Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Happy Days

Calm has returned. The baby sleeps. The sun has come out. The air smells of sweet orange essential oil.

The morning, although it started badly when our trip to the farmers' market was rained off, ended up as a charming and happy way to spend wet play. We bought scones from the deli and Alice and I had tea, scones with jam and a good old chat, while the babies played, scrapped, giggled and ate headless gingerbread men. Delightful.

After a perfectly simple lunch of soft boiled egg and soldiers, I pottered, and await the delivery of our new kitchen sinks.

And yesterday my parents came home after two months in France, and we ate jam tarts. They played with Piglet, who was thrilled to see them.

And Saturday morning we will take part in our new ritual, the ritual of the thirty-something, babied couple: coffee and cake in the espresso bar at John Lewis, before we choose our new cooker. Trente ans, cake-filled heaven.

Friday, 20 June 2008


Alice and I took the babies to the UWE Degree Show at Bower Ashton yesterday. Whereas the Fine Art show was a little disappointing, the other media seemed to provide more interest. The babies were particularly taken with this piece, in which projections of paint poured down the plinth. Think it blew their minds a bit, and possibly their ear drums - I hadn't realised quite how loud it was in that room.

More art - one of the exhibitions I commissioned before going on maternity leave opens this weekend. Sophie Tarbuck has spent the past year and a half making work inspired by modern movement architecture in Cornwall. Can't wait to see it.

Thursday, 19 June 2008


The house is in a state of flux. A very lengthy state of flux, having started approximately two years ago and showing no signs of unfluxing.

We never intended to have the front bedroom as our own, preferring the attic room with its views to Dundry one way and the Suspension Bridge the other way, but when I was pregnant and huge and needing the loo a lot in the night those steep steps seemed a bad idea. And now with Piglet in the back bedroom, sleeping so far from him just feels very wrong. So there we are, in a ghastly room with anaglypta on the ceiling, walls that are crying out for crisp, new plaster, and the worst carpet in the world.

Yesterday I decided enough was enough - although the state of the room is a temporary state, what does temporary mean? How long are we going to put up with a bedroom that isn't the one we want? The answer to that is too long. I know us and what we're like, and time goes by and we still don't have skirting boards, physically or metaphorically. So I did something about it and introduced my own version of temporary.

The way I approached it was the way I would approach it at work: a temporary exhibition, before we find funding for the permanent collection. I selected lots of lovely objects gathering dust in our archives, and set about curating a new wall of work. I put up temporary fixtures - the shelf as a mantlepiece, the Eames Hang-It-All as a jewellery rack - as well as pictures that have been propped up against walls for too long. The chimney breast is now my heart hearth, beating with long-lost treasures from the past 14 and a half years.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Baby birds

Piglet and I joined three generations of the Cole/Bowers family yesterday at Slimbridge. The best part was the duckling tour where we got to see the incubation and hatching of teeny chicks - ahhhh. It wasn't entirely dreamy and perfect though. I got a bit stressed out. Arthur didn't nap. The usual.

Motherhood is a tricky beast. Alice found a quote that I think sums it up better than I could ever do: "Motherhood brings as much joy as ever, but it still brings boredom, exhaustion, and sorrow too. Nothing else ever will make you as happy or as sad, as proud or as tired, for nothing is quite as hard as helping a person develop his own individuality especially while you struggle to keep your own." Marguerite Kelly and Elia Parsons.

It made me chuckle to remember those dark, early days with my baby when I found myself humming 'Mother's Little Helper' by the Rolling Stones. It certainly doesn't get any easier when they get older, it's just hard in a different way.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Upping My Game

A somewhat frustrating day. I'm a judge for the Southville Front Garden competition and today I did my two streets, searching out the best front gardens Southville has to offer. Well, nothing really stepped up to the mark I'm sorry to say. There were a few nice plants but no really amazing gardens that would make the grade. A shame really. Not that my front garden is a picture or anything.

I wanted to walk up to Borders and potter and buy the latest Martha Stewart Living magazine and maybe the new Martha Wainwright album - wow, Monday is Martha day - but the Piggles was in a grump, the front garden judging took a lot longer than it should have, and we ended up at Spike Island instead, to have a nose around the UWE fine art degree show. I found it far too cluttered and overwhelming, and one of the aspects of a degree show that I love is the back up work, the explanations, the illustrated journey from there to here. None of that. So by that time it was pretty late, and we ended up coming home to put some tea on for the boy and to get my dough made and risen for our supper. On the way home I photographed these beautiful roses and wished that I had something that lovely in my garden. Time to rethink.

Supper for the grown ups consisted of Folded Parsley Pizza, a calzone recipe from Ursula Ferrigno's Truly Italian book, and Strawberries with Red Wine and Ice Cream. The calzone isn't quite right as a main course, it's more of a starter or a side, but was good all the same and I impressed myself with the quality of the bread. Well done me.

Alice lent me The Gentle Art of Domesticity which has inspired me already, despite only having read the first few pages. Why can't everything be beautiful? Can it? I don't see why not.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Oh, for heaven's sake

Pirate shoes on holiday: well, we had fun. It rained. It was a compromise. It made us realise that this is it now, that holidays will never be the same again. But overall it was good.

Today is the day I decided that I must, must, must carry on writing this blog. It's been 4 months since my last entry which is, frankly, hopeless. I have such limited time left before I go back to work that I want to fill my days with lovely things, like baking:

and gardening:

Today is Fathers' Day. The boy has been good, although teeth continue to cause grumbles. The dad has been unwell, finally succumbing to the bug we've all had. Poor lamb. It's no fun, especially at the weekend, especially Fathers' Day. I think he liked the present Piglet made him, a hand splattered mug. It is rather lovely.

So at ten-and-a-half months, what is Pigs up to? He makes munching sounds when he's hungry. He started to clap a week ago. He moos when we upturn the moo-maker. He's pretty much lovely most of the time. Aww. We love him dearly, far more than we ever thought possible. And in response, he loves his mummy's home-made sugar-free banana cakes:

Friday, 15 February 2008

It's been sooo long...

I remember when I was pregnant I read a lot of blog entries documenting labour stories, and always wondered why it had taken them a month or so to post. Well, now I realise why it takes at least a month to do anything at all with a newborn baby, and it's taken me nearly 7 months to sit down and start to write mine. Hopefully it's a case of better late than never - the story, not the childbirth. I would definitely have preferred that to happen on time or even early.

As it was, Saturday 21 July came and went without so much as a glimmer of a contraction (bit of a surprise, as mum insisted I was born on my due date). Sunday was the same, but in the early hours of Monday morning I woke up with what felt like period pains. It took me a while to realise I hadn't had a period in nine months and the full implications of what my body was doing. I managed to doze between contractions until around 6am, when I told Ben that it had started. Excitement all round. Ben called work to let them know, we strapped on the TENS machine and tried to get on with daily life until the contractions were closer together and we were closer to meeting our baby.

I'd bought the final Harry Potter book which came out on my due date, and had been sitting uncomfortably with my nose in the book ever since. It's a pretty exciting read, and I think my brain decided it wanted to know how the story resolved before this baby emerged. And so contractions kind of stopped.

The action resumed later that night, when I was trying to get some sleep as I was so tired from the night before. Baby was clearly trying to let me know what I was in for over the next few weeks, but I was knackered. After very little sleep, it was Tuesday and once again the contractions stopped. Ben went to work. My parents and my brother came round, trying to keep me cheerful. We sat in the garden and drank tea. My dad asked the question: "Are contractions painful?". The rest of the family answered: "YES".

Then mum took me for a walk around Ashton Court. I was adamant that baby would make an arrival sooner rather than later and was furiously power-waddling round the rose garden. We discussed names. We sat on a bench with a memorial plaque to a Margo, and, convinced as I was that I was carrying a girl, I decided that would be a fitting name.

By the evening, once again, contractions resumed again, and I had a show. (A show is the coming away of the mucus plug that seals off the uterus from contact with the outside world, if you get my meaning. Nice.) I was also finding it really hard to pee, probably because the enormous baby head was squashing my bladder down like a bagpipe.

Wednesday morning I awoke with a determination to have a baby today, thank you very much. I bounced up an down on the birthing ball, listening to reggae, eating a croissant, wired up to both my TENS machine and (what a marvellous invention). This is where the squeamish may wish to stop. My waters broke and I shouted to Ben to come in from the other room. But something wasn't right - I could feel something coming out of me and had no idea what was going on. Was it the placenta? Was it the umbilical cord? Was it the baby? No. It looked like a ball made from the skin of a haggis but full of water. Ben called the delivery suite at the hospital and they asked if he could see the umbilical cord in the water. He couldn't. They said for us to come in straight away.

The journey to the hospital was terrifying. I knew that seeing the umbilical cord would have meant baby was a gonner so I was hoping and praying for the best. I don't remember much about the journey, other than Ben running red lights beeping the horn and me sitting on one buttock trying not to burst the ball.

At the hospital we made it to the delivery suite, into a room and up onto a bed. I was so scared that this weird thing was happening and that it meant the worst. The midwife found the baby's heartbeat and I nearly cried with relief. Alex, the midwife, explained that part of the amniotic sac had dropped down and hadn't burst, which is what usually happens (it's called being born in the caul, and apparently means the baby can never drown. Sailors used to buy parts of the amniotic sac as good luck talismans. Not sure what eBay category that would come under). She popped the sac with what looked like a crochet hook and huge amounts of warm water flooded out onto the bed. Then she left us alone, saying she would return in an hour or so.

The contractions got stronger and the TENS machine got a bit of a battering. The hour passed quickly, my parents brought pillows and towels, Ben cracked open the snack bag. Alex came back and asked how I was doing. I replied that I was ok, and NO, I didn't want any pain relief. She said that I probably wasn't very far along and that they might send me home. This wasn't what I wanted to hear and so I said that I didn't want to. She agreed to come back and check how dilated I was in an hour...

An hour later and Alex exclaimed with some surprise that I was 9cm dilated. She said that for the next hour I had to try not to push. Easier said than done. I was crossing my legs so much that they began to ache, and lovely Ben massaged my legs with lavender and rose oil, which made the room smell beautiful. That hour went a lot slower than the others, but pass it did and when the midwife came back she said I could begin to push.

I'd read a lot about the transition stage - the point of labour at which the contractions stop being about opening the uterus and start to push the baby out - and it can often be the stage when women shout and swear. That didn't happen to me. Instead I completely went the other way, very quiet and introspective, concentrating hard and (it felt like) I was alone with my baby. The pushing stage took 2 and a half hours, and was pretty intense. It was almost as though my body was slowly creaking open to allow this person to emerge into the world, and I felt very strongly that I'd done it before which was a very strange experience. I used the gas-and-air, which was great, as well as lots of yelling during the contractions and slow, quiet, contemplation when they went quiet.

Eventually, at 3.57pm, I gave birth to our son. It was incredible. Ben tells me that his head was born in one contraction and he quietly and patiently waited for another to come before his body emerged. He didn't cry and looked rather bloody and purple, but his Agpar scores were 9 and 10 - very good apparently - and the midwife rubbed him down with a towel and handed him to me. I think Ben saw that he was a boy before I did. He is perfect.

We spent the next moments holding him and staring into his face, and taking photos and texting the news. I called my mum. It's a strange and magical memory. I can't imagine life without him.
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