Friday, December 23, 2011


What does Christmas mean to you?

Today I needed to 'pop' to the shops for a couple of last minute bits (disorganised this year with all the exam stress!) and it was frightful. Every single space in car park was taken! People had their carts piled to the roof.
It was actually quite scary how much people had.
The woman in front of me was buying, amongst the more Christmassy things, perishables and delicacies; lard, self raising flour, juice, polishes, a frying pan. She, quite literally, was shopping for the end of the world, and she had many, many allies.
But why?
The shops in the UK shut for one day and one day only.
Why do you need polish two days before Christmas, are you planning on doing extra cleaning or really have you suddenly run out today? Bizarre.

This is Christmas to me:

Making mince pies

Lighting the fire and bunking down reading stories and playing games

The tree and pretty twinkling lights

Christmas is a time for being together with friends and families and quite honestly I don't think they'll really care if you have a little dust...well, mine better not or they know where I keep the polish.

Have a lovely Christmas x

Friday, November 04, 2011

A story of a cake.

Once upon a time in a cottage in a village somewhere on the edge of the Cotswolds, there lived a mama bear and her three little cubs. Every day, the mama bear would make porridge for her cubs, she would bake bread and hang the washing on the line. Whilst the washing swayed in the breeze she would gently rock her self back and forth, back and forth in her rocking chair by the fire whilst she lovingly knitted one of her cubs a new jumper for the coming winter.

Okay, so this is where the record scratches.

So, let me tell you a TRUE story about a harassed ex mama bear who decided that the time had come for her to embark on a three year midwifery degree course...whilst attempting to stay afloat with her cubs (who were at times acting more like wolf cubs than cute cuddly bears), put a meal on the table each day that contained a microgram of veg and didn't come out of a can, ensure the cubs were suitably dressed for the winter in clothes that were patched together (on occasions with sellotape - temporarily mind you!) and the porridge lingered in the pot so long that it was used for the youngest cub's model sculpture for homework - late of course!

One fine long day, she returned home from work to discover a request demand from the cubs' school for a cake for a bake sale, not 24 hours later. The mother bear smiled growled and put the cake plate aside vowing to bake the following afternoon. Of course, as in all good fairy tales, the story doesn't always go according to plan and, the mother bear, being a student midwife and dutiful at that a freakin' eager beaver, attended a homebirth with her mentor that following afternoon, returning to the den, sleepy and tired at 10pm that night.
On being greeted by the feckin' plate, she realised that she didn't have time to go out and buy one, taking the wrapping off and claiming a hand made job make one that night, so she decided she would get up the next morning as she had been rather uncharacteristically growly with her offspring, and bake a cake.

The following morning she arose at dawn and set to work. An hour later she had a perfect cake sitting on the counter top waiting for icing. A carrot cake with lemon icing - quite a work of art ;-) However, she had had to ice it later in the day due to it still being warm, so took it to the school at lunchtime.

The rest of this bit is mindnumbingly boring, so I'll skip a few chapters, your toddler doesn't know this story so won't work out that I missed out the middle to save time, thus repeating it to you word for word.

The mother bear went up to the school at the end of the day and bought some cupcakes from the bake sale so that she could contribute to the lives of her children, feel less guilty.

The next day her middle bear called her up on the phone to tell her that there had been some cakes leftover from the previous day and he had decided to buy one for us all to share for dinner that evening.
He excitedly explained that he had bought one with lemon icing as lemon icing is his very favourite type of icing.
He then explained that this cake was a carrot cake with lemon icing and he was very much looking forward to having some for tea.

I think it is fair to say at this point that the mother bear would have liked to have said something rather indiscreet containing many "bleeps" and not quite for the ears of a little cake loving bear. Instead she realised that if you decide to continue to be a mother bear when studying to become a midwife, the egg will indeed end up on your face!

Friday, October 07, 2011

Chasing placentas!

Popping in to say hi.

This week I feel rather like Pippin does when she chases her tail. The adventure and excitement is addictive, but the lack of achievement overwhelms.
(This is NOT Pippin btw, but did make me laugh!)

It has been the last week of our month long induction this week, next week we're out in the community!
We've had mandatory trust inductions, lectures, practical days etc.
It's been fun, but exhausting, overwhelming, amazing, incredible, exciting, terrifying, boring and wonderful all at once and right now my brain is ready to burst open at the seams.

I've got nearly a whole bloody notebook full of scribbles already so am trying to make some semblance of order this weekend - Oh, the sky is full of pigs tonights!
I've ordered several really great books and have a pile of library ones with a gazillion little post its poking out the sides telling me that when I go to that page I will forget what it is I put the post it note in there for in the first place *sigh*.

I also have to remember that people don't have the same fascination over placentas as I do and that, as I've seen quite a few with my doula work, some of the poor girls were just overcoming  their initial gut reactions this week. I don't think they appreciated me diving in, rubbing my hands all over the placenta and saying rather loudly "Oh my god, it's beautiful, look at the blood on it, it'd make a lovely print". I think I may have blotted my copy book (particularly with the poor 18 year olds fresh from school) and I'm now marked as a social nutter!
I also have to make a note to myself that tea time is not the best time to relate the story to my family or continue talking about the one that had some missing lobes and felt grainy.
It's NOT normal !
Still, best I get this out of the way now, rather than gush over some poor new mum's placenta in a few weeks time.

Tonight I'm having a night off from opening a text book. Mr Beehive and myself are taking ourselves to our local as it's the "cheese club" night. Mr Beehive is always wanting to share his smoked cheese with anyone that is stupid enough to listen (tasting is fine - it tastes lovely, it's just the blow by blow account of his smoker and the method that is enough to cause you to go mouldy not least the cheese!)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

And so it begins...

I have been chastised, for being slack. However, once you know where I've been, you'll be a little more gentle with me.
I've been at uni!
Two weeks ago I started my journey as a student midwife.
It's been a tumble of emotions to get to this point.
Will we have childcare, or won't we?
Will the children fare okay without me or will I be consumed by guilt?
Will the academic work steam ahead of me or will I keep up?
Will I cope with the many hats I wear as NHS employee, NCT teacher and doula?

The list is endless and ever changing too, however, as one of my lecturers said, we need to take one day at a time.
I have the first four weeks sorted, then I'll work on the next.

I'm still a few weeks away from going out into the community and have to do all the basic training first, so these few weeks are a bit of a headrush of necessary nursing and other requirements and not so much midwifery, but before I know it, it'll be time to be out there...

We are keeping reflective diaries in order to help ourselves as practitioners, the NCT has prepared me well for this little gem ;-)
I can see that the diary will become more related to cases and my individual days than a wider picture, so I hope to keep this blog for that purpose and there will not be any inference to anyone or any case I may run up against.
What I hope to do with this blog is use it for a way to find some kind of restorative calm and peace. A way of reminding myself about the other things in my life and the world.

The next three years are going to change me (or so I've been told). However, I don't want to change too much, or at least, I'd rather mould for the good of midwifery than become hardened or brittle. I may need to remind myself from time to time who I am or why I'm doing this or how to do this with a smile or a peaceful heart. I may need a place to seek solitude that reminds me that there is a wider reason to this, that by doing the small things, I will, slowly help to change bigger things.

So, I'm going to leave you today with a picture of my new sanctuary...the bathroom, it's finally finished!
and a quote from Gandhi that will, hopefully, ensure I remember why.

" A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history"

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Je Retourne!

Only one more week until school starts back. It's incredible how fast time has gone.

So much has happened since I last wrote, so, firstly "hello, I hope you all had a good summer and that you didn't receive too much rain. I hope my friends on the East coast of the US are relatively unscathed after their run in with Hurricane Irene."

So what has been happening here in the Beehive. Well, the girls have arrived, which has been big news.

Friday we became the proud owners of six hybrids:
Bluebelle - She is already the dominant chook and bosses the others around.

Diamond (the coral) and Ginger (the Goldie) hiding under the house. Her sister, Molly is hiding in the house!

Mrs Miggins (hmmm, too much Blackadder! the copper black)

Speckled Jim - the Speckled, not male, too much Baldrick, hen.

And then  less than 24 hours later, they gave us these! So, so far, they are paying for their keep!
We also had a week in France after my delicious friend, Em, finally had her even more delicious (sorry!) baby:

Delicious Baby!

So France, that was great! We spent a week in the Dordogne and had a lovely time, bar the weather, the borrowed teen and the broken car window!

We visited Grottes and Chateaux, drank copious amounts of red wine and ate cheese with everything and played far too many games of scrabble, but it was a great week to reconnect and not feel part of the world. In fact, we pushed our heads so far into the sand we didn't even hear about the riots in the UK until I caught sight of the headlines on our penultimate day.

Now we are back to reality, the reality of still not having a bathroom completed, still not having a shower that works upstairs, still having many, so many weeds in the wild garden that the garden is less wild than dead, back to the reality that in less than eight days my eldest will be a secondary school child, that in less than 15 I will be a student midwife. Life is a times ahead!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Craft Camp

I know, I know, I said I was going to be away for much of the summer, but we have just come back from a week at a craft camp and I just had to share it with you, so this is a temporary return for a while ;-)

Last Sunday we packed the car to the gunnels to drive down to Gloucestershire for a craft camp. We were a little wary because we didn't seem to have too much information about the whereabouts or what we were required to bring. Dare I say it...oh, go on as I have been there and feel I am therefore has it's roots in Steiner education and simply was organised in a similar vein. If you had been to the camp before, you were sorted, but if not, you were expected to just "arrive" and eventually you'd go with the flow.

So that's fine and I presumed we'd have a day of high wound-up-ness as we found our groove and chilled out, however, what I didn't presume was that the place would be so bleedin' difficult to find, that we'd arrive crying, stressed and with smoke coming out the engine of the car!
We had a tiny map that had been put on the website that didn't even have the names of the roads we needed, no postcode and no emergency contact number and I was trying to navigate with Richard on speaker phone whilst he tried to track this field from home...yes, mad eh, but the postcode we did have was for the centre where it was taking place but was no where near the place where everyone was camping!
At one point we started off down a very steep hill for the road to suddenly become exceedingly narrow and truthfully, not wide enough for my car and top box! About a quarter of a way down I decided that we were highly likely to become wedged or scrape the car, so decided that we had to come out....backwards. It sounds now, like a comedy moment, but it wasn't at the time and it also sounds like I was a muppet for setting off along a lane that was too narrow, but it became narrow very quickly and this wasn't visible from the start of the lane...honest!
Of course, the car didn't like reversing up a hill, so we had to take ten for me to stop sweating, shaking and the car to stop steaming. Now it has a trip to the garage to probably replace the clutch F***kity f**k.

Eventually we found the very tiny hand painted sign on the un-named road in a farm, parked and pitched and began to frantically find our grooves.

This makes the whole thing sound awful, which it wasn't at all. As I said, if you'd been there before (which I soon discovered, most people had) then finding it would have been easy. You'd also had been aware that you didn't literally take heed of the instructions to only bring plates and cups but you needed to bring your own stove really for hot water, that there was only one shower between 200 people and a supply of water and soft drinks were a necessity. You'd also have known that coming late would mean you were a long way from the communal area (which benefited us at night time as we weren't kept awake by drumming circles or jamming sessions) which meant a long walk to wash your plate, have a shower, fetch a coffee etc...hence the need next time for a stove. You would also have recognised some of the craft tutors so you could have ensured you were close to them when the time came to choose your craft for the week and this way you'd get a space, rather than us who waited until we were told who was whom and then couldn't get on as the 8 spaces they had were already allocated!

Still, by Monday afternoon I think we'd begun to find our grooves and Master Beehive the elder was busy stretching animal skins over frames to make a shield and whittle himself a spear in the Young Warrior group, Master Beehive the younger was busy making pots in all shapes and forms in the Pottery group, LMB was making all kinds of mess and singing songs in the 6 - 7 crafts and stories group and I was learning to make a spoon out of green wood.

Meals were group efforts with each tutor group taking a lunch or dinner session to prepare and serve.
The food was excellent...primarily veggie, so of course Master Beehive the younger lived on bread and pureed fruit that I'd brought for the most part, however, one evening there had been a slaughter earlier int he day and lamb and pork were on the menu. He gained some colour and began to smile again!!

By day two, once we'd made our peace with the fact we weren't going to be showering daily, lentils were the staple diet, that we would, quite literally be crapping in the woods (in composting toilets...) and mobile phones were unchargeable, I was beginning to enjoy the slowness of it all. To be in an environment where we were learning to make everything we'd need to live was pretty amazing.
Although most people stuck with the craft they'd chosen for the whole week, other workshops on offer were leatherwork, blacksmithing, metal casting, musical instrument making, weaving, felting, basket making, diggeridoo making, bushcraft, pottery, warriors and others I've probably forgotten.
We will definitely do this again as there are huge numbers of crafts I'd like to learn.

My next experience of crafting will be next year when i am going to be learning to make silver jewellery. Last week I "doula-ed" for my beautiful friend Emma, who was the true amazon woman exuding strength from every last bone in her body during her mammoth four day labour. Her sweet baby boy, Arthur, was born on Master Beehive the younger's birthday. As a thank you (which she didn't need to do) she, Arthur and Arthur's daddy, bought me a weekend silversmith course. I am so touched by this. I most certainly wasn't expecting a material thank you because I was just so honoured that she allowed me to be there with her. Birth is a very intimate and private occasion and each time a family allows me to be there, I feel honoured, although i know I am offering them a service for which they are paying, it is still a very sacred occasion to be a part of. However, for Emma I didn't want payment because she is my friend first and foremost, who just happened to be having a baby. So this was a very special thing for her to do for me and for me to be able to do for her. So Emma, if you're reading this at 2am in the morning with Arthur nursing and making those cute snuffly noises...thank you, you are truly generous and I am very grateful and happy xxx

Back to the story, it was pretty wonderful to return to civilisation, however, and come home to hot water, mattresses that don't deflate in the night, a mirror (although that wasn't quite so nice initially!) and a hot cup of "my" coffee - albeit, it was pretty good coffee at the camp and you'd earned it after the walk!
However, I am going to have my hair cut today and put chemicals on it (oops!), eat a take away this evening (bigger oops!) and use my computer to put my photos on facebook (bigger oops still!) and look forward to my holiday in a fully equipped gite in France next week, so perhaps I'm not totally cut out for life in a cave just yet ;-)

Friday, July 22, 2011

Skool's out for summer!

Summer is here, well, school is out at least.
One thing about summer is that it reminds me how much I truly miss living in Connecticut and the summer season in the US. Guaranteed warm or hot days, swimming at the YMCA outdoor lido, swimming at one of two local water holes, the beach, hanging out with friends, lying in a hammock dodging my hibiscus flowers falling off the tree, melons, oh, so big in the garden and fighting the rabbits and deer to get there first.
10 weeks, if not 11 or 12 of blissful nothing-ness.

We didn't have plans as such, well we had a few camps here and there, but for some reason, life just seemed so "un - stressy".

There was no rush to buy school uniform and new shoes for the fall before it all sold out or everyone was getting the kids' feet measured.

Maybe I just feel rather full to brimming at the moment of trying to hold onto and juggle a bit too much, but all i can think of is "how on earth will I fit it all in in six weeks" and "I hope it won't rain and ruin all the plans".

I'm sure it'll come together once we start relaxing and lying in without the rush of having to get to school on time.

I partly think that it feels more stressy than usual because I know I only have seven weeks until I start at uni and life will be a permanent juggle for three years. It's a kinda of last chance saloon summer ;-)

It's also been an emotional and epic week in other ways. My beautiful, strong friend Emma finally birthed her gorgeous boy, Arthur on Thursday, after a week of off/on labour. The poor sweetheart was totally exhausted by the final stages but let me tell you, she was AWESOME!

Arthur shares a birthday with my very own Master Beehive the younger. It is a phenomenal coincedence and brilliant addition to Emma's and my story. That we only "reunited" with each other after many, many years, a short few years ago, yet our history extends back to the age of 11 when we were at secondary school together and for our boys to share a birthday seems...well, extra special in a way, a kind of bigger bond. I certainly won't have an excuse to forget to send him his birthday gift each year ;-)

So congratulations Em, as I know you'll be reading this as your sweet smelling little boy is nestling into you,  nursing and you only have one hand free to scroll your mouse up...internet reading will be your life for a while!!

And on the subject of new beginnings, Master Beehive the elder has also reached the end of an era. Yesterday he finally left primary school for good. In September he will join a new Secondary school. It's incredible to think that my firstborn is old enough now and in the same time again will be leaving home for university. He has grown so tall, lost all his "babyface". He has his roots now and I really hope to see him get his wings and learn to fly at his new school.

Life really does pass by at a rate of knots and it is so easy to be so busy that you miss it. As John Lennon said; "life is what happens when you're busy making other plans"

So, on that note, I will not be blogging very much over the summer. We have a wonderful week at a craft camp lined up with some friends from Edinburgh, then we're going to drive to the south of France for a week holed up in a gite with a pool and eat lots of french bread, brie and drink copious amounts of vin rouge and finally we will be catching up with friends, shopping for new shoes, school uniforms, university gear, gathering the final bounty from the garden and storing it for the autumn and welcoming home Mr Beehive who, after four months away from us is finally coming home next week.

What's not to celebrate?

Friday, July 01, 2011

Sphincters, Birth, Friends and Dildos all before breakfast!

Last night I was propping my eyes open after having two hours sleep and being called to a birth.

The birth, as all births do, taught me something yet again. It reinforced in me the fact that no one is in charge of anything when it comes to birth. It taught me that we can help women prepare and understand things, but ultimately, birth will do what birth does best and will be unpredictable.
My mama was around 39 weeks (but who's counting?) when she rang to say she had some leaking that wasn't really stopping. Three weeks later I finally got the call to say that her waters had fully gone with somewhat of a pop and contractions were picking up.
From past experiences and the fact her first birth was only 14 hours and straightforward, I'd got it into my head that this birth would be fast. So much so, that I was actually concerned I may not even make it.
It was a humbling thing to discover that second births are not always fast or around half the length of time of the first. I learned that you can never predict anything in birth.
Outward signs mean different things for different women and different births. I also feel even stronger about the connection between psychological needs impacting on the birthing process. As I watched her contract I visually saw her retract into herself as if she was scared to let go.
She laboured so calmly and beautifully,rhythmically rocking and blowing and making ripples on the water of the pool but when she felt the desire to bear down, she appeared to try to pull upwards. What was her brain telling her? What was worrying her?

For some women, there are things within the course of their journey to becoming a mama, for the first time or subsequently that can impact on their release of their baby. Perhaps this mother is fearful that she may pass a stool? Perhaps as a mother bringing a sibling into the world, she's scared about her ability to parent two or her relationship with her firstborn and how that may change now? Maybe there is a reason as to why she's scared that comes from her first birth, an episiotomy or forceps story that needs to be told during pre natal visits.

 Ina May mentions this a couple of times in her book Spiritual Midwifery. One of her women appeared to stall at 7-8cms and eventually it was discovered that she was fearful that her husband might leave her (he was at her side) as their marriage was not "official" in her eyes. The marriage was officiated there and then on the spot and this appeared to be the bridge required for the woman to "allow" herself to release her baby.

It's not an uncommon phenomenon. There are reports of animals in the wild doing this, where there is the threat of danger or a predator close by, if a mother is close to birthing her baby, she will, in fact, close up again to ensure that her body keeps the unborn safe until danger has passed.

A midwife friend of mine has a couple of female cats. Last year, one of them, heavily pregnant, made a nest for her impending birth. The other cat (non-pregnant) destroyed the nest (yeah, jealousy - let's save that psychological mess for another time!). The pregnant one tried again, in a different place. Repeat!
Finally two days after she'd made the first nest she managed to give birth at the bottom of a sleeping bag where the other cat couldn't find her. Her body held her kittens in until time was safe.

It's not a rare occurrence that you read that a mother whose partner is away or whose preferred midwife is not on call or an older child has a birthday, waits until all these things are rectified and satisfactorily "put to bed" before she "allows" her body to open up.

It all just reiterates "sphincter law". The cervix is a sphincter, just like the anus, the ileocolic, uretheral, pyloric and cardiac sphincters. If under stress or duress, they shut down and don't relax and open. It's a simple flight or fight response.

 I had talked at length with my mama, and it revealed nothing glaringly obvious. However, having been taken on rather late in the game (at 37 weeks) as they'd made more of an late decision to use a doula, I think I missed this whole "why we're having a doula" thing that "may" have been the reason things were slow. Often a woman taking on a doula for a second birth after not using one for a first has an agenda. Why does she need a doula this time if she didn't have one the first time? She has a need there, often something that she maybe wishes to avoid or not repeat. I knew her first birth story, what I didn't know though or really manage to explore was how she'd felt, emotionally, through her first birth. It wasn't a birth that happened in the UK and was a rather "over managed" affair. In hindsight I think that much of it she felt like a "specimen" on a slab. In hindsight, each time she was "on the bed" (despite asking to get on the bed herself) she clamped down. Once we got her onto the beanbag in a small, intimate corner of the room, she gave herself permission to release.

I also wonder how much an impact having growth scans and being referred because two separate parties on two separate occasions couldn't agree on the size of the baby, had affected her. With her first son born at around 39 weeks at 6lbs, I wonder if she was fearing that this new baby, who came at roughly 41 weeks was now going to be gargantous? She had already told me a couple of times during pre natals, that a baby puts on an oz a day.

What a wonderful thing hindsight is and what a wonderful thing being able to be a reflective practitioner is. What a wonderful job I have and will do that allows me to sit and listen to women and what a wonderful job to be in that surprises me everytime and keeps me humble to the power of women and the power of nature.

My next birth is going to be one of the most special and important events of my doula career and days of my life as a friend. My next birth will be as the doula for my dear friend, Emma, who has allowed me to be there to witness this - in return for a hand hold or two ;-) I feel so honoured for this opportunity and blessed that we managed to rekindle this friendship after nearly 20 years of being out of touch.

This brings me to the topic that I was going to blog about today, before getting all birthy on you again and that is friends.

This week has been an emotional bag due to feeling particularly vulnerable at the moment with Mr Beehive still working up in Edinburgh and there not being any set signs as to this ending at the moment and me feeling under the weather with a cold.

On Tuesday I did, what I never normally do (aren't I good *polishing halo) and earned my "mummy of the year" badge by taking my kids out of school to go to Legoland! It's an educational experience! We wouldn't normally do that except that some friends of ours from the US were here, quite literally for three days and we wanted to spend time with them, having not seen them for two!

There were tears and hugs and laughter and OMG, the chatter and noise!!! Laurie and I were unable to let go when we saw each other and the kids (we both have three and they're all around the same age) well, it was as if they had never left.

Amazingly, life, two years, two countries and yet there is nothing there that made it hard or awkward.

Last night, on two hours sleep, Laurie and I snuck away (thanks Magda!) to the pub for a quick dinner and pint of something "reddish with a good head" (L's description of a good english ale- honest guv!) which dissolved into raucous laughter in the corner, a wonderful meal and particular of a wonderful few days that we spent together at the Cape early in our friendship where after dinner one evening (the kids were at home with a sitter), Laurie took me on a tour of P'town and we ended up bonding over dildos in the porn shop!!! Apparently she's been worrying for the last couple of years that this was not a great way to develop a friendship and the fact that we are both on the extreme end of the "crap-o-meter" when it comes to telephoning or Skyping meaning that she was unsure if I was mentally scarred and ignoring her. Her only fault there is that she doesn't know me well enough...sadly. Our vow to each other is to remedy this and this also needs, therefore, for us to have a repeat performance and return to the Cape next summer to further develop our friendship and knowledge on P'town's extensive range of manacles and chocolate body paint (not on each other though I hasten to add!!)

So, true friends really are amazing people. People who allow you to attend their births and who you can discuss dildos with over a pint of something "red with a head" and a bowl of faggots (yes, I forgot to throw that in, my local pub has them on the menu in a tomato sauce - apparently v. yummy!)

Both these friends are ones who I don't see often, sadly, due to distance primarily, but both these amazing women are such huge parts of who I am.

My friends make me smile, cry, laugh until I nearly pee my pants. We can pick up where we left off. We can know that the other is okay with no more contact than a text or email message, but then spend hours over dinner or in the rain over a flacid sandwich at a theme park, putting the world to right and finishing each others' sentences. Two more friends sent me a message last week when I was feeling particularly down after a disparaging week of mishaps and lack of husband, to say they were coming to see me. They had decided amongst themselves to arrange to come. I cannot say what that sentiment did for my week. Tonight my best friend arrives with her hubby and two kids. They're here for the weekend and we're going to the local version of Glasto on Saturday. This friend has seen me through thick and thin...provided boxes (with holes in) for me to puke in at age 17, cleared up and covered for me when I've done things I shouldn't, slammed doors in my face when I've pissed her off and been on the front row for all the concerts I've played in. She (along with all my beautiful friends) supports what I do, doesn't mind when I use the words vagina and placenta in dinnertime conversation, looks after my children when she thinks i need a break. She tells me when she thinks I'm a knob and gives me a hug when she's listened to me rant and cry. She's seen the boyfriends come and go, walked with me down the aisle and was the first person to hold her first nephew. She's seen me at my very best and my very worst. Our friendship is unconditional.

Friends are truly amazing people and I am so blessed.

Today tell your friends how much you truly love them.

Have a happy weekend x

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


In my garden this week I have peas, lots and lots of lovely mange tout peas at the moment. One minute they were teeny seeds that I sowed, with a small tinge of doubt and a lot of hope.  Over the months they slowly developed without my full knowledge or acknowledgement, beautiful white flowers were the only sign that they were happy and content in the sun with their roots in the soil. 
Suddenly I have these beautiful peas.
But are they ready to pick? Should I eat them as they are, crisp and fresh, or wait just a little while longer for them to fatten and to see what further delights Mother Nature has to offer me?

My lady number one is now a week and a day past her hospital-imposed due date. She's doing fine. She's well and the baby is happy, but he's just not quite ready to come to meet her. 
He's a cute, tender little mange tout right now and give him a couple more days he'll fatten and also have a sweet and tender tiny pea in the middle that will make his mama draw breath every time she sees it, and she'll be glad, so glad that she waited because in that moment, the world stands still.

Nature is the boss. Time is the essence. Together they are the perfect combination. Mess with things and the bitterness creeps in.

That is all for today apart from a few photos from around the garden: 

sweet peas
Blue Agapanthas

North Star, white agapanthas

Purple Sprouting broccoli from which we ate our first portion on Sunday - delicious!

Colourful chard, ripe for the picking very soon. 
and "sweet" Pippin. Not remotely for eating, but growing as fast as the crops.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

D'ya want Pitocin with that?

Have you noticed recently how much American stuff seems to be slipping into UK markets? I'm not just talking about the fact that you can buy Nerds in the local sweet shop here (yeah, don't tell my kids!), but such names as Krispy Kreme are beginning to roll off the tongues of the Brits as if we were talking pear drops or mint humbugs. There is a Subway on every corner too! I really noticed this today and last week when looking for somewhere to grab a sandwich. What has happened to the little independent delis that gave us choice over our bread, our filling, crusts on or off, butter, mayo etc. If "choice" has become limited by the few things on the standardised menu which can be found uniformly in every town across the UK, what message is that sending out?

But I'm not writing a blog entry about sandwiches or chocolate (I probably could write one on the latter). I'm naturally writing about birth. What started out as something that could have done wonders for the birthing culture; what began as something where directors had the power to change the way birth is envisaged; has become a carcrash soap opera. Directors had every opportunity to normalise birth, however, the power of the media saw an investment. The success of OBEM* (that acronym on is the lips of a good portion of pregnant women, midwives, doulas, childbirth teachers and parents in the UK) has now become as appalling and stereotyped a reality show as Geordie Shores or Made in Chelsea. How, because we are now being broadcast the same show from across the pond. OBEM USA! Whoop de do! Excuse me for my lack of enthusiasm!

Now these same pregnant women are subjected to watching the American model, yes, I will use that term and many of my US friends and colleagues will back me up on that,  because that is exactly what it is for the most part in the US hospitals; a sterile, directed, organised template for women to slot neatly into. Birth will happen in hospital, in lithotomy position and if you don't fit that American model, you'll get "Pit- ed"**.

My job now as a doula and even more so as an antenatal teacher is now made twice as hard. Rather than starting from a position of just helping women realise they are able to ask questions, consent to or refuse various things, information gather and be independent thinkers and choice makers. Now I have to allay new fears, that the midwife will be on their side and not ready to shoot them up with a dose of pitocin if they so much as take a quick nap, that generally they won't have their legs in stirrups or people shouting like cheerleaders from the side lines all whilst shining lights that would impress Captain Kirk up their fanny. That their birth won't be over managed, rather like a processed food, with all the goodness and nutrients taken out to ensure that the end product is quick and easy for the outsider to manage.

Having been present at many births on both sides of the Atlantic I do see some traits from the technocratic model seeping slowly into the British birthing culture.
Cynical as I may be but this particular sketch springs to mind. From 1983 none the less, but the number of births I witnessed similar to this in the US is disturbing.

Ironically, it's British and presumably, at the time, meant to be farcical.

I see more women now who see consultants than ever I used to. Currently I have one woman who is being told that, despite two negative results for Group B Strep, she should have antibiotics...why? Another woman is being told that she'll "need" a caesarean section,  and not be able to have her planned VBAC. When she questioned this, was told the usual story about her scar rupturing. This is a well informed lady. She was, luckily, able to throw some figures back at her consultant to show the minimal risk of this happening, she was then told that her baby would be too big for her to birth. Which is it for one thing?

So what can be done? How can we stop the invading shadow of the likes of OBEM USA becoming the future generations' perception of "normal birth"? I don't see the fear or the acceptance of interventions without challenge in mums having their second or third babies. These mothers realise they are powerful and that their bodies can birth. They realise that in a low risk normal birth, there is nothing to be fearful of and that the baby will be born when it's born. A first time mum, however, has no previous experience of her own to draw from so she gets her ideas from the media, her friends and family.

Back in March this year I asked Ina May Gaskin this very question:

"How, in a world where we most women interpret "normal" birth by what they see in the media and from "horror" stories, can we empower women to trust in their bodies and trust birth for the first birth, not the second or third?"

And her answer was that it starts with women telling their stories, spreading the word. Women need to tell the story of their normal births and not be embarrassed because their friend had a c-section and she had a straightforward birth.  I personally, had an epidural, an augmentation and a ventouse with my first child. I think it must have been hearing the stories of the one or two women in my antenatal group that told their stories of their normal births that made me realise for my second child, things could and would go very differently and that may be down to me doing things differently as well. Don't feel guilty because you birthed your baby with no pain relief or that you weren't induced or even enjoyed it with a euphoric sense of achievement and pride. If you tell that story to even one person, you may change things. Perhaps you can tell the story to your daughters and then to your granddaughers. Tell it to your sons and grandsons so they can tell their wives and partners. Pass the word. We can change the world, one birth at a time.

*One Born Every Minute
** Pitocin in the US or Syntocinon in the UK - both of which are artificial synthetic oxytocin.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Fruits of my labour

I think it's time for a little update around the house:

I've been attempting to find ways to ensure that the three strawberries that my 16 or so plants produce this year are not eaten by the nesting pigeons in the tree above the strawberry patch. So on Sunday decided to create my own defense system. The words "cobbling together" really don't do the appalling carpentry justice. Let's just say, if any bird manages to get through the chicken wire, it's likely to die horribly, impaled on one of the gazillion nails that "missed" when I was attempting to bash them through. However, if it lasts a couple of seasons, then it's worked (not the bird that is!)

So this is a slightly better piece of joinery! I've made another raised bed. Realising that they are silly money in the shops and I could make one myself for less, this is a really basic bed. I think it will be my lettuce bed next year, but I feel compelled to plant more radishes today after trying the first of our season's booty this morning.

This is all that remains as I had it for breakfast. It is a reminder that, despite feeling like one radish really won't feed the 5000, there is a reason as to "why" I grow lots of veg. Sinead O'Connor basically sang about* why growing your own veg is superior to shop bought ;-) (and if you press the link and you're my age - you'll be whizzed back to late night parties in Becky's house during sixth form years!!)

*okay, so she wasnt' "actually" singing about vegetables - but then I suppose it depends who you dated !

This shot shows the whole of the plot. It's really hard to show how it looks now in comparison to February when I started and it was just an overgrown mass of weeds. I'm really chuffed.

Some rather marvellous bounty all shiny and red - well, okay, a bit green too - but we're holding out for enough mixed berries to make something with on Sunday!
Painted the front door. Now all I have to do is cut back the triffid that is wisteria to ensure that we can actually get in and out of the house and there isn't a Sleeping Beauty's castle situation.

And when it gets cold or rains, I can retreat to my nice fire (I keep showing this don't I?!) and the sunny batik we brought back from Kenya last year that we've finally had framed. The perfect place I think.

As for the rest of the week. It's been a bit of a mixed bag of emotions. I've been frustrated with things going missing in the mail, both things I've sent recently AND stuff that's been sent to me. One of those things was all the important forms that I need to fill in and send back for uni. So I've been printing off ridiculous amounts of paper from websites instead to ensure I have all I need.Of course, the printer hasn't wanted to play ball, so there has been much cursing and wasted paper in the process.

I've then been tracing my medical notes as I need my immunisation records and need them signed.... However, somewhere between leaving the surgery in Edinburgh and moving down here and registering, the notes are "in transit" and that is as much as anyone can tell me. Of course the whole thing could be a bit of a moot point as I doubt my notes of 1973 will show my immunisations, despite the fact that I have a piece of paper with some vaccinations recorded from 1980ish. That's the problem of being a dinosaur!
I'm also finding it hard being a lone parent in the week. It seems so long until each weekend. Then, like happened this week, the electrician stops by to do a couple of things but unearths a plethora of other problems, some of which are dangerous...

I've also discovered that it's highly likely that one of my six weeks of holiday from uni will be changed to suit the school holidays. Which, in a normal year, would actually be great and, from a less selfish perspective is more practical. However, Mr Beehive and I had organised for my mum and dad to look after the kids whilst they were still in school and he and I were going to New York and back to Wilton for my fortieth for a few days. Now that's gotta be kyboshed!

Finally to top the week off, I learned that one of the teachers from the children's old Montessori school in the USA had succumb to cancer. She was only 50 and a wonderful lady. Full of life and vitality. Her youngest is Master Beehive the younger's age. Terribly sad.

On the upside though, a couple of school friends had been making plans behind my back to come to visit me. They  managed to reduce me to (happy) tears this week. I was so excited to get a note in my inbox to say that they were coming with their boys to spend a day with us here at The Beehive. I haven't seen either of them for...a long old time...too long! So that made me feel quite loved and gave me the kick up the arse required. Thanks Lynn and Becks xxx

Learning about Kristen and reading the blog of another of my friend's battling cancer at the moment makes me put everything in perspective. So if you have a few more moments, I'd just like to introduce someone to you:

This is Charisse.

Charisse made me cry the first time I really was introduced to her (seriously, there isn't a reccurrent theme with me and friends that make me cry- honestly!).

Not many of my friends do that. 

She had taken photographs of our children at the Montessori school that we were privileged to watch on a big screen during an parent/teacher evening early in the school year in 2005. In front of me and Mr Beehive was a picture of each of my boys in huge 10ft by 10ft black and white.
Raw, unchanged imagery of the insides of my boys' characters. This woman is SO remarkable that I swear she takes her photos of kids from the inside out. You don't just see the exterior, the blonde hair, blue eyes, you see what they are thinking, how they were learning, what emotions certain things manifest in them.

When I first met Charisse, she had just been undergoing treatment for non-hodgkins lymphoma. All her beautiful hair had come out and she was wearing a scarf. I remember her distinctly because I hadn't even noticed her hair, I noticed her eyes, the laughter on her face and the scarves - she had some cool scarves ;-)

When she was well, she would always be in school with her camera, capturing internal images of our children. Anyone can take a photo, but with Charisse's there is something more to them, something that actually makes you feel that you can reach out and shake the hand of the child in her picture or give them a hug, something that may even make you go home and look at your child in a different light as there is something there that you didn't notice before, something that Charisse and her camera are only let into, rather like being granted permission to step into a child's imagination just for a moment.
When she wasn't taking photos she would be laughing. I can actually hear her laughing even after two years of being away from Wilton. She has such a beautiful face that radiated the love that she has for life, her love, David and her boys.

So, I'm not going to grumble about the paperwork, the missing medical notes, the stupid wires that have been wired up wrong or the fact that during the week I don't have my Mr Beehive with me.

Charisse would use her coined phrase "Wasa" to put everything in perspective.

Wasa means "already done"
For Charisse, the power of this word is a message to her cancer that it is done with, gone. She will fight this and win.
For me, this week, I shall use Wasa to mean that life is what it is and what will be in it, will be. Tomorrow is a new day and yesterday and much of today is already done and there is little if not anything I can do to change it, just work with it.

Next time I have a crappy week, I shall take strength from Charisse, play this song and breathe a few Wasa's out into the air...maybe there'll be enough power in my energy to transmit some vibes to Charisse as well.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Be the change.

Yesterday I enjoyed the company of fellow colleagues. We had a "meeting" in the sunshine a top a beautiful vantage point in the Oxfordshire countryside. Apart from the birds and her aberrant neighbour shooting his gun at delayed intervals, all was well with the world!

Over a lunch of fresh salad leaves with fresh eggs from one colleague's garden, falafels and tzatziki from mine, soup from another, the question arose as to why I wanted to become a midwfe.

It's not a question I've not toyed with over and over and, because I am a hugely reflective person, will again, many times.

Why become a midwife when you're a doula? Why put yourself through it? In many respects I have it far better. I can be with women one to one from the beginning to the end, knowing that I have no medical responsibility for them and therefore, am not going to be hauled over the coals for something as long as I'm sensible and stick to basic rudementary guidelines and, more importantly, my own intuition. At the end of the day, the parents tend to thank me for what I've done and tell me how they couldn't have done it without me. Okay, well they could have, and would have, but that's a story for another day.

So why am I about to embark on three years of potentially removing all these options from my care. I won't be "with woman" from beginning to end. I will be more restricted with my choices and autonomy may be a word I struggle to bring into my care. My every move will be documented and monitored and if I miss to record even one contraction, it could be the last mistake I ever make. I may not have time to be with that woman from the minute she comes into the hospital to the minute she leaves and rubbing her back may only occur whilst I'm simultaneously caring for two or three other women. Ridiculous eh?

But actually, no!

I have always been very fond of Gandhi's statement "Be the change you want to see in the world" and I feel that midwives get short shrift over everything. Yes, there are some crappy midwives out there and sadly, as with any profession with a few crappy ones but the majority wonderful, it tends to be the tales of the crappy ones that pave the way for the rest. I honestly know that if I want to help to change birth experiences in the UK then I need to be a part of the closest force to that that I can be. I need to be "on the frontline" so to speak.

I don't have a "god complex", nor do I feel that I am a pseudo super-hero (although I do like this terminology, thanks Charlotte ;-) I just know there are better ways to do this than many of the stories I hear and I know that I can sit and bemoan it, or get in there and try, in a minimal way, to help change things. I also feel supported that there are many other women who are moving into midwifery now who feel the same way as I do. Perhaps the Mexican wave is coming?

I also have an interminable desire to learn and there is a huge lure towards the knowledge side of things, particularly to enhance my teaching skills. Of course, I don't have to put myself through three years of a degree to do this, that's just the surface.

I also know that much as I believe in the art of being able to be "hands off" as a midwife, as a doula there is more of an element of "hands tied". I can see things sometimes that I know I wouldn't do or have done as a midwife and then I have to sit back and watch my internally forecasted predictions unfold before my eyes. As much as I can suggest as a doula, make my clients aware of the pros and cons, the decision has to be theirs. Of course, as a midwife, I can't insist that the parents do as I say, nor should I want to, but the reality is that if I don't suggest breaking someone's waters to speed up a perfectly normal and healthy, if a little hesitant, labour, then it won't happen. As a doula, if a midwife suggests it, my clients may well choose to do it, regardless of my thoughts, because it has been suggested by the midwife and there is a feeling that it "must be for the best". It's hierachical. Naturally, as a US doula, I saw that more there than I do in the UK.

Last but not least, I think I'm lucky! Of course, I'm lucky to have a supportive family who can help me so I can do this, lucky that they love me and believe in me enough to know I'll make them all proud. I'm lucky that I got a place on a highly over subscribed course and I'm lucky that I am still wearing my rose tinted specs and feel that NHS politics won't get rid of me (they may get me down at times) and that my vision to provide one-to-one care from beginning to end, in the comfort of a birth centre or the mother's home is on the road to being fulfilled.

But most of all, I'm lucky that I AM a doula. I'm lucky that I have had six years of learning what a woman needs and how her emotions need to be met and what really is important, when push comes to shove (no pun intended!). I'm lucky that I can and bloody well will, put this essential part of caring for a labouring mother into practice as a midwife. I can be her sole carer, I can stop all the clocks and make her and her partner the most important people on the planet so that her birth experience, with the best of natures blessings, will be the best of her life.

So, there you have it.

Enjoy your day x

Monday, June 13, 2011

Planes, trains and automobiles!

It's awfully quiet around here today. There are no men putting holes in my walls or roof,  there's no au pair (not that she was ever loud!) and I only have one child having packed the older two off to a residential school trip for three days. What to do eh?

It does rather compensate for the weekend we've had. Firstly Mr Beehive's train was delayed due to something or other...probably rain *sigh*, so I had to go to Birmingham to pick him up at 9.30pm on Friday night. Then the teenager left for Germany, so she had to be taken to the airport for 5.30am, so back we went! It proceeded to rain ALL DAY on Saturday which was miserable and meant the jobs we'd planned for outside, couldn't be done and the washing got whiplash what with the schizophrenic on the line, off the line. The kids and Mr Beehive went to see Horrible Histories in Oxford and had sushi, I'd also got a ticket but realised that it was asking a lot of the puppy to stay home for what could have amounted to six hours and not poop all over the kitchen. So, I got to stay home and stand in the rain every two hours coercing a 10 week old puppy to poop on demand - oh yay!
Sunday appeared to be a little better although it still rained all day. However after dropping Mr Beehive back at the station at 6, I got a phone call to say...guess what...the train was delayed, so I had to go to bloody Brum again.

Then there were the flies. Whilst the rest of the family were enjoying the Romans being utterly gruesome and ruthless, I was having my own battle with something from return of the living dead. After dropping them at the station, I ran a few quick errands and returned home. I opened the door to the sound of not one, but about 40 flies! The skylights were crawling with them. No, before you asked there was no missed poop that had brought about this infestation. In fact, I have no idea. The only thing I can think of is that we have a section of roof over the cooker hood missing and whether or not a colony (is that what you call a collective of flies? perhaps a nightmare would be more suitable) had hatched from somewhere under the floorboards upstairs that we'd disturbed on the removal of this panel? Either way, I had to push the pups into the wet garden whilst I fumigated and then proceeded to vacuum up the black winged rain falling from the ceiling! Bah!
On the puppy front, we're making progress (although I may have just signed my own death warrant here). She gets most of her business outside and Meggie even played "with" her today and they tug of war-ed with humpy duck. Meggie is the Sharpay of the dog world, she likes things just so and isn't much of a playful dog. She loves nothing more than to snuggle up. She probably would have been better as a cat. So for her, the transition has been surprising. She makes it known when she's had enough of her face being licked by the puppy and won't share her food until she's only got dregs left but, heck...I think that's okay to stand your ground and the puppy is beginning to learn where the boundaries are!
The puppy is still bemused when Meggie is allowed to sit on the sofa in the lounge but she is relegated to the floor. She is not to know that she'll be 50lbs in a few months and built like the proverbial brick s**t house! She'll get there eventually though!

It is quite odd the boys and Mr Beehive not being here. They've never both been on sleepaway camp at the same time. Master Beehive the younger has done a weekend scout trip as has the elder Beehive, but both separately. I had been rankling with them about packing, they wanted to pack as soon as they bought the letter home from school and I, being the boring, kill joy parent, felt this slightly premature (yes, even for me and my love of packing weeks in advance!) Of course, the most important thing on the list was the fact they are allowed to bring a packet of sweets, so naturally this had to be bought a fortnight ago and admired from afar. Being the mean mother I am, I insisted they could look at them on the windowsill in the kitchen rather than "storing them for safe keeping" in their know how that goes, don't you...months later you find sweet wrappers behind the bed and under the mattress...but of wasn't them that ate them.

Do you have one of those fairies in your house? It's the one that doesn't flush the chain or leaves toilet paper on the floor, the one that eats the last chocolate mousse without asking or finishes the orange juice but leaves the empty carton in the fridge, the one that definitely hung up his/her uniform but it obviously fell off the hanger, through the closed wardrobe door and onto the floor! You will have one of these fairies if the immediate response from all of your children is "it wasn't me!"

 Tomorrow, as long as I don't get "the call" to go to a birth, I'm meeting with some local NCT teachers for lunch, so I've been trying out a new recipe for falafels and tzatziki. Hopefully it'll taste alright, and if it does, I'll post you a new recipe later in the week.

Right now I'm off to have words, as our "fairy" bumped the car on the gate post again yesterday (just to perfect her weekend!) wasn't me...ooops!

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Around the Garden

Inspired by Farmama's amazing blog and idea of having an "around the farm/garden" record of our progress during the season, here is what's been happening in my garden this week

First of the redcurrants are ripening.
Beautiful fat gooseberries, ripe for the picking this weekend

Peas on their way.

Beautiful lavender heads, they're a creamy white with a purple flower below.

It's very small, but I have an elderflower bush in my garden. I'm so happy!

This is the first of the numerous gladioli bulbs I planted. Oh yay!

Of course, my blog wouldn't be complete if I didn't show you the mess that is inside as well.

I do the "smashing" of the tiles!

Then my lovely assistant comes behind me and "makes good"
What's happened in your garden this week?