Thursday, August 27, 2009

As requested

Following the recent photo post of Nate smiling, I had several requests for more photos. Nothing as cute, I'm afraid, as that one, but I like to please my readers and keep you coming back for more, so here are a few I took last night.

Here he is looking in the direction of the TV - but mainly I took it to show his hair. He has this amazing little 'kuif', except that because it's so blonde it's hard to see on a photo. However, I think I got the flash just right in this one...

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Squak & family traditions

Just as I call Nellie 'Munchkin' because of her behaviour as a baby (she wouldn't munch so much as snack...), I find myself giving Nate another nickname: Squak. This is the noise he makes when he has a sore tummy that isn't sore enough to really cry about, but is obviously spasmodic. It's a very cute noise, despite the cause.

Isn't it funny how family names develop? My niece was called Squashie, from Gem Squash (a dark green, round squash that is yellow on the inside and delicious to eat with cinnamon and sugar), because her nickname sounded like Gem (and I seem to recall my brother saying something about how squashie she looked as a newborn). Now, of course, she looks nothing like a little squashie - quite the opposite. She's nearly as tall as I am, lanky and gorgeous.

Family traditions and cultures are so important. They help to create family bonds and engender family identity, everything from special family names right through to a particular recipe for some traditional family meal.

I've tried to create a few of our own, and as Nellie grows and develops, I want to create more. I think the most important one, thus far, is about how much we love her. Knowing that you are loved beyond measure is the most important thing, I think, to developing self-love, self-worth and self-confidence. Thus, I regularly tell her that I will always love her, even when she's naughty. More importantly though, we have a little ritual to remind her of just how much we love her: I love you as wide as my arms can stretch* (stretch your arms out wide) and as close as I can hold you to my heart (arms crossed over chess in pretend hug). I wanted her to know that we would always hold her close to our hearts, but that we would also love her enough to let her grow and leave us, symbolised by the two actions. I also wanted a litany that we could repeat to her over the phone that would comfort her if (when?) we were separated from each other for any reason.

Similarly, we have the routine of her asking us to 'stay with [her] a small/ big bit'. This is her way of looking for the security that we won't abandon her as soon as she goes to bed. Again, wanting to create a secure child, we always stay with her (outside the bedroom door, or in the adjacent room), although usually for a small bit, as that could be as little as 30s if we need or want to be elsewhere.

We've also just started teaching her the family whistles. Of course, she can't whistle yet. She simply calls 'hoo hoo', but that's no reason for her not to be able to identify the whistles. My dad and step-mom have a family whistle, and G and I have a different one. There's something really intimate about having a whistle, contrary to what one might first think. No-one else uses the whistle; it's just for us. It's also really nice not having to shout across Pick 'n Pay - a simple whistle and whistled reply let's us know whether the other is there, and if so, where. (In today's modern age, it can also be used in places where cell phone reception is shoddy.)

As Christmas approaches, and as Nellie is getting old enough to remember the Christmas story in detail, I'm also thinking about traditions around that. G and I bought a beautiful, carved wooden collection of Christmas figurines while we were touring Zambia on our epic journey before moving to the UK. It was our first proper trip as a married couple, and it was such a memorable, special trip (for many reasons), that the set has sentimental value for us. When we bought it, we talked about having kids and using it to create special rituals for them. Now that time has come - nearly a decade later! Now, of course, we need to develop that tradition - maybe reading the story as we set the figurines up, maybe singing a particular hymn together (she already loves 'Hark, the Herald Angels sing', maybe praying together.

What are your family traditions or culture? I'd really love to hear what makes your family special. What made you feel safe and loved in your family? What made you feel you belonged to each other?

*In years to come I hope this image will also help to connect her to the image of Jesus' love for her by spreading his arms wide on the cross

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Cape Town sunset

These were taken from the balcony of Common Ground Cafe next to Rondebosch Common. We were there for a wedding reception. What a fabulous venue! (and smashing food too!!)

He smiles!

Of course, these are not his first ones. However, this is the first time I've had my phone at the ready when he seemed to be in the mood to smile for us. Isn't my son just the most gorgeous child ever? (OK, maybe not ever, but, damn, ain't he cute?!) See his little dimple?!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Of homosexuality and sin

I started this post on Friday, but it's taken me the entire weekend to formulate it (mostly because of family time, rather than taking time to think carefully about the words I'm using or sentence and paragraph construction). Before you get all up in arms about it, I should say that this is a journal post - designed more to help me gather my thoughts and conceptualise them than to start a real discussion amongst readers.

One of the judges I met at the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists Cape Town Regional competition this past week is a lesbian. So let's open this can of worms, shall we? Why not? It's weekend after all, and the perfect time for reflecting on big issues (or not...).

All the gays, lesbians and bi-sexual people I know are lovely, lovely, wonderful people. Warm, funny, caring, in touch with themselves, confident, assured. They've got to be, to survive the comments and attitudes of society towards them. As a result, I think I would often choose them as a friend over a heterosexual.

And yet... (why are there always 'and yet's with me??)

And yet, whenever I realise someone is a homosexual, or they tell me they are, something inside me recoils. I have to consciously remind myself that they are just as worthy of my love and friendship as any other person. Then, inside, I start to relax again. I never seem to relax completely though. A part of me always seems to remain tied up.

In reflecting on this again, having met this lovely lesbian lady this week, I've realised that the portion of me that remains tied up is because of the tension I feel between my experience as one human being towards another, and my faith. Over the years, I have vacillated from thinking that homosexuality is sinful, to accepting it, and back again. I have really struggled with this issue, with trying to be true to the Bible while trying to make allowances for recent Biblical exposition.

There have been several high profile Christian theologians who have studied the Bible and come to the conclusion that the traditional understanding of the practice of homosexuality as being sinful is incorrect. As a human being, I struggle to comprehend that God would create a person and then require them to deny part of their identity. Thus, I want to believe that this liberal interpretation is correct. Yet, when I read the same texts for myself and listen to Christian theologians I respect and trust, I agree that these interpretations simply don't hold water for me.

I quite like Dr James Dobson's explanation of the traditional position though. Modern science indicates that alcoholism is caused by an inherited gene. Thus, an alcoholic literally can't help themselves - they are born to drink. However, that does not make it morally acceptable for the alcoholic to drink. The alcoholic must refrain from drinking any alcohol as even the smallest sip can send them spiralling out of control and may ultimately kill them (either through damage to their liver, through alcohol poisoning during binge drinking, or through an accident caused by their intoxication). Thus, there is something in their genes that causes them to act in a certain way and that can ultimately kill them.

This can be likened to homosexuality. If, as many homosexuals claim, being a homosexual is inherent to these individuals, then it is caused by one or many genes they have inherited. These genes cause them to behave in a certain way. Physically, these actions can also kill them. (I won't go into it now, but there is a dearth of information about the biological effects of homosexual sex and the physical damage it may do to individuals who practice it, particularly for men.)

The Bible teaches that being drunk on wine is sinful. The Bible is saying that alcoholics following their nature and doing what their genes have predisposed them to do, is sinful. It's not saying that being an alcoholic is sinful (although the Bible does teach that ALL people are sinful) - it's saying that acting on their nature (drinking till they're drunk) is sinful. Likewise, the Bible teaches that homosexual acts are sinful, rather than just being inherently homosexual. Alcoholics who are trying to stay dry continue to call themselves alcoholics for the rest of their lives, even if they never drink again. Thus, it is possible to BE something without acting on that nature.

Homosexuals who are also Christians are called to a life of celibacy. This seems so unfair. Yet, alcoholics have to lead a life of sobriety in order to avoid becoming drunk. They have to become tea-totallers. They may not allow one drop of alcohol to pass their lips - EVER. This is an incredibly difficult thing for them to do and requires incredible self-control. In fact, the only thing that seems to help alcoholics deal with their addiction is admitting that they need the help of a higher power and do not, in fact, have the self-control needed to stop drinking. (That's step 1 in the 12-step programme followed by AA.) Graeme's cousin has recently admitted she is an alcoholic, and watching her trying to come to terms with her addiction, deal with it, and stay dry is an incredible lesson in self-discipline for the rest of us.

Since there are thousands of alcoholics who have been able to stay dry for years, there is no reason why there cannot be thousands of Christian homosexuals who are able to remain celibate. It will require the same amount of self-discipline, but they have the added support of the help of the Holy Spirit.

If truth be told, my pride (which is an inherent part of my character) could do with the same treatment and level of self-discipline to control it. Each of us, I think, has something that requires an inordinate amount of effort to purify and keep under control. Even the great saint Paul said that he found himself doing the things he hated and not doing the (pure/ moral) things he desperately wanted to do.

I have been shown grace, therefore I must show grace. So, while part of me knows that the homosexuals I meet are sinning by having a same-sex relationship, the rest of me strives to show them grace, to love them, accept them for who they are, welcome them with open arms and not stand in judgement. It is this tension that ties me up inside. It is a tightrope I walk, trying to balance not minimising the truth God has given us with demonstrating the grace I am expected to display. Ultimately, I just thank God that it is God who must be the judge and sort this mess out!

Eskom Expo for Young Scientists

The Cape Town Expo took place this week. Despite being on maternity leave I was involved as a judge (well, actually, a convener, but let's not split hairs) for the seniors (Grades 10-12; approx ages 15-18). I'm really glad I was. It was a fascinating experience and I picked up some good ideas for our in-house school version.

I have to say though, I was disappointed with the overall standard of the projects. One of the projects that particularly sticks in my mind was about the effects of alcohol on unborn fetuses. Before I say more, I need to point out that a) this expo is supposed to be about investigations (ie. experiments) and not just about research projects, and that b) projects involving alcohol are severely frowned upon (in fact, they will not be permitted AT ALL next year). This project was from a learner who was obviously not a first language English speaker (if the spelling and grammatical errors were anything to go by) and was obviously from a disadvantaged background (if the quality of the poster was anything to go by). Neither of those things should severely disadvantage a learner though, as the adjudication is mostly based upon the content of the project and an interview.

What did impact rather negatively on this project was that, in the first paragraph, the learner said something like (I can't give an exact quote, but it is close to the real thing): Alcohol makes babies cuter because they are filled with fruit.

Yes, you read that correctly. I had to read and re-read the sentence several times, just to check I'd got it right. And then I proceeded to howl with laughter, and cry with dismay that a) this learner's teacher thought this project good enough to bring to Expo and b) this learner's teacher probably didn't care enough to look (not even look closely) at the project before submitting it to Expo.

Seriously - is this the quality of teacher that exists in SA? If so, then God help us, because our youth are essentially being set adrift by the very people who are supposed to anchor them. I knew that the qualification level of teachers wasn't necessarily very high (I've been told that many only have matric themselves), but that was during the Apartheid era. I had thought that the government had been fixing this by creating all sorts of special categories for schools to channel more money to them for the training and equipping of staff and schools. Apparently though, the situation is worse than I thought.

I mean, really? Babies are cuter because alcohol fills them with fruit? Yeah, okay - fruity as in Fetal Alcohol Syndrome fruity. Brain-damaged fruity maybe, but not cute fruity! Sorry, but no.

If this weren't real I would continue laughing, but this is so sad, so tragic I can't laugh anymore. Even crying about it won't help. How do we fix this? How do we save this great nation of ours when this sort of thing is happening? And more importantly, what role do I play in fixing this problem?

On the plus side, we got our first gold medal (which is automatic entrance to the next round) in goodness knows how many years! I was very proud of little Daniel (He's only in Gd 9). It couldn't happen to a sweeter child. He had those beautiful shiny eyes and eager expression that spoke volumes when he received his medal. He isn't one of those kids who achieve this kind of success every day and for whom receiving a medal is either embarrassing (because it marks them as geeks) or blase (because they always succeed at whatever they do).

National Finals are in Pretoria in a few weeks' time. For Daniel, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. He can't wait. His words to me were "I'm overwhelmed." Now I need to find him sponsorship of about R2000 to ensure he gets there. So if any of you faithful readers can suggest someone I can approach, please do let me know. (He has to pay his deposit by Thursday this coming week and the balance the week after.) His project was a physics one entitled "Determining the effect of different shapes of caravans on stream-lined cars in a cross-wind environment". Yup. And he's only in Gd 9. Bright child. You know, I think this experience might just enthuse him enough to take Science at varsity level, which is the point of the Expo. Whether or not it does, just seeing his face light up was enough of a reward to make all the hard work to make the Expo happen worth it!

Well done, Daniel! And I will do everything in my power to make it possible for you to be in Pretoria come October.

Friday, August 14, 2009


So much to say... as it's nearly midnight, I won't say it all. Suffice to say this week has been incredibly exhausting. With Nellie sick at home (worried about swine flu so didn't send her to nursery as I might normally have done) and Nate not comfortable, and Priscilla off work today, and G working Tues, Wed AND Thurs evenings, I'm a bit frazzled. Thus, we got takeaways for supper, and a movie. (In the midst of all this, today I saw the gynae again and got an IUD.... feeling a bit emotional about that... Definitely no more kids for us then.... Feeling very emotional about that, actually....)

We watched 'The Pursuit of Happyness" with Will Smith & Junior (who has a very long string of names). It's a movie I've been wanting to see since it came out (we hardly ever get to go to the movies - babysitting is expensive; don't want to overuse the freebies of family babysitters; movies are expensive; often too tired to go out). I'm glad I got to see it tonight, but I wish I hadn't. If that makes sense....

It's the story of one man's struggle to provide for his family. He makes one bad business decision and that ultimately results in him losing everything except the clothes on his back, and his son. One night, he and his son sleep on the floor of a public men's room. Being a Hollywood story, it has a happy ending. Along the way though, he sometimes turns into a horrible, nasty parent. Stress will do that to one. When being on time means the difference between sleeping on the street or getting a bed in a shelter, the fact that your son's favourite toy gets dropped and left behind is just tough.

I wept through a lot of the story. I was amazed at his ability to refuse to turn into a victim. Despite his circumstances he ensured that he and his kid had clean clothes to wear and food to eat. He had a goal in mind (becoming a stock broker in order to ensure that his family were taken care of) and he refused to be deviated from it, no matter what the personal sacrifices. He believed in himself with such quiet authority that the happy ending was entirely plausible.

Possibly the best, and worst, moments of the movie for me were when he and his son were in a hall in a shelter, with about 100 others. The lights were out and his son was about to go to sleep. Then he reached up, touched his father's face and said, "You're a good Papa." What higher praise could there be? And yet how tragic that this little child, only 5, could recognise that his father was giving up everything in order to ensure his little boy was ok, but that he (the father) really needed someone to love him in return and bolster his own spirit a little against the horrors of a life on the edge of society. Children can be so astute, yet they should never have to be.

Throughout the movie I found myself praying that G and I would never find ourselves in a situation like that. Fortunately, we have a lot of family in this city who, I'm sure, would help us out if we got into a tight spot. We also have options this man didn't: we own a property that could be rented out or sold if needs be. We are also both holding down jobs in a sector that is relatively stable despite the economy. I never want to have to look my kids in the eyes and tell them we have to move because we're broke. It could happen in an instant - if either G or I died in the near future, in the time between the death and the estate being sorted out, with the bank account frozen, I could easily see the remaining partner being financially crippled. And so I prayed.

This movie also reminded me that a lot of the homeless people around us are people like us, who simply got into financial trouble. It's not that they are necessarily bad people, or that they necessarily chose this lifestyle. It reminded me how hard it is, once you find yourself in that position, to get out of it. Society is currently set up in such a way that it keeps those already at the bottom of the pile from rising up the pile. If someone turns up to interview in anything other than a suit, they can forget being hired. If they turn up unwashed, forget it. If they turn up late, forget it. Yet, each of these things could simply be the result of their current circumstances, and this job could easily be the thing that helps get them off the street and into a flat where they will be able to wash their clothes and person, or whatever.

It reminded me, most importantly, about the power of grace. Society tells us that if you are down and out, poor, unskilled, uneducated, etc, then you are not worthy of mercy, or a second chance. (Your rent is late, I'll evict you rather than give you another month.) Yet, if we were to cut these folk some slack, demonstrate a bit of compassion and mercy, it might just change our world completely. These folk might then be able to get a foot on the ladder.

Oprah did a show recently (in SA we're about 4 months behind the US) about local heroes. One local hero was a couple who own a motel. Although they run the motel as a business, they also offer free rooms to those who need them - families who have lost their homes because of the current economic crisis. In addition, they have an all-day kitchen facility providing free 'breakfast' to anyone (limited, I think, to those living or working at the motel) who wants one. Can you even imagine the difference their compassion is having on families who would otherwise be on the streets? Good, decent people who have lost their jobs and so have nowhere to sleep at least now have a roof over their heads. So what that an entire family is sleeping in one room. One room is better than none.

I want to make a difference like that, but I don't want to sacrifice. My kids each have their own room. We have a massive bedroom. All 4 of us could easily sleep in our bedroom (although where we'd put all the kids' clothes and toys is a bit beyond me). That would leave two rooms free and available for others to use. But I don't want to do that. It's not just that I don't want to share my house or have others in my space. Community living is hard, no doubt about it. I just don't want to feel I'm constantly playing host. However, I know that if one of my family or a friend needed help, I'd pack Nathan's stuff into boxes and move him out of his room without a second thought.

A news item recently said that orphanages and other child care places (like Child Line) are really struggling at the moment. The rate at which babies are being abandoned has increased as the recession has hit families harder and harder. The rate at which babies are being adopted has decreased as the recession has hit families harder. They are not able to cope with the increase in babies, and they are worried that these kids will not be placed, and so will remain institutionalised for the rest of their childhood. They showed visuals of these babies all just lying on the carpet: no toys, no stimulation, no-one to love them, talk to them or cuddle them. Watching the video clip my heart broke. I came close to picking up the phone and saying we'd take a child.

Having kids changes your perspective on them forever. You begin to realise how precious they are, what a gift they are. Losing a child takes that realisation to a whole new dimension. I can only imagine how wretched the parents of the abandoned babies must be feeling - to be able to abandon your child because you have too many to care for already; to abandon your child in the hopes that someone else might be able to provide for it in a way you know you never will.... I can only imagine the pain of walking away. I don't know whether these kids were left by the side of the road or taken to institutions. I can only hope it was the latter. Either way, my heart bleeds for both the children and their parents.

I therefore admired Will Smith's character for his determination to provide for his child; not to give his son up to state care; to insist on keeping his son with him. In the face of overwhelming odds, it can often seem to be in the best interests of the child to have him fostered, or placed in an orphanage. A friend working in Mozambique sees this every day - she works at an orphanage where many of the kids actually have at least one living parent who (for a variety of reasons) is unable to care for their child. Heartbreaking stuff.

The righteous shall live by faith. Ever since I saw the news slot on the SA orphanages, I've been thinking about adopting. We don't have the money to raise another child. Right now I don't know that I could cope with another baby in the house.

And yet.

Where is the mercy for these kids? Where is the grace? Those who live by faith for their finances often report that God comes through for them at the 11th hour, that a box of food appears, or some money is mysteriously deposited in their accounts, or whatever. Maybe we should stop worrying about the money, and start worrying about the kids. Maybe we should just go ahead and adopt these kids and let God take care of providing for them. Maybe. Maybe that's too big a leap of faith for us right now.

And yet.

Anyone looking at the family who runs the motel would tell them they're taking a HUGE risk letting people have rooms for free. They're losing out on income from the rooms taken. It doesn't make financial sense for the owners, especially given the current economic crisis in the US. And yet they've gone ahead. For them, the blessing of caring for these folk far outweighs the sacrifices they have to make. Couldn't it be that way for us too? Even though adopting a child would be a huge financial and physical sacrifice for us, couldn't it be that the blessings of doing so far outweighed the sacrifices?

I don't know. I honestly don't know what the right thing to do is. If we are able to help, but fail to... well, I don't like the look of that millstone. Yet, how does one measure the ability to help? It's surely not just about money? Often the poorest of the poor are the ones who help others the most, who start up community projects, who give their "widow's mite". If we don't take a child in, aren't we saying that money is more important to us than saving a life?

And yet, don't we have a responsibility to care for the 2 gorgeous kids God's already given us?

And yet, what about Mr Shine (another Oprah episode) who has 9 kids (of which only 1 is biological) and is a SINGLE PARENT? If he can do it, why can't we adopt just one more?

Well, right now I'm too tired to reason this out any further. But all of this is bubbling away at the back of my mind all the time. I need an answer to it. I need a resolution. So I'm going to go sleep on the problem. Maybe God will give me inspiration.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Perfect days

"If I could save time in a bottle..." I'd botlle days like yesterday and today. My step-mother sometimes comments that when she asks how I am or how life is, it's never fine - that there always seems to be something wrong. I maintain it's just that I often only see her when things are tough. This weekend is a prime example.

Yesterday was a perfect day. I can't even remember all the things we did, but I remember going to bed feeling extremely contented and thinking how I'd love to repeat the day. I know it involved quality time with each of my kids and with my husband! That's not to say nothing went wrong... I had a 'fight' with my hubbie (but making up was fun!) and Nate had very bad reflux. On balance though, it was a perfect day.

Today was another perfect day, for different reasons. It was freezing cold, and church wasn't as great as I was hoping - they didn't even acknowledge woman's day!! There was quality time with family again, but there was me time too. Today I got to sleep late this morning AND I got to have a nap this afternoon. Plus, I got to do a small bit of gardening. I'm finally starting to acknowledge that I'm not a gardener at heart - or that I don't have the time to be one - but that doesn't mean I don't love it when I get a chance.

So - there we are: today and yesterday I am perfectly happy & content.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Come back, Baggins - all is forgiven

All this time I've been thinking that it was Baggins digging up my garden. On my return from dropping Nellie at nursery this morning, I caught Alyssa in the act, with Baggins sitting calmly by her side, watching her. Now I don't doubt that he has done his fair share of damage, but - ALYSSA!! My word - she's turning into a naughty dog as she settles down and loses her abused dog fears. Sorry Baggy boy, for only blaming you. The little lady is just as guilty and hence forward will be equally punished.


After many weeks of anticipating and longing for it, we think Nathan smiled for the first time last night!! He's done tons of windy smiles, but we're pretty sure this was his first proper one. Babies are supposed to be smiling by 6 weeks. When he didn't smile at 6 weeks, or 7, or 8, I had to constantly remind myself to add 4 weeks to that milestone as he was 4 weeks early. He is now 9.5 weeks, so this smile comes bang on time.

It was such a joy to see him smile. Till now he has seemed to only experience pain when he is awake, so the advent of smiles assures me that joy, pleasure and contentment are on the way.

Plus it's just so fabulous to see him respond to us. I was particularly pleased that it happened when G was there, so that he could share in that wonderful experience.

Yay for smiles!!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Something to remember

This was sent to me via a friend, and I thought we could all use a laugh, so here it is again...
Here's the note that the teacher received the following day -

Mrs. Jones,

I wish to clarify that I am not now, nor have I ever been, an exotic dancer.

I work at Home Depot and I told my daughter how hectic it was last week before the blizzard hit. I told her we sold out every single shovel we had, and then I found one more in the back room, and that several people were fighting over who would get it. Her picture doesn't show me dancing around a pole. It's supposed to depict me selling the last snow shovel we had at Home Depot.

From now on I will remember to check her homework more thoroughly before she turns it in.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009


Being at home, and having to be sitting down as much as I do (feeding Nate and all that), has given me a chance to look for some new people to follow. I can't remember how I found Julia, but I think it was through Tertia. From Julia I've also discovered Cecily. This morning I read Cecily's post about how upset she'd been by a marketer's failed attempt to get her to help them out. In the process I discovered that she had fertility issues, then managed to fall pregnant with IVF, only to lose her first pregnancy, with twins, because of severe pre-eclampsia. So severe, in fact, that she had to terminate the pregnancy at 22 weeks.

Just stop for a minute and think about that. You want kids, but can't have them. Then you manage to fall pregnant, only to lose them. And not only that, but YOU actually have to make the decision to terminate. Terminate is such a bland term. As a mother, when you terminate, you know that what you're actually doing is choosing to kill your kid/s. So here is someone who desperately wants a child choosing to kill one. Or rather, being forced to choose.

I'm not for a moment about to go down the route of the usual pro-lifers arguments. If I were in her shoes, I would have made the same choice. I'm just stunned, shocked, appalled by the choice she had to make. The babies weren't viable, one had already died in utero, and then she had to make the choice of whether she lived or whether possibly she AND the baby died. Not a great set of options there.

As I went back and read her archived story about those horrible days, I could picture it all so clearly. Although our circumstances were so very different, we experienced such similar emotions. I remember what it was like when I couldn't feel Zoe move - the panic and terror, the confusion, and trying to quash those feelings. I remember the moment when I was told there was no heartbeat. The sense of incredulity. The last ditch attempt to hold onto hope and sanity. The feeling of overwhelming panic and the deepest, coldest, darkest fears bearing down like a physical weight. Then grief so deep and physical I started to vomit. I cried as I read her story. I can only imagine how her grief at losing two precious children was compounded by the knowledge that she had been forced to kill one.

In life we are faced with so many choices. Some are of little consequence (unless you buy into the butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil causes a hurricane in Africa theory); others are life changing. Some aren't really choices at all, it's just choosing the lesser of two evils.

In the past few weeks since I've been home with Nathan, I've found myself having the same reaction I had after losing Zoe. As I held her in my arms on that horrible day, one of my first thoughts was that I wanted another child. I wanted to try again immediately. I didn't want my last experience of pregnancy to be one in which there was no positive outcome. As it happened, we had to wait nearly 18 months for financial reasons. Not a week went by in that time though, that I didn't think about our deadline - Oct 2008. No-one believed me when I said we were going to fall pregnant in Oct 2008, but I wanted a baby so badly that I wasn't going to wait a second later than I had to to fall pregnant. Lucky us, we have no issues in the 'getting pregnant' department.

Since Nate was born alive and kicking, despite scaring me nearly to death along the way, I expected that I would be satisfied. You all know how horrid my pregnancies are. (Did I blog about crying in Canal Walk a week before his birth because I was in such pain I couldn't walk and nearly stopping a passerby to ask them to ask at Information for a wheelchair? I can't remember now.) My body is not built for pregnancy, despite what God intended. I vowed that after Nate, there would be no more pregnancies for me. I know that my body simply can't handle another one. If I were to fall pregnant again, I think my body would literally fall apart at the hips.

So why is it that since Nate's birth all I really want is to be pregnant again with another baby? Is it just some innate biological urge? Or am I still feeling the void Zoe left and trying to fill it? (It's a good thing I can touch type cos I'm crying so hard right now I can barely see the screen...). The thought of never having another baby breaks my heart. I know I'd be completely brain-dead to put myself through it again. I know we can't afford another child. I'm barely coping with two kids despite having an incredible hands-on husband and a maid - how would I cope with 3 or 4 or 5????

None of that logic changes the way I feel though. I want a host of children, and not through surrogacy or adoption (although I do want to adopt a child one day - but that's another story for another day). No, I want to be pregnant and give birth myself to a host of children. I know, I know! If I were to go ahead with that, I'd be condemning myself to a lifetime of serious puking and pain. I know it's ridiculous to want to go there again. But I'm not satisfied with only 2 kids. Greedy of me, I know - some people aren't able to have even one, let alone two kids, and here I am saying I want more when I know it's completely out of the question for us on SO many levels.

I can't face sterilisation - either for me or for G. That's just too final. Pragmatically I know I must not allow myself to fall pregnant again though. So next week I'm off to the gynae for an IUD. (I can't take the pill anymore because of my APS.) I'm not thrilled about it. Far from it. It's not like I can just wake up one day and stop taking the pill and "accidentally" fall pregnant (not that I would do that to G!). This is hard core. The only reason I'm gong ahead with it is because it's not as final as sterilisation. It can be removed. It only lasts for 5 years. There is an 'out' for me, at least emotionally. Maybe in 5 years time I will feel differently. Maybe by then I won't have this inexplicable desire to put myself and my family through hell again. (Because let's face it - me when I'm pregnant? It's hell to live with me and it's hell to be me.)

But am I making the right choice? In 5 years time, if we decide we really DO want another baby, I will be 38 and G will be 43... Yes, I know that women over 40 are having babies nowadays quite successfully (Tertia being a case in point). Yes, I know that 38 is not old, except that biologically it is. What if we decide we DO want a baby and we can't fall pregnant because our bodies are actually too old? (New research suggests that the man's age is just as important as the woman's in terms of having a healthy child and pregnancy.)

All of this emotion of mine makes me stand in awe of Cecily even more. She is quite clear on one point: she is very happy with just her one daughter. She is perfectly happy with a small family. How did she get to that point, I wonder? Her experiences were traumatic, no doubt about it, and that has probably played a big role in her decision. Yet...

I stand in awe of the peace she has about only having one child, about the decision she has made not to have any more children. I wish I could be in that place right now. Maybe in 5 years time I will be. That's the problem with choices. You never really know whether they're right or wrong until it's too late to change your decision. Let's hope this is the right one for us.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Stay with me

Every evening Nellie asks one of us to "stay with" her. What she means by this is that she doesn't want to be left alone. She's ok with us just standing outside her door, or being in our bedroom next door. Sometimes she's even ok if we "stay with" her in the lounge, although she prefers us nearer. It's not about where we are so much as it is that she hates feeling abandoned or isolated.

Last night I realised afresh how that feels. When G & I tag team around Nate, I sleep in the bedroom while G sleeps in the lounge. He will often close the bedroom door to try and prevent me being disturbed by noise from the lounge. While I really appreciate the gesture, I usually hate that. A closed door makes me feel cut off from the rest of the house. I hate feeling I can't hear what's going on. I hate feeling isolated or disconnected. When I asked G not to close the door last night, and he asked why, I suddenly had to give voice to something I'd only felt intuitively till then.

Now I realise afresh how Nellie feels. It's an awful feeling. Maybe now I will be a little bit more compassionate towards her at bed time....

Saturday, August 01, 2009

England in Cape Town

We went for a walk today in an area we never knew existed until today. My mom told us about it. In the Durbanville Hills there are a number of greenbelt areas. This one, near Welgedacht, is actually a series of mountain bike trails. It's one of the few areas where dogs are allowed.

As we were walking, we came up a steep hill to be greeted by this sight. It would seem that spring has come early to Cape Town!

The colour of the Oxalis was amazing - luminous yellow. Of course, in broad shots like this my phone doesn't pick up the hues.
But in close up you get the idea...

We were really surprised by how much it felt like we were walking in English countryside. Of course, we loved that, since we have such fond memories of walking in the English countryside - those were times that were like a breath of fresh air (literally and spiritually) after London.

My big girl - growing up so fast!