Category Archives: Pregnancy and Parenthood

Maternity Leave Lessons

Last Monday my five months of maternity leave ended. Before I left work, I was dreading it. I left my first baby (ThinkTwice) in other people’s hands for the first time ever and although I trust the hands I left it in, I was worried about what would happen whilst I was away. Was I going to forget how to do my job? Was I going to hate being at stay at home mum? Would I be bored? Would I want to go back to work?

And now I’m back,  working in a strange hinterland. I am a stay at home Mum but also a freelance writer, trainer and charity founder. I get the best of both worlds because I get to do the job I love and be with my son lots; and the worst of both worlds, because I’m trying to do two jobs at the same time!

But back to the lessons I’ve learnt over the past five months:

  1. Rest. It’s taken me twenty-eight years to begin to get my head around this one, but looking after a small person has taught me that I’m much better at doing life when I listen to my body and mind and get some rest. I’ve tried my hardest to rest or sleep when my son sleeps (and whilst that’s a little harder now I’m working) I’m hoping that I can continue to remember that I don’t need to try and be superwoman. Self care isn’t about candles and bullet journals; it’s about doing the things you need to do in order to function.
  2. The Village. There is a reason why people bang on about it taking a village to raise a child – because it’s true. Babies are demanding creatures and having people around you to cuddle your baby, make you laugh or cry to is invaluable. Our village have been incredible; I don’t think we cooked a single meal for the first month of our son’s life and since then people have been amazing at checking in, spending time with us and on a couple of occasions, looking after our baby so my husband and I could go out and remember who we were before we became Mummy and Daddy. Not forgetting the amazing world of baby groups where I’ve made new friends after fearing that I didn’t know how to anymore. Parent or not, we were made to live in community and whether it be your work colleagues, friends or actual neighbours, I’m learning not to be afraid of asking for help and giving it back!
  3. Trust. I like to read things to help me understand the world and my place in it, I like to read things to see that I’m not alone and so it came as no surprise that I devoured blogs and books on parenting and babies. And whilst some of the information I’ve gleaned has been incredibly helpful; it’s also taught me that I can actually trust my own instincts. I don’t think I ever truly trusted myself before; perhaps it’s a fallout from the decade living in self-destruct, but I do know deep down what my body needs and I’m also learning to know what my baby needs.
  4. Wonder. There is nothing like being with a baby to teach you about wonder. Whether it’s his own face (my son is particularly fond of his!), watching the wind blow through trees or slapping his hands on a coffee table (apparently can provide minutes of fun – until he hit the table too hard and made himself cry!), being able to watch the amazement on my little boy’s face as he discovers the world has reminded me just what an incredible world we live in and how beautifully crafted our bodies are.
  5. Thankfulness and Difficulty are not mutually exclusive. When you have longed for a baby, when you are acutely aware of those who are desperate to be in the position you find yourself in as a new parent, it can be hard to find the balance between expressing the gratefulness you feel as well as acknowledging that parenting is flipping hard! But good things aren’t necessarily easy things – and parenting definitely falls into that category. Sometimes, I haven’t wanted to share the parts I’ve struggled with because I never want people think I’m not grateful for my son and the gift he is, but neither do I want to present a shiny instagram version of motherhood. My middle ground balancing gratitude and grace. To be grateful for the gift that parenthood is and receive grace for the days when it feels more like a grind.

There are many other lessons I’ve learned; not least that you should always pack one more bib, nappy and feed than you think will be necessary, but these are the ones I will hold dear and probably need reminding of the most in the months to come.

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A New Story

Our births were both induced.

Our births both spanned three days.

We were both tested in a Special Care Baby Unit.

We both had antibiotics and stayed in hospital for a while after birth.

Our stories are similar, but they are not the same.

There are undoubtedly parallels, and it’s hard not to compare the way I came into the world with the way my son came into the world twenty eight years later.

The events of the first month of my life have, in many ways, set the course for the years which followed. The multiple antibiotics affected my immune system, being woken every few hours for medication affected my sleep, the worry and uncertainty marked my family.

But that first month has not defined my life – and my son’s first days will not define his. I feared so much that his first chest infection would mean that he would always be unwell and prone to catching every infection he is exposed to – but then I was reminded that his life is not my story – he’s got a brand new one.

The life God has given to him is his own – his story only just beginning. It will have its own joys and challenges, it’s my prayer that he will know his heavenly Father and know that he is loved by us.

All too often, I’ve allowed the worst bits of my life to be defining features, but as I look at my son, I see that the best bits can be defining too. I’d forgotten that we have a God of creation, as well as a God of redemption. He gives a brand new life to each and every person.

As Don Herold so wonderfully put it:

“Babies are such a nice way to start people.”


Remembering Scripture

I write this, not from the kitchen sink a la “I Capture the Castle”, but underneath a baby who has  finally decided to succumb to sleep.

He’s two weeks old and I’ve never felt more inspired and yet unable to write.

Babies do strange things to your brain.

It was a difficult start for us as a family; a long labour followed by a chest infection for the baby and soaring blood pressure for me meant a week long stay in hospital and now we’ve finally had a whole week at home, Phil’s gone back to work and we are trying to find a new normal.

And amidst the madness, I’ve relied on memorised chunks of scripture like never before. It’s not something I’ve ever done to be honest; recited scripture, I’ve always preferred to read it. But in the semi darkness of the a hospital ward at three in the morning, I leant on the words that I’d memorised by accident.

Psalm 40 (or an approximation of it) circled around my mind for hours on end and I chewed upon each verse, drawing something that looked like strength from its contents.

“I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he turned to me and heard my cry.
 He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
    and put their trust in him.”

I didn’t wait very patiently to be discharged from hospital – quite the opposite in fact – but I felt tangibly that God was hearing my cries and that He would put a new song in my mouth.

I’m beyond grateful for the scriptures my mind stored away for a rainy night and for a God who speaks through ancient words remembered in the dark of night.

And in this new phase of life; when time is both short and plentiful, I want to commit to memorising passages, not only so that I can call on them in times of need, but so that I can soak them up and experience more of the God of scripture that I may be transformed by Him.

As Eugene Peterson wrote so beautifully:

“Christians don’t simply learn or study or use Scripture; we assimilate it, take it into our lives in such a way that it gets metabolized into acts of love, cups of cold water, missions into all the world, healing and evangelism and justice in Jesus’ name, hands raised in adoration of the Father, feet washed in company with the Son.”

Pregnancy After Loss

It’s taken me a long time to write this; I found out I was pregnant back in March and I’ve wanted to write about it ever since we announced that we were having a baby.

So what’s stopped me?

Pregnancy after loss is an incredibly complicated time; for me, it can be described primarily as a loss of innocence.

The first time, the idea of anything going wrong was something vague, something that happened to other people.

This time, miscarriage has been at the forefront of my mind most days, particularly before the first scan.

The fear has been omnipresent.

And yet, so has faith.

Fear and faith have sat side by side, in an uncomfortable alliance.

They have not negated one another, as I might have expected, but I’ve lived in between the tension of the two.

I have had faith that God does and will work, that He is love, that He is trustworthy.

And I have feared the loss that I’d only just begun to get my head and heart around when I fell pregnant again.

I have written very little; in part, I think that’s because so far, pregnancy has been good to me. I’ve felt almost guilty that I’ve (so far) escaped the worst and in part because I’ve not wanted to sound like I’m boasting in any way.

I also haven’t written because losing our baby in December changed the whole way I relate to God, it pulled away my certainties. Shortly afterwards, I lost my voice after a virus and all of a sudden I couldn’t use my voice to sing and lament, I found myself silenced in worship.

And in my silence, I began to listen. Sometimes there has been comfortable silence, but at other times I was able to reflect on scripture in ways I have never done before.

As I wrote in my last blog, I felt the call of the those truths which drew me to faith in the first place.

Now, as I enter the second half of pregnancy the hope and the fear are growing still – but what is growing more than I’d imagined is my faith – whatever happens going forward, I’m trusting that God is moving and God is present in the darkness, but also in the light.

 

The Strangest Grief

As the snow fell thick and fast, excited squeals could be heard from small children discovering the world covered in white, but my husband and I sat together on the sofa, tears falling unchecked down our faces.

Just two days before we had been excitedly planning for the baby we’d just discovered I was carrying. It was a longed for pregnancy, and we were over the moon. We knew that miscarriage was something that happened, but our excitement wasn’t particularly marred by any fear, we were going to be parents and we happily sat together and planned how we would rearrange our flat to accommodate a new arrival.

When I awoke on the Saturday morning after a blissfully long sleep I wasn’t, at first, particularly worried about the spotting, I knew that it was normal in early pregnancy but I rang my Mum and we called NHS 111 just as a precaution.

As the morning went on however, and the pain started and fear bloomed.

All we could do was wait; it was a Saturday and it was snowing so there would be no resolution, no answers until Monday at the earliest.

As the pain and bleeding continued I clung to the most fragile of hopes that this little baby (the size of a chocolate chip the app told us) would survive.

It wasn’t fair.

And the uncertainty was agony.

As time went on I knew in my head that I was probably losing the baby, but I refused to believe it; there was hope.

My husband and I huddled together and watched countless episodes of our favourite sitcom, pleading with God. All we could do was wait for Monday.

As the weekend passed our prayers changed as our hope flickered falteringly, I just wanted to know what was happening. Our changed prayers were answered; no wait for an appointment, a scan that same day.

And yet in the small cramped room of the Early Pregnancy Unit, the screen showed starkly that our baby was gone.

The sound that came from me was guttural, the empty screen scored into my minds eye.

In the month that has followed, it has been the strangest grief. Christmas came and the message of the baby who came to save felt sharp on my bruised heart. That I could get pregnant was, at the time little comfort. I didn’t care about the possibility of a future baby – I wanted the baby that was lost to us.

Friends and family rallied around us in the most wonderful of ways; providing love, food and company.

After an early miscarriage there is no burial, there is no one to miss as such; it’s the loss of potential, the loss of what could have been. I can’t help but count the weeks that I would have been happily anticipating and tracking on apps and in journals.

I can’t help but rage at God – because the Bible talks of God knowing us before our birth, choosing us and crafting us in our mother’s wombs – and the questions this raises are unbearable.

If God knew my baby – what does that mean for them? They were known by God – but why did they never see life on earth?

I can’t answer these questions; but I can put them to God.

I’m learning to talk to God in a new way, lamenting the loss of what could have been and trying to trust in the sometimes invisible, incomprehensible plan of God.

For more information and support I recommend The Miscarriage Association, https://www.sayinggoodbye.org and http://saltwaterandhoney.org/