En Famille

I will have delivered my baby tomorrow. It’s five year since I last delivered a baby. Some things loom large, other things I’ve had to ask about and read up on because, by accident or design, I’ve forgotten them. It’s good and bad that I know what lies ahead. The hellish stage of caring for a newborn looms large. As does the joy of seeing a new person in our family.

I’ve been thinking about all the women in our families who’ve done this before. My husband’s grandmother, who had 17 births to her credit. My grandmother, who delivered eight children, including a set of twins. My mother and mother in law, my sister in law and other relatives who’ve been through this.

I’ve been thinking further back too, to the women who were pregnant and labouring during times which were much more trying than the current state of the nation. I’ve been thinking of the girls and women in Tuam most particularly. I think about them being 39 weeks pregnant, as I am, and knowing they will have to birth babies they won’t be able to keep, and knowing that there’s a chance those babies will die because they’ve probably seen this happen myriad times already.

I had no say in how I delivered my first child. She (I thought she was a he and got an enormous shock) had settled into a comfortable but dangerous position and didn’t budge, so it was a c section and a planned and controlled birth. My second pregnancy also ended in a section, but various factors made me feel a lot more in control and it was an empowering decision and experience. I’ll be back in theatre, with that same feeling of control that you don’t often get to experience during pregnancy, when so much is outside your control, tomorrow.

This is the very first time I have been pregnant in Ireland without the eighth amendment being in place. My hospital consultant was part of the campaign to repeal the eighth. The legislation to give effect to the repeal of the eighth and introduce abortion services here has yet to be passed, but it is fantastic knowing it is on the way and our families won’t have to experience a pregnancy under it ever again.

En Famille

Where It Would Do Most Good

We are homeowners. We know how lucky we are. We have access to finance and we have savings. We have never experienced much, if any, real insecurity in our lives. One of the things which I think made us so compatible from the start of our relationship was our similar backgrounds. We were both raised in stable environments and given every possible opportunity to succeed in life. There were always safety nets.

I sometimes feel enormous guilt at our privilege. We live in a house that was of our choosing. We face no imminent risk of having to leave it out of necessity rather than by choice. One of my children told me one morning that they woke in the middle of the night and it was so cosy in their own bed they went straight back to sleep because it felt so nice.

It’s really hard not to think of the other children sleeping in hotel rooms, hostels and police stations when your child tells you something like that. It is an accident of circumstances that our children are where they are and other children aren’t able to feel as safe as our children do.

The narratives around housing, homelessness and families can be difficult to listen to sometimes. Some parents are feckless. Some make bad decisions (I know I do, at least once a day). Some have made choices thinking only of the short term. Some have made choices with an eye to state benefits. Some make choices that make me angry.

Their children, no matter what the choices of their parents, deserve housing that’s as secure as the housing we have. I’m not an expert on housing but I don’t think it takes much imagination to realise that we’ll all do better, long and short term, if every child has a secure home and can wake in the middle of the night and feel so safe and secure they can enjoy the feeling of cosiness and go right back to sleep.

Social housing is good. It provides security for children and their parents, and how can anyone not be in favour of that? I don’t particularly enjoy paying taxes, who does? But when taxes are collected and spent, they must go where they will do most good. My tiny portion of the tax collected must go where it will do most good. In the long run, it makes social and economic sense.

Where It Would Do Most Good

Thoughts on September

My brain is addled lately and I hadn’t thought about our engagement anniversary (not that it is something we celebrate or even mark or think about these days) until I got a lovely message from my husband reminding me of it yesterday. We got engaged in Sorrento and it will always be a very special place for us.

One can’t escape the fact that this is the 17th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks. I don’t need any reminder of where I was and what I was doing on this day 17 years ago. When I was 19, 17 years felt like a very long time. Not so much now its 17 years on and its become really clear that the reverberations of that awful day are only just beginning.

Our son was born in September and our third child will be too. Family life will be bookended by birthdays, and I quite like that because birthdays are a big deal in our home. Another two weeks and we’ll officially have the birth day over and done with.

Like many things, WH Auden says it a lot better than I do about September 2018 and what the world can feel like sometimes.

September 1, 1939

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright 
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can 
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return. 

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism’s face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire 
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
“I will be true to the wife,
I’ll concentrate more on my work,"
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the deaf,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

Thoughts on September

Tiny Sparks of Joy

Discovering the Mueller She Wrote podcast and having an equally obsessed friend to pass the good news on to.

Throwing some money at something and it being worth every penny. At nine months pregnant I will pay for some of my problems to go away.

Small bursts of energy in between much longer periods of achy exhaustion.

Friends having good news after a very long time.

A mainly decluttered home which means order can be restored to the whole house in less than an hour after a busy Saturday.

Tiny Sparks of Joy

Great With Child

I am 36 weeks pregnant. It is a weird experience, even though this is my third pregnancy and I know how lucky I am to be at this stage. I didn’t write about my other two pregnancies at all and a lot of what I thought was seared into my brain has been half or wholly forgotten.

Things which I haven’t forgotten:

  • That I would be answering the question ‘How long have you got left’ and variations thereof multiple times a day.
  • See also: answering the question ‘Do you know what you’re having’ multiple times a day.
  • Peeing multiple times a day.


Things which I had forgotten or might just be more obvious this time around given that its five years to the day since I was last pregnant:

  • How uncomfortable I am at night.
  • How exhausting basic tasks can seem.
  • The time I spend wondering if everything will be ok.

In short, I am both thoroughly sick of being pregnant and mildly terrified at the thought of having a newborn baby on the other side of my uterus again.

Great With Child