Upstairs, Downstairs

This poem was written for my former downstairs neighbour and dear friend who has now returned home to Egypt with her husband and children. It was an honour and a joy to share our lives with them, and to find a warm connection that overcame any differences.

Happy Mother’s Day to all moms everywhere!! Peace be with you. May you always be supported, embraced and encouraged by your fellow moms all over the world! Go team! 🙂

 

Upstairs: a crazy crew of kids

six littles bouncing, dancing, singing, banging.

Downstairs: two small sweeties,

running, shouting, playing, laughing.

 

Upstairs, downstairs

the mothers scold, cook, cuddle and caress.

 

Upstairs, downstairs

the mothers mother

day and night.

 

Upstairs, downstairs

the women sing

in Arabic and English,

songs of faith and lullabies

unique yet universal,

of one heart.

 

Upstairs, downstairs

the women weep,

mourn lost babies–

precious ones snatched away too soon–

in each other’s arms

these mothers find warm comfort.

 

Upstairs, downstairs

the women pray,

observe Lent and Ramadan,

break their fasts and rejoice together

over homemade sweets.

 

Upstairs, downstairs

the women hope,

cherishing the new lives

nestled in their wombs…

little tiny babies

due at the same time.

May they be best friends!!

 

In the world there is hatred

but not in our house.

Upstairs, downstairs

there is love.

 

Beautiful

Yesterday I stumbled across this poem I wrote some time ago for dear friends who had suffered yet another painful miscarriage. As a number of people in our church community have either recently lost young children, or are approaching anniversaries of loss, I decided to share it.

Beautiful the face of a mother,

who suffers and who loves,

endlessly giving her all,

her very self, day and night.

Beautiful the face of a father,

whose word of love has become flesh,

and brought him joy,

and the necessity to serve,

forgetting himself.

Beautiful the hearts of husband and wife,

who give up pieces of themselves,

and let them to walk around outside their bodies,

tugging on their heartstrings

until they break.

Beautiful the sorrow of those who trust in God,

while they ache inside and long for the gift

that was briefly theirs,

but has flown to Heaven.

Beautiful the “Amen’s” that cost us the most,

the letting go,

the giving up what we only loved,

but never owned.

Beautiful the hearts that don’t lose faith,

when all seems cold and incomprehensible.

Beautiful the love that is stronger than death,

that stretches into eternity,

and bursts into God’s light with joyous triumph

on that day of reunion

which is to come.

Fulness

I sit here at East is East

almost alone (the baby is sleeping on my lap)

but feeling the opposite of lonely

a perfectly satisfied fulness

an openness to everything:

the heat of the spices in my mouth,

the cool kiss of my iced Turkish Chill,

the spring breeze in the elegant drapes,

the warm orange glow of the lamps.

The vibrant aquamarine wall behind the stage

is filled with memories of musicians

from date nights past…

when that skinny little girl

with her starry-eyed dreams

met that philosopher boy:

tall, brown-bearded, bespectacled.

They met and fell in love

talking their heads off

over so many meals

from all over the world:

Ethiopian, Thai, Chinese, Italian, Irish, Mongolian and more…

car-less dates

walking the town

in search of truth, meaning,

and cheesecake.

They married and filled the restaurants

with tiny people who like spicy Thai food

loud, gorgeous, long-lashed children–

seven here

and one gone ahead to the heavenly banquet.

And now instead of that teenaged aching emptiness

–that lonely longing–

there is hustle and bustle,

a thunderstorm of pitter patters

and never a moment alone.

Today that skinny girl

still red-headed and freckled,

but a little more wobbly around the middle,

has escaped for a moment alone with her dreams

in the same café where,

sitting with her bosom buddies

she discovered the presence

of her latest warm bundle–

a blue-eyed moon baby

whose smile bursts her chubby face open

to glow.

And the girl

now a mom of 8

(how did that happen??)

is learning to dig deeper

underneath the choas

into the quiet space inside

where her spirit resides

and speaks poetry in whispers

(if you’re quiet you can hear…).

The Spirit speaks to her

in dappled sunshine through tender new leaves

and the scent of lilacs.

She buries her face in them

and is transported back to highschool–

to the village where nature spoke to her so clearly

and she filled her notebooks with passionate scribbles,

longings for the fulness she now has

in abundance.

How to peacefully bathe a newborn 

Newborns love being all cuddled and cosy, curled up close to mom like they were in the womb, so often their least favourite thing is getting their diaper changed or having a bath, because they feel vulnerable and exposed. They wave their skinny little arms as though they were falling, and look very startled. This means that first baths can be a bit of a scream festival, which is hard on new babies and new mommies and daddies alike. When you’re sleep deprived and your hormones are raging, the last thing you want to do is something you know will set off baby alarm bells. 

So how to avoid this? Is there a way to bathe a newborn peacefully? Yes! Please learn from my mistakes, and do it the better way. When I bathed my first daughter, I was so nervous. I didn’t want her to get burned by hot water or drown, so I only put a few inches of lukewarm water in her baby bath tub, and took forever to bathe her with baby soap before rinsing her off. She hated it of course, as she was so cold! I hated it, too! Her crying was making me so upset. 

Here are simple steps to a better way:

 

  1. Fill the baby bathtub really full, till almost the top.
  2. Use really warm water. Not actually hot…but much warmer than you would think, remembering that water cools quickly in the small tub. 
  3. Cradle the back of your baby’s head with your right hand, supporting his body with your arm. To make this easier I put our baby bath up on the counter, or you could use a table instead, with a towel under it. Then you don’t have to bend way over, and get a sore back. 
  4. Lay the other arm on top of baby to hold him secure, and if he likes, let him suck in your finger to soothe himself. When I did this last time, my newbie got so relaxed he almost fell asleep! 
  5. Get your spouse or an older child to gently pour a little water over baby’s head (not face) and in those little creases of the neck where milk hides. 
  6. Keep the bath brief, about 5 minutes or so, and don’t bother with soap at first. Newborns smell lovely, and just need a little dip to freshen up every now and then. Bedsides, you are constantly wiping them during diaper changes or cleaning their little faces with a warm cloth, so in my opinion you don’t need to feel pressured to bathe them every day, unless you want to! 
  7. Choose a moment when you are fairly relaxed, and can ignore the phone or other interruptions and just enjoy this cosy moment with your beautiful, precious new mini you!
  8. Have a cosy towel and blanket ready, and follow the bath with a nice snuggle and some warm milk! 

  

Honouring International Bereaved Mother’s Day

May 3rd is international bereaved Mother’s Day. It is an important and beautiful opportunity to acknowledge all the mothers around the world who have suffered loss through miscarriage, stillbirth, child loss or painful struggles with infertility. 

It is a chance to share grief and hope, to reach out and be vulnerable, to connect, to encourage, and to honour the women whose mother’s hearts are suffering deeply. 

 
Every baby is, in the words of Still Life Canada, “a unique and irreplaceable individual.” It is fitting that we honour their passing with our whole hearts. Sometimes sharing your grief is the first step to allowing others to share theirs, too, and beginning to heal. Let’s break the silence with gentle words of love.     Also, the Mothering Your Heart program is a lovely way to connect with other bereaved moms, be encouraged and supported in your journey of grief and healing. There is a Facebook page to share with other moms if you like, and a series of helpful emails you can receive each day leading up to Mother’s Day, with gentle ideas on self-care and nurturing your wounded heart, honouring your baby and seeking the stillness in which to discover the still, small voice of hope….    Wishing you all peace, strength, healing and hope…

With all my heart,

Anna

Mummy of Josephine, my little star in Heaven 

The Children Have Officially Eaten My Brain!

So being a busy, scatterbrained mom I tend to be running a little behind, and it’s quite a feat to actually get anywhere on time. But today I set a new record…I can’t say for being on time really…but for extreme earliness.

I was determined, whatever it took, to make it to my dear friend Penny’s retirement dinner. She has been the secretary at my midwifery clinic for all my 6 children, so she has known me since the earliest days of my motherhood. She has always been there for me with her attentive warmth and kindness. I really wanted to honour her today by coming with a hug, a gift, and a poem.

So I scrambled to find babysitting, called up and down my phone list, and finally found help in my kind upstairs neighbours. After getting the kids ready for bed and settled in with a movie, I threw on a dress, necklace and heels and ran out the door. Literally.

On the sky train I wrote Penny’s poem: “My Penny is Worth a Million Bucks,” grinning that I got it done just on time…then I scooted as fast as my heels would carry me, scrambling down shortcuts and asking directions from friendly folks outside their house.

By the time I got to the pub I was over an hour late…but better late, than never, right? Inside it was very quiet and none of the staff had heard of Penny’s retirement dinner. At all. Oh, dear….
Beginning to worry I checked the online invitation. I’m sure it was on Wednesday, I’m sure! Oh! Oh! It was next Wednesday. Which is also next month! I was one week early, and not even in the right month.  A world’s biggest idiot sign glowed brightly above my head as I slunk quietly out the door.

That’s it!  The children have officially eaten my brain. What was left of it. No wonder they’re hungry all the time! Anyway, kicking myself and laughing I took a selfie to prove my ridiculousness:

  Then, like a good mom with free time on her hands, I went a shopped a sale at Gymboree, and brought home some summer clothes for the kids.  And then like a good blogger I worked on this post on the bus ride home. Now I just have to work on being a good invitation reader…

Well, I hope this made Katie from Australia laugh, because she writes the best “fail” posts, and this day was sure a big belly flop! But if it made you laugh than it was a worthy misadventure…

(See Katie’s crazy stories if days gone wrong at https://laptopontheironingboard.wordpress.com/category/fail-2/)

And at least I got Penny’s poem done…in my traveling studio….ehem, sky train….which is actaully a much less distracting atmosphere than my house.
Tomorrow, after I put my silly self with my sore feet to bed, I’ll share Penny’s poem with you all.

Goodnight, sleep well, and may your brain be with you!

(I hear it’s nice…)