During childbirth, there’s a phase called transition. You move from riding contractions to the urge to push. Often, this is a time when you feel utterly convinced that you can’t do this any more. That your body wasn’t designed for this degree of effort.
I remember the sips of cold orange squash my husband gave me through a straw as I hit the wall during my own transition in labour just over 12 years ago. The sweet, icy energy and the tenderness of a husband in waiting. I stepped out of the birthing pool and into the bathroom of the delivery suite. From there my body took over. Determination, resurgence of physical strength, intense focus.
And then she was here. The moment of tearful announcement from my husband:
“it’s a little girl”
Holding her, wrapped in a towel, eyes dark as ink. Our new life begun.
I find myself in another ‘liminal’ space now that the little bundle has begun her life as a high school student. On the boundary between being needed and being in the way. Between parent and confidante. Sometimes the ‘cool mum’ who her friends like to be around, sometimes completely out of touch.
It’s definitely been unsettling, but most days it’s kind of fun. Our new life begins.
Sometimes, when I look deep in your eyes, I swear I can see your soul
Sun faded photograph
Can’t hide the depth, the knowing of your inky blue eyes
Your focus is unwavering
You know our hearts are eternally intertwined
You know I am your shelter
But did you sense my sorrow?
Did you feel my heart ache to be the mother you needed?
I look deeper into your eyes
Tell you I’m sorry, tell you you’re beautiful
Tell you I’m here, tell you thank you for being the Reason
Your gaze fixes on me from the photograph
Whispers to me “everything’s going to be OK”
Music is becoming an increasingly important part of my gap year preparations. In the transition from CDs to streaming and Spotify, I’d kind of forgotten how much I enjoy pottering around the house with music on and how relaxing it is to cook or do the packed lunches with some tunes. I’d also forgotten how much I love to sing. Last night I took to the mic for the first time in about ten years, and sang some folk songs with Gallant Grandpa at Boston Tea Party’s Play On. It was great to sing about feisty young women of the 17th century, and I tested out my red lippy again which was fun. It definitely is like putting on an instant slick of confidence (thank you YSL!)
Going to see live music was a massive part of my teenage years in Leeds, and I had the privilege of seeing both Madonna and U2 outdoors at Roundhay Park. I now have two live music events to look forward to in the gap year – The Dixie Chicks at the O2 next year and Farmfest in August. After singing last night, GH and I watched a brilliant BBC documentary about the evolution of music festivals and it really inspired me about the heady mix of hope, politics, fields, music and dancing (Bad Brain means no recreational drugs on my menu!)
For the last few months I’ve been challenging my vocal cords and sight-reading skills in a local jazz choir, Harmoni. It’s so much fun practising discordant harmonies and lots of “doo-be-doos” as we work through the arrangements together. I’ll be getting out that red lippy again for our performance at the local community centre in July. Using the musical side of my brain is so relaxing and such an antidote to busy days of writing as I finish my contract with Action on Postpartum Psychosis. If music be the food of love, let’s play on.
With my trusty ancient copy of Cordon Rouge in hand, I’ve spent a peaceful afternoon cooking today. A dear friend is going away on holiday and I wanted to make something delicious for her to take to the cottage. I’ve been practising ‘slowment’ as I cook, a concept shared with me by a wonderful colleague from my Rethink days. Bare feet touching the floor, I’ve taken the time to dice the vegetables slowly and purposefully, enjoying every sensation. With accompaniment from Molten Meditation it’s felt a very Zen way to cook, in comparison with my normal flurry of pots and pans. It’s a rare treat for me to take time out to cook without Little One tangled around my feet asking if she can help out!
The Cordon Rouge cookbook came from a (sadly now departed) cafe called The Red Herring from my Newcastle Uni days. The vegetarian and vegan food there was out of this world, and the whole place ran on ‘love, pure love’ as a worker’s co-operative. When I cook one of their recipes it instantly transports me back to the feeling of wellbeing and comfort promoted by the delicious food and the staff. Recently, I’ve found my goodgirlgapyear solution to Red Herring nostalgia; Herbies vegetarian cafe in Exeter. The most fantastic dhal and delicious salads, an incredibly warm welcome (especially for Little One) and free cakes with a drink before 12pm. It’s the perfect way to round off my day when I pop into Exeter for yoga.
What did I cook while barefoot in the kitchen? Well that’s a surprise for my special friend. If you love veggie food, I’d definitely recommend treating yourself to a copy of this legendary book. x
This is the story of how I died. But, don’t worry, this is actually a fun story and the truth is it isn’t even mine. This is the story of a girl named Rapunzel, and it starts with the sun. Now, once upon a time, a single drop of sunlight fell from the heavens. And from this small drop of sun grew a magic, golden flower. It had the ability to heal the sick and injured.
Disney’s retelling of the story of Rapunzel has always been very special to me. Almost five years ago we took Eldest to see it in glorious 3D while Little One was in hospital. I think the story of a tiny baby with magic golden hair which could heal and restore felt all the more poignant as we had come so close to losing our own baby girl.
I don’t believe in ‘magic flowers’ any more – the lines between truth and reality were somewhat blurred for me in those days as I struggled to manage my own relapse of postpartum psychosis – but I do still believe in happy endings. Restoration, healing, love, families being put back together.
My heart soars every time I watch the scene where Eugene and Rapunzel sit in their little boat on the water and watch thousands of floating lanterns. I still believe in a Father who doesn’t give up on us; who sends out thousands of lanterns every year in the hope of calling us back to Him. I believe that dreams can come true and sometimes, Like Eugene, we need a new dream.
Matte red lipstick
Masking the trepidation within
Champagne flutes, prosecco
Intense spring sun in the courtyard
We are here to celebrate
We tell stories, tears flow
In all of us lives an intimate knowledge of loss
Here in this safe harbour
We are strengthened again
To face the open sea
A peace lily sits on an unfamiliar windowsill
The room is agonisingly bare
Beneath my spine the plastic undersheet wrinkles
Where are You?
Outside in the courtyard a mosaic seagull soars
I send messages in his beak to my baby girls
I look in the mirror while I sip the elderflower cordial
And say to my unbelieving face, “you are Loved”
An arum lily sits on my dressing table
Framed by my Mother’s Day cards
I can hold you both and I can tell you, “you are Loved”
Outside the seagulls call to each other
And soar above the clouds
Maybe You are there
I’ve written this poem in honour of World Bipolar Day 2015. Strength for today and hope for tomorrow.
If I were following in the footsteps of Elizabeth Gilbert’s famous gap year memoir, I guess we could say I’m in the ‘eat’ phase! This week it’s been all about the retro, treating Eldest and Little One to their first cherry bakewells. The almond scent and generous icing takes me straight back to happy picnics or the surprise of a cherry studded confection tucked into my lunchbox as a special treat.
Today I took Little One to one of her favourite spots for ‘munch’ (lunch). Little Chef is the closest we get to a diner in our part of the UK, with all-day breakfasts, booths and checked curtains. It’s definitely not one for the foodie in me, but Little One loves it and it was great to see the sparkle in her eyes when I collected her from nursery and asked if she wanted to go there for lunch. It’s sensory time-travel for me as my dad used to take me to our local Little Chef as a special ‘dad & daughter’ evening. For the seven or eight year old me, it used to feel like the height of sophistication to jump in the car with dad on a dark crisp evening and head out to a dimly lit cafe for a jubilee pancake and hot chocolate. Even now, it feels warm and fuzzy inside for me to share a cherry-filled pancake with one of my kids, like I’m welcoming them into my memories. I hope Little One remembers our ‘munches’ at the Little Chef as fondly as I remember my evenings with dad.
There’s been time travel into the future this week too as I start to think a bit more about what I’m going to do when Little One starts school. I’ve found a floristry school (I’m not sure if I do harbour an ambition to be a professional florist, and have to keep a check on the ‘just doing lovely stuff for pleasure’ vs ‘desperately trying to find a future career’ battle that regularly flares up in my brain) Fortunately the professional floristry qualifications are way out of my league financially, so I’ll content myself with workshops – woodland design is tempting me at the moment. I’ve also had an invitation from a friend to book a mindfulness meditation retreat after the summer, which sounds the perfect way to bring some practice of being in the present moment to my mind, which is so often drawn to the future – and to the ‘what if…’
If I snaffle the last cherry bakewell tonight I’ll be taking care to pay it the attention it deserves.