makar [ˈmækər]
n (Literature / Poetry) Scot a creative artist, esp a poet
[a Scot variant of maker]

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

I'm really good at remembering dates, which is great for history exams and appointments, but not so much for days you'd rather not recollect. I was going to have a baby this month. In recent weeks, there have been many humid, hot days, when I've thought how awful it would be to be in my final weeks of pregnancy, but still, there is no escaping it. It has been there, always, in the back of my mind. Mostly, I'm okay with it now. I have a lot of distractions, not least of all the tiny girl that squirms around inside me and makes my hips ache. Then, last week, when talking about something quite removed from the subject, I unexpectedly lost it and, once again, sobbed my heart out. It was cathartic, it felt like a release, and it left me exhausted.

The day I realised I was pregnant with that baby, days before my period was due, I was crossing the bridge on the train, when I saw two dolphins just below me. They were so close and so majestic, and I just had this very strong feeling that I was pregnant. And then all those weeks later, when I was sitting on a balcony on Rottnest Island, I saw a pod of dolphins in the bay. It was a subdued, cloudy day, but the light was incredible and seemed to match my grief and sense of helplessness at realising that there was no hope for this little life that was leaving my body. It felt special seeing them - a moment of beautiful, painful clarity in the fog of confused emotions. Yesterday, I was going over the bridge, as I now do every day, when I spotted them, far away this time, moving slowly through the flat, opaque water, like black stitches through steel-grey silk, and even though I see them all the time in the river, I felt suddenly overcome with loss and the tears welled up behind my sunglasses and ran down my cheeks. 

In the weeks after my miscarriage, I really wasn't sure that we would try again. I'm so pleased we did, and, as my daughter said: "If we'd had the other baby, then we wouldn't have this one." And, of course, she's right. 

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

"Be careful. Don't read too much news." This is what my doctor said to me last time I saw her. Wise words, especially when addressing someone with a baby in their belly and anxiety. And yet, it's pretty hard to turn away and block out all that is happening in the world right now. I used to be a news addict before I had children. I listened religiously to radio news, read the newspapers, checked the websites all day long, and when, after university, I didn't have a job for a few months (just a string of unpaid work experience placements, two in national newspapers), I obsessively watched coverage of the Iraq war.

Once I became a mum, I stopped; I just couldn't stomach it anymore. It was a matter of survival. The small, immediate world of caring for my children couldn't exist alongside this huge, deeply troubling museum of horrors, so I turned away from it. But, of course, you can't live in a bubble forever; to ignore anything that doesn't directly impact on you is a kind of wilful negligence. It is to be complicit in some way with the bad things that are happening. So I started listening and reading again (although I draw the line at television news and have happily survived without a television for more than a decade), and to care about what was going on beyond my narrow day-to-day world. Anxiety is an entirely normal response to the news and yet, I believe it's important to know these things. I also have to function, as we all do, on another scale and, to do so, I need to be my own censor.

We apologise for worrying about the little things, for our "first-world problems", but this is what anchors us, this is what stops us from spinning out of control. I need to worry about what to cook for dinner, to fret over the kids' behaviour and friendships, to write lists of baby names and shopping and odd jobs, to procrastinate over my work, and to deliberate about the rickety fence and the higgledy piggledy garden and the mismatched furniture. It's a question of finding the balance.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

So it's a pretty standard holiday story. You go away and the kids swim and walk and cycle all day, eat foods that are normally treats, sleep well because they are physically exhausted, and are generally very happy to be lavished with attention from two parents and allowed to do all the things they love to do. Meanwhile, you watch on, delighting in the way it ought to be, this raising kids malarky, maybe even manage to read an entire book, actually have a conversation or two with one another, and inevitably indulge in the-why-don't-we-move-here-fantasy. And of course, we did do all this last week. We'd planned a business, selected a street to live on, even noticed a possible school...but it was all a FANTASY. Just part of going away to a different place and doing things differently and wondering what if... I love where we live and I have no real desire to move anywhere else, but still, there is something special about going away and seeing an alternative way of being. So rather than pack our bags, we decided to think about what made being on holiday better than not being on holiday, and to attempt to bring some of those things back with us to our everyday life. I won't bore you with all the details but let's just say less technology is good, so is lots of unscheduled time, cooking together seems to make eating together a lot more enjoyable, and spending as much time as possible outdoors in nature makes everyone happier. Simple, right?


Monday, January 2, 2017

I love the end of the year - it brings a sense of closure and introspection and the opportunity to instigate some changes. In the last few days of 2016, I thought about what I want to focus on over the coming year and, in particular, over the next five months before our baby is due. I jotted down a list of what I'd like to achieve in this brief window of semi-freedom, while my third is in full-time education and my baby is still self-contained. It was an ambitious list, but not one beyond the realms of possibility. I'm hoping it will keep me on track. We shall see...

But a list is not a resolution and, by New Year's Eve, I still hadn't decided on one. Where to begin? There are so many things that I could do better, so much room for improvement. And then it came to me: something simple and entirely possible that would improve my well-being and my productivity. I would resolve to write every single day, no matter what. It needn't be a 1000-words of fiction, or anything meaningful or even good; I just need to write, be it a scrawled paragraph of a novel, a new plot-line development, a quick character sketch, a rant about a personal encounter or experience, an observational description of the colours or smells or feel of the day, even a blog post... just write every day.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Helloooo there, strangers! Here I am on the other side of the epic move (not really but it felt epic to me), hurtling towards the end of the year at an alarming pace. I've tried to write a blog post a couple of times, but the words just weren't there. As is the case with so many people, 2016 has not been a bundle of laughs. There have been a few ups and some massive downs. I feel altered by this year and rather wrung out, but also a little wiser and somehow more at peace with myself. Weird, I know. I wonder what 2017 will bring... There is a baby growing in my belly, due mid-year, a novel to re-edit, a new writing project to research, and a thousand ideas for prints to realise. But first Christmas and a birthday, and a new year to welcome in...

Sunday, October 2, 2016

In a few weeks, we will be moving home. It feels bitter-sweet, as many moves do. We have been here six and a half years, the longest I have lived anywhere since I left my parents' house at 19. It's also the first house we have ever owned and lived in together. The children are feeling pretty anxious about moving because they have no memory of living anywhere else. It's exciting, but also a little sad.

When we moved here, all those years ago, we had two children, one barely two and the other only six months old. I was super keen to meet people and, as soon as possible, pushed my pram up the hill to the local playgroup. The first two women I encountered are still dear friends, and I went on to make a whole gaggle of connections with those who frequented the group. It was very relaxed and the emphasis was most definitely on the mums chatting and drinking tea together, while the kids did their thing. Everyone was happy with the arrangement! There was always an abundance of cake and watermelon. It was a great end to a long week, and I looked forward to it SO much.

Of course, things move on and we eventually stopped going when my eldest started Kindy and schedules clashed. As we got caught up in different schools and different commitments, I saw those mums less and less. Some friendships have fallen by the wayside, others remain strong, despite the infrequency of our catch-ups. Such is life. Things move on and change. I have fond memories of that time, difficult as it often seemed.

I will miss this suburb for the beautiful, wild gardens, the big majestic trees, the quirky houses and the quiet streets. I will miss my morning walks under the pink-grey sky, the red-tailed black cockatoos that circle our garden, the call of the kookaburras, the shade of our jacaranda tree, the spectacular light that beams into my kitchen in the late afternoon, but mostly, I will miss it for the good people who live here.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Seven weeks ago, I had a miscarriage. I was 11 weeks pregnant and on holiday with my whole family. My eldest boy broke his arm that week and needed surgery, so it really was a ridiculously shitty week. As my husband said, "at least it all happened in this beautiful, healing place". I could see the beauty, but I wasn't feeling it, and I certainly wasn't healing. In the weeks immediately afterwards, I found myself floored by a deep sense of grief; one that shocked me with its volume and ferocity. As I sobbed over my desk, quietly on the bus, and desperately in the shower, the hot water flushing away my tears, I was reminded of the grief I endured after I lost my mum, over a decade ago. And yet, I had never known the person I grieved for, I had never even seen them because the only scans I had were the ones to confirm that there was no longer a baby inside me. The person I grieved for was an imagined person, an imagined future, demarcated by imagined milestones. And yet the pain was real.

Last week, I went back to the place where I lost this fourth not-to-be child of mine. To begin with, there were reminders everywhere of what had happened. When I looked at the design of the bathroom floor, I saw blood, when I rode past a certain landmark, I felt the cramps strengthening, when I went to the pub, I recalled the moment I realised it was not going to be okay. But it was school camp and there wasn't much time to dwell. And besides, it felt good to be there, in a place that has so many happy memories for me; a place I first visited when I was 6 months old and which I have loved all my life. And then, when it was almost the end of the week, I found myself sitting in the evening sunshine, with some amazing women, holding a tiny baby in my arms, and telling them, without, crying, about what had happened. Only a few weeks ago, I could not bear to look at a pregnant woman or a baby; I could not stop crying and I certainly could not talk about my miscarriage. Going back was the best thing that I could have done.

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