Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

Advertising the whole picture

July 21, 2015

*warning: this post is about parenthood. If this kind of things pisses you off (which I totally empathise with) then skip along if you wish.

My life is not like the posters. Those idyllic Breastfeeding promotion pictures.  Beautiful made up mothers smiling lovingly at their contented baby. But the posters are lying. Well, perhaps not completely lying but certainly not telling the whole truth.

They do not tell the story of the unrelenting nature of feeding a newborn and how exhausting and unpredictable it is.

They do not tell the story of how crazy one feels after weeks and weeks where a successful nights sleep is 3-4 hours and most of the time that successful nights sleep is not experienced.

They do not show the physical messiness of Breastfeeding… Boobs leaking milk without permission over the bed at night or the clean t-shirt you’ve just put on 20mins ago. After the shower that youve been attempting to get for the last 3 days. Or the excruciating nipple pain that often occurs (thankfully not for me this time since I learned these latching lessons with my first child)… But even that exposes a myth that babies and mothers just ‘know’ instinctively how to latch and feed. This is bullshit and many women spend weeks in pain because they are afraid they are failing the natural motherhood test by not knowing what they hell they are doing. Like most things ‘its only easy when you know how’.

In one moment I lay with both babies curled and snuggled up on my chest and I genuinely wonder how I could love them anymore than I do in this moment. A few hours later I stumble out of bed lean over their cot and let the words that good mothers keep in their heads spew out of my mouth in the exasperated tone in which they are felt…”what the fu*k is it now?” The posters don’t show these moments.

Meanwhile our two year old has discovered I literally can’t move when I’m feeding his little sisters and he more cleverly with each day discovers how he can take advantage of this. … “eoin why is your face and hair all wet”? ” poppy’s water yuck mummy” (poppy is our dog). In the posters toddlers do not exist. “Sleep when your baby sleeps” they say… And instead I watch my babies sleep peacefully while I scrape spinach pasta off my toddlers chin.

But then I suppose we tend to take pictures of the moments we want to remember rather than those we are happy to forget.

My life is not like the posters but it is not completely unlike them either. It is a mix of tears and joy. Tiredness and strength. Anger and love. It is wonderful and difficult. It is enjoyable and at times pushes me to the edge.

It is what it is.


We can do hard things…

June 20, 2015


Last month wee frizz posted me a fridge magnet that has been cheering us on ever since. It says “we can do hard things”. Last week my waters broke and labour of twins began. In the car on the way to the hospital we laughed nervously and chanted “we can do hard things”. In the middle of labour Andy soberly whispered to me …”we can do hard things”. When we arrived home two days later with two tiny baby girls who were excitedly and frantically welcomed by our two year old I told myself …we can do hard things.

A week later it is still hard. Endless hospital checks worries over jaundice and possible admission, weak feeding, low weights, expressing milk, learning how to use bottles, trying to help our toddler adjust to the fact his family has changed dramatically, lack of sleep, lack of sleep, lack of sleep… Lack of sleep.

But they are amazing and friends and family are amazing. Our church is supplying meals for us EVERY DAY! Grannies have kept us sane. Public health nurses and midwives have helped keep our babies alive and with us rather than in ICU. The list is endless….

So… Meet Cara and Aoife who are teaching us daily to be grateful for the people and the God who can help us do hard things.


Too big and too small

April 16, 2015

It’s been a while. I guess the sunny weather is lessening my laziness. I found out in December that we are expecting twins. That was sort of enough to consume my brain for quite some time. Shock, disbelief, joy, terror blah blah and so on. I puked morning, noon and night for over 9 weeks straight. I have never fe!t physically worse. Someone said about sea-sickness that it comes in 2 stages: stage one- you feel so ill you think you might die. Stage two- then it gets worse and you start to worry you won’t die. That pretty much sums it up for me. But eventually it got better. It specifically got better after I asked some friends to pray (which was harder for me than it sounds because I felt pathetic for not being able to handle it better) and then I had a bit of a grump with God because I thought that if I was him I’d be less inclined to help a privileged pregnant woman keep a slice of toast down and more inclined to stop a war or cure my uncles cancer or something. I had a word with him about his priorities and then he reminded me that he was the one who is in fact God.

Being pregnant brings a certain amount of entertaining interactions. With twins it reaches a new level. In general people congratulate you when you tell them you’re expecting. But when you tell them it’s twins generally you get the ‘oh my God I’m so sorry look/words’ or the ‘what were you thinking?!’ Look to which we remind them it wasn’t exactly chosen. People more commonly ask about the sex of the babies too and they comment on the size of your bump a lot. I have always found this particularly odd. You can’t control the size or shape of your bump and yet people comment in a way that feels either complementary or slightly insulting. Currently this is also making me paranoid because the wee mites are not growing as well as they should be.

Anyway, on the upside I’m currently stretched out on the sofa eating jelly beans with abandon.

I have still been reading and enjoying your blog posts even though I’ve been too lazy to comment most of the time. Maybe sometime in the future I’ll have something more meaningful and profound to write but probably not for a while!

Loneliness and our preference for drama

September 21, 2014

I’ve been chatting with my supervisor lately about loneliness.  She is a classy lady who is very well educated and was born early enough in history to escape the clutches of Facebook and twitter and what not.  She is puzzled by this social media culture and ‘demands’ that I read and think more around the why’s so that somehow I can explain it to her.  Of course she’s still the one doing the explaining but it’s kind of her to invite my contributions!

I began by re-reading a great paper written by a friend (which I’m not going to get into in this post). But in it he quotes Douglas Coupland in Miss Wyoming “… loneliness is the most taboo subject in the world”. That idea got stuck in my head and in one of our weekly discussions chatting about how FB can be sought as a solution to loneliness but also perpetuates it I threw out Coupland’s idea -that loneliness is a taboo in our society and culture, …”more than cancer” I added flippantly, to which she retorted ‘yes indeed, because at least cancer has some drama to it’.

I thought about that. I thought about how right she is and how sad that is. Why is it easier to sit with the ill or the recently bereaved or the earthquake survivors (I’m not saying it’s easy, please don’t miss the point) than with the lonely? Why are we more comfortable with dramatic suffering than the mundane? Are we embarrassed by our own loneliness and bored by it in others?

These are just the beginnings of some questions and rumblings in my mind. I have no real clue what I’m saying yet. So please chip in.

Contemplating spiritual suicide

July 12, 2014

Years ago good friends brought me to a hear Jenny Lewis play in Dublin. Maybe it was just my mood on the night, (I prefer to think of it as her talent as a musician and songwriter) but her performance drew me into a deep place. It is one of my most memorable gigs for all the right reasons. As she sang ‘acid tongue’ one line in the song almost made me cry with the kind of spontaneous outburst more associated with laughter. “Now, I am tired. It just made me tired.” She didn’t just sing these words, she confessed them. And her honesty pierced through my own bullshitting for a moment.

I sat in a coffee shop yesterday alone for the first time in over a year. And that gig, that moment, those words flooded into my memory. I was reading words from Matthew (as well as Malcolm Orange) and it was a lot of “finish the race, stand firm to the end, fight the fight” kind of stuff and I felt that similar surge threatening to burst forth from my eyes and all I could think was ‘but I am tired. Too fuc*ing tired”. I imagined myself in a kind of spiritual suicide in which I a runner in the Christian race just sat down for a bit in the middle of the track. I imaged myself too tired for this standing firm and keeping going kind of business. I imagined myself laying back, closing my eyes and floating away in this spiritual realm of which I am a part. “Go on ahead without me” I yelled to you all as you passed by, “I can’t be arsed anymore”.

I indulged my daydream imaginings for a few moments wondering what it would be like to have a bit of a sit down in the God battle and at the same time began to reflect on the God who also beckons me to ‘come to the waters’ (a line which is heard in espero’s voice in my head). And today I am trying to make sense of these seemingly contradictory commands and part of me when I lean into the words about rest and Gods strength feels like standing up again and running to catch you all up in this very long race.

http:// Acid Tongue – Jenny Lewis:

A crisis of crazy.

May 11, 2014

I’ve been out of the blog loop for a while and am frantically (by which I mean very slowly and only when I am in the mood) catching up.  I’ve been up to my eyes in essays (which I got unreasonably stressed about), spent a week in Achill (which I got a tad over excited about), and started a new ‘job’ (by which I mean I am doing work that other people get paid for but I do not).

Somewhere in the middle of all this I had a wee wobbly about God.  I used to live round the road from Kevin hargaden who would ordinarily make sense of my theological crazy but now he lives in the theological underground of Aberdeen so I took my crazy to Achill instead. 

I was unable to attend our annual tenebrae service this year because of the tiny human in our house but I sort of had my own reflection, reading through the Easter story and listening to some good tunes.  I’m not great at reading the bible these days. I stick with things like proverbs because it is mostly short snappy sentences. But reading this story in one sitting was very powerful to me and genuinely moving.  But I also couldn’t shake the thought “this is frickin bonkers” and that’s before you get to the ‘Jesus floating away on a cloud’ bit. 

Since entering ‘the real world’ in the past few years I’ve become quite self conscious about being a Christian.  I’m worried what people will think. Not what they will think of God when they get to know me, just plain old what will they think of me when they know I believe this weird Jesus story.  But then I realised, I study psychoanalysis. It’s bonkers at its best.

…But just because it’s crazy doesn’t make it untrue.

And then I slept.


February 17, 2014

Last year I wrote 15000 words on this four letter word. Unfortunately it made me no less prone to feeling envy. It’s a bastard of a thing envy. We don’t like to admit it. We switch it for jealousy because jealousy is a bit more acceptable. But envy and jealousy are not the same. Jealousy is more of a ‘I wish it were me’ kind of thing, envy is more of a ‘I wish it wasn’t you’ kind of thing. Jealousy is more ‘I wish I could have what she has’, envy is more ‘I wish I had it INSTEAD of her’, or just ‘I wish she didn’t have it’. Envy is bitchy.

I saw a flash of envy in myself this week. That’s how it is, it flashes.  Kind of sneaky. I am troubled by this flash of envy that snuck up on me this week.  Instead of feeling joy for a friend at their good news I felt envy.  It wasn’t jealousy. Their news was of something I already have. It was envy. I didn’t want them to have it too.  I felt threat. I felt competition.

They say jealousy implies at least some sort of love for the ‘object’. But not with envy. There is no redeeming feature about envy. It is just rotten to its core. It seeks to destroy and tear down. It is the opposite of love. It treads upon the other. It does not rejoice in or lift up the other.

I hate that I felt this way. I hate that this was my instinctual reaction. I hate that I’m not a better person than this.

The desire to be admired, to stand out, to have position, to have power… The fear of getting lost, of disappearing, of insignificance. These are the kind of things that arouse envy in me instead of love. 

*heads off to work on her shit some more.

I’m sick of stuff

February 15, 2014

Today my friend Judy linked to this post where a lady decided not to buy ANYTHING for her two year old son. No toys, no clothes, no activities, no playgroups, no pre-made kiddy food/snacks, no special baby shampoo or toothpaste.  She is six months in and it seems that neither she nor her two year old is regretting it. Fair play to her.

The question of consumerism is often in our house. I am married to a man who is wearing the same clothes since he was 15. Yes they do have holes. He’s just become stubborn about it at this stage but there’s something good in there about resisting pressure to own the latest trends.  Every purchase for our home comes with an hour long conversation not so much about whether or not we can afford it (which is now more real than ever) but whether or not it is a good use of our money, if we need it? We question everything.

But now we have a baby, and have realised that even when we make decisions about his life he still has friends and aunts and uncles and grannies that might not think likewise.

This troubled me at Christmas. He was 6 months old. He was oblivious so it was easy. I felt strongly that I want him to grow up associating Christmas with ‘God with us’ more than the newest toy fad. I made him a sock monkey and put it in his stocking. We went to church, listened to Kevin Hargaden preach, cried because his words cut and blessed our hearts, Eoin got kisses and hugs galore. These people are his family. And yet by the time Christmas was over we came home from visiting family and friends with more toys than he could visually digest. Whilst I was touched by others generousity I felt slightly sickened that even though we had purposely chosen not to buy him lots of toys at Christmas he still has a room full of them.

But its not just about trying to restore the meaning of Christmas… It’s about trying to help him be someone who grows up not numbed because he is surrounded by too much stuff. How do we protect him from the stuff?! How do we protect ourselves? I’m already numbed by a hundred and one things, facebook scoring highly.

I do not like negotiating these paths, all advice welcome.

I would like to do better at healthier living. I would like to be able to concentrate on a book again. I would like not to be addicted to screens.

Developing virtue and character in this world is hard.

Out of control

January 15, 2014

I’m almost certain that Stanley Hauerwas wrote something about the need to live life out of control. I’m almost certain that he says that nothing makes us feel more out of control than having a child.  I cannot locate either of these thoughts but I’m sure Kevin hargaden will be able to if they exist. 

I have never been more bad tempered than in these last few months.  I dried and put away a saucepan so furiously that I broke the ‘soft close’ mechanism on the kitchen drawer.  I have scowled and cussed at my husband and child, (yes that cute baby).  Rage has surged up within me as unexpectedly as vomit.  I am more than a grump.

I’ve been reflecting on this a lot. Trying to understand and control my emotions. And what has recurrently come to mind is the thought of control, or lack of it.  In the past 4 months we have moved house and all our belongings twice, the first time we didn’t unpack because it was temporary and so we recycled 4 bowls and mugs for 2 months.  The second move was into a house that we have bought with a mortgage that will take us till our old age to repay. The house was a mess – we called it a “project”. The first move happened with a 3 month old, the second with a 5 month old. I am not in control.

Then there was weaning – I started back to my studies and discovered that our child preferred to starve himself for seven hours rather than drink from a bottle. For 3 months we tried daily and failed. On the days I was away from him I would be wracked with guilt and worry. I am not in control. And then there’s the fact that he feeds 3 times a night and people look at me horrified at such lack of discipline. Then he doesn’t always go for his naps when he’s supposed to and more often than not he will not ‘go to sleep on his own’. Then I make him some supposedly healthy recipe and he’d rather not eat it. …these moments when I can’t get my child to do what I want him to do make me feel more out of control than almost anything else. And it’s so daily. 

It all makes me mad.  So mad. I am not in control. I wouldn’t mind so much but the onlookers make me panic and feel like a failure. And I am my own greatest onlooker.

I am most angry when I am least in control.  And nothing has made me feel less in control of my life than loving my husband and child. I cannot control what they do and I cannot control what happens to them. 

I get cross when life acts independently of me. At least when a peer acts independently of me I can have a shot at manipulation, but that little 7 month old just doesn’t give a damn.

So maybe this confession is the beginning of my repentance. Something about not demanding it all be my way I suppose. Something about me not trying to be God in my life or anyone else’s.  I guess submitting to living life out of control is an act of humility (something I greatly lack these days).

Here’s to stopping fighting for the myth of control.

Here’s to submitting to living life ‘out of control’.

The gospel is true but we still need help

January 9, 2014

I am very thankful for my experiences with other Christians, especially the ones who helped me understand the gospel a bit more. Stuff like I am loved by God, I’m forgiven, made new in Christ, a daughter not an orphan and so on. This all felt so alive, so eye opening that I became emersed in it. In some ways this was good, but in some ways it led me to a place where I’d sort of use these kind of aspects of the gospel to combat all of life’s problems, mine and yours.  I’d think that if I would just believe the gospel better, believe that I was precious and valued by God that this would set me free from my deep insecurities and self hatred.  If I could just believe the gospel then I’d live without fear of what others think of me.  If I could just believe how loved I am by God I would not feel the weight of depression lurking or so needy for the love of others. I’d tell you these things too over coffee. I’d say “you are so loved by God” and I’d so passionately mean it (and still do!) But I’m starting to think that I’d be less likely to say that to you today, less likely to say it to myself. Not because I believe it any less but because I’m starting to feel like maybe the truths of the gospel were not meant to be used to bat away all depression or whatever.  (But then there’s that bit about faith being a shield that extinguishes the flaming arrows of the devil or something but let me ignore that for a minute until I get to the end of my heretical thought).

I think I feel like when Christians respond to someone’s mental and psychological suffering with gospel phrases it sort of shortcuts a process of healing.  It’s not that I don’t believe these things and it’s not that these things have not transformed who I am and how I approach life, but knowing that God loves me and believing that and enjoying that does not negate my need to face the painful parts of my own story. Face the parts that have contributed to the fact that I feel like I’m stupid or not enough or too much to handle.  I think when we go on those journeys God goes with us but I don’t think he short cuts them.