…sometimes I can’t find the words. And Facebook is such an instant kind of interaction whereas blogging has some sort of responsibility associated with it, to have a subject or theme rather than just stream of consciousness rambling… (although anyone who’s followed my blog for a while will be used to that!).
I guess it’s a bit hard to think of pithy subjects for blog posts when there’s such a lot going on in the world. And I have a lot of other outlets for discussing that, and others have done it far more justice than I ever could, so I’ll just say I’m saddened and kind of scared with what’s going on right now. It makes me wonder if one day in future we will look back on these days and think they were peace time. I hope that isn’t the case.
We all have a responsibility to speak out. As a transracial adoptee I feel my “foreignness” more than most people, and I’m astounded and saddened by what is happening in America now.
B turned seven months old! I can’t believe my baby is over half a year old. It’s gone by so quickly. I’m sure this happens to every parent but I feel like this time I’m sort of at peak love with him. Although probably next month I’ll think I love him even more. He’s at a great age now where he gives a fair amount of feedback, smiling and giggling, and he’s almost confident at sitting up (only falling over occasionally and slowly) and trying to crawl (but only succeeding in moving backwards, generally under the sofa). He’s tried food but doesn’t like it much. Which means: We’ve now reached seven months of breastfeeding!
One of my biggest surprises about this entire journey is how much I’ve enjoyed breastfeeding. I started out thinking I’d probably end up doing formula, because my body manages to cock up everything else, but for some reason I seem to be made to nurse my baby.
It’s an amazing feeling to think that my milk has nourished him to seven months. And he’s really pretty healthy. He’s quite big for his age – we know other babies who are a few months older and he doesn’t look significantly smaller. And aside from the occasional snotty nose and nursery bug, he’s been really well.
Also as an adoptee who wasn’t breastfed, I feel that it’s a very healing thing to be able to nurse my own biological baby. That’s not to say I wish I’d been breastfed. I really find that difficult as a concept from an adoption standpoint. We have had many discussions about it in adoption groups – suffice to say that pretty much all the adoptees were against it and all the people supporting it were adoptive parents. It’s a very emotive subject for adoptees and led to me deciding to leave my local LLL group. (I really support breastfeeding but adoptive breastfeeding is something else. I understand different people have different views and I can only speak for mine as an adult transracial adoptee, that it is deeply taboo in our community.) It’s a shame as we have had such a good breastfeeding experience and I was thinking of becoming a peer supporter. But still – we are still enjoying it and will probably end up doing the extended breastfeeding unless he decides to wean himself earlier! I’m not particularly worried as I guess most 15 year olds aren’t into it!
We are starting to wean B, but we are a bit lacksadaisical about it. We wanted to do baby led weaning, but he really isn’t very interested in food, so we’ve ended up doing some mush as well. I have to say I’m grossed out by mush. Especially banana. I hate bananas but it turns out babies love them. B doesn’t seem averse although he never voluntarily goes for food. He’ll eat mush offered to him on a spoon but stuff in his hand he just waves around. Apart from the baby chocolate biscuit. He’s clearly a man after my own heart.
We decided to hold a naming ceremony. I guess really we would have had a christening but neither of us is religious and so it felt like it would be a bit hypocritical. We wanted to mark B’s entrance to the world somehow… I guess it’s a natural inclination to want some sort of significance to it. Anyway I was going to do it myself and then thought about it and how I’d probably turn to mush and start crying, so I found a humanist celebrant who’s going to do it. Quite excited as we’ve been to humanist weddings in the past and they are really nice and personal. Anyway will have to write more about that on another post!
We are finally completing on our new house! Wow, it’s been an insanely long wait. We first made an offer that was accepted back in April. It’s been a bit frustrating – like what are they actually doing? – but feels amazing to think we will get our dream home this week! I actually feel a little sad for our lovely tiny current flat, but we are keeping it and hope to rent it out. I would love for us to keep it for B so he has some security for when he’s older, but we shall see. The new place isn’t actually a house but another flat very nearby – it’s just that it has a terrace so we will have some outside space, and it has two bedrooms so B can have one of his own! And a slightly bigger living room so he can actually learn to crawl! So exciting. It’s funny when I see people’s homes outside London and they are massive! We have low expectations for space here! I absolutely love London though and can’t really see us moving until much much later. Maybe when we retire to Disney World!
We have booked B’s first Disney trip! Before I was pregnant we went to Disneyland Paris each year during the Christmas season, and last year was the first time we missed it as I was heavily pregnant at Christmas. We decided because we both have our “big” birthdays this year (don’t mention it!) and it’ll be B’s first Christmas that we would go all out. We always go past the Disneyland hotel and sometimes even pop in for a drink or dinner. Well we have booked a posh room there with a park view! So excited. Now to find some good outfits for B…!
Stuff is actually going okay at work. The funny thing is, I made a decision to try and get on with The Woman (my new manager) and actually we’ve been getting on really well. She went on holiday and left me in charge of a piece of work and I caned it (up till 3am one night finishing it!) so I think she appreciated that I was pretty good even though I’m working from home most of the time. So although it’s hard work, I do tend to enjoy working hard periodically. I like that I have other days when I have hardly anything! Anyway it’s sort of nice to be able to take pride in my work!
My sister had her baby! I now have another niece. She was absolutely tiny weeny (a bit over 6lbs) and she’s super skinny… I don’t think B was ever that tiny! She ended up having a really similar experience to mine – ending in an unplanned caesarean. On the flip side she doesn’t really seem super happy about it – I think it has all gotten on top of her. I may have mentioned before she is quite highly strung… So I think the whole thing has traumatised her. I’m hoping that it’s going to pass and she won’t end up having postnatal depression – although I can see it happening. Luckily baby is fine and hopefully with a period of adjustment my sister will get into the swing of things.
I was finally a bridesmaid! They do say, “Three times a bridesmaid, never a bride!” So I kind of thought seeing as I’ve been a bride, maybe never a bridesmaid. Anyway it was such a fun day. Our bridesmaid crew was just the three of us and it was a great experience. I mean really all you have to do is turn up and have your hair and makeup done and wear a dress. It was kind of great. I even managed to nurse in the bridesmaid dress although it was a bit of a “wap ’em out” situation. Also I almost gave people an eyeful during the ceilidh dancing when the boob tube part of the dress came fully down! Fortunately I had some fabric over my boobs but there is no time during Strip the Willow (energetic Scottish country dancing, lots of spinning) to correct it. Ha! It was wonderful to see my friend so happy and to get married to the perfect guy for her. (I take full credit for persuading her to do internet dating!)
I think that’s about up to date with the news. Oh aside from the fact that I woke up today with what feels like horrendous whiplash. How did that happen?! Who knows. I’ve barely been able to move my head all day. I’m in agony. I’ve been taking painkillers in between pumping and feeding (as B is at nursery I have a safe-ish gap) but I am in massive pain. I don’t know how to do make it go away. I have a feeling it’s from side sleeping (co sleeping and feeding during the night) as I tend to get a sore back, but usually that’s manageable lower back pain rather than crippling under neck pain. I had a sports massage which helped a bit but ow!
I guess there was too much good news so I had to have a bit of pain mixed in!
It wasn’t until I had a baby that I realised how sexist the traditional nursery rhymes are. Especially The Wheels On The Bus!
The wheels on the bus go round and round…
The mummies on the bus go chatter chatter chatter…
The daddies on the bus go shhh shhh shhh…
I’m sure there are lots more examples although I’ve tried to block a fair few out of my mind… (The Farmer Wants A Wife springs to mind!)
On a slightly related note, I realised how much I like singing and clapping along to the B-I-N-G-O song.
There was a man who had a dog and Bingo was his name-o
B – I – N – G – O
B – I – N – G – O
B – I – N – G – O and Bingo was his name-o!
(Repeat ad nauseam)
You can thank me for the earworm later…
Apparently there are two types of breastfeeders – those whose boobs grow to gigantic humungaboobs™ and those whose boobs remain petite, perky and lovely.
Guess which one I am?
Yeah, it turns out that my already fairly moderately sized 32C pair have turned into full on funbags. All the better to feed you with, B. (Aside: Baby B is such a chunker I sometimes think he looks like a mini sumo wrestler.) I really wish I could be one of the perky ones but alas, it’s not to be.
Anyway, I’ve been wearing soft bras for the time being, because they’re comfortable and I am a lazy lounger at heart. (Currently wearing a mumba bra but I also have cheaper ones from Sia on Amazon, and H&M nursing bras.) They are the opposite of sexy, but it’s comfort I’m after right now. (Not sure how T could possibly find the gigantic boobs sexy, but he’s a boob man and we have a baby so I think he’s grateful for anything remotely sexy!)
As I was planning to go back to work and having to figure out bf appropriate clothes, I’m on a breastfeeding clothing group where people post bf-appropriate clothes that you can find on the high street. It’s actually really good for getting general ideas about nice clothes for all different figures, and a bit of inspiration for when you’ve been out of the loop for a while.
One of the things they push on there is the idea that most women are wearing the wrong size bra – whether they’re breastfeeding or not. The measuring site is called Boob or Bust and there’s a calculator there to work out your bra size (and it works whether you’re pregnant, nursing or neither).
Now, I’m wearing the soft bras right now so they’re not sized like bras. Just small, medium and large. And they can vary in size throughout the day due to breastfeeding and milk supply. But I thought I’d check it out anyway just to see what my post pregnancy breastfeeding boobs were.
Well! Apparently my post pregnancy recommended bra size is 32H! 😮😮
Now, this sounds crazy until you realise that the number relates to your back size and that cup size is not all the same with every back size. You’d think it is, but the increasing circumference of your body increases the cup size for each letter cup. Who knew?!
This is best illustrated below:
I had been wearing a 36DD in pregnancy and this was clearly an effect of being larger in the cup… but it seems counterintuitive that I’d have gone up in circumference once the baby was out! I always kind of wondered how I could be a 36DD. But 32H seems like a kind of scary size!
So… I may go back to a standard sized bra rather than soft nursing bras (not really recommended before six months), at which point I’ll remeasure and see if I can get some decent bras to fit. Soft nursing bras may be comfortable, but they are not particularly supportive or pretty! Who knows… I may fit back into my 32Cs one day…
Give it a go if you dare, and let me know how you get on!
This year, our rainbow baby is here.
Here in the UK, it’s Mother’s Day at the weekend. It will be my first Mother’s Day as a mother.
I still equate Mother’s Day with my mum, the only mother I’ve ever known (since I was adopted at a few days old). Every other year I’ve just been me – a person with no biological relatives. This year, I have my first biological relative in B. I have a child! I’m a mother. It still feels surreal.
I’m sort of amazed by motherhood, in that I never really saw myself as the maternal type. I knew I wanted a kid, but I expected this first part to be the tiresome and boring part – before the baby turns into a toddler who can express himself. But here’s the thing – B can express himself just fine! And there must be some sort of hormones, or biology, that makes you love your own child.
I’ve spent years primarily being defined by my work. After over a decade of infertility I never defined myself by the typical female traits. Instead I was always about achieving stuff in a mainly male world. I was the female of colour in a white guy’s world and I ploughed my own furrow.
And now I’m “one of the mums”. And to my surprise, I don’t hate it. I relish it. I find it all the more precious because I know I have less time than the others. Most women in the UK take a year off when they have a baby. More than a year because they accrue holiday when they’re on maternity leave. I could take a year – I’m entitled to it – but because I started my job pregnant, I am unpaid by my company for all the time I’m off. And I can’t really afford more than the four months I guesstimated we could do without my salary.
Mum life is fun. And it’s even easier because T is off at the same time as me. Although we realised that a lot of stuff is geared just towards mums and babies and not dads. On the one hand I think that’s unfair, but on the other – I’m only just seeing how there’s a biological imperative and it makes sense for the mother to be the primary caregiver.
I knew it intellectually but I never really knew it. B knows I am his mother. He looks for me, and he’s comforted pretty much only by me. He likes T, but after a while he will look for me. And I’m the only one who can feed him. That’s such a big thing I hadn’t really fully understood. I see with B that instinctively he searches for me and wants to be with me.
It’s weird to think that I was once his age and that even before I was the age he is now (just two months old!) I was taken from my first mother and given to a new one. Because I see now how B knows me, knows my smell, is comforted by me. Quite aside from looking like me. He knows me from being inside me for nine months. It’s a real big thing to think that happened to me at such a young age, a fraction of the age B is now. I wonder what that must have felt like to me as a baby.
The funny thing is, I have almost a deeper relationship with my parents now because of B. They want to see him every week. We bond over our shared love of him. They don’t love him any less than their biological grandchildren – they are super proud grandparents of all of them. And I feel like we’ve had deeper, more critical conversations lately, especially about adoption. The fact they’re able to do that and to listen to my musings without getting defensive has been really a bonding experience for us.
Having my own biological child has thrown up all these thoughts and feelings. I’ve had time to think and I’ve had time to bed into the idea of having a biological relative. It’s still so new and yet he feels like he’s always been here. It’s so huge in one way and so little, quotidian in another. In one way I feel like I’m still just me and in the other, I feel like everything has changed.
I’m still active on adoption groups and lately a lot of adoptees I know have found their birth parents and families. It makes me wonder about looking for mine. I’ve thought about it a lot. But also I’ve seen how it doesn’t seem to make them happy. It seems to make them sad a lot of the time and yet they feel compelled to search.
For me, I don’t feel compelled to search. I wonder if I should feel it and there’s something wrong with me that I don’t. I wonder if I found my birth family whether I’d recognise myself in them. I’ve seen pictures of adoptees and the family resemblance and I wonder about that. Maybe B is enough for me. I feel like my birth mother would be like me – accepting of life, not really looking back. Not expecting me to go back. I don’t want to drag up difficult feelings because I don’t want to ruin the happiness I have now. And I hope she’s happy and I don’t want to ruin that either.
T is also adopted and I wonder how much his experience has shaped mine. He found his birth mother a long time ago. They’ve only met a couple of times. It’s like they just needed to do it and then go back to their lives. Since B was born, we were supposed to see her and it seemed really difficult to arrange it. Lots of tangled communication. Then she cancelled.
I wonder if she’s cancelling on purpose because it’s too much or whether the excuse she said is true. I feel slightly defensive and miffed on his behalf and on B’s behalf because I don’t understand why someone’s biological mother and grandmother doesn’t seem to want to see them. Maybe it’s too much emotionally.
Part of me feels like she’s not entitled to see B because she’s not his “real” grandmother, as she hasn’t been an involved mother to T. But that’s just me being defensive for him. I guess I don’t understand why she doesn’t want to see this beautiful man she made. I think maybe a lot of adoptees have complex and angry feelings towards birth parents and we can’t know the circumstances.
I feel compassion towards mine but it’s easy because they’re abstract and not real right now. If they were in this country and easily accessible I would feel mad if they didn’t make the effort to see me. And I kind of think feelings like that are why I have never searched. I don’t want to go down a rabbit hole of hope and disappointment. I’m fine and happy with life as it is. I kind of can’t believe how it’s worked out lately, how I have these three amazing guys I live with (if you count the dog as a guy!) and why would I want to change that, to drag up difficult feelings? Maybe that makes me a wuss.
So those are the thoughts that have been at the back of my head. At the front of my head have been the happy thoughts. The “I can’t believe that title now belongs to me” thoughts. The thought of my first Mother’s Day. On Saturday we are seeing T’s parents. And on Sunday (Mother’s Day) we are going round to my parents’ house with B and having a double.
Mother’s Day still feels like it belongs to my mother, because I’ve had thirty-odd years of celebrating it as an honour for her. This year my dad is taking us all to a restaurant for lunch for my first Mother’s Day, so it’s about me too. And it’s about T’s mum, my mother in law, and her first grandchild. And it’s our time to think of our first mums who gave birth to us all those years ago. And I think of the mothers without babies too. The unacknowledged mothers. They matter too.
As a new mum, I know I’m not special – hundred and thousands of women do it every day. And yet this year I have joined that circle of life, of women who have given life, our ancestors and the women to come down the line. I imagine I’ve joined that lineup of women, a line I never thought I’d join – through not inconsiderable effort and medical intervention – and I feel significant and insignificant at the same time.
I am me. The child of two mothers, a shadow mother and an everyday mother. The partner of a wonderful, kind, funny man. The flatmate of a brilliant dog. The mother of baby B.
Life is good.
I’ve been a mother for almost seven weeks and I don’t know where the time has gone. I think I’m still in the phase where I can’t quite believe that it’s happened, but it has. Our lives have changed irrevocably and I’m still in a state of disbelief that finally it has happened for us.
Here’s the thing: Every drop of this life is precious. I never thought this day would come so I didn’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about it other than in the abstract. But here I am, living it. I’m snatching time to write this blog when it’s past 1am and B is snoozing in his side sleeper cot next to me. And on the other side, T and Dog are snoring away. I couldn’t be happier.
I only get four months off before I go back to work and I can already see it slipping away and I kind of want to stay in this bubble forever. A secret: Everything is so much easier than I’d been led to believe. I’m not sleep deprived. I don’t feel exhausted. Breastfeeding is relatively easy. Weight seems to be coming off.
The way people talk about new motherhood and being a parent is that it’s a massive drag. I had super low expectations. I kind of thought it was a means to an end before the real fun started (when the kid could walk and talk) but I’ve been blown away by how much I enjoy it.
I absolutely didn’t think I’d be a natural mother. And yet if I didn’t have a decent job that pays the bills, I’d be tempted to jack it all in and spend every waking moment being B’s mum. I wonder if I have a massive dose of hormones or something making me go all doolally. What happened to the stone cold hearted me? I’m not sure. I’m kind of mushy nowadays.
I love him being here. My only biological relative. He looks like me. My genes. I’ve never had that before. Being adopted, never knowing a relative who looks like me – it’s a huge thing. Life changing.
I think it’s been easier for me to adjust partly because breastfeeding has been pretty smooth. Of course there are some teething problems (not literally!) but on the whole it came naturally to us and B has put on loads of weight! He was 5.44kg a few days ago, up from his birth weight almost seven weeks ago of 3.61kg.
My friends from NCT have all had problems breastfeeding so I’ve been really lucky. Although they all had easy births so they joke I was due something easy! All but one of the babies has been born although we think the last one has just been born but not announced. B was the second biggest at birth. The only caesarean! It means he has a nice unsquashed head! Also the only boy so lots of girlfriends to choose from! (I’ve told him it’s perfectly fine to have a boyfriend!)
I don’t feel smug. Maybe it is because we wanted him so much. I don’t take any of it for granted. To be frank, I really doubted I’d even be able to breastfeed so it surprised me it came so naturally. And gradually other “hippy dippy” stuff has snuck in. I’m totally not the mother I expected! I can’t let him cry and I carry him around a lot. My Earth mother friend (you know who you are, haha) finds this hilarious, I think. I keep messaging her one more concession to earth-motherdom so I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before I become a full blown hippy!
We kind of have a focus group because of NCT, our antenatal class, where all babies have been born within a few weeks of each other. It’s been really interesting especially as one of them who I’ve mentioned before is really negative. I sort of feel like it is my job to perk them up a bit! (Not her though. She’s beyond redemption. She whines about everything.)
It’s interesting because I feel like our experiences are similar but how we experience it is different. Like if you look at it, I actually had the most traumatic birth. I also got an infected c section scar and B ended up in hospital with bronchiolitis. So really we’ve probably had more than the others to deal with but we do seem to be the most happy.
I think I just expected it would be really hard and it’s much less hard than I expected, so I feel kind of giddy rather than depressed. Like the sleep isn’t that bad if you don’t have to get up and go to work! And I’m used to interrupted sleep because Dog sleeps in the bed and regularly shuffles about! And although I do get tired feeding during the night, I think of it as a phase that will pass.
I just don’t resent it at all. I feel hugely lucky to be able to be doing this. I just never thought I would get the opportunity and I love it. And the hard part won’t last forever. The others have talked about how they’ve been crying and stuff and I haven’t done that at all, not through stress or exhaustion. Only slightly teary eyes through a bit of happy emotion!
The other funny thing: Other people’s babies leave me kind of cold. I have met some great friends through NCT. Out of the seven couples in our group, I’m good friends with two of them and we recently added a third to our “splinter group” (after a gruelling audition process, haha). I get on great with them but I definitely have that thing where I love my baby but I am not gaga for other people’s. I like them but I don’t go mad for them like others do. I guess the baby madness only extends to my own! But it’s great to have some friends in the same position. We meet up once or twice a week. B actually has a better social life than I do!
And I’ve done things I didn’t think I’d do. One of my friends persuaded me to try Baby Sensory classes. It’s so odd and I laugh to myself thinking of what my team would say if they could see me singing “Say Hello To The Sun” (with actions). I didn’t think I’d be mad on breastfeeding but I am. I feel like I want to do it for a year if I can. I’m going to have to pump when I go back at four months. I want to do that for him. And I wear him in a sling a lot of the time. I really didn’t see myself doing that but it just makes sense. I’ve even ordered a wrap to try! I’ve gone full on Earth mother! I’ll probably be puréeing his food later!
So yeah. I’m in a baby haze. I’m not bored. I don’t resent him. I don’t dislike this phase at all. I’m loving it.
We reached the six weeks milestone which T was avidly waiting for! We had to mark it in the way of resuming (extra)marital relations! It was kind of comical and kind of reassuring it all still works. On the plus side, an emergency c section means my pelvic floor seems fine! Don’t think my stomach will ever be the same though! The weight has dropped off but I still have a saggy stretch marked pouch. I suppose the caesarean does that. I thought I would really upset about it but I’m not letting it bother me now. That saggy stripey pouch gave me my baby!
They keep asking in hospital and appointments about contraception. We discussed it and I said I wasn’t worried as it never happened for 16 years. T said, “I didn’t realise we were having another baby!” Truthfully I would see it as a miracle but I really don’t yearn for another child. I am over the moon at this one. And there is no way I would put myself through the mental and physical pain again, if we were actively to try. I think we are just going with “What happens, happens” approach! So B will be an only child then!
So B is here and I think of him as perfect. I wonder what he will be like as he gets older. He’s outgrown two, almost three sizes of clothes. I realised that the sizes on clothes don’t correspond to ages at all! He’s in 0-3 months now at 1.5 and I can’t see him getting much more wear out of them!
The grandparents are super proud. Both sets are loving it. My folks come round once a week roughly and they just want to hold him and grin. It’s been great though. A very bonding experience for us. I’ve found myself talking to them about adoption a lot. That’s probably a whole other post. I can’t believe B is now older than I was when I went to live with my parents. He’s still so tiny and he still needs me so much and he will only settle being with me. I think of the few days old me and wonder how that must have felt to me. My parents are actually really great about talking about this stuff. I think they realise in a way that having B has given me a lot of peace.
My sister is still pregnant! I’m so glad. I was dreading how it would pan out if it went wrong but they are approaching the halfway mark. And she’s having a girl! Which means I get to buy girl stuff for her kid so I don’t miss out on girly things. Truth be told I love having a boy. Although I’m sure in future I’ll be able to take my niece to do the girly things! Spa days and afternoon teas hopefully. Although no reason why B wouldn’t like those things!
My brother has been having a really difficult time. The other siblings and my parents and I have tried to help but he is at the point where he refuses any help. My folks are so upset. I think partly it is pride as he wants to provide for his family himself. Also I’ve said on here before, I always called him The Golden Child as he had a charmed life. He’s in his thirties and this is the only bad thing that has ever happened to him. But it’s really bad.
I feel bad for ever feeling jealous of him because I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. (His child has a serious health problem.) We are all trying to help but I don’t know what we can do when he keeps refusing. (Including financial help.) We are just all hoping that they can get help and that things aren’t as bad as we are fearing as right now everything is unknown. It is really sobering as I know that this time last year I was feeling terrible that our previous baby’s due date fell around his baby’s christening. So much has changed in a year.
My other friend is still going through chemo but the good news is that the tumour has shrunk! I’m really hoping this is it for her. She’s had a tough time dealing with chemo as she’s been really ill. I’m very aware that we’ve had this huge exciting wonderful thing happen in our lives but others are dealing with some horrible stuff. We are just trying to be there for her.
So that’s a bit of an update typed on iPhone in the middle of the night. People ask what I do all day and I reply, we are so busy but I’m not sure what we are actually doing. Being a family. We were three and now four. Dog is being a big brother. We have new roles. I’m learning how to be a Mama.
In the blink of an eye more weeks will have passed. I already can’t remember what it felt like to be pregnant… I know I had years and years of pain before then but it feels like that is healing. Just as the scar from my caesarean is healing, so is the pain of infertility, the pain of thinking I could never have this, and the pain of losing our first baby. I can still remember it but it’s not such a deep stabbing pain any more. And the other pains I’ve experienced in my life… the sadnesses… They all pale in comparison to the love and happiness I’m feeling now.
(Or: You’re not a mother, but you are magic.)
Everyone knows that the supposed consolation of childlessness is to be the “cool aunt/uncle”. And if you’re trusted by the parents, you might even get to be a child’s godparent.
Things have changed over time. Back in the day, a godparent was supposed to be a guardian, and a spiritual one at that. They were supposed to be the people who’d become the child’s guardians if (God forbid) anything happen to the parents.
My understanding now is that it’s more of a nominal honour (like “Will you be my bridesmaid?”) rather than any hard and fast agreement to take over guardianship of a child in the unfortunate event of parental demise. Not only that, but it conveniently bestows a more regular obligation on the godparent – to lavish the child with gifts at birthdays and Christmas, to pay them a visit every now and then, and generally to move the child up to favoured status in the godparent’s estimations.
Added to which, nowadays children seem to have a whole plethora of godparents to pick from rather than the original one godfather / one godmother – so in the event that something happened to their parents, they’d presumably have to be split between a bunch of different homes. Which wouldn’t happen obviously!
I’ve questioned friends on this before and it becomes clear that they pick each godparent for varying reasons, not all of which are to do with spiritual guidance (if any!). NB Maybe this is just my friends. Maybe it’s just the UK. It does seem to have changed from what I thought it as when I was little (and kind of a lot more religious than I am now).
Some are to do with the person not being short of cash – “They’ll get them good presents!” Some are to do with being a “cool aunt/uncle” figure – “He’ll take them clubbing when they’re older.” And a few are to do with the actual concept of future care – “They already have children so think they could take on mine.” And some are family obligations.
I was the firstborn (not to my mum… to my first mum, but first adopted) and so I like to think I got the “A team” of godparents, but in reality it was probably more the family obligation route. My godmother and godfather were the siblings of my parents respectively. In reality I’d have seen these people anyway and they would have happily (I like to think) taken on my care if anything bad had happened. The fact that they were from two different households never seemed to make sense to me!
My godfather was an avuncular man (appropriately enough, as he’s my uncle) and I always liked him a lot as a child. Although I definitely preferred my dad. He has a big beard which was quite unusual back in the day (my only reference being Roald Dahl’s The Twits – we used to ask him if he kept food in it for later!) and he’s the father of my two cousins who I idolised as a child. They were only a few years older than us but enough to make them impossibly cool – they were teens when we were in primary school, and so on. Even though we didn’t see them often, we thought they were great.
My aunt was the one I really loved. She’s very arty, creative and slightly bohemian. In complete contrast to my moderately strict upbringing, and my parents’ focus on academic achievement, she encouraged my arty and creative side. I can still remember the times she sat and drew with me, and showed me how to use complementary colours on a colour wheel, and how to do shading to make a 2D sketch look 3D. Looking back on it, I completely take it for granted that my creative side exists, when it was most likely encouraged by her.
As someone who was adopted as a baby, I have no way of knowing if my “talents” or interests are somehow innate or if they were nurtured by my environment. I do know that my parents were hugely encouraging of pretty much everything but especially academic achievements and sports/music. We were all encouraged to have “our thing” – mine was art. Even though I never ended up going down that route, I always did it at school and it was a huge part of my childhood – once I became old enough though, the focus was on academics as you got more bang for your buck in terms of scholarships and future careers (the one thing that mattered above all to my dad – he always wanted us to be self-sufficient).
So my aunt-godparent was the one who said it’s okay to want to do something just for the joy of creating it. Also, not being a parent herself it meant that the four of us were her sole interest children-wise. I never stopped to think it could have been infertility – we just always thought she didn’t want children. Looking back, it seems so hard that she spent all this time with four demanding kids when she possibly couldn’t have them herself. (Given my parents had problems and adopted two of us as a result, it’s not outwith the bounds of possibility that my aunt also had problems.)
My fairy godmother
When we were kids, and living overseas, we had a fairy godmother. Her name was Agnes and she was amazing. She would turn up and take the four of us out and lavish us with attention and love. I think I was a young teenager at the time and my youngest sibling was only little. She would take us out in her car and we’d go on trips to places, like little amusement parks or some kind of outing. I can’t really remember where we went apart from it was just about this lady who wanted to spend time with us and my parents thought it was great. We’d also almost always go to McDonalds or some kind of junk food place, and get to eat the junk food we weren’t allowed usually at home.
Agnes was our fairy godmother because she wasn’t a member of the family and she wasn’t a godparent. She just sort of adopted us. Her relationship to us was that she worked at my dad’s company, and when she found out about the four of us, she volunteered to take us out. My parents both worked and so did Agnes, but she somehow found the time to take us on days out when my parents were at work. I think my parents were just pleased to have us off their hands now and again! Also I think it’s a nice memory of something that probably wouldn’t happen now… I can’t imagine people letting a random woman take their kids out on day trips. People are so suspicious nowadays.
The thing is, she couldn’t have any children. As kids we always used to ask why she didn’t have any, and I guess we didn’t realise why she didn’t have any when she clearly loved kids. I mean, she loved them so much she was willing to take a rag-bag motley crew of us out and about with her, and I’m pretty sure it was all at her own expense. It’s sad in retrospect to think that it was because she couldn’t have her own kids. And I guess it was nice of my parents in that way – as people who’d struggled with infertility for many years themselves – to allow someone to be that person to their kids.
I think the difference between godparents and fairy godparents is that godparents are picked by the parents – but fairy godparents pick themselves.
Agnes was our fairy godmother and we loved her. As children it was great to have an adult who wanted to spend time with us just for the fun of it, and who would take us out and spoil us. I think how she would lavish all this attention us and we just enjoyed it… We never gave anything back. And she never asked for anything other than the chance, for a few hours, to feel like a parent. Maybe we sensed it, which is why we let her take us out all the time. Or maybe we were selfish kids who enjoyed being fussed over and spoiled with fun day trips! Either way, we always had fond memories of her, even after our family moved countries and we never saw her in person again.
There’s a happy ending to all this – Agnes is now a mum. I guess she’d be in her 50s now. She and her husband couldn’t have kids and ended up adopting two. The last time we spoke, a couple of years ago (though my parents speak with her semi-regularly), she was enjoying being a mum to two toddlers. I could hear the joy in her voice and see it in her pride when she emailed us pictures.
Some people are meant to be parents. And some are awesome fairy godparents. And maybe those fairy godmothers get something out of it too – the joy of granting little wishes. The enjoyment of giving. I don’t know if Agnes got that out of it, or if she just liked us – a noisy, demanding rabble. We did love her but I think kids can be kind of casual in expressing it… I hope she knew we did.
This is the thing. Neither of my godmothers had children, but they were significant figures in my life. They were the people who devoted time to us, who loved us even though we weren’t theirs*. My aunt-godmother taught me to cherish creativity and not to let that part of me die. My fairy godmother taught me that someone who wasn’t yet a mother could have a mother’s love. They both taught me that you don’t have to be someone’s mother to be a significant person in their life. More than a friend or family – a (fairy) godmother.
(*Strictly speaking, me being adopted meant that my parents and family did this too. Which only makes them even more awesome because believe me, I’ve been extremely difficult to love at times!)
Being a fairy godmother
I don’t know when I became a fairy godmother but it happened a while ago for the first time that I really noticed. Friends of mine had a baby, and for some reason I found it easier because they lived in a diferent country to do the whole baby present thing. I found it difficult to go and visit babies in person. I still do, a lot of the time. But I’m an awesome present-giver, even if I do say so myself.
I love giving presents. I love sending cards, or telling people something that says “I’m thinking of you”. I have my friends who have birthdays, but I also have a small bunch of fairy godchildren too.
There’s my little baby (now no longer a baby but a walking talking kid) who lives overseas and who actually calls me “fairy godmother”. I get busy during the year and I don’t see him all the time but he’s probably been the recipient of way too many toys over the years. And clothes. I used to love getting him clothes. When he was born I was still in the phase of thinking I’d never have children (with my ex) so I pretty much did all the research and present buying I’d have done for my own baby. He’s a cute kid. And the great thing about being a fairy godmother rather than a “proper” godmother is that I have no obligations… I get to give when I have the time and opportunity, and he doesn’t expect anything.
Another one – my friend who had the baby. (Which one, you may ask. You’d be right… They all have babies!) The latest one is the one that really hurt… My rather demanding friend, who kept demanding we go and see her, bring certain presents etc etc. Well, she moved country too (I think I can get on better with people in different countries, haha) and then a couple of weeks ago she posted on Facebook about her kid’s birthday. He was sitting in a toy car and looked really happy, and the caption said that they were looking for his birthday present but ended up buying him something else… They’re notoriously stingy!
Well, I couldn’t let it go. His little face was all lit up. So I went online and searched for a car and I sent it to them for his birthday. You know what? His face was a picture. A picture she posted on FB with a caption thanking his “auntie” – me. My other friend couldn’t believe I’d spent money on someone who is soooo stingy but I told her it wasn’t for our friend – it was for the kid who wouldn’t have had that car to ride around in. Every kid needs a car to ride around in – it’s a human right! And he shouldn’t have to suffer because his parents are miserly. (I promise they’re not poor! They’re just very stingy!)
And you know what else? The joy I could see in his face, and the gratitude from his mum – it was worth it. But I didn’t do it for the thanks. I didn’t do it because I’m a great altruistic person. I’m selfish and I did it for myself. For the ability, because I don’t have kids – because I have some spare cash, to be a fairy godmother.
The best gifts are the unexpected ones and I genuinely, selfishly get more fun out of giving than receiving. I have an honorary little sister and she’s had a lot of health problems so she is currently living at home whilst all her peers are making their ways into an adult world. It sucks and I’m so sad for her, because she is one of the most vibrant and fun loving young people I know. And growing up she was like the young, cool girl who wanted to hang out with me – the boring adult. (If you haven’t seen a theme yet, I’m totally selfish in my “generosity” – I just love to hang out with nice people.)
I like sending her little surprises in the post. She always tells me that they arrive just at the right time, when she’s having a really bad day. I usually send her makeup or jewellery or stationery – small things that say “Hey, I haven’t forgotten you”. I love that I get to be the big sister that I used to wish I had. I never want her to feel like she doesn’t matter or has been forgotten because she’s sick. Knowing that someone who’s really seriously ill gets a kick out of it and forgets their illness for a moment gives me a kick too. So often I sit around at work thinking all my hard work is inconsequential, so I do things to remind me that other things matter too.
And there are my real little (though taller than me, annoyingly) siblings and I get to spoil them too. My sibling overseas currently has a parcel making its way towards that country which cost more to post than it did for the contents… It’s stuffed full of British chocolate. It’s probably been stopped at customs! Another of mine received a giant advent calendar full of luxury cosmetics. It’s so fun now we are older and a little bit richer (not rich!) to be able to get these things for people.
And for parents you can be a fairy godmother (daughter?) too. For my mum’s birthday I sent her a subscription of fresh flowers once a month. That’s nuts. I still love getting the text from her saying her flowers have arrived. To be able to spoil your parents (my dad, with contraband candy) – it’s a special luxury. Some people don’t get their parents for very long, and some people don’t have as fortunate circumstances in life. I know that. It’s like a mini celebration of life. A few years ago my dad was seriously ill. My mum has ongoing health problems. I know they won’t be here forever and I want them to know I love them. Wow, life is s*** sometimes but it’s also good. We have love, and we have enough, which is pretty awesome. I try to remind myself of that.
And I have little fairy godmother moments too… as a recipient. My BFF is a case in point – she always sends me the cutest things. It’s like we just know each other – I sent her a charm bracelet advent calendar and she sent me a L’Occitane one (I love L’Occitane!). She always gives us loads of crazy Christmas presents and I always get her and her sister Kiehl’s! (I already stocked up in the US.)
But really, I could go crazy on gift giving because it’s like a drug. It doesn’t even need to cost much. You can make a cake, or candy, or chocolate truffles or cookies. The last few presents I tried to “make” by doing some calligraphy. I sewed my BFF a dog back when I had the miscarriage and we were on our healing holiday with Dog. It was kind of crazily sewn but it had a lot of love stuffed into it.
So here’s my resolution: I might never be a mother. But I’m going to be an awesome fairy godmother. I’m going to try and inject a bit of magic into people’s lives. As a fairy godmother I’m not obliged to do anything, so nobody’s expecting it. I can just think of someone and send them a little wish. It can be big or small and it could cost a bit (if I have cash) or it could cost nothing. The important thing is what it says.
I love you.
I’m thinking of you.
It will be okay.
I’m here for you.
Thank you for being in my life.
The good will out.
© Disney (Who else?! Walt knew the meaning of magic. I may not be religious, but I believe in magic… I believe in good. Cheesy but true!)
I’ve written a bunch about my mad, bad family and I hope if I’ve got anything across it’s the idea that they are not exactly “normal” but I’m really rather fond of them. For example, I don’t believe in the Grateful Adoptee trope (for who are we apart from… y’know, individual humans?) but I do also feel a fair amount of gratitude in just being part of my crazy mad lovely family.
Anyway as you know, last week I decided to throw myself a bit of a boo hoo pity party. Usually I give short shrift to these, I mean, they really are a bit self indulgent – but if you can’t be self indulgent on your own blog, where can you? (Answer: stop being so self indulgent and do something nice for someone else… You’re even boring yourself!) So this week, buoyed by all your good wishes, I started as I mean to go on: with a bit of Happy.
I had arranged a while back to take my mum out for her birthday. It was a trip to spend a day together – she doesn’t live in London but now she’s an OAP (hilarious!) she gets cheap train fares so I said I’d take her out for a day in London. She wanted to wait until the schools were back and it was a bit quieter, and also she’s had a couple of ops to recover from. So I took Monday off and we arranged a little day just for her.
Here are some pics from the day.
Buckingham Palace. Once a year it’s open for a couple of months for the public to visit. They do a different exhibition each year and this year it is the state rooms where they hold banquets. You can’t take pictures inside but it really is amazing. If you look online it doesn’t really show the scale of the whole thing. This year we got to see the banqueting hall all laid out for a state banquet. There were gold plates, engraved crystal and huge candelabra. We also got to find out how they set it all up – days in advance! They even have measuring rules to see where to place things! It is a fun way to spend a couple of hours. There is an audio tour where you can listen to the info on headphones, which led to some funny moments when my mum did that speaking very loudly thing… Oh well! If you are ever in London at the right time over summer then you can reserve tickets here. I highly recommend it!
Claridge’s. After the tour of BP we headed off to Claridge’s. For those of you not in the UK, Claridge’s is an institution. It is a very posh hotel. I’m a bit of an afternoon tea fan so I thought I’d have to take my mum for afternoon tea. Unfortunately she couldn’t walk far as has recently had an operation on her foot so we didn’t get to wander round the shops as I had planned… Which meant we went straight there and arrived two hours early! We asked if they had an earlier table and they said they’d let us know if we waited in the bar. So we decamped to the bar for two of the most expensive drinks I’ve ever bought! Total cost for these: £35! And there were even drinks at £80 a glass! We did get free snacks… The cheese straws and nuts were nice (though possibly not worth the money!). We decided we’d stick to one drink rather than bankrupting ourselves but fortunately we managed to get an earlier table for afternoon tea… My wallet was saved! 🙂
We went through to the dining room. This picture doesn’t really do it justice as it’s very nice. There were huge floral arrangements everywhere. Pink hydrangea in huge bunches and smaller bunches of roses. There was also a pianist playing accompanied by a double bass. The lady on the double bass looked topless from where we were sitting as she was obscured by a piano and wearing a strapless dress! (I assume – perhaps she really was naked!) It all felt very decadent. Which is what you want for afternoon tea!
We ordered our tea. I had fresh peppermint tea as I don’t like tea. (Obviously not a true Brit. Maybe it’s the adoption thing…) Then our savouries arrived. Lots of yummy sandwiches, quiche and free refills! I’ve noticed a lot of places do this now. It means you feel duty bound to make the most of it! The quiche was cheese and onion – very dainty and tasty. And the sandwiches were from L-R: Smoked salmon (yuck!), free range egg (v traditional), chicken with a ceps mayonnaise (v tasty), cucumber and cream cheese (also v traditional) and ham and celeriac remoulade. They were all very nice apart from the salmon which I switched with my mum as she doesn’t like the cucumber ones!
Then we had scones. These are a bit like what Americans call biscuits as far as I can tell, but we have them with jam and cream. (And what we call biscuits is what you guys call cookies! Can you imagine the shock when Brits find out you serve scones for breakfast with gravy!) Anyway there’s a whole debate over whether you add the cream Devon style or Cornish (from Cornwall) style. Clotted cream tastes like cream but it’s the consistency of butter. I can’t remember which style I use but I add the cream first, in place of butter, and then the jam on top. They usually serve scones with strawberry jam in England but this jam was something made from tea. Considering I don’t like tea, it was really delicious! We had fruit scones and plain scones. I could only eat one as I was so full already! They were quite small as scones go but quite frankly I couldn’t even manage both of them, so it really wasn’t a problem!
With afternoon tea you also get a selection of cakes – the main event. All the posh places now compete to do the fanciest ones. These were rather fancy but quite traditional (no theme, like some do themes like the Pret a Portea at the Berkeley – where they do cakes inspired by this season’s fashion collections! Or the Mad Hatter’s afternoon tea at the Sanderson, which is my favourite). I really was stuffed by this point. I had the hazelnut choux bun on the far right and the chocolate raspberry one. They were both delicious!
Then as I had asked in advance if they could do something for my mum’s birthday, they brought out a birthday plate! This was complimentary and she was really chuffed. It definitely got me Child of the Year award! 🙂
Finally – just in case you’re not stuffed enough, you get little boxes with fresh chocolate truffles. They really give you a very spoiled experience.
As we couldn’t eat everything, they boxed it up to take home. My mum insisted I take it all as she has my dad on a strict diet! He was always quite skinny when we were younger but now he’s older his metabolism has slowed down but his appetite hasn’t! He’s not really fat or anything but he has a very sweet tooth. I got into trouble for smuggling him some contraband sweeties last time we met (and I sent him a small care package of my favourite cheese and a small fruit cake for his birthday – last year I sent him a giant personalised pork pie!). So I took home the extras to T. He was very pleased! Dog tried to get in on the action but was sadly denied!
Overall we had a really nice day. I think if you’re one of four especially then it’s nice to spend some 1:1 time with your parents. Of course we haven’t always seen eye to eye so don’t get the impression we are the kind of mother daughter who make you want to vomit with their “best friends” schtick. 🙂 My mum is definitely my mum and my dad is my dad! But I think now I’m in my late 30s we can relate on a more adult level and I am a bit less selfish and self absorbed than I was in my 20s! Plus they’ve probably calmed down their expectations a bit as the options of becoming a doctor / lawyer / President of the United States are all no longer open to me!
One thing we did actually get to discuss was the whole forum and adoption thing. We didn’t discuss in any depth but we did touch on my latest experiences (of adopted people who had a bad time of things and now feel upset about having been adopted), not in the context of anyone being right or wrong but more in the way of saying how I don’t feel that way. We discussed how we were always treated as “their children” and the adopted ones weren’t treated differently – I am glad that we were and never felt we might get taken back or anything. I even told my mum about this blog in the knowledge that she’s only just managed to master SMS and Skype and is unlikely to go looking!
Interestingly my mum said that she did feel they had been a bit naive and hadn’t expected there to be such a big deal about race – we were brought up largely in this kind of “colourblind” mentality to which I think there have been pros and cons. Like I truly didn’t grow up thinking there was anything inherently differentiating in personality or needs based on the colour of people’s skins. I didn’t think I was inferior because I had non white skin, but then again, I did learn that people would treat me differently because of it. I know now that the tide has turned on people’s feelings re race and I’ve learned from the forum that in America at least, skin colo
ur is a very big deal. I think the colourblind thing gave us benefits in one sense but also left us quite ill prepared to face racism in the big wide world… but then I guess it depends whether you blame adoption, parents, upbringing etc for that or you blame the world. Personally I blame the world for being racist rather than my parents for being white, but that’s just me!
It’s funny though, my mum even said she didn’t think people of my ethnicity got much trouble in the UK (to which I put her straight! She does know of previous incidents but she forgets!) and also we just talked about how people deal with stuff. Like I’m definitely one of those people who doesn’t really dwell on things – I even said about dad’s saying (“There’s no point worrying about things you can’t change”) and we had a little giggle about it. (We were drinking an early G&T at this point!) We talked about sibling #2 and how happy we are that the earlier problems seem to have gone away (#2 was also adopted and had quite a few issues growing up but is super happy and settled now, engaged to be married, all good!). Plus we talked about how the world is hopefully changing – in the context of my gay sibling and how we don’t expect there to be the level of homophobia in the past. I guess we all have our things. (Apart from #3/RFB who is just the archetypal white hetero one!) What is fundamental to happiness, I think, is our ability to process the unfairnesses and injustices and grievances and make the most of our lives.
For me that means not focusing on the bad stuff. For sure I do have to deal with any number of small irritants and a few big ones, but I find that it’s unproductive for my life to focus on them. I’m just too lazy to go around feeling bad all the time… It takes effort! I think that may be down to my personality or it may be down to my upbringing, or it may be a bit of both.
Today I went to my follow up occupational health appointment. The doctor had said last time that she thought I should come back and see her in a month’s time as she was a bit worried about me. But it’s now a month and a bit on from the last time (took a while to get the appointment at a mutually convenient time) and we really seemed to have moved on hugely since then. She asked if I still felt sad about PB and I said yes, but not debilitatingly so. I think my first pregnancy and miscarriage after IVF will always be a big experience in my life, but I am not the kind of person who’s going to be doubled up in grief for the rest of my life… I will always carry that sadness with me, but I’ll be okay. Because I really feel like I will. I feel a lot better, and maybe I’m in denial or something or maybe I’m just pretty quick at moving on. I’d like to think it’s a coping mechanism that I’ve got honed to a fine art!
I think for me it helps to focus on the stuff in the future. Like, I know I can’t see anyone about my fibroid until October, so there’s no point in spending a lot of time thinking about it before then. We can’t restart IVF until that’s sorted out, so I won’t try and get in touch or schedule anything before then. We’re off to the Magic Kingdom / USA next month so that’s what we’re focusing on and looking forward to… booking restaurant reservations, organising fun surprises for T and our schedule for the parks! (Squeal!) And buying cheap Disney clothes! I have a haul of them and I reckon I can get through the entire week with only wearing Disney clothes. 🙂
And before then, this month, I have a large wedding cake commission for a friend’s wedding so that’s exciting too. And after our trip to the US (our favourite place even disregarding WDW!) we will be looking forward to Christmas. I really love autumn (fall!)/winter when everything gets a bit chillier and cosier and we can have hot chocolate and cinnamon and wear awesome winter coats and everyone’s getting excited about Christmas. It’s my favourite time of year. I mean, I do enjoy the sun but autumn’s the best because it’s all about getting ready for Christmas!
And more immediately: We’ve been looking at houses. It’s all very exciting even though we probably won’t do anything about it for months and months but it’s nice to dream.
And I guess that’s the thing: I’ll never stop dreaming, or enjoying the happy stuff. Life’s too short to feel miserable for long. We all have a little wallow once in a while but I don’t want that to define my life. My task is just to keep adding fun things into the schedule to look forward to, and to enjoy the happy things when they happen. Which, when you have a T and a Dog, is pretty much all the time.
I know that a lot of you have been recipients of some pretty crappy news lately and I want to say: I’m thinking of you. I know that discovering this community was a lifeline to me – almost a lifetime ago! back in April I think it was – and I want you to know that I appreciate each and every one of you. You are all making a difference to people’s lives, people like me who felt completely alone and logged on one day and wrote a little something and put it out there, and got all this love and care back. And when we were going through the dark days you were all there for me (and us) and sharing your own experiences and making me feel like there was someone out there who cared. Some of you have even become my “IRL” friends (okay, we haven’t yet met in real life but we’re a part of each other’s virtual lives and I feel like I know you!). I mean, that’s pretty awesome. If I was going to be Pollyanna about it (I’m not) I’d say that you are making the world a better place, one friend at a time! And that’s pretty awesome, don’t you think?