Friday, 15 November 2013

A stillness filled me...

...bitterness lifted from me.

It's a line from Brian Patten, and it's bitterness that I've been thinking about at the moment, but not so much I want the word in my post title, because it's a horrible word and a pretty horrible sensation.

It's just occurred to me that I hold myself back with being bitter. It creeps in when I'm not looking and it's invidious, it shades the way I think about so much. Well, I think, when I see someone doing things I wish I was doing, it's ok for her, she has childcare, or her children are older, or her children sleep. When I look at the craft bloggers that I so love to read, I'm filled with an unpleasant envy, same with all the people who write, who talk about getting up early and doing morning pages, and spending their evenings honing their craft. Not fair, I want to shout, they've obviously got rich husbands or private means, they're not like me, they obviously don't need to earn a living. Poor poor Helen spends all her free time doing "real" work, moneywork, earning a living, being an adult, having responsibilities, and it's so unfair that "they" have the chance to do interesting things, explore their skills, do real creative work, etc. What's more, poor Helen never gets a decent night's sleep, and if she got up early to do things then the child would wake and howl, and so on.

This stuff is, to some extent, true: I do have an awful lot of claims on my time right now, in this season of my life. But, I could still find spaces for things that aren't paid work, and I could still dream about the things I'll do once I have a little more time, and there's no point at all now in being bad tempered about the way that things are. I didn't marry a banker, and he wouldn't be the man I'd wanted to marry if he was the all-hours type; I did birth a high-maintenance child, and am parenting him in a high-maintenance way, but there's nothing to do with that other than suck it up.

Also time does bend and flex, when you really want it to, and if I let go of thinking that it can't, then it might. When my Booker books came I'd probably read only one or two novels in the previous three months, then I hammered through five of them in a couple of weeks, because I was loving them, and I had a target, and so I found the time, I eked and scraped it, and it was there. (Now, number six, the one that in a travesty ended up winning, I still haven't got through, which tells you all you need to know about how you're much better at making time when it's for something you like).

Realistically we do need an income, and that's going to be from me, so it would be really unwise to pack in the accounting and try to making a living from selling unfinished crochet pieces, but I can still man up a bit about the rest of it.

(It's a very sad poem, by the way, called On time for once, as beautiful as all of his love poems, but not actually relevant to the post apart from those lines, just for the avoidance of doubt).

Tuesday, 17 September 2013


This is another one not to read if you're a family member or a professional contact who's clicked through from twitter expecting content about accounting. It's here because I've been all over the internet in recent weeks looking for company on this, and I think those of us in a position to write about it should do. Bits of it have been coming into my head for a few days, but I've not edited it, instead giving in to the urge just to get it down, and out there. Perhaps more thoughtful posts will follow, or perhaps I'll get something up soon about the Booker shortlist so this isn't lingering on the front page being miserable.

So, loss.
A little while ago I found out I was pregnant.
A couple of weeks ago the pregnancy ended, I miscarried, I lost the baby. That's a range of ways of putting it, with a variety of baggage attached.
1 in 4 is the statistic you see quoted, but we've all read it, and we all know it doesn't mean us. I reasoned it away because "loads" of those are pregnancies that are never even detected, just few-days-late periods. And the others, well, they're for others.
Then suddenly it was for me. I'll be talking about me in this, not us, because it's my story, and I'm telling it how I want to. I don't think it would be my place to attribute words or thoughts to H, so I won't.

Mainly at the moment, still, it is a bigness. It's something in the corner of your eye, you can only observe it sideways, but it glowers and menaces. Most of the days, most of the time, I'm pottering along, working, doing toddler-things, keeping stuff going, but occasionally, maybe a couple of times a day, it's just walloping me from nowhere.

I was going to be a mother again. Now I'm not.
I was going to spare Isaac from being an only child. Now I'm not.
I was a healthy, fertile woman doing what women are built to do. Now I'm not.
I was going to have a wonderful birth, even better than last time. Now I'm not.
I was going to be able to use all the lessons I'd learned first time round. Now I'm not. 
I was going to be a matriarch, presiding over a chaotic but love-filled household. Now I'm not.

I'm not packed full of glorious life and promise. I'm a flawed vessel, I didn't look after the goods I was entrusted with, my body failed me, I failed my baby.

My baby, that's key, the fact I was only 7 weeks along is irrelevant. I don't care about where it was on the embryo-foetus-baby scale, the whole future and all my hope was packed in there and came out over the course of one painful, sad weekend. This was supposed to be my baby. He or she would have been nearly 3 years after Isaac, a completion to our family, a fruition. For the three and a bit weeks that I was pregnant, I kept having these moments of melancholy about not yet being pregnant, not having the family the shape I wanted, then realising oh yes! I am pregnant! I no longer have to be sad!

And now, once more, I'm not pregnant, and I'm struggling to see colours in the world. I just can't imagine recreating that kind of optimism. My boy is so precious and dear, and I am holding on to him particularly tightly, but I'm miserable about the idea of his growing up alone, and miserable that it will be my fault: a mother is meant to make a family, a whole family, not one attempt and then a flunk.

This was meant to be an elegant, well-crafted and moving piece, and it turns out I can't write that yet: perhaps I'm not yet ready yet, and perhaps I won't be. It just turns out there isn't elegant melancholy to be had here, there's jarring pain and grief.

Perhaps I'll search-engine optimise by including some of my own recent popular phrases:
"miscarriage emotional wreck"
"miscarriage caffeine"
"miscarriage pineapple"
"miscarriage breastfeeding"
"miscarriage maternal age"
"miscarriage likelihood of recurrence"
"miscarriage overwhelming sadness"
"miscarriage can't concentrate"
"miscarriage feel desperately alone"
"miscarriage coping with toddler"
"miscarriage dental work"
"miscarriage paracetamol"
and no, none of them gave me a neat, parcelled, thing to pin it on.
I know people move on, go on to have children after miscarriage. I know this intellectually. But, what if I don't, and anyway, I wanted this one. This was my baby. I was already spinning dreams for it. This is probably the biggest thing for me, and the reason I think these ugly clumsy kind of posts need to be out there on the internet for sobbing midnight googlers to find: until it happens to you, you don't get this. You don't actually know it's the loss of a baby. It's happening all over the place, and no one speaks about it until someone else mentions it - I've hardly told anyone, and yet of those I have, have heard several "when I had my miscarriage" stories. They hurt to hear, but they're also such a comfort.

I suppose as time passes I will find it easier to say "when I had my miscarriage", and I want to, because since I'm part of this lousy team, at least I want my badge.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Kindness, identity and personal projects

This one's another sort of placeholder, because I'm still not quite in a position to write about the sad thing, but I do want to keep going, and give myself some momentum, even though I'm writing into the void. (Except "vampirestat" - it loves my posts).
Just more on what I was saying the other day. I notice kindness in others, particularly when it seems to come naturally to them. I seem to find it sadly effortful. But today I was feeling bleak at a toddler group (is there anyone who doesn't feel slightly bleak at toddler groups?) and J, who I barely know really, noticed and came and spoke to me, and let me rant a bit about the peculiar social anxieties I have on behalf of bonz, which you can read all about in  this post if you don't remember. I just about managed not to cry because of her sympathy, but after getting past that, I felt uplifted by her generosity in noticing, in interrupting other, more fun, conversations to speak to me, and in telling me afterwards she was glad if she'd helped. Then C came over with her girl this afternoon and as always floored me with her warmth and bigness of spirit, and brought chocolate because she knew I needed to be cheered up. It doesn't seem that at the moment I'm doing much reciprocal kindness, or much paying it forward - too meshed in my own stuff - but perhaps noticing it is a good start.
Oh, wrestling with this, I'm just about to read a book which I hope will help me shape some thoughts. I feel glad and confident in my new self-as-mother and there's not all that much I regret leaving behind. But, it's not quite there, and I shudder when I see people describe themselves as entirely changed. How to capture the desire for (and experience of) deepening and enrichment, and the pleasure in finding new facets, but also the melancholy at the sound of other doors softly closing? I don't know, and I want to explain it from the point of view of a formerly intelligent interesting professional, but I've not quite got my arms round it yet. I'll report back.
I do moan and groan about the time commitments of mothering, but in truth I have more time now than I did. The beautiful rainbow crochet blanket of delight is coming on beautifully, and no, the use of two beautifuls there is not excessive. I'll add a picture if I can work out how. Knitting's parked at the moment, since the two needles seem just too enticing for mr grabber. But I'm reading again, a bit, sometimes, and have developed a zeal only today for getting the booker shortlist this year and seeing if I can at least get through a couple of the short ones before the announcement. It's ambitious, but bonz does now sleep in his own bed for the first part of the night, so I can read in bed again, and I'm not overwhelmed with work at the moment, so sometimes I stop at 10, and occasionally he gets absorbed with lego in the day time, so I can sneak a few pages in's not like my luxurious, book-drenched, time-rich other life, but you work with what you've got.
Long post, no pictures, really must dig out the blanket one else (ha!) I'll go losing readers.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Partial role models

I've written this in lieu of a much sadder, probably longer, post that does need to come out soon, but I've been off the blog so long it felt like I needed a bit of practice to get back in the swing. If you're in my family, then you don't have to read the next few posts, because they might get a bit personal in a weird kind of way, and somehow it's easier to put some things out in front of a virtual audience

I had something of an internal collapse this afternoon, self-pity crowding out most other things. It was so simple, all I wanted was to be able to take one fairly short phone call, one call, come on! We'd gone for a family wander to the park, bonzo was in the buggy, H pushing, all fine, then sure enough, once my call had got all technical, he kicked off: CUGGA MUMMY! CUGGA MUMMY! full on howling, tears spurting everywhere, abandoned by his mother, practically left in the desert to expire...I just had to end the call with no explanation and give him my full focus, there, then, immediately: his need won, it trumped mine, which of course is right and proper, but still. Still. We got him settled and carried on walking, but I sulked and fumed. All I'm trying to do is earn a living. All I am attempting with this is to do it without having to leave him, and I've sacrificed virtually all of my leisure time to do it. I work in his naps, I work in the evenings, I don't stop at the weekends. It's a push, and the people who employ me or throw freelance things my way are in general great about it - but I've helped them to be great, because I'm reliable, I get it done, even if it's a horrendous stretch, and late nights, and hugely interrupted sessions because he keeps waking, and whatever else - I do it. But, and this is the root of the sulk, every now and then I really do need to speak on the phone, and it has to be in office hours, and even, horror, sometimes at a broadly pre-agreed time. No-one, in this flight of woe today, understands my position. No-one has done it before, no-one's blazed a trail for me. Yes, plenty of women work and have families, so dealing with that kind of pull or conflict; plenty of women take time out of the workplace while their families are young, so dealing with all the loss-of-identity issues that I wrestle with, but no one else IN THE WHOLE WORLD is trying to earn a living with a highly attached two year old and no childcare. No-one!

Squealing brakes moment.
It's true that no-one I know is doing quite this. It's probably not true that no-one in the whole world is, though maybe there aren't many doing quite my kind of work (and certainly none with my kind of boy).
If I try to find myself a role model or a trailblazer doing exactly my thing, I'm doomed to failure, and it would be quite disconcerting if she did exist. So, I need to look across all my worlds and see what I can aspire to. It was an exercise I used to love doing in down time (say, hairdresser's chair, or a queue when I had no book) - think through everyone you know in some group (work colleagues, friendship groups) and for each one identify some quality that you really admire and respect and would like to take some of. It's particularly helpful when there are people you don't overall like in there, because it leaves you better disposed to them, but it also lets you see the enormous range of human qualities, which I love, because it makes me think I can always work on something, and probably there's always something I'm getting it right.

In my case, for work I know several great, motivated, bright, effective women (I'm on women here because it does feel that so many of my issues at the moment are meshed in with femaleness), several of whom I'm lucky to be working for in one form or another (I seem to work mainly for rather than with at the moment). I do know people who've had slightly indirect career paths - admittedly, not many in my field, but one or two spring to mind who are doing things in a way other than popping sprogs, getting straight back to work, and doing 70 hour weeks to climb as fast as possible up the ladder. Then, when I look at inspirations for my mothering, there are just so many. All my growing time with LLL keeps adding women to this list, women with patience and gentleness (I always notice these qualities, being so lacking in them), but also women with such a creative spark, such a fire, such individuality and self-ness shining out "despite" their identities as mothers (I don't mean despite, don't mean that at all, I could write forever on the subject of identity that is redefined rather than lost) . These people have so much that I want to harness, to emulate and make my own, and of course they're fitting in other things (including, in many cases, many more children than I have) so although it's not necessarily the same things, I should be able to look at what they do and see what I can bring in.

Of course there's also no point in self-pity about my situation. I've chosen it, and I'm proud of myself for (generally) managing it, and it's melodramatic to think I can never be a serious professional just because of the phone call problem (though realistically, there's plenty it's stopping me doing). Also I know, I know, I know, that this spell in Isaac's life, this season, is a short one, and will pass in a breath. I just want to call on all these spirits floating around me and summon in this one's strength, this one's bravery, this one's sense of humour, this one's resourcefulness, this one's organisation, this one's resilience, this one's stamina, this one's kindness, this one's generosity, this one's persistence...I think that might give me a pretty good composite role model. 

Saturday, 13 April 2013

I have doubts

I saw a fantastic film a few years back. I think it was called Doubt, Muriel Strepsil was a nun, and there were some other nuns, and a priest, Philip Seymour Hoffman, who chief nun Muriel became sure was molesting choirboys, so she hounded him out. That synopsis doesn't do it justice: it was nuanced and involving and engaging, and PSH was wonderful as ever, and of course Muriel too, but what's stuck with me most was the final line, where head nun admits to junior nun "I have doubts. I have such doubts".

Subscribing to any set of beliefs about how you should parent, how you should run your life, asks for a certain commitment. Subscribing to the set that has you sharing sleep, breastfeeding for an extended period, practising genuine child-led weaning, arranging your whole life and self around your belief in the primacy of the child's need to be securely attached to one carer, is a pretty firm way of putting absolutely all of your eggs into one basket.

So, a full list of times I've been apart from the boy since his birth, excluding only the odd 15-20 minute walk out with my husband, I've been to the dentist three times (root canal work not long after he was born, ouch), once out to lunch with a potential employer (that was about 2 hours, I think) and once into the office for a morning on my first day of work (work which I've subsequently done completely from home, and only when he sleeps). He and I are each other's worlds. I love him in a way I couldn't have known I could love. I know every minute where he is, how he is, what he's likely to want next. He's always thrilled to see daddy, hurtling across the house to him when he gets home at night, but for the upsets, or the day to day things, or pretty much everything else, only mummy will do.

Problem? I'm lonely. I'm parched. I can't think how I would have done any of this differently, but my colours are leached into him. I can't remember sleep. I'm never not-touched. And I can't talk to adults. If we go places, he just wants me, me alone, me and him, in fact now he can say "home" he usually just wants us to go. We've almost completely stopped going to toddler groups - if he's only going to want to haul me off into a corner to do a jigsaw, we may as well do that at home. We went (very briefly) to a party this evening, husband met and talked to some people, I just took bonz repeatedly to the buffet table, walked him round the room, cuddled him, etc. It just seems there's absolutely no opportunity for me to talk to adults, because we go everywhere together, and he needs me. Even if there was a chance, though (and of course I'm generalising a little bit - he does *sometimes* go and spend 5 minutes on his own scrapping with other toddlers over use of the toy kitchen) I don't know what I have to offer to any conversation. H comes home at night and I find myself in silence at the dinner table, when that's the alternative to offering up a description of how many times we did each puzzle, which words he's attempted, what our favourite colour crayon was today. I don't mean that I find it boring, but this truly is stuff only a mother could get emotionally engaged with, but it's all that I have, and I have literally nothing to report to the world.

I suppose this explains the blog silence - I could tell you these day to day minutiae, or report on my writing about financial instruments, but it's not credible, is it? It's not interesting, and it doesn't make me the kind of person you'd want to approach at a party or toddler group, even if I had torn myself away from my boy for a moment.
So, doubts. My heart is in my choices, but if attachment parenting is so great, why am I the only one feeling like this?

Sunday, 6 January 2013

I miss having friends

I miss the university days of dropping by to each others rooms, hanging around drinking coffee or wine, setting the world to rights; I miss the work days of knowing so much about these people you see every day, sharing a private language, sharing angst and frustration and terrible jokes. I miss my old pre-baby friends, regular contact, making plans, spending easy time together.

Lonely isn't the right word at all. Perhaps isolated? Of course I still know the people I always knew - I sent Christmas cards, many of those dear and close were at our wedding, on the text-list when Isaac was born, and so on....but I feel unconnected. I know I'm terrible at trying, always was, to be honest, but now the logistical difficulties just seem overwhelming. I can't go out in the evenings, Isaac needs me; I can't make phone calls at the weekends, Isaac just grabs the phone; I can't write lovely long chatty emails, because every minute that he's asleep, I'm working.

My pre-baby friends without children go off and do fun adult stuff at the weekends (that's not, as a rule, anywhere near as rude as it sounds) and there's no space for mother + toddler. A year in South London had me just about getting to friendship with some other mums (after a sparse few months in west london before that), but now we're not there, and I'm meeting people here, but how on earth do you get to the stage of being actual friends? How do you move to inviting people round, to having proper conversations with them, to being open enough with each other to get close? They're all settled already, they know people, or they have other children, or whatever else, I don't know..and of course at weekends most normal women are spending quality time with their other halves - no one wants to meet up then.

Not, I should repeat, that I'm feeling lonely. Isaac is a delight to spend time with, and we're busy, and I never find myself wondering what to do with my time. I just miss having that genuine warm connection with people, and I don't know how to get it back with my old friends when our lives have charged off on such different paths, or how to strike it up with new ones. I don't know how to reassure my old friends that they really are still so often in my thoughts even if they never hear from me, I refuse invitations, I take weeks to respond to emails - and I have no idea when I'll be back in a position to do that nurturing. It's not like being busy at work for a few weeks when you know it will be over. This is my new life, now (well, no longer particularly new) and I've chosen it, and I love it, and I wouldn't swap it, but what can I now offer, how can I be interesting when all I can talk about is sheep and horses and pompom matching, and technical accounting, and the things I'd be reading if I had more time? I've got a whole post brewing up about staying an interesting person while so occupied with the crucial trivialities of toddler world, but at the moment it's mainly just a general cloud.

I expect that patience is the answer, and turning to inner resources, and leaning on the new kinds of connections it's easier to make in internet-world....but it doesn't stop me from having the occasional sense of a kind of melancholy detachment.  Any tips, anyone? 

Thursday, 3 January 2013

It's not exactly like office-worker productivity

Things  I have not done today:
1. Any more unpacking or decluttering
2. Any of the work I've promised myself on friendship-maintenance
3. Sorted my tights drawer

Things I have done today:
1. Played with trains, for hours, using all available nearby objects as bridges and tunnels
2. Gone out looking for horses (FAIL)
3.  Had glorious biscuit-making fun
4. Wallied around on the floor on my hands and knees, a lot
5. Giggled and caused giggles
6. Stared in wonder at my so-changing, so-delightful son
7. Read "messy me" around a dozen times
8. Three hours of editing my chapter on financial instruments
9. Had some of the best hugs in the world
10. Scrubbed some wee off the carpet
11. Changed three pooey nappies
12. Daydreamed
13. Made a lovely big fish pie which, to my delight, the child ate an enormous portion of (did I mention, HE EATS, HE FINALLY EATS!!!)
14. Got him to bed with no tears, just co-operation, fun and patience

Things I would change about today:

Tuesday, 1 January 2013


Well, after my long confessional last night, I stand more chance of keeping the blog up to date if I have a mobile thing - let's see...