Fragments of Soul

What has happened?  Where did April and May go?  They flashed past in a flurry of activity and chaos.  Our busiest Easter followed by our busiest Whitsun.  Every pool out.  Working flat out.  The birth resource centre planning and action dropped and lost in the overgrowth of the business.  Where do the days go?  Another day and I have not read stories to the children.  Another day and the consititution is unfinished, the funding bids unwritten, another day another week and the blog goes unwritten.  Yoga class missed, meditation missed, lunch with hubby missed.

And slowly slowly inexorably I am worn down, pared away until I wake up one morning and there is nothing left, nothing left to give, creativity dried up, sense of humour abandoned, fragmented unfocussed.

Time to pay attention.  Time to read the story of Elijah – and how to deal with burnt out activists.  Time to go into the garden, time to sit on the bed with the children, time, time there is no time.  And yet if there is no time for the soul – there really is no time for everything else.  Soul time spins the yarn of time, it is how you find time, time for what is important.

And we who are mothers at home, we who are mothers dividing ourselves between outside work and the home, we who live lives of interruption and fragmentation, we will not grasp the bigger picture, we will not stay focussed on what is our true visions, we will not keep our balence and perspective, unless we learn the art of soul time.

Soultime is time in the garden, reading a good story with a child, a cup of tea stood by the open back door, a 2 hour slot doing an art class or a yoga class or a singing class, breastfeeding, listening to muisc, meditating, lighting a candle, gazing into an open fire.  Soul time is what nurtures and heals the bumps and bruises of the day and that is what I need, you need, we need – or else we will spend our time without really Living – and that would be a tragedy.

Tonight, was Choices, where several women and men got together and shared our knowledge of birth, and our visiting Independent Midwife, for the first time talked and talked about birth, everything everything and we all left at ease with the gift we have been given, the gift to birth.  And I thought this is really living,, this is the soul of birth, this is why I do what I do, and this is why I need soul time – so that these soul things can happen.

The birth of a birth centre needs SOUL.

Of Fatigue and Foundation Building

And tonight I am tired. So tired.

Life maybe a roller coaster sometimes but with a roller coaster it stops at each end and there is an end – this is a roller coaster that just keeps going.

As I lie in bed and listen to the generator of the road works outside, I sometimes think – is this what we have signed up for? a life of constant change, of crises queuing for attention, of juggling too many responsibilities?

It is the 17th March when I write this. Three months to our first day in our new home, dream now fully launched and the snow began to fall. And we have survived the coldest winter for thirty years in a Victorian edifice without central heating, and double glazing.

We move into an area with four primary schools but with no school places at all for my reception and year 2 children and so end up with one at home and one being educated on the other side of Bradford for all that means in terms of time and fuel and his unsettlement. Meanwhile the bath leaks (not the plumbing – though that leaked as well but we could fix that – a hole in the bath on the other hand . . . .) so we have to remove it because we found the cable for the lights of the bathroom below run under it. Hmmm.

So now we have a house with no central heating, lacking double glazing at the majority of windows and a house without a bath and with a rather disgusting shower. And then Balfour Beaty, bless ‘em, are laying siege to two sides of our house so you can only gain access to the side entrance and we get phone calls from firms saying they tried to deliver the package but could not locate an entrance due to the roadworks . . . good for business then!

Meanwhile because they have dug a long stretch of road for electrical work the water pipes are on the surface on the ground and in the coldest winter for thirty years we find our water is frozen many mornings in the week. So not only are we cold we can’t warm ourselves either with a shower or a cup fo tea.

And then there was the generator situated outside out bedroom window which would rumble into action at 3am each morning waking us up as its vibration shake the house. I know I have done the 3 am feed as a breastfeeding Mum but I no longer have the hormones or the lifestyle to withstand chronic sleep deprivation. At the end of a week of this I am desparate and my sense of humour has ebbed. After two weeks of this . . . .I take to ringing Balfour Beaty at 3am in the morning to inform them of the noise. They finally move it away so we can hear the noise but are not disturbed by the vibrations. But some other poor sod must get it instead – hopefully they have double glazing.

And of course there is the saga of the electrical meter . . . . and so the list goes on, and these are the things I can remember – I can’t remember week by week the litany of disasters to be overcome. And this does not include the challenges posed by the business which have not been inconsiderable especially not having staff for six weeks over Christmas due to the big freeze. I would wake at 6am to get the children off to school ready to start work and by 8.30am all the schools would have closed and I had to re arrange my day to accommodate it. I could do this for a couple of days but it went on for 2-3 weeks. And to wake up to that and the water frozen in the taps – it gets wearing.

I know I am moaning but I am not really complaining. Writing it down gets it out of my system and I feel less tired and worn down. Yes it has been very tough and still is tough. We are coming up to Easter and the pressure is on to deliver umpteen baptisteries and get them back over the next three weeks whilst holding down the rest of our chaotic life.

But . . . . but . . . . , today the sun shone, the roadworks have moved down the road and people began to walk past us and they were curious at what or who is happening to this house. The daffodils in the pots have come out and cheer me with hope, and my sons went to play in the park. Yesterday I was told that the PCT are reconsidering their policy regarding funding the MSLC and its chair – until the fat lady sings – I won’t say it is sorted – but at least it is a positive move forward. And I am begining to get my joy for cooking and baking back – the mental siege is lifting – I feel able to invite people to lunch or dinner confident that we can give them ‘a good do’ as my grandparents would say. Choices met at 89 this month and it was not a disaster – though 20 people rather touched the capacity of the room! My to do list includes setting date for a meeting to take forward the birth resource centre theme as a steeringing group. We are getting there, we are moving forward, this dream can be earthed in reality.

Henry David Thoreau in Walden or Life in the Woods says in his concluding chapter:

“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them”

Yes, I am digging the foundations to earth the castle in the air. And to you my readers I hope you too have a castle in the air and a spade to dig the foundations under them. And I wish you well.

Green shoots in the winter earth.

Another step forward. Green shoots in the winter earth.

This weekend we had a painting polishing and planting weekend.  We invited friends and family to come along and help us reduce the mountain of little jobs – hanging curtains, moving a bed, building a desk, rehanging a couple of doors, polishing the stairs, staining the wood work, stripping and painting the therapy room etc etc.  We offered food and drink and good company in return.

And they came, on their own, as  a couple, with babies and children.  Some stayed for 2 hours some the whole day.  Some could do loads of practical work others could barely move to make a cup of tea such were the demands of their children.  One couple took all day to arrive with their 2 week old baby – but what a joy! What a gift to receive them!  And how important for us that they came.

And it was wonderful, wonderful.  And yes nearly all the jobs got done but that is not why it was wonderful.  The house came alive to the sound of children’s laughter and adults chatter, the walls echoed to feet and hands doing creative work and the place was filled with love and joy and fun and real people and real stories.

And this house which had felt so silent and sad when we moved in was full of light in the right places, and this house that had felt so very very cold glowed with warmth.  I thank all my friends who came in body and spirit that day and gave their hands and heart to give our home soul.

This truly was the birth of a birthing centre, born in love, born into community.

This week, perhaps for the first time, it has felt like a gift and a privilege to live and work here.

Harsh reality and gritten teeth

This week the snow finally cleared.  The ice on the windows became condensation.  I could get dressed without the heater being on for 40 minutes first!  The coldest winter for thirty years and we move into the coldest house in Bradford!

But snow gives a beautiful dressing to everything, ice stops people coming to see you; huddled around the fire you don’t venture into the rest of the house to see what needs doing.  This week the snow cleared and out of my office window I can now see the builders rubble, the plaster, the discarded cardboard boxes.  The over-grown lilac has lost its sparkling dressing and looks leggy and messy.  Without the Victorian Christmas look the porch looks less Dickens and more tatty tenement.  What will people think as they come to the door I fret? – They won’t want to come to a birth resource centre looking like this?

And though the hall has beautiful pannelling it needs touching up and a polish, and as fast as I clear it up another lot of stuff is dumped by the front door on its journey up, down, in or out of the house.  The living room needs half a dozen boxes removed and just needs tidying up – and one of those Belgium-sized sofas removed.  Could anyone come here and believe this was a place to learn about birth and be nurtured in it?

And the therapy room – the fridge as the family call it – because that is what it is.  A gaping doorway into a once lovely Edwardian glass and wood extension makes this the coldest room in the house.  And so it has become the repositiory of all boxes and items without a home and not essential for immediate use.  And it feels empty and sad and in need of a coat of paint.  Could this be a therapy room where women are nurtured and loved, and where healing is offered? Could you see it and believe it?

I believe it, I know it . . .but will others see it and believe it too?  People who I need to come to the groups, facilitate the groups, provide the therapies, provide the funding?  Can they see it?  Could they come to a place with a scruffy garden with daffodils peeping through as scouts for the beautiful garden we will make  – could you?  Could you come and sit and learn in a big room that is beautiful but not finished – like when you wear a suit and then sturdy boots for the weather? Or your pretty dress has the stripes of a sickly baby?  Could people feel  comfortable with cosy but not yet posh? Could you?

And could a therapist see a beautiful but cold drab room and believe that this in 4 weeks could look pretty good and feel wonderful and 12 months be perfect?  Could they?  Could you?

This week I have faltered because the snow has cleared and the harsh reality on a dull wet day is that there is alot to do.  The house IS tatty and you can’t replace all the windows of a Victorian Edifice for under £10 thousand pounds and we spent that on getting the roof weather proof and the cellar damp proof.  And my wild roses won’t flower until June and we won’t be cutting the trees until later in spring.

And my kind and honest friends – are they being really honest when they share my enthusiasm and say how lovely the house is and capture my vision and say everything will be OK? And that all it needs here is a coat of paint and there a sort out?

Sometimes realising a vision means holding on to your vision with gritten teeth, believing when the reality tells a different story, and just working task by task.  Sometimes only your friends can see the progress.  Sometimes you need a holiday.

I am a believer.

“If I count how many steps it would take to climb this mountain I would go no further: I would sit down and cry. But I have decided to be a believer.”

I have not blogged for a good while. And I am sorry for that but let me tell you something of why. We had this dream, this plan. It started off as a plan to put work and home together, to simplify our lives so we did not spend 2 hours and 20 miles a day in a car taking children to school and us to work. We wanted a more sustainable lifestyle. But then we looked around some houses homes, premises – all kinds of things, all over the north of England and Wales. Mind you, there seemed to be a theme, as our favourites tended to be old doctors surgeries.

And so another dream began to emerge. “What a lovely big room” we thought. “It could work for classes, courses, training etc. And look at this room! This would be so fab as a therapy room.” Basically, we realised that we might be able to have an office, a pool storage and a Birth Resource Centre. That phrase was given us by a doula moving down from Edinbugh who had worked with Nadine Edward’s set up. She gave me the concept I was looking for: A resource to parents, midwives practitioners for maternity birth and beyond. A place to be informed, nurtured and massaged as well. A network hub for birth.

That was the dream. Now the reality. A large family a small income, a small but expanding business, a credit crunch. After 18 months of arguing with banks (No, the Royal Bank of Scotland does not lend to small businesses any more) and vendors (What? You want to knock another £10 thousand off for the tree in the cellar?”), we finally purchased 89 Bradford Road, known to the children as 89 Zoo Lane ( Do you remember ’64 Zoo Lane’ on TV?) and to David as Gormanghast.

Our new home is a gargantuan Victorian edifice with no central heating system. After the TV programme ‘Victorian Farm’, we’re going for the spin off: ‘Victorian House’ complete with real TB. Spread over four floors there is ample opportunity to lose children, ladders, staircases and whole rooms. Visitors and workman have been known to appear in doorways looking puzzled and nonplussed asking “Where have the stairs gone?” “I thought they were around here somewhere”. And so our enchanted house casts its spell.

We got the keys to the focus of our dreams on 30th November. On 1st December the builders moved in to remove the tree from the basement wall, put the stairs back where they need to be for health and safety reasons as well as reaching the fourth floor, and to make other basic repairs – such as restoring the roof and chimney etc.

It was an exciting week when we moved in – and yes it took a week to move the Weston tribe with their goods and chattels plus expanding business into one set of premises – (and yes we do now have a tradesman’s entrance!). Unfortunately as we moved in, the central heating boiler moved out into the skip and we had the white Christmas we would never have contemplated otherwise. Ah the twists and turns of fate! Our children have now learnt that getting ready for bed means putting your pyjamas on top of your day clothes. And no one is allowed out with less than five layers of clothes. Tom says he prefers ‘windy Walney’ (our holiday home) with outside loo because it is warmer there. And it is.

The Scott of the Antarctic Memorial Society are holding their annual re-enactment at 89 Zoo Lane to which all who have the appropriate clothing are invited. Bring a penguin. Placement students from the British Antarctic Survey are also welcome. (None of this is true but its sounds good! – ed)

And so here I sit with large jumper retrieved from case of clothes from my student days and woolley hat (I may look silly but I feel warm!) writing my blog. IN four weeks time I want the embryo Birth Reosurce Centre to be ready for birth – I suspect, like every mother, I will have to learn the art of contented waiting. In the mean time there are boxes to empty, furniture to arrange, walls to paint, workmen to find and organise. And at the same time, meals to cook ( where is that pan it can’t be in a box), washing to do, children to take (or not) to school, customers to deal with, bills to pay.

If I count how many steps it would take to climb this mountain I would go no further: I would sit down and cry. But I have decided to be a believer. So instead I count the steps I have made and look back at how far I have travelled. With the courage this gives me I can turn my face forward.

I know that in three years time we will hardly believe the distance we have covered. I am a believer.