seven years

Thursday, 30 January 2014

I've been stuck indoors for the last week or so and I'm getting a bit fed up with it. My throat/sinus infection followed directly by Baby B's hideous cold and cough (still ongoing) combined with heavy rain has pretty much left me stranded indoors. I'm trying to be considerate about passing on germs, but it's grinding me down a little bit now. Thankfully, I think she's past the infectious snot-flying stage and is entering the this-cough-won't-ever-go-away phase. So that's something.

One of the reasons why I hate being stuck indoors is that I start to notice everything that needs to be done. I go from grateful for my warm and cosy home to noticing every little detail that is wrong with it. I notice the dusty skirting boards, the dirty oven, the terrifyingly messy cupboard under the stairs, the growing ironing pile, the huge amount of things that need to be done to the garden. Because I'm surrounded by it, I can't stop thinking about it.

I guess what you spend your time on - or immersed in - is what fills your heart. It determines the things that you strive for, the direction you want to take, the decisions you make.

Anyway, I had a break from dwelling on my lack of ability as a domestic goddess, because a lovely lady from my church dropped off the DVD that the ladies at my Bible study watched on Thursday (the one that I missed because Baby was at the height of germiness). We're starting a study on James. It was so good just to immerse myself in scripture study again. As I flicked through my Bible, I went to underline the scripture that was mentioned, and I realised I had already highlighted it.

Do you want to know when I last highlighted it?

Almost seven years ago.



I started writing dates in my Bible around six to eight months after I became a Christian, because I heard John Lancaster recommend it when he came to speak at our church. And I'm so glad I did, because it really does mark the passing of time and spiritual growth in such a simple and easy to see sort of way. And it makes me smile to see the same passage marked again and again (the verse I was given at my baptism has five different dates written by it!) where it has obviously been relevant, or useful, or challenging, over and over again.

But isn't that amazing? The same little sentence in the Bible that affected me seven years ago is teaching me something new today. Seven years have passed and there's still things to learn.

This is me seven years ago.

(Yes, that is an Engrish t-shirt I am sporting and yes, I still own that t-shirt and wear it as pyjamas ..!)
In the time since then, I have gotten engaged, and married. I have packed up all my possessions and moved house three times. I have gone back to college, gained a new qualification, gotten new jobs. I have been baptised. I have attended baptisms. I have attended many weddings. I have made many fashion mistakes. I have bought far too many handbags and way too many books. I have gotten way too many throat infections. I have made the most amazing friends. I have had emotional and spiritual highs and lows. I have been suddenly flush with extra money, but also been at the point of wondering how we're going to afford to eat. I have been boosted and carried by my family. I have been on the receiving end of miracles. I have carried and given birth to the most beautiful girl.

I have made many steps forward and many steps back. I have made many mistakes. I have hurt people. I have been hurt. I have misrepresented Jesus in a myriad of ways. I have made huge fundamental leaps of faith that have changed everything. I have been taught life lessons and experienced revelation after revelation ... over and over again I have received blessings, wisdom, forgiveness, grace. And to those of you who have known and loved me over these seven years, if I've ever given you the impression that He doesn't mean the world to me, that He hasn't changed anything, that He doesn't have a profound affect on every single minutia of my life ...

Then I'm sorry. That's me. That's me being human and silly and forgetful. That's not to do with Him.

This is me now:

All my recent pictures are of me pulling ridiculous faces. I must get out of this habit asap!

And I cannot tell you how much my life has changed in these seven years. I cannot tell you how different I am, how healed I have been, and how much I have been blessed. Life as a Christian has been amazing, emotional, awesome, difficult, challenging, healing, strange and wonderful ... all of those things at different times, but it has always always always been blessed.

I just can't tell you. I can tell you bits of it. I can tell you particular challenges, particular moments. Some of them are blog appropriate and some of them aren't. But I can never tell you the depth of it, I can never even begin to describe the wonderful transformation that the last seven years have been, because I just couldn't ever articulate it. I can't put it into words because there's parts of it I don't understand.

Seven years. Has it really been that long?

There's so much still to do. So much that I take for granted, and so much that I have neglected. But so much goodness, so much change, so much life has been had in these last seven.

May the next seven be as awesome as the first.

old habits

Thursday, 23 January 2014

So I'm finally making good use of a One Year Bible that I was given (too many) years ago as a Christmas present. I found the whole lot every day quite overwhelming, especially when I worked long hours, but after last years kind of patchy, hit-and-miss, I'll read a whole book today and then maybe one verse tomorrow and nothing the day after sort of thing, I thought it would be good to get into a proper routine. And after going pretty in-depth into Gideon, I realised how woefully I was neglecting the Old Testament, which I find much more difficult to just pick up and read than the New. So I decided this year to do the OT and Psalms. That was a really long winded way of saying 'I'm reading the Old Testament', wasn't it?

Back to the point. The Old Testament is indeed (at least for me) a little more difficult. Because sometimes, reading Genesis, its pages and pages of explaining lineage, that so-and-so is so-and-so's son. And so on. And then after pages of that, something really strange and mysterious will happen and it's all over in a paragraph, and you're left thinking hey - hang on. What happened there, what was that? And it sends me scurrying for a concordance/a device with which to Google. I love it - the mysterious nature of God, the things we will never understand, and yet there is enough to dig a little deeper, to ask questions, to uncover meaning. Every day there is something amazing to read.

So I am enjoying it. I don't always open it with excitement, to be honest, and sometimes when I see a page full of names my heart sinks a little bit. I don't go into it super-spiritual, or probably as reverently as I should be (I usually struggle to find the page whilst balancing a feeding baby and occasionally have to stop to burp the baby and hope she isn't sick all over the pages). Sometimes I manage to read a verse when I intend to and finish the rest hours later. Sometimes I think 'I'll look that up' and then the day takes over and I forget. Sometimes I read it and I'm so tired I can't recall for the life of me what it is that I read earlier. But most of the time I start it with a prayer. May your word change me this year. I have faith that it will.

One thing I've noticed in the OT is a lot of repeated behaviours. Not good behaviours. Mistakes are made by the same people time and time again. Or, one pattern of behaviour will be passed down to the next generation, and then the next. There is murder and jealousy and rage amongst the people. And it's easy to think 'That's shocking, I would never murder someone' or, 'how awful, I would never send a mother and her baby away to die, no matter how annoying said mother is' or 'I would never enter a who-can-make-the-most-sons-competition with my husband's other wife' (although admittedly that is a problem I will never have to worry about..!) and to detach myself from it. Because their world, with all its laws and customs and traditions, feels a million miles away from mine.

But though the circumstances may be different, these stories speak of old truths. Of bitterness, covetousness, jealousy, lust. It speaks of anger that overcomes you, jealousy that causes you to lash out, grieving, desperate sadness, and the ancient ache for a baby in your womb that feels so real and urgent it hurts. These things are still true. These things are real now.

And besides, how many times do I repeat the same thing even when I know it's wrong, over and over again? How many times do I respond horribly to something life throws my way? How many times do I make a bad decision even though last time it ended really badly?

The truth is, it's just easier to be 'the way I am' instead of the way I should be. How terribly easy it is to excuse myself from right behaviour because 'it's the way I was made'. It's like when you watch reality TV and there's always one person that really stirs things up, one person that makes everyone else feel uncomfortable, because they have to say whatever it is that pops in their head at that moment, even if there's no need for it. 'I just have to speak my mind, I just have to.' Really? You have to? Even if that thing that you're going to say is completely unnecessary, hurtful and is about to cause another person real emotional damage?

In the same way, I find myself going to 'default' mode and acting in a way that I know isn't right, but is just easier. For example. When something unexpected happens that will impact my life in quite a big way, I do this:
  • Panic
  • Get angry or upset or both
  • Start to make plans and control everything obsessively
Instead of taking a deep breath. Instead of carefully weighing up my options. Instead of, most crucially as a Christian, saying 'Okay, Lord, this is fine, you're bigger than this. What shall I do?'

There are certain things about me that are different to other people and that is fine. Not everybody functions the same way; the world wouldn't work properly if we did (and it would be extremely boring). So it's fine for me to be good at some things but not at others. It's not fine for me to know that my behaviour is wrong, even damaging sometimes, to me and myself, and to let 'the way that I am' take the blame.

I had a thought at the beginning of the year. I hoped that this year would be a bit more purposeful. That I'd take control over the things that I do. That I wouldn't let myself be as lazy as I did last year. That I wouldn't just say 'I'm going to exercise more' - I'd actually do it. That sort of thing. Same goes for my patterns of behaviour that I know are wrong. The things that I say or think that aren't kind. The way I react in a panic situation ... and so on. Because as true as I believe it is that life with God is transformational, and a lot of that transformation is out of my hands, I know that I need to make an effort too. Cutting things out can be exhausting and painful but in the end, so worth it - so worth it to allow God to take those things that I know are wrong and change them to something good and beautiful.

So. May this not be a year of living lazily. Of falling back into bad habits. Of settling into patterns that I don't quite fit into any more.

I guess this sounds ironic after the last post ... but I do think that it's possible to do both. To live life to the full and have fun whilst being responsible and living with purpose.

you are so silly

Friday, 17 January 2014

I found you!
I found you!
Two times two is four
I found you!
I found you!
Now let's go find some more.

I found you!
I found you!
Been lookin' all the live long day.
I found you!
I found you!
Now don't you go away.
****

Baby B is developing faster than I can keep up with. One of the best things about this new spurt in her development is the laughter. She giggles and giggles at the silliest things. Daddy dancing in front of her singing 'doobeedoobeedoobeedoo'? Funny. Being lifted above my head and pretending to be an aeroplane? Funny. Being tickled or having raspberries blown on her tummy? Funny. Mummy saying the same thing over and over again but getting higher and higher pitched until she sounds like a mouse? Funny. Sitting up on the sofa and purposefully leaning over until she flops onto a cushion? Hilarious.

In consequence, the silliness level in our house has stepped up a notch. Sometimes Chris and I will realise we're both singing the most stupid made up song and we have been for ten minutes because it makes her laugh. We will do the most silly dance you've ever seen. Just to make her smile.

Now people who know us might think that we are pretty silly in general. But I'm actually kind of serious most of the time. I worry a lot about all sorts of things – from the way others perceive me, how I measure up against other women my age in terms of success or jobs or looks or money, how we are coping financially, what's going on with our government and rising house prices and living costs and lack of jobs and the weird stuff that's happening to our education and healthcare systems. I've devastated by news stories a lot more easily these days (anything involving children will linger horribly in my mind now). And occasionally I have a horrendous thought flash through my head: what if I fall down the stairs with her? What if she flings herself out of my arms? Stupid things that pop into your head before you can stop them.

Which is why it's nice to counteract all this sometimes by being really really silly.

Irecently read a post over at Be a Fun Mum about – well, just that – having fun. The post was called 'I don't want my kids to be smart' and I had to read it to find out why. Because surely everyone wants their kids to be smart? Surely every parent secretly hopes their child will be number one, first to reach the milestones? As a mother you feel this pressure to have it all. The perfect life. The perfect home. Perfect children. It feels so important to look as though you have it all together.

But, really, I agree with her ...

There is much more to my child than how smart she is. How accomplished she will be. How many times she is the first to achieve something.

It goes without saying that I want her to grow up to be respectful and kind and sensible and to work hard and to find what she is good at. But more than that, I want her to enjoy the innocence of childhood before it passes her by. I don't want to pressure her to be the best at everything. I'm wary of falling into the trap that the more time we spend learning baby sign language, or looking at flashcards, or practising writing, or looking at phonics and maths books, the better our children will be. Although I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with those things (I will probably do some if not all of them with her), I've seen the need to have a child with the highest IQ far eclipse the child's inbuilt need to be happy and have fun.

Because childhood? It should be fun.

I want to be the kind of Mum that enables fun. Childhood should be about spinning around until you're dizzy, running really fast, seeing how loud you can shout, or how many marshmallows you can fit in your mouth at once. Childhood should be making forts out of sofa cushions or sleepovers in the living room or camping in the back garden. Childhood should be picnics at the first moment of sunshine in the year, or late bedtimes in favour of sunset beach walks. Childhood should be about listening to stories read in silly voices and music playing loud and attempting to bake and making a huge mess of flour in the kitchen, or making completely unrecognisable masterpieces out of paint and glue and old cereal boxes. Childhood should be water fights, cuddling on the sofa and watching a film, jumping in puddles and … all of that nostalgic sweet stuff.

I still remember the best moments of my childhood. The evenings after a long day, when I'd realise I'd fallen asleep in the car, and it was dark outside, and we were home. And my Dad would lift me out of the car and carry me over his shoulder into the safety of our home. I would lay in bed, limbs tingling with tiredness, and enjoy the exhaustion that comes from having the most fun day.

There is so much bad stuff in the world. Evil abounds and it seeps into things that were formerly good. Adult life can be full of boredom and worry and hurt and lethargy and stress. Grief and sadness will come. There many things to face up to. And there is a lot of responsibility, if you really want to follow Jesus' example, to see justice happen, to give to the poor, to extend hope to the helpless. Those things are important. Vital.

I want her to see us do those things. And I want her to see us to go through the difficult times, the sometimes awful and scary moments life throws at you, still with our faith intact, humbled and ready to go again – and still with joy. Still with laughter. With a hope and happiness that comes not from exam results, or milestones reached, or goals accomplished. Not with achieving a perfect balance, of having it all together, of keeping things as smooth as possible. But with happiness that comes from knowing the One who gives and takes away. With the assurance that comes from His provision. With the perspective of things bigger and better than our worries or fears.

I want her to see our whole lives as a celebration of Him, and of sharing our joy with others. So as well as all the fun we'll have, I want her to remember welcoming people into our home with the table set and candles lit and food smells wafting through the house. I want her to remember lots of laughter and games around the table.

I want her to see that there is an underlying assurance and joy to our lives. That no matter what happens, no matter what trials we face as a family, Mummy and Daddy love her, love each other, love God. And there is happiness to be had every day. Joy that is a gift from Him, to be sought and found in the most unlikely places.

So yes. Joy is important. Silliness is important. Fun is important. And I will defend her right to fun as long as possible. Because He came to give us life, so we can have it to the full. No-one can do 'life to the full' quite as well as a kid can. And they grow up so fast.

I'll forget all this sometimes. Of course I will. Sometimes I can't open my eyes and I rely on coffee to keep me going and I feel overwhelmed and afraid and inadequate. I'll feel self important and I'll define my life by my good works, my responsibilities, how 'deep' I am, how much of the Bible I know. So I've written this to remind myself. Life is a gift. Treasure it.

This morning, we danced around the room to Caspar Babypants, whose lyrics are at the top and bottom of this post (if you're a parent or look after small children, you should totally check out Caspar Babypants. Such sweet, funny, catchy little songs to enjoy with children of all ages). After a few songs and some manic dancing, she suddenly yawned and leaned her head on my chest. Within moments, she was asleep. Resting after the fun that she just had.

A little moment of perfection worth being silly and undignified for.



****

If you've gotta play
You play and bounce a ball
If you've gotta grow
Then grow til you are tall
and if you've gotta cry
Then cry til you feel fine
But no matter what
You are the baby of mine.

the importance of encouragement

Friday, 10 January 2014

My parents came over today to see me and I had a chat with my Mum about how things are going.

I'd had a rough night with Baby B and after weeks of good sleep it's thrown me off course. Tiredness has brought out all sorts of interesting emotions. So sorry if this is a bit ridiculous.

I'm a concerned because she hates being held by anyone except me or Chris. It doesn't matter how close of a family member they are, or how often she sees them. She can be happily smiling at said person whilst sat on my lap, and if they take her for a cuddle (because she's so irresistibly cute) we get bottom lip wobbles and either whimpers that turn into cries or an immediate full-on meltdown.

I don't get it. She's happy for me to leave the room if she's playing - she'll look at me leaving and not be particularly bothered. She plays independently with toys for quite a while and will keep herself occupied staring at the ceiling and talking or waving her hands around in the air (thank goodness or I'd never get anything done). She will giggle at people and smile and gurgle - she just cannot tolerate anyone else holding her.

My sensible side knows that this will just be a funny phase to look back on when she's older, that each baby is different and not all of them are happy to be passed around, that by the time she is one I will wonder what on earth I worried about. My Mummy-of-my-Baby instinct says - if she's crying hysterically, leaning towards me with tears down her cheeks and real worry in her eyes - then I want her back. I don't see the sense in letting her sob hysterically for me while someone else winces and tries to cover their ears whilst rocking her at the same time (she's pretty loud). If she's tired, hungry or overwhelmed (unfortunately she's at least one of those things when we arrive at church on a Sunday) I know that she'll cry and cry if someone takes her from me. I feel so bad when people ask for cuddles just as she's really tired or asking for milk, because I know what will happen, and I have to say 'maybe later.'

I'm happy for people to hold her, sing to her, distract her and so on if she's just whimpering, because that's different. I want her to get used to cuddles with other people, and I'm trying to encourage this in the most gentle way possible as it seems I have a very sensitive little baby.

I suppose what I'm trying to say is that advice I gave in my last post about being decisive is actually quite hard to follow. I make a decision (cuddles if in good mood, don't hand her back straight away if she cries, but if she starts screaming straight away then try again later) and then when it comes to following it through - especially when it involves other people looking a bit disappointed on a Sunday morning - I start doubting myself and feeling a bit ridiculous.

Anyway, I was explaining all this to Mum, and Baby B woke up from her sleep. She is heart-meltingly adorable when she wakes up - all stretches and dreamy, gooey smiles - and Mum just smiled at me and said -

'You're such a good Mum, Megs.'

I waved it off. 'I dunno, I suppose she's happy.'

'Just look at her, the way she smiles at you. She adores you.'

And in that moment, to get such high praise from my Mum was exactly what I needed. And it got me thinking about words of encouragement. Because, although I don't need praise to do what I have to do, sometimes a small sentence can lift you up. And it reminded me of this:

'The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.' - Proverbs 18:21.

How amazing is that? I've been convicted of this scripture many times before when I've spoken out of turn. It's one of those snappy scriptures that pops up in your head at really inconvenient times when you want to ignore it. The tongue has the power of life and death.

Encouragement is so, so important. And while everyone has the power to be encouraging (and this is probably going to sound horribly sexist) I believe women have a particular talent for giving either life-giving words, or life-destroying ones. I honestly think that women connect to each other on a really deep level in friendship and family relationships. Unfortunately, we also really know how to hurt each other.

But I believe that God has designed women to connect. To mentor. To encourage. To help each other through tough times, to share honestly our experiences and things that we've learned, and to offer advice and help when needed. That's why female friendships can be so strong and long-lasting. That's kind of why I started posting links to my blog on Facebook. I've always appreciated women who are honest about their day-to-day lives, how they cope with work-life-family balance, mistakes that they have made and things that have gone well. That's why I try and be as honest as I can. Because I don't have it all 'together'. I am imperfect and make millions of mistakes - but I truly believe that God is working with me. I don't want to pretend I've got everything sorted. Does that make sense?

Anyway. I'm praying this week that I can be an encourager. Not just empty words of praise, blurted out for the sake of it, but real encouragement for someone who is struggling to get by.

****

As a little side note, I thought I'd write a bit more about how bottle feeding is going four months on. Baby B is growing like crazy and is moving nicely up the centile charts. The health visitor was extremely happy with her progress last time she was weighed (I think she was a little bit charmed by baby though as she was beaming at the lady whilst wriggling naked on the scales). I am used to feeding out and about, and washing and sterilising bottles have become such a routine part of life that I don't really notice it any more.

However.

If I'm honest, I still get sad every now and then that I couldn't breastfeed her. Is that a bit silly? It seems to be a weakness in me. When I'm tired or stressed, the reminder that I couldn't do that one thing pops back into my head again. Sometimes I look at breastfeeding mothers and I feel a little pang that I don't have that physical connection with my girl. I think that breastfeeding mothers look so beautiful and natural and I get a brief hint of how I used to feel, that my body let us both down. It doesn't happen all the time - most of the time I'm really happy with everything - but it still bothers me every now and then.

I ordered a book called Bottled Up: Why Breastfeeding Has Come to Define Motherhood, and Why it Shouldn't. It's written by Suzanne Barston, the owner of a blog I visited a while back called Fearless Formula Feeder, and it explores some topics that I'm really interested in - breastfeeding pressure and its links to postnatal depression, the facts behind the safety of formula milk, etc. And it's (apparently) written in a way that doesn't put down breastfeeding (that's the last thing I'd want to read) but in a way that calls for the end of the breast vs. bottle divide.



Apparently it's a very healing book. It's US-based, and from what I've heard the competitive breastfeeding scene is pretty strong over there, so of course I'll have to read it remembering the context. But still, I'm interested in reading about other people who have guilt over the whole feeding thing.

If anyone's interested I'll do a review on it (and lend it out if anyone wants it!).

Anyway, that's the end of today's epic ramble post. God bless xx

On surviving early parenthood

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

You can't really know how hard it is to have a newborn until they arrive.

It doesn't matter how much you've looked after children. Doesn't matter how many siblings/nieces/nephews you have. Doesn't matter how much you read in preparation, how many other mothers you beg for coping techniques from, doesn't matter how many dire conversations you hear other mothers having about sleepless nights and terrifying mystery rashes and colic.

You just don't know. Not really. Not until that moment when the midwife saw us out of the hospital and waved as we headed to the car park did I realise, fully, what was in front of us. How much things would change. How much responsibility we had.

Because you can't have a break, you know? No matter how much you want it. If your baby needs you - it needs you. End of story. No matter how little sleep you've had. No matter how bruised and stitched you are. It doesn't matter if your muscles feel like they're on fire and you can't sit down without squealing and you're leaking all sorts of interesting body fluids from different places. (Nice, huh?) Your baby needs you and that's the end of it. You need to get up and go to them. Basic needs - sleeping, showering, eating - are suddenly a challenge. I remember being in the stage of staring at my meals with longing and wondering if it's possible to eat a jacket potato with no cutlery and one hand (it totally is, by the way - just don't attempt it with a potato you just got out of the oven).*

And really, you don't know what kind of coping techniques you'll need to get through it. I firmly believe that no two families are exactly the same, and different things work for different babies. However, having got through those first few months (relatively) intact, I thought I'd share how I coped in case it's helpful for someone in the future.

If anyone wants to write/knows of a blog post that details coping with the weaning/separation when back to work/teething stage, that'd be helpful ;)
  1. Rest when possible. Sounds obvious in theory, but there's this weird pressure to be Back To Normal as quick as possible. I'm not sure where this comes from. Myself? The media? Other mothers?! But to be honest, people's bodies react differently, and (so I've heard) the same person can have entirely different pregnancies/birth experiences with subsequent babies. I think it took a good four weeks for me to feel remotely able to go out without wanting to faint with exhaustion afterwards. And even then for the first few months I had bad days. Need to stay in your pyjamas? Stay in them and snuggle your baba!
  2. Ask for help when you need it! Our family and friends were desperate to come round for a cuddle with a tiny newborn. I appreciated that, when I needed to sleep, there were people I could call on to take her even for half an hour before the next feed. Don't be proud - accept help graciously.
  3. Appreciate the wisdom of those who have gone through it all before. I'll talk about the flip side of this in the next point, but there is definitely a biblical principal in women guiding younger women, helping them navigate new stages of their lives. The most random person might have the genius tip that helps your baby to settle instantly, or a special position to hold them to ease trapped wind. Ask for advice if you want it.
  4. Trust your own instincts. And this is the flip side. I had so much great advice - and, to be honest, a lot of advice that was completely contrary to what I felt was right. You may have people that are quite insistent on the way things should be done. But at the end of the day, no-one knows their babies when they're tiny and fresh quite like their mamas. And that's the way it should be. I remember once when someone was feeding Baby B for me so I could eat a decent dinner. As I looked over at them, the thought occurred to me - she's going to be sick now. She wasn't squirming or coughing or gagging - it just popped into my head. Seconds later, the floor (and our poor guest) was covered in reams of sick. I believe that a mother's instinct is a very real and precious thing. Utilise it!
  5. The emotions will pass. Things will get to you when you have a newborn. Some innocuous comment about how your baby is a bit skinny/bald will cause you to want to slap people (even if your baby is skinny and bald). I used to stew on things people said for ages afterwards in the first few weeks, and unfortunately new babies seem to bring out the weirdest comments in people. And the tears! I must have cried enough to last a lifetime. It's fine - totally normal. You've got hormones all over the place, no sleep, and the sudden realisation that your baby is no longer attached to you but is out in the world where anything can happen to it. It's a lot to deal with, but you'll develop a thicker skin because of it, and at the same time, you'll gain real empathy for others. Also a good moment to practice extending grace and forgiveness to people ;)
  6. Don't be afraid to make decisions. We had to make the decision, for example, to not allow Baby B to be passed around during church, but instead to stay with us as much as possible. Sometimes, after church, we would just go straight home for some quiet time. Why? Because in the evenings after a busy day she screamed and screamed from overstimulation. We knew why we weren't passing her around, and it might not have pleased people, but it was best for us. Be polite and mindful of others, but be decisive - you can change your minds as your baby grows.
  7. Make the most of medical help. I feel utterly blessed by the care I had during birth/in the weeks afterwards - the visits from my midwife and health visitor, the random trips to the children's centre because we were worried about this rash/strange thing on her fingernail/poo problems, the hospital midwives available for in-the-middle-of-the-night panics - these people are trained professionals and it's free to access them. Don't be afraid - they've heard it all before, and no worry is too small when it comes to tiny babies.
  8. Know that God cares about you. It was in the scariest, most overwhelming moments that I felt God's presence the strongest, especially in those first few days at home with Baby B. I prayed in little bursts, words of panic or of praise. I firmly believe God cares about my baby girl, even more than I do. And prayer is so important.
  9. Savour your baby. Enjoy your little baby. Stare at them for hours if you want to. Look at every eyelash. Admire their little curled up feet and hands balled in tiny fists. Look at their lips making cute little sucking movements while they sleep. Take millions of photos of every event - first bath, first cuddles with family and friends, first time in the baby gym. You will love looking at them later.
  10. Cherish this time. It's scary and exhausting and painful - but it's sacred. There's nothing quite like being a mother to a tiny new baby. Enjoy the almost frighteningly strong love you have for this little person. Enjoy the deeper connection you have with your other half as you face tough times together. Appreciate your mother more than ever before! Feel proud of surviving labour - I felt exhilarated by my newly discovered strength for days (before the exhaustion kicked in). Savour it all, the strange beauty of it - because it flies by.
I'm not sure who reads this, but I hope it helps someone. I also know that, no matter how many words I write, no-one can be completely prepared for the arrival of a little one. I guess the best bit of advice I can give is enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!

* Bonus advice - if luck is in your favour and you have the magical combination of a) a still-hot meal, b) a baby happily sleeping on your chest and c) a spare hand with which to wield a fork, it's probably best to wait for that food to cool down. Because no matter how hard you try to be careful, you will almost certainly drop food on your baby's head. You're welcome! ;)

Happy Noo Year!

Friday, 3 January 2014

I'm back from my internet fast! Woo! It's officially 2014 and I saw in the New Year by laying in the dark, half-asleep, frantically rocking our Moses basket with my foot and saying 'shhhh' in a lame attempt to stop the fireworks from waking up the baby. Glamorous.

Every year I say 'I'm not going to make resolutions' but then somehow I end up with a list of them and I forget most of them by February. I'm not doing it this year. I'm not.

Okay. I have two. I've managed to narrow it down to two. Be healthier and read more of the Bible. I do have plenty of hopes for 2014 ... but that's another matter.

Here are a few little things I loved about the end of 2013.

A baby that can enjoy toys ...


And be held on my hip.


Baby's bedroom. Best room in the house for the sheer colourfulness.



Leftover Christmas sweets. Obviously need to be eaten before the 'healthy 2014' thing truly begins.



Board games, baby!



Friends who come back and it's like they never went - and magical 'first cuddle' moments.


The prospect of this being the start of my days.


Hope you had a wonderful Christmas. Here's to an amazing 2014.
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