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

Don’t stop here! Look on Prose for Thought for inspiring poetry and prose from talented bloggers.

Night-waking continues

I have lost count of the number of poems I have written about sleep. Here’s another one about my daughter’s uncanny ability to wake up just when I am about to crawl into bed, whatever time that is.

Sneaking, Sleeping

Ten, eleven, midnight, three
Soft-stockinged tred
can’t fool me
ears prick up:
Mummy is going to bed.
No no not yet

Your cry cuts through night
and wall and tinny
receiver, flashing green
your need to be heard
and held and seen.

Bundled in bedding
zipped and buttoned
twisted up and bleary
teary eyed you
“ney ney ney” and
“dee dee” and “mama”
with outstretched arms.

I hold we sway
you suck your fingers
snug then arching
out of arms,
your cuddle collected
you want back to bed
and sleeping sound –

but if I dare to
crab-creep to the
chink of light
to freedom and my bed-
if I dare to make a sound
so small
you grumble then protest and wail
and stay!
I have to stay.

Once more we sway.
My eyelids drooping,
knees buckling under
weight of sleep.

On we circle round this track
on and on and back
in the deep night’s black
until your breathing
slows
sucking stops
limbs relax.

I tiptoe out and
creep to bed.
So softly do I tred
you cannot
cannot
have heard me
this time round
I made
no
sound.

(c) Judith Kingston, 2013

Read more original poetry by other bloggers here.

Emilie

I was hoping to make this into a podcast, inspired by Stephanie’s dialect poetry, but it’s not working out. So instead, you get the same poem twice in print: once in Dutch and once in English. It was actually an interesting exercise, because you don’t just ‘translate’ a poem. Really, you write it all over again. So if you are bilingual, read both versions – perhaps you have a favourite?

For my first ever niece

Lieve Emilie,

Jij noemt hem papa
– of eigenlijk noem je niet,
je kijkt en denkt
hij is een warme
vorm vol veiligheid –
papa, dus, voor jou.

Voor mij: broertje.
Altijd vijftien in mijn hoofd
lang haar en fijn gezicht
en t-shirts uit de Large
een cello, even groot als hij,
een stille denker
rekenwonder
dichter, zanger
en acteur.

Nu is hij jouw papa
en jij zijn allerliefste Emilie.

Zijn haar is kort
en hij draagt pakken
rijdt een auto van de zaak
en elk moment zingt hij van binnen
omdat jij in zijn leven bent.

Jij kijkt en denkt
Jij groeit en leert:
Die handen, dat gezicht
De ogen die maar kijken
lachend, vol met liefde,
papa heet hij
papa nu.

Ik blijf het zeggen
want het lijkt zo vreemd
hoe één klein mensje
zoon en broer en man
voor altijd zo veranderen kan

maar ja

jij kent hem toch niet anders
dan die man die
alles voor jou over heeft
altijd in je blijft geloven
een veilige haven
een rots in de branding
je vaste anker
je trouwe vriend
altijd blijft hij van je houden:

papa

je papa.

(c) Judith Kingston, 2013

Dear Emilie

You call him Daddy
– though really you don’t

say anything at all
you watch and think
he is a warm
safe shape –
so: Daddy, he is to you.

To me: brother
always fifteen in my mind
long hair, fine features,
black t-shirts with band names
swamp his frame
like the cello that he plays.
A quiet thinker
a mathematician
an actor, a singer
a crafter of words.

Now he is your Daddy
and you his dearest little Emilie.

His hair is short
and he wears suits now
jet-sets, analyses and consults
and every heartbeat is a song now
because you have come into the world.

You watch and think
You grow and learn
Those hands, that face
The eyes that gaze
laughing, full of love:
the word is Daddy
Daddy, now.

I keep repeating and repeating
because it strikes me as so strange
that such a tiny little person
can change who someone is, for ever:
son, brother, husband, man –

But then

you have only ever known him 
as the man who would do
anything
for you
who will always keep believing
your safe haven
your protector
your rock
your friend
his love is for ever

He is: Daddy.

Your Daddy.

(c) Judith Kingston, 2013

 

Prose for Thought, you can’t get rid of me. Soz.

Breastfeeding one year on

It’s funny, but it almost seems like people’s attitudes to hearing that you breastfeed your baby flip overnight from “Well done” to a shudder of disgust on her first birthday. You don’t have to anymore, so why would you? They start to get a little nervous: they always thought you were normal, but are you going to turn out to be an Extended Breastfeeder, and will they have to grin and bear it while you whip your boob out in a cafe and feed your three year old?

I am sitting here at stupid o’clock in the morning, feeding her. This is our last and only feed in the day now. I dropped the late afternoon/early evening feed around her birthday with a sigh of relief, turning my attention back to my non-nursing bras and un-breastfeeding-friendly dresses. But I also feel a bit bad. Dropping the evening feed was my decision, not hers. Sometimes she gets fractious at that time of day and tugs at my top, and I let my gaze guiltily slide away from her. I get up and find her a banana or some bread sticks. I have offered her cow’s milk, but she doesn’t like it. She will take a sip and let it sit in her mouth for a moment. She pulls a face and slowly it comes dribbling back out. She now knows the pink cup does not contain tasty water like the orange one and won’t even try the contents.

She has always been a young lady who knows what she likes. She will try any kind of food once, but if it doesn’t meet with her approval she will offer it back to me, and if I’m not prompt about accepting her gift, she drops it on the floor. Milk was not popular. I am amazed and astounded, really, because as a family we go through litres of the stuff per week. Her brother is a milk evangelist: any little friend he visits who is reportedly a milk-refuser will be eagerly drinking cup-fulls of it by the time the Boy goes home. But he has yet to work his magic on his sister.

She knows what she likes.

She likes Mummy’s milk better.

And why wouldn’t she? It is still the best milk for her. It is still designed just for her. It still tastes a little different every day – and let’s face it: cows eat grass, but Mummy eats lots of chocolate, ergo she produces tastier milk.

My baby is one, and I am still breastfeeding her. It is still good for her. It is still full of things she needs. It is nutritious, it protects against illnesses, it is comforting. Yes, it is comforting. When I sit here at 5 am and she won’t go back to sleep quietly and we are both crying because we are so tired, it is comforting for her and me. Frustration melts away. She feeds and calms down. She tugs on my hair. I lie my head back against the sofa and snore with my mouth open while she feeds. She grins at me and all is well. Then she toddles off, slipping and sliding on the laminate on her pyjama-ed feet, clutching a plastic banana in one hand and a Numberjacks DVD in the other.

My baby is one and I am still breastfeeding her. I’m not embarrassed. I’m proud. I have made it this far from really very difficult beginnings. I so nearly quit so many times when she was tiny, but I persevered and saw it through and managed to give her the best nutrition I had available. It was true that there was pain in the night, but joy came with the morning.

So my baby is one, and is a toddler now, and I am still breastfeeding her. In case you were wondering, the appropriate response is still: “Well done.”

One year (almost) gone

A few more weeks and the Girl will be one. She is working hard on learning to walk, is climbing on top of everything and I am sure that by the time her birthday rolls around she will be looking at baby-hood in the rear view mirror as she speeds on towards toddler-hood and from there to world domination.

Contemplating her next move

Contemplating her next move

One year gone

First summer closing, streets returning
from languor-filled summer spaces
to the frantic thorough-fare
that busy generations share
now with hopeful hearts and faces
new start, new dawn, new time of learning

First summer gone and the world is turning
from sunshine lingering and delaying
sharing evenings with the moon
back to early bedtime soon
chill on the wind and colours greying
so nature keeps on turning and returning

Your first summer gone and you are learning
to stand, speak, walk, never slowing,
expert now, you’ve seen it all
one year gone, now back to fall
I mustn’t, cannot, stop you growing
As you run on, never turning or returning

Me and my girl

Me and my girl

Read more poetry and prose over at Prose for Thought, hosted by Victoria Welton.

The Baby updates on Life Game

Yo yo! It is me, the Baby, or the Girl, or DevourerofEverythingzzz (I have several accounts).

It’s been a while since I gave you an update on how things are going with Life Game, so here I am, updatin’.

I am on level 11 of the training module now.  I think I’m a few weeks away from getting to the end of the Candlekeep section and stepping out into the big world of adventure. I’ve read ahead on the Internet and it turns out that at Level 12 you graduate to a new, tougher system where you don’t level up as often and you have to start at the bottom again with Level 1. Hrmph.

Right, my amazing discoveries in this level. Hard to know where to start. First of all, it turns out that chewing is not the only way to interact with objects. This level I’ve unlocked a whole range of new options: “bang”, “bash together”, “throw”, “combine with”, “insert”, “remove”, “rip”, “draw”, “poke brother” or “poke cat”. The possibilities are seemingly endless, and I’ve had to start revisiting all the areas I thought I’d bled dry to see if there is more mileage to be got out of them.

Draw! How awesome is that! You can take a crayon and make marks on paper!

Draw! How awesome is that! You can take a crayon and make marks on paper!

New this level: you can get Knowledge from books. I’d seen them lying around before of course but I couldn’t click on them at first. Now that I can, I’ve found it helpful to spend several hours of game time per day Doing Reading. Here’s how it goes: you “open book”, then you “turn page” and “study pictures and scribbles”. Sometimes you can also “lift flap” to reveal hidden truths or “press button” to hear sound clues. So far I only seem to be able to drag one along with me at a time, but I’m hoping in time I’ll work out how to add them to my inventory.

Reading two book at once  and barely breaking a sweat.

Reading two book at once and barely breaking a sweat.

I have also acquired some new skills that make it easier to interact with the NPCs (Non-Player Characters of course, you n00bs). Last level I took “learn words” and this level I put more points into it, so I have now collected 4 or 5 words. “Da da” gets you +2 charisma with all Grown Ups and a whopping +5 Influence over the Daddy. “Da” combined with a wave gives you +2 social interaction, but only with Dutch speakers. The most useful words so far have been “ba” (gets you a banana) and “ja/yeah” (saying this in response to any question while you’re in the high chair gets you more food. Keep saying it until your health bar is back up to full).

On the subject of food, it’s like the better you get at the game, the more food it takes to fill up your health bar. I had a look at some walk throughs and there were some good suggestions. Underneath the high chair you’re guaranteed to find food, but be careful, if they glow green they’ll give you an upset tummy and your health bar will go into the red for a day or so. Same with the bin. I tried stickers and play dough too, but they don’t seem to give you any health points, just -1 to Influence on the Mummy.

Bit random, I know, but I one of my best discoveries this level is that hugging teddies gives you +2 happiness. And it’s +3 for hugging Dolly!

Dolly. She will prob turn out to be sentient later on and she'll be my henchperson

Dolly. She will prob turn out to be sentient later on and then she can be my henchperson

Best of all, though, is that I have acquired loads of amazing new movement skills. I can “Stand from Crouching” and “Walk while Holding on To Things” (these things can be on the floor or in your hand, they just give you that extra bit of confidence). Then there’s “Climb”. I’m pretty good at that one, but it’s a bit buggy. Usually, if you lift one leg in the air you can get up on top of things. Sometimes this works out really well, like on the stairs and on the Brother’s bed. But sometimes you just end up standing there with a leg in the air, a bit like a dog doing a wee against a tree. Yup, awkward.

And I’ve almost got “Walk”. I’ve managed up to 7 steps up to now before I had to sit down. I think I just need to bump up Confidence a bit more and perhaps put one more point in Balance and I’ll be there. Then, I will be UNSTOPPABLE!!!

Finally, I was hoping someone could help me out with this puzzle I am stuck on: this new object has appeared in the kitchen (when you hover over it it says “walker”) and sometimes the Mummy will put you in it just when you’re about to boost your health points with some cat food. The walker is irritating because it contains you, but it does allow you to zoom all around the kitchen at speed. You can use it to get to The Cupboard of Mysterious Amazingness. Problem is, once you have got the walker to the cupboard, the door won’t open. I have tried pulling at it repeatedly and shrieking with frustration but it doesn’t seem to help at all. Got any tips?

See? It doesn't open when you're in the walker. Help!

See? It doesn’t open when you’re in the walker. Help!

That’s it from me – keep playing, Babies! There is a whole world out there for us to explore and if anyone tries to stop you, don’t forget about your weapons! Earsplitting Shriek is my favourite, but maybe you’ve found different ones that are just as effective. If all else fails, I’ve found “Roll over and Crawl Away” gives you +2 to run away.

Spk soon,

xxxxxxx

The Girl

Talking to my Daughter

When my son was closing in on his first birthday, I was eagerly anticipating his first word(s). But I was reluctant to interpret his babbling as speaking. I had this weird thing about not being presumptuous, or perhaps I was worried about looking silly when it turned out he called everyone ma-ma or something.

DSCF4252With my daughter, I feel like I’ve clicked into a groove that I just couldn’t find with my son. I seem to have found a confidence and an instinct that with my son I drowned out and undermined by overthinking everything. When she wakes in the night, for instance, I feel confident that it has a reason – I may never know what it is – but that it will pass. I don’t spend so much time worrying that it is because I’m doing something wrong. With language development, I just find myself enjoying her babbling becoming more meaningful every day. I can guess when something is an attempt at a word and I encourage it by repeating what I think she is trying to say.

Daddy won the race to her very first word. She pointed at him and said: “Da da.” She repeated it later at Gran’s house: seeing a photo of me and my husband together, she pointed and said it again.

Barely a day later, we got her first Dutch word. She has a little cloth book with things you can hide away in pockets (the sun behind a cloud, a rabbit in its hole). We do this at bedtime, tucking them up in turn, waving and saying “Dag!” (Bye). That evening she flapped a hand at the bunny and said: “Da!”

Clearly, ‘da’ is a multi-functional syllable.

I also think she says hello (“heya”) and occasionally she will hold up her hand and say “hiyuh!”, which we think means “high five!”, judging by her delight when we high five her.

She is quite adept at letting us know what she wants in other ways, too. She holds up her arms for you to pick her up and she shrieks like a banshee when the food is not coming fast enough or when you are not giving her enough attention.

Both hands on your grumpy head

Both hands on your grumpy head

She has also learned her first song-with-actions. It is a Dutch nursery rhyme with the stunningly philosophical lyrics: “Clap in your hands, happy happy happy, put them both on your grumpy head, that’s how the boats sail by.” (Actions: clap hands, put hands on head, sway from side to side). She started off by watching you do the actions, then when the song is over she starts clapping and putting her hands on her head – she even does the swaying. Now, she will suddenly turn to you with a twinkle in her eye and put her hands on her head. The meaning is clear: can we sing the song?

This is the start. From here on out we’re going to find out what she is thinking and feeling, how she is interpreting the world around her. I can’t wait to see what her next words will be, what she finds important enough or exciting enough to vocalise.

She has started waking up at night again. I’m sure there is a reason – teething, or just a busy brain from her research into speech and motion – and that it will pass again, but just for now, we are spending several hours at night cuddling and shushing and calpolling and feeding her again. A few nights ago she couldn’t settle at bedtime. Tossing and turning, huffing and crying, rubbing her eyes and that high pitched wail that means: “I am too tired for this.” Finally, she succumbed to sleep, cradled in my arms. She closed her eyes, and muttered through sleepy lips: “Mama”.

 

Linking up to Magic Moments.

Another poem about sleep

Midsummer Night’s Dream

The night is warm
you toss you turn
hair sweat sticky
sticky uppy
fists clenched
you fight with sleep

no not.
too hot.

you wrestle and weep
call to wake
need help
to turn not sit
lie down not stand
I lend a hand

eyes glued.
black mood.

on we roll we limp
till dawn breaks
birds wake
all forgotten
cheery you
start the day anew

sunlight.
gone night.

it feels wrong
but I go along
and start the day
with a reluctant song.

(c) Judith Kingston, 2013.

Prose for Thought

In which you speak

In which you speak

We speak, we smile,
pour love and time
into this tiny life.
We sing, we rhyme,
we speak, we smile,
we wait a while.

You blink, you stare,
absorb the world
and at the sounds of life
for you unfurled
you blink, you stare,
become aware.

Then

A tiny finger
picks out the man
who whispered truth & life
when yours began
A tiny finger
on him lingers.

You say:
Da da.

You speak, you name,
You stake your claim
You stand, you make,
You step into the world-

awake.

(c) Judith Kingston, 2013

Prose for Thought
Wednesday Words

Level 9 Walk-through?

baby gaming

The Baby, ready to level up.

Yo peeps, Baby here.

Thought I’d update you on how I’m doing in Life Game. Got some new tricks and skills to share, but also some issues that maybe you can help with.

I’ve recently completed level 8 and started on level 9. So far, really enjoying it. Discovered some cool new skills. It turns out that when the Mummy puts you in the middle of a play mat and walks away, you are not helpless. Crying loudly is still a good way of getting her to come back, but I worked out that if you get up onto hands and knees and move your limbs alternately, you can propel yourself forward and follow her around. This gets you into The Kitchen at floor level – a room previously only accessible in Mummy’s Arms, which only gave you limited functionality. You need to be ready with your plan though, because as soon as the Mummy spots you, you will be removed. Best to use stealth mode.

Needless to say, this discovery has revolutionised game play. I can now get to lots of the interesting objects that I spotted before but was never able to interact with. Things I have discovered since becoming mobile:

1. Occasionally, additional food can be found in the bin. Useful for health points.

2. There are many long, black coiling things along the floor that connect to appliances, lights and electronic devices. I am sure they are significant, as any time I get hold of one it is taken away from me and I get re-set to the play mat. I’ve tried ‘chew’ and ‘pull’ but so far no results. Will let you know when I find out what they do.

3. The black furry creatures that used to be so elusive? I can follow them now. I’ve tried ‘grab’ on their fur, but that turns them hostile, just like doing ‘pull’ on their tail. Not tried ‘chew’ yet, I think I’ll do that next and see what happens.

4. You know how I told you about the absolutely amazingly awesome Brother (he’s level 32 and can do ANYTHING). Well, now I can follow him where ever he goes to adore him. The more time you spend with him, the more positive relationship points you get. Especially if you do ‘play peekaboo’ or let him do ‘rabbit flying around your head’. Be careful though when doing ‘play’ around the Brother, as any object you are interacting with in his line of sight is likely to disappear from your inventory. This happens twice as quickly if you do ‘chew’ on an object, as this triggers the ‘No Not For Eating’ script. I think it’s a bug in the game, hoping a fix is in the pipeline… @God?

My other cool  discovery in this level is Pulling Up. This is a great new skill that allows you to access objects that are higher than your head. You can click on pretty much anything and do ‘pull up to standing’. Some issues:

* Sometimes the object you are using falls over – still working out why it works for some things and not for others.

* Sometimes you just end up with your bottom in the air. Data collected so far: bars of play pen, success. Doll, bottom in the air. Book, bottom in the air. Full laundry basket, success. Empty laundry basket, fall over, lose health points, get buried under basket, reload to start of level.

Finally, just a little question for anyone who has already completed level 9: you know how you wake up in the night, roll over and end up sitting in a corner of your bed? Well, how do you lie back down and get back to sleep? So far I’ve just done crying and got the Mummy to help, which is nice, but it makes the Mummy less helpful the next day. Is there a way you can do it yourself? Plz let me know in the comments.

Hope you’re all having fun playing Life Game!

xxx

The Baby (aka DevourerOfEverythingzz2012)