The Beauty of the Postpartum Tum and Beyond

Image courtesy of Karah Mew

Image courtesy of Karah Mew

First published in The Portsmouth News, Tuesday 29th July 2014

Nobody told me before I gave birth, that once I was holding my baby in my arms, I would also be left holding my stomach in a large pouch above my pants. In fact, in the aftermath of childbirth, I could probably have laid it on a bar and stood a pint on it.

Thankfully those days are now long gone; the pouch remains of course, but it is a smaller pouch. I had c-sections with both of my girls and so it even has its own shelf above the scar. Other c-section mums will know exactly what I am referring to.

The shock of all these bodily changes are one thing whilst we are pregnant with the skin on our huge bellies being pulled taut by the life growing inside, but afterwards, the majority of women want to hide their scars.

The layer of chicken skin that shrivels back to form your own personal pouch is lined with the silvery webs that your babies have made upon your physicality, and yet, we want to hide that away. Funny really, because surely some pride should be felt for the external reminders of how your body has created a life, almost unwittingly, like pearls in the womb?

In Portsmouth at the moment, one very clever lady, the local artist Karah Mew, has started a project for post-preggers tums, and sometimes for preggers ones too.

You may in the past have seen broken pottery on The Antiques Roadshow that has been conspicuously repaired using gold. When, rather than trying to disguise the marks that life has left, they are highlighted and celebrated as a part of that journey.

This is the Japanese concept of Kintsugi, which means ‘golden joinery’, and Karah is applying it, quite literally, to the maps of pregnancy that remain on women’s tummies. She is painting 79 bellies, because that is the atomic number for gold, and will complete the project by painting herself and her mother.

The women tell Karah their stories of pregnancy and birth, and their feelings towards their bodies, during the process, and a photograph is taken of their tummy at the end. The process is proving to be healing and therapeutic, and an empowering experience for those taking part. Presumably it is a technique that can also be applied to other scar tissue that has caused a person trauma, or in celebration of bodily acceptance.

Karah is fully booked until September, but if you’re interested in booking with her yourself then do join her facebook group page. It can be found at: Karah’s Post Baby Belly Photography Project https://www.facebook.com/groups/727749010576292/

Gove is Gone… Parents; rejoice.

Image courtesy of quickmeme.com

Image courtesy of quickmeme.com

First published in The Portsmouth News, Tuesday 22nd July 2014

As a parent, I’ve been delighted to hear that Michael Gove is no longer captaining the education ship in the UK. I find it hard to believe that he ever floated anyone’s educational boat, but he certainly came close to sinking it.

Many people have commented that Michael Gove has simply been replaced by another politician with no background in education, but however much of a womble the new one is, it doesn’t detract from the Chief Womble that was Gove.

Something that has never failed to sadden me is how little interest some people take in the decisions that are made by politicians about the schooling of children in the UK. I watched the news recently and many citizens, when asked for their opinion of striking teachers, were happy to offer a cross, and generally uneducated, response.

However, I’m sadly confident that many of the people interviewed on the television would probably not, if asked, have been able to state even one of the ludicrous reforms that Michael Gove has insisted upon.

The irony of this is that much of what teachers have taken strike action against is linked to Gove, and the damage that he has wreaked upon our schools. Parents and teachers need to stand together, and cultivate a positive relationship that benefits the most important people: our children.

This lack of political knowledge is a walking advertisement of the need for better education. The last local election is also testament to this. How many UKIP voters have really investigated what UKIP is all about? How many of those who sat at home, not bothering to use their vote, have really considered what liberty they are spitting in the face of?

I sit writing this on what would have been Emmeline Pankhurst’s 156th birthday. To think that only last century other women were dying so that the women of today could vote, and to think that some women today do not even bother to visit a voting station to do so, is shameful.

It was heart-warming to see so many of my own friends and fellow parents celebrating the decline of the Gove-ernment, and taking an interest in what this might mean for our children. This gives me hope that people do care and that perhaps social media can have a positive influence in terms of educating those of us who left school years ago. For those who never left, it’s just another day at the chalkface.

What I will do to my children’s houses when they have them…

howIFeelParents
First published 15th July 2014 in The Portsmouth News

Empty Nest Syndrome: something that women, apparently, suffer from once their kids have all left home.

For me, that day is at least thirteen years in the future. And when it comes, and my dear little children have set up their own homes and chosen soft furnishings with care, I intend to be there. Armed with Wheetabix, Marmite, jam, and other sundries.

On my feet, I shall be sporting wellington boots. I’ll have worn these previously to a wood and, if possible, have trampled through a vast quantity of dog poo on the pavement.

Around my waist there will a utility belt, and strapped into it I will be carrying my arsenal of permanent markers, super glue, and several biros.

Upon entry to the humble abode, I shall make my way to the living room: on a scooter. I’ll ride down the wooden floor whilst dragging the break across it, holding one Marmite-smeared hand on the wall as I go.

As soon as I spot a sofa, I shall disembark and land, with a flourish, upon it. There, I shall bounce in the manner of a rubber ball. My poo-smeared wellies will embed themselves in the upholstery and, once destroyed, I’ll make my way to the kitchen.

I’ll take some milk from the fridge, swig it from the bottle, and then pour some on my Wheetabix. Once it’s mushy, I’ll pop some goggles my face, and proceed to use a large spoon of the wooden variety to take ladles full and splatter it across the cupboards. Then I’ll work some glue behind the handles so it gets them where they least expect it.

By this point, upstairs will be beckoning. My dirty hands and I will smear our way up the walls, and I’ll sprinkle great handfuls of flourescent loom bands as I go. Loom bands in the carpet, loom bands tucked in the underwear drawers, loom bands in the beds. Yay.

If the timing is right, I may even do a huge poo in their toilet and leave it unflushed for their friends to find.

And then for my piece de resistance. From my backpack I shall remove 5 alarm clocks, each ready to go off on the hour every hour from midnight onwards. I shall deposit these in the most discrete places I can think of, and leave knowing that my work there is done.

Welcome to my world, girls, welcome to my world.

Tortoises Ain’t Slow…

First published in the Portsmouth News, Tuesday 8th July 2014

In this day and age, we don’t expect to see much of our neighbours. Everyone leads busy lives, dashing in and out of their homes, and having little time to get to know the people who live around them.

However, my family and I are lucky. All of our neighbours, without exception, are lovely. Within our little area of the street, each of us knows that if we needed something, then we could knock on the doors around us, and help would be there.

Our neighbour, Wendy, has lived next door to us for many years. My children love Wendy, and they particularly love her tortoises, Walnut and Pippin. India tries to watch Walnut and Pippin, in the manner of a tiny tortoise stalker, from our bedroom window. She knows that Walnut and Pippin adore strawberries, and that if Wendy claps, they come running. (That’s not a typo; they do run. The ‘tortoises are slow’ tale must be a myth spread by snails.)

My girls were devastated therefore when we had a knock on our door today to tell us that Walnut was missing. We went to Wendy’s house and sure enough, there was no Walnut to be seen.

The only scenario that Wendy could think of was that Walnut had decided to escape the building whilst the gardener tended to her lawn. In which case, it seemed unlikely that Walnut would be found.

We searched outside with my daughters’ friends to no avail. I typed up posters and attached them to lampposts, and popped some through letterboxes, before ringing the local vets and leaving contact details should Walnut be handed in. But no-one had seen him.

We returned home feeling somewhat downhearted and very sad for Wendy. Her dear husband, Bill, passed away after Christmas, and they bought the tortoises ten years ago when they were babies. She had raised Walnut since he was tiny, and it seemed desperately sad that she might not see him again.

Until that is Wendy’s gardener rang her. Having driven back to his home in Waterlooville, with the garden rubbish in his boot, he had quite a surprise to see little Walnut looking out at him when he opened it! It’s no exaggeration to say that we were absolutely thrilled for Wendy. Down came the posters and out came the smiles: pets become part of our families and I am so pleased that Wendy has been reunited with hers.

tortoise-sweater-111313-06

Mothers-in-Law…

974a85eccfd8ec45c894094dec8f804e

 

First published in The Portsmouth News, 1st July 2014

In-laws: the butt of some of the 50 Greatest Jokes of All Time, as listed in The Telegraph recently. Or perhaps, depending on your personal circumstances, you prefer the term ‘out-laws’? It’s a true adage that we can’t choose our families, and it’s also true for the family that we inherit after falling in love with our partners.

Interestingly, fathers-in-law never seem to cause the same outrage that their female counterparts do. Why is this? I’m fascinated to know because, being of the XX chromosome persuasion, it’s a role that I may one day end up in myself.

Perhaps mothers are more protective of their offspring and see the partner of their child as a constant threat, even when proven to be an erroneous fear? The hackles are up, and up they stay.

I have had two mothers-in-law; one when I was very young in my first marriage, and another from my current (and to reassure you, Mr Lush, final!) state of matrimony. One of these women rang her son when we were first dating to enquire as to whether I might ‘just be after his house’, which was amusing on many grounds. Firstly, I owned my own property, and secondly, although his was a charming abode, it was not Beckingham Palace and hardly warranted a pre-nup to protect it from gold-digging paws.

I also have a step-mother-in-law who, whether due to her step-nature or nurture, is very unassuming and easy-going. She takes great interest in whatever the kids and my husband and I are up to, and we have a very laidback relationship. But life is a complicated thing, with twists and turns and tangled webs; rarely do we find ourselves in the old nuclear family.

My own mother seems, in my entirely unbiased and objective opinion, to be a marvellous in-law. She’s extremely supportive of both my husband’s career and my own, takes time out of her own busy life and relationship to phone us and to see the children, and casts no aspersions on our life choices. Instead, she attempts to support from the wings, and swoops in like some deus ex machina if it all goes wrong.

I hope that when and if the time comes, I manage to model her lead. I love the entire concept of The Family and hope that I will welcome others to ours with open arms, and an open mind.

Assuming they meet my relentlessly high expectations of course.