Friday, 15 July 2016

Manna Manuka

Several times I have stalled a post because I still haven't told you about this:

Manna Manuka is out in the world! The labour was fast and wonderful. Ember (Pickle has decided I should use her real name too) was my birth partner for the first three hours, copying my 'funny movements' while I managed back-to-back contractions, fetching clean pants every time my waters broke (there was an ocean in there) and phoning Granny to let her know. Regardless of age, I couldn't have asked for a better person to be with me. She was calm but excited, did everything I asked and even made me laugh. With a big grinding crunch (yes, ouch), Manna spun round to the perfect position and the contractions got much faster, but also much easier for me. Gappy came to play with Ember and my excellent friend and neighbour Miriam came to take over as birth partner and get me to the hospital. Her husband drove us and we spent a looooong time in a traffic jam (tip: don't go into labour on a Saturday morning) while I tried not to groan too alarmingly, but we got there in time and Manna was born an hour later, weighing 8' 6". She was grey and floppy in a way which makes my heart tremble as I write. The midwife couldn't get her breathing, so the neonatal superheroes flooded in and after just a few puffs of the oxygen mask she was breathing fine. I lost a very messy amount of blood, which is why I can never have a homebirth - way too much cleaning to do afterwards, but I didn't need a tranfusion.

Once I had been stitched and had a cursory bath (why do my daughters feel the need to cover me in meconium at first sight?), I fed Manna her first bottle. I was sad I didn't have a breast to offer her, but the way she guzzled it down then looked so content afterwards reassured me this was good enough. And I knew I had milk from some wonderful women in the freezer at home. Ember wanted to be the first to know Manna's name, so I told her over the phone and she announced it to Gappy and my parents. This is the sisters' first meeting:

Ember has been such an amazing big sister. I didn't imagine she would be so unfailingly tender and understanding. I feel I am falling in love with Ember in a new way, as I fell in love with Thomas in a new way seeing him with Ember.

Manna herself is awesomely contented and smiley. She even sleeps! In the night! She had bad reflux and took a while to get her birthweight back and she struggles with colic still, but generallly she looks like this:

She is cute in both ways, always watching, learning; now grabbing whatever she can.

When she was three months I had my final surgery - ovaries and fallopian tubes out. It is a big relief to feel safer, although it has been tricky getting the HRT balanced, but I think I'm there now. I didn't have to stay in hospital overnight, so Gappy had a day with Manna. It was very painful to leave her for so long, but of course she was quite happy:

So now she is splendidly plump and already very keen to be up at the table with the big girls. She is so pleased with herself and merrily teeths on bell pepper or carrot, grinning all the while.

I am so happy with both my daughters. Of course it isn't always easy being a single mum with two children and there have been times of deep grief for the loss of Thomas too, but we feel like a complete and loving family, which is all I ever wanted. Our next adventure is to find a new home, but we'll stay in Chagford and maybe it will be a strengthening thing, in the end, to get some distance from the memories which overlay this house and garden for me. There are so many more memories to be made and I will do everything I can to make them very, very happy.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Baby Face

Happenings abound. Our annual Artisan Fayre was splendid as ever and very welcome as a dip in energies prevented me doing extra markets before Christmas. The big day itself was good and happy. Pickle and I stayed with my parents in a very damp and lovely part of Somerset for a few days. I was not permitted to leave the sofa (to be honest, I didn't put up much of a fight) and Pickle had a great time amassing wonders. Mum was a bit twitchy every time the phone rang because my sister-in-law was due to have their first baby on January 1st. Luckily she has stayed put well past National Hangover Day and we're all now impatient to meet her, particularly her mum.

Meanwhile I have been working and readying our home for my new daughter. My laptop is going through a tricky patch in its relations with my external harddrive, so I can't access photos, but I do have this scan picture:

I had an extra scan because her growth chart looks disasterous, but it seems that is because she is trying out a new position every time she's measured. I've told her my preference for head down, but you know how hard it is to get kids to listen.

So all is well. Pickle has gone back to school having not had enough holiday to really recover from last term and the excitement of Christmas, but she is happy to do so and I, while predictably tired and experiencing mild versions of various pregnancy ailments, am basically hale and hearty and deeply grateful that my family is growing in this beautiful way.

Wishing you all joy this year - not simply happiness (although go ahead and have a bunch of that too), but the kind of wriggling, skipping joy which makes it nearly impossible to behave sensibly.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Still Reaching For The Light

It is done.

It was a very happy thing to create (see my last post for earlier stages), but already Christmas is making demands and the baby is also making itself known with much writhing and thrashing about. So preparations for both are underway. 

Keep Saturday 5th December clear if you can get to Chagford because our Artisan Fayre is back with another wonderful mix of talented artists of all ilks, not to mention the music and teas and cakes and those very nice mince pies and... but really it's all about the art and not at all an excuse to hang out with some really lovely people in a sort of all-day party/market way. Do come!

The first load of very tiny clothes have been washed. Pickle and I had an unashamedly squealy time hanging them up to dry and it was fun to see her amazememnt at how very teeny some of them are. I'm not sure she really believes me that she was once just a loveable lollable blob of blubber which fitted into these clothes.

And space is needed (as it always is in our house), so I have taken radical action and offerred one of our sofas to whoever could carry it down our twisty stone steps on their head. No Gappies were harmed in the making of this photo.

There is a sadness in this crisp autumn air. Two young women friends, both with particularly warm hearts and generous natures, have died within the last month and another is very ill indeed. Also, I have recently made it through another wedding anniversary - a day I hope to celebrate rather than suffer at some point. Death brings gratitude to the living, as well as sorrow, and I am making the most of this gift each time I step outside, following Pickle with her new dinosaur backpack, to meet a new day. We continue to find ways to reach for the light.

For Bea. For Ella.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Reaching For The Light Supersized and Iron in the Blood

The sun is shining, the hips and haws are out and there is iron in my blood.

I realise there should always be iron in one's blood, but it transpired the reason I was struggling to cope with even the basics of our lives was that I had too little. I don't yet feel like The Iron Woman, but the house is less of a midden, some paperwork has been achieved, my current commission is progressing (more of that later) and I am here, reporting my emergence to all you kind souls who were so lovely after my last post. There is still some way to go, as this morning there was a moment of Mama-fail when there were no clean 'Wednesday' socks. Pickle has such high standards!

The school wheel is turning again and this year Pickle is balancing beautifully in its centrifugal spin, skipping up a reading scheme (a relief for me too) and generally benefitting from the calmer, more focussed atmosphere. She was particular about having 'proper shirts' (no comfy airtek for this girl) 'with wrist buttons'. See what I mean about standards? I'm tempted to buy her cufflinks for Christmas - they will blow her mind!

You can't tell from that picture, but Pickle's beautiful ponytail...

has become a beautiful squirel tail.

She is very happy about this and brushing her hair is a much happier time for us both.

Having felt so grim all during the holiday and only taken Pickle on daytrips (which were brilliant) and a few days at my parents' (which were also good), I was sad we hadn't managed a real holiday while it's just the two of us. That's the only reason I can come up with for why I agreed to go camping whilst pregnant in September. I'm very glad I did. We went as part of a gang of families from Pickle's class and my lovely friends put up and took down our big bell tent (which I currently can't even lift) and we totally lucked out on the weather, so a delightful weekend was had by all.

My sand angel found innovative new ways to become filthy

while I admired the view of blue sky and other people in really cold water.

 The children were very proud of the crab they found

and at the end of each day Pickle and I snuggled up and did lots of this:

Chagford has been temporarily renamed Chaiford for the Bangra finale to Chagford's famous film festival. An Indian/Bangladeshi restaurant has serendipitously just opened and their stall scented the Square and made me miss India. Pickle and her best friend (and fiancee) had had a sleepover at ours the night before and been mostly awake since 4:00am, so we didn't drag them round stalls for too long. We took them to the park and then to the pub for chips where our young friend smashed his apple juice bottle so spectacularly that the waitress smashed a tray of hot chocolates. We haven't been back. Bellies finally full of chips and children placated with hot chocolates and relay wees (why can't they all go at once?), we staggered blindly into the sun for the Bhangra flashmob and amazing elephant, which lead the procession.

And during all of that, in half hour bursts while I was confident I wouldn't vomit and Pickle was alseep and I had enough concentration, I have been slowly Reaching Towards The Light again. Someone saw one of my greeting cards and wanted the original, but it has long sold. So she commissioned me to do the same (I gave her the speech about how it will never come out exactly the same), but bigger. It's still not finished, but the Light is in sight. I had planned to take a smooth series of photos, but you will see I have forgotten for patches of time.

More greenery needs to shoot up and those flowers are no good to the bees without nectared centres, but it will be done soon and brightening a new family home, which pleases me very much.

Meanwhile, my new family member is growing apace (as am I). Lots of reassuring kicks and an anomaly scan in only a couple of weeks. Pickle and I can't possibly wait to find out if she will have a brother or sister. The citizens of Chagford are making their guesses. Add yours here if you have a hunch. I do, but I'm not telling...

Sunday, 23 August 2015

The Blooming and the Bud

There is so much I haven't said.

The seven-week scan with the two blinking heartbeats. Two! The horror in the eyes of friends as they congratulated me. The planning for two of everything. Pickle's pride and excitement at being a big sister to twins.

Then the weeks of rolling nausea and exhaustion which left me barely able to care for Pickle, myself and my two growing beings, and entirely unable to to do any housework or stay awake for an entire day. Pickle has been amazing. I am very grateful for how she accepted and adapted to my less fun state.

The 12-week scan, my first chance to see them properly. But... one heartbeat. Just one now. One healthy and very active baby; one sad forever-bud adrift within me. No heartbeat and no future. We will never know who it would have been if the folds had been crisper or the edges more neatly aligned and the whole wonderful origami of evolution had - Ta dah! - made a baby, a human instead of this tiny cloven-brained frog with no jump. We will never know.

Very, very much (I have pinned my sanity on this), I hope we will know who this other baby will be as it and I bloom together towards birth. Because I am still carrying my little frog, there is a risk of losing both, but I want to spend all the time we have together, 70 more minutes or 70 more years, believing in this life and preparing myself for the full-frontal heart collision that is motherhood again. 

It is time for something really spectacular and wonderful to happen to Pickle and I. Twins seemed the miracle which promised us happiness and joy. One baby is miracle enough.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Bee Paradise

Well, I have been a busy bee. I have finished another original greetings card. This one took aaages (but happy ages) and you can see why:

It's called Bee Paradise (again, no prizes) and is listed in my Etsy shop here.

Meanwhile, I have sold Reaching For The Light (still available as greetings cards here) and received a commission for a much bigger version which I'm already looking forward to starting. I'll show you its progress as I go.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

The People Have Spoken

A while ago I had the bright idea of selling all my postcards in bundles of five, instead of posting then out one at a time for little profit. I thought it was a great idea and actually many people were already buying several at once, enjoying combining their favourite designs, so what could go wrong?.

Well I'm still not sure what went wrong, but wrong it did go. Sales dwindled immediately and, despite me trying to make it clearer and easier, they stayed at a pitiful trickle. The people have spoken and the people must get what they want, so yesterday I spent hours changing all my postcard listings back to how they were a few months ago. See how good I am to you?

Now, and forevermore, if you want to buy just one postcard, please do. Having seen that the alternative is selling almost none to almost nobody, I will be delighted to package up your one favourite postcard and send it to your home. All profit is good profit!

Here are just a few of my favourite designs (there are 57 to choose from!):

Those Who Sing, Pray Twice:

Tendril Tree:

Oak, Reflected:

I Wish:

Tulip Field:

Cosmic Bard (my favourite self-portrait by Thomas):

Don't Give Up (the one I've needed most recently):

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