There is a certain purposeful way
In which my Father works
Which puts me in touch with more of myself

His busy, rough hands are what define him for me
Although he wouldn’t agree
He has tile grout or dirt in the tiny cracks of his finger skin
He always has done

You might think he works quietly; no
Always singing or whistling
Replacing the words he can’t recall with his own
Repeating often heard anecdotes
Or telling me what I’m doing wrong

It’s me up here, tiling with Dad,
Not my husband or the boy that never was
There is a inevitability to all this

I should be here with him,
This Saturday,
Filling in the cracks.

Postpartum Haemorrhage


My daughter came rushing out of my body
Riding a wave of blood
And as it gushed out
I felt my eyes closing

An oxygen mask was clamped on my mouth
And through the plastic I said
‘Don’t let me die…I have two daughters’
The word die clanged like a gong

Despite their jocular reassurances
I could sense the tension
My heavy, tree-like limbs
Were held and stabbed by strangers
Forcing ports in to my unwilling veins

I tried hard to hold on to ration
To fight against the fog
Of course I wouldn’t die
But the ghosts of thousands of others-
The women who came before me
Crowd around my bed

They have all faced this point;
Their babies departed their bodies
And they departed the earth
Their life bloods just ebbing away
Silent and simple as a snowstorm

How different am I?
I am the same unstable womb.
Wheeled in to theatre
I watched the clock
Melt from one time to the next

And from where I lie
I can see splashes of blood
On the floor.
I reach my hand out and say
To the room ‘Don’t leave me’
I’m talking to myself: Do not leave, now.

I learn later I lost four pints
The body only holds six…
Two pints away from…what?
The midwife says
‘Don’t fret, a pregnant woman can survive greater loss
than a solider on the battlefield’

And just then, I think:
Now I know why
Because as that blood slipped away
I was closest to death than I’ve ever been
And I was never going to leave

Women were designed to withstand loss
It’s just another goodbye
To join the rest of them
As the children I’ve borne
Grow further from me each new day

That’s the way it is
And should always be.



Suddenly our oldest daughter needed us
And we had to split up
I stayed with Audrey
To face the long night alone
And Paul went to Daisy
Who was fighting her own little battle
Of newness and uncertainty

Our family of four is no more than 30 hours old
And already I’m torn
Torn on the outside from my big new girl
And torn on the inside because I can’t split myself in two
I can’t be the whole mummy to both
Or in two places at once.

How will I find my way through
This new maze of pain?
The long nights ahead?
Days stretch in front, each one 24 long hours
I suspect I’ll have to journey to a place with no difference between
Sunlight and darkness to do it

But I know a part of me
Will always be torn
Never to heal
As I try to make myself two
When I am only one.



When your child is 3, and sick

And you have to leave her 

And it’s Christmas

It’s hard to see the silver lining.

I started my maternity leave this week, 

Going through the motions

Whilst my baby, (no longer a baby)

Burns with a fever

And coughs at home. 

I overrode all my instincts to go to work

Lingering over her little flushed face

Arriving late 

I heard the reassurances, but they made no impact 

It didn’t matter that she was looked after 

Because what does anything matter 

If I’m not there with her now?




Daisy wakes and does not cough

For the first time in a while

She says she ‘feels much better’

And this is the best news I could ever have

And there I am, crying fat tears

In the hot shower

They’re washing away the last week 

And we have only the weeks to come

And today 

To survive




The joint’s in the oven

Its a ‘cook from frozen’.

I’ve stooped so low, I can’t be trusted to defrost 


The old folks are munching on their museli

And I ponder how much life we all have left

To live

And how much more of it there is to live with deafness

And watery eyes

And frailty. 


So I cook the meals, 

that’s all I can do,

I watch them have fourths of creamy mashed potato

I made with good butter and cream

And I keep feeding them

I hope to remind them that life is left to live

And it still tastes good. 



Thursday night, 5am
Suddenly my baby is 3
Although her birthday isn’t for a few weeks
She is a big girl, full of why’s
And reasoning

She wakes us to ask
‘Daddy, how does an apple grow?’
And I can’t think of anything I’d rather do
Than answer her.




The last time I drank Lucozade was in 2003. I used to use it as a hangover cure in my college days; feeling sick and shaky I would get up, walk to college, buy a chilled Lucozade and take it to the library, where upon I would use the subsequent sugar high to dash off an essay on, say, Atomism. I loved the stuff. Used with caution, it was a cross between a medicine and a recreational drug.

How times change. I’m going to drink Lucozade today, but for an entirely more sinister purpose.

I’m having a GTT, or Glucose Tolerance test, which I have to have purely because my BMI is slightly higher than the accepted threshold (not enough walking).

This means, at 28 weeks pregnant, I have to starve myself from 9pm the night before, wend my way to the hospital, have 3 phials of blood taken and then drink 410mls of lurid orange lucozade. I then sit for two hours in a busy waiting room before I am called back to have further blood taken. These two results will be compared and hey presto, they will know if I have gestational diabetes.

If you move about too much, be sick or faint the test has to be repeated. You aren’t allowed to drink anything, even water.

The actual test wasn’t so bad- the worst bit was the waiting room. Anyone who’s been heavily pregnant will know that sitting still in an awkwardly upright position for two hours isn’t ideal. Add to this chairs that hurt your arse, and you’ve got a recipe for disgruntlement. The waiting room is unbearably hot. People come and go.

It is full of nervous expectation as people have scans to either determine the viability of their baby or its health and sex. It is a truly public place.

I’ve got the jitters from the fizzy drink and the baby is having a mad half hour, hyped to the eyeballs on glucose. I feel sick and vague.

Some people don’t feel it is inappropriate to bring rancid-smelling food in to the waiting room, and so the smell of cheap sulphites-laden bacon now pervades. A professional couple pregnant with their first have swung by Costa and their coffees now add to the stench & there is a smell of someone who hasn’t washed- themselves or clothes, too. This fog wafts over me in waves of fetid hot air.

I am trying to read, zone out, just to get through the two hours, and I’m sitting next to a woman in a beautiful jewelled sari trying to do the same. She offers me her catalogue, and we swap magazines- M&S Home Catalogue for me, Vogue for her. She closes her eyes after a while. I don’t blame her. The sensory assault is formidable.

A young woman is shouting,
shouting about her pregnancy to a group of friends who don’t look particularly interested:

“The midwife said if I stop the fags I would stop feeling sick all’time, so I stopped…fuck all that did, so I started again. Only a few a day, mind”

Her entourage nod in silent agreement; they all smell of smoke, I think it must be hard for her to stop when all her friends have the habit too. This makes me wonder- how long, as an abstract society, can we go on allowing smoking? You can’t smoke in hospital, but you can fag it in the grounds, nay, outside the doors, and come in immediately after you’ve stubbed it out- reeking of the chemical carcinogens that kill. Why? I’m breathing in the smoke, and so is my baby, despite the choice not to smoke. Why?

I feel like I am going to faint, and I feel irritated. A man is sniffing up the snot in his nose at about 60-second intervals, which sounds utterly repulsive. I bite my lip in the effort not to shout ‘would you like a tissue, you tiresome retard?’

Nothing will make me give in to fainting- nothing. I will NOT admit to feeling vague lest the nurse- who is lovely and very skilled at taking blood- refuses to do the second blood test.

I get the results- I’m fine. I really am very lucky to have these tests, and they’re free. They save lives. But I would have done anything, anything to have been able to sit in the car, in cooling silence and a reclining seat.

Barbie Has Her Say


Barbie now talks. I pressed a button in her bodice at Toymaster and she screeched ‘There’s NO substitute for SPARKLES!

Except perhaps a Masters degree, Barbie. Or good mental health. Or the strength and self respect to be in a loving relationship, not an abusive one. Or the courage to pursue your own interests. Or to have control over your own destiny. To earn your own living. Or to raise learned, self respecting daughters and sons. Or free speech. The right over your own fertility… Or the right to an education and religious freedom?

Good to know you’ve got the next generation, covered, then Barbie.

In sparkles.