Sunday, March 30, 2008

When you least expect it...

Today we went to church to witness the baptism of one of the children of a couple in our cell (Bible study/ fellowship) group. It was a lovely occasion, with 5 other children being baptised and one being dedicated. The kids ranged in age from babe-in-arms to a 4 yr old. All was well, and Nellie was being an angel. The service was lovely, and we were all enjoying ourselves.

Then it dawned on me that, had Zoe lived, we would have been up there, having her baptised too. I couldn't hold back the tears and had to run to the bathroom.

It never ceases to amaze me how suddenly, and without warning, the grief surfaces. It has left me feeling low all afternoon - everything just feels like too much effort. I had to drag myself out to visit show houses for a couple of hours, but I felt better for doing it. Having something external and tangible to think about, something that also poses a problem to be solved without requiring too much intellectual input (like trying to imagine us in a particular house), is always helpful. Graeme has been a star, as always, managing Janel and the house when I fall apart. What would I do without him?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Girls are stronger than boys

I have several RSS feeds of a science nature that I subscribe to. Sometimes I find really fascinating things - like this story. A study has been done looking at infant mortality on a gender basis. What has been discovered is that boys are 60% more likely to be premature, and are more likely to die as a result. They are more susceptible to birth injury and respiratory distress. This is because they generally have bigger bodies and heads than baby girls.

What is really interesting though, is that the survival rate for boys has increased as neo-natal care has improved and as more C-sections are performed, thereby reducing the risk of fetal distress and injury during labour. In fact, C-section rate for boys is approximately 20% higher than for girls!

We girls always knew we were stronger than men!

Monday, March 24, 2008

24 March 2008

Today, precisely one year ago, my second daughter was born. She was perfect in every respect - except one. She had 10 toes, 10 fingers, the most gorgeous curly ginger-blonde hair, with red rosebud lips. Her heart was perfect, her brain was perfect. In fact, all her organs were perfect. Physically, she had not a single defect. Unfortunately, she was stillborn.

Before going into labour I had known she was already dead, yet giving birth to her was a great blessing. She was, and always will be, my precious angel. I still miss her with a passion that sometimes frightens me.

Today we remember her birth, the joy of my pregnancy with her, and the pain of losing her too soon. Today we look forward to the day when we will all be together - her, Janel, Graeme and I - as the family we are in spirit now.

To commemorate her birth, we bought an indigenous tree that we planted in a pot (to enable us to take it with us when we move house). We scattered some of Zoe's ashes in the pot when we planted it, so that she will live on in some measure in this plant and the seeds it produces.

What a wonderful world

When I was a little girl, Louis Armstrong's song was used as the track for an advert for preventing retinitis pigmentosa. I've always remembered the poignancy of that ad - the incredible words with the awful thought of losing one's sight.

Today, although it is the anniversary of Zoe's birth, I feel the same poignancy - this is an incredible world, even without the presence of my baby girl.

Then, as these things happen, a friend posted this video clip on Facebook, and it just seemed to match my feelings so well - the blend of humour with these incredible words, with incredible images (especially the one of the baby's hand). So here it is, for your enjoyment too.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Horticultural hour

After several weeks of doing nothing in the garden, this afternoon I decided to tackle a few pots that needed attention, as well as one area where several seedlings had sprung up when the parent plant was removed.

After getting quite a bit done, I finally approached the last task of the afternoon. One pot contained a plant that needed re-potting. It had needed re-potting when we first moved in here, back in September, but I just haven't had the time or inclination to tackle it before today. I gathered the required equipment, and set to work.

After a while, Graeme (who was bathing Nellie at the time) called to me out of the window to ask if I needed help. A while later, Nellie called out to ask if I was ok (all together now: ag, sweet!). The reason was that I was making a tremendous amount of noise trying to get this plant out of the pot. It was well and truly pot-bound. I tried everything: knocking it on the ground while on its side; sticking various tools down the side between the soil and the pot to loosen the roots; scraping at the soil with my fingers and pulling on the plant. All to no avail. Eventually, the only solution was to break the pot it was in. (I think it was an asbestos pot... certainly it was made of something fibrous... so I wasn't too upset.)

During this process, I fund myself talking to the plant. Talking to plants (and inanimate objects) is something I do. Force of habit, I guess. I found myself telling this poor plant to stop being so obstinate, and to let go of the pot. I told it that it would be much happier in its new, bigger pot, with room to spread its roots, and lots of new fertile soil to get nutrients from. But of course, the plant wasn't letting go because its roots had grown into the pot.

Reflecting on this, I realised that often we are just like this plant. We get so comfortable in our little lives that we simply refuse to allow ourselves to be moved. Although we are dying and stagnating where we are, we simply can't extricate ourselves from our situations - either because we are too scared we will lose some of our 'roots' (which happens when you re-pot a root-bound plant), or because our 'roots' are so firmly embedded into our 'pot' that no amount of shaking or coaxing can dislodge us. Then, there are only two options available - refuse to move and die; or break the 'pot' in order to enable ourselves to move.

With everything that we've been through in the past 2 years, I think I'd quite like to get comfy in my life. We've been looking at buying a house - not just any house, but THE house we want to live in for the rest of our married lives, THE house we want to raise our children in. When we move into THE house, I never want to move again - or at least, not until I need to downsize because I'm moving into a retirement village! I want to get comfy.

I think we've found the perfect house... it ticks all the boxes, has development potential to stop me getting bored too quickly and has this... FEELING about it. It's hard to describe. I know that many people will say this is new-agey, but I can sense a spiritual atmosphere in buildings and in certain areas. This house and me... we click. I know this house will be mine one day.

There is a slight problem though - this house is out of our price range. Only just, but enough that we can't afford it without putting ourselves in dire financial straits. I've had to grapple with reconciling how I feel about this house (it's not the prettiest, by far... it actually needs a lot of work) with what common sense tells me. We simply can't afford this house.

As I ponder my horticultural hour though, it dawns on me that getting comfy is not all its cracked up to be. So maybe it's a good thing we can't afford this house.

That doesn't stop me dreaming about it though. I have dreamt about this house every night now for over a week. That's never happened to me before! Things that I've dreamt about like this have usually been relationships that I've wanted or needed to figure out. I've never dreamt about an object like this before, which in itself seems rather revealing to me.

When I was a teenager, I remember someone telling me that I ought to be specific when asking God for a husband, and to be as picky as I liked, because God could (and would) provide someone who ticked all my boxes. The fact that this house ticked all the boxes - both the needs and the wants - seems pretty remarkable to me. Maybe it is meant to be ours, but we need to wait a few months for the asking price to come down. (Though how others who have the money wouldn't want to snap this property up is beyond me - it's an incredible property!)

Usually I'm not comfortable waiting. Usually, I'd be miserable as sin and sulking and stamping my feet, because I WANT this house and I'd wangle a way to get it. Unusually for me, I'm actually ok with letting it go. I've written to the owner, and the agent, to say that while we are interested, we can't afford it, and to give us a ring in a few months if it's still on the market. I can't explain it, but I have this odd peace that this house will come into our possession... maybe just not now. Maybe we will wind up buying something else and then buying this house in a few years time. I don't know. What I do know is that the God who has been so faithful to us in every other way will be faithful to us in providing the perfect home for us - which may not be my ideal home, but which will suit us perfectly never the less. (And secretly I keep thinking that if THIS house is already on the horizon, and it's not meant for us... then God must have something truly amazing lined up for us!)

And so it's struck me that this past year, as we've grieved Zoe, as we've been reliant upon the support of others for a home and for our finances, I've grown up a bit. I think I've learnt to be more content in being uncomfortable. While I long to get comfy in my little pot, I'm more tolerant of being uncomfortable, in a less predictable situation. I've learnt that, while things seem unclear to me, somehow, they always work out okay in the end. How that happens, I don't know. It's a mystery, but one that God is in control of; one that a humble root-bound plant in a pot reminded me of this afternoon.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Fun at Kirstenbosch

We went to Kirstenbosch today, with the dual function of getting Nellie out into the open for a bit (and to try and get her to be a bit more active today) and also getting an Indigophora for Zoe's anniversary on Monday.

Graeme took such a cute video of Nellie and I rolling down the hill. I've posted it on Nellie's blog, so go and check it out. Right now I find I'm tired all the time, and I know it's just grief taking its toll. It was a relief to play and have fun, and not be constantly thinking about her. Plus it was such fun to just spend time as a family (away from the TV, Leo and Nellie's toys) and to actually be out in the sun.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The return of the tears

Yup.. bound to happen, I know.

Not so cool though when you're walking around at work, just wanting to ball your eyes out every second, and then people (including kids) keep asking if you're ok, when it's obvious you're not, and you really can't say anything because the moment you open your mouth you're just going to howl....

All I can say is, thank God it was a short day. Thank God it's holidays, because I'm not sure if I could face work on Tuesday.

I heard someone talking about a friend today, who has two kids, and felt myself wanting to howl at the unfairness of it all. 3 sets of my sister-in-law's friends are currently pregnant with twins, and that also seems so unfair. It's not that I begrudge them their pregnancies, or their children, because I honestly don't. It's hard to explain... so I'm not going to try.

I want to be pregnant. I want more children. I think it's too horrible for words that Zoe's life ended before it began. I think it's monstrous that I should be unable to have kids for a while, and that when I next try to have kids the probability is that I will lose them too. Right now, Zoe should be learning to walk, already communicating by signing, learning to talk, learning to feed herself, and generally be bringing joy into our lives on a daily basis. Instead, there's a part of our family missing. A gaping wound that cannot be filled, that cannot be hidden, and that I wouldn't want to hide if I could. I feel as if I've been maimed.

And yet... I give thanks for Zoe's life, brief as it was. I give thanks that I am capable of falling pregnant again. I give thanks that the medical aid will pay for my medications and so reduce the risk of losing the pregnancies. I give thanks that my gynae is a specialist in APS. I give thanks for Janel, that I have at least have one child (even if she is driving me slowly insane at the moment) who is healthy, full of life and thinks her Mommy is the best thing since sliced cheese. I give thanks that I have a husband who loves me, and who isn't firing blanks. I give thanks that we both have work, food to eat, a house to live in, clothes to wear. I give thanks that we have a large and loving family. I give thanks for God's provision for us.

So I'm not sure where that leaves me, but I'm in a bit of a mess I guess. But then, who ever said emotions were neat, ordered, tidy and easy to box up?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


As Monday draws nearer, I find myself becoming more apprehensive. I realised tonight that I'm not sure what I'm supposed to be feeling. I miss Zoe, and I always will, but I'm not as broken-hearted as I was. Yet, at the same time, the thought of scattering her ashes makes me sweat... part of me never wants to let go of them, but part of me recognises that in order to get more closure I have to let go.


So we've decided to take Monday morning off on our own to walk and reflect, and then do a little scattering ceremony where we plant an Indigophora with the family later in the afternoon. That way, we get to do both - grieve in private and with family. Both are important, I think. I just hope it doesn't feel artificial and weird.

I can't remember how much I've mentioned about Born Sleeping - the group that Graeme and I have started here in SA. After months of near-silence, suddenly over the past week or so we've had several emails. Tonight we had an email from a researcher. Apparently a well-known SA author is writing about her experience of stillbirth, and the researcher is putting together a list of resources for her.

Hmm.... part of me is jealous, because I really want to write about my experience, but have neither the time nor the money to spend on that project. Part of me is thrilled that someone is writing about it again in SA. Tertia Loebenberg (columnist for the Times) wrote about her experience a while back (was it only last year that her book was published?), but it's always good to keep this story in the public eye, as it were.

Anyway, I am getting really excited by the increase in email traffic we've had. I really hope this signals the start of something, rather than just being a blip on the radar.

Monday, March 17, 2008


So the school is currently running it's annual cabaret. And of course, I'm involved in the staff item - a raunchy little song by Tom Jones - in which I get to leave my hat on....

But tonight, after my little performance, on my way home in the car I found myself singing one of the other numbers: a song from RENT called 'Seasons Of Love'. (Rent is a musical based upon La Boheme but altered to reflect the life of starving, HIV positive artists in New York's East Village.) I had one of those epiphany moments. I've been singing this song for days now, but only tonight did the words penetrate to my heart.

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes,
Five hundred twenty-five thousand moments so dear.
Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes.
How do you measure, measure a year?
In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee,
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife.

In five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes.
How do you measure a year in the life?
How about love?
How about love?
How about love?
Measure in love.

Seasons of love.
Seasons of love.

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes!
Five hundred twenty-five thousand journeys to plan.
Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes.
How do you measure the life of a woman or a man?

In truths that she learned, or in times that he cried,
In bridges he burned, or the way that she died.

It's time now to sing out, tho' the story never ends.
Let's celebrate, remember a year in the life of friends.
Remember the love!
Remember the love!
Remember the love!
Measure in love.

Seasons of love!
Seasons of love.

Oh you got to remember the love,
You know that love is a gift from up above
Share love, give love, spread love
Measure, measure your life in love.

It's nearly a year since Zoe died. How have I measured that year? How have I measured Zoe's life? How have I measured mine? In part, I know I've counted the 'five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes', I've definitely measured it in strife. But is that all? When I look back over the last year, do I, as these HIV positive artist characters enjoin me to do, measure my life, Zoe's life and this year in love?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Voiceless phone calls

This is incredible! OK, at the moment it's really slow... but imagine all that you can do with this in a little while!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Who are you? When you're at work, who are you? When you're at home, who are you? Are you different when you're at home to when you're at work? If so, why do you show different facets of yourself in these two key areas in your life? I found myself pondering these questions today.

At my last school, the school counsellor took it upon herself to brighten the lives of the staff. She'd periodically arrange for cakes or a meal for the entire staff, just 'because'. She's occasionally put a joke in our pigeon holes. She'd wear VERY odd clothing - just to make us laugh. She's a star!

At my new school, I find myself falling into the same role. Food is not an issue because we eat enough to feed all the starving millions in Ethiopia! (We eat together every Friday, and then several other days of the month too.) But I've found myself taking on a role of caring for the staff by brightening their lives through humour. I'm not sure whether it's the done thing or not, or whether anyone takes offence, but from the few people who've taken the trouble to respond, I'm really pleased to see that at least some people have a lighter moment.

I think I'm doing it for two reasons - firstly because my own life is so stressed, and secondly because I wish there was someone around to lighten my day. As a manager, I feel it's my responsibility to do for my team (and by extension, the rest of the staff) what I wish someone would do for me. It's the least I can do, really, in gratitude to my former colleague who made me laugh out loud when I was stressed.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good.

That's a line from one of the more modern Anglican communion liturgies. I've been thinking about it a lot recently. Since Zoe died, if I've been to communion more than 3 times it's a lot. I feel like I just can't say those words and mean them, and I'd rather not say something I can't hold to be true. But that doesn't mean the words of the liturgy haven't been in my mind.

I've really struggled with them, because it implies that losing Zoe was a good thing, and I can't believe that. I can't believe that the God who stood over the creation he had made, and declared to be 'good' could stand over this situation and declare it 'good', and that word have the same meaning in both situations.

Things at work have been busier than I think I can ever remember (except maybe the week before Janel was born - that was sheer madness too!), but I've loved it. So much so, that earlier this week, as I was going to the loo (why do so many of my profound interactions with God take place in the loo???) I found myself spontaneously saying 'God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good.' and really meaning it. To say I was shocked is an understatement. How did that square with Zoe, I asked myself?

And it struck me: I'm far enough down the grief road now that I can see God's hand in this - not in causing it, but in loving us through this. Yes, God is good, all the time. He's so good that while I found myself unable to face him, while I had to walk away from him to preserve my sanity, he continued to love me. While I could not praise him, he was good enough to not demand it. While I was too blind in rage to hold onto him for comfort, he was good enough to hold onto me.

Yesterday, Nellie had a tantrum and a half because Daddy wasn't home and she wanted him to do something with her. She got herself into such a state that I had to take her into my arms and hold her, because watching her was breaking my heart. When I did though, she squirmed and wriggled and kicked and hit me, but then, slowly, her fighting subsided. Eventually, she turned and cuddled into my arms and just cried, until even her tears and sobs subsided. We just sat together on the loo (yet another profound moment, had on the loo!) for ages, until she was ready to move on.

That's what God has been doing for me, and I can see it now. No, losing Zoe was not good, and God agrees. I still don't know why he let it happen, but then I don't know why God lets anything bad happen to his children. The fact that he does though, doesn't diminish his goodness. At least, not in my experience. It does raise questions for me about his power, predestination, free will and whether he is trustworthy, but (for the moment at least) I think I've got a handle on the 'God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good.' thing. When Zoe died, I wasn't sure I would ever get to this point again. But it seems I have.

I don't know if my faith will ever recover fully, or whether I will ever be able to worship him with the abandon & joy of my youth. But for the moment, I have hope that having reached this point, I might get back there one day. Because I want to. I want to have that fire and zeal again, not at the expense of forgetting Zoe and the impact her life has had on mine, but at the expense of remembering her.

Searching Blogs

Renee's comment on the previous post made me realise that if someone is searching for a specific thing, it's quite hard to find if you don't know how. It also made me realise that I've been lax in making it easier for you. SO - quick lesson for those who don't know how to search a blog:

If the author has been doing his/ her job properly, then at the bottom of the post there should be some key words, or tags. These tags link any and every page the author has written which have the same tags. By clicking on the tag, the blog will then filter all the posts so that it only shows you the posts which have that tag.

e.g. if you are searching for all the posts that relate to Zoe, for example, you browse through to find a post that has the zoe tag at the bottom.... and click on it.
It will then filter to show you all the posts that have been tagged with zoe.

Easy peasy when you know how (and your author is being helpful!)

The only thing I should point out is that, for some unknown reason, the pointer on my blog isn't actually pointing where you think it is! If you want to click on a tag, check in the status bar at the bottom of the screen to see which tag it's pointing at. You usually need to point about 1cm further to the right than you think you do. Sorry!!