C-section, live.

Yesterday, I had the tremendous privilege of being a good friend’s birth partner. This was the first time I had ever done anything like it, and it also happened to be a planned caesarean, something of which I had no experience either. So, naturally, I had to write a poem about it. This one is for you, M.

scrubs

Birth

All I can see is your head
You are strapped to a bed
with what looks like pink parcel tape.

You smile and shiver while unseen
doctors work behind a screen:
to us they’re only sound and shape.

We chat about sci-fi and fantasy
and agree to disagree,
then we fall silent, you close your eyes.

On three hours sleep, you’re looking worn
and out of sight your child is born,
breaking the hush with disgruntled cries.

Birth for me was full of stress,
full of noise and blood and mess.
This gentle stillness is quite new.

I cuddle your daughter, hold her up,
as invisible doctors stitch you up,
and I look at calm and glowing you.

Thanks
for sharing these first moments
as a mother of two.

(c) Judith Kingston, 2014

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MAD

IMG_9819

I wonder why you come here and read my blog.

Perhaps you are a bit of a language geek like myself, and you enjoy reading about my bilingual children.

Maybe you know me in real life and use my blog to keep tabs on me (feel free!).

Maybe you like my poetry.

Maybe you come here to share in my ups and downs as a parent, and to feel that wonderful relief that you are not the only one.

Maybe it is a window on a world that is entirely unlike your own but that is strangely compelling.

Or perhaps this is the first time you have come across me and you are now a bit disappointed to find that the first post you read is asking you to nominate me for an award.

Because that is what I am working up to.

Last year I had only just started Secrets of the Sandpit and was reeling from the discovery of a Narnia-like World of Blogging, just a hash tag away from normal every day life. I saw other bloggers put themselves up for this award but could not imagine ever doing this myself. Fast forward a year and I have cast aside all shame: will you, dear reader, consider voting in the MADs and nominating my blog? There are many categories and I don’t fit into many of them. My suggestion is the Writing category, because that is what I am all about.

There is a badge on the right that you can click on, or you can click here to go straight to the voting page.

You can vote for lots of other blogs at the same time to fill all the other categories. I was going to give you suggestions, but almost all of my favourite blogs would be my rivals in the writing category, so I’m just going to leave you to figure it out for yourselves!

Normal service will resume shortly with inside info from the Girl on the Brother in Life Game, some reflections on how the Boy is coping with his two languages now he has started pre-school and hopefully more poetry.

 

 

Waiting for adventure

rainI have been writing this poem for a long time. For six weeks, in fact. I’m not sure if it has actually made it better or worse than the poetry I was churning out in about fifteen minutes flat on a weekly basis before I went back to teaching in September.

Anyway, I mention this to explain why the topic of today’s poem is a tiny bit out of date. It is about how I hate January.

January Carol

Too long it stretches with grey foggy skies
No hidden, glittering gem now lies
In bleak midwinter meadows
Bearing hints of spring
And gleams of hope.

starry Virgin
weary mother
bringing up Immanuel

Stark leafless trees and churned muddy fields
No thrilling adventures the world now yields
Just bloodless exposition,
First chord struck,
The first page turned.

After pains of birth and newborn joys
Comes slogging feeding chaos noise
Through plain days drained of colour
Watching drying paint
And growing child.

changing nappies
washing dishes
destiny seems a fairy tale.

Beyond the horizon veiled from view
The humming prelude of something new
Where long awaited promise blossoms
Layers peeled away
And life reborn.

Glory lies just there, you see?
Forgetting what is past
The ordinary steps will lead
To the thrill of life at last.

(c) Judith Kingston, 2014

regen tegenlicht

Photographs (c) Pieter Kroonenberg

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Prose for Thought

Team Kingston does Stamptastic

label Stamptastic

Sunday night. I pull three only-slightly-damp pairs of trousers off the drying rack: one for the Boy to wear to pre-school tomorrow and two to pack in his bag for the inevitable accidents. I quickly check the labels and realise that two out of the three pairs are rogue – they have somehow escaped The Great Name Marking ceremony. Do you WEARILY PICK UP A BIRO? Go to page 2. Or do you TRY YOUR NEW STAMPS? Go to page 45.

Perhaps you will remember my wistful musings on the eve of my 3 year old’s first day at pre-school. Many of you commented on your own feelings at seeing your first-born head off into a new independence, or having to wave goodbye to your littlest child. Others commented on my struggles to mark every wretched item of clothing the Boy owned with his name, armed only with a biro. Overwhelmingly, you recommended a company called Stamptastic, saying how they had taken the pain out of labelling.

It sounded promising and I would probably have gone to check them out anyway, when they beat me to it and offered to send me a set of stamps to try out and review. As I watched my son’s name fade from his far-too-frequently-washed wee-soaked trousers day by day, I felt there was no time to lose and I wrote back saying yes please.

While I eagerly awaited the arrival of the stamps, the Boy started puzzling out what I had written in shaky writing on his lunch box and in his clothes. He recognised his first name, but pointed at the second word: “What you writing this one, Mama?”

“Kingston,” I explained. “That’s your name. And Mummy’s name, and Daddy’s name, and your sister’s name. It’s our special family name.”

“S. Kingston.” He tasted it. He decided he liked it. For the next few weeks he kept randomly announcing his full name, with great pride. Then he would explain to me, as if I wasn’t already aware, that his sister was A. Kingston, that I was “Mummy Kingston” and the Husband was “Daddy Kingston”.

Then he became curious about his friends. He had clearly grasped the principle of a family name pretty well, because he knew they would not be called Kingston. We had to run through everyone he could think of, and he tried and tasted their names and rehearsed them for me. The concept was not only instantly clear to him, but also instantly useful. Now, we could be a team. We adapted the Team Umizoomi song for all our errands: “Who’s going to take baby clothes to M? We are! Team Kingston!” (I know, it doesn’t scan, quit bugging me.) On the phone to Gran, he told her about his new discovery as well, and not only was she suitably impressed, but she managed to astound the Boy afresh by revealing that she was a Kingston herself: Gran Kingston (of course).

Then, amidst all the last name excitement, a padded envelope dropped on the mat one afternoon. I knew instantly what it was and saved it up until the kids had gone to bed. I got their new coats and laid them out on the floor, ready to give my Stamptastic stamps a trial run.

Of course, when given amazing ink that works on plastic, fabric and wood and that doesn’t wash off, the first thing I manage to do is this:

D'oh!

D’oh!

I was kicking myself, but then thought that perhaps it was a good thing, as someone looking for a review online might be desperate to know how to get Stamptastic ink off their finger, so I felt it was my duty to try various cleaning methods and report on the result. Turned out serial hand-washing, including scrubbing with a washing up brush, combined with the good ole’ passage of time got it off just fine. I also imagine that if you had white spirit around it would come off in seconds.

That done, I could get down to business. I am far too impatient to read instructions, but thankfully it was all quite straightforward and definitely easier to work out than breastfeeding. These were the tools provided:

the gear Stamptastic

 

I simply put ink onto the stamp with my son’s name, placed the stamp onto the label Sainsbury’s had thoughtfully provided in the coat (see first picture) and pressed down. The stamps are see through, so you can look through the top to make sure you have positioned it correctly. Not really needed for the coat, but once I had labelled that so beautifully I went round the house in excitement to see what else I could put the Boy’s name on, and found that you really need to be able to look through your stamp for the tiny labels in pairs of underpants and woolly hats.

In addition to handling indelible ink with care and reading instructions, I am also not so great at tidying up after myself, so the next morning the Boy found the stamps on the dining table.

“What you got there, Mummy?” he wanted to know and without waiting for an answer set about investigating for himself. “Oh! My name!” He watched in amazement as I demonstrated what I could do with the ink and his name.

“I try it, Mummy?” was of course what came next.

But Mummy said no.

He was desperately sad that I wouldn’t let him stamp his full name all over every piece of paper in the house. Although I am sure that for every person Googling ‘get ink off my finger’ there are probably 10 people looking for ways to ‘get Stamptastic ink off my pre-schooler’s fingers’, I felt that was taking my service to society a bridge too far. He would have to make do with staring proudly at his name stamped lovingly into his slightly damp trousers by his mother. And again later in the day when changing into a clean pair. And probably again just before home time when the long suffering teachers hoist him into his very final clean – and clearly labelled – pair of trousers.

I received two free name stamps and an ink pad from the wonderful Stamptastic to review on the understanding that I would give my honest opinion, which I have. Sainsbury’s sadly didn’t give me a free coat, I just magnanimously threw their name in of my own free will. You’re welcome, Sainsbury’s.

A Great Gift

Gods hand

This letter is a tribute to a baby that will forever be 9 months old, found sleeping by her mother a year ago tomorrow.

Dearest Matilda Mae,

I am writing to you on the eve of the anniversary of your death. I have no idea how your family will cope with this day. I don’t know how they cope with nursery runs or supermarket shopping or peeling potatoes, to be honest – I hope that on the anniversary of the day you left they won’t need to do any of those things and they can just spend time being together and remembering you: wonderful you.

You are famous, did you know that? You didn’t stay very long down here on earth, but you have made a massive impact on many, many lives. You have trended on Twitter, you have had fundraisers organised in your name, you have inspired poetry and prose, you have brought about new friendships. You have accomplished more than most people achieve in eighty long years of life, just by being beautiful, adorable you – and by leaving far too soon.

You have changed me, too. When my daughter wakes in the night, more often than not I check my annoyance and frustration and think of you and your wonderful mother – how she must long to be woken in the night by your familiar sounds. You remind me, often, that caring for a small life is a wonder and a privilege, and every moment, night or day, is to be cherished. Who knows how many moments we might have.

I live in one of the teenage pregnancy capitals of the world. Back when I was desperate for a child but none seemed to be forthcoming, the grumpy teen mums on the bus made me furious: they had what I wanted, and didn’t want it. It had “just happened”, an unwanted accident. Those tiny faces in the designer prams, beautiful miracles. It is astounding that any children are conceived at all, so many factors need to line up for it to happen. Every child is a gift, I thought then.

But I was wrong. A child is not a gift.

Although every child enriches its parents’ lives, brings them joy and laughter and cuddles, it is not a gift. Children don’t belong to us. God does not create them for our benefit.

He makes people. The people that he has chosen, that he wants to put into the world for a special purpose.

Matilda Mae, you have done so much. You brought joy to your parents, your brother and your sister while you were with them. Now you are gone, but you are still working in their lives, in their hearts and in the hearts of thousands of people who never even met you, like me. And Esther and William, too, are special people with a special purpose, working at it perhaps a little more slowly than you have done, spending more time.

You are gone but you haven’t left. You are still fulfilling your special purpose. The star, the heart.

I’ll leave you with this. I wrote this for your Mum in a comment on her blog, but I will share it here as it seems appropriate:

The heart.

The single one that binds
the doubles:
the twins, the couple.
The little one to dote on.
Living out joy,
giving out love.

Unimaginable,
the hurt of the heart ripped out,
taken away to be elsewhere.
Your heart is elsewhere.

But the shape of her remains.

Curl round and hug what is missing.
Wrap yourselves around the hole
like a helix.
She shapes your family DNA
as it shaped her
your bodies, your smiles,
your tears, your heart beats,
spell her name
write love letters
to the heart
to Tilda
present in her absence
shaping a future
she won’t be in

loving still
still loved

Tilda.

The heart.

All my love to you and your family on this dark day, Baby Tilda. I am praying for brighter days ahead.

Judith
Letters for Matilda Mae