Dear People having-a-shit-time-this-Christmas

Dear People having-a-shit-time-this-Christmas, more specifically Parents, – this is for you!

(I’m tempted to call you Monarchs with a nod to my current blog heroine Constance Hall but it seems contrived. I am not her. But please feel free to don your crowns!)

At this time of year passing windows full of Christmas trees and glittery fairy lights, twinkling out from cosy-2.4-kids-healthy-happy-couples firesides, it’s easy to think you are alone. Trust me. You are not. Those twinkling lights are lying.

This is a note for you. For families like yours, like mine. For those who have lost. For those who are losing ones they love. For those who hadn’t realised how perfect their lives were until that diagnosis, that accident, that moment. For those who have had to say goodbye too soon. I want to say to you;

It is OK to not be OK. Especially now. When The Perfect Family are twinkling away next door.

It is OK to want to run away and never come back.

It is OK to not see your babies as continual-magical-joy-giving-creations

It is even OK to resent them their innocence. It might be taboo. But I swear it is OK.

It is OK because you are not alone in feeling this. Many, or even most parents I reckon feel this, if they don’t then life just hasn’t yet handed them the shit-chips that bring it on. Go them. But they will. We all will. It is normal.

What is abnormal, what is extraordinary is you! When facing this life-altering shit;

You, you glorious being, choosing not to walk out of that door.

You, finding just one reason to kiss your childs head.

You curling your lip to smile, however fleetingly at an innocent gurgle.

That is the real Christmas magic. YOU.

Doing all of that. You. Magic as fuck.

So from one Mama with a heavy heart and tear-stained face to another, I want to say to you. I see you. I hear you. I am here with you. And this Christmas all I hope is that whatever unfolds, you know, somewhere, deep down, that you are loved. Always and forever loved.

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I am not grateful to my husband.

On a day where the Western World seems to have chosen Hate over Love. Fear over Hope. I thought I would share this little piece of feminism I’ve been working on.

The scene; An autumnal tea at a friends house, roaring fire, multi-generational, green-and-pleasant-land-image. Baby playing happily. Olders chatting away. Baby starts grunting. Everyone stops and looks at her. ‘ahhh pooing?’ they smile and nod, glancing at me.

‘Pass me the bag’ my husband says, grabs the baby and heads out the door to change her. As he’s leaving people turn, astounded, to me. ‘Wow, he’s well trained’, ‘that’s impressive’, ‘I was never that lucky’, ‘mine never does/did it, especially not in public’

(A: Well why the fuck not? Because they had dicks??)

Another scene: I am doing a days (paid) work. First question I am asked is ‘but where’s your baby?’ (A: err I left her in a crack den…)

Another: In the hairdresser ‘ but where’s your baby now’ – (A: I bought her a round the world-solo-travel-ticket obvs…)

Another: Sitting in a group of women all jiggling babies, discussing the depths of tiredness that parenthood has introduced us to; ‘Your husband GETS UP?! Like IN THE NIGHT? AND GOES TO WORK?’ (A: yeah because strangely enough, regardless of genitalia we are both humans and humans whether their ‘work’ earns money or not all need to sleep sometimes. Aren’t you human?)

…………I don’t say those answers, my sleep deprived brain’s not fast enough, I just sit and nod and brew this up. But a year into these ‘little-chats’ and honestly it’s wearing a bit thin. If I had got up to change the babes nappy do you think anyone would’ve made those comments to him? No. Infact do you think ANYONE has EVER said to him “wow, your wife is so well trained, look how amazing she is at changing nappies and cooking and cleaning and looking after the baby, you are so lucky she does all of that”…..No they bloody well haven’t.

Making his actions seem exceptional does him a disservice. It does our daughter and I a dis-service. These compliments are based solely on his penis. They are saying that basically because he possess a dick he is doing more than he should. They assume that he doesn’t WANT to do all he does, that perhaps he shouldn’t have to. That his ‘role’ is solely about money and not about time with his daughter. That due to owning said dick, he cannot be her comfort and support just as much as me. That after providing money he should feel fulfilled and satisfied, free of responsibility and duty. That anything else apart from bringing in money he does for his family is ‘extra and optional’.

That much like Trump explaining away his gross Rapist chat by calling it ‘Men’s Locker Room Banter’ and thereby casually saying that all Men condone Rape. Crediting a man for changing his own baby’s nappy implies that he is going above and beyond, doing something ‘abnormal’, when in fact he is simply being a Parent.

If we are truly going to take a stand against Sexism it is in conversations like this where we need to start. In the mundane everyday. In the way we react to nappy-changing men and working women. We need to say that Feminism is about all of us, it’s about creating equality for men as much as for women. It’s saying that men are not rapists, it’s saying that men take responsibility for their children, it’s saying that men and women are equally important.

So today I am grateful for a myriad of blessings that make up my wondrous life. But being married to a man who changes nappies and gets up at night is not one of them.

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The Best Conversation I’ve ever had

What’s the one thing you’d change about our life as parents?

I wish that I didn’t have Epilepsy.

I don’t.

Really?

Yes. Because your epilepsy has encouraged me to be a much more active Father than I might’ve been. It doesn’t make me very proud to admit, I mean, I’d always wanted to be a parent, but the way our society works I think that if you didn’t have epilepsy I might’ve just done less. I don’t think it would’ve even been conscious but, the truth is, it’s likely I would’ve done less. And I might’ve thought that was OK. And that would’ve been sad. I wouldn’t quite have known how intense being a parent is and I wouldn’t have felt so involved or bonded with our baby so early on. I wouldn’t have believed that going to work was a break or realised how Sexist society still is.

Without epilepsy I might’ve allowed myself to say things like “Well, I have to go to work, so I can’t get up at night” or (at 6pm) “I had such a full on day at work, I’m going to have a rest…” or “I’ve been at work all week so I’m going out with the guys this weekend”. Seemingly little things which add up to hours and hours of my daughter’s life. Of our life. Of experiences that I will never have again. Of seeing her crawl and wave and say ‘Papa!’ of dirty nappies and endless bottles, of  night after night after night, of 1,2,3,4,5am of laundry and cooking and trying to get a vegetable into her. Of what it’s all about, of what I chose when I chose you and we chose to have her.

It’s strange to admit but I guess we have epilepsy to thank for encouraging me to ignore Societies acceptable-male-behaviour to remind me that I am not the Babysitter I am a parent. Equal in all ways to you. We are in this together as partners and having Epilepsy in our lives reminds me of that. And that is an immeasurable gift.

24/7

24/7

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Tale of the day

What do mothers do all day? What have I done today? Often I’m asked this question and I reply ‘nothing’ or ‘not much’ and the thing is that actually that’s completly untrue. I think infact I am busier than I have ever been. It’s just that the things that I’m busy doing, don’t make money and therefore society doesn’t value them and therefore we don’t talk about them. So I’m going to talk some of what I did today:

5am: and I am woken by a creaking door and the gurgle of a wide-awake baby. My amazing lover had taken her into the other bedroom to give me some sleep the last few nights. I miss him but sleep is nectar of the gods and I am SO grateful! He laid down our squirming, swaddled offspring, kisses my cheek and heads out the door.  I tried to prise open my eyes, she chortled up at me then screwed up her face and grunts. I knew what that grunt meant! I sat bolt upright to try to pick her up, unswaddle her and push myself out of bed in a swift, one-handed manouvere…. yeah right, my eyes were barely open, it was pitch black,  freezing, I tripped on the corner of the blanket, and sat heavily back on the bed,  narrowly missing sitting on my offspring, who seemed to find this hilarious and flailed her fists more vigorously tugging out a chunk of my hair in the process. Second time lucky I managed to stand up, free of duvet, babe in arms, I stub my toe on the corner of the door, swear much more profusely than I’m sure 3 month old ears are meant to hear….and hobble to the bathroom. By this point the reason for my attempted speed is seeping between my fingers and onto my nightie. I put on the its-still-night-time light we got for the bathroom intended to keep offspring sleepy….yeah…..anyway! Suffice to say the poosplosion that has occured is so intense it requires a full pajama change and a wash down for both her and me! During the change I worry that she is cold, so attempt to cover her in a blanket, (which gets poo on it) keep her feet poo-free, check that her poo is err ‘normal’, check she is-OK, stare into her big blue trusting eyes for a moment and get completly overwhelmed with awe, laugh at her chortles, fill up with joy as she grips my finger, tried to keep hold of her legs as she wees all over me and wondered if it was too early for wine…. Once we were both cleansed it was almost 6am but I decided to see if I could get her to sleep again…..

6am: I swaddle her up burrito style and lay her down next to me on the bed. Eyes like saucers. I half shut my eyes. Perhaps if she thought I was asleep…. She squirmed. She cooed. I gave her her dummy, she spat it out, I held it in place, she shook it away. After a few minutes SHE FELL ASLEEP. I couldn’t believe it, I shut my eyes…then she woke up. I gave up. It was THE DAY.

Just looking at that one hour of my day I am struck by HOW MUCH STUFF I DID! There’s loads there. Not just physically, but mentally, look at all the THINKING I did!!! wow It’s practically a PHD!! Pre baby a similar scenario could’ve been described in a single sentence: ‘Woke up in dark needing the loo, stuck nose out of duvet, decided it was too cold so I went back to sleep’ But with parentdom there is just so much MORE. Nothing prepared me for the relentlessness, the intensity. The responsibility sits heavy in my heart. It is the hardest job in the world and yet there are no instructions, there are no holidays and no weekends. And then there is also one other immense truth that I wasn’t ready for and that is the love. The Love. So raw and massive it is almost tangible, it seems to grow bigger each day. It is actually utterly terrifying it is so all consuming a thing. Unlike some women I didn’t get a rush of love when Rue was first born. In retrospect I think I was in shock. But then gradually, each day the love has grown and grown until I feel like when she smiles at me, my heart might genuinely explode with joy. It is wild and savage, horrendous, exhausting, beautiful and intense. It’s shattering. I didn’t know love like that existed. But it does, it does, it does. Experiencing it somehow, crazily, makes the world make just a little bit more sense. I am so grateful to be experiencing it. I try not to worry about the future. Try to be present, try to speak my truth and know that today, I did not ‘do nothing’.

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