Skip to main content

"Don't Look Back in Anger"

I stopped watching the news during my first pregnancy.  Footage of war-ravaged far-away nations and desperate faces clung to my nightmares.  I imagined myself as the mother of every ill-fated child, crossing choppy seas on flimsy boats, shipwrecked on swollen shores. The tragedy of every lost soul shook the walls of my womb.  I wept into my pillow with all the sadness of the world, cradling my unborn child, promising hope and safety.  I gave money to relief funds and futile tears to the moon, but feeling too pregnant to volunteer my sweat or blood, I ultimately felt useless.

Instead, I focused on my changing body and realised that I had to give all my strength to our tiny baby.  It was clear to me that I had to believe that our world was pure and good for this little child who'd one day walk its streets.  By 10pm, the TV was off and my brain was immersed in positive thoughts.  As my body stretched to accommodate his growing limbs and powerful kicks, my mind shrunk away from the reality beyond the safe walls of our cosy loving home.

I kept my head in the sand throughout his babyhood, determined to believe that all is well.  I breastfed and changed nappies, sang and dandled, played and babbled.  All the while, innocent lives were lost to terror everyday, all over the world: Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Syria, Yemen, Pakistan, Turkey, Ukraine, Somalia, Egypt, Libya, Ukraine, Tunisia, US, France, Germany, Sweden, Belgium.  Names became endless soulless headlines, too many deaths to compute, the loss too epic to evoke true empathy.  I tried to Google "volunteering with your baby", but all I could do was package up food and shelter for the dispossessed.  Send Money.  Warm clothing.  Baby clothing.  I tried not to pause to reflect or cry, but fought to kept our cosy home full of sweetness and joy.

During the labour of our second child, ballot boxes were being prepared for the EU Referendum and news stations covered the horrific Orlando nightclub attack.  We chose not to frame the daily newspapers as a memento of the day.  As my children grew in strength and smiles, I dug our nest deeper into the sand, submerged by nursing, nappies and Netflix.  By refusing to listen to or to read the daily news, I could pretend that there's no Big Bad Wolf lurking in the shadows nearby.

Since March 2017, the wolf's breath can be heard at the door.  Close friends and family mark themselves as safe on social media.  Familiar places and favourite haunts are cordoned off and illuminated in blue flashing lights.  London, the city where I've called home for over a decade, has suffered two brutal attacks.  Manchester- where my brother lived, celebrated his wedding, saw Bjork perform and enjoyed Blur's gig at the Arena- still licks its wounds.  Perhaps we should have built another wall, or added extra locks.

It's time to face the anger, I think.  I switch on the neglected TV, but instead, all I hear is love.  Love.  Defiant love in the face of hate.  Tonight at the Ariana Grande @One Love, Manchester concert, thousands singing in one voice: "Don't Look Back In Anger" echoing the seemingly innocent year of 1996.  I remember singing those words on the back seat of my parents' Vauxhall Cavalier, as a happy and fearless teenager.  Now, in June 2017, these words and the collective love of the homely crowd has pulled my head from the suffocating sand. I finally watch the news and see the faces of the fallen.  I hear the calm lament of mothers who have lost their children too young.  I see their strength and their resolve.  I hear their pain and their promise.  A promise to never be beaten by hate.  To remember the fallen.  To remember the innocent child washed up from the Mediterranean Sea.  To look to the light, the rising sun.  I look at the little faces of my babies, their big brown eyes full of hope and vitality and I lie in my best Gallagher drawl: "You and I are going live forever".  I hug them close and fling open the door; I give the wolf my best smile and we step out into the brilliant sunshine.


Popular posts from this blog

Unexpected Loneliness of New Motherhood

There's that lovely moon again, a kindly face watching over her sleepy brood. Awake for another nocturnal milk feast, I treasure these simple moments of just baby, moonshine and me, but those first months of motherhood were tinged with loneliness - a surprising predicament that I hadn't prepared myself for.  I associated loneliness with the elderly and the bereaved.  What right did I - a healthy, mobile person, with a family and a home- have to complain of loneliness?  Encouraged by similar experiences shared on social media (see Channel 4's special loneliness season). I finally feel able to share my thoughts on this wonderful and challenging chapter.
Why was new motherhood so lonely?

1.The Monologues.  I went from teaching full time in a secondary school, talking with hundreds of people a day, to being alone with my newborn, nine hours a day, everyday.  Sure, we 'chatted' in our own way and those delightful smiles and gurgles went a long way, but I would yearn fo…

8 Benefits of Flying with Babies and Toddlers

I'd been putting it off. Finding excuses. My pre-motherhood life of foot-loose fancy-free travelling had long gone. I did not want to take our mobile baby (13 months) and active newly potty-trained toddler (34 months) on a long haul flight. I imagined never-ending wails of discomfort and boredom, challenging nappy changes in tiny spaces and meltdowns amongst judgemental grumpy passengers. I'm not the kind of mother to write little anticipatory sorry notes to fellow passengers, or dish out party bags with ear plugs and sweets. Worrying more about my children's discomfort, I dreaded their ears popping, turbulence or worse.

Yet in a rare serendipitous moment, I agreed to a family trip to Canada.  A long overdue visit to see family and friends, including our youngest to meet his great-grandmother for the first time.  Despite all my anxiety and fear, we had eight near-enjoyable hours and by the end, I'd identified all the benefits that flying long haul with babies can bring…

Parenting in a New World of Walls

All a parent ever wants is a better world for their children, safe and full of opportunity.  Over generations, my family has gradually bettered themselves financially and academically.  On my dad's side, he was the first to attend a university, juggling school work with weekend shifts at his parents' fish shop.  On my mum's side, daughter of a Punjabi Civil Servant, her grandfather travelled on a dhow across the Indian Ocean to find new opportunities in British East Africa; her parents had emigrated on British Passports to escape Idi Amin's racial purification programme in 1972.  My childhood was happy and comfortable in bucolic charm, with a colour television and piano lessons.
I was twelve before I really understood racism.  Growing up in Tory Lincolnshire, the current hotbed for Farage's Brexit fans, I was aware of being a little different:  I had a Granny and a Naniji; I worshipped in a Church and in a Gurudwara and my mum sent me to my friend's pyjama party…