Friday, 17 May 2013

Sunshine and a family is created!

I was rather alarmed to discover how long it has been since I last posted...where on earth has time gone?!?! Pre-LO, I wrote my diary dilligently and seemed to have an excess of time to catch up on emails, read, gaze out the window and muse (of course, I didn't quite appreciate this GLUT of time until it was gone!). And there is this wondrous being, bursting with life and energy and exuberance, filling my days with high-octane fun! Who knew that someone so small could literally FILL life to the seams?!

He's growing and changing and learning and just being gorgeous. At eighteen months, the world is full of wonder - hats are his latest obsession as is exploring the garden at high speed (I laugh now at an old post I wrote about our frustration with the social workers making us build fences around our cliff top home, get down off my high horse and say thank you, thank you, thank you). Now that finally we have some warmth and sunlight, it is like the three of us have crawled out of a dark cave and are expanding into the light. Winter was tough, I'll admit it, so much darkness and cold. We holed up in our kitchen and kept the range going and hung rugs in the window when the north-easterlies were howling in. We got through a LOT of candles. I think LO thought the world was made up of one dark room filled with people and reminded me of the American Indians in their teepees for the winter, only moving to drink and eat and add more wood to the fire. That was us.

And suddenly we have light and solar power again and a garden bursting with weeds and some vegetables. The evenings are back, and R and I can sit up after LO has gone to bed and reconnect. Last month we officially became a family - the courts decreed that we are a family of three! R and I weren't quite prepared for the impact this would have on us: no more social worker visits, no more health visitor reports, no more low-level anxiety about what ifs. A few days after the official ruling we took off for a few days to Devon as a family and the sense of completeness was immense. We didn't have to let the social workers know where we were going and who we were staying with and could just get on with being a happy team of four (we took the dog). LO flourished with our full attention, minus the distractions of work, and those few days made me determined to make as much time as possible to be a family.

There was something about that long, dark winter that makes me feel like our little family was incubated, and now we are emerging into the light with a new sense of growth. Now I understand what attachment is when LO reaches out his arms for kisses and cuddles, turns to us and says Mumma and Dadda, hugs his cats and dog. This week I have popped him in the back carrier and we have been out on adventures - walking across cliffs with the wild sea breeze in our faces (poor baby with snot across his face that I couldn't see!) and wandering around magical bluebell woods. Delicious. Today we'll be planting out the sunflowers we've raised from seeds and LO will be eating mud, no doubt.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Just call me Mumma

One of the difficulties of living an off-grid life is relying on solar we creep towards Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year (and how we'll be celebrating when we cross that bridge!), there is less and less power. Today, after having four full fairly sunny days of charge, we were still only able to run a laptop for half an hour. Sooooo, while I've been itching to blog for ages and ages, it just hasn't been possible. In the days before LO came into our lives, I would've just popped into town to a coffee shop and spent an afternoon catching up on emails and blogging etc. there, but these days, well, that just isn't going to happen! So we succumbed to temptation and bought a generator - right now it is chundering away outside the back door and pumping out petrol fumes into the clean night air (guilt guilt) but I feel it is worth it to be in touch with the outside world...

Things have been wonderful: crazy, buckwild and wonderful. There have been moments when I've thought 'stop the world, I want to get off for a minute' and there have been moments when I've thought 'there must be ten million angels sitting up there waving their feathery wings over my life right now'. For years and years I have written about aspects of womanhood, including primarily pregnancy and motherhood. Now I spend a lot of time cringing about what I've written in the past... There is nothing quite like motherhood to lay you bare, to strip you down to your raw, real self, and take you crashing through a whole gamut of emotions in the space of just a few seconds. I have never experienced anything like it: the intensity, the adoration, the frustration, the guilt, the extraordinary love, the worry, the anxiety, the laughter, the wham-bam-knock-you-on-the-head immediacy of the whole shebang. Sometimes I wake with his little head beside me on the pillow and just stare at him, overcome by the incredible realisation that he is there: right there, my little bear, taking me by the hand and saying 'MUMMA, THIS IS LIFE!!!' (he can't speak yet but somehow when he does, I imagine this will be his first sentence ;-) )

Ah yes, the co-sleeping thing that springs up in the last paragraph. I always thought we'd be a co-sleeping family, it is something I'd researched and read about before and felt pretty strongly would be the right thing for us. But I didn't realise it would be a neccessity... When the bitter cold nights started here, the terror something would happen to our darling completely took me by surprise. A few weeks in and I began to get less fretful that some dreadful calamity would befall him at any moment, but there's no hiding from the fact that living in this house is freezing at times. When we came in after dark, I yearned for light switches and central heating, not a range that had gone out and stumbling around for candles. But kids are so adaptable, aren't they? Amazingly so. He is more entranced by the moon and the stars, by the first flickering lights of the candles, by the pure, deep velvet silence of night than he seems to be perturbed by the cold. That's the magic of off-grid living I guess. Nonetheless, as soon as he was settled enough, we moved him from the spare bedroom into a cot in our room, then gradually into our bed, starting with little stints in the morning. It was a reminder of how far we'd come when he slept quite peacefully between us; the first time we'd taken him on the bed for a lie down a few days into his being with us, he had cried furiously and angrily and would only settle when he was alone in the cot in the spare bedroom. Now, he starts the night in his cot in our room and when we go to bed we lift him gently into bed with us, usually without him stirring. He reaches out in the dark and touches our faces if he wakes in the night, and settles again instantly. He is so happy and cuddly when he wakes, and more than content to settle back to sleep for a nice lie-in after he's had some milk. I can't even put into words how special it was that first morning when he woke between us and turned his head from side to side to look at each of us, chuckles of delight and hands waving madly! I know that lots of people would say 'rod for your own backs' and all that, but I say rod-schmod. If you've wanted a baby with your whole heart, every moment is precious. If he shares a bed with us for years, who cares? We both agreed that we'd look back on this time when he's all grown up and flown the nest and only have warm, blissful, cosy memories.(Plus, we have a fold out bed in the living room for time just the two of us, if you get my meaning!)

As the weeks pass, our bond grows. At first he was happy to see us, but he generally likes people. Now, we are his Mumma and Dadda, he reaches for hugs and kisses (he is a blissfully cuddly baby), laughs with us, turns to us in times of need. I am amazed and full of awe at how far he has come. Suddenly, a few weeks into being here he began to bust through the 12 month milestones with a kind of feverish intensity. Every day, he did something new that had us squealing with delight. From being a fairly passive little guy, he was suddenly crawling, pulling himself up, walking with his push-along walker, clapping, making all kinds of different vocal noises...lots of achievements we got to witness. Eight weeks down the line and he's not the little person we could leave playing with his xylophone on the playmat, oh no, he's on the move! We spend a lot of time leaping about after him like mad rabbits trying to coax him away from the magnets such as dog bowls, wires, coal scuttle etc. etc.

It's good to come back and write again on some of the things that have been happening, and also reminds me of just how fast time has gone since he has been with us. All that feet-dragging on that part of Social Services, and the change of social worker, and the other ups and downs, seem like a distant memory. Another lifetime almost. Like I say, when I gaze at his sleeping face in the morning, I can hardly believe our luck.

Sunday, 11 November 2012


Every day I wake and remember this gift. Somehow my life has changed in so many ways it's impossible to express them. My friend who adopted ten years ago said she remembers feeling that she'd psychologically expanded - not by choice, but by instinct. I felt this summed it up, this incredible shift in who I am. I am more than just me, pottering through my life day by day. I am someone's mother. Someone needs me - ordinary me! - for all their needs. The choices I make impact this little being on a huge scale. It's awe-inspiring and terrifying in equal measure.

One of my more recent learnings, or at least one I can finally put into practise, is how we mirror one another. I have often recognised this in other relationships, and even read about it in motherhood, but wow! to see it before your very eyes is something else. When my friend gave birth recently I took round a big box of treats for HER with a little note saying 'Here's a little secret: a happy mother is a happy baby. Look after yourself and everything else will follow.' Hmmm, now I have to live my own 'secret'!! Both R and I made the mistake of not eating properly yesterday and failing to care much for ourselves. We have all been a bit poorly and both of us felt terrible yesterday, really achy and tired and generally out of sorts. And, of course, LO mirrored that right back at us!

Before having a child of my own, I would sometimes see mothers berating their children for not doing/being a particular thing, e.g. 'you're being so aggressive', or 'you're not listening to me' and I would think; 'look at yourself first'. I think this is true of most relationships: usually the accusations we level at others could equally be levelled at us. What you give, you get. But practising it every day as a mother? Holy smokes, that's a whole new level of learning! When LO is upset, I have to stop and think what sort of energy I'm giving off. Am I really attentive to his needs or am I thinking when he's settled, I'll be able to get the washing up done or make that phone call...or whatever it is that needs doing? I am so aware that when I feel narky or tired, surprise surprise, he does too! He mirrors my mood back to me in the beautiful, honest, powerful way kids do, and when I remember to stop and take a breather, it amazes me.

What I think amazes me most about this though is our connection. Here's this little being, born to a mother he can't be with, cared for for the first 11 months of his life by people he has had to leave behind...and here we are: mother and son. And he trusts me. He looks up in my eyes and says Mama. I look in his eyes and say thank you. For totally blowing my mind with the lessons you give me every day. For trusting me to care for you. For making this huge, unfathomable leap of faith that landed you right here, in my arms. Let me fulfill all your expectations and be the best mother I can possibly be. Because you're amazing.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

And our life begins!

One of the things our little boy's foster carer did was keep a daily record of his 11 months living with them. I was awed by this - there's not many birth children who can claim to have such a record of their early life - and also goaded into action! So each evening after he has gone to bed, I sit down and write what we have done today. The little things, the big things, the ups and the downs. It's a great chance to reflect on the last 12 days since we brought him home and will be a good reminder in years to come of these precious times.
It has been wonderful. It has been mind-blowing. It has been challenging. It has changed our lives forever. Each day he trusts us more and our bond grows. He is growing; physically and mentally, and is filling our home with his huge, radiant personality. There's never a dull moment!

The challenges have mostly been external: badly timed visits from social workers and health visitors when he's tired and fractious, and dealing with the fall-out. Getting my period for the first time since we met him and feeling incredibly exhausted but still doing the 4am wake-ups! Having to work alongside caring for him because I sadly don't qualify for maternity pay as an adopter (self-employed). And living in a house without electricity as the nights draw in earlier and earlier and it gets colder each day.

Now we're in a rhythm though, and I think we get closer each day to mastering the art of electricity-free parenting! Washing his clothes and nappies each evening and hanging them to dry on the range; making sure we have a good supply of candles (we ran out one night and if it was just us we'd have managed but trying to change a pooey nappy with a solar torch - well, kinda difficult!!). R has been amazing keeping all the fires going and the range burning and we have all decamped to our big kitchen - the warmest room in the house - and LO has a huge play area to mess about on. His Nana bought him a gorgeous cosy baby sleeping bag which has proved a godsend on these wintry nights. Yes, we're getting there, slowly but surely getting there. I've been sleeping in his room as he had bronchialitis when we first met him and on the first night here woke up with such a coughing fit, he was sick all down my legs, poor baby. Now he's so much better but I love to lie there and listen to him sleeping, and hopefully soon we can all sleep in our room but we want to take the transition slowly.

In reality, any challenges fade into insignificance beside the wonder of just holding this little being; letting him explore my face as he drinks his milk, gazing into his huge brown eyes and thinking WOW! You are the best thing that has happened to me, truly a gift from heaven. And listening to him burbling away, trying out different sounds and delighting in his newfound capabilities. R and I are more often than not in hysterics, he is a very entertaining little man and he knows it! Watching him play with his new furry friends who gather around him to patiently have their ears and tails pulled. Bathing him by the fire, his skin as soft as silk and his little hands splashing vigorously. Taking him for walks in the papoose and seeing him soak up these new experiences, the sights and sounds and smells all around. Even his first storm did not disturb him; he watched the waves crashing up against the house with a most equanimical expression on his face! These are all joys we've dreamed of, and boy, were they worth waiting for!

Part of me wonders if I'll ever get anything else done than caring for my darling, running the home and trying to hold down a job...but that seems plenty for now. At the end of this week we get to gradually introduce him to family and we can't wait. I have so yearned to see people and to share all this with those I love, and this chapter will really open up all our lives. Just imagining them meeting this long-awaited babe finally after all these years makes me shiver with excitement. Here he is! Our darling has arrived!

Friday, 26 October 2012


Oh my goodness gracious me...there are no words to adequately describe the enormous joy, incredulity and wonder of the last ten days. Meeting LO for the first time, I had expected to cry from the depths of my soul (with attempts to rein it in for his sake of course!) but instead I felt calm and centred, a magical feeling of 'there you are'. He is our son, and just as we dreamt him. So many evenings, driving back from the foster carers', we have looked at one another in wonder. We couldn't love him any more than we do. We couldn't have visioned a more perfect and incredible being to bring into our lives. He's amazing. He laughs from his belly, his eyes light up when we come in the room, he loves being tickled, he loves wriggling and leaping about in supportive arms, he loves crinkly crackly toys, he loves his milk and snuggling up...

It is so like falling in love. Last night, after we'd dropped him off at his foster carers' house for his 'goodbye evening' with them, we came back and sniffed the blankets he'd lain on!

In a few hours, we go to pick him up and bring him home. We are bringing our little boy home.

Thursday, 11 October 2012


Extraordinarily, blissfully happy today. Yesterday we had our matching panel - and we passed!! When they came into the waiting room afterwards and shook our hands, we both burst into tears...what a pair! Felt like so much was hanging on that moment - and now, finally, we can move into the next chapter of our lives. OH MY GOD/GODDESS/ALLTHATIS, we are going to be parents!!!!

We were both seriously nervous beforehand, firing intense questions at each other and fumbling to answer them. When we arrived at the meeting place, we were early and the sun was shining, so we went for a little walk to gather our strength, fearing an onslaught like the last panel. But it was our twelve year anniversary so it felt like an auspicious day. And everything was truly flowing our way. The panel members were warm and friendly, and we all laughed together. They seemed delighted with the match and hardly asked us many questions at all. In fact, when they asked us if there was anything we had expected to be asked but hadn't been, I looked down at the pages and pages of notes in my hands and laughed! It just felt right. The whole thing was so beautifully smooth.

Our friends went in straight after us and were successfully matched with their little boy. Afterwards we went for a drink and all sat there looking at each other in stunned surprise!

And the best piece of news? Our little boy - who for so many months of his early life was inconsolable - has become the happiest and most joyful child. All of the people at panel who had met him commented on it. When did he start becoming so happy? Around June time, when we found out about him, and began our nightly rituals of sending him love, imagining holding him, talking to him, visioning everything we would do with him. I'm sure so much of his contented outlook is to do with the wonderful love and care his foster parents have lavished on him, but part of me just feels that there is also a deep, deep connection there between us three, founded five months ago and growing stronger every day...

Tuesday, 2 October 2012


My beautiful sister looking over the Atlantic

Dad's beach stone colour mandala

Me and my dog
Yesterday, I posted a pretty gloomy tirade. This morning, I am feeling a lot better, largely thanks to a wonderful message from Kate and a wild, wet and windy walk yesterday afternoon with the dog. Getting out in the fresh air, whatever the weather ALWAYS makes me feel better. Thank goodness the dog makes me go for a walk, as I'm not sure I would have been able to convince myself it was a good idea in yesterday's stormy weather. The waves were crashing up against the windows, scaring the bejeezus out of all the animals. Today, the sea is calm and the sun is making sporadic appearances through the clouds.

Last week R and I went away to Pembrokeshire, Wales with all my family, 12 of us. It was a week of walking, eating, drinking, laughing, dressing up and general uproarious silliness. One day a bunch of us went down to a beach and my dad made this colour mandala from beach stones - how gorgeous is that? My sister was looking out to sea wistfully and I captured the moment in sillhouette. And when I came home my dog and I went for a mega walk through field and forest and I took a picture of us together as I'd missed her so much. Pretty embarrassing when someone stumbled across me on my knees trying to capture me and the dog...

But happy days. These photos remind me, happy days in ABUNDANCE.

Yesterday we were sent a video of LO by his SW. He was gurgling and laughing and is beginning to look so grown up now with his little teeth. I can't explain how incredible it was to hear his laughter echo around our home, and see his face light up. We love him, oh how we love him. Not long now....