Crossroads

NS August 27th, 2011

Gosh, this blog is gathering a rather thick layer of dust, isn’t it?

For the past few months, I have been mainly consumed with:

  • My volunteer work
  • My doula work
  • Planning our holiday in Spain (from which we recently returned)
  • Reading books
  • Wondering why I haven’t felt like blogging and if I will ever write my much-dreamed-of book
  • Contemplating the mass deletion of all my blogs but never bringing myself to do it
  • Feeling more drawn to fiction writing but being too lazy and scared to try it
  • Losing weight (15 pounds so far)
  • Getting back into running and going to the gym
  • Spending time with my family
  • Falling even more in love with my husband
  • Contemplating a third baby and then immediately ruling it out, and vice versa
  • Daydreaming of faraway places and feeling a strong desire to move
  • Looking into the possibility of becoming a midwife
  • Shitting myself at the thought of becoming a midwife
  • Mentally redecorating the children’s bedroom and my office, looking at catalogues and sketching out ideas
  • Knowing I need to weed the garden and do some DIY but not being arsed to do so
  • Moaning about the weather
  • Wondering when I will finally sort out the Spanish, guitar, photography or knitting lessons/courses I so desperately want to take

I feel both lethargic and energised with possibilities. I dream of so much but actually achieve so little. The bulk of the work I do is unpaid. More and more, I don’t mind.

Some days it feels like I am standing at a crossroads and I need to just choose a path and start down it. On others, it’s nice just to stand there and survey the different options available to me. Knowing I have the luxury of even contemplating these choices humbles, excites and even sometimes embarrasses me. So many others have not one iota of choice in their lives.

I often feel both stifled by my duties and empowered by the freedom from ‘the working world’ that they give me. Reconciling the part of me that used to feel worthless for not earning money or having a prestigious job with the ever-growing part of me that actually feels BETTER for it has been a lesson in self-actualisation and in assessing my own worth instead of depending on external sources to put a value on me and the contributions I make to my family, my community and my society.

Increasingly, I feel more and more grateful to Noble Husband for going out to work in the 9-5 rat race every day so that I don’t have to. Knowing that he understands how it depresses me, how it stifles my creative urges and humanitarian socialist tendencies, makes me love him even more.

I used to think I was the one doing him a favour, staying at home to raise our children and keep our household running efficiently. But now I see the favour he’s done for me, too. He has gifted me with possibilities; wonderful, endless possibilities.

After our children, it may be the most wonderful thing he’s ever given me and for that I am eternally grateful. I just hope I can fulfil at least some of my dreams and make him proud.

In time, the path will become clear to me, I know. I will make a choice, step off a cliff and make that leap of faith. Whether success or failure waits for me at the bottom, I don’t know. But at least I will have tried to be and do some or all of the things I’ve always wanted.

Image credit

Lucky 13

NS June 13th, 2011

Dear Noble Husband,

The first thing I ever learned about you was that you didn’t like Americans. This was conveyed to me by a third party, our mutual acquaintance, just before he introduced us at a beer festival in Germany.

I was about to turn 19 and had been in Europe for less than a week. I was a dreamer, a firecracker, a poet and all around wildchild…or at least I liked to think so. Despite my desire to blend in with the natives and distance myself from the white-sock-wearing, flag-waving tourists, I felt annoyance or perhaps even patriotism flush my cheeks. Fiercely determined to prove you wrong, I engaged you in half-hearted conversation, hoping to convey the effortlessly cool nonchalance of someone much older and more experienced.

To my surprise, you didn’t brush me off as a silly, naive, American girl and we kept chatting.  A few days later, you invited me and my friends to the pub. By the end of the evening we were the only ones left at the table, so absorbed in conversation that the others had left. The rest, as they say, is history.

===================================================

Dear Little Sis,

Your birthday is June 13th. You would’ve been 30 today had you ever made it past 7.

You know that I stopped believing in God not many years after you left, but for some reason I still imagine you up there on a fluffy white cloud, eating lemon drops, doodling in your sketch book and watching my life unfold. I don’t know if you had anything to do with making mine and Noble Husband’s paths cross that day 13 years ago in Germany, but I like to believe that, if not cosmic design, it was a coincidence that had your name on it somewhere.

===================================================

Now here we are, 13 years since that June 13th day. We have experienced the difficulty and yearning of a long-distance relationship, the tumultuous nature of international moves and the maddening but exhilarating nature of learning one another’s cultures. You’ve held me many times over the years while I cried tears of desperate heartsickness for those I left behind, listened silently as I railed against the British way of life with which I had a love/hate relationship for the first few years, and have always done everything within your power to help me maintain my connections to ‘home’, even though this is my home now. You are my home.

Together we have survived the upheaval of creating and parenting two small humans, our past lives picked up and shaken vigorously like a snow globe, each flake a tear, an argument, a broken night, a hole we never thought we’d dig ourselves out of but always did. Now the flakes have settled and all that lay beneath our feet is a beautiful blanket of snowfall, the years of their childhoods stretched out before us in what seems an endless landscape right now but which we both know will melt away much too quickly. When they leave home, the bubble we have created will be picked up and shaken again, setting us off on another rollercoaster of emotion but also, I hope, on another great adventure.

One of the things I love most about you, what I have always loved most about you, is your kind and gentle heart. Though you are a ‘man’s man’ in so many other ways, you have never been afraid to show emotion when it comes to your family. You tell me every single day how beautiful I am and how much you love me and, more importantly, you say the same to both our children. Your affectionate and playful nature has blossomed since you became a father, increasing your confidence and assurance of your place in this world. I cannot imagine feeling more content and silently joyful than when I watch you play with and care for our children.

Last weekened, we all went for a walk by the river. It was meant to be a sunny day but in typical British fashion it turned cloudy and began to rain just as we started to unpack our picnic.  I grumbled and wondered if we should eat in the car. You said, “Nonsense!” and found a cluster of trees that would give us shelter while we ate. Afterwards, once the rain had stopped,  you excitedly led us on a riverside walk. We took it in turns to carry Noble Boy on our shoulders and answer the dozens of daily questions posed by Noble Girl, about anything and everything. Finally, we all grew tired and cold and turned back. You joined hands with Noble Girl, who in turn grabbed her brother’s hand. At your suggestion, he then offered me his grubby palm so that we’d all be linked in a line. I twined my fingers around his and looked down at his beaming face, his enjoyment of our family hand-hold so innocent and perfect to behold. I smiled back and then looked up just in time to lock eyes with you. It was only for a second and we didn’t say anything but in that glance we shared identical sentiments: unconditional love for our children and eternal gratitude that we found each other and were sharing this experience together.

They say the eyes are the windows to the soul but I never knew before that moment how remarkably accurate that saying is.

===================================================

The bittersweet truth is that if you were still here, I wouldn’t be where or who I am today. Would my life be better because you were still in it? Undoubtedly. But in some ways, I wonder if the only reason I found this happiness I have now, the one I hold in my heart right this very moment, is because your death gave me the strength and the determination to make things work, to make my relationships count and to treasure each moment I have with those I love.

I wish it could’ve been different. I wish you were walking into a room filled with a thousand balloons, all your closest friends and family shouting out ‘Surprise!’ and proffering a candle-laden cake with your name written in hand-piped icing, along with something jokily derisory about being old now. I wish I knew what your face would look like today and what our relationship would be like. Would you be an artist? Would we be close? Would you be taller or shorter than me?

But also in that picture in my mind, I know that when you entered the room and smiled at me, I would be with a different husband, with different children. Or perhaps no husband or children at all. Hell, maybe I wouldn’t be there either.

===================================================

If I ever allow myself to wonder what my life would be like if we hadn’t met 13 years ago, on that 13th day of June, I draw a complete blank. Sure, there may have been exciting alternatives, a parallel universe in which I led either a completely different life or one much the same as I have now but with different characters. The beauty and agony of life is that I will never know. But frankly, I’m enjoying this life, the one I have with you, too much to care.

===================================================

There’s not much point trying to imagine a present or future based on a past that can’t be changed, I know. Like in those ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books we loved as kids, once you’ve chosen your path (or the path has chosen you), you must see it through to the end. No skipping around, no cheating, no regrets for the course not taken. And if you go back and do the same adventure again after you’ve seen all the possible answers, you’d always know in the back of your mind that you made those choices because they were mapped out for you by others, not because you felt them in your gut.

Fate is what led us to the place we are now, but Future is where we go from there.

===================================================

Thank you both for making my life indescribably richer than it ever could’ve been if I hadn’t known you, even for a little while.

Sleep, my pretty, sleep

NS March 14th, 2011

As I stood at the sink this morning washing dishes, I found myself continually glancing out the window at the glorious sunshine and our freshly-cut-for-the-first-time-this-year lawn. I smiled contentedly and thought of all the things I wanted to get done today.

With Noble Girl at school and Noble Boy at the childminder’s, I had nearly 6 hours of time in which to tick things off my to-do list. Census forms needed filling in, car tax needed renewing, a session on breastfeeding and newborn care with a client tomorrow evening needed preparing, many emails needed sending and at least three posts needed writing, for various blogs (both mine and others’). I also thought I’d squeeze in a walk and perhaps a chapter or two of a new novel on a park bench somewhere, if I had time.

But then I made the mistake of turning on a BBC talk radio show while I finished my chores. I listened with increasing levels of astonishment as various Londoners called in to explain why they wouldn’t be donating any money to the Japanese disaster relief funds being set up. They have enough money, it’s a rich nation, they have the resources and efficiency to do it themselves, what difference is my few quid going to make, who knows where money donated to charity really goes, the audacity of said charities in having admin costs and paying salaries, blah blah blah blah blah. Heard it all before. Doesn’t make it any less annoying to hear, but at least it wasn’t particularly shocking.

And then we have an older woman, one claiming to be horrified by what’s happened in Japan, banging on about how her Christian faith tells her to extend sympathy and help, but…BUT…

What about the war? she says.

Jesus. Will ‘the war’ ever go away in Europe? I’m so sick of hearing about ‘the war’ that I almost wish another, more awful and far-reaching one would start just so I wouldn’t have to hear about this one again.

Beryl from Merton, or whoever she was, goes on:

Japan never admitted to or apologised for the atrocities it committed during World War II, according to her. At least the Germans had the good sense to be ashamed and hold themselves accountable. But not the Japanese, no. And it’s just not quite right, is it? To give our few hard-earned pounds to a rich country that hasn’t come out and said sorry for killing scores of our boys in uniform 60-some  years ago. Could it be that earthquakes and tsunamis and other natural disasters are God’s way of punishing us for past mistakes, for not treating each other and the planet a little more kindly?

I’m sad to report that the radio show host didn’t tell Beryl to fuck off and take her brand of ‘Christianity’ somewhere it might be better appreciated (I don’t know — maybe Hell?), but I certainly did, right there in my kitchen.

It made me so angry and despondent at the human condition that instead of doing any of the things I’d meant to get done, all of which involved dealing with, speaking to or thinking of other people, I instead switched off the radio, put the computer in sleep mode and spent the rest of my day reading a novel, from start to finish, while drinking enough tea to sink a British battleship. When I put the book down briefly to boil the kettle, stretch my back or go to the toilet, I’d think of Beryl in Merton and, in order to protect myself from the sense of frustrated rage that threatened to darken my mood on this bright Spring day, I made like a laptop and put myself into sleep mode too.

If you’d have seen me or tried to interact with me at that time, I’d probably have held up a sign that said, ‘Noble Savage isn’t available right now. Her sense of morality and indignant rage have reached levels not advisable or compatible with the Spring 2011 operating system. In the meantime, please be appeased by this rhythmic and colourful graphic.’

When I emerged from my literary cocoon and was forced to interact with others at the school pick-up, it was like someone had moved the mouse and woken me back up. God, what melodrama! Why do I get myself so worked up and allow Beryl in Merton to represent The Entire World, Ever? I thought I’d gotten a handle on this when I finally stopped reading the comments on online news stories. At least I’d recognised the impending meltdown and shut myself down before any lasting damage could occur and ruin my day. A day spent absorbed in a book is something I haven’t done in quite a long time and was a much-needed respite from the daily grind.

If I had a shrink, she might call that progress. Or she might say, “See you next Wednesday…and for many more after that.”

The sick list

NS March 1st, 2011

Noble Girl woke up complaining of a tummy ache, as she had before bed last night, and had a slight temperature and no appetite so I decided to keep her home from school today. At one point she looked over at me from her place on the sofa with blankets and pillows and said, “Mummy? Can you make a list for me?”

Sure sweetie, what’s the list for?

“Things I need when I’m sick.”

So, according to a nearly-5-year-old girl, Things Children Need When They Are Sick:

  • Drink water
  • Stay warm
  • Rest
  • Mummy looking after me
  • Pillows
  • Medicine
  • Hugs
  • No Wrestling (looking at you, Noble Boy)
  • Kisses
  • Movies with family
  • Quiet time
  • Pyjamas all day
  • Big Wowie (favourite soft toy) to cuddle
  • Crackers to nibble, maybe
  • A bell for when I need things

My new project: Broken Birth

NS February 20th, 2011

You’ll have likely noticed that I’ve not been around very much lately. I’ve alluded to a new project in the works and promised that I would let you know what it is when it was finished. So, without further ado, my new website, Broken Birth.

This is the content of the About page, to give you a better idea of the site’s aim.

Serious flaws in maternity care are having widespread and detrimental effects on how women experience birth. It is breaking not only our bodies, but our spirits. Diagnoses of Postnatal Depression and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of traumatic births are more commonplace than ever.

Contrary to popular myth — that birth is only one day in a woman’s life and that a healthy baby is all that matters — how we give birth has a knock-on effect on nearly everything else as we begin our journeys into motherhood: recovery time, breastfeeding success rates, emotional state, confidence in our abilities, incidences of depression, our reproductive and sexual health, interpersonal relationships, (dis)trust in our care providers and the maternity services as a whole, and whether and how we give birth to future children.

The Royal College of MidwivesAIMSDoula UKNCT and various other organisations with a vested interest in pregnant women’s rights and well-being are increasingly concerned with the startling lack of continuity of care, lack of choices in where and how women give birth, lack of evidence-based and woman-centred care and failure to gain informed consent or refusal when it comes to interventions. Severe staff shortages, restrictive policies and procedures and a growing culture of defensive medicine tie the hands of those working within the birth profession, making it nearly impossible for them to provide the service they know women deserve.

In a perfect world, my job would be eradicated. Families wouldn’t need doulas to help guide them through and protect them from the maternity services as they give birth on the conveyor belt of care one often receives on the NHS. But the system is broken. And now many of us believe that birth itself is broken, that our bodies are incapable of carrying out a process for which they were designed.

We can’t just slap a coat of glossy paint over the maternity services and hope the shine distracts everyone from the deep flaws within. Instead, we must repair it completely by uncovering all the cracks and then working at filling them in. Midwives and mothers, doctors and doulas, politicians and fathers…all of us must contribute. And as with any DIY project, it will require time, patience, the right materials, a sense of purpose and, of course, funds.

I want to restore birth to what it should be. I want to fill in those cracks so that no more women fall through them. If you do too, come on in. You’re in the right place.

Here’s what I’ve written about so far:

The danger of getting caught up in ‘the numbers’

Who’s talking about maternity services

The midwife shortage

Birth trauma

If you are at all interested in advocating for change so that women have better, safer births, please subscribe and spread the word to any like-minded friends and family.  You can follow Broken Birth on Facebook and Twitter too. I’d really appreciate help getting the word out to mums and midwives, doulas and doctors, fathers and feminists, and anyone else concerned with the state of the maternity services in the UK and around the world.

If I get a nice little following I can return to writing this blog more regularly so if you’d like to see more Noble Savage, show some love over at Broken Birth too. Thank you!

« Newer Entries - Older Entries »