River Of Slime

Peter Venkman: Hey, how many of you people out here are a national monument? Raise your hand, please? Oh, hello, Miss!

I find myself thinking about Ghostbusters II a lot these days.


Bear with me.


I’m an 80s baby, and the Ghostbusters films were truly awesome. My brothers and I loved them. What’s chiming for me at the moment is the storyline of II.

In case you’ve never seen it, the basic idea is that there’s a river of supernatural slime flowing underneath New York City and feeding off all the negative emotions of the population. Everyone’s bad temper, anger, misanthropy and hatred is creating a monster.


I’ve been thinking about it a lot because it feels very much like what we’re living through at the moment. There’s an awful lot of negativity online, in the news and in the streets. In London everything feels uneasy in a way it hasn’t in all 18 years I’ve lived there. It might just be me that’s changed because of having a baby, but I don’t think it’s just that. There’s been a shift.


In the film there turns out to be a pretty brilliant solution. The boys take the “mood slime” (turns out it reacts to positive emotions, too), use their guns to fire it all over the Statue of Liberty, put on some banging tunes and have her walk through the streets of Manhattan with everyone singing and waving. They bring some positive energy back. It strikes me that we could do with something like that, albeit a little less bonkers. Back in the day, when I was teaching, I got to create my very own positive mood slime all the time. I helped my colleagues bring kids and staff together with singing, positivity and love every time we put on a show or a concert. It was our very own Ghostbusters II finale, twice a term. On a larger scale the 2012 Olympics did the most amazing job of bringing everyone together. People from all over the country volunteered and welcomed athletes and visitors,and for three weeks we were the place to be. It was amazing.


Right now there’s a lot of head-shaking. A lot of people ask the question “What kind of world are we bringing our children into?” and I understand the concern. I sometimes find myself sinking into anxiety at the dark place the world seems to be right now. So I’ve started turning off the TV, ignoring the trolls and filling my timelines with positive people. I’m living life on much smaller scale for the time being, and it’s helping. 


Moments with Arthur are constantly amazing. Today he has clapped for the first time, kissed his cousin on the head and held her hand, reached out his arms for his grandparents, uncle and aunt and made “brum brum” noises playing with his toy steering wheel. Not bad.


Wishing you a whole river of positive mood slime.

Manchester

This morning I wanted to get my thoughts down about what happened in Manchester. Writing has always been the best mode of communication for me, and helps me make sense of things. It’s only relatively recently that I’ve begun sharing it with others. I know that the only people who will read this are my friends, and will forgive any half-formed thoughts.

Having Arthur sometimes feels as though I’ve been given the keys to the great, vast secrets of the universe. After four years of the toothache of infertility, this little boy’s smile cracks me open with the force of a hundred suns. It is mind blowing. You know those moments when you feel at peace with everything, at one, you don’t know what with and you can’t explain it? Those moments when you feel that maybe God really does exist? I have those daily now. It is overwhelming. And along with the love and peace and wonder comes something different, and darker.

Fear.

I know now what it must feel like to have a child caught up in something like that. The heart-stopping, gut-wrenching horror of it. To not know they are safe. I have always loved the children I teach, and I have always been able to imagine it. Now I know. There is nothing I can do, or say to make things better, but I grieve with those parents and all I can do is try not to feel it too much, because it is not helpful, it solves and changes nothing. I also know that the bomber was a boy once. A baby who giggled and rolled and cried and needed his parents, just like mine. And that’s perhaps the worst thing of all. That I feel for him too, and for his family, even though I will never understand his actions.

But after all that, under all that, is compassion. The beauty of humanity, the very best of us is always seen just after these all-too frequent events. The vigil in Manchester, Tony Walsh’s beautiful poem, the cab drivers who ferried people from the venue for free and helped distraught parents find their kids. The outpouring of love on social media.

So, today, I’m going to try a few things that might help me with finding my own compassion.

If I see something on social media that makes me angry, I am not going to reply. Hate breeds hate, and if I comment on it my friends and family will see it. I will put down the phone, close the laptop. I will choose to see only the wonderful things the internet brings us. I will go for a walk and look at the summer leaves. I will tickle my son and revel in his laugh. In this way, I will be kind.

If I find myself getting too sad about the news, I’ll turn it off. I’ll call my husband, or Mum, or a friend. I’ll take my son to a cafe and mingle with other people, the good ones. I’ll listen to good music and read meaningful poetry. In this way, I will be wise.

I love Manchester. I have so many happy memories of that metropolis. Choosing my piano and flute from Forsyth’s. Affleck Palace. The fountain near Victoria Station students used to fill with bubble bath. That bar where they serve cocktails in goldfish bowls. Long boozy lunches and Christmas shopping with my friend Ben. Those things are all still there, and always will be.

Today, I will head out into my own beloved city with my lipstick on, my head held high and my little son in his sling. Because that’s all any of us can really do. Humanity is terrible, but also beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.

Stretch Marks and Scars

I was 35 when Arthur was born which had never been my intention. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t one of those people with a “plan” to have two kids by 30 or anything, but I sort of thought it would be earlier (and easier) than this.

Having said that, being an older prima gravida does have some advantages. A lot of friends and family had their babies quite a while ago, so I’d already changed my fair share of nappies. I’d also heard a lot of truthful birthing stories, so my Birth Plan was basically “Get the baby out without killing either of us and we’re cool”. No home water births for us. I read the hypnobirthing book with a healthy dose of scepticism. (Read: I giggled like a loon at the idea of my atheist joker of a husband reading aloud the visualisations during birth. I thought it might give us a laugh though).

One of the most interesting personal developments to come out of all of this though is a genuine respect for my own body. The media likes to bang on about getting one’s “figure back” or being your “pre-birth weight”. Honestly I’ve realised that in the heat of parenting, when you got up more times in the night than an elderly incontinent, a bit of sugar is the least you deserve. I was back to my “pre-birth weight” pretty quickly, but that’s mainly because of HG and the fact I wasn’t skinny to begin with thanks to four years of comfort eating. My post-natal body is quite something.

My breasts are hilarious. Huge, saggy, stretch-marked and one is at least two cup sizes bigger than the other. My husband regularly sings “Hooray, up she rises/She’s got breasts of different sizes” when I wander round nude. Which I do all the time now, because I just Do Not Care. So liberating.

My belly has a lot going on, too. I remember thinking I’d got away without stretch marks until after the birth when I finally dared to look in the mirror. Ah. There they are then. I don’t really mind them at all now, despite my obsessive use of products to keep them at bay while pregnant (newsflash: these work about as well as wrinkle or cellulite creams).

I love my c-section scar. I think it’s cool, like a tattoo or piercing. Sadly it’s not visible thanks to the overhanging spongy flesh. I won’t be wearing bikinis any time soon, but honestly I didn’t wear them before anyway.

I’ve called a truce with my body. We’re OK now. I’m unlikely to ever be a size 10 ever again and that’s fine. I recently watched an old family home movie on which 13-year old me was chasing around after my little brothers and cousins. I already had a big bottom. It was a revelation, frankly.

The really important thing to me now is health. After 9 months of throwing up every day, you stop taking that for granted. My body managed to grow a baby despite the fact I was barely feeding it. It has, in turn, fed that baby for six whole months. It can already walk long distances again, as well as perform complicated yoga routines. My body has healed itself admirably. Food is wonderful now; rather than restricting what I eat because I want to be smaller, I’m eating what I want because I can. I’m still enjoying food far too much to stop eating chips just yet. HG is great for perspective on dieting.

My body and I have always been wary allies. I’ve never loved it. But now? Now I think it’s amazing. 

6 Months

Yesterday marked half a year since Arthur was born. 

We’re past those newborn days. They were amazing and impossible and hilarious. We’ve had to learn how to be parents and get to know our boy. I thought I’d mark the occasion by writing him a letter. 

Dear Artoo (I call you this because R2-D2 has always been my favourite Star Wars character. Like him you’re brave, clever, and indispensable to the adventure)

You’re getting big. So big, in fact, that I’m starting to have to strain the 6-9 month vests and sleepsuits over your bottom. You have a sharp little tooth sticking out of your lower gum, only just through but it’s there. You’ve got a new cry that I think means “I’m bored, change it up” but I can’t quite be sure yet. Your hungry cry and tired cry are VERY clear now. You can sit without me holding you (although you still pitch to one side like a drunken sailor on deck, and once threw yourself backwards and gave your Dad a real fright), and you can roll. A lot. You’re working on the crawling which is more like a face slide with your bum in the air, but it’s coming along, and you chat to us all the time. These are all the obvious things that everyone does; you’ve also got some of your own going on too. 

1. In the bath you reject all toys except the little purple cup I use to rinse your hair. I have no idea why, but it’s your beloved. 

2. Cuddly toys aren’t really what you want when you go to sleep. You like to rub a muslin all over your face and clutch it with your chubby little hands instead. 

3. You always start laughing with what I call your “Roland Rat” laugh (look him up, he was 80s awesome) before the belly laughing. It’s the only way I can describe it. 

4. You adore your Daddy, and spend ages every morning gazing at him, chatting and grabbing his nose and beard.

5. You love books.  LOVE them. You’ve been turning the pages by yourself since you were four months, but now you’re finding it easier to do that without shouting at the book at the same time.

Over the next six months we’ve got some exciting things going on. Your first holiday with me and Daddy, our party with the other November Babies and another little cousin coming your way too. Tomorrow is your very first Eurovision Song Contest! I’m very much hoping you’ll be asleep for it, but still. 

In the future there’ll be babysitters, nursery, family, friends. Right now it’s all about the three of us. Because I can feed you with my boobs I get to keep you to myself, and if I’m honest that’s pretty fantastic. I’m not ready for anyone except Daddy to have you yet. We’re a team, the three of us. I’m clearly Han and Dad is Chewbacca.

I often ponder just how unlikely you are, my brave little droid. When me and your Dad went to the clinic I got the date wrong. I was so upset, thinking I’d blown it by taking my last injection at the wrong time, but they ended up managing to collect 13 eggs the next day. I’ll always wonder if you were the 13th egg, the one that might never have been if I hadn’t got the day wrong. Did you hear me when I told you to grab on? Of course not… but you did anyway. You wanted to be born, or at least that’s how I’ve always seen it. If your Dad and I had gone for IVF sooner, if we’d had kids without help, if scientists hadn’t invented IVF in the first place, if your grandparents had never met, if me and Daddy never met; it’s just the most unlikely cosmic chain of events really. 

Yet here you are. 

Thanks for picking us. 

Love Mum xxx