Shovelling Snow

Folks, I can’t keep up. There is so much to do. I feel like I am constantly shovelling a snowy pathway, only to have the snow carrying on falling around me, so no sooner do I complete one patch, then it needs doing again.

I feel like I have to keep moving because if I dare to stop for one second, I will drown.

I had a socially distanced evening last night with some other ladies. We met up in one of their gardens, the night was starry and dark and still. She had a wood fire burning, and we wrapped up warm and sipped spiced hot drinks. We talked until midnight. I have not done something like this in… years.

Anyway, it was really good. But I noticed throughout that I kept thinking of the chores I had to do and the work deadlines I had to adhere to, and even though the evening was meant to be relaxing, and I felt great after it, I felt my neck was so sore and my back muscles so tight from being hunched up in worry.

I saw a quote years ago before I had my son, which said ‘Cleaning the house while kids are growing is like shovelling snow while it’s still snowing’. It was on a fridge magnet and I got it for my mum because she appreciates humour. She also always complains about ‘us kids’ and the mess we make everywhere.

Anyway. I feel the quote is apt now, but it doesn’t just relate to kids, it relates to everything.

Someone recently said that the only reason why we feel stressed in our lives is because we want too much. I think we want what we want and we do what we think is the right thing to get there.

For example, I think to myself, why do I work? Well I work to buy my son his winter coat and shoes, to pay off bills, to put food on the table. If I decided not to work, then we would struggle to be comfortable and my son would be cold in the winter. I think sometimes people don’t have choices in these matters.

Choice, I have come to realise, is a luxury.

Bits and Bobs

I often think about politicians and how quickly they age when they arrive in ‘office’. Barack Obama became president with relatively little grey in his hair, and eight years later left looking grizzled, more wizened, but still dapper. Boris Johnson looked like a lopsided clown for most of his time as mayor of London, but you can distinctly see a hollowing around his eyes that was not there previously. A strange look. Age? Narrow escape from the clutches of Covid? New baby? Or just a side-effect of being the face of a nation? Something I think about. Can’t imagine why someone would want that job, but it’s a good job they do, else nobody would be in charge. Not sure how well they run the country but that’s another discussion entirely.

I have been spending too much time on social media again recently. It’s very bad for my brain. It also makes me irritated with humans in general. Like the people who message you demanding you follow so-and-so. No, Margaret. I will not follow ‘Fally’s Fashions’, a small boutique based in South Korea. I don’t live there, I will never visit the boutique, and it does not benefit me in any way. I don’t care if they’re ‘amazing’ and that they’re ‘really good friends’ of yours. It’s not like you’re asking me politely either. Gosh. Why were we friends in secondary school, again? Why are we friends on social media if we have drifted apart and never talk to each other? Back in the day when people drifted apart they did not have constant daily reminders of each others’ lives. I would never know Michelle had twins and is living it up in Australia, for example. Not sure why knowing this benefits me or her in any way. But I can’t unfollow because we used to go to school together and it’s … impolite.

See? What is online etiquette? She would never even notice if I unfollowed her. Or if she did, she would not care.. we NEVER talk! So weird.

I watched David Attenborough’s ‘Witness Statement’ that was recently released. It’s called ‘A Life on Our Planet’ and it basically shows how drastically the planet has changed in the 90 years that Sir Attenborough has been alive. Bloody hell. The timeframes they gave for the inevitable destruction of the earth based on the current trajectory (if we don’t do anything to stop and reverse climate change) is shocking. I found myself measuring it in my son’s lifetime instead of mine. It will be my child and his child who will feel the heaviest impacts of this. It’s so worrying. We can do so many things, but ultimately the hugest changes lie in the hands of the most powerful. And a lot of these powerful policy makers are big fat cheetoes who have lived over 70 years on earth and so won’t be around to see these horrific implications, and who also don’t believe in climate change. Bloody travesty is what it is.

August’s End

For the first time in ten years, I find myself wistful that the days are getting shorter and the nights are getting colder.

Winter beckons her long, pointed icy finger, and this time I am loathe to follow her down her icy path of starry skies and crisp, foggy moors.

I don’t know what it is. Is it the fact that social distancing has made me anxious to be indoors around other people? Is it the fact that long, bright, heady evenings are now gradually departing, leaving sudden darkness in their wake?

I don’t want to welcome winter. I want it to be summer all year around.

On Discipline

The professor Jordan Peterson (who is controversial because of some of his views) said once that in order to discipline children you might hurt their feelings for a short period of time so that they can learn to behave properly in the median to long term so that their lives can go well.

When I was four years old, we lived in the Middle East in a villa complex. It was a large villa, with four separate flats surrounded by a wide walled yard. There was an iron gate leading from the yard into a garden filled with greenery and a large communal swimming pool. All of our neighbours were expatriates from the UK too, because we were all housed by the job the adults had (teaching English at a school for the children of royalty).

I remember playing with the neighbour’s kids outside one day, all of us on our tricycles, when one of the neighbours stepped out of her front door, dressed to go out.

She was a nice enough woman, and fast friends with my mother, and she smiled at us as she walked past. As she reached the main gate leading to the street, I called out impulsively, ‘Where are you going!?’

She turned, as her husband followed her, and said curtly, ‘None of your business.’

I remember feeling like she had punched me in the stomach. I felt so hurt, and engulfed in a feeling of intense shame. I flushed; the heat of it on that hot windy desert day made my skin prickle. I knew straightaway that I had done something horribly wrong. I wanted to cry but couldn’t do it in front of the neighbour’s kids, so I ran indoors and told my mum what happened.

‘Well, you shouldn’t be nosey,’ was my mother’s response. Standard. No-nonsense. As if it were the most natural thing in the world. She carried on doing what she had been doing.

I still remember that moment vividly, twelve years later. I still feel the shame of it. I still feel the heat of my flush, and the firm and frightened resolution to never ask anybody anything ‘nosey’ ever again.

It’s trivial to recall this as an adult, most people would just move on, I guess. But even now as a grown ass woman, I cannot ask anybody too many questions out of a genuine fear of being perceived as nosey.

So, I guess Jordan Peterson is right. It works.

Lockdown for me

Fireflies and blossoms dying and grass growing from seed carefully sprinkled on freshly raked topsoil. Every single day things grow. New shoots poke out from between the cracks in stone tiles, and lilies shoot up so high they are a shock to see on sunny, summery mornings.

Hunger sitting in a belly, for hours and hours, gnawing and gurgling until it is satiated with a plate of spaghetti tossed in olive oil, garlic, chilli flakes and lemon rind.

Small brown paws explore fresh compost, putting it into empty buckets and down little shirts, tumbling over soft baby skin and fat cheeks streaked with the remnants of what a baby has had for lunch.

Exploring waits for no man. Exploring does not even wait for a face to be washed.

Diggers and dumper trucks work hard at removing rubble from an ancient building site, the old Victorian signage toppling down under the sheer brute force of heavy metal machinery. Large brown eyes stare in wonder as the dust rises around high-vis  jackets and yellow hats reflecting the glare of a May sun.

Lilacs dying and being replaced by masses of large round yellow roses, their lemony scent overpowering and sailing with the breeze down a deserted road.

Broken images and a clamour of familiar voices from a computer screen, then silence and the thumping of little feet from room to room, carrying objects from one end of the house to the other.

Shrubs miraculously turning into trees, and the incessant watering of lupins lest they shrivel their purple blossoms up and wilt.

Daily bursts of motivation following slumps of deep exhaustion, and days blurring into a sludge of minor events following each other like dominos.

What is lockdown like for you?

Decluttering

Today, when I sat procrastinating doing some Very Important Admin, I was watching some youtube videos of people’s apartments. Most of these apartments were white, pristine, clean, looking as though they were designed expertly for a high end magazine. It looks suspiciously like there was some artful lighting placed invisibly just beyond the camera angles. The plants were brand new, the sofas hadn’t been sat on, there was no clutter at all.

No coffee cups, no newspapers, no books out of place, no pencils and pens, no thoughts lying on open pages, no crumbs evidencing food was consumed, no clothes absently draped over chairs and no thimbles left to roll on a windowsill. Did these Youtubers actually live in these homes? Or did they pay someone to make a set so that they could get some fabulous content?

I know some people like to live as though they were in a magazine, with no clutter at all anywhere. My husband is like this, which is why he hates my books (which I enjoy accumulating because they bring me comfort). He thinks that if I read a book, I ought to give it away as soon as I am done, so as not to make this house more cluttered than it is.

Anyway the point is, it has now become a trend to declutter your home, and live as though you dare not own anything ‘tacky’ or have any personal taste at all.It has to fit an ‘aesthetic’. Currently the trend is large green houseplants, slim lines, a dark green or blue feature wall, plenty of white, and some rustic ruggedness that is also pristine and new. People on social media apologise for their ‘cluttered’ homes, which are just personal spaces filled with things they enjoy having, depicting their personalities and interests.

So if you have clutter, you get judged. Not me, just people who post things and people who comment things.

Now, this is a stale argument in my marriage, but I happen to think that some clutter is a good thing. A little decoration piece that you got 6 years ago on the edge of a river. A post-it note from your classmate who is now traversing distant lands, but which reminds you of times when you couldn’t control your laughter. A tiny gondola made from murano glass with its edge snapped off, but which reminds you of early marriage days and sweet innocent love. It differentiates you from everybody else who has a feature wall and large houseplants.

It also makes you realise who YOU are.

I read a sad thing yesterday, where a lady who runs a youtube channel and an instagram page said, as though everybody else thought the same as her, ‘I regret painting my wall blue to fit an instagram aesthetic. Next time, you should choose a colour and design YOU like, not what instagram likes‘. It seems like a lot of social media orientated people are doing this.

 

Some Parenting Thoughts

Hey guys. I hope you are all doing ok in this current state of chaos.

I am trying to to navigate each day with a pair of thick metaphorical spectacles. You see, my son has suddenly had a growth spurt. He has shot up and his head is now reaching my thighs. I see it bobbing by as he walks past the table.. yes, WALKS. Walks with a purpose. Little mouth set in between two large, soft, round cheeks, and a little tummy that pokes out like a middle-aged beer belly… only cuter.

Because he is no longer a baby, he is a BOY. He toddles and has an opinion, and voices it vocally.

Naturally, with his new-found abilities, he has developed new-found interests. Toys are now boring, and he must be entertained and taught and spoken to. He comes toddling up to me several times a day, grunting with the effort of lugging his books from one corner of the house to the next, begging me to read to him. He gets so upset if I don’t immediately put down what I am doing (gloves on, water dripping from half-washed dishes) and read to him. He experiments with everything, and has no understanding of safety whatsoever, no matter how many times he has caught his fingers in the washing machine doors, he will still wriggle out of my arms and make a beeline for danger.

This means my days are no longer structured around a baby, they are structured around a little human boy. 

A real person.

He lay on me the other day, and I rocked him to sleep, and his head was on my chest, and his feet reached all the way down to my knees. And my husband came in and said, ‘Wow. Remember when he was small enough to fit in your stomach?’

I did, folks. I remember when he was breech and his little feet would kick down near my abdomen and his big heavy head would push up against my lungs so it hurt to take a deep breath. I would have to do some yoga and walk around for him to move position. And now his little body is taller than my torso.

He is so small but so BIG!

I do stupid things like cry when he is asleep because I am worried somebody might break his heart one day or bully him or make him feel bad.

I voiced these concerns out loud, and my husband asked, ‘Would you rather him be bullied, or be a bully?’

Straight away I said, ‘I’d rather he be bullied.’

My husband reckons that is an awful choice, but I’m resolute. I’d rather my son have a kind heart and good character than cause anybody else harm. I was bullied some, as a child, I think most people were. You learn how to be considerate of others when you’re hurt yourself. I never want him to be so mean spirited and cruel as to deliberately hurt somebody else. I confess, when I was four, I used to pinch this little girl in my class. She would cry. I don’t know why I did it. And I still feel despicably awful about it, even though we are friends now, and even though I apologised to her many times over the years. I still feel so despicable every time I think about it.

Would you rather have your child be bullied, or be a bully?

Tweezers

How are you doing, folks?

Have you heard a lot of that lately? How are you doing? No, how are you doing?

It is nice to see people checking in with each other more. There are still a lot of terrible things happening, but so much positivity too. It’s totally up to you, what you want to pick up when you sift through the piles of panic and mess.

My husband has started using my tweezers lately. I only have one pair. My husband likes to think he is the tidy one in this relationship but that is so not true. He never puts things away! I always grumble about this, and put the things he has left out away. He is a lovely guy though, and cleans our house beautifully, and makes sure I come down to pristine tidiness every morning because mornings can be chaotic with a baby. He is caring and sweet (he doesn’t like to be known as ‘sweet’, it is not ‘manly’), and although he is a ball of stress, he is the only one who truly knows how to calm my stormy nature.

Except he keeps taking my tweezers from their designated space and never puts them back! So now, for three weeks, they have been missing. We have both hunted high and low for them but with no luck. I feel so annoyed with him. My eyebrows are growing out and they are itching to be tweezed!

I know that is something petty to say considering the state of the world right now. I know I have the luxury to focus on petty things right now as we are staying indoors for the foreseeable future. My son is asthmatic so I worry about him. And of course, I worry about those who are so much more vulnerable and who are at dire risk if we unintentionally pass anything on to them. So we are staying indoors.

And I am focusing on petty things! Like my missing tweezers! If you have seen them, can you please tell them not to be so dramatic and send them my way?

A Secret Thought

Folks, I was exceptionally greedy today, and had two helpings of chocolate cake with custard after dinner. Dessert is not a normal occurrence in our household, mainly because I don’t make any, and my husband cannot cook. Scratch that, he has NO INTEREST in cooking and therefore cannot make anything remotely edible. Much like me when I am forced to watch old Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson boxing matches. Yawn.

The custard came out of a tin costing 75p, and started its life in powdered form. The old me would have lovingly made it from scratch out of egg yolks, which would have resulted in a ridiculously creamy, warm, homey concoction. The new me does things by halves, and so I ate chemical-tasting custard and I damn well enjoyed it because custard is not a regular occurrence in my household. My son is allergic to eggs.

This time last year my son was 2 days old, and I was cloudy with hormones and recovering from a c-section. I thought he was the most beautiful thing on earth (I still do think that), and my feet were swollen like balloons. I don’t like to think about the immediate aftermath of the birth, to be honest. My mother stayed with me for a week and in my horrible, swollen, post-surgery, post-labour hormonal self, I was a total bitch to her. I did not trust anybody with my baby and could not sleep a wink for over a week; every time my eyes closed my dreams would rise up, cluttered and clustered and mountainous, full of events and sweat, and when I awoke I felt as though I had run a marathon. I was crying, uneasy, anxious and altogether rather horrid. This lasted, gradually fading, for a year. I am still suffering the repercussions of it and while I adore and cherish my son more than anything, I can’t help but have clouded thoughts.

I know this ought to be about him, because it is HIS birthday, and why am I so bloody negative when millions of women have births and c-sections and still manage to make the day about their kids. Don’t get me wrong, I never breathed a word about these feelings to anybody. I genuinely showed everybody sincere happiness, and I danced with my boy and told him how he was one that day, and how special he was to me and his dad, and he relished it all with big smiles and mild chatter. I was all laughs and smiles, folks. But as I walked home from the park, the winter sun shining, spring so clearly on its way, my boy nodding off in his pram, I couldn’t help thinking of the events of last year, and my personality change, and how horrible I was and how awful I felt.

When I got into the house, I put the pram away and rocked my son to sleep, tidied up and washed the dishes and out on a load of washing. I went outside and swept the garden of all the weeds I’d pulled up, I cleaned the tiny hand prints off the window, the table, the fireplace edges, I mopped the floors, I peeled and chopped some onions and put some pasta on to boil… and I just thought about it all and my heart sank.

That is how I can explain it. Mind you, this is all deep within the most secret crevices of my heart. I will never let my son know how I feel.. maybe when he is much much older and time has erased the rawness of it all. Or I will never tell him because there is no way his birth is the reason for this. I can’t have him thinking it is his fault because it most certainly is not. I can’t even describe it. It’s like a lump on my chest, that I can smother with life, but it does rear its head, and it is always there. I am always aware of it. It’s a fact of life, folks, that sometimes, a woman’s mind and body just are never the same after they have had a child.

You can say, well Lenora, get on with it. Well. I do get on with it. I do. I am happy, as everybody around me will attest to. I am full of cheer and joy. Just here, in this nook of the internet, I sometimes release these little feelings like gentle moths.

 

5th of February 2020

Folks, in this post I am going to talk about something very very personal, but also a topic which a lot of people cannot handle. So if you are squeamish, or if the topic of miscarriage hurts you, please do not read any further.

On November the 18th, about three months ago (almost), I took a pregnancy test which came out positive. I was shocked, of course. My baby was almost 9 months and while we had wanted two babies close in age, we did not expect to get pregnant so fast.

I was over the moon, of course. Another little baby to keep my little almost-one-year-old company. Two cute little voices and two simultaneous childish peals of laughter in my home. My husband was over the moon too but we were both scared, because it was hard enough with one baby, let alone two! Two sets of night wakings, two sets of nappy changing, double the exhaustion!

I had my three-month ultrasound scan scheduled for Tuesday the 4th of February. We were so excited. I put makeup on for the first time in a year (literally). I did it because for my current baby’s first ultrasound scan I put makeup on too, and my husband said ‘why are you wearing makeup for this?’ and I said, at the time, ‘because I am meeting my little baby for the first time.’ So I did it this time too, because I can’t show favouritism between my two babies, can I?

Anyway. We took our little boy (let us call him ‘E’) with us to the scan so he could meet baby too.

The technician was lovely when she welcomed us, and then she told me to lie on the bed. She put the gel on my stomach which was already starting to protrude. And then she put her device on my stomach and pressed in. I gasped, because a sharp pain ran through my abdomen when she pressed down. She asked if I was alright, and I nodded, feeling uneasy.

On the screen I could see my uterus, and a little tiny baby lying in the corner of it. I held my breath in anticipation. Oh my goodness. My baby.

The technician was quiet and she began doing some measurements. She checked in with me how far along I was, and her face seemed a little serious.

The little baby on the screen wasn’t moving, and I began to feel anxious. I told her 13 weeks. She checked again, and then turned to me.

‘I am really sorry, Lenora, I can’t find a heartbeat.’

My own heart felt like it stopped.

‘I need to call another technician to make sure, I am really sorry sweetheart.’

I kind of lost it, folks. A huge sob that I didn’t even know was sitting in my chest pushed its way forcefully up and exploded from me, I had to put my arm over my face, my body was shaking in shock. My husband, carrying E, rushed over to my side and I put my face in his jacket to compose myself while the other technician was called in. They did more checks, and she too confirmed that there was no heartbeat, and there hadn’t been one for two weeks, according to the baby’s size.

It was a very hard day that day. I zoned out when the midwife was telling me about my options, and if my body did not expel the …. (she literally said ‘the ..’ and then paused), the hospital would require me to come in so they could medically intervene to stop me getting infected.

But I guess the hardest day was the next day. The fifth of February. My husband had to go to London urgently for work. He did not want to but at the time I was feeling physically fine so I made him go. London is about 4 hours from where I live up ‘north’, so it would have been very hard for him to come back in an emergency.

I was cramping a little but I had had a miscarriage back in 2015, so I knew what to expect, or I thought I did. I really thought I did. But back then I was only about 5-6 weeks along, this time I was 10-11 weeks along. Nothing could have prepared me for what was to come next.

Please do not read further if you are squeamish.

I’ll summarise it for you but it was a blood bath. Nothing like my first miscarriage. I couldn’t go anywhere in the house. I had to take care of a roaming 11 month old who needed feeding, nap times, changing, playing with, and I was all alone and in agony. I was having contractions, and I know this because I have experienced them before. Waves of pain that made me sweat, and just blood everywhere. And I won’t even describe or explain the most gruesome and panic-inducing details of the rest of my miscarriage. I caught my barely formed baby in my hands and in my panic that I would lose it, I had to fish for other things, clumps of what would have once protected and fed my unborn child, the size of my hand.. goodness.

When it was all over, 7 hours later, I was shaking and exhausted.

I still feel shaky and exhausted and I still cry to think about it, five days later. I was expected to drive for two hours to visit my in laws yesterday but my mother called me and told me sternly that I was not to go anywhere, and she drove up herself with dinner cooked and took care of my baby while I rested.

I don’t know, folks. I write this all down here as here is a place to write and record and keep things for me. I feel very sad, but I know this is part of life. This was not meant to be at this time. I am very lucky to have a little baby that lived and made it through. I hold him and hug him tighter these days, and I think of all the women who go through what I went through and worse, later miscarriages and no babies for years and years and I grieve for them too.

Sometimes I feel like I don’t deserve to feel sad because others have it so much worse. Women have felt their babies move, and then stopped. Women who have had to give birth through labour to babies they know will never breath, will never look at them with open eyes. Women who can never even have their own children. So why am I so upset when I have a baby already. Is it selfish?

A life was still lost, in my eyes. I held it in my hands. I felt my stomach expanding to accommodate it.

I know I will heal and move on. I know life goes on. I know time will erase much of the panic and anxiety and sorrow. But I still need to give myself the space to feel it as much as I need to, because I will never ever forget.