Sometimes only a dog and a baby wearing matching ridiculous hats will do.

If this story doesn't make you feel better about the world, nothing will.

Image by Grace Chon, brought to my attention by Sara (thank you!)

The problem with being pregnant and bereaved

Loss, by Wendy Cope

The day that he left was terrible -
That evening she went through hell.
His absence wasn't a problem
But the corkscrew had gone as well.

It's not entirely on point. It was she who left, not he. Her absence most certainly is a problem. She even left the corkscrew behind, not that it's any use to me (maybe they only have screwtops in heaven?).

But oh, what I wouldn't give for a large glass of wine right now.

If you didn't laugh, etc.

This poem previously seen here on the subject of a different loss, that of the recipe book my mum made for me. Not just painful because of the recipes but because she also wrote down all of her favourite poems and I bloody well lost them and do you know how hard it is to pick a bloody poem for a bloody funeral??

Illustration by Caitlin McGauley

Like mother, like daughter, still.

This is not the post I ever imagined would follow Wednesday's announcement, but life seems to have little regard for my plans. So does death, for that matter.

On Thursday evening, my wonderful mum, Rosie, died. I am heartbroken.

My mum was so proud of me for writing this blog and loved to read whatever nonsense I'd written. She was the first real-life person, besides Fin, to read it and left so many funny and supportive comments over the years.

Mum was bright, witty and had a fantastic way with words. When I left home, she used to send me constant little letters and notes, which I loved to read (and, thankfully, have kept). She was my inspiration in countless ways, but especially in writing.

Not long after I started this blog, Mother's Day rolled around and I asked if she would like to write something in honour of the occasion. In a strange quirk of fate, or timing, or something else, that post was published exactly three years before she died.

I'm struggling to find words to express everything I'm feeling at this moment, so I'm going to hand over to her. She always knew the right thing to say.

Greetings to those of you who enjoy reading Kirsty's thoughts on weddingsshoes, her lovely Hubster and things in life which take her fancy. Today you are getting, instead, a few words from the person who has known her longer than anyone in the world, who first saw that wee face appearing from the arms of the midwife and who has shared in all the ups and downs of her 27 years. For Mother's Day, dear readers, you are getting the Mother.

I was chuffed when she asked me to write something as it helped to shore up my bizarre belief that I am still young and hip! I mean, blogging. Most of my pals won't even know what blogging is. My wrinkles, body and birth certificate all tell me that I am 60, but this information has failed to get through to my brain. I am not sure what mental age I have, but certainly not very grown up.

You often read about children who live in awe of their parents. Since Kirsty started writing this blog, I feel a certain role reversal. I am so impressed by her writing and crazy thoughts. I have laughed out loud and cried – slow tears dropping onto my laptop and somehow not making it grind to a halt.

Yet while being so impressed by her ability, I have also been touched by how big a part I have played in her life. That may sound stupid – I am her mother, I helped bring her up, of course I am a major player – but we don't really go around all the time saying these things. Kirsty may have written about my lack of religious faith, but I was still brought up a good Scottish Presbyterian girl and we don't gush about our emotions.

There have been a couple of posts which have brought home how much she appreciated something I may have done as a mother. Firstly, the recipe book! I didn't realise at the time how much she had liked that. It just seemed such an obvious thing to do when your kids leave home and I assumed everyone else had done that. Kirsty leaving home was such a heart wrenching time, I was happy to do anything which would take my mind off it all. I wasn't mad when it went missing – what would be the point in that?

I had a Granny who, as they say in my home town of Glasgow, would “go mental” if you broke/lost anything and it was something I didn't want to carry into my family life.

Secondly, I loved her writing on my Mum's wedding book. That my Dad died when I was pregnant with Kirsty and never met her or Ali, her brother, is one of the saddest things in my life. But they did get to know my Mum, albeit for only a few years, and she was one hell of a Nana in that time. That their wedding book played a part in Kirsty's thoughts of her own wedding brought me great joy. That she could use it to write with such humour and so touchingly was the icing on the cake (sorry, bad pun).

However, as you can probably imagine, the post which had the biggest impact on me was A Little Cloud. If my father dying before seeing my children was one of the saddest things for me, then having this wretched disease has definitely overtaken that in the “why did this happen to me?” stakes.

As I have learned over the past 11 years, people with cancer approach it in many different ways. Often they don't want to talk about it all, pretend it isn't happening, and they can make it difficult for others to know how to deal with it. I was definitely in the other camp of believing that a problem shared is a problem halved, and would blab about everything. Maybe I bored friends and family rigid, I don't know, but quite frankly I don't care. [Editor's note: you didn't.]

Those of us with cancer are called many things – the most common one is “brave”. I am not sure if bravery really comes into it; you have no choice in the matter and just have to get on with it. What I think I have been most is “greedy” - greedy for time. When I was first diagnosed, Kirsty was 16 and Ali, 14. She was about to sit her Highers and determined to get the best results possible (and she did!) and I felt so bad breaking this news to her a few weeks before it all.

But most of all I just felt that I was being cheated of time with them. If only I could see them leave school, study or get a job, that would be a bonus. Then as time went by and I seemed to recover from it all, I was greedy for other things. If only I could see them married, be happy, get a job they really liked. These things I have seen and many more great things have been shared with my kids.

But now that my future is less certain, with the spreading of my cancer (I always call it “my” cancer, I am very proprietorial about it) those greedy thoughts have come back to me. If only I could see them settle in their own homes and maybe one day have their own families living in them. But who knows? It is all in the lap of the gods and the drugs which I take. However, to get back to her blog, reading Kirsty's thoughts on it all was so lovely – maybe this time it is harder to share every thought with each other, it is almost too difficult.

I would like to finish this on a lighter note!! As you may have gathered, Kirsty has always had a love affair with shoes [Who, me?]. I have her first pair of wee navy Clarks sandals somewhere which I must give to her to add to her collection. It is bad to generalise, but I am pretty sure most of your fathers were unsure of this “shoe thing” their daughters may have had. In our house, when Kirsty came home with some new shoes, Eric would say, “How much did these cost then?”. “Oh,” would be her reply, “only £30.”. Then, turning to me, in a conspiring whisper would say behind her hand, “Each!”.

That's my girl.

Mum's post was first published on 3 April 2011

Telling the Internet You're Pregnant: Some Dos and Don'ts

Don't post pictures of anything you peed on.

Unless you are a very special person, you probably shouldn't share your bodily fluids with the world. Really, I'm just thinking of you here. You need to be careful. One day you're posting an innocent picture of a piece of plastic that's been optimistically doused in your urine, then before you know it you're sharing your child's first crap with the internet. It's a slippery slope, my friends. Literally.

Do tell rambling stories about knitting. 

Unsolicited scan pictures I can frankly live without. When you've sat in a darkened room looking at a horribly still picture on a screen, other people's happy scans kind of lose their appeal. Even my own happy scan inspires mixed feelings. I had an extra early scan this time and immediately lost the slip of paper they gave me with the blobby picture on it. I think this bodes well for my parenting skills.

Don't promise not to change.

Everyone promises they won't turn into a boring baby drone. Then EVERYONE TURNS INTO A BORING BABY DRONE. It's fine - it's a fairly major life development, after all - but let's not lie to ourselves and each other, mmkay? You are probably going to mention motherhood once or twice or a million times. That's ok! It's your blog/twitter/instagram/life! You can talk about whatever you want! Own it, girlfriend!

This is my way of saying I'm probably going to mention the fact that I'm knocked up on the blog, at least once or twice. I've always written about whatever's on my mind, and the pregnancy has been weighing heavily on my mind (and on my bladder) for the last 18 weeks or so. Coincidentally (or not), my blog has gone to shit over that time, because I couldn't write about the one thing that I couldn't stop thinking about. This explains my recent reliance on silly pictures and few words (in fairness though, I can't really claim that's a new development).

Do be gracious, do be grateful.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for your lovely comments, emails and tweets yesterday. (Side note: if further evidence of the decline of blog commenting in favour of social media were needed, I received easily double the number of tweets compared to comments here. All congratulations, compliments and hugs are of course welcome in any form, but I so wish there was a way to preserve those tweets forever!) 

I was painfully conscious when writing yesterday's post of not wanting to cause hurt or distress to anyone who is struggling to conceive, has lost a baby or for whatever reason finds news like this upsetting. From my own meagre experience I know how difficult it can be to hear, and I don't know if I managed to find the right balance or not.  It's been such a sweet relief for me to have something positive to focus on and tell people, rather than my usual tale of woe, that it's easy to get carried away. If that happens, you have my blessing to channel Ann Perkins in Parks and Recreation and say, "I mean sure, congratulations, whatever, but ooh! No! Boooooo!" *thumbs down* (Why is there not a gif of this? There really should be.)

For my part, I'm so grateful to have received such huge love and support from all of you and feel very lucky to have made it this far. I've said it before and I'll say it again: you guys are the best.

Do create a sneaky secret Pinterest board (or four).

Secretly pin pictures to them for months, then make them all public at the same time. Realise belatedly that this makes you look like a psycho who pinned seven thousand pictures of babies hanging out with dogs and pregnant women who probably didn't buy their outfit in Mothercare in one giant, late-night, hormone-fuelled Pinterest binge.

Don't use the word "sperminated", even though it's clearly the best word ever.



Metaphorical knitting

The first thing I ever knitted was a pink scarf. It was a long, straggly mess, full of holes and imperfections. I was so proud.

One day last year, a Monday, I put my pink scarf in a bag with some circular needles and carried it with me. In a quiet waiting room, I slowly and deliberately pulled it apart. Line by line, stitch by stitch, I dismantled everything I'd made. The wool lay in scrawled loops across my lap, like a child's scribble.

Then I wound it back up into a fat, pink ball and began to knit again.

I knitted and I waited. Round and round my needles clicked, building row upon row of neat stitches. No holes. No imperfections. Not this time.

I knitted under the sympathetic gaze of the heavily pregnant nurse who checked me in.

I knitted with Fin beside me, his arm resting on the back of my seat. His fingers played a restless rhythm on the NHS regulation fabric.

I knitted as the woman sitting across from me began, quietly, to cry.

I knitted right up until the moment they came for me. Then they took me along a corridor, put me to sleep, and helped my body finish what it had started, in waves of pain and despair, five days before.

It had been nothing, really. Just a faint line, an outline on a screen. Except that it was everything. And it was over.

In the days that followed, I kept knitting. In tears, in silence, in mourning for the future that wasn't coming, I kept knitting. It gave me something to do. It gave me comfort. It gave me, eventually, a perfect, hole-free pink snood.

Then Smidgen ate it.

I'm trying not to place too much store in the little grey hat I'm knitting now. I try not to leave it lying around the flat for the dog to chew on, but I try not to worry about the holes, either. It will be what it will be. The little person who's going to wear it won't mind, and I won't mind either, because that little person will be here. This time, we'll have made it.

Just five more months of knitting, and waiting, to go.

Let's hope Smidgen doesn't eat the baby.

Images: 1. The ill-fated snood. 2. Hat pattern by Purlbee, washi tape download by Pugly Pixel. 3. More successful snood, more successful bump. Touch wood.

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