Coping

As you can imagine my brain hasn’t really been flowing with the juices of creativity this last four weeks, but I wanted to jump on to answer a question that everyone has been asking.

I have been trying to write this post for about two weeks but every time I begin a paragraph my mind fogs out and sleep calls. I tried writing on good days and I tried writing on bad days but neither one brought me the perspective I was looking for to answer the question well. The question is, are you coping? My answer on a good day, a good day being one where I have showered, drunk more than one glass of water and half a cup of tepid tea is, yes I am thank you!

A bad day would be like yesterday for example. It began with a headache. Never a good sign. I’ve been getting really bad headaches since baby was born but I now know it’s because of a lack of sleep which means waking up with one isn’t a great start.

By the end of the day everyone was overtired, cranky and full of wind. My husband had to go out again and an hour after bedtime the kids were still shouting at each other, so I began shouting back. The baby was still crying and I nearly cried back. She was so past sleep she couldn’t settle so I sat in the dark with her and I prayed. I prayed for forgiveness for shouting at my kids. I prayed for peace to fall upon the house and I prayed for strength for my husband.

The song that dropped into my heart that started an impromptu worship time is a truth that has kept my heart pumping and soul leaping despite the bone tiredness and despite the extra pressures and pains that life heaps on top of you. It’s an oldie but a goodie;

‘Great is thy faithfulness, Great is thy faithfulness.

Morning by morning new mercies I see

And all I have needed thy hand hath provided

Great is thy faithfulness Lord unto me’

Those are the moments when if you’d ask me, am I coping? I would laugh with hot tears in my eyes. Yet the real truth is, I do cope because really I am coping. Good day or bad day it eventually comes to an end and when it does I am able to recall the day as;

‘Good, with some peripheral crap to contend with that frankly I’d rather forget’

I cope because I have discovered a legal addictive stimulant called coffee ( I usually only drink tea ) I cope because I have a solid routine in my house that has kept all of us in line and in sanity, not that it works everyday. I cope because I want to thrive in motherhood not just survive and I cope because God created me to be a mother, and that fundamental truth has been driven to my absolute core.

Post Baby

Our post baby hibernation is over. We’ve been tucked up in the Cumbrian hills for the last ten days with three kids and a floppy, pink, womb-fresh girl.

It feels as though spring has seamlessly rolled into summer while we’ve been up here. The sun has been effortlessly pealing back my pasty white skin and attacking the ever spreading dark circles under my eyes.

Husband and I have once again stepped onto the baby treadmill of three hour feeds and feeling so tired it’s like a little man is sat upon our brow pushing our eyes closed. These are the things you forget when you contemplate holding a perfectly pink babe in your arms. The major lack of sleep. That and how long the ‘deflation’ process takes.

I’m in that awkward place of being too small for maternity clothes yet too big for my old wardrobe. I’ve taken to wearing my nightie all day because although highly unflattering its very comfortable. My boy and youngest girl are still questioning when the next baby is coming out of my “big tummy”. Kids give the biggest confidence boost.

For the first couple of days I felt on top of the maternal world. I was waking at 7 ready to take on the kids and didn’t feel I needed a lunchtime nap. Aah hormones. Yet as the days went by, and the relentless feeds progressed, the little man took up residence on my brow and had a song and dance. So heavy were my eyes and body after a few days the 7am wake up call completely passed me by.

The dreaded day three milk boob delivery came along as predicted and with gumption. Pamela Anderson called asking for her boobs back so harsh was the engorgement. I contemplated using the extra long sanitary towels I was quickly running through elsewhere for my boobs. I had the cabbage on ice and was wearing the tightest bra I could find. And before you ask, I couldn’t express because I can’t breastfeed. The anti-rejection drugs I’m on for my renal transplant mean doctors advised I didn’t breastfeed as they didn’t know what effects the drugs would have on my babies. So for the last five years I’ve had to strap down and ignore my newly sprouted bay watch bosom beauties beneath my chin.

Thankfully things are starting to dry up now as we’ve passed a whole week since Hope entered the world and she is as perfect and pink as I contemplated all those months ago. I haven’t had the mindset to look back on the labour, a story I’m sure I’ll get around to at some point, but from what I can recall it was awful. Possibly the worst yet but as it was my last ever labour perhaps I’ll donn some rose tinted glasses to remember it.

The kids adore baby Hope and even the cats have accepted their new tribe member. The one thing clouding my vision is the looming prospect of the back to school and work routine which is mere days away now and the big question; how am I going to cope with four kids on my own?

All this in good time, for now I’m going to enjoy the last few blissful hours of extra hands on during this paternity leave or ‘holiday’ as my husband calls it. (Can you feel my eye roll?)

Sleepless.

Apologies for the delay in my words dear readers. I’m afraid they have been on vacation while my body and mind were in a zombie like state I like to call ‘coping’.

Ben was away for three days and two rather long nights at the beginning of last week. My much appreciated one day childcare was also away and I’m pretty sure it rained too, so I have had to battle against the elements and three strong wills to survive. Safe to say I haven’t fully recovered.

My eye bags are so far down my face I’m having to put blusher on them to perk them up. In fact I’m finding I have to wear a lot of make up just to do the school run. Sure in the morning I couldn’t give a hoot especially when it’s raining and no one hangs around to chat but later on when the sky clears up I feel a lot more exposed. There’s only so much Tropic ‘Super Greens’ I can slap on my face each night to perk up my skin.

A week before my husband fled the scene … sorry went away, nap time would come around and I would potter about, put a wash on, read, write, perhaps watch a film – now? Now I go to bed. I don’t get into it just lie on top and I am gone, fully satisfied that my inner mummy siren will go off if I hear child number three wake.

So tired am I, I am beginning to wonder how I am going to push the wee tot out. The whole labour experience, in my two year old memory of it, was rather strenuous. It was like running a marathon on zero training. Like competing against Muhammad Ali having never set foot in the ring. Like rowing in the University Boat Race having never seen an oar let alone hold one. It was, well laborious and I am not convinced I can – so to speak – pull it out of the bag.

The Brixton Hicks have been parading about my abdomen since week thirty two and now they appear every evening, especially when I lie down to go to sleep. Don’t get me started on the restless legs and the desperate desire to get comfortable amongst having to pee two to three times a night. When I wake in the morning I feel as if I have never slept at all. I know it’s all a very clever work up on my bodies behalf to get me ready for the imminent sleepless nights a newborn brings but ugh, if I could only have a good sleep I would be on top of the world again and perhaps my eye bags would recline to whence they belong?

Week thirty-five!

It’s a monumental week dear readers. I am thirty-five weeks and there is no baby in sight!

“What are you on about?” I hear you cry.

Well if you recall (or if you didn’t know) my first and second babies were born at thirty-five weeks thanks to a few sweeps, some gel, lots of swaying, a spot of bouncing, some special go-go juice and sheer determination. So set on thirty-five weeks were the ole NHS, due to my kidney transplant, that when my third baby came along and they let me go to thirty-six weeks and five days (I love that extra five days) I was beyond excited. I nearly got a ‘term’ baby.

The fourth time around and after my thirty-three week scan and consultant appointment I waited to hear the news that they would likely induce me again at a similar time. Yet this time was very different. The consultant looked over my results and so pleased was she with me that she turned and said, “I’d be happy for you to got to 37 weeks”

Me: “Really?” Quick calendar calculation. “How about 38?”

Her: “Sure, but no longer than 38!”

Me: “Okay. It’s my sons birthday on week 37 so I’ll come in a day after that”

Her: “Okay. We’ll give you a sweep at 37 and if nothing happens we’ll get you in a week later.”

After a firm handshake, pinky promise, some heavy eye contact and a nod we sealed our meeting.

That’s why there’s no baby yet nor will there be until I go into chez NHS where a deft, gloved hand will reach into my nethers to see what can be released. Until then I shall waddle on hoping and praying that baby doesn’t have different ideas.

I daydream about a chunky baby. What will a ‘term’ baby be like compared to the miniature, premature sparrows that I’m used to? I imagine rather different depending upon weight, although surely by child number four all I’d need to do is sneeze and it’ll be out?

Ministry and Motherhood

I am a mother and that can be hard. I also head up the Kids ministry in our local church and that is hard work. Both aren’t without their rewards but last Sunday reached another level on the stress-o-metre.

My husband is also one of the pastors of the church but let me stipulate that the ministry I do, I do because God called me to it. Just putting it out there as a lot of people hold pre-conceived ideas about pastors wives and what their role should be. I decided not to listen to those people a long time ago when I was told I couldn’t dress the way I was dressing because I was a ‘Pastors wife’. I don’t know what this person was after but clearly skinny jeans wasn’t in the picture.

So to Sunday.

Sunday’s are always busy in our house but this particular Sunday was a special kind of nugget. The husband was away speaking at another church so I was solo parenting and had a job to do. I had to arrange an event through my ministry and hold two interviews for new recruits, so I needed to be extra organised. I packed sandwiches, crisps, fruit, you name it I had it. The kids would not be hungry.

With my ‘game face’ on we arrived and once I’d palmed the kids off, smaller one rather reluctantly, to their various classes I went to work. It didn’t take long for my super organised morning to unravel. One problem arose. Fine. Fine. Problem solving pants to the rescue. I made another plan and went with it. Then another problem popped its ugly head. Time to turn those Problem Pants inside out and wear them again. Next a minor issue but it still called for the Problem Pants to be turned inside out and put on back to front.

The end of the service came and the crescendo of my morning. The interviews. I swiftly laid out the picnic lunch on a table and plonked child one, two and three in front of it. Child number three raged against the sandwiches and opted for an orange to be eaten only on my knee. Fine. Fine. Child began chewing on it. Child began choking on it. Child threw up on it. Child threw up all over my t-shirt, skirt and boots. It seems with bump in the way my spacial awareness for nuclear vomiting is off. I would usually be able to swerve such attacks allowing it to pour onto the floor but not this time. My skirt caught the chunk load of orange pieces and although relieved child wasn’t choking anymore I was now powerfully overcome with the sweet scent of intestines. Cue interview number one.

Interview one came to an end with only an added sprinkling of Pom Bears to the floor and onto my orange vomit laden skirt. Child one and two now satisfied and carrying the bulk load of the picnic in their tummies, they ran off to play leaving me with a sobbing child number three.

Interview number two continued through a medley of noises not too dissimilar to a wrestling match. There were sobs, grunts and screams coming from child number three so I decided that if this interviewee could handle this child they were in fact a perfect fit for the ministry.

My work done I wrung out my damp skirt, hitched up my sticky t-shirt and stuffed all the coats under my arm whilst layering the bags upon my back. Rounding up the children I looked like a pack horse who came down a mountain backwards via a river of vomit and orange trees. We left.

Once home I placed child number three into bed after a heavy dose of calpol. Releasing child one and two into the playroom high on sugar I retired to the bedroom. Sitting on my bed un-pealing sticky tights from my legs, my heavily pregnant body exhausted and my Problem Pants fully soiled, I wondered how my morning could go so wrong? My husband returned and took one look at my face. Before he could speak I told him I couldn’t do it. I wasn’t cut out for any of it. Who did I think I was kidding? Thankfully before the lies could settle and make little beds of doubt in my mind he spoke love and truth into me.

After a good rest I had another look at that day (because no-one ever makes wise decisions when they’re tired) Here is what I am learning about Motherhood and Ministry:

1. Motherhood must always come first.

That is the key ministry every mother must put the majority of her time and effort into. Raising little disciples is what we are called to do first and no-one is more equipped than you to do it.

2. Ministry always requires a pair of ‘Problem Pants’

Or put this way; If a plan doesn’t work out – don’t let it stress you out!! No one likes a control freak. Accept that certain things are out of your control and find a way around it. But if you are on the ledge of a pull-your-hair-out-breakdown find someone you can trust to figure the problem out with.

3. You can’t do it on your own.

The beauty of entering into a ministry is because you are called to it. Therefore you are equipped with every gift needed from God to smash it. God wants to partner in every aspect of your life and if you’re gonna be His hands and feet you’re gonna need to know the heart of who you’re serving. Talk to Him. Constantly.

4. Have a sense of humour.

Some things are set to try us and when they do you’ve gotta laugh at it. Sure processes and outcomes will be disappointing and frustrating. No-one alive has ever said motherhood or ministry was easy but if you can laugh at the things sent to land on you you’re already one step ahead.

Like I say, I am still very much learning as I go and I’ve not even had child number four yet so God only knows how I’ll get on then. If you do have any more pointers I’ll be glad to read them. If the comment is, don’t have any more kids then trust me I am way ahead of you. We. Are. Done!

Small things

So here we are at week 33 and I’ve started maternity leave. Although every time I remind myself I’m technically on maternity leave I feel a laugh crawl up my spin, whip around my shoulders and land in my belly which vibrates with the hilarity at the notion of ‘maternity leave’. Maternity leave with three kids is no ‘leave’ at all.

My days are filled with school runs and meal times. My day is structured around what time it is. Even today, once I’d dropped the eldest at school, I had to go to Morrison’s to do a shop as I forgot to order a delivery. A rookie mistake I only severely regretted at the end of the shop when going back to the car. The trolley began wheeling away from me with the two children attached and a pack of Milkyways hovering dangerously close to the edge. Thankfully a kind lady saw my peril and came to my aid pulling the trolley back on its course. The Milkways were safe.

When I returned home it was a quick run down of the weeks meals before deciphering what I could be bothered to cook having consumed no milkyways yet. Unfortunately potatoes don’t peel themselves, nor does the cooker magically start producing meals. Disney has a lot to answer for. Yet somehow food is made and eaten and we go onto the next part of the evening – bedtime. All these little cogs create the clockwork routine we’ve got going on to sustain three children.

I wanted to end with a thank you to those who took the time to read my last blog. It was surprisingly easy to write once I began. Only a couple of tears were lost. I was unsure whether or not to write about it at all but I’m glad I did. Not only did it help in my personal recovery, to put it out there into the great void of the internet, but I received so many emails and texts about your own personal experiences with loss and miscarriage. Thank you for letting me share in those stories with you. It has helped me immensely. It’s true what it says in that song; ‘A chair is still a chair, even when there’s no-one sitting there’. For us, a life is still a life, no matter how big or how small.

Lost and Found

I lost a sock once. Turned out to be underneath the bed which baffled my mind entirely as I’d taken the socks off whilst sat on the bed. How is took it self off and was discovered under the bed not only frustrated me but disturbed my head. Why would a sock do that to me? Of course it was a great relief when I found it. It says a lot about a person if they have matching socks.

Lost and found go together like salt n pepper. Jam and cream, cheese and tomato. Tends to be when something is lost it is either found or a replacement can be found. Upon the circumstance of loss of life however it is very rare to find life again. I’m afraid once your gone from this world, you’re gone. Yet more often than not somewhere else, in someone else’s world a new life is arriving. So the balance is again restored, lost and found.

When my husband and I lost our marbles one month last year and we decided to try for a fourth baby it was a great shock to discover that we ‘found’ ourselves pregnant very quickly. Shock came over me. Utter shock. I remember sitting in the armchair in my living room positive pregnancy test in one hand and a quiver in the next watching my husband pump his fists in what appeared to be slow motion. Two days later once everything had synced back to real time, my husband and I were lying in bed like two teenagers conspiring to take over the world. We began making our plans. Imagining people’s reactions to the up coming news. Imagining our life plus one more.

It was only ten days later when the loss happened. I started bleeding one day after the school run. I led on the floor with my legs on the same armchair I had sat in only two weeks previous hoping by some miracle that gravity would keep the foetus in place. It didn’t. Even though I pleaded with my body not to let go. It did. Another week later at the hospital and blood tests confirmed the hormones had gone down and I’d stopped bleeding which a lined to the loss my body had gone through. Such was the loss that I didn’t bleed again. I didn’t bleed for a further three months.

Discussing this pain with the only two people I knew who’d experienced this first hand they told me that this was perfectly normal. So was the feeling of a dark cloud sat on your head and the numbness in your heart. All to be expected apparently. I had never felt that way before. I had never lost something so close to me that it felt like it had been ripped from my very core. Sure the sock incident was frustrating but it was quickly put into perspective when I didn’t care if I wore socks for a whole month, let alone matching ones.

For three months i think I was walking, I think I was talking, doing the school run, shopping, making tea. Things I do all day every day without much thought except I can’t remember doing them. I was like a shell with no snail.

The only thing bothering me was the growth in my belly. Sure it was something deadly and these were my final days I went and bought another pregnancy test. Thinking if I did it at home and when it was negative I could go to the GP and tell them I wasn’t pregnant and to proceed onto further action.

I went to pee on the stick on more time feeling sure I was a glutton for punishment as why on earth would it be positive? I did the deed and left it in the bathroom while I went to reconcile my washing machine mind to my husband. After five minutes I went back and once again the slow motion returned. I glided into the living room and sat on that faithful armchair and presented the urine soaked stick to my husband. It was positive.

It was only when I was led on the bed in the early pregnancy unit at hospital when the lady scanning my tummy revealed what was going on. I had lost it seemed. Yet there as if lounging in a hammock awaiting a cold pina colada led a fourteen week old baby. Two arms, two legs and one head. Before I knew what I was feeling my body was already reacting to the sight. Salty tears sprung from my eyes and ran into my mouth. I had found.

But there was more. She scrolled along my tummy past the lounging babe and there in the blackness was another but it was lost. Grown to seven weeks and no more was twin two. I had lost again.

I still haven’t reconciled what happened over those four months last year but here as I type looking down at my engorged stomach with the occasional fist pump rippling the surface I know that I have one. I have what I thought I’d lost. We have a fourth on the way and my husband and I conspire and plan and imagine all over again what our life will look like plus one more. Sure we’ve imagined what our life would look like plus two but we have laid that to rest in the arms of our Heavenly Father knowing full well the joy that will be ours when we return to Him in the end and discover that our two losses here on earth will be flourishingly found in eternity.