Saturday 12th January 2013

It's Saturday afternoon and I am lay here, forlornly, feeling sorry at the fact that my glands are the size of tennis balls and I can't speak (Yes, yes - let's get the 'I bet Rob is relieved joke' out of the way before I continue), taking myself off to the en-suite every now and then (Side thought: I can hear my parents' voices in my head, and no, it's not the copious amounts of soluble co-codamol that I have taken in the last 12 hours now, it is them in my conscience saying, 'We lived in a two up-two down with an outside toilet and tin bath - which, I must proudly add had a lot of the Busby Babes in it at one point as my Uncle played for Manchester Boys in the 1950's).

Anyway, I digress, again... (those who know me well, or are from the Greater Manchester conurbation will understand this character trait).

Whilst lying there catching up with 'Weekend's Woman's Hour' on Radio 4 on Iplayer (one of the benefits of convalescing is being able to do this. Jenny Murray and Jane Garvey are my heroes alongside Annabel Karmel), I can hear what sounds like an elephant clambering on all fours upstairs and in to the bedroom.

Bethan runs into the room, "Er mummy, mummy, mummy what's wrong?"

Considering my current state, I can't reply and I hear Rob running upstairs saying 'Now Bethan, leave mummy alone, she's not well'.

"Awww, what's wrong mummy? do you need to see Doctor Brown Bear?" and my translator (Rob) explains what the problem is.

Beth starts jumping over me and points at a picture of something I am reading;

"Er, mummy, look! look! look! it's a, it's a, it's a...little girl!" (I love the way Beth repeats things three times when she is excited).

And she was right. There was a picture of a beautiful little girl, with deep brown eyes and short curly brown hair, about Bethan's age, sat on a white toy rocking horse on four wheels, in a school playground, looking up to the sky. Playing behind her are her peers; they are holding on to each other's waists playing choo-choo train and smiling and laughing. There is a straddler who can't quite catch up to the train but seems determined to join in. It must be cold as the girl is wearing a beautiful hand-knit Arran jumper and her train-buddy peers are wrapped up in hats and thick coats. Their uniform is a lime green tabbard that they all wear over their clothes. There is nothing unusual about this school-playground tableau until you read the caption under the picture:

"The End of Innocence: A schoolgirl astride a toy pony looks up after hearing the sound of shelling in the war-torn Syrian city of Aleppo.

Now Bethan being Bethan asked lots of questions about what the girl was doing, what she was looking at  and what the children behind her were doing. I was trying to draw analogies with the kind of things that Bethan would do and play whilst at pre-school. In my head I was thinking, "Children are children wherever they are in the world. It is the parents' whose priorities that are different". As we turned the page of the TIME magazine, I couldn't help wondering if any of those children in the playground picture had been killed since the picture had been taken.

My back catalogue of 'TIME' magazines that have been unopened since last November (as well as listening to the BBC World Service late at night when I can't sleep), are what I use to try and keep me grounded. They make me think about my frivolous worries and I really try to get to grips with how blessed I am. This sounds extremely sanctimonious and noble because I can assure you that with a short-term memory span the length of a goldfish, this is not always possible. Rob keeps saying that I never read the magazines and they spend forever in their plastic bags and that I should cancel the subscription. However, the moment I do that is the moment I know that I really want to put my head in the sand and pretend the news headlines aren't happening.

On a lighter note, I have to keep up with my TIME  subscription because Bethan loves them. On the cover of its most recent edition is President Thein Sein of Burma who "is trying to transform a military state into a democracy". She asked who he was and I said "The President of Burma". Bethan then opened the magazine and began, "Once Upon a time, the Preisdent of Burma..." by the time she got to 10 Questions with Arnold Scwarzenegger, and her story was complete, she proudly shouted "The End!". Just love looking at the eyes of the world through a child.


Back to Weekend Woman's Hour.

There was an interesting discussion about how first-time parents aren't prepared for how difficult the first few weeks and months of motherhood are and that people only seem to be prepared for the birth. I agree! At my very first antenatal class the woman leading it said at the very beginning, "Over to you - what do you want to know?". How the hell should I know? You're the bloody expert! We've paid nearly 200 quid for this crap. Next thing I thought she would have us mind-mapping or text-highlighting or something.

The discussion was mediated by Jane Garvey and was contributed to by a midwife who had recently had a child and was a first-time mother too. Interestingly, it was the midwife who was the most negative out of the two about the experiences of early parenthood referring to it as 'awful' and believing that people only want to congratulate you and the elation of pregnancy rather than saying, 'Actually, it's flaming hard". Words like "inadequate" "and "lack of confidence" were thrown out during the debate as WH had done a poll which I always find reassuring as there is a sense of camaraderie with other parents. They also discussed the very British-way of saying "Everything is ok" when really you should ask for help after family and close friends have left, and your partner goes back to work,  after the first couple of weeks.

It was the first-time mother who was reassuring and life-affirming and got the first-time mother midwife to acquiesce to the fact that it isn't "awful", it's just difficult and more ante-natal advice and post-natal support is needed for all parents.

The first-time mum also expressed how this difficult time is parallel with being the best time and that what seems like a life-time of feeding and changing nappies, whilst mustering enough energy to get out of your pyjamas by 4pm, soon passes.

It goes so fast. The next thing you know they are jumping all over you whilst you are trying to get better screaming, "I like Jesse from Toy Story 2 - Yee Hah!".