The Truth About Having Babies…or How To Dry A C-Section Scar.

First published in the Portsmouth News, 28/01/2014.

Before I had children, nobody told me the truth about parenthood. Perhaps this was because my friends didn’t want to urinate on my pregnancy parade, or perhaps it’s evolutionary instinct, ensuring the continuation of the human race.

Before I gave birth, I had a vision of family life. Essentially, we would all look as though we had rolled around in a Cath Kidston store, smothered in glue, before skipping back out draped in whatever had stuck to us.

You can imagine my shock therefore after giving birth and returning home with our newborn. For starters, she made it sound as though an entire farmyard had invaded our bedroom, and secondly, she refused point blank to sleep during the hours of darkness.

Nobody told me that I would spend each night feeling as though my eyeballs were being sucked out of my skull through a straw, whilst I gamely continued batting my baby in the face with a giant mammary. The memory of standing over the bathroom sink and effectively milking myself is a particularly special one.

I also recall the visits from the midwives in the days following the birth, and my husband’s fury when one of them traipsed in with a chipolata of puppy poo stuck to the heel of her boot. Those were the days when we could still take pride in our surroundings, because nobody had yet thought to flick Wheetabix and vomit about the place.

I sat on the sofa, clutching my c-section wound, eyeballs swinging out of their sockets, looking about me and wondering how it had all come to this. I hadn’t seen my own feet in six months, each time I moved a different part of me leaked, and after having a bath I had to lift up my own stomach and use a hairdryer on my c-section scar to promote healing.

Eventually, three weeks after the birth, when we were both demented with exhaustion, my husband and I burst into tears together. We clung to each other, mildly hysterical, and he suggested that he had post-natal depression.

Luckily, neither of us had anything of the sort. Eventually life settled down. We all slept again, and one year down the line, nostalgia set in. We began to miss those days, the feel and smell of that newborn weight, warm and fragile in tired arms.

Nine months after the nostalgia set in, we welcomed tiny daughter number two. And invested in a 2100 watt AC professional strength hairdryer.


The Day the Goldfish Died…

First published in the Portsmouth News, Tuesday 14th January, 2014. (Jolly good job my kids don’t read the paper…)

Ours is a family of many pets. Over the past year, the quota of the Lush Family Farm has diminished due to the sad passing of two gerbils, two rabbits, and a cat. However, don’t feel too sorry for us; we are still in receipt of two chickens, two cats, one dog, and with festive thanks to my mother-in-law, six small fish.

The children adore their fish. We set the tanks up as per the instructions, and then waited the recommended time before introducing anything with gills into the water. We then waited before feeding them (the filter needs time to mature, don’t you know) and crossed our parental fingers; a lot of childhood hope was resting on those fins.

And yet, despite careful attention and many google searches involving all things fishy, one of the little blighters decided to up-fin and die. As parents who try to model rules of both honesty and trust with our off-spring, we promptly decided to lie our backsides off and pegged it pronto to a well-known pet store.

Easy, one would think, to replace a fish. Not so. It would appear that unless your tank has been set-up since Millennium Eve, and you are willing to hand over your passport, internet banking details, and inside leg measurement, then you’ll be lucky to emerge with pondweed at best.

My husband removed me from said pet store whilst I was still flinging accusations over my shoulder, (“I see it’s alright for you to keep sixty small sharks in a half gallon tank though…”) and we bought a replacement fishy from another establishment.

Luckily, neither child noticed the difference, for I was dreading their heartbreak. (Here’s hoping they haven’t started reading the paper then.) However, after all the subterfuge, India returned from school on Monday to find one of her fish, Coral, in a state of poorliness.

Her subsequent woe has given rise to previously unknown Mummy Will Fix Fish determination. Thus far, I have been defrosting and shelling frozen peas to feed Coral, cleaning the water, and taking its temperature (the water’s temperature, not the fish, that would prove a step too far), and giving Coral baths in epsom salts.

This is more than I do for my husband. Though in fairness, feeding him shelled peas is unlikely to feature in his Top Ten List of Spousal Pursuits. Keep your fingers crossed for Coral, dear reader; the short-term happiness of India is currently riding on my pea-smeared shoulders.

Homelessness in Portsmouth …

This week’s column, first published in the Portsmouth News, 7th January 2013. 


I wonder where you are sat whilst you read this. Are you at home, cosy on your sofa? Or sat on the train, travelling home? Maybe you’re at the office. Perhaps you’re bored and dreaming of getting home later.

Or, perhaps you don’t have a home to return to. Perhaps you’ve picked up a paper that has been discarded and are leafing through it before you bed down in a doorway for the night, on a stark pavement, devoid of warmth and bare of soul.

I’ve lived in Portsmouth for years and often, as I walk or drive around the city, I see people who have no home. Adults become numb to this, but my children are still young enough to be horrified and enveloped by sadness that some people have no home: no sanctuary to return to at the end of the day; no food to eat; no warmth. And they are young enough not to be cynical or judgemental when they consider the reasons why.

There are posters around our city about homelessness, but they don’t suggest ways in which to give practical help. Instead, they tell you not to help, because they make the sweeping judgement that anyone without a home is an addict.

This may be the case for some people, but why does this mean that they should not be helped? And what does that help entail? For surely you can cook a meal, package it, and take it to that gentleman or lady who is sleeping rough in the doorway of the local shop? You can offer an old blanket, or a book to read. You can help. But do you want to? 

Bob Geldof may have helped Ethiopia, but he and Comic Relief et al also contributed to our compassion fatigue: nothing shocks us to our senses anymore.

We live instead thinking that other people do not feel things like ‘we’ do. That you cannot be a Good Samaritan because of the fear that the person in the shop doorway, who is not looking their best, might be violent. Or because ‘we’ live in a smug bubble, assuming that it would never happen to ‘us’. Even our language creates a barrier of us, we and them.

I want my children to grow-up with compassion and without judgement. I’d also like them to grow-up with a home, and to assume that help would be at hand if they did not. Simple things, little things, but, it would seem, not always easily achievable.


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