Mother Hearts


baby feet, mother heart
Source: Foundation for Biomedical Research

“When were you ready for babies?” one of our babysitters once asked me.
She was in her late teens, a natural with our kids.  I wondered if she was beginning to notice that yearning within herself, that quiet mother-clucking, the sound that might grow to a hormonal crescendo by her forties. Was she wondering what it would be like to soothe her own babies to sleep instead of other people’s? I used to. I notice with interest these days, that it’s no longer fashionable to say you would love to have babies.  Not until you are at least in your thirties.  Why do we act like wanting babies is a timetabled urge?  Switched on by suitable circumstances?  I will always be grateful my circumstances brought my babies to me at a time when I was old enough to provide for them properly… but then I think, if they had come earlier in life, I’d have not been this unwell.  I don’t know why things happen the way they do.  Life is a peculiar thing. And it is good to remember, that for some, platitudes around motherhood like all in good time, or it will happen if it is meant to are painful, useless things to say.

“…about four years old I think”, I answered, truthfully.  When I was four, I already had a ‘baby’ of my own.  She was my special Sheila Carter (er, yes, that was her name, I named her in honour of a retired missionary we knew) and I clucked over her and loved her with fierce mother attentions. I loved the feel of her body in the curve of my arm and the way, if you bent her legs outwards, she could sit on my hip. She was the focus of all my games.  Where we lived, out in the back garden, we had a playhouse made from a packing case.  It had a fake shingle roof and tiny windows.  Outside the windows, within the reach of my eager little hands, was a grape vine, supplying great green orbs of sour sweetness for our playhouse meals.  There were daisies in the garden for gathering into chubby-handed bunches and mini furniture inside made from apple crates and hand-me-down cushions.


The original Sheila Carter
The original Sheila Carter

The boys, mercifully, spent most of their time up at the boy fort on the boundary of the yard.  But the playhouse. It was the sweet domain of the girls, untainted by rapid machine gun fire or cowboy-and-indian war cries.  We ‘cooked’ green grape stew, played house, and I tucked my Sheila Carter into the cot with purple paisley sheets.  She ate sitting up in her little high chair with the duck decal on the back.  I was in little Mummy heaven. One of these sunny evenings, my own Mum called us in for dinner.  But Sheila Carter was just so tired and she was still sleeping.  So I patted her tummy and ran inside.

I knew; the rule in our house was that you never leave your toys outside.  You certainly should never leave your baby outside.  But I realised too late that the rule meant I couldn’t go back to retrieve her. I wasn’t allowed.  My punishment that night was to sleep without my baby in my arms.  I cried my little four year old mother heart out.  I had let Sheila Carter down and I missed the curve of her little plastic body against mine.  Eventually too exhausted from tears, I fell into a nightscape of bad dreams.  
The next morning, as soon as the grey light filtered into my bedroom, I raced out to the playhouse to find Sheila Carter.

But she was gone.

Nobody has ever been able to tell me what happened to her.  Maybe the local dogs carried her off, or some kids decided to cause some havoc.  But she was gone and that was that.  I think my Mum was horrified.  She hadn’t meant my lesson to be quite so harsh as that!  They tried to console me by taking me to Wellington on my birthday, to choose a new baby at a big department store.  My new baby was a ‘Baby-This-n-That’ and could wave at me.  We called her Katie (a much better name for a doll, they said). She had silky blonde hair and big blue eyes.  She was cute.  I loved her and I still have her, but my little Mummy heart has always grieved for Sheila Carter, my first sweet baby.  She was the reason I could answer that babysitter with confidence.  I have been ready for babies since I first knew the joy, and the pain, of mothering. It’s what I was born to do.

I have many friends who, like me, were “born” mothers.  But they are mothers without babies.  For some, their babies passed away.  For others, their babies were gone before they arrived.  For still others, life circumstances have rendered their mother hearts empty, simply for lack of a daddy, or the years and endless cycles of IVF have not brought them what they hoped for.  Their arms; missing the curve of a baby who is all theirs.  A baby they have dreamt of and not been able to hold on to.  My heart breaks for them, for their mother heart’s grief.  For the longing that must surely be difficult to manage in the absence of the busy-ness of babies. In the presence of other people’s joy.  I know it is old fashioned and whimsical, but I so wish I could grant them baby wishes.  Supply them with the warm bundles of love to cherish and nurture.  I’m not saying that every woman needs a baby.  No.  But everyone of my girl friends who is without children, longs for them.  It is an ache that is so hard for them to bear.

So today, this post is in honour of my beautiful friends. The one’s whose arms are empty and hearts are longing to give love to little babies of their own.  You battle every day, to smile in the face of the losses you suffer, one moon after another.  You are strong and worthy and wonderful.  Any baby would be lucky to call you Mama.  I wish I could make the heavens do my bidding.  If I could, your mother love would have a place to go, and no one and nothing would ever carry that away from you.  I honour you for your loving hearts and the ways you give to others, sometimes without return or kinship.  I honour you for keeping on.  I honour you because you stay strong.

And my mother heart wishes I could just make it all better.


This beautiful song took me right back to that playhouse and my girlhood dreams.


In The Event…

…of my demise.

Some time ago, we had a really rough doctors appointment, where some hard things were discussed.  And it made us really maudlin.  We talked about the worst-case-scenario; (I recommend the discussion to everyone, even though it is hard… we will all pop our clogs at some point).  We talked about “what if” something catastrophic happened and I karked it, before we’d finished growing the kids.  My hubster is a practical man and he asked me to write a manual.  Like a cheat-sheet of ‘what Rach would do’ if I wasn’t around to do it.  Well, that is probably the toughest writing gig I’ve ever had.  And I didn’t manage it so well.
I resorted to rhyming verse.
What can I say?  I’m weird.
When I had finished I decided that it might be easier to get an indexed note book and jot things down as they occurred to me, you see, there are so many things a daddy might not think about if he is left without a mummy.  The index book is working well and getting fuller all the time, but I thought I would share with you my Doctor Seussy rhyme.  Cos it is weird in a way I quite like.  Whatever it takes to write the hard stuff, huh. Here tis, straight from my odd stream of consciousness.

Screen Shot 2014-05-18 at 5.09.35 pm
Here’s Dr Seuss himself.  He has a lot to answer for that man.

Before I begin this Mummy Manual.  Here is a side note to the kids, in the event of my demise:
If I could be well and stay with you, I would.  Going was not my choice and I love you, love you, love you.  You are the best things I ever did, apart from finding your Daddy and loving him.  You are amazing and I am devastated that I will miss out on all the good stuff to come.  I hope with all my heart that I can follow you from wherever I am and see all your milestones.  If there is something after this, then you can bet your bottom dollar that I will be there watching over you. And I promise to remain in your memories, to live in your heart and stay your Mum forever and ever.  I am in your DNA!

Right.  Better get on with it.  My head is already aching with all the un-shed tears and it is beginning to dawn on me that this particular task is going to be very difficult.
…bleughhh.  Every time I begin to write I cry.   It’s not going to work.

There may arrive a moment
a week or even year
When you wish that you could ask me
but I will not be there
You said to write a manual, a philosophy or a guide
I started it, I wrote a bit, you have to know I tried.
But every time I thought I won’t be here, well.
I cried.
So honey, here’s my answer, it’s twee and naff, I know
But if I write in rhyming verse my grief stays well below.

Point One:  Manners are taught and learned
They don’t arrive by chance.
And if they do not use them, they’ll fail to advance.
It isn’t something small, it’s a crucial thing you see
good manners open many doors and mean so much to me.
They’re in first place on purpose,  help them find them, pretty please.

Point Two: Expect respect.  Any less is really rude.
If you let them disrespect you, as their parent you’ll be screwed.
So if you ask them once, or twice, and nothing happens fast,
withdraw a privelege or two and hold out to the last.
Some battles must be won by YOU and do not let them past.

Point Three: …is presentation.  The face, the clothes, the rest.
It’s not enough you have good looks, please also dress your best.
Don’t worry about saving money, buy good instead of much.
Keep it plain and classy …and with fashion, keep in touch.
Look around at what they’re wearing, at school and in the shops.
Look online at the catalogues, buy whole outfits, yep, the lot.
Ask questions of the shop girls, ask the kids (a little bit).
Make judgements based on values: “should she been seen in it?”.
Be clean, brush teeth, and brush hair too.
Then there’s nails and elbows and knees.
Fancy hairdos just don’t matter;like tidiness and cleanliness do.

And just a little side note for the days that will come with your daughter
Grooming costs money, so spend it my honey, simply because you oughtta.

Point Four: organisation.  Keep tabs on dates and stuff.
Online calendar all the appointments, cos remembering is tough.
Get reminders to your inbox, prepare ahead of time.
Label and sort and organise so the day is calm and sublime.
If you prepare ahead for tomorrow, tomorrow will be just fine.

Point Five:  (I feel all Doctor Suessy, I wish I did not have to rhyme,
but there’s no easier way to tell you than this weirdo wee poem of mine)…
point five is so important.  This one you need the most.
Have confidence my honey, deep breath, close eyes and coast…
remember what we had was good, and still is with you now.
You don’t need my philosophy, it’s in you still, somehow.
You know me and you know my ways, but nothing is the same.
Don’t keep the way things used to be, ‘new normal’ is the aim.
As long as love is central, and you try to do your best,
the rest will happen naturally, so try, please, not to stress.

I loved you and I love you still, wherever it is that I am.
My heart is forever with your heart and my love remains the same.
Our children are forever lucky, to have you for their Dad.
So keep them close and let them in, it’s okay to be sad.
When you remember days now gone, remember with a smile.
Remember how I nagged and harassed to make this mental file.
And if you should forget them all, the things I used to say,
read back to this and hold them close, or ignore them again, okay?

The only things that truly matter are the things in your heart, anyway.