
It still left enough clothes to fill a large suitcase, and really, how much more do you need?
The toys went through the same process. Puzzles, play sets, games and everything else that had missing or broken pieces was discarded. Everything that had a resale value was listed on selling sites. Everything else I laid out on shelves and invited my friends round for cake and coffee, and a garage-sale-style-help-yourself.
What didn’t go from there, went in a donation box.
I felt such guilt, looking at the one small box of memory box toys we decided (together) to keep, and the two small boxes of toys for now and toys to swap out in a few months again. We did the same with books.
In the end, when we moved out of our house, the girls had a Trunki of books and a Trunki of toys between them, for now, and the same again for swapping out at a later stage.
We moved into the house we were renting for a month while we waited for travel visas to come through, and the most amazing thing happened. With no beautiful wooden toys, with no ‘imagination building’ contraptions, with no developmental toys, with no organically grown – sourced-by-Tibetan-monks-and -spat-on-by-garden-gnomes equipment that I deemed good toys for them, my girls suddenly started playing.
They played together. They played in turns. They didn’t need me to turn a bed and sheets into a fort – they did it themselves. They found cotton wool and filled an empty drawer with their “diamonds”. They still had their Kindle Free Time every day, sure, but rather than whining about being bored, they spent four weeks of rainy winter, playing.
When we took away the toy overwhelm the children learned to play.
At first I felt guilty and worried that we were going to end up rebuying up all our old toys. I never anticipated finding freedom to be children when we took away the clutter of trying to ‘help’ them develop and grow.
Since this revelation, I have been reading a book called Simplicity Parenting, which talks about ‘soul fevers’ and how stuff and time overwhelm can affect our children’s behaviour and their inner selves. It’s a gentle introduction to help the reader analyse our own lives and see where we can declutter our children’s minds and environment. It’s highly recommended and available from Amazon and The Book Depository (with free international shipping)
**These are affiliate links. Using them doesn’t cost you anything extra though, they just send a few pennies my way 🙂 **
In December last year we were suddenly struck by an opportunity to be stronger than we never wanted to be. My mother had come to visit us for the holidays when she was suddenly taken ill. There’s a back story, but the short version is that they discovered a 21cm tumour in her abdomen, and two weeks later she died.
Those two weeks gave us an experience we never asked for, and as a family, we all learned a whole lot from it all. I sure know what not to say to someone dealing with death or terminal illness now. Admittedly a lesson I’d rather not have learned.
If you’ve landed here because you’re looking for a way to support someone dealing with death or terminal illness, remember that every situation is different, and people are different too. These are the things we highly appreciated or felt we could have used.
It’s not all that hard, really, to prepare a meal. The problem is planning them, thinking about what goes with what. Unless you have unlimited resources, most people can’t afford to just eat out all the time, and when your life revolves around Morphine-runs, or physically sitting with someone 24 hours a day, in shifts, there are so many decisions to make all.the.time. that ‘what’s for dinner?’ is incredibly hard to answer.
Two things to note here are that everyone turning up on the same day with a meal might not be practical. If your recipient doesn’t have a freezer, they can end up with a fridge full of food, all needing to be eaten immediately. My friends used a free web service called Meal Train to schedule the meals so that we had a meal delivered to our house every day for just over two weeks. It was phenomenal. I cannot say how much pressure that took off me.
Provide disposable baking trays and dishes, and when you can’t, just make sure to label your stuff so that the recipient doesn’t have to worry about remembering who’s is what.
This might sound weird, and might not be appropriate to everyone, but two days before my mom passed away, we went grocery shopping (it was Christmas eve after all), so we had a fridge full of food. My vegetable delivery had also come, so the counter was full of vegetables too. I wasn’t in much of a position to sort, cook or store, so by the time a week had passed and people were bringing us meals, I had so much in the fridge that was turning or going off, that having someone come and just go through the perishables – even to take it away and turn it into meals – would have been a godsend. I just didn’t have the strength or foresight to deal with it.
3. Laundry/domestic services
Again, depending on your relationship or the people involved, but people still wear clothes, and unless there’s someone unaffected by what’s going on who is keeping on top of the domestics, things like laundry, cleaning or picking up toys still need to be done, but can seem overwhelming. Personally, I will never again say ‘if there’s anything I can do, let me know’. Because once again, there are so many decisions to make, when someone asked me if there was anything they could do, I couldn’t pin it down to anything. A friend who came over and said ‘I’m here for an hour, can I do the laundry, sort out the toys or is there anything else you really need done?’ is the one I actually gave a ‘task’ to. While you know people really want to help, it can feel so awkward ‘putting people out’ and sometimes you feel people are just asking to be polite.
4. Turn Up
Well, I’ve just said it. Turn up and offer your services. Whether that is as a friend, to provide a domestic task, or simply to take the children to the park for a while. Turning up says “I’m here. I really want to do something for you”. (Make sure you’re not adding to the burden, of course. Bring coffee, bring cake.) (I don’t know that this would work for everyone. Some people might not like it at all. You know your friend!)
5. Offer an escape
One of my friends asked me what evening I could go out with her. She said to bring my Kindle and we could sit together quietly and just read and drink coffee. And she meant it. We didn’t have to talk about what was going on. We just sat, together. It was so lovely. I needed it and now, months later, I remember that night as an oasis in a very difficult time.
6. Unexpected Bills
Money is rarely spoken about among friends, and that’s fair enough, but assume that when someone is looking after someone terminally ill, or who has died, even if there is life or funeral insurance, these only come later. If you want to help someone with money, offer to pay their phone bill for the month – we had to make so many international phone calls for family and friends abroad who we didn’t want to find out on Facebook. There will be increased gas and electricity or water bills if family all gather in one place – we had 9 people in our house for a period of weeks. It all adds up.
Then there’s also loss of income. Most people are blessed to have leave to cover them for emergencies, but that only goes so far, then they have to take unpaid leave and eventually that could become unemployment. Fortunately it didn’t go that far for me, but I personally lost almost a week’s income. In a minimum wage family, that can be crippling. Most people – me included – would have a hard time accepting offers of financial help. A friend of mine knows that and as she left my house one day, she popped something into my handbag. I saw her, she saw me seeing her, and she said ‘…just a little something for you…’ and it was £100 that went towards paying that mammoth phone bill. A kingly gift that you certainly don’t expect everyone to be able to do, and not everyone would need, but I appreciated it immensely.
7. Take the Children
If there are small children involved, taking them to the park for a few hours is a fabulous idea. Even better is dropping off a few new games, an activity book, or a new movie for them to watch. Something that engages them, giving the person caring or taking care of arrangements an opportunity to do so, or to do anything else.
This can be a tricky one too. My husband wanted to take Ameli to his parents in the days leading up to my mother’s passing, and I was dead set against it. I was just about to lose my mother – I didn’t want to be separated from my children. My inlaws are wonderful, kind people, but my child’s place was with me. In the days between the death and the funeral it may have been acceptable, but to be honest, Ameli was so clingy and insecure it probably wouldn’t have been a good idea either.
But a few hours in the park, or even just playing with them in the house is a sweet relief.
8. Accommodation and transport
When someone is in palliative care, terminally ill, end of life care or has died, family tend to come together. Offer a couch, sofa, spare room, use of an extra car if you have it, or even a spare bed if that’s all you can cope with.
9. Send a card
Social media is wonderful, it really is. I received so much support via Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, but when I shared the announcement of my mom’s death, I wished there was the option to disable comments. I say this knowing that a lot of people who commented on Facebook may read it, so should say that I really appreciated the outpouring of love. It meant so much. But we received a handful of cards in the mail too, and I will treasure those forever. They provided a tangible affirmation of our loss, and each one was like a big hug.
10. Know when to say nothing
The first friend I saw after my mother died was one I ran into in a shop. She shook her head and said “I don’t know what to say. I’m not good at this”. I cannot tell you how much I appreciated that. Everyone wants to say something kind. Everyone wants you to know they care, but they do not know how to show it. In your pain, however, there’s little comfort in someone being ‘in a better place’, and while ‘no longer suffering’ is a big thing, it doesn’t take away the suffering of those left behind. The friends who sat across from me, listening, letting me ramble and mostly saying nothing were the ones who saved my sanity. That’s where healing begins.
Have you been through a loss? What did your network do to support you? What could they have done? Help those who still have to walk this path with someone else know what to do to support them by sharing your comments below.
I’m sitting in the soft play tapping away on my keyboard, while my children play off somewhere inside a myriad of tunnels and ball pits and slides. I hear the occasional sound of a voice I recognise, a shout of glee or a call to come back, but I can’t see them.
I’m sitting here alternating between my thoughts, and the book I’m trying to read, and now this, the thoughts I need to put down on proverbial paper.
There are other parents crawling around this plastic paradise, having lunch or spending time together. I seem to be the only one here not engaging with my kids, which is a nice change, but don’t judge me.
I’m here for a few minutes of peace. A few moments to put my thoughts together to organise my mind. I’m here because I worked till 1am and was up with a hungry toddler at 5am. I’m here because yesterday we spent the day stomping around the woods, playing in a mud kitchen and digging for buried treasure.
I’m here because its been raining for days, and I want us to rest our sore throats rather than jumping in puddles, being wind swept on the beach, and I’m here because I’d rather not take a rest day by sticking them in front of the TV.
I’m here because moving out of a house that was no longer right for us was a mentally, emotionally and physically exhausting experience, and two weeks later its finally knocked my wind out. I’m here because I’m overwhelmed with concern about our future and while my mind is trying to process how we are going to survive as a family with just one income when my husbands contract ends next month and I’d rather not spend my day snapping at my babies because my mind is preoccupied.
I’m here because this is the best choice I could come up with for today, and no, I’m not married to my gadgets and my screens and with being so connected to the world that I’m not connected to the best parts of my world.
Its the exact opposite… today looking after MY need to give MY brain space is the best thing I can do for them. Its easy to judge what you see and think that you know what you see, but today, like every day, I’m doing the best I can for my family.
There’s still washing drying on the line, and a bread rising on the counter. Dinner will be fresh and healthy and made from scratch, and before I head back to work tonight, I’ll kiss each of my daughters and ask them what their favourite moment of the day was. I’ll still look in their eyes and remind them how deeply they are loved and wanted.
Like most everyone else, I’m just trying to do my best for the people I love most in this world and for this morning, that involves leaving them to their own entertainment in a place designed for it, while I empty my mind onto a screen, so don’t judge me. Sometimes what we think is a whole pictures, is only a tile on the greater mosaic of life.
Buckingham Palace this week announced that the Duchess of Cambridge is pregnant with her second baby, and that she is again suffering from Hyperemesis Gravidarum, or extreme morning sickness. If it was just the first part of that sentence, I’d say, “oh, that’s nice” and move on, but with the announcement of HG, my interest and empathy thoroughly perk up!
In her first pregnancy, I found the plethora of comments about how she just had to suck it up, how she was ‘delicate’ and other disparaging remarks quite upsetting, as someone who had suffered from the same condition but now I just look at them as signs of ignorance. Honestly people, if you haven’t suffered from HG, don’t comment on it. As simple as that. Especially not if you want to say one of these things, because there are some things that you should never say to someone who suffers from HG.
Everyone has morning sickness. It’s part of pregnancy
Morning sickness sure is. Hyperemesis Gravidarum isn’t. Of the 671,255 births in the UK in 2011-12 one percent of women suffered from HG. That’s 6713 people who’ve been to one of the darkest places pregnancy can take you. They had Hyperemesis Gravidarum. The other 664543 had morning sickness. But they are not the same thing. Many HG sufferers start being sick before they know they’re pregnant, too. For me that was at 2 weeks, each time.
I didn’t get to lie around when I was pregnant. I had to work!
How nice for you, really, that you could. I worked through the 18 weeks of my first fight with Hyperemesis, but it was just me to look after (and my husband, but he can cook himself dinner, and the house didn’t need much cleaning with two adults at work all day. I sat at a desk in my own office with a bucket by my side without too much impact on anyone else.
With my second, we moved house just as I became pregnant. I hadn’t unpacked all the boxes yet when I started throwing up. I didn’t until just before she was born. And I had another child to look after. Those were hard days. An excited, happy two year old, 20- country travel under the belt, had to sit and watch Peppa Pig for 26 weeks because her mama couldn’t get off the sofa without fainting. Hard days.
Other children of Hyperemesis Sufferers still have to eat. They still need their nappies changed. Life goes on, but most of us would be not ‘lying around’ if we had a choice.
Get some rest
[pullquote] If you love someone with Hyperemesis Gravidarum, don’t give them advice on handling nausea. Just ask them what you can do for them. [/pullquote]
Oh, between puking, fainting, feeling sick and trying to stay alive, being constantly thirsty, hungry, and generally gaunt, sleep is easy to come by. Rest, however, not so much. Because you’re still dealing with the bump, the SPD, the heartburn, the dreams. Everything that comes with pregnancy. Oh, and the vomiting, and the extremely isolating disease which knocks your confidence,your self belief and your ability to function as a mother, a wife, a friend.
Have a ginger biscuit or toast first thing in the morning
It’s a great plan for someone suffering from morning sickness – fill the tummy, and help prevent nausea. It doesn’t work for Hyperemesis Gravidarum sufferers (everyone is different, of course). Eating anything, drinking anything, even water will make you vomit. It’ll make you wretch and gag and heave until you’re throwing up little pieces of stomach lining. Then comes the blood as you tear your oesophagus.
It’s like drinking so much you’re still legally drunk the next day. You wake up jittery and nauseous with a mouth so dry no drink can quench the thirst, you can’t even think about breakfast, and even water comes right back up again. It’s like that every day, all day, for some of us.
Be grateful. It’s the sign of a strong pregnancy
You can be so desperate to have a baby, be exhilarated by the news, be hopeful that the ginger will work, the bands will work, the magnesium will work, and then find yourself in a heap on the floor, convinced you’re going to be a terrible mother and your baby hates you already. You can start thinking about your ‘options’ or lack of them, even if it’s something you’ve never ever considered before. You can wish for death. Pray for it, in fact.
Back in the day they used to say that Hyperemesis was a psychological condition in women who didn’t really want their baby. Unless you’ve lived through this condition, you can’t begin to imagine how painful that is for a woman to be told, to hear, or have insinuated.
Charlotte Bronte is believed to have died from the extreme starvation, malnutrition, and dehydration associated with HG. Don’t tell a woman suffering from Hyperemesis Gravidarum that she should be grateful or is lucky.
Wear comfortable clothes
By the time you’ve puked so much you’re seeing your stomach lining from the outside, or have ripped your oesophagus, you’ve pretty much lost the battle with bladder control too. What little fluid your body may still contain quite easily trickles onto the floor with each dry heave. Forget about clothes. It just adds to the laundry.
Just the feel of material against your skin can be enough to set you off, anyway.
You had fun making the baby…
That’s what blogger Rosie from Mummy And Boowas told by her midwife. You had fun making the baby… now comes the hard part. Wow. Just wow.
My number one most hated thing: Have you tried ginger?
I’ve had my head in the toilet for 26 weeks. I’ve not run around with my child, I’ve not done anything for or with her. I’ve been fighting hospitalisation because I have no one else to look after my child, while my husband is the sole breadwinner trying to keep a roof over our heads. I have lost a ton of weight, rapidly, as well as two teeth from all the acid. I vomit every time I move. I’ve had to buy a new washing machine because the first thing I can smell when I wake up in the morning in the washing machine – a floor down and two doors away (sense of smell is heightened by HG). I haven’t seen my friends in weeks, have cried tearless sobs every time I’ve taken non-pregnancy safe medication in an attempt to stay alive while wondering what it’s doing to my baby, and I have had arguments with doctors about what medication will and wont work for me – this isn’t my first time you know.
Do you really think, like really think, that I didn’t somewhere in the beginning of all this, try ginger.
What a woman suffering from Hyperemesis Gravidarum needs is someone to take her child/ren to the park, or play with them in the garden. And feed them while you’re at it. Something that doesn’t smell after (like garlic or onions or beans). Take her laundry out of the house and wash it for her. Wash her sheets with anything not perfumed. Don’t wear perfume around her. Ask her what she needs. Bring ice cubes. Every pregnancy and case is different. In my first I couldn’t handle garlic/meat. In my second the smell of water was horrific. To this day I feel ill when I hear Peppa Pig’s theme tune. If you love someone with Hyperemesis Gravidarum, don’t give them advice on handling nausea. Just ask them what you can do for them.
I receive over 100 press releases a week, and mostly, I don’t go beyond the headline before filing them in archives where chances are I’ll never look at them again, but recently a survey conducted by www.myvouchercodes.co.uk, really caught my attention: breastfeeding in public.
Now, quite frankly, you all know my opinion on breastfeeding in general, but I thought the results of the survey were interesting.
I don’t know why we bother even calling it breastfeeding in public.We should just talk about feeding in publicand get on with it, without apology or concern for the puritanical sensibilities of people who aren’t offended by bikinis, low cut tops, or perfume billboards.
What really excited me about the survey was the fact that only 21% of people felt that breastfeeding in pubs and restaurants was inappropriate. I know that’s still (marginally more than) 1 in every 5 people, but there was a time when it seemed like everyone was against it, so I see it as progress really. (Unscientifically. I don’t know how many people didn’t like it 10 years ago!)
The survey was only done by 500 people, and 21% of those said breastfeeding in pubs and restaurants was inappropriate (too right! Who wants to see anyone eating in a restaurant or pub, those houses of modesty and propriety!), and 18% thought public transport was an inappropriate place (I for one much prefer listening to a screaming baby all.the.way.home). I assume that the 18% who thought recreational areas were a no no are the same people who believe your life stops when you have a child (no wonder!) and one that made me laugh was the 16% who thought you shouldn’t breastfeed in town or city centres (I can’t even think of a sarcastic comment for that one!) – but you’re okay if you are in a shop that’s not in town – only 1% thought that wasn’t appropriate.
Mark Pearson from My Voucher Codes said: “We are aware that mother’s still feel persecuted sometimes over this subject and we hope that eventually breastfeeding in the places mentioned becomes the norm for them. And that we don’t keep seeing news stories, where a nursing mother has been told to hide away to breastfeed. ”
I agree with him, to an extent, so long as we don’t keep seeing it in the news because it’s no longer happening, rather than because we no longer care about it.
You only have to search breastfeeding on this blog to know that I am a huge supporter of full term or long term breastfeeding, and I do think that it’s by bloggers, friends, mothers, sisters and complete strangers giving a supportive smile, a knowing nod, offering a breastfeeding mother a drink (it’s thirsty work, folks!) that that 21% will be steadily whittled down, so that when my daughters have their babies, the words breastfeeding in public won’t even be used together anymore, but instead they’ll look back on ‘inappropriate breastfeeding’ as an antiquated and weird concept.
What do you think? Is public acceptance of breastfeeding growing?