Monday, 31 March 2014

The promise of new life.

Queenie's flowers form a beautiful shape / Always on the look out for pretty blossoms / My resting spot

It's still cold but nature is singing. The little girl and I can't resist, and have a need to bring it indoors.

My birthday was a few weeks ago and every receptacle was brimming with gifted flowers. She requested our own pickings were bottled up and put in her bedroom. One morning I entered to collect her and was astounded by the power of their scent. Such a dreamy floral aroma encased her sleeping body. A mix of daisies, anemones, forget me nots and buttercups beside her bed, pink hyacinths in her window. We grew these from bulbs in a bowl on the dining table, each day seeing their growth. When the flowers grew too heavy for their stalks and began to tumble, we cut them off and in a jar they were gathered. She was teething and soppy, so the blooms were gifted and gratefully received by little hands that insisted they carried them all the way to her room.


While new life is evident outside, as is the promise of it in our home. A few hours of strong contractions one morning finally spurred us into working through our to do list. There were so many jobs we'd been putting off for months and within a few hours we had done everything.
Sweet baby clothes are clean and folded. A corner of our room is set up with a Moses basket and freshly laundered blankets are piled beneath it. Everything needed for the water birth is ready in our living room, Liam had a practise run and is so excited.

Now it's the wait. I'm resting to preserve energy for labour and life with a new babe. Right now I feel real patient and there's no sense of urgency which I'm grateful for. Queenie is quite unsettled, I think she's sensed something is coming so we are trying to comfort her an prepare her for a big change, but how can one ever really do that for a firstborn? Siblings is an unknown concept for our two year old. I'm sure she will take it all in her stride, the way she always has, and we will find new reasons to be proud of our little Queenie Valentine.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

11/52


"A portrait of Queenie Valentine, once a week, every week in 2014."

We spend a lot of time here in the morning, resting and playing together.

Joining in with Jodi's 52 project.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Weather

A perfect afternoon making Queenie a dress in the sunshine. 

The weather is cruelly indecisive at the moment. Through the last nine months I've noticed it has effected me more than ever before. I wonder whether it has it really? Or have I never been as attentive to my own behaviour as I am now. Is that age, or the wisdom that comes with it that's done this? Or more time spent with myself, in the quiet night unable to sleep, with the beating of my pregnant heart echoing in my ears? I certainly have slower and quieter  days.

Yesterday I woke early to the sun rising. I'd had a restless night but seeing a warm glow peek through our curtains gave me positivity. In my head I absent mindlessly flicked through a bundle of things I could accomplish throughout the day. By the time Liam and Queenie had woken, the clouds had begun to form and I actually felt quite tired, and decided maybe just working through the washing, then resting while reading with Queenie would be more realistic. Liam made porridge before leaving for work. I brought Queenie downstairs and filled her a bowl, topped with raisins and cranberrys. I rinsed yesterday's dye stuff* then hung it on the line before helping myself to porridge. As we ate, the sky darkened. I fetched the fabric inside as it started spitting, regretting putting such a large wash in the machine.


We spent the morning in bed drawing, watching the rain throw itself against the window, and by midday I started to cry. 


Sunlight gave me hope, despite my tiredness I believed it had the potential to be a great day. Once the rain had soaked the ground and the grey had coated every slither of blue, I felt hopeless. The colourless cloud had bled into my emotions and I cried out for the end of the day. 


The cold steals it's way into every crack in our house, enveloping each room, till we are sat in bed with hot water bottles, boxes of pencils and each other to stay warm. Every so often I pull on my slippers and a jumper, rushing through the drafts to grab some food from the kitchen, never bothering to wash up the knife I used to spread marmalade on our toast, or leaving the humous and cucumber out on the side. Slowly the surfaces become messy and by the time late afternoon has arrived I'm so confused at where this mess has sprung from. Dinner is harder to prepare in a cold cluttered kitchen and any inspiration for heathy, yummy food is hard to come by. Regretfully this too often becomes the familiar scene in our house if Liam's working a long day shift. 


Beginning to see myself in this way, knowing what the weather does so dramatically to my mood should help me to predict how I should feel that day, should give me a chance to prepare myself for blue days. But it doesn't. I am always so optimistic first thing and I'm fooled into the belief of spring being a season of sunshine, so often to be disappointed and knocked back by the first hurdle. Why on a day planned on staying inside, should what is happening outside so effect me? Perhaps because it creeps it's negativity in with the cold? Or because we were created by God from the dust, and our birthplace, his creation still resonates through us? Is that overly romantic and really it's all down to low vitamin D levels and reading too many novels? These questions are irrelevant. The fact is I am changed by the colours in the sky, the shapes the light throws me through our windows. 


Each night when I pray with Queenie before bed, she lays her head on my shoulder and chatters to God while I do. My prayers of thanks lead to requests for the family. Among them I used to ask for energy, now I plead for a day of sunshine and for the earth to warm a little.



* Spent Sunday doing some natural dyeing with onion skins, more on that soon!

10/52

"A portrait of Queenie Valentine, once a week, every week in 2014."

Finally it stopped raining enough for a walk to the swings.

Joining in with Jodi's 52 project.

Monday, 24 March 2014

9/52

"A portrait of Queenie Valentine, once a week, every week in 2014."

A wonky fringe and a Peter Rabbit jacket.

Joining in with Jodi's 52 project.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

36 weeks

Last week I saw my midwife and then a couple days later, our health visitor. This baby engaged at week 31, and has pretty much stayed ready for action since.
Both women seem pretty certain this little one is coming early, so early my midwife commented on having to keep it in until 37weeks, else I can't have a home birth.
Now that sentence has rattled me a little. That's a week. For the first time in this pregnancy (and possibly ever) I'm feeling what I think is anxiety. I'm drowning in to do lists, futile attempts at organisation. The tasks are all huge and I don't know where to start. My body is feeling stronger than a few weeks ago, but my mind is exhausted, brain turned to mush.
I'll find I've spent an afternoon successfully completing a job that's been niggling to get done for months, but isn't important in the here and now. Last week Liam had a day off, we purged his wardrobe, listing tiny black band shirts on eBay and folding unending ripped jeans into piles. Clearer drawers left us both feeling good to have done it, but for me that good was fleeting and then the nagging panic set in.
Yesterday was my birthday and I was able to be momentarily distracted from it all. I had a perfect day with friends, family, food and some seriously generous gifts. But after a broken sleep and an early awakening, I woke to much the same nervous state this morning.
Tomorrow I hope to fight this lingering anxiety. I'm going to clear the table, and attempt to declutter my brain. The iPhone will be turned off, I'll throw away all those cruel lists, jeering at me for only ticking of one or two items per sheet. With a hot mug of nettle tea, I shall get out my favourite pencil, sharpen it to perfection and breath.
Praying for clarity before I begin jotting it all down. Everything that's taking up space in my mind is going on paper. I need to look at what it is I think needs doing. To organise in importance. Then maybe delegate.
Some of these worries are on the surface, constantly fighting at my attention, slowly turning me to a nervous wreck if left alone to think for too long. Others I've pinned down at the back of my mind, now and then loosening and reminding me of their impending deadline. I need to get it all down to see it clearly.
I feel positive about working this way. We will have to see in time if it actually helps me though! 

Rest.

Mornings. Quiet moments and glow of the new sun. 

This pregnancy has been much the same as the last, though my life has changed so that it has felt quite different. The obvious is rest, or lack of it. Having a small one running around all day does mean that a chance to listen to your body isn't always that easy. I went a while trying to stick to "sleep when they sleep" as we are all told, foolishly I was tempted too often into using that time for myself. Now I seem to be a little too late. Over the last two months, Queenie's decided a daytime nap is a nuisance and the night has shrunk at both ends, with later nights and earlier mornings. Im exhausted! Admittedly she's never been a natural sleeper. We were in awe of friends babies who went down quietly at 6, then slept through for up to 15 hours! Then blessed them with two sleeps in the day! We have had numerous days where attempting one nap is futile! (This very moment in the room above me comes banging, chattering and singing. Anything but sleeping!)

By her first birthday we stopped comparing and accepted Queenie just doesn't need sleep in the same way others may. It has its benefits. She comes along to parties and dinners with friends, art events over in Falmouth, and is able to keep going deep into the night, being more sociable and energetic than the both of us.

The second trimester. This is the easiest part, we regain our energy for a few months and the sickness is a distant memory. The bump isn't heavy so there aren't too many aches and pains. It's a time for organisation and ticking off jobs before the hibernation months that come with a new baby in the family. So far I haven't felt that surge of energy or even a little flutter of it. December was full and I pushed myself, and have regretted it since. The problem with Queenie sleeping so little is I've not had the chance to rest and shake this illness. I'll have a good day, think finally I'm better, then plummet the next, feeling as rotten as ever.

These are a few things I've found help me.
Waking up early. It always seems counter productive to cut sleep. But just a little time to myself before the house awakens is a blessing. I make a tea, a porridge, then read or do a little yoga. I feel much better to have a head start before the onslaught of daytime hits me.

Water. I drink a big glass when I wake and then try to drink lots throughout the day, especially if I feel myself sinking.

Fresh fruit smoothies. This is our go-to easy energy smoothie. Banana, basil and honey (I sometimes add ginger or turmeric for a pick-me-up when I'm not feeling to well, or spinach if my blood count's a little low). The basil is great for sorting out digestion, so after a few days of having one each morning I feel less groggy.

Early night. Dur. And I'm really not good at this, especially when Liam's working a late shift. I love the still, quiet house. It consumes me for hours, then Liam comes in the door and I'm broken from the spell and realising the time, tiredness suddenly grips me.

A few other things along the way have helped me out, but nothing as much as the family around me. Liam, My parents and sisters. And for the last few days Liam's lovely mummy has been staying and helping out (as well as painting all of the rooms downstairs!) which has been an incredible blessing.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Hoarding nature

Our bountiful harvest of the post-storm shores / Little hands gathering bits and pieces that catch her eye / A mobile lovingly made for the growing baby.

For those of you living in the uk, it's been pretty difficult to miss the news about the grim weather in the south of England so far this year. There were floods, strong winds, thunder storms and real high tides. Cornwall has been hit bad especially by the sea and wind. In Newquay we've seen so much destruction and I'm reminded of the power that nature has. 

The landscape of our town has changed. We are surrounded by beaches in most directions so the broken cliffs have effected us. Walls have been torn down by the sea, huge pieces of cliff flung about like beach balls. A couple evenings we went down to the shore and watched the waves crashing into familiar spots, reshaping the coastline.
A few weeks have past now and we seemed to have seen the back of these storms. I always remember a friend's grandfather said that after valentines day, you begin to see the shift of the season. The long dark winter slowly gives way to new life and a warm spring bubbles up. The sun lingers a little longer each day until we find ourselves discussing together how remarkably light it is so late in the evening. And every year we marvel at the truth of this statement. Its the way seasons always happen, but somehow each change feels new. This year, on the day following Valentines the sun came out. I made the most of it and walked to my parents, noting to Queenie with childish excitement every sign of spring. Tiny purple crocus bursting up among thick dirty weeds. Snowdrops showing their pretty white heads. Everywhere we saw the long stems of daffs, I gabbled about how in days we will be surrounded by a sea of yellow flowers. She was too distracted by singing birds to hear my words. She told me the sky is blue and we walked on, each step absorbing more sunshine and feeling stronger. She drifted off to sleep and I fought through the wind to sit up on a cliff, breathlessly watching out at the ocean. Deep blue as far as the eye could see.

The next day my mama took Queenie out and left dad and I making marmalade. We were slow, rereading the recipe countless times so it was a long ordeal. The oranges were left simmering in the AGA and we wandered down to the beach. Where fine sand had always been, rocks and stones piled high. Between these we found treasures. I filled my coat with the softest sea glass and chunks of blue and white pottery. Big shells and smooth stones slipped in amongst them.I've felt the shore calling since and eventually I succumb to the sirens call. Liam's sister stayed with us for a while and each day we visited a different beach. Queenie found a hollow shell and in the streams and pools filled it with water like a small cup. I watched her, proud of her little ways and in awe of her growth. Upon returning home every pocket and bag crevice was emptied. Our little haul held flat stones for painting and pretty bits were tipped into a bowl. One morning we found thousands of cockle shells washed up on Polyjoke beach. Those with sea-made holes for making filled Liam's bag, amongst them lay a handful of dull stones and bits of dry seaweed, Queenie's treasures. Later we threaded the shells together and hung them from driftwood we'd gathered the day before. I've always been this way, drawn to what the sea throws up and I'm a hoarder of natures gifts. Last week I discovered the wonderful blog This Brown Wren. I love what she makes with her daughter, beautiful decorations crafted with their foraged collections. Bringing the seasons inside. It's the way I've always wanted to parent, the way my childhood was. I'm so glad to be reaching that stage now. I clung onto this dream for years and now it is here, I'm living it with my Queenie Valentine.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

8/52

"A portrait of Queenie Valentine, once a week, every week in 2014."

I love this photograph of Queenie in the rainforest at Eden, taken by our friend Finlay.

Joining in with Jodi's 52 project.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Hear

He or she stirs throughout the day and especially at night. Sharp elbows or feet dig hard against my belly. Predicted to be just under 40cm, they will stop growing lengthways now, just gain weight over the following weeks. In just two months we will know their name. I begin to remember what real patience is. Slowly an urge inside is growing, a need to know builds. I fight the cravings to wish this time away. I know each day of waiting brings this new life and I closer, I try to focus on this, spend time just the two of us, talking and praying about the future. They can now hear us going about our days. I think about the noises we create and close my eyes to listen more intently. Liam playing tunes on the banjo, Queenie singing as she dances. The rain beating against the window as the radio plays the familiar theme tune of the Archers. The creaks of footprints on the staircase. The faint tap of puzzle pieces being put back, over and over. Onions sizzling in a pan. A xylophone is clinked, only just audible over the sound of the vacuum cleaner. Bob Dylan serenades us from the kitchen. The whir of the fridge. The Velcro tear followed by a wooden clack as toy vegetables are being chopped by small hands. A little voice chattering in the still morning before the pipes spring into life. Amens around the table and a thousand "more mummy?"s. An almost continuous tapping from the drummer. An upstairs murmur of stories being read at bedtime. Lots and lots of kisses. These are the sounds of our home. I wonder how many reach the ears of our unborn child.