Life is an adventure of the heart, an adventure into love

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Creative Collaging with Children

I absolutely love being creative with Amber, it's one of my favourite things that we do together. The other day I had the idea to make a collage together. This is an idea my Mum actually inspired when we were staying with her in September. Amber is at an age where she is capable with scissors, although this could be fun with younger children too- you would just have to cut out pictures beforehand. We both sat there with magazines, snipping out pictures, I chose pictures and words that I knew she'd love and she cut out really well too. We then spread PVA glue all over some thick red paper and she chose exactly where to put everything. We then pasted more PVA over the top to make the finished piece shiny. I love the self- discovery aspect of collaging- it's a real expression of Amber's interests, which is just beautiful.

We then decided to go one step further a couple of days later and collage a shoe box for her to keep her treasures in.

Here she is carefully cutting out...


and arranging...

And ...voila, the finished box!

This was such a fun project to do together, I think everyone loves to collage!

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Love Starts With You!

This is a follow-on from my recent post 'how marmalade got the better of me'! The marmalade making day was a hard one, but I learnt so much from it. I think sometimes it's so easy to get a bit stuck in the routine of everyday that we miss the bad habits we're getting into, so having a really hard day that 'shakes us up' enough to look at ourselves can be a really good thing. I feel like I keep on re-learning the same lesson in many ways, which is 'be yourself, be yourself, be yourself!' It's amazing how hard it can be to simply be who we are. I feel like I'm un-learning so many survival mechanisms where I haven't been myself in order to learn this lesson and be authentically me in more and more of my life.

Children are such an incredible gift because they draw out the best and worst in us. In many ways, they show us who we are- whether we like it or not! This is certainly the case for me. I realised I'd been getting stuck in a few 'un-me' patterns with my daughter (the marmalade was just the tip of the ice berg baby!). The primary reason for this was self doubt, which caused me to feel guilty about not giving into my daughter's every demand. In this place, nothing you could do would be good enough anyway. But I was running away from the guilt, rather than looking at the situation in the face and owning it. Then, after the awful day, the revelation really sunk in- "Amber needs me to be myself." I absolutely have to put myself first, trust in my instincts and not give into her demands. That way, I value me and I value her, and suddenly I have tons of ideas of things we could do together. It's the sad truth that by sacrificing ourselves for our children, we end up sacrificing them... we must value ourselves. Anyway, this has been such a timely realisation for me, and I wanted to share it. It has also inspired several creative ideas, the first of which I have photographed and is a wonderful reminder to me that loving myself is where I should begin every day.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

How Marmalade got the better of me...

It's January, and to some people that means that it's marmalade making season! All true marmalade lovers know that you can't beat Seville oranges for flavour, and so in January when they are in season, it's time to head down to the shops and buy your oranges. Oranges bought and in bags, you head home to stir sweet, citrus pots, bubbling with amber goodness. Once made, you pour the bitter- sweet, sticky mixture into your recycled jars, feeling slightly smug and virtuous that your family will at least have some good quality marmalade on their toast this year!

Only, I had a problem this year... I didn't really feel like making marmalade!

The trouble is, that I made it anyway (I just couldn't miss out on Seville season), oh but I suffered for it afterwards. Someone did tell me that you can freeze the oranges, which I wish I'd done in retrospect, but I wasn't sure whether you were supposed to peel them first- would they go mushy and be difficult to peel after being frozen? All this proved too much for my pregnant brain!

And that, my friends is how marmalade got the better of me. I stood there, peeling oranges and slicing up the skin, squeezing out the juice until my hands stung, with aching limbs and deep sighs. How silly of me! What's the point of doing anything unless it's fun? My family can live without marmalade, and they'd also rather live without me after I put the marmalade on a pedestal as more important than myself and ended up in tears! The stupid marmalade didn't even taste right afterwards, my husband thinks this is because I added too much sugar, which is strange because it has been delicious every other year.

Moral of the story: YOU are more important than any 'stuff' that you think needs to be done. If you really think about it, what is more important- would you rather have a pile of rotting oranges and a happy heart or be in the most foul mood and 10 jars of marmalade that's too sweet anyway? I know what I'll choose next time!

Sometimes we just need to give ourselves a break- we need to listen to the whispers of our hearts (however quiet they have become) and when we hear them, we need to listen, because that is where love begins. Love begins with you and then it can flow out to those around you.

Just don't make the marmalade unless you want to!

Saturday, 22 January 2011

A Simple Idea

It's amazing how much pleasure I get from simply having some fresh flowers in our home. I bought a small bunch of narcissus, tulips and irises the other day for £4.99, but I wanted to make them more of a feature, so I decided not to put them into a vase. Instead, I took a pot and half filled it with gravel and then topped it up with water. I then picked some variegated foliage from the garden and stuck the flowers and foliage into the gravel. I had to cut the stems quite small, but the flowers have lasted beautifully, they are still looking completely fresh after a week!

There is something so special about Spring flowers, they bring with them such a beautiful sense of hope and promise. I know we have to wait at least another month until Spring arrives, but it's lovely to be reminded that it's on it's way! Outside I have noticed several daffodil stalks pushing their way up through the ground and I love to point them out to Amber, and tell her that Spring is on it's way. I also love having these flowers here in our home every day, it's such a reminder that each day is precious and filled with so much promise. :)

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

I love this:

"I long to accomplish a great and noble
task, but it is my chief duty to 
accomplish small tasks as if 
they were great and noble." 
- Helen Keller 

Today, Amber and I de-Christmassed the house. I usually find this part of the New Year very satisfying, this year, being pregnant, it was extra- satisfying! We got to work, me with secateurs, Amber with a small pair of scissors, with which she snipped away tiny bits of Christmas tree and put them in the bin liner! It was very cute, and she was in her element! It's always so good when we can do things together, when she can be part of family life. We then proceeded to cleanse the room of anything Christmas, and then Amber used the hoover for the first time, and she LOVED it! She spent hours sucking up pine needles, and then, when she was satisfied that her work was done, we cleaned and re-arranged the room. It now feels very clean and spring like (even though it is not quite spring I like to pretend that it isn't far away!).

Here is the after pic:

I am now exhausted and hoping that I haven't been silly and triggered early labour! It is so nice to sit back in a fresh, clean space though, it really does feel worth all the hard but fun work! 

"The ordinary arts we practice everyday at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest." Thomas Moore

A little bit more letting go...

If you've read my last blog entry, you will know that I've been thinking about birthing recently. I'm 36 weeks pregnant now, and lots of emotions are coming up in preparation for this big event! Before last week, I hadn't given the birth much thought. My first Midwife had said to me that she would recommend a hospital birth this time due to my previous C-Section and I had agreed, just happy to have the chance of a natural birth. After that, when anyone asked, I would just say that I was having a hospital birth and hoping for the best. I knew some of the risk factors involved with a natural birth after a Caesarian, but also that it was still safer than having another Caesarian, so in a way I was fairly relaxed about the whole thing and just very excited about the baby who would be arriving, whatever process got me there!

Anyway, last week, I watched the documentary that I talked about on my last blog entry and all these emotions came up about birthing, how hard it had been last time and how, in all honesty I would be devastated if the same thing happened again. I realised that although my relaxed attitude had been a good thing, there had also been some 'closedness' going on, I had been protecting myself from another disappointment by just not looking at the area at all. After I watched the documentary, it was like a floodgate of emotions came up, and I became a little bit obsessive in my research on the net! I also started to worry about whether my baby was still in the right position as the Midwife had said or whether the baby had moved around now. It was really hard not to constantly obsess over where I was feeling kicks etc. Last night, it all came to a head, I found it hard to sleep and the baby was wriggling around loads (I thought they weren't meant to have any room to do that at this stage?!), I kept trying to guess which position the baby was in, and I felt a bit tense and stressed out.

Anyway, I woke up this morning with a huge knot in my arm muscle as I'm just not used to sleeping on my side and in the early hours of the morning I started to read a book I had been given for Christmas called 'Expecting Adam' by Martha Beck. I've only read 3 chapters so far, but I'm already hooked! It really helped to bring some fresh perspective on all this and it helped me to let go of all this birthing stuff on a deeper level. It's hard to try and describe the thought process, but here goes! There is so much in my life where I feel a touch of the divine, bringing everything together in a perfect way for me. I love my husband, my daughter, my home, and I love the adventure we are on together. All along the way we have seen so many small miracles that have left me feeling so cared for. I know I'm in the right place at the right time and I wouldn't want to change a thing. Then, every so oftern along the way, something that hurts happens, something that I don't understand, that I can't see benefits from, and I try and understand it so that I feel better about it, but most of the time, when it is happening I don't have a clue why. I get angry that life isn't happening as I would have wanted, emotions come up, things fly around, but then somehow, often a peace comes, a deeper understanding, more openness. I think I'm finally starting to understand that all the challenges that come my way can be a really positive thing if I stay open to Love, open to what I know is true in the rest of my life. Martha Beck's story is touching me so far, because she is a Harvard graduate who becomes pregnant with a little boy who has Down's Syndrome, and against all the people around them, her and her husband decide to keep this baby boy, and she ends up learning more from him about life and magic than Harvard could have ever taught her.

I'm finding a safe footing now, in that, whatever happens, it will be part of my personal adventure. Sometimes we need big challenges to grow and stay open in Love. I trust that I will have the birthing experience I need right now and that our little baby will have the right entrance into the world too. There isn't much I can do to change the outcome anyway, other that to trust my instincts to the end. I feel like I've been up one end of a see-saw and down the other this week, but it has left me somewhere in the middle, with a strong hand to hold on to. I think I needed that and it's come just in time, just as always!

Saturday, 1 January 2011

The Importance of a Woman's Heart

Something I've been learning ever since my daughter was born 3 and a half years ago, is how valuable I am, how important my instincts are, my reactions to things, the way I deal with stressful situations. All of these things are hugely important, not only because I am 'worth it' as they say, but also because I am influencing and shaping a beautiful little person. Sometimes I worry way too much about being a 'good Mum' (what does that even mean anyway?), when really, as my husband reminded me the other day, Amber doesn't need a 'good Mum', she needs YOU, Sophie. It makes sense that when I take care of myself, taking care of her comes naturally to me.

There are some days, when I'm tired and I wake up to moaning, which continues until after breakfast and is then followed by 'Will you play with me', when all I want to do is curl up on the sofa BY MYSELF! On these days, Amber can trigger all my buttons, she has the incredible ability to make me feel guilty and like I should be doing something I don't want to do, I should want to play with her, I should have a better handle on the day, more creative ideas for her etc, etc. All these feelings of should, only make me half- hearted and stressed around her, which makes her feel insecure, which triggers more moaning and more demands- you get the picture! I'm learning to put myself first, to god forbid, send Amber to her room to play whilst I collect myself or worse still, put something on the TV for her! These things allow me to relax, be myself and then we are able to enjoy each other and have a brilliant day.

These thoughts have all been triggered by my increasing thoughts about my upcoming birth of my second child. It's not long now. I have been thinking about how life doesn't always  feel 'perfect', things often don't work out as we plan them. I am learning to embrace the beauty of imperfection. For example, on one of my 'Amber stress days', I thought to myself, 'what I need right now, is to be away from my daughter and my husband, somewhere warm and tropical reading an amazing book and not being interrupted!', but then I realised, 'no, what I need is THIS, raw, family life, that challenges every part of my heart to stand up and be counted, I need these challenges, I need this love, these people, this amazing joy. It was like I came to terms with my life having always been what I have needed- for my heart's good, in order to grow into me, even when it didn't look like it and didn't fit into 'the plan' ('the plan' has gone now by the way!).

Amber's birth is probably one of the things that has affected me most in my life, so i's not surprising that I'm feeling emotional about going through that experience again. With Amber, I wanted a home birth, I had a birthing pool ordered and ready to go, and then at 37 weeks, I was told that she was in a Breech position and I would have to have a Caesarian. I was completely devastated, because it felt like giving birth was going to be one of the most important things I had ever done, and I felt like it had been snatched away from me. Unfortunately I didn't have time to do any research or talk to any midwives who may have been pro a natural breech delivery, my waters broke a week later and I was rushed into hospital and told to sign some paperwork so that they could C- Section me. I never even felt a contraction. Having said all of that, Amber's birth is still the most specail moment of my life, and I had no problem bonding with her. The moment I saw her, my heart filled up with love and joy and it carried me through. However I was left scarred emotionally and physically, and it took me a long time and alot of tears and 'why mes' to come to terms with what had happened. I was inspired last week by Kelly Rae's birth story, and how, although it wasn't what she had wanted, the trauma of it cut her open and allowed her to surrender deep inside where she feels she never could have if it hadn't been for her birth experience. I think for me, I have come to a place where I've had to completely surrender trying to understand it, other than to know that I am so grateful that I can relate to other women who have had difficult birth experiences (and there are alot of them), and also having had that experience has lead to deeper self- discovery and inner strength.

Yesterday, my husband and I watched a documentary called 'the business of being born', which was recommended to us by our dear friend, Ashley after she'd been thinking about me and the birth. I can't say how glad I am that I watched this and I know that I am going to have a different birth experience because of it, I am forever grateful to her for telling me about it! The documentary was 'birthed!' by Ricky Lake of all people, but I am her biggest fan now! She had had a difficult birth at a hospital with her first child and wanted something different the second time around. The documentary went on to basically uncover the corruption of the hospital system in the US, although I think to some extent it applies to the UK as well. I was in tears and had moments of extreme anger that made me feel sick watching how these women were being treated like children or worse cattle, with the sole aim being for the babies to be born within a certain time limit, with absolutely no respect for the importance of the birthing process for the woman. Seeing them strapped to the beds, being told when to push because they had had epidurals, being told not to cry, to hurry up, man it pissed me off! It just looked like ultimate abuse when compared with watching a woman who is totally empowered in her birthing experience, in control, in touch with her body and surrendered to the process and the pain. It was like they had 'cut the heart out' of the most beautiful experience a family can have. The women who had had a natural birth, said it was a life- changing experience, something that has been a right of passage for them, an almost out of body, spiritual experience. If the Doctors understood this, would they be rushing women, giving them drugs that haven't even been around long enough to be deemed safe, making them lie down on the beds which is the worst position for giving birth? It seems to me that a birth should be a private and safe time for a woman and her chosen birthing partner, with the midwife or doctor only in the background, feeling the privilege of being allowed to be there and not calling all the shots. The facts are that many many women have unnecessary intervention because of fear and the magic card that the doctors have of  'for the safety of your baby', which basically means that of course the woman will agree to anything you say! Anyway, you really need to watch the documentary if you are interested, it blew me away and made me feel very determined to be in control of my next experience!

I know that in a way, I have already had intervention now, and I have been set on a path and deemed 'high risk'. Looking at the facts though, I am not 'high risk', in fact there is a less than 1% chance that I will have any problems having had a caesarian, and caesareans have lots of risks too which are usually glossed over because they are so convenient for the doctors. Having done lots of research since my first experience, I now know that having a breech delivery and having a c-section hold about the same level of risk to mother and baby, that there is actually a movement in Canada to get breech birth back to being seen as a normal birthing position. Apparently, the only reason it is deemed unsafe and standard practice is to C- Section is because of one piece of unfounded research. Unfortunately Midwife's are no longer being trained in how to deal with such a birth so it has become more and more difficult to be able to deliver naturally if your baby is in this position. I need to do more research here though. The bottom line is, that we need both sides of the story, not just one, and we need to place value on the birthing process as well as the end result. So much in life now is about convenience and I think that is a very dangerous thing. I am of course, incredibly grateful for hospitals, Doctors and Midwives, and they do, without doubt save lives every day, but there does need to be more of a balance and less fear around birthing for women.

This all brings me back to my blog title: 'the importance of a Woman's heart.' For me, I see a Woman's heart as very important, and the environment where she gives birth to her child- the most vulnerable and spiritual experience of her life as possibly the most important thing to think about and research. People may say to you, as they did to me, basically 'get over it', 'it's not about you, it's about the baby'. The sad thing is that these words do work on us and we think, 'yes, it's not about me, and we love our babies and would go through ANYTHING for them', but I would say, it is also about you, it is you giving birth, it is your heart that will be forever changed, and it is not selfish to protect that and place importance on the experience, doing everything you can to make it as you want it, and then surrendering and letting it be what it will.