Isolation station

Here we are firmly planted in isolation station. We’ve been in full blown lockdown, with zero isolation, for about two months now?

(I’d try and recount the days but I think it’s best all around if we don’t)

The children don’t believe in isolation or social distancing of any kind so when they go to bed each night I enjoy my isolation time, from them.

As all this began and the images of being locked down with my four children and a busy husband leapt into my head, I honestly imagined a scene from ‘The Blair Witch Project’ the bit where the girl is crying into the camera with snot flying everywhere because her surroundings were so scary. For the first two weeks I recreated this scene almost every day because being housebound with all the kids in close proximity, working from home, attempting to homeschool two kids while playing with the younger two, alone, whilst cooking food each day and being surrounded by huge lumps of washing, it was a very scary reality that I faced.

As you know if you’ve been reading my blogs for any length of time I have a kidney transplant which means in this current climate I am at high risk of contracting Covid-19 and not fairing to well if I do. I’ve had letters and text messages from our beloved NHS telling me to stay in doors. I’m not allowed to leave my house under any circumstances or go outside at all but I can crack a window if the need arises. I’ve had to register with the government and my local council has called me twice in two weeks, which is marvellous service by the way. It took me six months to get in touch with them about buying a bin sticker.

Full lockdown for us means no ‘once a day outing for exercise’ and zero face to face contact with anyone, which for me has meant screaming for my husband every time the doorbell rings and diving behind the kitchen door taking the children with me who are apparently ‘carriers’. We’ve had to sanitise everything that comes through the front door and I can tell you Amazon boxes are a lot harder to open when soggy.

As the weeks have passed I have become very lax on a lot of things, I answer the door now and stand back my two metres just in case the other person doesn’t. My hearing has become like that of a bat. I can hear conversations from my kitchen (possibly more than two metres away from the front door, but you can never be too careful) as recipients stand at the door. I’ve also had enough of opening soggy boxes, it became too much so I simply washed my hands a lot more than usual.

I am fully prepared to leave this isolation station, which may well be 2021 for me as things stand, with skin-barely-there wrinkly hands, bushy eyebrows and white hair. Indeed more than my appearance will probably change as I am stretched, pushed, pulled, worn out, and strung out during this season but one thing that my pre and post transplant years of isolation taught me is that, nothing is wasted and more often than not isolation needn’t be isolation at all. It could well be incubation? Which begs the question; what will be born from this nationwide time out? What will be born from a personal time out for me? There are still lots of things that need to grow within me, patience is still a stump, but perhaps there is more to come for all of us? That thought alone keeps me excited for the other side.

Joy in the journey

At the beginning of 2020 I took the word ‘Joy’ to be my word of the year. I’m not one for giving years a name, if I was I could happily call every year ‘Mars bar’ or ‘Creme Egg’

Claiming 2020 to be the year of Joy was always going to be a bold move. As with all these things once you expect rain and take an umbrella the sun shines, so expecting joy to arrive was guaranteed to bring a downpour of un-joyful, painful, pretty hard things to bear, why on earth isn’t this storm over yet? kind of stuff.

2019 ended on a few precarious notes and almost in a bid to steer life’s ‘bad things that happen’ away I, bold as ever and filled with the gift of faith (which can be annoying and I wonder if perhaps I was in the toilet when God was giving out the cool gifts like prophesy and tongues?) because despite any situation I will cheer on faith like a fat man crossing the finishing line hence needing to proclaim Joy!

The first thing to go was the car. It dribbled itself into the driveway after a daring road trip home from church where I made each child in turn pray to Jesus to get us home safely. It worked, Jesus heard our plea. Alas the car was never to rev again. The green machine was no-more. I went in one last time to retrieve my personals and I was glad to smell again the cat pee from the dying cat we had to send to the vets in 2019 had reared it’s scented head one last time. I was going to miss the memories.

After more prayer from each child and one month later we received a new-to-us car! And while it was a car to get us through the next season I’m sorry to say it’s barely lasted that. The exhaust has inexplicably dropped and I now sound like one of those boy racers I hear late at night, all noise and no bite. The noise is so loud the children and I have to take an involuntary vow of silence on every car trip. Still the joy is, we get to travel together, and the prayer life is flourishing.

Every journey has a chance for joy. Sure some days you’re gonna face-smash into a brick wall or fall down a pot hole but the opportunity to share the hilarious tale lies with you. Take this morning for example. Listening to the heavy rain outside knowing I and four children have to venture into it to drop two of them off filled me with sheer joy (lie) yet the actual joy was found in wearing wet gear and being able to stomp through every puddle. (Simple things) Yes I was jeered at for wearing wet pants by other mums but at least I was dry, and smiling.

So too this lesson ends, find joy in every road life leads you on and you too can look like an eager plonker in a down pour but at least you’ll have a smile on your face and a story to tell.


Tonight I’m having myself a little ‘End of maternity leave Christmas party’. No one else is celebrating it’s just me, on the sofa with a brew and my pjs on all very low key, except for the Christmas Baileys nestled by my slippers (Well you’ve got to) And I’m not so much celebrating as much as marking this moment. Sure I have a lot to celebrate, it’s the end of an era! A pretty big era, actually. A pretty big season of my life is coming to a close.

I’ve spent the last six years having and raising babies and in between conceiving, incubating and squeezing, I’ve gone to and from employment. It has been a long, hard slog. It’s had extreme highs and sweaty, sleepy lows. Moments of praying time to fly by; willing the nights to be longer and wishing the days away. Through personal sickness, infant sickness, life’s hits and life’s highs my husband and I have journeyed through raising a big family. Many have looked on and asked why we’ve chosen to go big. Many have questioned our mental ability and most are just baffled by how we do what we do.

I always wanted chaos. Organised chaos I call it because there is always a method to the madness, a purpose to my plan. I willed each pregnancy test to read positive, I spoke life over the life growing within me and even in the midst of loosing two little lives that we longed for we still kept pushing on. This is the life I wanted. I live with my answered prayers.

So I raise my cup of tea to the depths of grief, the loss and sweaty, painful nights experienced. I tip my cup to the joy, the relief, the laughs and so much love if my heart had arms they would constantly be holding on to each blessed moment.

Motherhood is not an easy road to tread. If it’s thrust upon you or each step carefully marked, whichever way it happens it’s definitely not a journey for the faint hearted and my journey is far from over, God willing, but the baby stage is four months from being over and I look forward to jumping into a new season in two weeks time.

So, Jen, happy ‘End of maternity leave Christmas party’ enjoy yourself, drink responsibly because you’ve no chance of a lie in ever again and relax because… “IT’S CHRISTMAS!!”

(And yes that is a child’s empty cup I’m holding because, well you’ve gotta to toast with something and I just came down from putting the kids to bed. It’s all rock and roll)

On Wednesday’s I wear PJ’s

Wednesday is my childcare day.

I am still on maternity leave so I get to spend the entire day – alone – with my baby. Of course when I say ‘day’ I do mean in-between the school hours of 9am to 3pm.

I often forget I am on maternity leave. I officially go back in January and Christmas feels like its next week and although I’m ready for it, I’m also aware that January follows December and with the changing of the calendar so to is my next season ushered in and this will be my last ever maternity leave. My last chance to spend a day doing nothing but staring at my baby who by next year will no longer be a baby but turn into a toddler and time will keep marching on and I will be forever catching my breath wishing I’d spent the day in my pjs staring at my baby.

You see after each child was born I knew there would be another one to come and another maternity leave. More often than not the first thought on my mind after a positive pee-on-the-stick reading was, “Yay no work for 9 months!!” But this baby is the last. No more pee-on-a-stick joy and no more maternity leave and while I am more than happy to leave the stick peeing days behind me I will be sad that there will be no more precious, government given time to bond with my child.

But today marked a mental change of pace.

For a few months now, until today, I have felt guilty that I don’t do more on these days. I’ve felt perhaps I should be doing jobs. Catching up on cleaning, washing, ironing, the food shop bla bla bla. I’ve spent a few of these days doing these things, until today.

Today after I dropped off my toddler at Grandma’s I told myself; “I am on maternity leave!!” and I ignored every inclination to begin a list of jobs and we led there, she and I underneath the play-mat examining all the items one could wrap ones gums around and we had a great time. We even had a snuggle on the sofa to a naff Hallmark Christmas movie and one of us even fell asleep.

So from now on … until January, I will ignore every inclination to pick up a hover, put a wash on or clean a bathroom. On Wednesday’s I will wear pjs. (Preferably after the school run although I have been known to throw on some ‘athletic’ looking leggings all the while having my fluffy pyjama top on underneath my coat. People may think my bottom half is going to the gym. It isn’t. It’s going to sit on a sofa all day) Maternity leave heaven.

A note of thanks …

To my kids.

Isla. You were the one who introduced me to motherhood and blew my heart wide open.

Jack. You strengthened my faith, my patience and the elasticity of my eye bags.

Darcy. You brought out the juggler in me and reminded me how medicinal a belly laugh really is.

Hope. Named after what you gave us with your birth. You are a joy and our last hope of growing a decent human being.

To all of you,

Thank you for ignoring all the signs of mummy and daddy still being asleep in the morning. With no movement, no sound and no light on you still go ahead and light up the house with your excessive noise and why not? After all you are children and we adults should know better than to try and have a lie in on a Saturday.

Thank you for forgiving mummy when I make a hideous dinner that you hate like roast chicken and then try to make you believe it’s the same thing McDonald’s soaks in batter and serves up as ‘nuggets’.

Silly mummy.

Thank you for being the best of friends, playing together and looking out for each other even if it’s just for ten minute spells at a time before someone does something the other two don’t like and you all erupt like Vesuvius.

Thank you for letting me squeeze you until you beg me to stop.

Thank you for letting me still kiss you on the playground. In front of people.

Thank you for making our house a home.

Thank you for turning the love I have for your daddy into a full blown family affair.

Thank you for being on this great big adventure with us.

Thank you for loving the house of God as much as we do and for staying till last nearly every Sunday ’cause daddy just can’t stop talking love and truth into people.

Thank you for allowing us to turn Friday nights into movie nights because as much as you love to watch movies, me and daddy really just need the 1hour 34minute break.

But most of all thank you for being you and for loving a human like me and calling me Mummy.

The truth about four…

…it’s hard and people will look at you with a weird squinty eyed judgement but since you’ve made your bed you must lie in it, even if there’s a faint smell of urine from the potty training one.

But if you want to have a ‘couple more babies’ then I recommend the following;

1. A big car.

D’oh! But seriously we’ve been to see some apparent seven seater cars in showrooms and put all the salesmen to shame because the cars they’re shown us aren’t true seven seaters. With four car seats you need to have four real seats that have iso-fixes for the car seats, plus one for mummy and one for daddy.

I remember waddling into a Honda show room thirty weeks pregnant with three car seats under my arm (it’s amazing how strong you get from holding so many children) and the heavily scented gentleman with cheese for a smile looked at me with such disappointment, he knew he wouldn’t get a sale that day as any seven seater car he showed me just wouldn’t work.

2. Lower your expectations of sleep but don’t rule it out.

As with any child rearing there comes with it a little troll who walks about with bad breath stealing sleep or at least that’s how it feels. The minute your toes get toasty and your back muscles release the tension of the day into the mattress a little whimper will come from somewhere and with all muscles fully contracted once again you’ll try and work out which child it is and how quickly you’ll respond but routine will save the day.

I am a firm believer of routine. Routine comes in like a large bosomed nanny with her aprons strings flying in the wind to save the day. She lets me know to ignore that cry she’ll settle in five minutes or to go to that cry.

Routine has saved my sanity. Routine allows me and the children to know exactly where we are and what we’re up to at any given moment in the day. It is hard to stick to it and like any good dictator worth their salt there will be consequences of not following the routine. An overtired toddler tantrum or a kick back from a pre-tween who doesn’t want to finish her tea but when seven thirty pm comes and the final call for ‘I need a wee’ or ‘I need a drink’ ends there is calm and in come my two very best friends, rest and sleep. Stick to them, hold them fast for although brief at times it won’t last. Sleep will come to stay again for a whole night and when it does you can tackle any amount of bed wetting, food throwing, ‘don’t forget your school bag’ shouting any day can bring.

3. Become elastic

The trouble with four so young is their developmental stages are so vast. Around the dinner table I can be talking to the oldest child about the first man on the moon and the perfect 23 degree angle the earth holds in space, to sounding out first letters…’P – P – P’ to my four year old. I can then be singing old Mac Donald for the fourth time to my toddler whilst serving dinner on a spoon sounding like an aeroplane to a weaning baby.

Your brain has to learn to compartmentalise which voice for which child, somehow mine gets stricter the older each child gets? And understanding how each one responds to you and how you love them is one key I am still learning. Turns out my older girl needs words of affirmation while my boy wants cuddles over words but not too many because too many makes him girly, apparently??

4. Cleaning toilets

You’ll become a dab hand at cleaning toilets, yes because there will now be six of you using them but mainly because children forget to flush the toilet. There will more often than not be a long forgotten turd moulding itself to the porcelain that you’ll have to scrub away whilst the scent feels like it’s decaying your skin like some kind of nuclear bomb went off down there. Just make sure you whip around the bathrooms when guests arrive with a full bottle of Harpic and a strong scrubbing brush.

5. You won’t think it possible…

…for your heart to be so full. You look at one womb fresh, pink, pudgy babe and wonder how on earth you lived life without them in it and then it happens again, and again, and again. You’ll be completely consumed by bafflement and wonderment at how your heart is once again expanded at this beauty that shot out from between your legs. It’s like the first time every time. The second, third and fourth were equally as painful and beautiful as the first and frankly its a good job my husband can’t medically provide anymore as just the reminder of that sweet moment in time makes me want a fifth…then I remember the whole after birth, the sleep stealing troll and the weird squinty eyed judgement from people and think, yes. Four is good.

A labour of Hope

Nearly six months into our last baby and I realise I’ve never shared about the labour!

Let’s be honest we all love a good labour story and I love to (over) share so settle down because it’s story time…

It all began on a Monday.

I was summoned in earlier than planned because babies growth had plateaued and the waters around her were reduced. The powers that be seemed concerned so demanded I came in after the weekend to be induced but I was devastated as I would miss my only boys birthday and the chances were high this baby would land on the same day. So sure my kids would all hate me because we somehow can’t conceive at any other time, I began to pray hard for a different birth-day.

Monday came and so accustomed to the maternity ward at Royal Preston I nearly donned some scrubs and began doing ward rounds myself. We said our hellos and Husband and I settled into the bay and began series one of our boxset binge.

There was a couple in the bay opposite us who were very keen to introduce themselves. They popped their eager heads around our curtain and with big smiles, and a puppy dog spirit we couldn’t help but adore, they told us they were Lucy and Dave and do we want anything from Booths? And oh this is our first baby and we are SO excited!

Ben and I lay there watching their exuberant show and simply said, it’s our fourth. With my four fingers still in the air their smiles disappeared and they skipped off to Booths.

I didn’t get my first gel until late that Monday night. When the doctor finally came in to examine me I whipped my knickers off in such a blasé manor she looked away a bit rosy cheeked.

By 3:30am Tuesday morning nothing was happening. My husband had gone home and the lady doctor came back to give me a second round of gel. This time I was more demure in my downstairs approach, I didn’t want to embarrass her again. I got under the sheets this time.

By this point I had gotten zero sleep as one lady was throwing her guts up in a bay across the way and my new sweet friend Lucy had turned into a right potty mouth as her contractions were ramping up. As there is only a thin curtain between each women in the most personal time of her life I could clearly hear how she was developing. The poor love was only 4cm yet she sounded like she was being tortured. Thankfully they moved the lovely Lucy onto a side ward to crack on behind thicker walls. I considered popping my head around her curtain but the once sweet Lucy sounded like she would have murdered me had I done so.

By Tuesday lunchtime still absolutely nothing was happening. Baby didn’t wanna budge and the midwives kept saying things like, ” your cervix is too long”. I had to google where my cervix should be at any normal point in time never mind now. And of course I was still missing my boys fourth birthday.

By the third gel things started to get interesting. I’d had a long lavender bath and a walk to try and spot Lucy and Dave. In the end I decided to jump on the ball and listen to my Mumford and sons album. Perhaps some aggressive drum beats would stimulate my womb?

By teatime on Tuesday night the midwives on Maternity A were sick of me. We’d shared life stories and vagina banter long enough and there was finally a room on delivery suit for me but my cervix still didn’t want to budge so they had to break my waters and while sitting on the toilet letting my waters dribble out I prayed a final prayer…

‘Please Jesus not today. Give my babies different birthdays.’

Still listening to aggressive guitar riffs contractions began to rise slowly and steadily. Meanwhile the Liverpool game was on and my husband had settled himself into the ‘comfy’ chair to watch the game. He would emerge from the green light of the screen every now and then to offer encouraging words ‘doing well love’, ‘keep going’

By 11pm I was worn out and the midwives thought it high time to get me on the go-go juice to increase my contractions. Baby was much too high, cervix much too long and mother was much too exhausted to carry on. I hadn’t slept in 24 hours and if the Liverpool match didn’t end soon my husband would have the phone up his nose.

I opted for an epidural and not because of the pain but because I knew I could lie down. Pacing around to let ‘gravity do its work’ was frankly soul destroying after two days. The anaesthesiologist came in to let me know all the keys facts, things that could go wrong etc but all I saw were her lips moving and no sound.

During contractions they began to insert the epidural. With my first baby I progressed way too fast to have the epidural and it was absolute agony to be so still during contractions. As my contractions slowly began to progress now I prayed good and hard that I wouldn’t go through the same thing.

As the mini procedure started in my back I began to pray and everything went quiet and still and I experienced a peace I know all too well only Jesus can bring and it was beautiful. I was so far into myself that the midwife had to tap me on the shoulder and ask if I was okay. I recall them asking Ben and remember him briefly popping up out of the green glare of the Liverpool match to mutter, “ah she’s fine” before dissolving away again.

Alas peace was over all too quickly and of course just like my first daughter, the epidural didn’t fully work. Contractions naturally came barrelling in like a pack of calf’s let out of the barn for spring. Leaping, running and moo-ing they came and all that was numb was my right buttock. Midwives told me to roll onto my left to see if that would ‘drain the drugs’ to that side. It didn’t work but what it did do was make baby drop into that side. She skidded down into my left hip like a curling stone and stuck there. She hunkered in deep so for every contraction a fresh wave of burning hell ripped through my abdomen and hips. I then rolled back to my right side and onto the thoroughly numb butt cheek to see if she would drop that way. She didn’t.

After half an hour of playing pinball with the baby in my wombs the midwife decided to knead her out during every contraction and like a good dough that’s been kneaded well, baby ‘rose’ to the occasion and blessed us with a head. A good 5-10 minutes later and her head was fully out. What felt like an hour later she finally burst into the world at 1:09 am Wednesday 10th April, a day after my boys birthday.

Thank you Jesus.

During the whole labour and the Liverpool match we hadn’t once discussed names and just like every other baby before her my husband picked the name. By this point post labour my brain can barely recall a blink let alone choose a baby name.

Hope was the outcome. Hope because of the two losses that proceeded her and Hope because that is the gift she gave us. She is officially our last Hope, the fourth and the final. She completes the set.