Mother-to-be on a Mother’s Day

I haven’t taken much note of Mothering Sunday for the last six years. Partly it’s because Mother’s Day falls on a different day in our calendar.

We follow America on that one. It might also have a bit to do with the fact that I’ve mainly been a student during that time and it’s challenging to remember what day of the week it is in uni land, let alone what date Mother’s Day falls on each year. In fact, I only found out yesterday reading Travelling the Circle Line that it’s linked to Lent.

But mostly, I’m just not brilliant at the organisational side of gift giving. I’m a procrastinator by nature and while I like the idea of reminding someone that they’re loved and appreciated in a visual way, I often make everything so last minute that gifts either don’t happen or they’re not brilliant.

I’m also rather forgetful. My father actually reminded my brother and I a couple of years running when Mother’s Day was so we could call home. One year, I think I may have clean missed it altogether. Out of sight might be out of mind, Mum, but never out of heart.

This year I was a lot more conscious of Mother’s Day. I got the jibes that it was because I’m expecting big things next year (though I wouldn’t mind an…ahem…eternity ring if a certain person is reading this). Really, it had a lot more to do with this pregnancy making me appreciate ‘mothering’ and ‘motherhood’ a lot more.

I’ve found myself visualising my mother-in-law as a younger woman holding Laurence as a babe in arms. When I look at him, I see all the goodness both his parents poured into him and I am grateful to them.

So, we did Mother’s Day for real this year – in short, to be a bit less rubbish. And what it made me realise was that I don’t just consider Sarah my friend. I do actually see her as my mother-in-law and am glad that they only live about half an hour away.

Don’t worry, Mummy, I’ve marked the real Mother’s Day on our calendar!

PS: I wrote the word “mother” so many times in this post, it started to look weird to me and I actually questioned whether I’d misspelled it!

A BabyBash not a baby shower

I’d said I wanted to have a baby shower because if I were in Trinidad, I probably would have had one without fear of it being branded an Americanism. Ever wary that he might be sidelined in this parenting lark, Laurence wondered if he and his mates would be welcome there. Obviously, that meant baby food tasting and nappy folding competitions were not going to work.

Instead, we decided to barbecue it up in the garden with bunting from our wedding, picnic mats and fairy lights. Always ones for the big food party (basically, we like to eat. A lot), the menu nodded to our Caribbean roots with rum punch, sorrel, jerk chicken and lamb, and pholourie, filled out with pan-world salads and the food and drink that our guests lavished on the party. And as we say in Trinidad: better belly bus’ than good food waste. That said, I never want to peel another potato ever again.

Since my parents live in Trinidad, they couldn’t be there. But my mother made her contribution by suggesting we have people paint babygros. Well, bodysuits do just as well. If it were up to me, a star or moon would have done but we’ve clearly got some creative friends. I only hope the creature doesn’t grow so quickly that she doesn’t get to wear all of them.

There were also lots of guesses in our baby pool as to when this kid is going to bust out of my uterus. I think most were trying to be quite kind but, sadly, unrealistic. My favourite guess is May 29th (the actual due date) at “high noon”. I also can’t help but smile at the guess “June 11th” followed with “sorry!” The idea was that guests would pay £1 per guess. The winner gets 25% of the prize and 75% goes to charity. My neighbour just said to me a moment ago that whatever date it is, they hope they’re out since it’s a home birth!

We were overwhelmed by the effort our friends made to come and celebrate our baby’s life with us (as well as our birthdays and new home – we thought we’d might as well make this the party for everything). Having friends from Bristol, our universities and even Laurence’s school was a powerful testament to us of how blessed we are. I know some of you read the blog and I just want you to know how grateful we are to have you in our lives.

We’re also thankful for these…

By the way, for those who were there, it would be ace if you could let me know which bodysuit you painted!
Those who weren’t, what would you have painted?

Ever the graphic designer, Laurence had a bit of fun with the invitation too.

Kittens, coughing and something like helplessness

I often joke that Laurence is the real grownup in this marriage and that I’m still working out this adult thing. I may have the book sense but he’s got the infinitely more valuable practicality. But every now and then I realise just how much I depend on him, and it’s not something I’m altogether comfortable with.

It started with me getting stressed about the kittens this morning. They’ll be here in a few weeks. What if we’ve made a mistake? Should we really have two? Where will the litter box go? Can we afford the pet insurance? Will our pet ownership styles match or clash? He laughed at this last one and made it pretty clear that he had no opinions on how the cats were to be ‘raised’. I’m the one who wanted them so he’s expecting me to be the one responsible for their care. Me – responsible for another living thing?

I know the idea of responsibility shouldn’t floor me. I’m about to be responsible for another human being and a pretty helpless one at that. In fact, Laurence has been depending on me to take care of my body to keep the baby safe and I know although he intends to be as involved as possible, he’ll be looking to me to take the lead with most things baby care. And I feel fine about that.

But it’s a bit of a change to the dynamic that’s crept into our relationship. It’s not just that he handles the bills or that I’ve never gone into the garage on my own. Day to day, I find it increasingly difficult to make decisions on my own. If I’m contemplating canceling on a friend because I’m not feeling well, I’ll text him and ask what he thinks. If we’re at the bar, I’ll suggest he choose a drink for me.

I don’t think it’s helplessness so much as laziness but I’m not sure when it crept into our relationship. It’s not something he particularly likes either. I know he’d rather I just get on with the supermarket shop than stop at each item to find out whether he wants this and what kind. I’ve done something about that this week: a supermarket delivery order, without consultation. Sometimes, I think the mobile phone is my enemy. I should just forget it exists.

This dependence really hit home with me when I called the doctor this morning. Laurence has been asking me to call for ages, thinking that something was amiss with my ‘cold’. I’ve ummed and ahhed about it but he was firm with me this morning when we found blood and a clot on the sheets that I must have coughed up during the night. Even so, if he hadn’t told me this merited a call to the doctor, I honestly would’ve just left it until my routine checkup next week.

It turns out I have a chest infection and my breathing isn’t amazing. I collected my prescription and chastised myself for being willing to just leave it.

Then, on the way home, I popped into a pet shop to have a look around at cat litter and suchlike. For a moment I thought, “I should come back when he can come with me to help choose” but quickly corrected myself. I’ll go back when I have my trolley bag to carry the things I’ve chosen.

Will the baby like libraries?

Today I’m over at WAHM-BAM with a guest post I’ve written for Tasha Goddard’s Book Week. It’s called “Will the baby like libraries?” Please mozy on over there and share your thoughts.

Hopefully I’ll be sufficiently sniffle-free soon to write something equally substantial over here. In the meantime, I’m catching up on my reading and prepping for the big BabyBash on Saturday. In fact, I’ll probably tell you all about that tomorrow.

Love me, Liebster, because I’m ill

The thing I always forget about being ill is that it’s bloody boring. This is even more so when you’re pregnant because you’re likely to get sick more often and whatever you catch will be more extreme and hang around longer than is generally acceptable.

It’s not just that little tasks become gargantuous and your body effectively slows you down, as if the parasite you’re carrying weren’t doing enough of that already.

Last night, I couldn’t even think. A shame, because I was looking forward to writing but even more so because I’d planned to continue my recent domestic streak by finishing the hoovering, mopping, dishes and dinner all before Laurence got home. I don’t know – maybe I wanted a medal or something.

What ended up happening is that none of the above got done and he came home from a work fundraiser to find me in bed and still dressed. He was endlessly amused that I didn’t remember getting there. My only explanation was: “I was downstairs watching TV and then I ended up here.” It was a chippy night for him.

Anyhow, this cold narrows the chances of me thinking up anything particularly thought-provoking or vaguely humorous to say here today so I thought I’d just accept the accolades of others instead. The lovely Liz Dawes at Multum in Parvo extended the Liebster Blog award to me about two weeks ago and I’ve been meaning to thank her for it and pass it on but it just hasn’t really happened, mainly because I’m a brilliant procrastinator. In fact, I’m surprised no one’s awarded me anything for being that just yet.

Liz said: “One of my favourite blogs at the moment is written by the very talented Adele Jarrett-Kerr. A journey through her pregnancy, but so much more. She is a pithy and wry talent, who makes me laugh and ponder and want to keep reading. And I love the design of her blog too – different, quirky and very compelling. Just like the author I suspect.” Today, that’s like chicken soup to my soul. And now that I’ve said that, I really want chicken soup but there’s no one here to get some for me. Alas.

Back on track. I’m supposed to do the following with this award:
1. Create blog post about accepting, with Liebster logo.
2. Link back to person who has nominated me, and happily accept their praises.
3. Nominate 3-5 of my fav blogs, that maybe not everyone in the blogosphere will have tripped over but that are nonetheless FAB, and tell them they’ve been nominated.

Well, to tell the truth if Liz hadn’t already been the one to nominate me, I probably would have nominated her! But here are my three:

Stories of Georgous written by Li-Ling who grew up in Malaysia but is now raising her daughter Georgia in the UK. She speaks eloquently of the contrasts between the cultures and parenting styles, often sharing the funny or startling profound things that Georgia says. You don’t have to be from an Asian background (or even be a parent!) to find something extraordinarily human in her writing.

Yoruba Girl Dancing interrogates issues of race and gender while taking the time for lighter matters, like over handsome cartoon characters. Bim Adewumni is a freelance writer who lives in London and writes with boldness and, often, more than her fair share of wit.

I’ll honestly be surprised if Her Melness Speaks hasn’t already received this award. I’m compelled to nominate her nonetheless. Melinda Sealy Fargo often makes me laugh out loud at my computer screen when I’m reading her stylish and straight-down-the-line blog. She’s a woman who knows what she thinks and the funniest way to express it. She’s got an opinion on everything from sex to grammar and is particularly interested in “The Gibberish Generation” – her term for teenagers – mainly because she’s parent to four of them.

There are no books I must read before I die

We’ve been massively sorting out the house (and the garden, thanks to my in-laws) this weekend. It’s about time, I suppose, considering that we moved in a month and a half ago and once the baby’s here (nine weeks to the due date now), it will probably be a while before we care about where those picture frames should hang.

Also, we’re hoping for a mass invasion this Saturday with friends coming over for the event we have dubbed The JK BabyBash. No doubt, I’ll tell you more about that later as much excitement surrounds it and I’ll be getting well into it once this stupid cold is gone.

So, um, yes. My mind is wandering. Fever does that. I was saying that we were tidying the house. Well, that’s meant I’ve found all the bags of stuff we’ve been planning to take to the charity shop or the library for…literally years. Including these:

I recently wrote in a guest post that will appear on Tasha Goddard’s blog WAHM-BAM later this week for her Book Week that Laurence has a penchant for hoarding books while I’m very much a read ’em and donate ’em kinda gal. If it’s good, it’s worth sharing, I say. These, however, are his books.

I have an ongoing battle in my mind over what I should read and what I do. It’s probably a hang up from my days as an English Literature undergrad.

By the time I was on to my Masters, I was rather comfortable with my new philosophy that although “experts” will expound on what you must read before you die, life really is too short to be reading things that you downright don’t enjoy.

It’s like my in-laws insisting on watching every one of the Coen Brothers’ films, knowing full-well that they probably won’t enjoy them because they never do (except True Grit. This is the one Coen Brothers’ film they like).

I’m a hedonist when it comes to reading. Irvine Welsh is a genius, to be sure, but that doesn’t mean I feel compelled to read his work and certainly not to re-read it. I forced my way through Ecstasy past rape, bestiality, necrophilia and beyond and felt more than a little sick, which is likely what you’re meant to experience. I also gave Porno a go but soon trailed off, wondering why I was bothering to do this to myself. It’s sadistic.

Laurence agrees he likely won’t read them again so off they go to the library today to some other reader who’ll get more out of it than I.

That said, I have begun reading Crime and Punishment again, having used to describe it as a punishment in itself for those who struggled through it. Yes, this Lit graduate is a smidge Philistine.

One of my housemates in my second year at university forced her way through it so I gave it a quick go. But I had too much on my mind at the time and a reading list that was already daunting so after a few chapters, I put it aside with: “Ah well.”

But since Mama – and more suggested that I should make the most of reading in response to my post about things I should do before the baby comes, I looked through our shelves and thought, I’ll give you another go.

So far, I don’t understand what was blocking me with this book. I’ll let you know how it goes.

In the meantime, I’m curious to know whether there’s anything you wouldn’t read. Or whether you think that we should at least attempt to read everything touted as “valuable” that’s out there?

Should I leave Facebook?

This is a question I’ve been asking myself ever since I joined Facebook as a university student. Five or so years later, I’m still asking it. Here’s why:

1. I will one day value my privacy
I’ve not been overly hung up on the privacy issues so far, though having had a read around, I can see that what doesn’t bother me so much now may haunt me later when I’m older, wiser and generally more politically and technologically clued-up. This could be why I prefer the minimalism of Twitter and the malleability of my WordPress blog. I would just say, though, that I am really bothered by the ‘messages’ not being private. Facebook has access to them, while giving you the illusion that they are as confidential as email. They’re really not.

2. The Facebook me isn’t the real me but friends think it is
What really bothers me is the way Facebook threatens to change my relationships. Acquaintances look at my profile, flick through my pictures and check out my friends list, and feel that they are getting to know me. Something about Facebook gives the illusion of identity, that what you present there is something ‘true’ about yourself. But it’s not. It’s a performance. It’s a distraction.

3. We’re not getting to know each other
And because of this, I feel the keeping in touch thing is negated. I’ve not minded – mostly – being put back in touch with old acquaintances. But if Facebook masks the false, presenting it as true, we’re not really getting to know each other. You can know facts about me – I got married a couple of years ago, I’m having a baby, I live in Bristol – but how do any of these dry pieces of information create intimacy between us?

4. We misunderstand each other
You might say that you learn more from the views we both express and that’s true but they’re often so fleeting (a throw away comment on a status update, for example) that they’re easily misinterpreted and I think we’re more likely to alienate each other than to draw closer to one another.

For instance, I’m a committed Christian. This fact runs through me in a way that Facebook’s fragmented approach would never help you make sense of. I also support gay rights, especially in Trinidad where equality laws still refuse to properly acknowledge sexual orientation. I know people who find it difficult to put the two together.

I’m unlikely to be able to say what needs to be said in any significant way on someone’s wall. Even notes don’t feel like they’re the right space for that. Arguments made in notes almost always come across to me as argument for argument’s sake as opposed to a real call for readers to engage. Commenters end up skimming and speaking to themselves.

5. It makes us lazy
We write a quick: “Hi, how are you?” on someone’s wall or comment on their picture and get away with believing that we’re staying in touch or keeping our friendship alive or whatever. Or even worse, we go through their wall posts and pictures, say nothing, and leave feeling like we’re up to date on their lives. Maybe we’re busy but if we pooled together the time we spend every day on Facebook, maybe we could save some time in an evening to write even one email or letter or give a phone call. Even a text message is more personal than writing on a wall.

This last point is what made me disable my wall and hide my photographs on Facebook last weekend. I’m tired of this false communication.

But isn’t blogging like that? Well, not for me, it isn’t. I didn’t primarily start writing Circus Queen so I could “keep in touch” though it is valuable in doing this, to some degree.

I started it because I needed two things: a writing project and a space to process thoughts about my pregnancy. I wanted it to be public because I value intellectual support and hoped that what I wrote might strike a chord with someone else.

My blog is, in fact, one of the few reasons I’d stay on Facebook. I know a lot of my friends read it by clicking links on my wall through to my blog. I thought starting a Circus Queen Facebook page would solve this by letting them see updates without me having to have a wall but Facebook won’t let me ‘suggest to friends’ (the option’s been broken since last year) so I’m frustrated on this front too.

Becoming a mother makes me even more suspicious of Facebook. I’m not sure how much of my life or my family’s life I want to share on the internet. I think I’d rather email photographs of the creature to my parents than point them to albums on Facebook.

I don’t know. I haven’t made my mind up about any of this. I may change my mind by the end of the week and my wall might be enabled again.

Have you thought about leaving? Why would you leave? Why would you stay?

Image: Steve Jurvetson

UPDATE: My pathetic protest has come to an end (for now) and I’ve reinstated my wall, etc. Hopefully the exercise has at least made me start thinking about what I do and don’t want to share. Also, I’ve just come across a great post examining Facebook’s overshare culture on Her Melness Speaks.