Monday, 31 January 2011

My Birth Day

Today is my birthday. Birth Day. The day of my birth. 

Forty years ago I have come out of my mother's womb, and she has been carrying me for nine months. She has pushed me out. It's only when I have pushed my son out did I understand what an enormous effort this requires, and that my mother has done that for me. 

The other day she told me that we, her children, were four, seven and nine respectively when she was forty. And today I am forty, and that makes me feel closer to her. 

I am not one for celebrating myself. I'd rather watch the birds in the garden, the birds that have come from Russia to escape the big freeze. This year however I am. I am celebrating the richness of my existence, of existence, all the impressions and experiences and the growth that have nested themselves into me. 

My Self is a big landscape of many vistas. 

The forests, streams and mountains of places. And cherry trees in blossom. Rome. Hanoi. Chicken Foot Mountain. Rue de l'Avenir. Cafe Baghdad. Hampstead Heath every Thursday night - walks of Life. Hilly Fields which should be called Windy Fields, every day no matter what. The forests, streams and mountains of places. Engraved in my being. 

Permanence nested in impermanence. 

Saturday, 29 January 2011

On Being Lost

I fled from my home. It was raining cats and dogs and the clouds hung low.  Away, away, as fast as I can, away from this sense that I can’t breathe, that I am trapped and have no where to go. And although normally the outside world is less safe than home, the implosion in the hearth is so bad, that now the outside has become the place to be. Anonymity, vast spaces, roads that lead to nowhere, or everywhere. Cars and people, hundreds, and thousands, with millions of stories and experiences. That feels safer. I hurry along the traffic laden road, gripping the handles of the pram. Tears are streaming down my face, as I whisper again and again “Oh God, Oh God” referring to the depth of my feelings that take my breath away. I feel like free falling, and engulfed in a sticky murky soup, grief stricken. I don't want to live anymore. “Oh God, Oh God, Oh God” the pain is overwhelming and the overwhelming feeling of not existing, not wanting to exist anymore frightens me. I pass other people, but I do not see them, nor do they see me. My hands gripping the pram start to loosen and my fingers start to open and close and open and close -  in my mind’s eye the pram rolls away - its fate unknown and too gruesome to imagine. I have always known that I am a bad person. The tears keep streaming. The walk becomes less hurried but the pain remains. I have an urge to rub my wet and hot face against the dripping and cool branches of the nordic fir tree standing at a distance. People will think I am mad. I sway, my walk becomes unbalanced. I come up to it and - gently let the dripping wet of the tree's needle branches caress my face. I sigh. I'll do that again. 

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Premature Births

The first time round, when my twin girls were born, I think, I was quite a tormented mother. I wanted to do a good job; I had high expectations of myself. And their needs, in my mind, came doggedly before mine. I was distraught and felt like a failure that they had been born eight weeks early. The cause, so it says on my notes, was a premature rupture of the placental membrane. It’s the word rupture that feels apt, as indeed, that’s how it felt. It felt like a brutal and untimely rupture of the relative safety of being pregnant, of being special, of carrying these two little ones under my heart, inside of me, of me feeling gloriously beautiful and important. I wasn’t ready, nothing was ready, my husband injured his back whilst hastily assembling two cots. He was lying on the floor groaning with pain, unable to move, whilst I was helplessly distraught that my little babies were in special care and not with me. The staff at the hospital were being praised for their helpfulness, even heroism in keeping premature babies alive. To me, they were my enemies, they were looking after my children, not me. I was convinced that they were hiding or forgetting about my milk I obsessively pumped out of my breasts every day, religiously keeping to an exhausting two to four hourly routine. They were leaving a trail of blood behind when piercing the babies’ soft heels with their pointy needles. The image that stuck in my mind was;  the room lined with cots, blood splattered, crying babies with dirty nappies. Circling in my head. I never felt so outraged and at the same time so powerless. Pumping out my milk, which was bountiful, was the only thing I could do for my babies. The milkmaid. In the 'milking room' I had two electric pumps stuck onto me, their rhythmic rasping sound only accompanied by the sound of turning pages of inane women’s magazines. Mostly I was alone, sometimes there was another mother in there but we sat in utter silence, the one of the painful kind. She was a teenage mum, her baby had arrived at 23 weeks, far too early, and she was hovering in the uncertain twilight zone of life and death. Her milk would not come easily, in little droplets, and she looked permanently shell shocked. It was an utterly horrible room, and it was utterly wrong having to store one’s goodness in little bottles, label them and put them in the freezer. Apparently my milk alone was not potent enough to make these little ones grow quickly, grow out of the danger zone. On all levels, I took this as the one and only message; that I had failed as a mother. This, so it seemed to me, was mirrored on the faces of all the other mothers, anxiously roaming the unit and we were unable to tell each other something, anything, to the contrary.

Monday, 24 January 2011

On Loss

Today I am feeling tearful. It’s the girls’ school trip. I am having fantasies of bus accidents and tears, thoughts I ought not to entertain too much. I am feeling tearful. It’s loss. It’s in the air. What if my life is shattered into a million pieces? What if they don’t come home anymore? What if I lose my loved ones - love? I am eating lots of cake for comfort. The tears are floating and gathering behind my eyes, into a swirling pond; the outlet to a little river not yet found. I want to release the pressure but something is holding back. Then ideas and judgements of other people, who don't understand the tidings of the bond, don't understand the need to make the right decision, when it feels right, not when they say or it is said to be right. The little one is drinking his bottle but searching for the comfort of the breast. His lips pursed and sucking in the air, searching for the nipple. There it is, there. Just a little bit. You ought not to, you are spoiling him. Just a little bit. Just a little comfort. I feel the loss. It’s in the air. 

Friday, 21 January 2011

Mother Africa

Mother - Mother Africa - l’Afrique! Blackness, somehow, somewhere, feels like it belongs inside of me. Africa. I am this graceful, powerful and proud black woman on the bus, with a long neck, and chiselled face. She sits in front of me, yet I am her. In me there is a rhythm, a pulse, a recognition, a figure that is attuned to the black nations. Naked feet in the sand, toes gathering the sand in between, digging the heal into the mud, cracking the nut open with a swift move, gathering seeds with long strident moves - my hands -  and arching my body to reach out for the bundle, swaying along the path, a watchful open eye. Grace and beauty, silent waiting. The eyes tell stories of the distant past, I can wait. The rain drums onto the tin roof and I wait. An animal moans, I hear the breathing of the child. An insect crawls over the pots and pans. The night is long. I wait. The day will come. Sometimes my Ugandan friend morphed into that graceful black woman, appearing out of nowhere, at dusk, balancing her babe on her hip and jingling her bracelet made out of chestnuts. She, mother of one, looked after my babies and bravely ventured to the park with the three of them, when they were barely old enough to walk. She comes from a land where lots of children, twins, are regarded as a gift from the heavens, a sign of super fertility, a sign of luck and good health

Thursday, 20 January 2011

The Discovery of Isis

When I was still feeding my babes from my abundant breasts I attended a workshop run by a woman for women, to discover the goddess within. What I found, to my own surprise, was that well of beginnings - Mother was waiting there for me to discover her. In an enactment, I was cowering on the floor, blowing air into the ground, into that black hole that engulfed me and whispered “Are you there? Hello, Mother, are you there? The surprising answer came “Yes I am. I have been waiting for you - all along”. I rushed home, my breasts quickly filling with milk, which could only be relieved by two mouths, hungrily sucking that pressure away.  Sometime after that, when Mother started to take residence inside of me, in the deep of the night, in my dreams, I asked for a name to be given to me, and it was Isidora - gift of Isis. She says “I am the mother of the whole of Nature, mistress of the elements, the origin and principle of the ages, the supreme divinity, queen of the shades, the first of the dwellers in the sky, the unrivaled model of all the gods and goddesses. The pinnacles of the sky, the beneficial sea-breezes, the desolate silences of hell, I rule them all according to my will”. Bang! It doesn’t get more powerful than that!!

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Feeding my baby from my breasts

I love breastfeeding
breastfeeding is relaxing
breastfeeding is exhausting
breastfeeding is a miracle
breastfeeding is the most beautiful thing in the world
breastfeeding is painful
I feel pride and gratification when I breastfeed my babe 
sometimes I feel like a milking machine
when I have to express I feel like a milkmaid
my breasts feel sensitive to the touch and are often inflamed
I need to look after myself and rest for the milk to flow
I wanted to stop a million times 
and I never wanted to stop at all - ever
It is the most natural thing in the world
yet there is an art to it

My girls got on, drank, and had to be taken off. They didn't have a choice, there was someone else in the queue. My boy is a bit of a little piglet on the breast; he thrashes, frets, comes on and off, gets distracted, pulls and nips and nuzzles. He has a choice, he knows he is the sole owner of boobies. But he also sighs with relief when it is offered to him, starts singing when the sweet milk warms and fills his tummy, looks at me and smiles, the love flows and he gets very upset when I scream in pain when he hurts me. And again and again I feel, and despite all the struggles, it is the most wonderful thing in the world. 

But it is not straightforward. I have discovered that for me it requires commitment, resolve, patience, acceptance, trust, time, and love. And although in my mind's eye I see lots of images of the blissful mother-child iconography, so deceitful!, I have discovered that for me feeding my baby from my breasts is not without a struggle.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

The Child-Mother of all Things

I know that I wanted to be a mother, to care for others, from when I was a child. My dream was to be a nurse when I would grow up. Perhaps this came about when my little brother spent some time in hospital and I would faithfully sit vigil at his side and comfort the little motherless ones who were crying next door. Another time I found a featherless, naked little sparrow, barely alive, on the playground. My heart leapt with compassion and I took it home in a cardboard box. I made a nest for the little birdie, and diligently fed it mushed up bready milk and water. It was a miracle, the little one grew fluffy and shiny and it developed into a cheerful little feathery ball. Our favourate game was to throw it from the balcony up into the sky and it would fly a little round and come back to us. Off we sent it again, every time with a little tingle of sad anticipation as it might fly away for good, but again and again it came back, eagerly awaiting another round of exploratory flight. It wasn’t really a real sparrow, most of the time it hopped around on the ground. Sadly, this was going to be it’s downfall, as one day my father stepped backwards, not realising that the sparrow was behind him, and thus squashed it to death. He was distraught, and it must have been very difficult for him to break the news to us. I felt more sad for my father’s torment than for the birdies demise and so we proceeded, as matter of fact as children can be, to create another kind of nest for the little sparrow; a little burial ground at the entrance to our house.

Monday, 17 January 2011


Something is stirring, slightly throwing me off track. I am emotional and the tears flow easily. Is the birth imminent? My own mother is coming. In my heart, in my soul, I feel it’s right that she is coming. I am yearning to see her even though I don’t want to say that aloud. Inside me there is a voice crying out for Mama. And, no one can imagine how much I love my girls. How much Mother represents. How deep the bond runs. How tearful I get thinking about the big changes ahead, that these might be the last days of us being together, the four of us, the tight, balanced number. It is going to be shattered by a fifth member.  Although I still see a wonderful image: a flower, in the middle the little one, surrounded by four-strength-love. The core surrounded by silky colourful petals.