Monday, 29 April 2013

Meal Planning Monday: 29 April edition

Sleep deprivation continues aplenty so I have few words. We never had the pink peppered mackerel from last week because we took 1stSister and her friend on her Brownie Pack Holiday on Friday evening and we thought we'd better stop at the Golden Arches instead, which was a good call as by the time we were passing there it was 7.30pm, and 2ndSister (age 6) and 3rdSister (age 2) didn't get to sleep until 9pm. Apparently the holiday (a PGL adventure weekend) was brilliant and we were barely missed - but 1stSister didn't eat much of the food, I think she largely survived on the puddings! As such the triumph of my menu planning last week was to schedule sausages, mash, Yorkies & gravy for a late Sunday lunch; I saved two sausages so that when she got back, I could make exhausted 1stSister a hot sausage sandwich with lashings of ketchup before whipping her up to bed, sharpish. The sausage and mash (with carrots and broccoli from the veg box) was the most delicious thing I've eaten all week :-)

Enjoy your week and why not link up a menu at Mrs M's place!

Meat Free Monday: Wholewheat pasta in tomato sauce with parmesan cheese

Tuesday: Chicken in chinese sauce with red pepper, onion, kohlrabi & broccoli & rice, noodles & prawn crackers

Wednesday: Slices of Cola-baked gammon with oven chips, pineapple and fried eggs (the rest to be saved for a Sunday lunch)

Thursday: Chicken salad with the asparagus I will hopefully get in my vegbox today

Fishy Friday: Fish Gratin in cheese sauce with salmon, haddock & smoked haddock served with oven fries

Saturday: Spanish Chicken served with cous cous, bread, chorizo slices, olives & possibly asparagus. This is the only 'Chicken Tonight' product I've really taken to, but I can thoroughly recommend it - fairly authentic to my tastebuds, and I doubt I could make better myself from scratch, so it makes a quick Saturday family supper before movie night nice and easy to do.

Sunday: Roast beef and all the trimmings including cauliflower cheese (with sauce from Friday) if we get cauliflower in the veg box as promised. Summer Berries Cheesecake.

Friday, 26 April 2013

7 Quick Takes: Reflection on the Week

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 151)

With thanks to Jennifer Fulwiler for hosting - head over there to read a whole load of other Quick Takes and post your own!

Whisper of the Heart (1995) Poster

Please be under no illusions that this will be a spiritual reflection! I just had the urge to purge the last 7 days quickly, in retrospect. Things change quickly when you have a newborn - it's easy to lurch from disaster to joy within hours, or even minutes. I think it's important to regularly take stock and recognise this, and how life in general can twist and  turn, for better and for worse, with God always ready to let us lean on him if we let him. (I'm leaving others to comment on the Boston tragedy, and staying firmly within my domestic bubble, but yes, there's an analogy there.) Saturday, for example, I was hugely fed up, waiting for the double dose of medication that neither pharmacist we went to had in on Friday after the doctor had been out to visit me. I was feeling exhausted as par for the course, and battling an infection. Part of me was glad I missed out on our weekly movie night, as when I heard the soundtrack drifting up to where I was resting, I knew my hormones and emotions would just have erupted in tears if I was downstairs actually watching the film. When I was pregnant with 1stSister, you see, driving around Teeside in my little green Nissan Micra helping conducting an education of schools and pupil referral units, I used to listen to 'Take Me Home, Country Roads' and other John Denver songs which evoked home. 'Whisper of the Heart', which was the chosen DVD on Saturday, has a version of this song. As with other Studio Ghibli films (Totoro and Ponyo being firm favourites we have watched time and time again) the girls enjoyed this slightly older themed movie, and have been singing 'Country Roads' all week ~ delightful (although not at the dinner table...)


By Sunday my medications were already starting to kick instead in, thankfully, but as Church was not a sensible option so we spent family time watching Veggie Tales and enjoying a Sunday brunch with eggs, bacon, grilled tomatoes and hash browns, and later a roast dinner with pork fillet, apple sauce, roast potatoes, Yorkshire Puddings, broccoli, sweetcorn and gravy. Actually sitting enjoying meals together with  all four sisters and FabDad* was absolutely huge progress, and I feel I needed feeding up to get well - there doesn't seem to be time to sit down and eat as much as I want to during the week...


Rocket by Stagg Junior Drum Kit 5 Piece in Red
Junior Drum Kit for 2ndSister
Monday was a day with just new 4thSister and I, as the elder girls were at school and 3rdSister went to my Mum's to play for the day. As to be expected though, much of the time she was sleeping and I also got to catch up on things like labelling 1stSister's gear for her Brownie Pack holiday this weekend, ordering 2ndSister a £99 Junior Drum Kit for her 7th birthday, and so on. My Aquanatal pals who have had their first children the same time as mine express disbelief I can manage the needs of three other children and a newborn. I've explained it's not like I have four newborns to deal with, but to be honest it's more a case of having to get everything else done or the house of cards will dramatically collapse. Like it did on Wednesday (don't skip ahead though, I'm sure Tuesday is interesting...)


Tuesday was a success story of sorts. I walked to Pre-school and back with 3rdSister & with 4thSister in the pram. 3rdSister enjoyed pushing the pram and obediently held onto the toddler handle when we crossed roads. It was an exhausting round trip for 4 weeks postpartum/post-C-Section but I'd been building up to it as I knew FabDad had a university meeting and couldn't do the preschool run. It also meant I could go to the corner shop! And buy items! With money! And talk to people! Outside of the home! Hooray!


Wednesday. This, dear reader, was a terrible day. Not really terrible, but think having a newborn, and having the type of day you have when your husband returns to work for the first time, and everything falls apart. Although I'd been doing well since his paternity leave finished 2 weeks ago, on Wednesday FabDad caught the Nottingham to London train early in the morning and all the many, extremely helpful things he does, including:
  • dressing 3rdSister;
  • serving breakfast;
  • supervising dishwasher duty;
  • changing the steriliser;
  • preparing formula powder into containers;
  • pre-filling bottles with boiled water;
  • helping with laundry;
  • doing any lifting that needs doing;
  • taking 3rdSister to the bathroom
and myriad other household tasks that sadly don't perform themselves, were done by me over the course of the day. This can all be done, of course. Even with 3rd and 4thSister at home all day and 3rdSister having a friend come to play in the morning and 4thSister missing her sleep windows and screaming and needing to be held and then needing extra feeds and me having to change dinner plans and not being sure if I could even get frozen pizza cooked and served and by the way did I explain how 3rd and 4thSister were napping at the same time upstairs so I could finally get my lunch and I was trying to multitask several things including my own lunch and burned it, setting off the very loud smoke alarm? (And breathe.) Luckily the Sisters stayed asleep in the chaos but HONESTLY this was the pace of the day and I'm very glad every day is not like Wednesday. I'm very glad to have a husband. I'm very glad to have a husband who helps as much as he does. And that disaster days like these don't come everyday (although to be honest, with a newborn, they are always on the cards!)


I just love this photo of 1stSister (8)
and 4thSister (4 weeks)

Thursday - and a little respite. I don't know what it was, but by 3.30pm, two washloads, quality time with 3rdSister and a good cup of coffee, things felt doable again and I felt ready for another round. Even when things slipped off schedule, and the amount of 'stuff' that needed doing seemed overwhelming, nothing was insurmountable. To me, that's where God's grace comes in. Just at the moment you think you can't handle it, you get a free pass. Things are OK again. Well, until the next day :-)


And so it's Friday. Baby Joseph came home to Fulwiler Towers last week, yay! People over the world are having babies and readjusting to life. I'm not even sure I can call 4thSister a newborn now that she's four weeks, and is past her birth weight. Today, the flak might hit the fan, or things might go more smoothly than expected. Life will go on. Amen.

* I think I'm going to call my husband this from now on for the purposes of this blog; it's silly rather than hero-worship, I think, as the Sisters once bought him a mug with this on for Father's Day which happens to be one of my favourites to drink out of and I steal at every opportunity. However, he is a Fab Dad, as you can tell from my writing about this past week, and it sits right with me. (It sounded better than FirstHusband, anyway!)

Monday, 22 April 2013

A Book Review: Let's Stick Together: The Relationship Book for New Parents by Harry Benson

In short - 7 out of 10 - Definitely worth a read. Concise reminders to help rejuvenate your relationship - a definite read for all men and also useful for women.

I should first perhaps say that this isn't an overtly Christian approach to marriage and relationships, such as the Love Dare manual, so if that's what you are looking for, you may be surprised. Let's Stick Together is instead a simple and effective set of ideas to implement that are presented in a non-religious way, and can be used by people of faith or without faith; Jesus never explicitly comes into it. Used in a variety of settings, including the government's Surestart family initiaitve in the UK, the book in theory could be described as a 'secular' approach to relationships - it can be applied across the board without offending non-worshippers.

For those who are keen to have a Christian tenet behind the way they conduct their marriage, however, the book does place an emphasis on marriage (compared to cohabitation) and, although it's been couched in non-religious language and concepts, the thinking behind the book, and the author's own family life, clearly revealed itself to me as Christian within the text because I knew what to recognise. Its more subtle, faith-filled approach may alienate those who want a stronger, clearer Christian message (or indeed those who are seeking a patriarchal relationship, which is quite clearly not advocated here); but one of the things I liked about the book was that it can be used by all and sundry to apply principles that strengthen their relationships.

Let’s Stick Together covers many aspects of life as a couple, including a chapter on the things we could avoid (Bad Habits) and one on the things we could take on to improve things (Good Habits). Chapter 5, ‘Things they Don’t Teach You in Antenatal Class’, encourages the reader to think about how feel about concepts such as commitment  and family, and how this impacts on our relationships. The book's subtitle 'The Relationship Book for New Parents' is, to be honest, a bit of a misnomer. Yes, this book would come in handy adjusting to life as a couple with a newborn. It contains plenty of suggestions as to how to work better as a couple; how to understand each other better; how to treat each other better, even in the difficult times. Yet it's clear from reading the text that these methods aren't merely useful in those early, new days of parenthood - they can be applied at any point within a marriage, whether there are young children in the family unit, older children or no children.

Straightforward, simple ways to improve behaviours and communication in a marriage make this book a useful read wherever you are in life's journey, so if you don't have a newborn or one on the way, don't let that put you off this book. Similarly, your relationship doesn't have to be at a 'crevasse moment' as Benson terms it (AKA a long-term crisis point). For example I don't think my husband and I would identify that we're experiencing one of those right now, even though with a fourth child having arrived we're time- and energy-poor, but reading the book at this time in our lives still benefits us and reminds us how to behave!

If you're familiar with the concepts behind relationship counselling - such as love languages, sacrifice, knowing when to keep your mouth shut and thinking about the marriage you want to have, for example - it's possible there won't be many new ideas in this book. For the first half of it, I found myself recognising its contents as things I knew already and was bemoaning the lack of practical examples, when I knew most of the theory. I'd now argue, however, as the book goes on to highlight, that if you're in a period where it's hard to implement the strategies recommended here, forward planning and remembering what you should be doing and setting targets to implement this when you're not exploding with tiredness at every juncture, still remains extraordinary helpful, so keep a copy of this on the bookshelf to dip in and out of over time.

Another aspect I found interesting was the focus on the male narrator, who drew widely on his experiences a a man, father and husband to address the problems that can take place within relationships and recommend ways of remedying them. I didn't find this offputting at all – in fact it was quite refreshing that here was a man embracing the concept of sacrifice and putting his wife and family first, speaking with humility about his failures and how to improve. What I would say, however, is that having this voice, the book is likely to work well with men, who can identify with the author and take on board his ideas. This is not to say that women would not find it useful, but if you are looking for a book that would particularly suit husbands and fathers, this could be it.

The book does fail on a couple of levels, but only at the expense of firming up its strengths. Those well versed in psychology may well find its basic approach too simplistic, for example. Others, like myself, may seek more practical solutions to stop ourselves doing all the things we shouldn’t, when we know we shouldn’t – rather than putting the solutions out there and expecting us to adapt to them over time. But they are probably the domain of a different book entirely – and I expect Benson would argue that by spending time together, and starting to implement just  a few of the things he suggests, the crevasse point can be successfully circumnavigated.

The book also contains useful commentary on the role of men as leaders in today’s society/families, good ideas for families to strengthen their own traditions over time, encouragement to think about the love languages of any children we might have, AND contains a question & answer chapter at the end that couples can work through separately or together to gain increased insight into their own behaviours and how these feed into life as a couple.

In summary – simple, straightforward, and likely to be beneficial to most couples, I would recommend this as a read at any stage along life’s journey.

Meal Planning Monday 22 April

Well - things are getting easier in this family of six and I've progressed to roasting a chicken weekly again. In the next few weeks I'll reintroduce 'proper' cooking again and I'll even be scheduling new things to try. Small successes are already coming through - on Saturday, I threw together a banana breakfast loaf (literally, all the ingredients go in one bowl at the same time!) On Sunday, 2nd & 3rdSister helped make Rocky Road with leftover Easter chocolate, which provided an ├╝ber-pudding after our pork roast (with new potatoes, roast potatoes, cabbage, sweetcorn, yorkshire puddings, apple sauce and gravy). Now I just need to remember to take and upload photos as I think this blog would benefit hugely from that!

Meat Free Monday - Greek Meze with pitta, falafel, salad, cous cous olives & Abel & Cole's amazing tzatziki

Tuesday - Wholewheat pasta with roast chicken pieces and pesto

Wednesday - (Supermarket) curry , basmati rice & chapati

Thursday - Roast chicken and chips

Friday - Pink peppered mackerel salad

Saturday - Pizza Night

Sunday - Sausages, mash, yorkshire puddings, gravy, veg and chocolate gateau for pudding!

Monday, 15 April 2013

Meal Planning Monday - 15 April

I'm sitting holding a newborn typing with one hand, so no preamble today, just what we're having:

Meat Free Monday - Ploughmans Salad (baguette, leaves, celery, tomato, cucumber, chutney, carrot etc)

Tuesday - Wraps with chicken, salsa, leaves & soured cream

Wednesday - Spaghetti Bolognese

Thursday - Chicken Salad

Friday - Battered fish, oven chips & mushy peas

Saturday - Pasta Carbonara

Sunday - Roast Pork & all the trimmings.

OK 4thSister is in her bassinet napping now - so can I just say, Abel&Cole have got ASPARAGUS available now so I look forward to that with a salad the week after next! So joyful about food now I'm postpartum - have been snaffling camembert and goat cheese this week (with restraint because of my tendency to gallstones)!

Visit Mrs M to do your own link up and/or be inspired by others' ideas!

Church Firsts

first communion promenade series

I've now linked this post to the First Communion Link Up at Catholic Icing, part of the First Communion Promenade. Read other First Communion Posts there!

It was 2ndSister's First Holy Communion yesterday. Such a joyful, special occasion:

It was also 4thSister's first church service - she pretty much slept throughout! 


To be honest, at two weeks post-C-Section, if it hadn't been for the ceremony, I don't think I would have made it to church. It was a big, big effort, including lots of face time with family (who aren't regular churchgoers) and church family & friends (many of whom were meeting Joeybaba for the first time) and I was sore & exhausted afterwards, but so happy that we took part. 

Many people I've spoken to see First Communion as a Catholic 'thing', or a My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding 'thing', so it's been important to explain to them that although our previous Anglican priest allowed unquestioned access to anyone who wanted to receive communion, from toddlers up, our current incumbent introduced something more along the Bishop's guidelines: a 6 week course of learning and understanding, for children to prepare for receiving Holy Communion. 2ndSister has absolutely loved it, and gets it completely.

Reading the Gospel

The morning service was open to all, and the children involved were responsible for the Gospel reading, saying prayers, giving out hymn books and telling us what they had learned, before going up with their families to receive their First Communion.

With Ice-Cream

We also tacked an outing to a pizza restaurant (with ice-cream) on afterwards to celebrate, so by the time we got home it was definitely time for a restful movie afternoon! I did say to my husband, I don't know how we managed the day, with its special events AND all the other things we got sorted for the back to school onslaught (making lunches, bathing children, sorting schoolbags and ensuring a peaceful bedtime routine)....

It has occurred to me, however, that these are the peaceful months - with a newborn that doesn't need chasing after and will just stay put! Perhaps we can fit in a sneaky Peppa Pig World visit next holiday, while we're at this stage - although the Hilton website suggested that:

There are no rooms available for [this time period] at Hilton Southampton hotel. 6 guests per room may exceed the occupancy limit for rooms at this hotel

so perhaps I'm being too ambitious ;-) We'll see. I'm another three weeks away from driving or even being able to walk the children to school (I wheeled the pram around the block on Saturday and it took me all day to recover!).

Which reminds me - big kudos to the NHS today. Obviously I'd develop a fingertip infection on a Friday, that didn't shift all weekend, when the doctors' surgery was closed. (I blame all the nappy changes and hand washing.) It's not exactly running septic up my arm or anything, but come this morning, I knew it needed sorting. Thing is, as well as taking the big girls to school and 3rdSister to her Gran's, my husband does actually need to recommence paid work today, so there was little chance of me getting in for an appointment.  Thankfully the receptionist and Doctor on Call both took pity on me (I felt like I was majorly overreacting!) and there is an antibiotic prescription awaiting collection at reception for when someone is available to get it later. (John, if you are somehow reading this blog post before I email you about this, could that someone  be you, once you've done the dancing drop off?!)

OK I seem to have gone off at a tangent! Finally - after doing a  First Communion crossword puzzle, 2ndSister asked me to explain the Eucharist to her. My baby brain forgot that Ann Voskamp has like a whole book on this subject, so shamefully had to Google, and of course - the original Greek means Giving Thanks. So, I give thanks for our family & our special time on Sunday, and the time & space I have to blog as my postpartum and post-surgery recovery continues :-)

How she wanted her hair :-)

Friday, 12 April 2013

7 Quick Takes: the probably completely random edition

(Well, hosted this week at Camp Patton, for reasons described below.)


Firstly, it's been quite a month for babies in the blogworld I inhabit.

First Brianna Heldt took a bunch of her eldest kids to watch her have baby Alice Therese in the hospital.

Then after a week of baby trying to come, our own Josephine Alice arrived (can I just say, Brianna, we've had the middle name Alice, after HRH Alice Cooper, picked out for a good long while, so not copying!) and is now 2 and a half weeks old:

Baby Josephine with 2nd & 3rdSister

Josephine kind of pushed in at 38 weeks gestation and pinched Hallie Lord's son Charlie's spot - he was overdue and driving her crazy and now he's a week old can you believe it? And THOSE CHEEKS!!!

Finally, last but certainly not least, Jennifer Fulwiler's baby Joseph arrived with a delivery which sounded scary in itself and after the birth resulted in Jen being in one hospital intensive care unit and her baby in another. Learning of this, with my post-pregnancy hormones and my own new little girl sharing the same saint name as Joseph, I burst into floods of tears. I cannot imagine what Jen and her family were/are going through. Prayers, people!


And - breathe.

As the 3Sisters have had over two weeks holiday from school and pre-school for the Easter break, and my husband has been on paternity leave, we've all had chance to get to know the baby and pitch in together helping out. With other kids to look after, fights to break up, groceries to buy, meals to cook, lots of laundry to do, visitors to host and so on it's not really been a traditional babymoon, but I'm sad in a way that it's ending. It will be good for all of us to get back into a routine, and I need to do more for myself, but being in a little happy but very sleep-deprived bubble has been kind of nice. I love my family and our family time.


Our priest, Kathryn, came to visit baby Josephine last week bearing an orchid, a baby blanket and sweets for the Sisters, and to say prayers of thanksgiving for the new baby & our family which was great in itself! What was even better, especially given my hankering after more family time, was that we discussed my return to my ministerial and other responsibilities and agreed that I remain on maternity leave until September. Whereas with 3rdSister, I continued my study, training and voluntary work without hardly taking a breath, toting her to study sessions in the car-seat and writing assignments during her afternoon nap, things seem to have shifted now and as a family we feel we'd benefit from that extra time. So until 3rdSister is in pre-school 2 and a half days a week, and 4thSister tries out a little daycare, I'm going to be doing full-time parenting, and some extra-curricular reading and writing, with no pressure. (Apart from any work I do for our family's software company, of course, from which I'm technically on maternity leave until December....)


After reading & reviewing Karen Le Billon's French Kids Eat Everything, and managing to throw together some words of Sarah Reinhard's Catholic Mother's Companion to Pregnancy, I decided to persevere with non-fiction reading (which I don't tend to like to do for pleasure!) and try and produce some reviews. This is my first lot to plough through:

You can't see brilliantly from the photo, but there are two relationship/marriage guidance books there,  plus 'Desperate: Hope for the Mom who Needs to Breathe' by Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson, 'Quiet' by Susan Cain which appeals to the introvert within, and 'Style, Sex and Substance' which I have been waiting to read for ever, and finally purchased, given that I hardly went out and spent any money during late pregnancy so can splurge now!


I also read 'Gone Girl' after Elizabeth Esther put something on Facebook about it, and perhaps I don't like reading fiction anymore, either, but I just found its presentation of humanity as too dark and nasty. I enjoyed what the author did plotwise, and using the character's different viewpoints to confound the reader, but the subject matter was just awful and I would not recommend another to read it, despite its bestseller status.


I DID thoroughly enjoy Rachael Lucas' 'Sealed with a Kiss', a sort of romantic comedy of errors set on the beautiful Scottish island of Bute, which shot up the Amazon download charts last week. I'd had this on my Kindle the minute it was released, having followed Rachael on Twitter since we both commented on a storyline on The Archers (a BBC radio soap opera on farming we have in the UK, which doesn't explain it well for overseas readers and will be reductionist for those of you in the UK!) way back when. So I was very happy for her success, glad I'd got in first before it became an overnight sensation and loved reading the novel on my Kindle during nightfeeds! It's currently at a very low price and very much worth a download!


Finally, another thing that has kept me going through nightfeeds this past week has been the run up to the Broadway opening of Matilda the Musical. Our family is obsessed with this show - I took 1st and 2ndSister to see it in London last year - and I've been wondering how it will be received in the US. The build-up on Facebook & Twitter has been quite exciting, so interspersed with checking in on how the new babies in Take 1 are doing, my smartphone's been in high demand in the wee hours. The reviews are now in, and it seems that US critics think exactly the same as UK ones - this is a very special, amazing, family musical. All that remains now is families to flock there in droves to make it as much a success as it's been in London. I highly recommend it!

* with thanks to Grace at Camp Patton for hosting this week - head over there now and read a whole load of other Quick Takes!

Monday, 8 April 2013

Meal Planning Monday: the We Have a Baby edition

It's amazing we're eating at all, to be honest. The last couple of weeks, everything went to complete pot as I was in a) 'false' (but still painful) labour for an entire week, then b) I finally had the baby & an extended hospital stay due to a Caesarean section. (It was a complete novelty getting 3 meals made for me in hospital  and although the quality was only average I ate everything offered, as I was trying to establish breastfeeding and recover well from the op.) I know the 3Sisters had a couple of dinners at grandparents, and I have no idea what really happened with the kitchen/freezer situation back home in my absence! All I do know is my husband kept things running and it was good to have meal plans for the last 2 weeks, as well plenty of spare frozen food in case the situation changed. As I've said before, one of the best things about meal planning is the ability to deviate from it and swap things around, all the while having an existing structure.

I'm still a bit groggy due to sleep deprivation, but using the Tesco Android app on my phone (no I've not been sponsored!) helped organise the next couple of weeks menus in advance, and I hope to get fresh stuff from Abel & Cole again on Thursday, after pausing delivery, because face it, we've been eating a lot of processed rubbish along with our usual fruit, yogurt & cereal intake. So the next week should hold:

Meat Free Monday: Wholewheat pasta in tomato sauce with parmesan cheese

Tuesday: Pizza Hut 'Two for Tuesday' two-for-one offer, including fizzy pop! because it is baby Josephine's birthday, 2 weeks old today (oh, sorry, what was I saying about healthy eating?!)

Wednesday: Sausages, mashed potato, Yorkshire puddings, gravy & green beans

Thursday: Roast Chicken Salad with a big white bloomer loaf & lots of fresh salad from the veg box!

Fishy Friday: Fishfingers, oven chips & frozen peas (& salad!)

Family Saturday: Wholewheat pasta with pesto sauce & leftover chicken

Sunday: It will be 2ndSister's First Communion on Sunday, so during the afternoon we will attempt our first meal out as a family of six! 

Oh, and if anyone is interested - this is 4thSister Josephine Alice, 6lb 11oz at birth, born 26 March:

Friday, 5 April 2013

7 Quick Takes: Giving Thanks (for babies!) edition

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 151)


First of all, I give thanks for Jen's buddy Hallie Lord finally going into labour x days overdue with baby number 6. I happened to be up doing a night feed, so even though things seemed to kick off at a sensible hour of the day in the USA, in the UK I was able to learn about developments from Twitter, & offer up prayers. I'm a little disappointed there's no live home birth live tweet system in operation, but quite understand other things take priority....(Jennifer Fulwiler! What are you thinking not keeping us informed every second minute!!!)


And now let's give thanks for our own little bundle of joy, 4thChild/4thSister Josephine Alice, our teeniest so far at 6lb 11oz, who arrived early (38+3) like my last two have (Hallie must have been going insane being overdue) after a week of prodomal labour and my waters breaking, but nothing at all happening cervix-wise (TMI for some of you, sorry!). Due to 2 previous C-Sections and carrying Group B Strep the midwives & obstetricians were keen to a) get baby out fairly soon, and b) avoid induction by synthetic hormones, as it would possibly cause damage to my uterus/existing scar tissue. So although I would have been happy to labour, rather than have the caesarean I'd booked in for, we opted for the C-Section for safety's sake - and to be honest, after a week of getting no sleep from contractions that kept me awake even though I wasn't dilating at all, my body was possibly too exhausted to perform another VBAC this time. Anyway, welcome, baby Josephine!:

Just my cup of tea :-)


About the surgery itself, I offer up huge thanks. I was petrified for a short time, tearfully thinking about the existing 3Sisters and my time on this earth (yes, things like this go through my mind every pregnancy, I guess I'm only human, Lord, being unable to wholly trust.) But as I sat with open hands, having the spinal anaesthetic administered, the crazy-busy room became a little haven of peace. God was there, He had gifted all the hospital staff with the skills they needed to make things go smoothly, and had even provided me with a team of 3 geeky anaesthetists who used me as a test subject in a side-project they were doing about blood pressure during surgery and kept me calm (ish.)


I also give thanks that this was birth number four, and C-Section number three, and I had enough previous experience of hospitals and post-operative life to know how to take care of Josephine and I. For example: take whatever food and drink was offered, keep putting baby to the breast even though my milk wasn't in and she was clearly frustrated, and ask for assistance wherever necessary. On a ward with three other bays, separated only by curtains, having to listen to the problems two first-time mums were having caring for their babies and themselves (who would refuse food?! even hospital food?! when in recovery?!!), beating themselves up with their feeding struggles, I felt by Day 3 I could happily go insane. If I had to hear the woman in the bay next to me moan to medical staff about how she desperately missed her 'other half' again I may not have been responsible for my actions ('cause I never missed mine or my THREE EXISTING CHILDREN. Meh.) Happily, I am going to write a satire about it, and we'll retire from the proceeds. (More gratefulness.)

separated only by curtains...


I also give thanks that I've been able to sit and feed and cuddle the other kids a bit, and eat and drink and try and achieve general wellness, as my husband takes time off work and looks after the other three. He has been an absolute hero during the past ten days, and I've told him so [in between the sleep deprived snarking and hormonal explosions :-) ]


We've also used our support network of family and friends to ensure that - pretty much in rotation - the 3Sisters get to visit other people and do other stuff, maybe with Daddy, or just hang at home. They aren't having the wildest Easter holidays in the world, but they've done cinema, McDonalds and the park. All without me taking them!


And finally, I give thanks that we're able to have kids at all. I may never finish my post in progress on faith and fertility, but I've mentioned before that as a couple we have 'fertility issues' and medical experts did not expect us to conceive even one child without assistance. We pretty much left it up to destiny (which I later learned to recognise as God) and have been blessed with four daughters. I also believe that He is working hard in the lives of those friends of mine who have been trying for years to have children, even when they have stopped believing so. It's been difficult thinking about them at this time. Posting joyfully about Joeybaba on Facebook & Twitter is all well and good, but I know there are at least a couple of people who will feel sad when they learn of 4thSister's arrival (and, because they are human, perhaps jealous, angry or bitter), just like I was in the days prior to social media when I saw mums with their babies when out shopping and felt like I'd been punched in the gut because it wasn't me. It's so hard to hold onto hope when desperate to have a baby, and I give thanks for anyone who can help these people right now, and provide them with the love, support & healing that they need. Amen.

* with thanks to Jen Fulwiler @ for hosting - head over there now and read a whole load of other Quick Takes!