Letter to myself as the mother of a newborn

Newborn Zoe

Dear Zoe’s mama, in 2006

I know you know she is a miracle and you love her fiercely. But I know how you struggle every day with mothering. With getting it “right.” When your refluxy baby screams night and day and cannot get the sleep she needs – and you cannot get the sleep you need – you feel like a failure. When listening to her cry feels like the deepest pain, like listening to the little girl inside of yourself cry, and there is precious little you can do to soothe her. Continue reading

The space to write

Notebook and laptop

The physical space I write in is nothing special – usually I just take my laptop into bed or park myself on the sofa, sometimes following the sunny spots around the house like a cat. But the mental space to write in is something else.

If you’re a regular reader, you may notice I’ve written more this year than I have since beginning this blog. Continue reading

One thousand and ninety five days without you

all the ages you never got to be

Three long years since you left us baby girl. You would now be entering tweenhood, but I find that so hard to imagine. The little girls my eyes always linger on are the ones that are all the ages you were, not the ones you never got to be. The toddlers wearing gumboots and tutus, pre-schoolers wearing glittery star t-shirts and choosing buns covered in sprinkles at the bakery, gaggles of giggling six year olds.

Some days, when something jogs a forgotten memory, or a photo unexpectedly brings a rush of emotion and I can recall the exact sound, smell, touch of you in that moment, I feel so close I could almost touch you. Other days I feel I am drifting further from you, despite hoarding memories, photographs and all your possessions. Continue reading

How to guard your heart

The other day I was telling a friend that I thought the heartbreak songs he had written were lovely. It was the third anniversary of Zoe’s terminal diagnosis, and when I told him I was listening to more heartbreak songs that evening because it suited my mood, he replied that he hadn’t written any songs that heartbreaking.

That exchange got me thinking about how often people tell me that when they think of Zoe’s story, it puts their own troubles into perspective. I get that, and I know it’s been a life lesson for many people whose lives Zoe touched. It certainly helps me to put everyday disappointments and dramas in their place. Aren’t we all learning over and over not to sweat the small stuff? Actually if you have this completely figured out – please let me know 😉 Continue reading

The labels I will not own

“Above all be the heroine of your life, not the victim” – Nora Ephron

A few months ago, someone I had met just recently told me he thought I was fragile. In the context I don’t think they meant anything negative by it, and yet I was taken aback, and I’ve thought about it a lot since.

Not only is this not how I see myself (at least not these days), but I had deliberately chosen not to mention “my story”, as I sometimes choose with people I have just met precisely in order to avoid this type of response. The pity in their eyes, the frantic scramble to find something appropriate to say, the labels they attach to me, that I am Brave, that I am a Victim, that I am Permanently Sad, that I am some kind of Tragic Heroine because my daughter died. Continue reading

Random thoughts on cancer, meaning and happiness Part II

“Hope is not optimism, nor is it conviction that something will go well. Rather it is the certainty that something has meaning…regardless of its outcome.” Vaclav Havel

From where I stand now, I feel I can truly say that life (for me anyway) is not about happiness, at least not in the ways it’s most commonly perceived to exist. Rather it is about finding peace and meaning. That doesn’t mean that I don’t feel any joy or happiness, but that I find those things through the meaning I attach to my life and experiences. Continue reading

Why I’ll be eating ice-cream for breakfast on the 18th February

There will be people around the world eating ice-cream for breakfast on 18th February. And despite being in two minds about cancer awareness campaigns, I’m going to be one of them. Here’s why.

icecreamforbreakfast_small

Generally I prefer charity activities that raise money for their causes over “awareness” campaigns that seem to do little other than make people feel good about participating.

I am planning on supporting Eat Ice-cream for Breakfast Day though. It doesn’t raise money. It doesn’t have an ice-cream company as a corporate sponsor. Yes, it is an awareness campaign for childhood cancer, motivated by remembering a little girl called Malia but it’s asking something a little bit different from you too. Continue reading

The return of Charlie Cat (or on belonging)

Can one shaggy fickle moggy show you where you belong?

Returnofcharliecat_small

We didn’t adopt Charlie Cat, he adopted us, soon after we moved to our new house in 2008, the year before Zoe’s cancer diagnosis. We’d moved from a townhouse in the inner city to a single level house with a safe little garden Zoe could play in. No more lugging washing up two flights of stairs along with a strong willed toddler, or driving to where she could walk on the grass.  It was a house that matched my dream of how family life should be, in a neighbourhood of other families, close to the zoo, playgrounds and the beach. There was even a walking school bus to the local primary school and a feijoa tree in the garden.

The week we moved here, I walked with then 2 year old Zoe to the supermarket around the corner. She stopped at virtually every house along the way. “Look, a house, a fence. Look another house, another fence.” With the right house, I felt sure we would become that perfect family, give Zoe a quintessential Kiwi childhood and that our marriage problems would become a distant memory. The addition of a household pet seemed like the icing on the cake. It felt like a sign that he had chosen us. Continue reading