Everything everything

I was talking about the Tree of Life with someone in a pub nearly a year ago. There is a sequence which in half an hour or somesuch tries to show the whole creation of the universe. The guy in the pub said that it showed how insignificant we were. Creation was so huge and magnificent and we were nothing compared to that. I thought it was the exact opposite; we are so amazing that a whole universe had to be created just to get us here. Isn’t that crazy?

I constantly find life incredible. Tonight I took my daughter to her father’s place and as they sat down to dinner I said I would go and she would stay with her daddy overnight (for only the second time in her tiny little life). She lifted her hand and waved goodbye. Just like that.

So off I went walking through beautiful Clifton in the dark and looking into other people’s homes and kitchens and living rooms where a woman was lying on a couch with a blanket covering her feet and an older woman was sitting at a table in a kitchen on the second floor of one of those big houses. Seems like a strange place in the middle of the building and you can see all of it lit up.

Half-way home I remember the first night he came to visit her in the hospital and looked so happy when he was holding her. Actually I remember the second night and the picture I took of him – much easier to not recount all the anxiety and stress when you just remember the photo.

I mostly just walk along thinking that we must have done something right for her to be so comfortable at staying over no matter how the rest turns out. When I first went home after having M I had the most chilling thoughts of death. I would wake up in the middle of the night with the thought that I was going to die. Not that night, not soon maybe but one day. I had brought a child into this life and she was going to die too.

The constant knowledge of this death, all our deaths, stayed with me for a while. Sometimes I get the very opposite, I think how impossible it must be for us to have made this child. For things to have turned out so miraculously.

Sometimes everything is incredible.





Day 1

Wrapping up 2011

My 2011 started on February 14 when my daughter was born. It sounds soppy, cliched and trite. I know. I don’t mean for it to be so bleugh emo but it’s true. Up until that point, 2011 had been a nasty little year. The last two weeks before I gave birth were particularly dreadful and I mainly remember cuddling up with my teddy bear to fall asleep.

Childbirth was a nice distraction from all of that. It’s hard to think of being unhappy when you’re in a lot of pain and then when the pain goes away the happiness is overwhelming. It’s amazing how much attention pain takes.

I went into labour on Sunday February 13 after having sporadic contractions from the Friday before that. The pain was incredible and then it got a lot worse. The hours between 2am and 5.30am just disappeared in a foggy haze. I have no idea where I was.

The epidural kicked in at just before sunrise and I was pain free as the night turned into a morning twilight. It was beautiful. I could see the lights over south Bristol. I could see the sun rise.

Everything was beautiful. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the world.

It was a feeling almost as amazing as when I found out I was pregnant. I don’t know if you’ve read Marian Keyes the Brightest Star but part of its narration is done by a little soul trying to find a couple to which it can belong. That’s what being pregnant felt like. As if there was a little bright light inside me and it was love. It’s hard to believe that things won’t turn out ok once you have that in your life.

So the day for lovers was the day for love in my year.

The rest of 2011 seems a bit foggy. There were a few excursions, restaurants, meetings with friends, a trip to Greece, one to Hertfordshire, and some reviews along the way.

I am a little stuck on our last two trips so I won’t venture too far from those. I’ll save the extreme nostalgia post for February 13/14 and leave you with memories from December.

Mersina loved my mum’s cat Ginger (aka psipsi) and would keen and croon whenever she spotted her. Ginger was terrified of M and spent the first few days running away and hiding.

The view of Athens from the Acropolis Museum.

My mum audaciously bypassed a queue of at least 50 people at the Tax Office and successfully used the baby as an excuse to be served next. M’s most anti-English moment.

We had a lovely second Christmas at M’s grandparents’ house in Hertfordshire. The whole family spent hours and hours playing and keeping her entertained. Her best buddy was Uncle James who I think got the most cuddles of all until disaster struck. We were in the living room and Mersina was sitting on the floor near the door, with her daddy on one side of her and me on the other. Uncle James came into the room and I watched the door open quite slowly until it made contact with the baby. It didn’t hurt her but she sat looking up at him in shock. It wasn’t funny but I still find it fascinating that neither of us reached out to stop the door. Her shock was one of the most touching things to see and all the apologies from Uncle James didn’t seem to make any impact. She just stared at him open mouthed.

My favourite memory from a couple of days ago was sitting at Cinnamon Square, in Rickmansworth, one of M’s daddy’s favourite places. Lots of little children were running around and there was a room off the main part where cooking and baking parties could take place. Mersina’s eyes were huge as she watched all the activity. She loves people and especially children and she was so fascinated she had almost glazed over in rapture. Really.

Martin and I had flat whites (which were not flat whites) and I had the nicest cinnamon square. The moment was sweet but the best part was thinking that in a few years she would be visiting here on her own with daddy and the rest of the family and living out her own memories. It was like a glimpse of another reality.

With love, to Liz Jones

I wasn’t going to write about the Liz Jones article [non-Daily Mail link] and the fuss it caused all over Twitter yesterday. Fuss? It had Twitter chortling and gasping in waves of indignant amusement and horror at the Daily Mail columnist’s latest confession about how she tried to steal some sperm from a couple of men. It wasn’t just general sperm theft. It was all about making a baby without the man’s consent or knowledge.

Is this what brought on the righteous indignation of a lot of people? Not entirely, apart from some angry women who thought to add a little warning to men to be careful. It was Jones’ admonition that this unilateral baby-making was what every mid-30s non-attached woman was up to.

This made me a bit angry, then sad for her, then I took it personally and got even more sad. Now I’m a little less sad and more peeved. I became pregnant outside of a relationship in my early 30s. We made a baby without either of us intending to. Keeping the baby, our beautiful 8-month old daughter, was solely up to me.

My first, and constant, priority since finding out about the baby was to be as loving about the process as possible. To think, even for a second, that it was because I tricked someone is such an abhorrent accusation that it made me quite upset. I wasn’t going to write about it because others in the New Statesman and the Guardian had already written some lovely heartfelt pieces about feeling sorry for Jones and about how brave she was and that she needed compassion. I agree with the sentiments but I also think that her position of being paid to write about something which millions of people will read is one of responsibility.

My pregnancy was not the easiest both physically and emotionally. The last two weeks were a particularly trying time where I had to make a huge effort to keep in mind my goal of making this a loving experience but I did my best. I always had compassion and love as my goals for raising our daughter and I intend to stick to that.

If I can do that for the sake of one person’s life then Liz Jones who is an adult and affects many peoples’ lives can also put a little thought behind what she is doing. Her accusations and actions are so unpleasant and full of unhappiness that she can’t help but pass those feelings on to other people who read her. She certainly passed on the unhappiness to me, albeit briefly, yesterday.

She may not get paid if she focuses on love and happiness but she will be helping the world. So why did I write about it in the end? I was walking along with a friend and was explaining to him how I felt about the article when he lost interest and set about looking at a shop window. That didn’t make me feel very listened to, so I resolved to fulfil the function of my blog which was to express myself.

I can feel a lot of compassion for someone, like Jones, who wants to be heard but I won’t feel bad for wanting to have a baby. I’m not sure she should either. Doing anything in a sneaky and selfish way would understandably feel bad. Doing something out of love however is a whole different matter.

Charlie Condou, the three of them

There is a new column in the lifestyle section in the Guardian by Charlie Condou where he writes about his family. This family is a minority one, where he and his male partner are raising their children, and will raise their future child, with single mother Catherine. There’s something about it which feels quite personal because it talks about a single parent and a couple.

My little girl is being raised a little like that at the moment but not quite. There are two of us in my household but we are not a couple. Her father and I are single parents, separately.

The second column was published on Saturday and I had been looking forward to it all week. I realise that they also have an unorthodox setting but it feels more normal than mine does. Their babies have been planned and born into loving households. The babies have been living with the two sets of parents from the start.

There was a paragraph in the second column which stood out for me.

Today was the all-important 20-week scan, the one where we find out if everything’s OK. This is the pregnancy halfway point where we get to check that everything’s developing normally and, should we choose, to find out the baby’s sex. We all went along, Catherine lying on the examination table while my partner Cameron and I squashed into the space that would usually be occupied by just the one loving husband, taking it in turns on the single chair.

That sentence seemed to say that they were unorthodox compared to the typical family which consists of a husband and wife. He was right to the extent that the most common type of household in the UK is the married couple (68%), this still leaves a lot of unmarried people. In fact the percentage of married couples fell from 72% in 2001. 15.3% of couples cohabit and 16.2% of families are lone parents.

I thought it was interesting that the ‘other’ to which Condou compares himself is a married couple while for me it is any loving couple. I went to my 20 week scan alone (with the baby for company, of course) and I thought how wonderful their visit sounded with the three of them together.

Either way, the column is fascinating no matter what family situation you are experiencing.

The Three of Us by Charlie Condou in the Guardian.

Baby blog posts moving on

Dear gentle readers,

Since having Mersina, seven weeks and two days ago, I have been a little biased in my posting and baby posts have increased from once a week to nearly every day.

In respect of this increased frequency and new focus I have decided to start a new blog exclusively about the baby and my adventures as a single parent.

You can visit at http://baby.ephemeraldigest.co.uk and subscribe for email updates or by RSS feed to keep up to date with what little M and I get up to through the year.

Changes to this site:
I am initially redirecting all posts to the new address and then will slowly be deleting from this blog as appropriate. This means that when you click on the menu Baby B you are now redirected to Ephemeral Baby. I am aiming to redirect all links to the new blog as soon as possible. I hope there is no disruption.

Hope to see you all there.

Love and bedtime stories, an education

Love is a funny kind of thing. I fill my days either apologising to my daughter for my latest misdeeds or telling her how much I love her. Her father does the same and I imagine that we’re pretty similar to new parents all over the world.

Sometimes she cries in her sleep, just one wail or sign of unhappiness and then drifts off again. The first few times she did it I felt terrible that I had introduced crying into my baby’s life where there was none before. I now see it as crying being unavoidable and at least I’m there to comfort her when she’s upset.

I feel that my love is also mixed up with worry about doing the right things, feeding her when she’s hungry, teaching her the right skills, sending her to the right schools, protecting her when she’s out of the house when I can’t be around.

I may be getting a little ahead of myself. Yesterday I was stressing that she’s already seven weeks old and I haven’t yet taught her any Greek or helped her learn any Spanish or French. Or we haven’t been swimming yet so how are we going to be the next Ironman champion? I remind myself that we’re only just getting a routine together and I should be happy that our 2.30 to 5pm naps are so far progressing well. (We’ve had two.)

I remember being so in love, a little while ago, and feeling like everything was just right with the world. Love was happiness. It was all wonderful.

Obviously it didn’t last but it’s such a nice feeling and it helps me remember that the worry and the aspirations and the stress and the fear aren’t love. The willingness to get up three or four times in the middle of the night is love. I had to change her at four in the morning yesterday and she was so sleepy but still managed to smile at me and that was love.

Dad came over to visit and once he got past his own ‘I love you’s he read to us from a Spanish edition of Asterix. We yawned and got a little dozy and it’s a shame it couldn’t have been closer to bedtime. The important thing is that we were finally learning some Spanish. Clever daddy managed to combine love with an education. Phew.

Six weeks old, March 28 2011

Today we tried our Bjorn Baby carrier for the first time after having it sit around for three weeks.

The first attempt was a bit of a scare as the baby screamed as soon as I put her in so I quickly took her out. After examining and adjusting, I put her back in, and figured out how to do up various straps thanks to a youtube video on my smartphone watched while wandering around, she loved it and took about 10 seconds to fall asleep.

I’d bought the Baby Bjorn in a panic stricken mode one day after having some issue with the pram. I rushed off to Boots to buy cotton and saw it and bought it – £62. I can’t even remember why now but the urgency disappeared as soon as I brought it home and couldn’t figure out how to use it. My sister visited soon after luckily and helped out.

Our first trip in the pouch was to Tesco on Millennium Square.

Very quick getting there and baby was zonked out the whole way. Figuring out how to dress her took longer than going and coming back. I settled on a knitted hoody cardigan which was beautifully created by my housemate’s mum. She used baby cotton wool and the texture is delicate and soft. She made it before I knew I’d be having a little girl so the colours are white, green and yellow. It is simply stunning. The baby also wore an all in one pink pant suit, over her pink onesie, with a gathered front to look like a set of Vs and she also wore pink polka dot socks.

We then spent our morning cooking mushroom stroganoff.

I had to buy some red wine for the dish and was almost disappointed that the woman had no problem selling alcohol to someone carrying a tiny baby around. Obviously an overreaction on my behalf. I have barely drunk any alcohol over the last year and my last hangover was nearly a year ago now. Instead of missing it, I just seem to look down on any consumption but I do keep noticing how normal it is.

After having a few naps and feeds, the baby had her first proper Exorcist-like vomit session all over me and herself.

The poor little pup became hysterical and we rushed off to get changed and get cleaned up. She didn’t calm down until the offensive clothes were gone and she was all snuggled up in her blankie. She was back to normal once uncle housemate gave her a cuddle while he worked on his computer.

I have the tv off all day but M was introduced to whatever was on between nine and 11 last night as housemate took care of her while I caught up on some sleep.

Lovely housemate also cooked dinner for us, of which I managed half. After her babysitting adventures she slept through most of the night, in between feeds, and I woke the next day at 10.10 to find her cooing to herself.

And that’s how we spent little M’s six week birthday celebration.

In between all those events I think I noticed some new sounds she has been making. Some warbles and ‘eees’ and ‘ouwamawa’ things. She smiles more often, plays and talks to herself more often. She does not seem as frantic about eating which is a relief and since Saturday night, her neck wobbles a lot less.