Why an 11 Year Old Letter to My Child Holds The Power to Change Me.

www.halfwavinghalfdrowning.com
Notes for my Children

 

Today, my son turns 12. He is now heading into his 13th year. He is tall, hilarious, active – he has bigger feet than me and he cooks me supper. Today, I looked for his baby book and I found it, tucked right away on a cold shelf in the least-used room. That book was the diary I kept from the week I knew I was pregnant. It is filled with thoughts, name ideas, drawings, letters and labels, cards and comments – advice to myself and the jottings of things I knew I would forget.

In it, I remembered I had written him a letter. A letter I wrote on the eve of his 1st birthday. It was to the future him. And I feel that today, although he is only 12, I see that future him shining through. He has survived all that the past 5 years have dealt him; finding his beloved strong father lying ruined by a devastating stroke on the bathroom floor, falling down stairs and cutting his head, trying to raise the alarm while his mother shouted in desperate panic from above – he has moved house 5 times since then. Changed schools 3 times. Lost so much, seen his father learn to walk again, tied his father’s shoe laces for him and helped him zip a coat again in a horrible twist of roles – he has seen his parents divorce – he has met their new partners, and witnessed the adult heartache of those fragile times. He has fought severe dyslexia and has kept his head up in school. He has coped with the loving, but sometimes broken, mother that I have been to him and his sister – and in the face of my overwhelming fears about money and survival, he is unfailingly supportive and undemanding. I could not feel more proud.

And so, although this was a note to him, what I want to do is to share the words I found, the words from eleven years ago, when life was tiring but easier. When I thought we were safe. Because, even though we have seen so much sadness in those 11 years, the voice I had for him then is still my voice. I can hear myself. The tiny details that slip after a storm, when all you remember was the battering of the waves, there is such joy in those details.  I need to remind myself that this was good.

It still can be good. I have my child. I have my children. They filled me to the brim back then and not one drop has left me. I must re-set my settings with these words from my past. I need to remember the little things may have changed, but the feelings have not. I’m not unlucky. I am blessed beyond imagination.

 

 

Monday 16th January ’06 (to Isaac)

The eve of your first birthday. Daddy and I are finally up in our room after waiting for your cake to cook. Daddy had to go up to the Coop to get the baking powder and the chocolate buttons half way through. You are sleeping beautifully and tending to sleep from 6:30 bedtime through to 6:30 am wake time, lovely! It’s not always easy to get you off to sleep and I sometimes have to walk up and down in your room, in the dark with you. Sometimes you’ll lie on your front (always your front) and let me just rest my hand on your back and you’ll settle to sleep if you know I’m there.

It’s very strange to think about what was happening exactly one year ago – we still didn’t know if you were a boy or a girl and we knew nothing of what you’d be like. The hospital was both so painful and so lovely when you’d arrived and we had our first two days with no visitors – just you and Dad and me in a wonderful dream bubble that seems half real. It’s amazing what we’ve been through watching you this year. From staring at your tiny involuntary hands to actually witnessing your sense of humour now as you stumble, laughing, against sofas trying to get away when we chase you.

You love swings, you can click your tongue, you can find anything’s nose, you can point to lights, flowers, trees, cats, cars, shoes, balls and you LOVE switches. You love walking with your truck but you’re not sure about standing alone yet. You’ve got deliciously gappy front teeth and wonderful slitty eyes when you smile. Your hair is just about turning from barely visible to a light dusting of spun gold (reddish gold!) and your eyes are much darker than I thought my child’s would be.

We spend a lot of time together. I sing you so many stupid songs I’d be so embarrassed of anyone else heard them. We’ve got songs about putting socks on and getting in the bath. You often have a bath with your Dad – he worries that your shoulders get too cold after a while and I whisk you away in your towel for the inevitable cry whilst getting into pyjamas. We read ‘Goodnight Poppy Cat’ almost every night and you always say, ‘Boom Boom’ on the second page and I’ve no idea why – You’re absolutely wonderful Isaac. We love you so much ; we’ve had a tiring year working out how to deal with a baby but we’re so glad you’re here making us into our family.

I love looking back at your photos, measuring my thumb against your tiny head, and I’m going to love watching you grow. I cant wait for all that you’re going to be and yet I want to keep you in my harbouring arms as long as you can bear to stay with your Mummy. You are everything to me, I used to dream of having you to look after.

Whatever you’ll be will be OK with me and if you’re reading this when you’re older – here’s a kiss from the past, whizzing through time to the future you.

X

 

www.halfwavinghalfdrowning.com
Eleven Years On

 

 

Do follow Alice via the Facebook Page for Half Waving Half Drowning. Click here.

 

What Do Those Private School Fees Really Buy You?

www.halfwavinghalfdrowning.com
Dreaming Spires

 

I am in the not-very-unusual position of being a teacher in a private, fee paying school whilst having my own children educated in state schools. I too went to state school (except for a few weeks at a hideous crammer in Oxford which my mortified father shelled out for on the back of his extreme disappointment at my exam grades – well, had there been exams in creative excuses for non-production of homework and early-hours sneaking back into the house past the creaking stairs, I would have totally ACED it all, but the academic stuff was not lighting my 16 year old fires)

However, though a series of adventures, forks, and basically avoiding an essay on Ernest Bevan’s Social Reforms, I ended up teaching – and what d’ya know? I’m pretty damn fantastic at it.

I have never been in the Senior Management Team, I’m still at the chalk-face (which is where I WANT to be, with the brilliant kids rather than in a meeting about budgets and policy) but from my vantage point at the ol’ whiteboard and out of the window to the Cayenne lined car park, I can see clearly what we are providing for these children.

For over 22 years I have worked in State Schools, International Schools, Single Sex Schools, and a couple of the top colleges in the South East of England. I can see what you get for your money if you have that money to spend. And the two biggest things I can see (as the teaching is often amazing and occasionally mediocre in BOTH…) are Sport and being Buffed.

Oh, and then there’s ‘The World’ – I’ll get to that at the end.

SPORT

The most obvious difference is sport. There are HOURS of games and PE teaching woven into the culture at Private schools. Kits bags the size of fully stuffed sleeping bags are dragged into boot rooms across the campus. There are bits of kit that I have no idea which part of the body they are to be strapped across. They swim, they whack hockey balls, they know what terms like ‘First Eleven’, ‘Colts’ and ‘MUGA’ mean. They travel, they have coaches (wheeled and human) they are hosts, they have ‘Match Tea’ – they rank other schools on the quality of ‘Match Tea’. These children are so used to the language and the culture of sport that I now find it completely baffling how any state school child manages to perform at County level or above. They do, but OH, what a head start the private school kids have. My kids bring their kits home at half term. Sometimes it doesn’t need a wash.

BUFFED

This is not a real term. This is the term that I am going to attribute to the way that parents are looked after in private schools. They are buffed. They are the customers and we feel that more keenly than we feel ourselves as customers of the state school system. They are protected from parking issues, flowers are assembled for their arrivals, fires are lit in the grand hall, posh soap goes into the visitors’ lavatories, they can call and say they will be late and arrangements are made for Arabella to attend prep. They can ask that their child stays for prep (supervised homework session) or even for supper. They don’t have to be out of work by 3:15pm ready to collect and have a play date and it’s a bloody good job too as they are having to clear at least £150K salaries in order to have the money to pay tax and then pay school fees for ONE child. They can ask why Harry isn’t getting a leading part in the school play again this year and they will be listened to and it WILL go to staff meeting and we will all try to ensure that Harry feels good about himself. They are powerful players, we know they are and we have to do all that we can to get every last inch of progress and happiness and performance out of their most treasured belonging. This is a buffed existence. This is what you pay for. The teachers are the same. I am telling you. There are fantastic teachers in the state system too. There are often BETTER resources in state classrooms (not sport, not estates and grounds) but point-of-delivery stuff in the rooms of state school is often newer, cleaner, smarter than the dusty old shelves of the Latin room or the 11 year old Atlases in Geoggers. But if you can pay, you will get buffed. Not just your child, but you. It’s the difference between the local pubic-soup swimming pool changing rooms and going to The Ashdown Park Hotel’s Health Spa – you just feel buffed.

THE WORLD

Grades aside – although grades are a MASSIVE deal and we will make sure that Cuthbert gets the absolute best even if we are staying at school until 7pm to run individual booster sessions for him – your child will enter a whole different world if you can stump up the fees and get them in. There is a new language to learn (and I’m not talking about the Mandarin or Latin lessons) but about ‘Mufti’, ‘Cloisters’, ‘Chamber Choir’, ‘Exeat’, ‘Etheldreda Weekend’, ‘Prep’, ‘Buffet’ – terms that bewildered little old state school me. There’s a confidence and a swagger in this world with its own words. There are complex uniforms and tie systems, blazers and metal pins. House points and contests, cups and shields. Matches and matches and matches. Exams. Pre-exams. Pre-testing exams. Verbal Reasoning. Non-Verbal reasoning. Golf. Lacrosse. Formal dinners. Speech days. Etiquette. You pay for all of this and we will provide it and it will be slick. And your child will enter a world so different to the state system that it really may as well be Hogwarts.

The teaching may be no better at all. But you will get the attention your money allows. You will get all the pushing you demand for little Beatrice.

You will get the sport and you will be Buffed.

Dating at 43? Go for the Pre-Processed Option.

www.halfwavinghalfdrowning.comRight. I’m going to tell you all about it. Not because you need to know everything, but because this stuff is empowering.

We are all aware of the pressure to look and feel good – which usually means younger – and the thought of getting yourself out on the Open Market after a generous dose of heartbreak is bloody awful. You tell yourself that no one is ever going to want you again. You’re past being exciting and attractive. You’ve maybe got children. You’re not required in a biological sense any more. Why can’t you just have your old relationship back? it was familiar even if it wasn’t functional. There’s an awful lot of comfort in familiarity. The right shape. Your body knows it. Safe but broken; like slippers with a big hole in.

But for me, I can’t have the familiar back. It’s too easy and I’ll never move on. You can’t keep falling back into the arms of a person who asked you to leave. Those arms are not your harbour. Those arms once pushed. They chose not to have you. It can take a long time to live by the words you know are the truth, but when you do and you move on a step or two – my goodness, it’s OK. It’s really OK.

This is what has just happened –  My sister is having a New Year’s Eve party in Brixton. She has invited me. She has also invited a single mate; a dad, fairly recently out of his long relationship, a guy she thinks the world of. She told both of us. We FB checked each other out. We both thought ‘hmmmm’ in a good way. I talked to her about him over a whole bottle of wine. SOMEHOW, SOMEHOW that night my iPad friend requested him. Now, I realise that you need a human’s finger to facilitate that, but I’m not accepting responsibility and neither is my sister. So, I sent him a hello and he sent me a hello back. Then, 675 messages later, I picked him up from the train station for a gig and he joined another sister, a mate and my brother-in-law for a very fun evening ending in a 4am two-guitar blues session in my kitchen (yeah, sorry about that neighbours).

So, we pre-met before the NY Eve party. I’m looking forward to meeting up again. It was exciting. I kissed him on the cheek at the station before we had said a single word to each other. It felt a bit wild and a bit exciting but it was also so safe. Here is a guy who is already known so well by my own sister. He has already passed through so many of the screening processes that you would have to work out for yourself. He was a pre-processed date. The fast food of dating. I recommend it.

And although I am wary and frequently despondent about social media taking over real relationships, this was one occasion where it worked so well for me. The 675 messages of that week (I’m not joking) established a shared sense of humour and a feeling of support from someone in my opposite space. Someone who is kind and good and positive about their ex. Like he was the boy one of me.  I sent him a BBC clip about a pie being sent to space and he made me a Spotify playlist called ‘Space Pie Returns’ (it’s a work of genius), we had discussions about everything from cemeteries to current trends with pubic hair. It was only ever going to be a good evening.

I’ll keep you posted.

 

 

It’s Just For One Day

Happy Christmas

It’s Just One Day

Listing

Wishing

Shopping

Dropping.

Getting

Forgetting

Thinking

Drinking

Weighing

Scanning

Wrapping

Hiding

Booking,

Kids looking –

Elf shelf?

Mental Health.

Carpet of needles

Untangle lights for tree

Avoid: 1) staff party

2) Charity plea

Counting, re-counting

Dreading or ready

Budgeting. Gathering

Balance unsteady.

Pushed to the 24th

Celebrate, smile

Heartbroken

Missing

Drunk for a while.

Make stuff

Create stuff

Grab stuff but share,

Any stuff, loads of stuff

Facebook – compare.

Gift box

De-tox

Batteries, Bulbs.

Car’s bloody dead

Parcel in shed

Early to bed

Bankrupted head.

Consuming. Touché.

It’s just for one day.

It’s just for one day.

 

Monday, Truthday, Friendsday… Loneliness.

lonely days half waving half drowningThis is my Blog, I work hard at it. I pay for it. It’s hit and miss. It’s had a few rave posts and some hidden treasures that are obviously only useful in the moment for me when I write them. I consider topics that might be relevant to people, like me, muddling through change or parenthood (which is about constant change) but today, I am going to write for me. No agenda other than there is a orchestra of words warming up, tuning up, rising, banging and filling my head with noise. Filling my eyes.

I’m struggling today. Really, really struggling. I don’t know where to put myself. Work has broken up for Christmas and with it, my routine and my steady automatic self. The kids are at school now. Here I am with no motivation to sort out their Christmas things, no motivation to run, or clean, drink coffee. Nothing. I’m floored today. I have wonderful friends all around me, I know they would rescue me but ultimately they are in their units with their families and all I want is my own unit.

I don’t want to be doing these things alone. Every bin, every shop, every meal, every school sock. I want my person back. Where is my person? I cannot not not not not be grateful that I have a roof today, just now. I cannot feel totally nourished right now by the love of my children. It’s a flaw I’ll accept. I’m stripped to the bones of loneliness.

Every house I walk past, I know I couldn’t afford. Every van that drives past with a company name on makes me feel I have no ideas, no skills and couldn’t sort out a living as well as that – every thing feels too much today. I am beginning to understand how depression drags you under and takes away your energy.

I miss him. I miss him. I miss him. I miss him. I thought it was forever. I believed I was enough.

I’m so lonely. And very scared of all I have to find the motivation to provide. A team of 1 is exhausting. I just want to go to my bed and wait for my dad to find me.

 

 

 

 

(I feel so very far from this, but if you can vote for HWHD in the UKBLOG Awards 2017, I’m in the public voting section now – Click here to vote for me.)

Our Constant Attention is Ruining our Children.

half waving half drowning stopIn spite of working in some fantastic schools: Independent, State and International, I am aware of a steady and worrying decline in many of the skills that school children have. In 22 years of teaching children in British Schools I can honesty say that the cohorts coming through now are, despite the best intentions from parents, generally, a lot less able than the ones I worked with years ago- who are now becoming parents themselves.

What are we Noticing in Schools?

This decline in skills manifests itself in a some obvious ways. The children we work with today will find it harder to do most of the following tasks:

  • Draw a straight line, even with a ruler
  • Measure anything – guessing a weight…almost impossible.
  • Sharpen a pencil
  • Tie shoe laces
  • Fold paper accurately
  • Follow more than one instruction at a time
  • Sit fairly still and enjoy listening to a story
  • Remember lines for a play
  • Think through a problem and apply a strategy  BEFORE asking for help
  • Keep kit / musical instruments / equipment in a safe place
  • Follow basic dining conventions
  • Accept a harder challenge voluntarily
  • Amuse themselves without electronic assistance of any sort

What Does This Mean in Schools?

We have had to adapt over the years to this change in the ‘assumed’ skill set of the children. On one hand they are infinitely more adept at responding to electronic devices and at grasping new crazes, however fleeting and bizarre – the kids need little explanation and are instantly able to decipher the required meaning and reaction, leaving us floundering, open-mouthed asking “Why? What for?” when we consider bottle-flipping or dabbing. But they are losing the older ‘concrete’ skills we once took for granted and this has meant that we reduce the demand on them to fold their own worksheet, to cut out a grid, to glue in a drawing – SMT or OFSTED might scrutinize your class books and you can’t have them looking crappy, so you’d better remove the chance that they will. We note the decline in scissor skill and we adjust expectation, increasing the decline in scissor skill.

We have to remain ambitious for the children but with the knowledge that we will frequently have to guide them through every single detail of a task in order to end up with the desired outcome. The parents still have high expectations and want the best outcomes (click to see previous post on A*s being the Only Acceptable Grade) but the children are less able to manage this alone and immediately lean on those around them to provide the exact tools to ensure they meet the success criteria. As teachers we find ourselves taking all the responsibility for the attainment of the class. If they are not succeeding in tests then we are the ones feeling stressed, often feeling the ‘failure’ more keenly than the students. We are organising catch up sessions and revision boosters, we are meeting to get course work done. We are seeing the Head to explain. It’s become a test of us; a lot of the responsibility has been taken away from the child.

Why is This Happening?

In my opinion there are two main factors here. 1) Parents are trying their absolute best to be the best. This means doing everything they can for their child and it is backfiring.  2) Technology is lessening children’s attention and focus, is damaging sleep and is changing the skills they grow up with.

  1. As parents (I am included in this) we do our best. That means that we want the best for the children and we are prepared to ‘push’ for it. We want them to feel every bit as loved as we were, and then some. We want them to like us. And we want them to be successful. That’s a hard call. If you think back at the teachers you liked best in your school days, they were most likely the ones who were firm, fair and then fun. It can only be fun when you have established clear boundaries, routines and order. Otherwise it’s chaos and children do not like chaos. They quickly feel stressed and push out to try to find those boundaries. Unless you can deal with being unpopular at least a few times a day (teeth brushing, early enough bed routine, eating decent food before treats) you are not going to find things easy in the long run. As your grandma will tell you, you are making a rod for your own back and you will feel the pain of the short term gain. We all need (I include myself here) to be slightly tougher, not softer when it comes to allowing the children to stand on their own. The term ‘helicopter parenting’ is what I’m talking about; the micro-management of every facet of their lives, every school issue, friendship issue, bedroom clean up, the filling of every waking moment with Swimming, Japanese, Ballet, Horse-riding, Basket Weaving, Sea Scouts, Piano, Kumon, ice-skating. What we see as a result of this frantic schedule is an exhausted child who has had no time to ever be bored. Some of the best games, plans and adventures of childhood were born from the temporary seeds of boredom. It’s an underrated gift. And, with the greatest degree of understanding from a woman who knows the trap too well –  you should not be trying to be their friend. They need a parent. They have friends.
  2. Technology is required. It is not going away. It is going to be part of our children’s lives and there is little point in refusing to accept that. We have to approach its place in their childhoods with some consideration though. There is undeniable evidence that the effects of technology on the developing brain are detrimental and powerful – even providing the user with the physiological equivalent of a heavy drug addiction: the white matter in the brain has been found to show signs of damage akin to addiction in MRI scans of teenagers who have had years of screen interaction (Read Dr A. Sigman) On a less radical level, the fine motor skills of young people are adapting to enable them the speed of swiping, holding, flicking, deleting etc that they need to keep up with the platforms they exist within, but it’s so far all very two dimensional and they are just moving fingertips across glass. Nothing is an actual material with different textures and reactions, different states and feedback. All the feedback they are getting through their fingers is a flat glass sheet. They are losing an understanding of materials through a lack of exposure and the effects of this are already visible, within a generation, in our schools.

What Can We Do?

This very much depends on whether you see this as a problem. There is an intelligent argument that for millions of years we have evolved and adapted in order to meet the technological progress that we have created. This is an essential phase in the reprogramming of humans to exist in the modern world and that middle aged teachers mourning the loss of ruler skills is hardly a reason to slam any brakes on. I agree – everything is changing, always. The reason I think we need to take this very seriously though is that while we: 1) try to be the best parents we can be by constantly entertaining and stimulating the children – my poor first born – and 2) Allow them to depend so heavily on screens to provide all solutions, what we are also seeing is the monumental rise in anxiety and dissatisfaction from our children.

To work hard and to try hard and to put your own effort into something leaves a result so different from an accidental or incidental gaining, children are not stupid. They feel the difference in pride when it’s their work. Humans are actually much happier and more resilient beings when they are challenged.

We need to allow them the space to do their own jobs, to make their own stuff and to get bored sometimes. I believe that a small lean backwards towards concrete and physical skills will help our children to cope with the huge surge forwards that they are facing in their lifetimes.

half waving half drowning
Children made their own skipping ropes – every stage from cutting a branch, to knotting the wool. Old skills for modern kids = happiness.

 

 

Click here to….Like Alice’s Facebook Page for regular articles on parenting, family, education and single life in your 40s.

And SCROLL back up to find the Facebook share button so you can share this if you agree (or even if you don’t)

 

The Deep Flaw in Our Sisterhood.

half waving half drowning

A week ago I wrote about childbirth and how tough I had found it. Twice. The idea behind the post was to share the fact that although I appear to be a very strong mother, providing for my children in the wake of their father’s terrible brain injury, I found childbirth traumatic, scarring and 12 years later I’m still thinking about it. Still wondering what went wrong.

I made the mistake of selecting the wrong words for the title. I wrote that women who had sailed through with only gas and air could ‘shutup’. I also wrote that they were no more deserving of a medal than those who had been ripped apart and had felt totally out of control. This was an example of the care you need to take with words; I don’t actually want anyone to shut up – I want to say that I felt that women who have an easy birth are really congratulated, they are called ‘amazing!’ and people marvel over their ability to manage pain etc – but they are NO BETTER and NO WORSE than their sisters who need interventions. That was what the message was, but it got lost.

It was a clumsy title, now changed. But what happened that day was powerful. I had messages telling me that I was fuelling the competitiveness. I had shamed people. I had exposed people. My own friends were uncomfortable with me being ‘spikey’ – but I felt spikey about it.

I took the post down and I softened it up. I changed the bits where I had sounded too cross. I watered down my real feelings because they were not acceptable. I behaved well and calmed everyone down.

I lost my voice.

I felt the power of the pack. There was a pincer movement around me. My nasty title was too nasty. We need to talk about this. We repress so much and hide so much from each other. We don’t tell pregnant women how likely it is that they will be in agony. We don’t say how scary it is, how you think you might die. How close you come. We push it all under the soft felty blanket of the new baby because to talk about it would be to make you the important bit, and it’s not about you any more is it? It’s about the baby now. Forget how you got her. If you look back too much, you’re not being a good mother. Be happy now. Don’t betray the baby by saying it was horrible having him.

Well, it is scary. It’s painful. I felt out of control. I wanted to die. It still lingers. I felt that I’d failed. I wish I had been more prepared for that possibility, to know that many women fell the same way. I wish women were more true. I wish older women would speak to younger women. I wish it wasn’t whispered about in kitchens and that the young women were not ‘protected’ from the harsh stories of how we get our children out.

I wish that the easy times were not the only times discussed. It is not a fail to have had a bloody tough childbirth, it’s a very ordinary thing.

The deep flaw in our sisterhood is that we consider it admirable to sail through this rawest of experiences and we don’t talk to each other about the far more common reality which is traumatic and frightening as a result.

I’m not going to lose my voice anymore. We need to talk.

 

 

 

“She Didn’t Even Have Gas and Air” Great. Doesn’t Mean a Thing.

traumatic birthThe eyes of a survivor

This photo is the first I have of me as a mother. Wired up, tubes in arms, drugged, ripped, bleeding, battered, frightened to the point – I’m actually going to say it -of being traumatised.

This was a normal birth. They actually wrote something on the notes like ‘NVD’ (Normal Vaginal Delivery), something like that. But not that. I was not noticing much detail after the drag through the Devil’s own 24hrs. I wanted them to write, ‘VTVLVHBASMSTS’ (Very Traumatic Very Long Horrible Birth:  Amazing Mother Set To Shine) I had honestly felt, at times during that ripping, punching, vomiting, howling, wrestling, splitting, seizing, crippling day that I would have shot myself if someone had only handed me a gun.

How the bloody hell can some women tell me they played scrabble until they were 10cm dilated? I can’t imagine it. At 1cm I was writhing in agony, unable to speak, curled over a cardboard kidney tray on the actual lino floor of the hospital while some force grabbed every tissue and sinew in my entire middle and dragged it up, across, down, out; clamped it together, slammed me into blackness where words were far, far away and getting a shoe back on was actually, completely impossible. I am a big woman. An athletic, tall woman. I am strong. I worked full time as a teacher until 37 weeks. I ran the school nativity play a couple of weeks before the due day. I have gruelled through endurance races with swims through icy Easter lakes that freeze your genitals, seize your breath and numb your limbs – but this, this was like nothing else on Earth. This was a Normal Vaginal Delivery.

At some point in the torture you may hear a infinitesimally tiny voice penetrate the nightmare and offer the chance of an anaesthetist. This God of a being will often be too far away, saving another luckier woman. They may just catch you in the window of opportunity though. Catch you lurching and arching, crying and grasping objects, people, sheets – they may see that you are not going to be able to heed the warning about a ‘possible headache’ as a side effect, or that you even gave a shit whether your head was, at that moment, blown apart by a canon. You have never before had not a nanosecond of doubt that someone should hurry up and insert a needle, the length of your entire arm and curled like a butterfly’s proboscis into your spine; two people holding you still while you dangerously contort to push yourself out of your own skin and away from this.

You may come back to this world, to escape Hades and the underworld where you’ve been, if the epidural works. You may be able to sip water and say a word to introduce yourself to the women who have had their fingers up your innards. You might get this chance to experience the exciting anticipation of labour, the breathless stamina testing final furlong, without the feeling that you would rather die. And it is exciting. Amazing.  And with luck and the skill of other people, you will probably end up with a healthy baby. A baby – just as good as the women who manage without the drugs. Just as good a prize.

So, if you were blessed with the miraculous combination of nerve endings and corporeal wiring that abated the punishment of having the baby,  if you managed to have a bath, a cup of tea and and watch Netflix before gliding your baby out, you were lucky. Just that. Not better. Not more hardy. Not cleverer. Not more deserving of a round of applause or a medal. You were lucky.  The competitiveness of this in the FB status or the playground newsfeed can be another kick in the uterus. Women for aeons have squatted in rice fields and managed it unattended. We are all merely products of our time with a dependency on interventions and some of us are wired differently.

If you get up the hill in your 4×4 faster than I do in my Honda, you are not better – you’re just in a different machine. Some bodies are wired up to feel this as torture, some as a ‘bit of a challenge’ – can we all try to let women be listened to, to let them feel that they were not ‘failing’ for their hard labour relying on whatever drugs they could beg out of the NHS.

We are all doing our best, and we all need the support and the praise. Try not to focus on the journey, but on the result. Even those of us who found it tough are being given an easier time than multitudes of others.

The acronym NVD was followed, for me, by the acronym the GP wrote on my notes when I went, two years later, crying to tell her that I was pregnant again: PTS. Post Traumatic Stress.

From a NVD.

 

Follow me on @alicewilde5

 

 

Why Running is Important. And Dangerous.

Alice Wilde

This picture is me at the height of my running obsession in 2012. These were the pre-days. The days before my ex-husband had the huge stroke. The days when I knew that things were not quite right but I could have no idea of what was about to happen and how the growing worries about us would explode in the aftermath of the devastation.

At this point running was solving a lot of things for me. It was my way of escaping a reality which felt comfortable and lucky, but not mine. I could pull on those trainers and go, in a straight line, out of the door and away from the husband who was wonderful, but who I knew was not my soul mate. Would never be. No matter how much I wished he were. I could get a break from the baby who vomited up to 50 times a day, the toddler who woke before 5am every day without fail and the effects of over three years without a single unbroken night. Unlike going for a walk or going to the shops, running can be selfish and you are allowed to go alone.

Running made me feel like something was progressing. I was winning at something. The miles crept up. The loss of a few toenails was a small price to pay for the fresh-air, the freedom, the strength and the sense of being part of a fraternity of fit people in a running club and at organised events. But, if I’m really honest, the side effect of running that became the most addictive was the weight loss.

Over two stone went in the first year. People started to tell me to ‘be careful’ – well,  HOW THRILLING. That just feeds it. Don’t say that to people. It’s confirmation. You’re being noticed. I could eat whatever I wanted because I ran so much. But then I worked out that if I reduced what I ate as well, I would get super slinky. I pretty much ended up having a year without any obvious fats. I ate melba toast and ham. I still drank loads of wine. I became utterly thick. I couldn’t remember simple things I’d done at work. My brain began to feel the effects of having no fats available to create the sheaths around the synapses. My dad told me I looked stringy, my breasts were all but gone and I worried and worried about being invited to eat out because I did not want to ever eat fatty stuff again. I was a machine. A running machine.

I was getting oddly close to having an actual eating problem at the age of 38.  But sharing clothes with my super slim sister, my junior of 8 years, felt amazing. I am a clever woman. I understand the media and pressure and social expectation blah blah – and yet, I was pretty much falling into the trap myself and loving far too much of it.

The nightmare of the stroke ended my obsession. Life wasn’t able to give me the moments of escape for a good long time after that fateful day. I didn’t need to run to feel that I was in control of something, as suddenly, I had to be in control of everything. I didn’t want to get away from the children. I wanted to hold them tight and be present.

A few years on, a few stone later, I’m starting again. The trainers are back out. I want to get back into it. It was good for me in so many ways. Mentally, it is important to run. I also want to lose some weight. But I don’t want to become obsessed. I think it’s very easily done, even as a proper grown up. I will try to do this in moderation now, to find a middle way suitable for a woman of my age with children to lead though life. I want my daughter, particularly, to see that being fit and strong is a good thing and that I can do it without falling into the skinny trap again. I don’t want the side effect to become the motivation this time because that is where it went wrong before.

The side effect needs to be just that. The motivation needs to be the mental space and pride that comes with getting out there. I just have to watch it though – running is brilliantly addictive but sadly, so is being thin.

Is it possible to ‘Restore Your Factory Settings’ after a break up?

www.halfwavinghalfdrowning.com

I’m proud to say I’ve moved on. I have gone from being the oft-weeping, thin-smiling, compliant ex-partner; hiding my hurt and being quite available for ‘return of item’ visits, to the acidic lash-tongued texter of today dishing out anything I hope will feel like a punch in the face. Anything to get a reaction because dealing with an emotional hermit crab is beyond frustrating and I’m really, REALLY feeling it.

I have gained a few steps along the curve of grief chart – that line that tells you you’ll be back to normal at some point. I’ve done the shock / sadness section and now it’s ‘anger and bargaining’. I’ve still got resignation and sadness (again?) to look forward to before the ascent to normality – whatever that was? Was it good? I can barely remember.

Anger and bargaining. Those texts today should cover the anger bit… bargaining? I’ve tried all the ‘We could do this…..we could try talking to **insert name of super expensive counsellor who seems to have stopped your mates from  loathing each other temporarily **….we could try again for a few months…..I will do more of ***insert anything you don’t mind doing more of***….. anyhow, none of it has worked so that’s that out the window.

Bargaining over.

Onwards to Resignation then. Deep breath. He said he wanted to be with me forever, he said he wanted to build a house for all our children, but actually, it turns out, he’d rather not. It’s been hard to come to terms with that. I’ve always felt that I was a rather nice prize. I’d like to live with me.

A good friend has cajoled me into her online training program. It’s a 5 week course, 5 days a week, 5 minutes a day. It’s called ‘High 5’ – not sure how she came up with that – but it’s been pretty remarkable. It takes you through your visions, values and beliefs and aims to get you to become your best possible self. That feels pretty damn distant.  I’d be OK with the pre-me. The one just before the fall in love, when I felt great, attractive, fun and not the massive wallowing husk of wafers that I have been rinsed out into.

She took me for a run today, this mate. She took her dog and me. I trotted along and she coached me all the way, she talked me through things. I soaked it all up. She told me about the Emotional Release Techniques, where – I think- you can try to reset your body and stop a certain behaviour, exchanging it for a more positive reaction. Rather like resetting your factory settings after you’ve messed up your iPhone with too many blurred photos of the floor, (all my photos are of the bloody floor) personally I’m looking forward to exchanging the kind of low moments when I call my 11yr old a ‘bloody shitbag’ through clenched teeth for losing the 3rd water bottle in a week, for a warm fuzzy glow where I cuddle him up and laugh about his carelessness.

 

I don’t know if I can use this technique to fully restore my settings. I’m not sure that I should. I have learnt a lot from the rollercoaster of him. I know that I should be wary of men who won’t speak (unless you’re asking about entirely practical things) so I need to keep that scar as it’ll save me from gaining another.

I would like to be hopeful again though. Not bitter about it. Not angry, bargaining or sad. I would like to get back to a state where I believe I’m good enough. Being asked to leave is a very powerful punch. Being passive and hopeful that he’ll change his mind for months has been a self-administered hook to that punch.

I’m deffo K.O’d right now.

But this little 5 minutes a day is resetting things in a teeny tiny way. I can, at least, see that this is a stage and it’s not forever.

I’m pressing and holding the top and bottom buttons – Factory settings will be restored, but I am hopeful that there will also be an upgrade.

I’ll be even better.

 

 

Click here to find out about my lovely coach.