Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Baby blues

It's like being trapped in a jar.  You can see everything going on around you.  Your house, family, life, world.  But you can't get to it.  Everyone comes and looks in on you fairly regularly, often making cooing noises about how you should be savouring every minute of this.  And you look around you and think, 'are you for real? This? THIS? You want me to savour this???'

Because it's rubbish inside the jar.  You can't get to your people or your kitchen or your shower or even reach your cup of tea.  All you can do is sit at the bottom of the jar wondering how you got stuck there.

And then you hear a noise.  A squeaky-grunty type noise and you remember that you're not alone in here.  There's a little bundle of needs in a Moses Basket that has suddenly become your responsibility.  You vaguely remember that you'd wanted this.  You'd planned it and looked forward to it but you don't want it so much.  In fact, the decision to bring this little person into the world seems like just about the dumbest thing you ever did.

You look at this child.  Your child.  No, it doesn't feel like it is your child right now but you know it is.  Somehow this makes it all more awful.  You go through the motions, nursing it, changing it, keeping it safe, but you resent it.

Sometimes people actually come into the jar to visit you.  In fact, you spend most of your time alone in there desperately looking forward to someone coming in to join you.  They walk in and within seconds you want them gone again.  The only thing that's worse than being trapped in a jar with a baby you can't make happy is to have someone else in there.  Someone telling you how lovely the baby is, suggesting you try feeding it when it screams, giving tips on how to get babies to sleep, eat, rest.  You're not really listening.  All you're thinking is 'either take this baby away from me or leave me alone to work it out myself'.

The worst visitor to the jar is most definitely your husband.  You hate him.  Not in a concsious, 'you did this to me' kind of way.  It's more that everything he does is wrong, not enough, too fussy.  He can't win.  There may or may not be a small voice in your head telling you that this is unreasonable but the emotions will win out and you will just want him as far away from you as possible.  Until he leaves the jar to go to the outside world, of course.  Then you will count down the seconds until he returns.  You envy his freedom.

And you cry.  A lot.  Sometimes because you haven't slept for days, sometimes because your body aches.  Sometimes you cry because the baby is crying, still crying, crying again.  You're out of ideas and energy.  You can only look on at the mess that surrounds you.  You feel helpless and hopeless.  You cry in mourning for your old life, your self, your marriage.  You cry because this is your life now.  There's no way back.  But mostly you don't know why you're crying.  It just seems to be what you d now.  You cry so much that your little jar starts to fill with tears and you wonder if you and the baby will float away.  Or drown.  For a while you welcome that thought.  Drowning.  Then you realise just how terrifying it is that you are having that thought.  You then cry some more.

Sometimes it's really hard to breathe in the jar.

Time passes in the jar but it's impossible to measure.  Days and nights blur into one relentless blur of feeding, changing, settling, waking, feeding, changing, settling...So you give up the fight.  You realise you will be stuck in here with this child forever so you start to figure out how to get along.  It's not quick or easy but it happens.  You have moments where you lock eyes with this little person and realise this is all pretty sucky for them, too.  They're also figuring out a gazillion things.  They can't feed, change or soothe themselves.  They're not out to get you, they're just doing their best with this situation, too.

And then you realise that the child is a she.  Or a he.  But definitely not an 'it'.  She wriggles when you tickle her.  She lifts her head during tummy time.  She starts flailing around in an attempt to roll.  And in these moments you forget about the jar.  You find yourself thinking, 'OK, this is not so bad'.  The moments don't last long but they make the time in jar a bit more bearable.  Not worthwhile, not yet, but bearable.

Then she starts crawling, pulling herself up, eating solids, interacting, walking, dancing, singing, talking.  And at some stage you realise that those OK moments have been growing in intensity and duration.  You now enjoy whole sections of your day.  Stretches of time when the jar doesn't exist.  Where you are in and part of the real world.  You enjoy your daughter.  Seeing her reach for you makes your heart jump.

And then you look up and realise the jar is hardly there at all anymore.

You will find you spend a lot of time sitting with your daughter, remembering the jar.  You will marvel at how far you two have come.  The love between you, the connection you have with each other and the world will make it hard to relate to the mum and baby who were stuck in that jar.  You won't wish for that time back, the jar time.  You may wish you could go back in time to have those weeks, months, years again outside the jar, but you don't miss those days.  These days are so much better.

You will never know how you ended up in that jar.  You and your pregnant belly went to sleep in a bed one night and you woke up in a jar with a baby.  Sounds crazy but it's true.  You know it is.  There was no avoiding that jar so you did your best once in it.  You worked with what you had.  And you worked hard.  So. flipping. hard.

You don't - can't - berate yourself for where you were, or what you did, or what you thought while you were in there.  You survived. You nurtured and nourished and mothered through the struggle and the hurt.  Give your child a kiss, give yourself the credit you're due.  You fought, you loved, you won.  You're out.

Saturday, 28 May 2016

A toddler blogs...

A guest post from Dopey herself...

My mum is here a lot.  I believe that she uses this space to report and reflect upon her experiences as my mother.  I know that she gets a lot out of reading the words of mums.  She gets some comfort knowing that there are others out there who share her motherhood frustrations, love and confusion.  I'm very glad that she has all of you but I worry that she's getting so caught up in working out how to be a mum that she forgets that I'm learning on the job here, too.  I don't know how to be a daughter.  Heck, I still working out that I'm a human.

So, on behalf of the little people around here, I want to share a little bit about what it's like being mothered.

I want to start off by assuring you that I love my mum.  Honestly, I do.  She's great.  She feeds me, keeps me safe and tries her best to entertain me.  And, of course, she gave birth to me.  If nothing else I have to credit her with that.  But she's also pretty hard work.

I'm a pretty simple being.  The way I see it I just need a bit of food and a tiny bit of sleep.  I love life.  It's amazing.  Each and every day I see a gazillion new things; tree blossom on the ground, a bee buzzing at my window, fluff on the carpet where there's never been fluff before.  It's awesome!  And my body just keeps getting better and better.  I used to think I was pretty nifty lifting my head up during tummy time, but now I'm running, jumping, climbing, sliding.  It's so unreal and every day I discover something new that it can do.  So in addition to the food and sleep, I need a bit of time and space to process all of this wonderfulness.  That's not too much to ask, is it?

Apparently it is.  You see my mum doesn't seem to appreciate much of the above.  Sometimes she goes along with me and we have a good day.  We play together, read together, nap together, eat's fab.  Yes, there are some tough moments during those days.  She's a bit obsessed with wiping me, for example.  My nose, my face, my hands and let's not even get started on all the wiping that comes with a nappy change.  I doubt there is a single one of you out there who doesn't feel my pain on that one.  But overall, those days are good.  Agreed?

And then on some other days, things are harder.  Don't ask me to explain why because I just can't.  I do what I always do but for some reason mum doesn't.  Things that normally make her smile, like saying 'cheers' before every sip of water at breakfast or playing aeroplanes with my toast, suddenly don't make her smile at all.  She doesn't join in, she doesn't even just leave me to it.  She gets all stressy and exasperated and tells me to 'eat up!'.  She rushes me and sometimes even takes my breakfast away before I've finished.  Yes, fellow small people, it's THAT bad.

Then there's the unexpected upsets.  Things can be going so well and then, for no reason I can fathom, they plummet.  Take mealtimes.  Just as I get really hungry she wanders off to do her own thing.  She takes me to the kitchen and makes me think that food is coming, but then turns her back on me!  She expects me to play on the floor while she plays with her things on the kitchen counters.  I reckon that if she isn't going to feed me then she could at least let me see what she's doing up there.  But she doesn't.  She just tells me to stay back because 'there are hot things here'. Then she sends me to my toy box to find cars and cows and balls and whatever else she can think of.  She doesn't stop so we can play with these things together, she just says, 'wow! now can you bring me a...'  And this makes me mad.  I'm hungry and tired and ignored and fed up of fishing random objects out of a box for no reason.  At these moments I feel like grabbing her shoulders, looking her in the eye and calling a time out.  I want to tell her to just take a moment with me.  But I can't reach her shoulders so I grab her legs instead.  I can't call a time out, so I whine. I cry and cling and protest and hope that she stops what she's doing and looks at me.  But it never works.  In fact, it just makes her all stressy.  I know I should probably learn from this but you know what?  I'm 18 months old.  Crying and clinging and whining is pretty much all I've got.

And then there is her insistence on doing absolutely everything for me, all of the time.  Whenever I try to feed myself or brush my hair or get my shoes on she always steps in.  This drives me nuts.  Yes, she can get things done more quickly than I can, but how am I meant to learn if she never lets me try?!  I must admit that on such occasions I do let out a fairly decent scream.  I know that this riles her and makes things a bit worse but what else can I do?  I'm not screaming to be an asshole.  I'm screaming because she's getting on my nerves and I have no other way of letting her know.

I wish I could read her mind.  I wish I could understand why I get a cuddle when I climb onto the couch with her in the afternoon but in the middle of the night I don't.  Why if I bring her a book to read while she is sitting on my bedroom floor she will read it but if I bring it to her while she's at her computer she won't.  Why some days we stay together all day and others she disappears out of the front door for hours.  It's just all so confusing and there's no guide.

But then there are some really nice moments. Moments when she stops what she's doing to read the book I've brought to her.  When she sits with me while I work out how to get my leg into my trousers.  When she stops swiping at the iPhone screen and chases me round the house.  And in these moments, I realise that this is what being mothered is all about.  That even though some days the good moments feel few and far between they WAY outshine the rubbish bits.  And so long as we both treat each other with love, show a bit of grace and recognise that we are both trying our best in the roles that we've been given, we're going to get through this just fine.

Friday, 13 May 2016

Buda Babble Diaries #1

This is what I believe the inside of my husband's head looks like; the balls are all of his thoughts and ideas bouncing around.  Which one comes out is completely random and does not necessarily follow on from the one before.

So it seems that a lot of you found my husband's ramblings amusing last week.  I thank you all for your comments. It's so reassuring to see that I'm not the only one who finds the workings of his mind so unfathomable.  

I once posted a transcript of one such conversation on my facebook page.  I think it received more likes and comments than any other post I've ever written - including announcing Dopey's birth.  Not sure if that says more about my friends' priorities or the novelty value of Buda's babbling.  Anyway, while I enjoyed the sense of shared experience this created, Buda wasn't so keen.  Pretty understandable, really.  Since kept our conversations between ourselves.  This is great for my marriage but denies me the opportunity to turn to someone and say, 'did you hear that?!'  You know, the way you would if you heard a dog singing Elvis or something.

So, I've decided to start a Buda Babble series.  Whenever he comes out with a gem, I will share it with you.  It's ideal because he doesn't read this blog so he won't feel mocked and I won't be alone in my bafflement.

Here's our first entry;

On time...
Me: What time is it?
Buda: Ten to.
Me: Ten to what, 8?
Buda: No, ten minutes left.
Me: Left until what?
Buda: Until half past seven.
Me: You mean it's 7.20?
Buda: Yes.

It's hard work, isn't it?

Till next time,

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

The Eye of the Storm

So today was a washout.  A total washout.  The type that makes you wish you shared the magic powers of a toddler.  That you could cover your eyes and that would be it.  No one else could see you or touch you or bother you.

I drove a 3 hour round trip for an important meeting.  The work I stayed up until midnight last night preparing missed the meeting because it was at home, sat on my printer.  I went to another meeting so late that I missed the people I was meant to be meeting.  

I received a text from a friend inviting me to a 'Mums to Marathons' club tonight.  A what now? was my reply.  I was stuffing myself with a McDonalds when I read this.  I'm having a good stab at the 'mum' part of this club, the 'marathon' aspect is most probably far beyond me. 

I got home to an overtired Dope.  She was clingy, whiny, teary, angry.  You know, all the best bits of a toddler.  Buda looked like a zombie and was just lying on the floor with her.

I started dinner.  I put the radio on and exhaled as I had the kitchen to myself.  I wondered how long I could stretch out my food prep to make this moment of respite last that bit longer.

Before I managed to even finish this thought, Dope burst into the kitchen.  She pulled and tugged on me, wound her way between my legs and squealed in frustration at me.  Then she left me alone and everything went quiet.  That ominous, my-child-is-up-to-something type of quiet.  Sure enough, she was waist deep in the washing machine.  I lifted her out and then she had me.  She put her arms and legs around me in a vice like grip.  I'd fallen into her trap and she wasn't letting me go.  The chicken was burning.  I peeled her off me and put her on the floor.  She screamed the type of scream that only a rebuffed toddler can scream.  

Buda arrived brandishing a mini karaoke machine.  My heart sank.  I had thought that would be a good birthday present for Dope.  I quickly reaslised it wasn't.  As I feared, the Oki-Koki begins. Dope continues some low level protesting and bangs the microphone on the floor but is appeased enough to sit still.

Buda starts washing the pots in the way only Buda can.  The tap goes on full blast, all of the dishes get clunked and banged into each other, Buda sings.  He sings a Nepali song.  If you're not familiar with Nepali music then you should now just take a moment to be thankful for that.  It is atonal, croony and - when Buda is singing - loud.

I gripped the pan handle and stared at the burning chicken.  The radio, the sizzling pan, the grizzling toddler, the Oki-Koki, the banging microphone, the tap, the clanking pots and now the Nepali singing.  It really was too much.  And believe me, I don't  do well in these situations.  My go-to response is to bang things around in stony silence to make my point.  I sometimes flounce out of the room.  I have been known growl loudly and tell my family to 'PLEASE. SHUT. UP.'  But something odd happened tonight.  I became the calm in the eye of the storm.

As I stood among the chaos and noise I realised that this was a good moment, one to be kept safe.  
I sensed a flash as my memory captured this moment.   One day when I'm old and Dope has left home and Buda off kayaking rivers or Kung-Fu-ing around the world, I will be lonely.  I won't be scrabbling after the quiet, it will be scary.  The silence then will be more deafening than any racket my family can make now.  And so the memory was kept.  It is tucked away now, stored alongside the thousands of other moments that I just couldn't let pass.  One day I will dig this particular memory out and mull it over.  And in that moment, I will remember that for a while we were all here together, doing life.  How great is that?

Rhyming with Wine

Monday, 2 May 2016

Everybody needs a wife

I remember learning that some years ago there was a anthropology textbook (or maybe a sociology one) that opened with a line something like, 'everyone, in every nation and every culture around the world has a wife'.  This caused (valid) outrage in feminist circles for its implication that only men were considered real people.  Women, presumably, did nothing of note other than become wives.

But, times have changed and now it's not only men who can have wives, women can too.  I think that's just great on a number of levels but mostly because I think that everyone, in every nation and every culture around the world NEEDS a wife.  Wives are fab.  Heaps better than husbands.  Even if you have a husband, you should get yourself a wife, too.

Let me explain.

I, like most wives, manage our house.  I know when the direct debits go out, when a shop needs to be done, when birthdays are and where the batteries are kept.  I organise the childcare, plan meals, book doctors appointments and generally manage the family diary.  I'm the team leader, if you like.  Buda, like most husbands, is best described as 'support staff'.  He manages the bins and the laundry.  Essential work, but not necessarily highly skilled.

My friends assure me that their menfolk are equally detached from the realities of being a grown up. Different breed, we scoff.  It brings us a sense of solidarity and some cold comfort.  We like to compare stories of just how useless these men are, how much they hinder us in the business of life.  I think that I win these conversations hands down.  Buda brings a whole new world of frustration to the party.  What follows are all snippets of true, real life conversations between us.  If your man can better these I would LOVE to hear how...

On directions
Buda: OK, so at this junction you have a choice, you can go up, down, left or right.

On birthdays
Me: Where have you been?
Buda: I went to mum's to give her some money to buy your birthday present with.  Oh, but don't tell her I told you.  It's a surprise.
Me: I think that the surprise was probably meant to be for me.

On booking a plane ticket (7 years into our relationship, 4 years after we married)
Me: Did you book the tickets OK?
Buda: I tried to but I couldn't because I didn't have all of the details.
Me: What else do you need?
Buda: I just need to know your full name.
Me: Seriously?

On buying clothes for his sisters
Buda: When you're out could you buy an outfit each for my sisters?
Me: Yes, but I need to know what sizes they are.
***Sometime later, after a phone call home...***
Buda: OK, so Bhima is a bit bigger, Pramila is a bit smaller.
Me: Than what? Than me?
Buda: No, than each other.
Me: Helpful, thanks.

On my weight
Buda; When we go to visit my parents in Nepal you know everyone is going to say you got fat, right?  Don't take it personally, it's just because you have.

Buda: How do you put weight on so easily?  I try really hard and I can't even get my legs to go as big as your arms.
Me: Thanks, Buda.

On learning his language
Me: How do you say 'gate' in Nepalese?
Buda: 'Gate'.
Me: That's still in English.
Buda: Oh, well, what I mean is that they don't have gates in Nepal. 
(For the record, people, I've lived there.  There are plenty of gates in Nepal).

On baby business
Me: Beth's picking me up to go to Trixi's baby shower.
Buda: Beth's going, too? How many of you need to wash this baby?

On Nepalese traditions
Me: When our baby is born are we going to have a rice feeding ceremony?
Buda: What's that?
Me: What do you mean, what's that?  We've been to loads of them.  The ceremony all Nepalese babies have to have before they can be weaned onto solid food.  The one between 5 and 6 months when the priest comes to bless them and all of the family and friends come to feed a bit of rice and curry to the child and offer a gift and blessing.  
Buda: I've never heard of it.
***Some months later after a phone call home***
Me: What's the news?
Buda: It was Pramila's son's rice feeding ceremony the other day.
Me: Really? What's that?
Buda: It's a ceremony all Nepalese babies have to have before they can be weaned onto solid food.  The one between 5 and 6 months when the priest comes to bless them and all of the family and friends come to feed a bit of rice and curry to the child and offer a gift and blessing.  We've been to loads of them.
Me: You don't say.

See, wives just wouldn't bring you this crap.  Keep your husband for all of the things you love about him already and bring a wife on board to do the hard stuff.

Till next time,

Proud to link up with:

The Secret Diary of Agent Spitback

Friday, 29 April 2016


OK, so this one is from the heart.

Before you brace yourself to defend or challenge what I've shared here, please take a breathe.  Then, read on.  Read about my experience of breastfeeding and understand that that's all this is; my experience.  Please be kind with me.

I have no motive in sharing this.  None at all.  I'm not advocating for or against bottle or breast .  I just need to share.  I need to share because my breastfeeding journey was rough.  Really rough.  I'm trying to process what happened and what that meant for Dope and me and our relationship with each other.  Problem is, I'm stuck.  I'm going over and over the same thoughts and it's gnawing away at me.  So I'm writing it out.  I'm sharing it with you.

I exclusively breastfed Dopey until she was 13 months old.  But I don't think I should have done.

For me, I didn't decide to breastfeed.  It was a given.  Everyone knows that 'breast is best' and I don't mean that flippantly.  The nutritional benefits are huge, it boosts the immune system and is sterile, it's free and requires no faffing around with bottles.  Win, win, win.

Then there are the purported emotional benefits of breastfeeding.  That it helps mums and babies to bond and I so looked forward to this.  I couldn't wait to nurse Dope, knowing I was the only one who ever would or could.  Turns out it was this fact that undid me.  Almost undid us.

I found breastfeeding incredibly difficult.  It was painful, stressful and relentless.  Our feeding schedule was 40 minutes on, 40 minutes off.  Horrendous.  I had support worker after support worker come in to help me.  They watched her feed and all said we were doing 'really well'.  The most advice I was given was to try to stretch her top lip up and over the nipple more.  I couldn't do that.

I cried in agony through every feed for the first 4 months.  Every. Single. Feed.  Without exception.  As soon as the feed stopped, so did the pain.  I now realise that what I experienced wasn't the 'let down' pain experienced by most.  Cold cabbage leaves would do nothing.  Dope wasn't happy when feeding either.  She would bob on and off, arch her back, gag, splutter and choke.  She never seemed sated and was continuously rooting.

The GP, health visitor and community nurse shared my concerns when they saw how distressed Dope would get.  They each sent me to A&E to get her checked over after seeing her.  She was admitted to hospital and eventually referred to a consultant.  He felt it was silent reflux and she was medicated.  He told me to cut out dairy in case it was a dairy intolerance causing all of this.  Neither the medication nor dairy free diet made any difference, but we persevered.

(I'd like to point out that this meant me battling through all of this without chocolate.  I know, right???  On top of all of the pain I was denied the staple food group of a new mum).

I desperately wanted to give her one bottle of formula a night.  Actually, I wanted her dad to give her the formula so that I could sleep and give my nipples a break.  I was sore and exhausted and so was she.

But I knew that formula was 'bad'.  It had been drummed into me that only a nipple and breast milk should go in Dope's mouth.  In my sleep deprived, brain addled state this really stuck.

I felt that I was doing everything wrong.  Dope wasn't sleeping, growing or enjoying life very much.  Buda and I were ratty with each other and on the brink of collapse.  The only thing I was doing 'right' for this kid was the breastmilk.  I couldn't decide to withhold that.  It would mean I had totally bummed on this motherhood gig.

So I needed someone else to tell me it was OK, it wouldn't be too bad to introduce one bottle feed a day.  But nobody did.  The breastfeeding support service kept insisting that Dope was getting all that she needed from me and that there was no reason to expose her to the risks associated with bottle feeding.  Even when I sat in tears with a worker telling her that I was so exhausted that I kept falling asleep on Dope while feeding her.  I told her I needed one feed 'off'.  That I was scared that if I kept on with this schedule that I would fall asleep on Dope and smother her, kill her.  The worker didn't budge.  She told me to keep on breastfeeding.  That things would get easier.

They didn't.  Each time Dopey stirred I would panic.  Really, seriously panic.  My heart would race, my palms would sweat and I would start to cry.  I would then battle to get her latched on and cry some more.  My legs would twitch with the pain of feeding.  I would clutch Buda's hand to get through it.  Then she would bob off to scream, root again and we would go through it all over again.  And again, and again and again.

I was broken.  So very, very broken.  I needed a rest.  I needed someone else to do just one feed.  To let me sleep for more than one hour.

But I didn't get this and mine and Dope's relationship suffered immeasurably.  I was scared of her.  I didn't hold her because whenever I went anywhere near her she would root and I couldn't bear the thought of an extra feed.  When I fed her I couldn't wait for it to end and as soon as it did I would thrust her upon whoever was nearest to me.

My fear of smothering her during a feed has morphed into a fear of her dying from anything and everything.  I'm so convinced that she will die very soon that my life with her feels bitter sweet.  I love her so much that I ache.  I spend hours just watching her, soaking her all in.  When I'm watching her I hear a voice telling me to make the most of this because it will end.  I hate buying her clothes and gifts and get angry when other people do.  Not because I don't want her clothed or treated, but because all I can think of is how much it will hurt to clear them out after she has gone.  It's horrendous.

When Dope was around 11 months old we noticed she had a thick piece of skin joining her top gum to her lip.  She had a lip tie.  This would have been why she couldn't get her top lip up and over to latch on properly.  She would have been unable to create a seal around the nipple resulting in air being gulped in.  The reflux and wind were caused or exacerbated by this.  She would have been unable to draw down more than foremilk.  This explained her slow weight gain despite having an insatiable appetite.

When I read all of this I cried.  I cried because my difficulties were real.  What's more, had the lip tie been identified sooner we could have dealt with it.  I cried for the lost months in our relationship.  I could have expressed and bottle fed and she would have grown and I would have rested and we would have bonded. I could have cuddled her.  I cried in frustration that nobody, not a single health professional or breastfeeding support worker ever once considered this or checked in Dope's mouth.  I cried in anger at myself for not finding out about it sooner.  I cried for the discomfort and pain I'd put Dope through.  For the medicine I had put in her unnecessarily.  I cried because I'd known it was real and been left feeling like it was just in my mind.  I just cried and cried and cried for 2 days.

And now she is fully weaned.  I have a more than a little sadness that Dope and I didn't get what I'd hoped from breastfeeding.  I'm sad that she weaned so much earlier than I'd expected her too.  I'm sad that I can't give you any happy ending to this post.  The only thing I'm glad about is that I can now keep my nipples tucked safely away in my bra.

So that's our story.  If you feel moved to comment, do so.  But remember, please be gentle.  I don't exaggerate when I say that breastfeeding was traumatic for me.  I'm on the other side now but there may be women reading this who are still in the thick of it.  Again, be gentle.

Till next time,

PS - Another gripe I have with breastfeeding is that it did not shed my babyweight quickly or at all.  This breastfeeding fact was brandished around all over the place yet somehow passed me by.  17 months on from Dope's birth I'm regularly asked if baby number two is on the way.  No, it's not.  I just never lost the baby bump shape from the first one.  That said, this bump may be more of a biscuit bump.  I eat a lot of them.


Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Open Day

OK, listen up.  I've had an idea - and it's a bit of a gem.  It's not very original, but it is most definitely effective and that's all that counts.

You know those days, weeks, periods when you feel really 'bleurgh'.  When you're stuck at home with nothing to do and no one to do it with.  When you're staring dolefully at your facebook feed as it goads you with status after photo after update of everyone else in the world having fun?  It feels pretty hopeless doesn't it?  Like you've been forgotten.  And it makes you mad because you can't understand why no one scoops you up and includes you.  Well, I have two things to say to you...

The first is a bit of tough love.  Yes, you probably have been forgotten.  Not because you're bad or boring, unloved or unwanted, but because you're off radar.  The people in your facebook feed don't know you're sat at home in your pjs, sobbing at the screen.  They don't know you want to hangout with them.  They don't know that you're not with someone else.  Now, yes, we could argue that some of them should pay more attention.  But then we would have to, too.  We would have to stop looking at all of the updates and scroll through our feeds looking for the people who aren't posting.  Who are most likely sat at home, like you, waiting for an invite.

This leads nicely onto my second point...

Extend an open invite to everyone you know to join you in some activity.

Sounds ridiculous, right?  And a little bit hard?  I hear you.

For the first 15 months of Dope's life I was the one at home.  I was alone and lonely and mad at the world for leaving me there.  As the fug of baby days left me I realised that actually, I had withdrawn.  No one was calling because I made out like everything was fine.  That's what I said when people asked me, 'I'm fine'.  But I wasn't.  Every bit of my heart and soul was crying out for them to see past this veneer.  They didn't.

I got so low,  I gave up hoping for any invite and resolved to make the most of my little family, screw the rest of them.  Then I started thinking about all of the other people like me out there.  All of the other isolated people being ignored by the 'in' crowd.  And this tugged on my heart a bit.  I changed tack.  Yes, it seemed too late for me, but it may not be too late for someone else.  I may be able to step in and BE their invite.

So that's what I did.  I thought and prayed on this for a little while, unsure what form this plan would take and who it would involve.  I settled on a single mum at church who I never saw included in anything either.  I reached out to her and made a play date.  Now, because I'm a bit socially awkward and felt like after the invite there was so little I could give, I panicked when she accepted.  I asked her if she would mind if we opened the invite up a bit and I posted on facebook that I would host a Valentine's afternoon for anyone who wanted to join.

What a result.  Two other women joined us.  First of all, this took the pressure off me conversation-wise and for that I will be eternally grateful to them.  They rescued my guest from an afternoon of being babbled at by me.  It also meant that I had pulled two more people in from the cold.  I felt pretty smug.  I had 'rescued' these women from their loneliness and, I felt, won a victory over my facebook feed by hosting an event rather than just gawping at one from afar.

But then something else happened.  A few people joked that they wished they didn't have husbands to spend Valentine's with because my idea seemed better.  They followed up with a suggestion that we arrange another day when we can hangout.  And those days happened.  Reaching out to one woman put me slap bang back on the social radar.  I now have plans and invites and feel included in life again.  I'm building relationships, connections and true friendships.  It's fab.

And you know what else?  All of those women, without exception - yes, even the thin, pretty, smart ones - tell me how they look at social media and feel left out.  That they feel worn out and left out, too.  I've learned that we're all struggling here, it's not just me.  Or you.  It's all of us.

There's a good lesson in here about loving others as you do yourself.  I love this commandment and it's one I live by.  But now, for the first time I realise that we weren't told to do this simply to make life nice for those around us.  This is God's way of ensuring that we stay connected to each other, it benefits the givers as much as the receivers.  By following his command we are forced to open up our own lives and that allows him to pour even more blessings in.  He's got this all figured out, hasn't He?

Tonight Buda is out at Kung Fu, Dopey's in bed and I'm relishing the solitude.  Tonight it doesn't feel lonely or imposed, it feels precious.  Time to relax, own my own space and reflect on all of the gifts I've been given.

So what are you waiting for?  Do it.  Do it now.  Post an invite, open up your world.  You may just be amazed at who comes in.

Till next time,