5 happy things – a September update

It’s 3 a.m. as I start this post. I am awake partly because the baby bump is now pretty unwieldy, but more because I am anxious about lots of things that will be happening and will have a big financial impact. It’s all very scary. So I suppose 3 a.m. is as good a time as any to reflect on 5 happy things and hopefully calm down a bit. Here goes nothing.

The seasons are changing.

I am not really a fan of fall or winter, to be honest. I like warmth and sunshine too much. In the UK especially, fall and winter are mostly just grey and rainy. I like a sweater as much as the next woman, but that is definitely not enough to outweigh the downsides of the season. But having said that, I do enjoy the signs of seasonal changes. Those special weeks when the leaves are slowly turning color, and there are pink veins running through green leaves. When goldenrod and purple asters are poking their faces through white tufts of gone-over weeds. When dewy mornings melt into intensely sunny days. It is rather glorious, and I am really enjoying it this year. Last year I used the hashtag #embracingtheseasons on Instagram, and I’m using it again as I think it did help me focus on the postives.

Cementing friendships

I was fortunate to meet some new friends while on maternity leave with Mabel. While I get on with them really well, we are still in relatively early friendship days; I consider some to be good friends now, but am not sure they think of me the same way, or that it is permanent yet. Nonetheless, it does make me happy to think that the building blocks of more close friendships are around me, especially because, at long last, I may be making friends who live in the same town as me!

Mabel’s developing sense of self

Okay, this one is truly a double-edged sword! Seeing a little personality develop is hands down the best part of being a mum. I love it. It is absolutely fascinating. That is why it counts as a happy thing, even though the other side is that she is asserting her independence, saying no, and (occasionally) biting. (Yup, she’s a biter. Eeeek! The guilt!) It is great to see her starting to try to assert her boundaries, even if she does it at moments that are not appreciated by me (i.e. bathtime and nappy changes). But overall she is a happy little girl who loves playing with crayons, loves doing the dishes and pretending to tidy, and playing with toy cars.

My seed haul

I spent today in Stroud, which is always worth a visit. While hanging out with a lovely friend and having lunch in the park, we also stopped by the museum, which sells seeds and plants from their garden and a nearby nursery…seeds are 50p per packet! I bought 10 packets, ha! Bargain. Some are for a friend, but I still got: white foxglove, purple orach, cherry-red dianthus, krautia macedonica, helenium, and angel’s fishing rods.

Maternity leave

I’m on maternity leave! Technically I could have carried on working longer; I have about 4 weeks before I am due. However, I am exhausted. The travel is pretty hard on me now, and I am really looking forward to not riding my bike anymore. Plus, it’s induction which means a ton of walking/standing/running, and I am already starting to have a bit of back pain again. It just didn’t seem like a good idea. I feel pretty relieved, so I’d say it was the right decision. As a bonus happy thing, I actually managed to bake some brownies and a vegan lemon cake to bring colleagues on my last day, hurrah! It has been a while since I’ve managed to do any baking, so it is really lovely.

So that’s my happy things for today. What’s happening with you?

Poem for a Thursday: Toni Morrison

As Toni Morrison passed away recently, it seemed appropriate to share one of her poems. This one is “Eve Remembering”, and the poem is available on Poets.org.

1

Now these cool hands guide what they once caressed;
Lips forget what they have kissed.
My eyes now pool their light
Better the summit to see.

2

I tore from a limb fruit that had lost its green.
My hands were warmed by the heat of an apple
Fire red and humming.
I bit sweet power to the core.
How can I say what it was like?
The taste! The taste undid my eyes
And led me far from the gardens planted for a child
To wildernesses deeper than any master’s call.

3

I would do it all over again:
Be the harbor and set the sail,
Loose the breeze and harness the gale,
Cherish the harvest of what I have been.
Better the summit to scale.
Better the summit to be.

Thoughts on birth (sorry)

Feel free to skip this if you aren’t interested in meditations on childbirth!

When I was pregnant with Mabel, I spent almost no time thinking about birth (until I reached 30-something weeks and got obsessed with reading birth stories). I don’t have the same luxury this time around, unfortunately. It feels less scary this time, but I would still prefer to relax and wait to see what happens without lots of discussion about what-ifs and planning.

I didn’t share Mabel’s full birth story on here, but the very abbreviated version is that I had a very quick emergency Caesarean following an induction. It was all handled extraordinarily well. The doctor was brilliant and she explained what was happening between contractions and even complimented my Harry Potter slippers on the way to the delivery suite. I didn’t and don’t feel traumatized by it at all, though there is part of me that regrets agreeing to the induction – could I have avoided a C section if I had just waited it out? But there were some weird things going on that it was hard to pinpoint the cause of (and some of the potential causes were quite scary), and on balance I know it was the right thing to do given the information available to me at the time.

Nonetheless, I do wish I hadn’t needed one. I didn’t like the anesthetic and the recovery, though it went well, was still quite painful. And if I’m really, really honest, sometimes I feel like I cheated and didn’t really give birth (even though I know it’s not true and that it would never, ever occur to me about another mum who had a Caesarean). But there you go. Feelings are stupid things sometimes, aren’t they? The other effect is that for my second pregnancy I am under the care of a consultant rather than midwives. This won’t be massively different, as far as I can tell (though I’m getting extra scans due to the complications mentioned above), but it does mean that I’ve already had to have conversations with healthcare professionals about what kind of birth I want, i.e. another C-section or a VBAC. To their credit, they’ve been very clear that I don’t need to make my decision yet and that I can change my mind. But frankly, it is too soon for this. I don’t want to be comparing potential outcomes of the two options; I’d rather be enjoying my bump. I’ve always taken the view that, while birth is amazing, it is also in many ways the least significant part of becoming a mother, and my experience with Mabel hasn’t disproved that. I guess I am nervous that thinking about birth too much will make me panic and ruin not just the actual birth (if I don’t get what I decide I want) but also the pregnancy and the very early days with the baby.

I guess what I’m saying is, birth is complicated and given that I am not prepared to think about living with another baby yet, it is hardly surprising that I am also not prepared to think about it yet (even if it is a less scary prospect this time). And yet here I am, writing a blog post titled “Thoughts on birth”. Hm. What a hypocrite I am. Anyway, if you have found yourself in a similar situation, I would love to hear from you! I can’t be the only person who didn’t want to have a really detailed birth plan, can I?

Poem for a Thursday: Liz Berry


Liz Berry is a poet from Birmingham. She’s quite well known in the UK, but I’ve not read much of her work yet. Recently she recorded a podcast for the Scottish Poetry Library and piqued my interest by talking about the use of dialect in poetry, as well as poetry about motherhood. I decided to splurge and use my remaining Amazon voucher to buy her most recent pamphlet, The Republic of Motherhood.

This poem is called “Marie”. I love that it so well encapsulates the incredible support from other mums you sometimes find, even in the most unexpected relationships, while also conveying the desperation of early motherhood.

"Marie"
 

 I didn’t know when we met
 in the Baptist church hall
 that you would save my soul
  
 Marie, with your black hair,
  
 that I would walk through sleet
 with my pram to your door,
 my heart clem-gutted
  
 Marie, with your black hair,
  
 and you’d be waiting
 with your curtains pulled
 and the flame blue
  
 Marie, with your black hair,
  
 take my hands in yours
 and touch the palms
 saying I know I know
  
 Marie, with your black hair,
  
 you could see I was drowning
 and taking him with me,
 my boy, my baby,
  
 Marie, with your black hair,
  
 you made a wave of your body,
 and like a gasping fish
 I was borne upon it.  

My garden so far: May 2019

I say my garden, but really I mean my green spaces as there will be a bit about my allotment here, too.

Gardening and especially the allotment have had to take a backseat yet again this year as I am now 4 months pregnant! There has been much more nausea this time and I have also felt weaker, so really haven’t felt up to digging. Nonetheless, as I managed to plant a few things at home last summer and persuaded a few friends to dig over a bed for me earlier this year, there are a few things to share.

We have a pretty big front yard, but only a tiny patch of can be planted at the moment. I hope that eventually I’ll expand it, but that’s very much a long term project. When we moved in, there was a very ugly shrub in the area that was dug over. Last year I finally dug it out & replaced it – there are now two young peonies and a young hydrangea there alongside various perennials. This year the peonies and hydrangeas are still tiny (as to be expected), but other things have come out already. I’ll share more of the garden as it develops.

There is a bleeding heart that I bought reduced for £1.50 last year.

Two kinds of columbine, including one particularly beautiful white one with huge flowers.

A foxglove (actually, 3 spikes) that I bought for 50p at a florist that was closing.

Some dutch irises that are starting to bud and will hopefully open in the next month or so.

Meanwhile, it’s chaos at the allotment! I am so annoyed with myself for not digging in January like I’d planned before; I started feeling unwell at peak opportunity, unfortunately. But on Good Friday, I did invite some friends for a picnic and they very generously dug over a bed for me. I’ve managed to plant 3 rows of potatoes, two rows of peas, and a row of beets. I’ve been trying to pop down with Mabel every now and then to check on things and keep that bed clear. In an ideal world, I will also get another bed slightly prepared so I can scatter some wildflower seeds to encourage pollinators, if nothing else.



Poem for a Thursday: William Barnes

Today seemed to be unintentionally bird-themed. On my morning cycle to work I said hello to them as I went past, even singing Blackbirdsinging in the dead of night as I went. Then the morning radio program I listen to had a bird-themed feature. And then during our morning meeting I spotted Poems For Birds on the shelf, so how could I resist picking a poem from it?

William Barnes was an English Victorian poet from Dorset. As you can see, he wrote in dialect. This is challenging to read, but I love that it reflects his passion for language. The Blackbird sums up my experience of spring in England and I hope you will like it too. There’s also a Youtube recording of this poem if you’re interested in hearing the dialect. It is a very thick West Country accent, and though Dorset is further south than I am here in Gloucestershire, the accent around here is quite similar.

The Blackbird by William Barnes

O V all the birds upon the wing
Between the zunny showers o’ spring,—
Vor all the lark, a-swingèn high,
Mid zing below a cloudless sky,
An’ sparrows, clust’rèn roun’ the bough,
Mid chatter to the men at plough,—
The blackbird, whisslèn in among
The boughs, do zing the gayest zong.

Vor we do hear the blackbird zing
His sweetest ditties in the spring,
When nippèn win’s noo mwore do blow
Vrom northern skies, wi’ sleet or snow,
But dreve light doust along between
The leäne-zide hedges, thick an’ green;
An’ zoo the blackbird in among
The boughs do zing the gaÿest zong.

‘Tis blithe, wi’ newly-opened eyes,
To zee the mornèn’s ruddy skies;
Or, out a-haulèn frith or lops
Vrom new-pleshed hedge or new-velled copse,
To rest at noon in primrwose beds
Below the white-barked woak-trees’ heads;
But there’s noo time, the whole däy long,
Lik’ evenèn wi’ the blackbird’s zong.

Vor when my work is all a-done
Avore the zettèn o’ the zun,
Then blushèn Jeäne do walk along
The hedge to meet me in the drong,
An’ stay till all is dim an’ dark
Bezides the ashen tree’s white bark;
An’ all bezides the blackbird’s shrill
An’ runnèn evenèn-whissle’s still.

An’ there in bwoyhood I did rove
Wi’ pryèn eyes along the drove
To vind the nest the blackbird meäde
O’ grass-stalks in the high bough’s sheäde;
Or climb aloft, wi’ clingèn knees,
Vor crows’ aggs up in swaÿèn trees,
While frightened blackbirds down below
Did chatter o’ their little foe.
An’ zoo there’s noo pleäce lik’ the drong,
Where I do hear the blackbird’s zong.

Poem for a Friday

George Herbert was a 17th century poet who was part of the unofficial group of metaphysical poets. These poets, and Herbert in particular, wrote prolifically on religious themes as well as experimenting with meter and imagery. If you have read and enjoyed Gerard Manley Hopkins, you have poets like Herbert to thank. I do have a real soft spot for 17th century poetry!

I had a bit of trouble formatting this one, sorry. These lines all follow each other immediately, rather than having an empty line after each. I hope you enjoy it, and for more poetry, visit Holds Upon Happiness and Covered in Flour.

Good Friday by George Herbert

O my chief good,

How shall I measure out thy bloud?

How shall I count what thee befell,

And each grief tell?

Shall I thy woes

Number according to thy foes?

Or, since one starre show’d thy first breath,

Shall all thy death?

Or shall each leaf,

Which falls in Autumne, score a grief?

Or cannot leaves, but fruit, be signe

Of the true vine?

Then let each houre

Of my whole life one grief devoure;

That thy distresse through all may runne,

And be my sunne.

Or rather let

My severall sinnes their sorrows get;

That as each beast his cure doth know,

Each sinne may so.

Since bloud is fittest, Lord, to write

Thy sorrows in, and bloudie fight;

My heart hath store, write there, where in

One box doth lie both ink and sinne:

That when sinne spies so many foes,

Thy whips, thy nails, thy wounds, thy woes,

All come to lodge there, sinne may say,

No room for me, and flie away.

Sinne being gone, oh fill the place,

And keep possession with thy grace;

Lest sinne take courage and return,

And all the writings blot or burn.