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The most precious moments

October 23, 2014

I was invited to be involved in a fundraising project for La Leche League GB, organised by a lovely photographer (herself a busy mother) from the south coast who started thinking about making a calendar as a fundraiser … this has now evolved into a website with the most wonderful and diverse images all celebrating the theme of ‘Mindful Mothering’. I’m very proud to be a part of the project and look forward to the calendar coming out in due course … all in a great cause.

La Leche League volunteers supported me at the start of our nursing journey and without them the last two and three quarter years would have been very different, I seriously can’t imagine how it would have been without the absolute joy of breastfeeding and all the associated stories and incidents … I think now she loves it even more than me … this morning wanting me to breastfeed a dead pigeon to bring it back to life because “milky makes it better” … she leaps upon me every time we’ve been apart, and after the happy shout of “Yay Mummy” always comes the inevitable, “milky Mummy”.

E&H 43 editedBack to the Mindful Mothering Project, I submitted some words about my experience of being a mother and breastfeeding, alongside a picture taken by our friend the very insightful photographer Paul Clarke. He came to visit back in the Spring and took some wonderful photos of Hope and I breastfeeding. is our ‘entry’.

I’m also working with another friend, the incredible artist and illustrator Jessica D’Alton Goode on a very exciting project, and together we submitted one of the images that she created very early on our journey.

1000 Days of Hope

October 5, 2014

This week we reached a major milestone … well it felt like that to me. Not that I’ve been counting days or anything, I saw someone on Twitter the other week boasting about how many days old they were (20,000 as I recall) and it got me wondering what my score was (over 18,000) … and then I checked her days.

When a baby is first born everything is measured in hours, then days, and then there is a wistful period when you start counting in weeks and gradually months and then at 2 it all seems to change to years.

So, it was good to think in days again … she numbered some 947 days when I typed her birthday into the online app. I carried on with my work and then noticed the app had opened a new window on the computer, the message said, something along the lines of ‘Your next milestone is 1000 days’ and it gave me the date. That’s how I knew this week, she was 1000 days old , we celebrated on the day with a cupcake with a flower on the top and a strawberry in the middle. She threw most of hers on the floor and demanded an orange.

When she was born so many people told me to remember every moment, that it would flash by … I tried and it did … I didn’t realise at the time what incredible advice that was, I couldn’t imagine forgetting any detail of this wondrous new being’s development. Without this blog and gazillions of pictures I would have done, I was very wrong. When she was four months old she met a friend of mine, a famous friend of mine, who told me in a very sage and wise, “I’m never wrong” kind of way, that it may be good now but that it would get better and better. I thought I’d found him out, found the thing he was wrong about, how could my love for my daughter grow, how could I marvel any more in her achievements, what could possibly be better?

Obviously he was right, he always is, and I was wrong, as I frequently am … our walk today, at the end of the week she reached 1000 days, one thousand remarkable growing, learning days, our walk today showed me just how wrong I was.

We went to music class, she listened, she sang, she danced, she marched, she clapped and she concentrated. She has rhythm, my girl, natural rhythm and a great ear for music. We left the class happy, she ate a plum while she sat in the back of the car and inbetween slurpy bites, she sang the songs we’d learnt. “Shhh Mummy, just only Hope, not Mummy, just Hope sing it”, she’d shush me if I tried to join in at the wrong time.

We had to sit in traffic for ages so I took a shortcut to Grantchester Meadows and decided to take her for a walk, no ball, no scooter, just a shared chocolate biscuit and the remains of the plum and the long wet grassy meadows.

I try to make time to really be with Hope every day, not just in terms of feeding her, nursing her, going to playgroup with her, playing with her, but actually spending time at her pace, Hope-led time, it doesn’t always happen, ‘real life’ and day to day work and chores get in the way, going at Hope speed makes everything take much longer, can mean spending ages looking at a flower or watching a duck, examining ants or looking at the moon, which is all very well but when you know you have a million and one things to do urgently it can be frustrating at times.

As we set off on the walk today, I decided that it would be at her pace, we wouldn’t rush, where we went and what we did would be up to her… the half hour, mile long walk took nearly two hours, two glorious absorbing happy hours.

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counting the pebbles and looking for slugs

It was very overcast and misty, we set off, she in her raincoat, hood up ready for the coming rain, and her new red shoes (she refused to wear her pink spotty wellies).

“Look Mummy, COWS”, “LOOOOOOK Mummy, cow has poo on tail”, “OHHHHH other cow has poo too”, we stood and watched the cows, she ate our biscuit, we discussed why cows don’t wear knickers, why they didn’t wipe their bottoms, and we listened to the tearing sound as they pulled up the grass and chewed.

It started to drizzle slightly in a misty sort of way, I asked if she wanted to go back, “No, Hope see river”… we set off down the hill and came upon a hedgehog, a sickly looking little hedgehog … a man was watching it, he wrapped it in a cloth and put it in his bike basket to take it home and then to the hedgehog hospital (yes there is one, in a village called Shepreth). Hope was fascinated, “Why it sick?”, “hedgehog need Mummy, hedgehog want milky” “hedgehog hospital? hedgehog sick?” and so on until we reached the riverbank.

It wasn’t the water, or the ducks that caught her eye, she stood quietly and looked, I asked her what she was watching, “Hope see tree, tree lovely”. There was a huge old gnarled tree which had been, at some point or other, struck by lightening and over the years turned into a wonderful whizzened shape, it was quite beautiful and the light was catching it. “Why is it funny Hope?”, “tree look like magic” … it did, she was right.

She climbed the gate, and it swung open with her standing leaning over the top, hood up like some guardian gnome, she climbed down, went through and climbed back up again and looked at me, “Mummy do it?”, “Come on Mummy, just one time, Mummy do it like Hopey”. So I did, and the poor gate nearly fell off its hinges. “Well done Mummy, Mummy did it!” she exclaimed and then came running over hand outstretched, “Hope help you? Mummy down?”.

We wandered on and then she held my hand again, she swung my arm and said, “Dance Mummy dance” and started to sing, “Jiggity jig and away we go” and we galloped together along the path singing and every now and again dancing in a circle. We were mid spin when she spotted a dog, “Ohhhh Mummy dog running”, she watched it go by, “dog gone, come on Mummy”, and we carried on.

The drizzle turned to rain and she asked to be carried for a bit, I picked her up, she kissed me, ” ‘ank you Mummy, ‘ank you”, and then spotted a moorhen in the reeds, “Stop, down”, she stood for a while watching it and then waved goodbye and ran to the next gate.

We saw a lady who was wearing red shoes, sneaker, Converse type shoes very like hers… Hope stopped in her tracks and pointed, “look Mummy lady’s shoes RED”, she then had to go and peer more closely at them, but clutched onto me when the lady suggested they put their feet together to compare shoe sizes.

On we went, we looked at the dewy wet sparkly droplets on the grass, a robin on a bramble and some very dark brown leaves that apparently looked like slugs. It was raining fairly heavily by then, she was dry in her big raincoat, I was pretty soggy, so I suggested we run back to the car, “no Mummy, this way”, she pointed to a path up the field alongside the bramble hedge where we’d seen the robin and then shouted out, “LOOK Mummy, strawberries, Hope pick some”. They were blackberries, and she did, managing to avoid the thorns, her hand and her mouth were stained with blackberry juice. The ones higher up I lifted her to reach, she spotted some above my reach, “Hope up there Mummy”, I put her on my shoulders and we did a kind of wobbily circus act and she reached in and grabbed a handful, I flinched expecting she’d get prickled … no she just came down triumphant, dripping blackberry juice on me as she descended and managing to smear mud all up my sleeve from her muddy red shoe.

We walked along eating berries, and examining stinging nettles and humming the tune to Sleeping Bunnies, or rather she hummed the tune, I tried and she looked up and said, “No Mummy not ‘um, just only Hope”, which put me in my place. Just before the end of the bramble hedge we stopped again to peer at a pigeon feather. I bent forward and gave her a hug, the rain was dripping off the front of her hood and she was trying to catch it with her tongue. I gave her a kiss on the cheek and went to stand up, she reached up to me, “Mummy, Mummy, Hopey thinking bout”, “ohhh what are you thinking about?”, “Mummy, I think about sometimes”, “Sometimes what monkey are you enjoying your walk?”, “Mummy sometimes … sometimes Hopey thinking… Hopey think this best walk in world EVER, Hopey happy”. She was right, and I was happy too, if a little wet.

Up a muddy lane, pausing to examine the hazelnuts and conkers, and to fill all available pockets with the treasure she was picking up. Then up the path by the road, “red car, silver car, happy man, look, a cross man”, and then onto a little alleyway kind of path. She let go my hand and ran ahead, “hedgehog Mummy, ‘nother hedgehog”, it was a pine cone … she found 3 small ones and stashed them away in her pocket and then a huge squeal came, “the Mummy hedgehog, Hopey find the Mummy one” … a much bigger pine cone which I think had to carry.

On up the alleyway, through the cattle grid, carefully balancing and holding hands, to the top of the meadow and the cows. Pretty much the same conversation about poo, and then a final jiggety jig gallop and over another cattle grid and into the car park where there was a huge puddle to jump in. Poor red shoes were red no more, trousers soaked but the absolute delight on her face made it all worth while. Then, she spotted something shiny in the grass beside the puddle, “Money Mummy, LOOK, Hopey find MONEY”, a 20p piece, she triumphantly picked it up and showed me, I bent down to look, “oh wow Hopey how exciting, put it in your pocket”, “Mine money Mummy, Hopey put it in pinker pank when we home”. (She gets given any random 20p’s I find in my change for the piggy bank she painted herself, quite a ceremony, I hold the pinker pank, it makes snuffly noises, she puts the 20p in, it (I) make oinking noises, she kisses it on the snout and I put it back on the shelf, then once every couple of months we go to the bank and it goes into her account.) By now she had mud dripping down her blackberry stained arm and was more excited than I’d ever imagined she could be. Then she beamed and announced, “Hopey NEED hot chocolate!”.

She climbed into the car and sat beaming while I strapped her in, “Mummy getting wet? Raining?”, “Yes I am bunny, yes I am”, “Oh… chip chop Mummy”.

… we went and shared a ham sandwich and a hot chocolate at the Italian deli and played snap and pouring water from one cup to another before heading home where she marched up the stairs, grabbed her Minnie Mouse and told me it was time for Mummy and Minnie to have a snooze, but that Minnie and Hopey wanted some milky first, and that Minnie had to wait as Hopey was “more hungry Mummy, Hopey milky first”.

An ordinary day … an extraordinary day.

Yet again she renewed my delight in the world, in simplicity and in fun, and allowed me the privilege of seeing the world through her eyes and sharing her discovery … and how can anything beat that?

I have a worldly party going expat friend, we talk sometimes, he tells me his tales of wild nights and action filled days, then he asks what we’ve been doing. His world feels a million light years away from ours, once I’d have craved it, and yearned for the late nights and lavish locations … now when he ask what we’ve been doing, I smile inwardly, and I don’t know what to say… going for a walk, picking blackberries, collecting pine cones and chatting to a woman with red shoes… not  his kind of day, it doesn’t sound up to much really, but for me and for Hope it was magical, exciting and part of an enormous and ongoing adventure.

Two pieces were written for her christening; her Godfather wrote and performed a song specially for her, A Song for Hope, which has the wonderful line, “A little Hope’ll go a long way”, and her UnGodmother crafted a poem which her son read, the last line in that is, “Hope is dancing, Esperanza!” They couldn’t have been any more perfect.

Happy 1000 days remarkable little girl … I can’t wait for the next 1000, and I’m praying that the days pass at half the speed of the first thousand, though I suspect they will go twice as fast.


day one … the very beginning

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and now, after the 1000 days walk, the best walk in the world ever

The written word

September 24, 2014

Did I mention that she can now write her own name?

The feeling of absolute joy I get looking at this is impossible to articulate … not that she has the skill and dexterity to form the letters but my daughter, the little person who wasn’t ever meant to be, my Spaniard, our baby, our remarkable Hope is so proud and sure of who she is (she says her name with such certainty and always pats herself on the chest when she says it … her full name … and where she lives), that the first thing she has written is her name… I told you I couldn’t articulate it!

Anyway … just look and smile broadly … and notice the butterfly and the little heart as well… she wrote it the day after she was two years and eight months old on the front of her friend’s third birthday card envelope, the heart was because it was with love from Hope …


a word of art

a word of art

Still here, just a little swamped

September 24, 2014

I’ve been neglectful of late … no not of my child, she’s the absolute centre of my universe … not of my mother, she’s my rock and my support even as she faces serious surgery, not of my work, I’ve had many many many late nights beavering away and looking for new work … but of my writing…

particularly my writing here.

Not enough hours in the day, stretched and overstretched … the piles and piles of small clothes that need to be sorted and put away, the mountain of paperwork, the many shoeboxes full of receipts to sort, the thank you letters that remain unwritten, the update emails to Godparents that are months behind, the nutritious meals I was going to prepare, the dust, the new car seat that needs putting back together, the grey tired roots of my hair, the holes in my clothes … I’ve neglected alot and all of these things shout at me when I sit down at the computer … “me first”, “I’ve been waiting the longest”, “OY” … and so I’m distracted from my writing, from my writing here, and at Mothering in the Middle, and Huffington Post … maybe I’m in what’s known as a dry spell, a desert …

it’s not that I’ve got writer’s block, it’s the noise of the rest of my life dampening down my ability to put fingers to keyboard, to put my mind in gear.

She continues to inspire me, make me laugh, drive me to distraction, cause my heart to overflow with love with every minute I spend in her company … the joy when she masters a new skill (skipping with her hands on her hips, writing her name, making flower shapes on the floor with my business cards while I’m working on the computer, getting in and out of the bath by herself, catching a ball, going on the aerial runway on her own, not going over the lines when she coloured in a picture of the sun, reciting the whole of the Tiger That Came to Tea as I turn the page, singing Chatanooga Choo Choo, telling me “I’m not finished yet”, doing a poo on the potty or whooping with delight when she sees an earwig in the garden… so many glorious and wondrous achievements), and the exasperation when she asserts her two year old opinion in the manner of a cross tired two year old and lies on the floor or stands and clenches her fists and shouts, “BUT I WANT TO”, the peace of watching her sleep, the utter contentment on both of our parts when she breastfeeds … all of it is magical and a rich rewarding overwhelming blessing …

maybe I wonder at what to share now she’s getting older, she’s already started to tell her story … or maybe I’m just too tired to keep my mind in order.

So, in case you were wondering, or had even noticed I was missing, I’m not, I am still here and our journey is continuing on its wonderful winding way.

…and just wait until I tell you what else we’ve been up to… life is never dull!

Facebook has been easier to update lately, quick, easy, links to share and so on so if you really want to you could ‘like’ the page there or check in from time to time …

Thanks as well for the many ‘where have you been?’ emails .. hugely appreciated.


What’s your favourite drink?

September 10, 2014

There’s been so much going on of late that I haven’t written about the stories that made me laugh or feel utterly besotted  …

Here’s one from our visit a month or so back to Ireland.

She has boy cousins, lots of them, and now she’s big enough to play with them she often announces she wants to be one of them, “Hopey not big girl, Hopey big boy”… and more recently “Hopey big boy called Ishka”, nope no idea where that came from but she’s said it on more than one occasion. When she’s being a “big boy called Ishka”, she marches round standing tall with her hands in her pockets and then suddenly shouts, runs and sticks her tongue out … reflecting I guess the boy behaviour she’s observed (fairly accurately it has to be said!!).

So, we’d come back from a wet walk, we were in Ireland, so there was a strong chance it would be a soggy stroll. We came into the house and she galloped off to find her cousins, they were all lolling around on cushions playing with their Wii game or a DS or something that I have absolutely no understanding of. Hope was transfixed, she stood in the middle of the room, hands on hips and watched. The game ended and they all reached for their cups of squash, juice or whatever. Hope realised she didn’t have a drink, “Hopey thirsty”, she announced to the disinterested boys, and then again a little louder.

“What do you want to drink Hope?”, one of they eventually asked.

At this point I should say that I was sitting with my mother in the dining room, she was painting and looking out watching the rain, I was eavesdropping and half peering around the sitting room door.

“What’s your favourite drink Hope?”

“Mmmmmm Hopey like mulk. Hopey want milky”.

The boys all looked at each other confused, “what? juice Hope?”

“No Hopey want mulk from my Mummy”.

The boys were still bemused … Hope explained very patiently and lifted up her t shirt to make the point.

“Milky”, she said, “milky from nipple”, prodding her chest.

Lightbulb moment for one of the boys, “Ohh she wants some of her mother’s milk”, general slightly perplexed murmuring.

“Hope want milky from my Mummy’s nipple right now”.

Boys started to blush …

“Hopey like Mummy’s nipple, like my milky, Mummy has big milkys, lots of mulk for Hope … you want some too?”

Boys horrified, a collective, “NO”.

“OK, bye”, said Hope decisively as she marched out of the room and over to me to demand her milky fix … the boys followed a little sheepishly and watched, “see”, said one of them, “I told you was milk from her Mum she wanted”.

Hope stopped mid slurp, looked and made a loud sucky noise, she beamed, “want some? Milky my fav’rit”, the boys fled!


Why was I left feeling like I’d failed?

August 29, 2014

I was asked a few weeks back to write a guest post at MumsNet on behalf of Tongue Tie UK, a very small organisation with a very big challenge; to raise awareness of the issue of tongue (and lip) ties and the impact they can have, and how they can be dealt with. They asked me because of something that happened very very early on in Hope’s life … this is the piece I wrote … it’s been shared some 200 times on Facebook already and commented on by over 100 people on the post itself or on Facebook at the MumsNet page and has been retweeted and commented on hundreds of times on Twitter .. I’m overwhelmed by the response, and also deeply saddened by all the stories of babies and their mothers affected and not supported  or treated…

If you had a baby with a tongue tie do share your story .. here or at MumsNet and consider supporting Tongue Tie UK … and if you know someone who is pregnant and about to give birth, then suggest they get their newborn checked for tongue tie, and if you know anyone struggling to breastfeed their baby get them to see if a tongue tie is the problem … 

Here is the the full text of the post:


“My daughter was blue when she was born – premature, blue and grunting. Although they sounded very sweet, the kitten-like noises she made were because her lungs were struggling. I’d scarcely had a chance to say hello when she was whisked off to the SCBU. When I saw her again a few hours later, she had a nasogastric tube, an IV drip and a pulse monitor attached to her.

I tried to breastfeed her, but felt all clumsy; she was tiny, her mouth seemed so small, and we couldn’t get it quite right. I was given a breastpump and I expressed a few millilitres of what everybody helpfully referred to as ‘liquid gold’, dripped into her via the nose tube. She kept unlatching. I thought it was the nose tube causing her discomfort, or me holding her wrong as I tried to avoid contact with my c-section scar – I was sure it was all my fault.

Feeding became very stressful. I was constantly frustrated – we always seemed so close, but just missed getting it right. We were kept in hospital as she was a little jaundiced and my heartbeat was erratic, but also because I didn’t feel confident with breastfeeding. People came and went, fiddling with my boobs and showing me different holds, but nothing worked. I’d had a caesarean, and was then separated from her for the first few days of her life – I already felt as if I had failed her somehow, so breastfeeding became even more important to me. I felt like I could do nothing right, and this sense threatened at times to engulf me.

One day, whilst advising me on positioning for breastfeeding, a lactation advisor said something about a tongue-tie. I had no idea what she meant. At that point my baby started to cry, and we didn’t have a chance to continue the conversation.
I was so relieved – but why had I been left to feel like Hope’s problems with feeding were down to me? And, having just given birth, why did I have to go to a different hospital?

A few days later, on my slow shuffle back from dripping my precious pumped milk down through the nose tube, I saw the very first midwife I’d met when I was pregnant. She was delighted to meet my girl and asked how I was getting on, so I told her about the breastfeeding problems. She looked into my daughter’s mouth and sure enough, she found that Hope had a tongue-tie. The little bit of skin under the tongue that joins it to the palette was too tight towards the back of the tongue, meaning the tongue was sitting high in her mouth, which is why she could only suck in a very shallow way.

It was a huge relief to understand what the problem was, but there was nothing our hospital could do. We had to travel to a different hospital over an hour away with my 16-day-old baby to get help. The consultant confirmed that our daughter had a posterior tongue-tie and offered to snip it there and then. The procedure took all of 10 seconds, and I think caused me more angst than it did my daughter. I sat in the hospital cubicle topless, while my husband went to hold the baby as the tongue-tie was severed. I heard a very brief cry – it made me cry too – and then she was carried in, looking like a small, bloodied vampire. I put her to my breast and immediately she started feeding.

She nursed voraciously for 20 minutes, the antiseptic qualities of breastmilk starting to heal the very small wound, and then she slept all the way home. I was so relieved – but why had I been left to feel like Hope’s problems with feeding were down to me? And what would have happened had I not spent time with the lactation advisor who first mentioned tongue-tie? And, having just given birth, why did I have to go to a different hospital?

As with most things, it was down to funding. And perceived ‘lack of evidence’ as to whether posterior tongue-ties really do have an effect on breastfeeding (or, for example, language development). It was only when I began speaking to friends about it that I realised how many of them had been through similar experiences. Some had reluctantly given up on breastfeeding, and some – those who could afford it – had gone private to get the tongue-tie treated, or they had taken a long journey to another NHS hospital. All of them, like me, had had no idea what a tongue-tie was until the moment their newborn was diagnosed with one.

I firmly believe that tongue-tie should be highlighted in all antenatal classes. We were incredibly lucky to have such a diligent and knowledgeable midwife, who was willing to discuss something the hospital she worked in didn’t recognise as an issue. Without her support, our breastfeeding journey would have failed before it started – and my daughter and I would have missed out on the joy that nursing has given us.”

#TongueTieHour is a space for parents and other people to share experiences and discuss tongue-tie and lip-tie, every Monday (from September 2) between 3pm and 4pm on Twitter. It is organised by Tongue-Tie UK, which raises awareness about tongue-tie and lip-tie.


An important announcement

August 25, 2014

I was sitting on the loo a little earlier, the door burst open and she marched in.

“Milky Mummy, Hope want milky”.

“OK, bunny, just wait a minute, of course you can”.

She lent over and patted the front of my jumper, lent forward and kissed me and then turned and wandered off.

Two minutes later I came into my ‘office’ to find her standing on the floor looking up at different breastfeeding pictures, the ones I’d been looking at for my latest piece at Huff Post, mainly of the two of us but a few from various nursing websites, “Milky Mummy … lots of milky”, she picked up the breastfeeding book that was open on the desk and examined one of the images, “lady’s milky Mummy”, she said pointing at the mother’s breasts, “lady little bit of milky, not much milky, funny nipple”, I looked at the picture and said, rather vaguely, “everyone is different Hopey, all in different shapes and sizes, large  ones, small ones, all different”, that seemed to satisfy her curiosity, she put the book back giving the picture one last quizzical glance . 

She turned and followed me out of the room and over to our favourite ‘feeding’ chair.

Today, she wanted her milky standing up, she chose the left side first, “deeeeelicious Mummy”, and then went to walk round to the right side. She stopped, stepped back, looked intently at my chest, smiled and and announced, “my Mummy has BIG milkys, lucky Hopey”.