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?

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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.

The home exchange

We moved house 5 days before Christmas. It wasn’t as mad as it seems on paper. Three gents and two mothers came to help and we left one house and entered another in the space of five hours.

It is the house you draw as a child. Red bricks with four windows at the front and a red door. And we never saw it coming. Sure you see it clearly when you come off the nearby dual carriageway but we never imagined we would live here.

And I never saw myself as a cleaner either. I don’t know if it comes with the home exchange but I’ve never cleaned a kitchen like I clean this new kitchen. After every meal time, once the dishes are away, I grab the lemon spray out of the cupboard like a crooked gangster holds a machine gun. I turn towards the side boards with a menacing grin and shoot lemon zest all over each side. Grease, grime, alpha-bites what ever the stain it quivers in my wake. I wipe each piece of marble with the intensity of a Scots man in the olympics during a curling match. Once that’s done I come at it with a secondary spray that turns the marble into a mirror.

Tonight I even cleaned the cupboard doors. Up and down I went like I was in an aerobics class. The unborn child within my rounded belly jiggled within and I swear I could hear a giggle. As I stood back panting looking at the shining sage doors I realised it was my inner self laughing hysterically at what I had become. A clean freak?! House proud?! Not words I would have added to my personality list but stranger things have happened at sea, so they say.

The rest of the house, I’m afraid, is as much under attack by chemicals as the kitchen is. Let’s just say Harpic is my new best friend and no toilet under-goes a bowel movement without a swift following of thick blue bleach. My hands are now like sandpaper and it seems if this cleaning frenzy continues I shall be taking out stocks in hand cream. Maybe it’s just a phase but with ambi pure plug-ins and candles lit at the slightest hint of dusk my new home is smelling as sweet as roses.

Cleaning Day

I was cleaning in vain today – of course it was in vain, I was cleaning with two small children but what I mean is that my ‘veins’ were literally pulsating in my neck. My fitness level is zero and I can tell you hauling a hover up the stairs with a toddler under one arm while encouraging the three year old not to play with bleach is no mean feet. By time I had commissioned the three year old with his mission of wiping mirrors and distracted the baby from using her endless curls as a toilet brush we looked in good shape. Ten minutes later the three year old was bored and had run away with the polish and the toddler had followed with the cloth, I could only assume they had gotten the ‘cleaning bug’ and had gone to restore order in another room. Meanwhile I hovered the rest of the house.

My main objective when ‘cleaning’ is to involve the children as much as possible. They have to tidy away their playroom each night and each morning leave their bedrooms in an acceptable manor. The slogan I regularly holler is that ‘Mother is not your slave’ although I’m thinking of making posters as the message is not being received.

The result I expect from a cleaning spree is that the hover is used to some degree. I cannot tell you it is always used as created – often it is a horse or a stand for a den, and that there has been a spritz of polish in every room. I have come to expect that the smell of cleaning products will have to do over any actual scrubbing. I especially encourage the polish scent over any doorway much like a ceremonial anointing of oil to keep the spirits at bay, I squirt polish over thresholds to trick visitors into thinking there is cleanliness present. The dust merely smirks at me from each room; ” At ease boys, she’s not gonna get us today”

Now I don’t want you thinking I am some kind of work shy cleaning fop. There have been times when I have cleaned so thoroughly that even the fridge has been moved from its dust lain foundations. There have been plaques erected in honour of those days but i do try and clean as often as I can.

Yet as you can surely imagine it is not easy to keep on top of three children, two adults and two kittens, who are temporarily using a box in the kitchen as a toilet. But I also refuse to be one of those people who clean more than they sit. I like sitting. I like sitting with my children, my husband and the kittens. I have come to realise that cleaning in my house is usually reserved for when guests come. Much like the opening scene in Home Alone when they’re late for the airport, we all zoom around the house in fast-forward tucking things under things, throwing toys in boxes and ceremonially squirting polish upon door-frames. We want our house to be a home where everyone is welcome, family mess and all.

I am she.

I am a Mother.

This realisation only came to me a couple of weeks ago. I have been a mummy for five years now but somehow I have never fully embraced nor understood the responsibility of being a ‘Mother’. Any woman can be a mummy but to become a Mother is a whole new challenge.

When I picture a ‘Mother’ I don’t see myself. I see a burly Italian woman in a kitchen. She has a full figure that is pinched in at the waist by her apron. She juggles huge pans of homemade spaghetti Bolognese that creates a steam that glosses her skin to give her the appearance of a teenager. Outside on the line float the families washing and the table is set with fresh green salad and tomato’s from her garden. Rich red wine is poured into goblets from the family vineyard and her cheeks glow with the gratitude she receives from her family.

While this image maybe fictional or perhaps the norm in Italy where the sky is blue and the land is warm it certainly isn’t the picture in my kitchen in Preston.

Bumf what a rough landing.

Yes the picture in my Lancashire kitchen is a far cry from the romantic scene I described above. My svelte figure is pinched in by a pair of old black leggings with a hole in one buttock. The steam comes from the babies face as she’s being ignored watching me throw a jar of shop bought Bolognese onto burning mince. The family washing is on the line but the rain is turning Lenor fresh dresses into rags.

It was this wildly different image of myself and the robust woman I lust after that got me thinking until a familiar word dropped into my mind, and it’s one that is slowly changing the way I am thinking.

The word is: Perspective.

What if being a Mother isn’t about how well I can multitask in the kitchen? What if it isn’t about getting the washing done on time? Sure these things all contribute and are all considered in the prize for ‘mum of the year’ but what if it’s about more? What if it’s about presence?

I have been guilty of trying to fast forward my season. I have been frustrated by the waddling, podgy toes that just won’t stabilise and walk on my baby. I’ve been frustrated my boy isn’t in the education slip stream yet and I’ve been irritated my older girl can’t drive herself to school already. What am I doing? If that’s how I’m going to live them I simply don’t deserve my children.

Perspective is changing me.

Perspective took me on a journey like Ebenezer Scrooge through the ‘What could be’s’, the ‘What if’s’ and the ‘Why’s’ of my life. In my haste to get on with my life I realised I didn’t see a school letter telling of a fancy dress day at school. My girl had to borrow a school dress – thankfully she was very happy with it. I didn’t listen to the nursery teacher telling me of a show and tell. My boy went without. I was so busy writing that I didn’t see the toothy grin of my baby get up and waddle unsteadily towards me. With my head pushed so far up my posterior I was unable to see anything that was happening around me.

I spoke to God about it and after a friendly Father / daughter exchange the heart break set in. The realisation of what was going on around me hit like the number 10 bus. Square in the face and flattening me. I am missing this. Who cares if I don’t shower today? Who cares if mould is taking over my bathroom like a virus? Who cares if so much Weetabix is sticking to the table it’ll end up looking like the leaning tower of Pisa? Yes it’s all a problem and I will get to it in time but if I’m so caught up in that and all the perfect pieces of who I want to become then I will never win.

I will never be Nigella Lawson in the kitchen nor Monty Don in the garden. I will never have the wit of a stand up comedian nor the grace of a Strictly Come Dancing star. What I will have is the embrace and affection of three imperfect children given to a desperately imperfect woman who lusts after perfect homemade spaghetti Bolognese and fresh tomatoes. Life is what we make it and I implore you dear reader don’t lust after what you can’t have instead be thankful for all that remains in your sight. Be thankful and hold it dear until it screams to be released.

Perspective is my new friend and it tells me right now I am a Mother. I am already she.