Friday, 30 November 2012

The F word, and why I'm a terrible mother

I swear, from time to time. Usually when annoyed. So of course my daughted has picked it up.

She's clever though. She understands the context of it.

As in, one day I caught myself in time, and said "Flip!" instead.

She laughed and said "Fuck!". She knew that flip was a substitute word. She knew that it meant the other F word.

I laughed too (hence the terrible mother bit).

Every now and then now, she will say it and laugh. I explain that it is a word we're only supposed to use when we're angry or upset.

She goes "waiah waih" (purely a pretend cry) and then says fuck again, and laughs.

She also heard me yell "Bollocks" once at Sherlock, the newf we had for a while. After that, any time I yelled at him, even though I controlled my language, she would yell "Bollocks" at him. 

So she may know swear words, but at least she understands the context, I suppose.

Oh how busy this child is going to keep me!

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Red onion, cheese and herb bread

My house smells so good this evening, I think I could sell it.

Of course, my landlord might object to that...

Ingredients :
4 cups plain flour
1 sachet of yeast
1 red onion
A bit of cheddar cheese
A dash of oil - olive or rapeseed
Selection of herbs, I used oregano and basil

Mix the yeast with one cup of flour and leave in a covered bowl for two hours
Add the rest of the flour and mix well, then knead the dough for a few mins
Leave the dough to rise - hot press is the perfect place for this
Every couple of hours knead it a bit and put it back
Fry the onion and grate the cheese, add these to the dough along with the oil.
Shape into a loaf or two loaves and allow to rise once more for an hour or so before baking at 190c for approx 40 mins

Eat as soon as it's cool enough to slice! 

Sometimes, this is the only way to get anything done...

Yeah, I know, obesity crisis, etc etc. Though to be fair, this is the two year old who turned down cake a couple of weeks ago, preferring more lentil curry .

There are times - very rarely, but they do occur - when I actually need to do housework. Today was one of those days, but E was having a clingy day. So I distracted her with butter and allowed her to discover her inner Homer J. Simpson.


Oh great, my daughter knows the word actually, and how to use it in context.

Me: That's my hat.
E: It's actually E's (she still refers to herself in the third person a lot, or mixes up me/you)
Me: Really? I think it's actually mine.
E: No. Actually E's. 

Great, so she's either donating my clothes to the charity shop, or wearing them and claiming them as her own. I thought I had a few more years till that would start!

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Donegal Scenes - Fort Dunree

Donegal is such a beautiful place. This is an old barracks, Fort Dunree, in Inishowen. It is easy to imagine trying to defend the land from here, looking down the barrel of a big beast of a cannon. The only danger would be distraction, as the scenery would take my attention away from the war!

The cannons in the car park

I managed the climb, but Molly the Collie must have made it three or four times as she kept coming down to me again, as I climbed a lot slower than she did! Didn't count the steps, but there are a lot of them, and they're steep!

Well worth it though, the view from the top:

   The view out to sea, with the old barracks buildings below.

Out toward the Atlantic

This was me messing around with the camera on my phone, learning to use the panorama image function. It gives a sense of the view out across Lough Swilly.

 Looking out over the cannons, a place to let the imagination and love of history flourish.

A little beach down there, hidden away at the bottom of the hill in a small bay, protected from the worst of the storms, though the cold still gets through.

The old barracks themselves, up close.

Any time I come here I feel like it would be such a great place to shoot a zombie film. There is something in the atmosphere that lends itself to that kind of entertainment.

Fort Dunree, a great day out for the family, including the dog.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Call the social workers...

Oh dear. E started coughing today while drinking a glass of apple juice. I patted ehr on the back, as people do - no idea if it actually helps or not, but it is better than asking someone, adult or child, "Are you ok?" when they are struggling to take a breath.

As the coughing dissipated, she gives me the cheekiest of cheeky grins.

"Mama hitting!" she said.

"I'm patting you on the back!" I protest.

"Mama hit E on the back," she said, grinning with her supreme cheeky monkey face on the whole time.

Oh dear, it's only a matter of time now before she tells everyone I hit her...

I've taught her oh so well...

A few days ago, I was trying on dresses, wondering what I should wear to the graduation.

E was trying on my shoes, walking around the landing in them. Then, as I tried on the umpteenth outfit and she was getting fed up, she started to put various items of clothing and shoes - mine - into a plastic bag.

Me: "What are you doing?"
E: "They're for the charity shop!"

Oh dear. She is learning so fast. I will need to watch out for my stuff from now on!

Monday, 26 November 2012

Budgeting for Xmas


I do love Xmas - I'm an atheist, but I think in a cold dark country like Ireland, it is great to have a festival/feast in midwinter, with lots of good food and some drinking and spending time with family and taking a break from work and merriment and warmth and laughing and all of that.

The belt has been tightened in recent years though. Much as we love to splash out, we need to be careful with the cash.

So today I am sitting with a spreadsheet, working out how much the dinner will cost, and the presents for various family and friends.

Oh well, at least once it is done we'll know where we are financially.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Recipe - Pork, Apple and Spiced Winter Vegetable Stew

Another recipe using cooking apples. This received mixed reviews from those who tasted it: some found it sweet, others thought the apples gave it a nice tangy taste. If I make it again I probably won't use quite as many apples, but nevertheless I consider it a success and perfect for the Winter weather ahead.

All measurements are rough guesses as it's a few weeks ago now that I made this. 

Here is the stew bubbling away when it was almost ready!

1 medium turnip
4 pork chops
4 parsnips
3 large sweet potatoes
5 large cooking apples
5 large potatoes
spices - cumin, mixed spice, cinnamon, black pepper


  • Peel and chop the turnip, sweet potatoes, parsnips and 3 of the apples. Sweat them in a large pot with the pork chops (throw them in whole, the stew cooks for a long time and the meat will soften and come apart on its own anyway so no need to slice them) and a dash of olive oil (or what I used - Donegal rapeseed oil) until they start to soften. 
  • Add approx 1 litre of water and bring to the boil, then add approx 1 teaspoon of each of the spices and simmer for 3-4 hours.
  • Peel and chop the potatoes and the other two apples and add to the stew, you'll provbably need to add some more water at this stage as well. Bring back to the boil then simmer for another hour or couple of hours, until the meat is falling apart and the potatoes are well cooked.
  • Taste regularly during this period, you might need to add more spices.
  • Eat, and enjoy!

Recipe - Blueberry and Apple Cake

I was recently given a big box of cooking apples, and I already make a great apple crumble, so I wanted to take the chance to experiement with some of these. I decided to make an apple cake, and it turned out pretty well!

Amounts are approximate as I do not own a kitchen scales or measuring jug; I just chuck in stuff until it looks or tastes like the right consistency.

My two year old loves to hold the mixer for these sorts of recipes while I add ingredients to the bowl.

200g butter/margerine
150g caster sugar
300g self-raising flour
punnet of blueberries
4 medium cooking apples (or 3 large, or 5 small)
2 eggs

  • Peel the apples and cut out the cores, chop into small pieces and put in a pot with a little water and leave it on a medium heat. Stir regularly as the apples begin to break down and you end up with apple sauce.
  • Mix the eggs, butter and caster sugar in a large mixing bowl.
  • Add half the flour. Mix well.
  • Add the apple sauce.
  • Add the rest of the flour slowly with the mixer turning. 
  • The mixture should be thick, but not quite as stiff as whipped cream; it should pour out of the bowl easily. 
  • Turn off the mixer before adding the blueberries, mix them in with a spoon.
  • Pour into either a greased springform metal cake tin or a silicone baking mould. 
  • Lick the bowl. The mixture is yummy.
  • Bake for approx half an hour at 180 C. 
  • Leave in the tin for at least half an hour after baking, before turning out onto a plate.
  • Slice, eat and enjoy! 

Breastfeeding Nazis, the Breastapo and Godwin's Law

There are some terms which are used to describe women who are passionate about breastfeeding. They are used in various places including online forums, as well as in the mainstream media, newspapers and other sites which I am not going to link to, but google the terms "Breastfeeding Nazi" and "Breastapo" (from Gestapo) and you'll see a whole range of familar sites come up.

These terms are extremely offensive, and I am going to explain why.

The Nazis were a political party in Germany, full name National Socialist German Workers Party. They are famous because among their policies were the eradication of impure races and peoples, including most notably Jews, but also including Roma/Gypsy people, black people and homosexuals as well as people suffering from various degrees of mental or physical disabilities.

The Gestapo were the Secret Police of Nazi Germany, and were responsible for carrying out many of the atrocities perpetrated by that state against its own and other peoples.

Breastfeeding mums do not wish to put formula feeding mums in gas chambers and kill them. This is what the Nazis and Gestapo did. They killed people who were different to them, who acted differently, who thought differently, had different ideas about what society should be like. I repeat, they killed them.

 People who do not breastfeed may find that those who do are smug and self-righteous - personally I disagree or think that at most, this is a very small minority of breastfeeding mothers - but absolutely no one can claim that they aim to eradicate mums who artificially feed their children.

The terms are therefore extremely offensive. Not just to breastfeeding mothers, who do not deserve their comparison with such horrible figures from history. No, the worst offence is to all those people who died or suffered terribly under the Nazi regime. Those who died in the gas chambers, those who died in the camps of disease and starvation, those who died on the roads, those who fell ill and suffered, those who were forever traumatised by the fact that they survived and others didn't, and that they had seen such horrors.

To call someone who you simply disagree with, or who disagrees with you, a Nazi or compare them to the Gestapo, is disgraceful behaviour. Open a history book or turn on the Discovery channel and watch a documentary. Learn what these terms really mean before you throw them out there. It is scary that this is addressed to professional journalists as well as everyday women.

There is an internet phenomenon known as Godwin's Law - that in any argument, eventually someone will compare the other side to the Nazis, and because this is such a worthless argument, the person who does so is automatically judged to have lost the argument.

Please think about the people who died before throwing a term such as Nazi into a conversation, argument or debate. It is not one to be used lightly without denigrating the victims of that awful ideology.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Songs my Daughter loves

E isn't really interested in the TV yet, but she does like to watch some music videos on youtube.

These are some of her favourites - most by Caspar Babypants, AKA Chris Ballew, who used to be in The Presidents of the United States of America (famous for their mid 90s songs Peaches and Lump) of whom I was a fan, back in the day! We were given a Caspar Babypants CD as a gift soon after E was born, and while she has long since outgrown the babygrows and bibs and booties, Babypants music has enduring popularity!

This is her current favourite, a funny silly song about Stompy the Bear

Former favourite, she still loves it, it's a catchy tune!

She calls them "space cows" and pronounces it "bana-mana"!

This one is hilarious...

Beware the following song, it's so catchy you'll find yourself singing it even when your child has long gone to bed and you're meant to be having some adult time..

Another impossibly catchy one, and you can dance to this one too (trust me, I have...)

She likes some TV theme tunes, even though she doesn't watch the shows yet, I sometimes sing or hum them to her before I read the books(her poor ears...)!

And three slightly more peaceful ones, to finish:

Friday, 23 November 2012

Breastfeeding to two, and beyond.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) advocates breastfeeding for at least two years. (WHO link)

The Health Service Executive (HSE) in Ireland advocates breastfeeding for at least two years. (HSE link)

My daughter, AKA "E" AKA "Ruffian child" recently turned two, so I like to think I have now achieved the minimum goal. I plan to let her wean when she is ready. She's a smart kid. She'll know when that is. At the moment it is helping her immune system, her brain development and her emotional development.

So many women in Ireland don't breastfeed at all, and others only do so for a very short amount of time. So breastfeeding up to two years, and beyond, while in line with official recomendations, is actually very unusual in Ireland.

Nevertheless, I like to think of the guidelines as a minimum, that we have now achieved. We'll see how long we continue, and whether society's attitude to breastfeeding, extended or not, changes as time goes on.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

I Miss Study!!!

I completed my sociology degree last May and I miss study so much! (Graduation in a couple of days - looking forward to my cap'n'gown moment!) It took me five years to complete my degree via distance education.

If I had the money I would continue straight away. As it stands I'll probably have to save or hope that I can find a research scholarship/paid PhD that will allow me to work from home at least some of the time.

In the meantime, I found this site: Coursera
It offers free courses, and is affiliated with some really big universities across the globe. The courses are certified but not accredited (well, they are free).

I've signed up for one already! If nothing else it will keep my brain sharp and allow me to continue posting awesome blog posts (my blog posts are awesome, right???)

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

From the mouth of Ruffian Child

Out for a walk, we see a huge horse poo on the road.

E: That's mud
Me: That's horse poo
E: From the... (pause, unsure, glances at me)
Me: From a horse
E: No!!!
Me: No?
E: From the cat!!
Me: Really?
E: uh huh (nodding). From the cat's bum.

Tantrums, rain and digging a hole in the dark

 I feel like sh1t.

I feel sad, and angry (at myself) and guilty.

My day today has involved, in this order :
-E doing a poo in her knickers
-A walk with E, the dog and two of the kittens
-Leaving one of the kittens behind  not far from home due to him being spooked by a dog and the fact it was starting to rain and E has a cold
-Heading out to look for him around two hours later when he hadn't made it home at that stage
-Finding him, already stiff, soaking wet and with half his brains no longer in his head
-Carrying him home, showing his mother, brother and sisters his body, digging a hole in the garden as torrential rain teemed down on me, and burying him.
Not sure what to say to E. I don't want to lie to her but how do you explain death to a two year old?? Seriously, how? I don't want to scare her or confuse her either. Damnit.
Some good things happened too, like apple and blueberry cake and catching up with a really good friend and the fact my raising kids without religion facebook group created yesterday already has over fifty members and loads of topics. But it's hard to focus on any of that now.

Goodbye, Tom Kitten. Only about six months old.Here he is, at the beginning of the walk this afternoon, on the left (on the right is Fang who has come for several walks with us before).

Ireland and Abortion, and the Death of a Woman.

I saw a post online somewhere in the last week in which a woman described herself as anti-abortion, but pro-choice.

I think that best describes my stance on the subject as well. I don't think I could ever have an abortion (though I can't know for sure, in a terrible situation who knows what I would do?), but I fully support the rights of women who do feel that they need to have one, for whatever reason.

Making abortion illegal doesn't prevent women having abortions. It just means they have to have a more dangerous abortion. In the case of Irish women, they have to travel to another country, often alone. In other countries, as it was here in the past, it is even more dangerous because they go to back-street abortion clinics which place their health and even lives at risk.

Things that help prevent abortions include:
  • Making contraception freely and easily available, and encouraging its use (a recent study showed that 24% of Irish people still believe that a woman who carries condoms is easy ( - a shameful attitude that is grounded in the notion that if you carry condoms you are going out expecting to have sex [and let's not forget that that's sinful sex, out of wedlock] whereas if you end up getting a bit drunk and doing something stupid like having sex and you get pregnant, then that was an accident at least , to intend to commit a sin is worse than ending up in that situation, a bit like premeditated murder is worse than manslaughter). Contraception helps stop pregnancies occuring, stopping the problem before it even becomes a problem. It saves lives and livelihoods.
  • Sex education in schools, right from the start. Teach children about relationships and love and include sex in that. Also, make sure that girls and boys have the confidence in themselves and their bodies not to do anything sexual until they feel ready. The age that is will vary from person to person, teenagers are individuals. But no one, male or female, should ever feel pressured into having sex. And someone who feels pressured into sex is far less likely to insist on condoms than someone who is making an informed decision to enjoy their body and that of another person and all the pleasures that can bring. Talk to children about bodies, sex and saying yes as well as saying no!!!
  • Have services available for women who have a crisis pregnancy but don't want to have an abortion. This includes things like creating, rather than cutting, funding for women in difficult situations like violent relationships so that they can escape those terrible situations and be independent; and making it possible for women to continue in work or study part time or with flexible hours so that having a child they didn't expect or want doesn't land them in the poverty trap - as a recent study (in the USA) showed is very likely to happen.
And yet even if all those things were to happen, sometimes women will still want an abortion, and I would rather that they got them than that a child is born unwanted and a woman is forced to be a person she doesn't feel she can be - because becoming a parent, pregnancy, labour, birth and the flood of hormones that follows - changes you as a person. Anything that gives you a such an intense flood of oxytocin and adrenaline will. I honestly felt like my brain was rewired. It changed me. The Jo I was before my daughter was born was a slightly different person to the Jo am I now.

This is the wider debate on abortion. Abortion is illegal in Ireland, and to be honest, if there was a referendum on the subject again I have no confidence that that would change.Anbd while there are some very right wing pro-lifers (e.g. Youth Defence - not even going to link to them, google if you're interested), there are also many people who would like to see the above policies put in place while maintaining the status quo of abortion being illegal. And in their cases I have a lot of sympathy for their position, even if I don't agree with it - it is very similar to that expressed by T. Friedman, an American columnist in the lead up to their recent elections.

So that is my view on the abortion debate. However,what tragically happened to Savita Hallappanvar was not even related to this wider abortion debate, not really.

The full facts of the case are not known yet as the official investigations are still ongoing. However, from what has been reported and not refuted:
 - Savita went to hospital with back pain and was told that she was having a miscarriage.
 - The miscarriage was inevitable; the cervix was open and there was no way that the pregnancy could be saved. She was 17 weeks pregnant.
 - She asked for the pregnancy to be terminated at this point, when she knew there was no hope. She didn't ask for a healthy pregnancy to be aborted; she wanted this baby but there was no chance of it surviving at this point.
 - She was refused, according to her husband being told "This is a Catholic Country".
 - There was still a feotal heartbeat at this point, even though the pregnancy was doomed.
 - A few days later, she died of scepticaemia.

No, it isn't certain that terminating the pregnancy at that point would have saved her life, but it would have given her a much better chance.

The doctors failed to act - why? Incompetance, religiosity or a fear of being sued or even arrested? The latter is included because twenty years ago, this subject came up in what is referred to as the X case  . At that time, the Supreme court determined that abortion was constitutionally permissable in Ireland if the life of the mother was at risk. However the "Life of the mother at risk" is a vague statement a lot of times, as constitutional statements tend to be. Legislation is where the specifics are dealt with, and yet in twenty years there has been no legislation, no move to legislate on this issue. Where is the line determining at what point the life of the mother is at risk? Surely a group of experts could sit down and draw lines around specifics, so that it is very clear to doctors everywhere what their legal obligations are in these situations.

If you're in Ireland, you can use the following link to call on your local representatives to legislate for X:

Whether you are pro choice or not, this issue needs to be legislated on, immediately. Then we can, as a society, have the wider abortion debate. But first, we have to make sure no more women die.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Grieving as an Atheist, Part 2

I mentioned in a post a couple of weeks ago that when I had an appointment at the hospital pertaining to my recent miscarriage, I was given some leaflets that had religious style poems on them about the heartbreak and tragedy of miscarriage.

They didn't help. They made me sad, and angry, and on a wider level, cross that there is is assumption of religiosity in Irish society. People are reasonably tolerant of "other" religions than Catholocism, in comparison to their level of tolerance of atheism or even real agnosticism (as opposed to the vague, spiritualist/deist version of agnosticism espoused by a lot of people here who are angry with the Catholic church over recent scandals, and want to use contraception and have sex before marriage, but otherwise still hold similar beliefs to the population who declare themselves Catholic).People assume that you're a Christian of some kind, or at least that you believe in a god. Atheism is a far more alien concept to most Irish people than Islam.

I want to share the poems here; I want to explain why I find them offensive, even though the gesture was well intended.

This is the worst of them. The line "Don't try to question God" is particularly offensive and self-serving. What person suffering a tragedy wouldn't question why, of god or nature or the universe or chaos theory, why did this terrible thing have to happen to ME? Why did I have to suffer this loss, this tragedy, this heartache?

I don't believe in Jesus, I don't believe that there is a man in the sky singing my baby a lullaby. If I did believe in an all-powerful god, I certainly wouldn't choose to suffer this heartbreak unquestioningly, content in the belief that he was looking after my baby.

"Don't think he is unkind" - why not?  Surely it is unkind to make people to suffer tragedy and loss? Surely if he was omniescent and lives forever then he could have waited a while for my precious baby - oh wait, there I go, questioning Him, and I'm not supposed to do that (/sarcasm).

They don't want questions, because to question when faced with tragedy might result in figuring out the truth: that there is no god, no Jesus, no little baby angel in the sky. And that is sad, so very, very sad. But to know it would remove the power the priests have over the ordinary people. So even when your instinct is to rage against the universe, and its creator if you believe in one, they don't want that.

This one starts off all right. I can relate to the first paragraph very easily, and the first half of the second paragraph. It all goes downhill from there, however.

A parent's pain turns into a plea for the soul of the unborn child to "intercede for us at God's throne" - what, so we don't have to spend quite as much time in purgatory paying for our massive sins (like questioning god perhaps - see above) before we meet again???

I am sure the idea that one day "We will meet" gives comfort to many during this sad time. But not universally: it does not help me and presuming that it does helps me even less.

This one is not as offensive as the previous two. It refers to love, comfort and courage - all things which I need to get through this time. The angel described might "watch out for you in all the things you do" but it isn't interventionist at least.

In a secular, non-religious way, I will always have my baby with me, in the sense that I will never forget, I will always carry the sadness as well as the wondering with me.

So while this one is religious, it isn't offensive as such. It doesn't make me angry.

It doesn't make it worse.

A selection of mismatched lines here. The first - "I did not die young. I lived my span of life within your body, and within your love." is beautiful.It is non-religious. The only thing is relates to is the heartbreak that a woman who has suffered a miscarriage feels. It brought tears to my eyes, but good tears. The type of tears that come with dealing with sadness.

The two lines which follow also resonate with me. We did love this child, or at least the potential they had. We have named her, and we will always think of that baby.

And even to "Live in love" to honour her...well, I can relate to that sentiment as well, though it starts to lean toward religion again.

Finally, we return to "We shall meet again" and the baby sitting with god and waiting for us.

It started so well, and yet it descended into the kind of religious phrasing that made me angry. It's a pity.

Perhaps as time goes on I will edit or write some new poems, that describe the heartbreak of losing my baby, without the religious angle. Because although they were given with the aim of making me feel better, and cope better, they made me angry. They didn't help me through my grief, they hindered it. And others are surely finding the same thing.

Ulster Says No (Well, Donegal did anyway!)

Here in Ireland we recently had a referendum on the rights of the child . This is because the Irish constitution, written in the good old days of a Catholic Ireland for a Catholic people (Cheers for that, Dev, you old bastard) holds the family unit as the basic unit of society and seeks to protect it at all costs - including those where the rights of the child may be infringed upon.

The referendum was held over a proposed change to this. The former and new wordings are detailed on the official site above. I'm not going to further analyse them, as the vote has already taken place, except to say that I thought the wording of the amendment was somewhat lazy and could have been more detailed, as the way it currently stands it gives a lot of scope to the legislation which will be broughbt in to follow it. However, it was an improvment on the former wording. 

The country said yes, though by a much smaller margin than expected - 58% yes to 42% no (

The two Donegal constituencies said no overall - as they have done to several recent referenda. People complain of reasons such as Donegal folk being rebels, the influence of Sinn Fein, and the county still being right wing/religious.

These may be valid points; another valid point may be the argument that Donegal people feel they have to do such things to get attention as it is generally forgotten. It is a county with a high unemployment rate and extremely poor infrastructure.

However, Donegal people love their children every bit as much as people elsewhere in the country. No one ever wants to see a repeat of the Roscommon incest case where there was horrific abuse of children and a court order prevented the HSE taking the children into care.

Donegal folk do however, have a good sense of the difference between the State as ideal, and the actual Modus Operandi of the state.

The official discourse around the subject paints the picture of the ideal state. Who wouldn't want children removed from homes where they are being abused, and adopted into loving, caring homes where they will get the best chances in life? Donegal people know this is just a facade, however.

The official discourse around the Gardai, the Irish police force, would describe them as upholding the law and protecting citizens, but what has happened in the county over the past few decades (e.g. the Frank Shortt case, the McBrearty case,  and other incidents dealt with by the Morris tribunal) mean the ordinary people know that things are not that simple.

Similarly, the state as ideal might want to look after children and protect them, but this is the same state that in real life has decimated help for children with special educational needs , has cut funding for youth projects especially in the disadvantaged areas that need them most and has threatened to cut childrens allowance (though personally I feel this is a ploy, something thrown out there so whatever cuts they do make in the budget they can say, well at least we didn't do this...).

This is the state which doesn't allocate enough resources to social workers as it is, so whatever laws they bring in around helping children who are in situations of domestic abuse, it doesn't look like they'll be able to do much to implement them. The state which, regardless of which party is in power, has been cutting social welfare and increasing taxes, dragging many children closer to the poverty line.

Donegal said no, not because of a lack of compassion over the plight of children in terrible situations, but partly because we know all too well up here that what they say and what they do are two entirely different things.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Frustration, or Entering the Terrible Twos

E turned two a few days ago, but really the idea of tantrums and frustration is nothing new.

She's had moments like that since before she was one. She's clever and sometimes her body (ability to move, get places, use her mouth to make words to express her feelings, desires and frustrations) can't keep up with her brain. She gets annoyed.

Lets face it, we all have moments where we do something to screw up, or that doesn't work, and we get annoyed and want to hit something or scream.

Usually something stops the grown ups, but not so much the toddlers. Lashing out is all they have in that moment, scream and cry and kick and throw. Throwing is particularly popular in this house. She'll say "doll/pushchair/remote fall down", then throw the object.

The hardest bit is trying to to laugh. I mean, come on - that is genuinely funny! Hilarious in fact. And I'm not always so good at being the "grown up" So sometimes I do laugh.

Generally though, I do see that it's a sign she's annoyed or frustrated at something. So I try to remove her from the situation. We have a room upstairs that will eventually be hers, though at the moment her cot is still in our bedroom. We call it the playroom. It is very childproofed in that there is a mattress on the floor, and loads of cushions and soft toys.

She can do whatever she wants in there (well, within reason). She generally likes to be grabbed and thrown on the bed and tickled, or else throw her teddies on the floor. Either one generally changes the fit of tantrum into a fit of giggles.

It's lazy parenting really. I'm not going to turn it into a battle of wills. I've tried that on occasion. She's stubborn and I'm stubborn.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Songs that are making me cry...

Certain songs are setting me off all the time, they're just opening up the floodgates so the tears can flow.

For some reason they're all Cat Stevens songs!!!

Morning has broken (even though it's kinda religious)

Father and son

Argh, there they go. Bleugh. But I need to cry, it's cathartic.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Hormone cycles

I think I'm ovulating again...some signs of fertility.

Scary. Because I could become pregnant again. I don't feel ready yet.

Partly because I think I'll be terrified when I get pregnant again, that I'll be afraid of losing the baby again, that I'll live in fear and stress the whole way through the pregnancy, or the first three months at least.

Also though, because I'm not ready to be pregnant again yet. I'm still grieving. I'm still sad about this baby, the one I lost, the one that will never be.

I'm still in the process of saying goodbye.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Internet Friends

We live in a global village. Without ever leaving our homes we can talk to and really, truly connect with, befriend, people whom we have never met. The proliferation of internet forums (fora? No, nearly sure it's forums!) and social networking sites like facebook has provided us with these opportunities.

I've been making friends online for years, initially due to shared interests such as writing, and more recently due to shared interests such as attachment-style parenting (natural term breastfeeding in particular).

On Saturday I had the opportunity to meet some of the latter group. Four of us in total met - though the other 3 had met before, due to them living in or around Dublin, while I live a three hour drive away and don't make it up to the Capitol very often.

We met on an Irish parenting forum. We were drawn to each other because we were very much in the minority on that board, unfortunately; being believers in breastfeeding and holding children and never letting them cry-it-out. We chatted for over a year on a thread, and then migrated to facebook, daring to share our real names and identities, and the chat continued and the online friendship developed.

These women have heard (read) it all. They have been there for me through my recent miscarriage. They have read posts where I complained of sore nipples and probably, in the forum days, read posts where I described discharge and various types of goo coming out of me and/or my baby.

We were comfortable with each other though, because we're all nice people who share some important philosophies on how to raise children. Now those I've met are no longer just internet friends, but real-life ones! I am truly lucky to have them in my life and I hope to meet them many more times as the weeks, months and years go by.

Before I had E, I used to frequent various types of forums, based on interests such as TV shows and writing. I ended up making good friends with two women I met online. We initially bonded over a shared love of the TV show Lost, then a shared love of writing, then a shared disgust at how dismally the plot twists turned on Lost. We wrote a collaborative writing project together for several years - indeed, they still write it, though I don't seem to have time to log on much these days. They're kind, funny and extremely talented writers. As we got to know one another better and shared our real names and facebook identities, we too became real friends (if not yet real-life ones). They send cards and presents for E every year on her birthday, so to thank them I'll give their writing a little plug:

E.J. Tett is the author of the Power of Malinas Trilogy (1, 2, 3), a series of fantasy novels for young adults with strong female characters, especially the main protagonist.

 I've read all three books and they're marvellous and just the antidote for the damsel-in-distress sort of fantasy that is still all too common, especially since it's for teenagers who could do with strong, courageous female role models.

Meanwhile, Jo Robertson wrote this collection of dark but hilarious short stories, Behind the Shutters. I wish I had half the talent at humorous writing that she has. The first story in particular had me in stitches. They're creepy and funny at the same time, and I wish she would write more of them.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Happy birthday to my little Boo!

E is two today.

It's been a crazy couple of years, but my life is incomparably better for having her in it.

I love my beautiful big girl.

Now, let's go make a mess while opening presents! We didn't actually get her many things, she has so many toys already, but some fun stuff like dressing-up clothes and plenty of books.

I hope she has a great day. If she's happy, I'm happy too.

Friday, 9 November 2012

How much harder it could be?

This is hard. Losing a baby is hard, really damn hard.

I do know that it could be harder though. I can't bear to think about how hard it must be to lose a child who has already lived in the word. To give birth to a stillborn baby.

Or even to lose a child before having one. If there has been one thing that's held me together through all of this, it is that as hard as it is, I do know that my body can carry a child to term.

If not for that, I know I would be questioning my body. I would be doubting my ability to be a mother in the most basic sense.

So I guess that's just another way my daughter is awesome. Just by her being here, she makes this miscarriage only about itself.

It is tragic. It is heartbreaking. But it is itself, it is no more. It's no bigger than that. My body didn't fail. The pregnancy did, but that is all. That's bad enough, but at least it's no more.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

It's just because

Another poem. This was imagined in the days of worry, and written the day I got the bad news. I am not religious at all, I am an atheist. I don't think there is a "Meant to be", I don't think there is a reason or a higher purpose. I think that my miscarriage is just one of those shitty things. 

It's just because

It’s not because I wore a belt with my jeans
It’s not because I barely felt sick
It’s not because I breastfed my daughter
Nor because I walked the dog almost every day
And wanted to stay fit and healthy for my pregnancy.

It’s not because I ate chocolate one day
And stuffed my face with vegetables the next
It’s not because I ordered teeny tiny cute cloth nappies already
Nor because I told so many people before the first three months were passed,
And jumped up and down all happy and full of excitement and hugs.

It’s just because the world is sometimes cruel and chaotic
And deeply darkly tragic
It’s just because of that that I have to say goodbye to you
Before I even met you.

It’s not because I carried my big girl in my arms
Or held her on my hip as we walked
It’s not because I had a glass of wine the week before we found out
It’s not because I wondered about names and what we’d call you
And what you’d look like or what your first word would be.

It’s just because the world sometimes works this way
This sometimes harsh and random way,
It’s just because of that that I have to say goodbye
Before I ever got a chance to say hello.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Dear Lorna

I had a dream in which my baby was born, and she was a girl, and she was called Lorna. So I think of her as Lorna, and she'll always be Lorna, the little girl that I lost, to me. First and foremost I am a writer, so as well as blog posts in prose, I have tried to turn to poetry as a way to allow me to deal with my emotions on this subject. 

Dear Lorna,

I loved you.
I lost you.

You lived
Inside me
For such a short time.

Then bled out
Of my body
A little at a time.

You didn't die because of me
Anything I did or did not do.
It's just so deeply
Inescapably sad that
I'll never be able to hold you.


I dreamed last night that I had a newborn.

Fell asleep feeding him, in the dream, woke up calm to find him still on my chest.

Woke up in reality with tears behind my eyes and a lump in my throat.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Buying a present

A friend of mine had a baby a few weeks ago. A good friend, one of the ones who knew I was pregnant.

I am so happy for her, and the pics on Facebook suggest he is a gorgeous little boy. He's over four weeks old now, I am so happy for her but I just couldn't face seeing a newborn baby just yet.

Making plans to meet tomorrow  though. I think I'll be up for it - I may get a little tearful, but she'll understand.

So with those plans underway, I decided I needed to get her a present. I already had a book bought for her older child not to feel left out, so just a baby gift needed.

I took E shopping with me which was a great distraction - trying to stop her shoplifting is a full-time job all by itself! It was hard, though. Beautiful baby outfits in teeny tiny sizes.

In the end I bought a winter suit in 6-12 month size, it'll probably fit him before winter is out - my friend makes big babies.

The teeny tiny ones were just too much to bear, a little too heartbreaking to look at. I love my friend, but I can't help wishing I was buying something for my own baba.

What a miscarriage feels like

I knew about miscarriages before. I knew about them vaguely, like the way I know about the electoral college system that elects the president in the US, and seventies music. Even though my mother had a late one, at around 5 months, and I can remember being 5 years old and waiting for the ambulance to come and take her to hospital. And yet I still didn't know. I didn't really know.

When I got the news that my baby had no heartbeat and had never developed past about 6 weeks, I was sent home to see if my body would naturally miscarry. I was told I could come in to hospital when it started happening, and to ring them if the bleeding got heavier than a period, and if it didn't happen in that week they would recommend a D&C. At the time I was too busy being heartbroken to really think about the details.

For a few days I was ok, the bleeding continued in the light, on-and-off fashion that it had for over a week at that stage. Then I was in town and I felt an overwhelming urge to go home. This was the Wednesday afternoon. On Thursday I got cramps. Bad cramps. Much worse than period pains, and for many years I had the sort of period pains that meant I had to gobble Nurofen plus and lie in bed cuddling a hot water bottle for two days every month or so.

My labour with E was induced, and went from early to serious very fast due to the syntocin drip, and I got pethidine and an epidural and that's another story, but the early cramps, the early labour contractions - that's what this felt like.

I am not comparing a 12 week miscarriage to having to give birth to a stillborn infant. And yet I did feel, as I sat hunched over the toilet, then E's potty so I could keep an eye on how much blood I lost, that I was having contractions. They came hard and fast for a while, and I rang the hospital and told them I wanted to stay at home, and they said that was ok, which is good at least. I didn't want to take painkillers. I didn't want to dull the pain; I needed to feel it. To have a physical manifestation of the desperate ache I felt inside.

I don't know when I lost the little sac with what was left of my baby inside it. I did lose lots of clots. And lots of blood. I felt wrecked, physically and emotionally. After about three or four hours the pains subsided. I drank tea and I cried, and I tried to sleep though I didn't manage to do much of that.

The next day I had some more bleeding and some more clots. Then there was a nice day in between, the Saturday, a break. Before two more days in which there were several hours of cramps that were more like contractions, and bleeding and big clots. The pains, the cramps that were more like contractions, like labour pains went away when I law down. The best way to keep it going was to stand up, to walk around, to stand at the counter and peel potatoes for dinner. To pick up my beautiful girl and hug her.

On the Monday I had another appointment, another scan. Officially to confirm the miscarriage, to check there was no growth. But I knew at that stage, I knew the week before, that all hope was lost. The scan showed that there was still a thick endometrial lining, and they recommended a D&C, but I argued and asked to be let finish miscarrying myself, naturally. I had come this far, after all. They agreed and asked me to come back in two weeks.

That afternoon was the last day of serious pains and clots, as my husband and I planted a cherry blossom tree in the garden. It should flower in late April or early May next year, around the time the baby was due. It sounds weird maybe, but though I didn't have the sac I did save some of the clots, and buried them beneath the tree. I figure they may have been pieces of placental tissue, as they looked like the post-partum clots I passed after having E. And if they were, then maybe they'd have had the baby's blood in them. A little bit of her to live on and nourish the tree and feed its flowers through the winter and next spring.

So that's what it felt like, for me, to have a miscarriage. More like labour than a period, which I had never considered before. I hope I never have to experience anything like that again. But I am glad it was able to happen naturally, rather than go in for surgery and go to sleep and wake up a little later with my uterus scraped and cleaned. I know for a lot of women it's easier that way so I am not making any judgements or criticising. I'm just saying that for me, I had to let my body finish it the way it had started it. The pains, the blood loss, they helped me deal with what I was feeling. I had to do it that way to say goodbye. I felt like a cavewoman, I didn't want to leave the house for a few days and even when I did, when the pains returned I craved my couch. I needed to be in my own space.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Inside me (poem)

Inside me

Inside me
A little baby

For a little

Of a future

Not to be
Not this time
This baby

Inside me
My little baby

As I lost her
I cried.
I carried her
Loved her dearly
Thought of her sweetly
She died.

Grieving as an atheist

I am an atheist.

I don't believe in a god or gods. I don't believe in an afterlife. Or should I say, I don't see any evidence, any reason, why I should believe in those things. I'm not a big fan of faith. I don't believe because I can't.

When I was at the hospital today, I was handed a collection of leaflets. Some were information about an inter-denominational service in memory of the lost babies. Some were poems, none had names attached.

They made me cry, because my emotions were raw. They also slightly annoyed me, however.

The poems, the remembrance service all assumed belief in a comforting Jesus or other godly figure, holding these little angel babies close and singing them lullabies. A god who took my baby back because he could not bear to be without my little one. I'm supposed to bear the loss in his stead?

In one of the poems a line was repeated several times - "Do not question God".

I do not believe that my lost little one had a soul that is now with god, or anywhere. I don't believe in the soul. I don't want to be told that my baby died because it was "God's plan" or "God's way" and ours is not to question why.

I'm sure there was a good reason for the miscarriage. A chromosomal abnormality of some sort. The baby maybe never developed past 6 weeks because s/he couldn't. Maybe there was never a heartbeat because there was never a heart? I don't know, I never will. I can only speculate.

For some, the speculation might lead them to a belief in a divine being that gently cares for the little one until a time of reuniting. For me, no. I don't even find much comfort in the idea. It gives me a bad feeling, far from comfort. More like anger, bile rising to the back of my throat.

In sadness we rage, against the universe and ourselves. Against the chaos and the cruelty. Of course we should question why, and wonder what might have been. That doesn't mean we'll ever find an answer, but to wonder and ask and explore is human nature.

The rational, reasonable atheist side of me is irritated that this type of literature is given out as standard to women who are grieving and vulnerable, without asking the simple question first "Are you religious?".

The grieving mother atheist part of me is sad, and angry that these poems and religious literature talk of a time when I will see my baby again, when I know that isn't so. It made me sad all over again, in a whole other way.

This in turn adds to the irritation on the side of the rational side of me. And I am sure this is something that I will face again in the future when faced with loss, as the only inevitable part of life is that people die.

Some may say to their lost little ones, "Au revoir - till we meet again". I may only say "Goodbye."

This day two years ago...

... I was in a cinema, watching the film Due Date. The 5th of November, 2010 was my due date for E, so it was an appropriately titled, if not particularly funny, film for the day, which was why we went to see it. In the end E arrived a few days later.

This year, it's a little different. I'm sitting on my couch writing sad poetry and blog posts, after a final hospital appointment which confirmed my miscarriage was over, or complete, my uterus is now empty. And so is my heart.

Ok, that's melodramatic. My heart isn't empty. I have many things that make me happy and that make me feel fulfilled. However, I will never get to meet this baby, this child that shall never be, and that is truly heartbreaking. I will never stop wondering what might have been. I will always wish that I hadn't had to experience any of this pain.

Dealing with Miscarriage

Lots has happened since I last posted.

I discovered I was pregnant.

I was too tired to post on the blog; tiredness seems to be what pregnancy does to me. No sickness, just exhaustion.

So I rested when I could, I ate well, I walked in the fresh air and I looked forward. I bought some cute cloth nappies on ebay. I imagined wrapping them around his or her little legs and waist. I wondered at the tinyness of them. I opened the books of baby names and searched for strong names with meaningful meanings.

I continued to feel tired, I continued to rest. At ten and a half weeks, I got a fright - I went to the toilet and wiped a little streak of brown blood. I told myself not to panic. So many people get bleeds and everything is fine. This was a Saturday at lunchtime. I went to the doctor on the Monday morning, but it was a week before the Gynae could see me. The bleeding stopped and started. Every time I went to pee if there was blood I felt deep terror; if there wasn't I felt a return to calm, and hope at least. I tried not to wonder about my lack of a growing belly; I convinced myself it was because I am much fitter now than when I was pregnant with E.

I got on with my life that week. I picked up my grandmother - E's great grandmother - from the airport. I went to Aldi and filled a trolley with shopping, I read the employment lists, I sent texts to friends, including a couple to whom I told the full story.

I went to my appointment, I read a book in the waiting area and virtually ignored my husband, not daring to talk or think about anything but a positive possibility.

The scan showed no heartbeat. The nurse suggested an internal scan, and of course I agreed, but at that stage, I knew. I KNEW. I knew what a nearly 12 week old foetus should look like. It should have looked like a little baby. Instead, it looked like a little blob. And there was no sound, on either scan. No Thump! Thump! Thurmp! of a little beating heart.

I was told the baby stopped developing at around 6 weeks, so I had carried her (I decided she was a she...for no apparent reason other than that's what it felt like I was carrying) for more than six weeks since she died. A missed miscarriage, is what that's called. Not a great name really, but not sure there are words that could really describe it, so I suppose maybe it's as good a name as any.

I felt very supported by my family, including my in-laws, some close friends, both IRL (In Real Life) and Online - women I have never met, though I hope to someday, who comforted me with texts and phone calls and supportive messages and emails and real, live hugs.

My next posts will continue to cover my experience of losing my baby. Thank you for reading, if you do, and I hope you never have to experience this. If you have, you have my sympathy. It is a dark, twisting pain. I will be ok, but I will never forget the baby that never was.