towards being a mum [part 3: the birth]

[Hudson Kane, although some of what I am about to write sounds otherwise, you have only changed my life for the better. I would hate that one day you read this and feel like my words of processing are words of complaint, so let me just say it here, my son, I would do it over again and again because you are my joy and I love you in a way I didn’t think was possible.]

So, I’ve started to write this story quite a few times and then hit delete. It’s almost impossible to find the words for one of the most redefining, beautiful, intense, hard and mysterious experiences of my life; the moments (and by moments I mean hours, 33 hours…but more on that later) when I went from being a fairly independent married person, to being a mum, the centre of a little person’s world and the meeter of almost all of his needs. It’s also crazy how quickly the memory fades and the things that, in the moment, I thought would be imprinted on my mind forever, have become more of an impression…so the telling of this special story is from my heart as much as my head.


The plan had been to paint a picture while I was labouring, a sort of expression of the journey marking his arrival. Well, that was ambitious.

My waters’ broke at midnight on Tuesday – this was it, the beginning of things, things that I’d prepared for, prayed about, dreamed of. I knew that I was supposed to try to sleep, but I mean, come on, first time mum, first time labour, I was waaaaaay too excited to sleep so I waited for my first contraction, which came not long after midnight [Retrospectively, just by the way, sleep would have been a really smart move]. I sort of expected that that would be it for the next hour or so, but then I had another contraction about 3 minutes later. Right…you’re coming then my boy, let’s do this…I remember about 2 hours in, as the surges were only getting stronger, feeling pretty confident that he was going to be out by the morning, maybe feeling a little smug that it was going to be so smooth.  I woke Lloyd around 3.30am as the weight of labouring alone had got to me, and I realised I needed him, but also set him to work on building the birth pool, as things were feeling pretty intense.


I was really privileged to have an incredible birth team. I had decided to give birth at home, and had a doctor/homeopath, Daphne, who had journeyed with us throughout our pregnancy, who knew our hopes around birth and who was calm, practical, sweet and kind. Then there was Leigh, our doula, who we had lived with throughout our pregnancy, one of our best friends, and a spiritual giant keeping the atmosphere filled with worship and encouragement [and also a LOT of cleaning up and tea making]. Later in the game, Lana, the back-up midwife was also there, such a gentle spirit who, I think (?) was the first to hold our treasure.


No-one tells you that once your water breaks, it’s not like a one-time thing and then that’s it, gone, but that from that moment on you are leaking fluid everywhere (listen if this is overshare at this point already, probably don’t read on, I won’t be offended, all you need to know is we have a beautiful, happy boy!).  So anyway, by the time Lloyd got up, I was already tired, not exhausted, and mentally still very ok, but contractions are no joke. For me it wasn’t a pain thing, but with each surge of muscles contracting and movement and whatever else is actually happening, you are required to be completely present to it, and to journey through each one. I had read about this, and had maybe found it a bit waffy sounding before the time, but with contractions every few minutes, I had to get my mind in the game pretty quickly, no browsing through facebook or instagram. Even now, I’m surprised at how unable I was to engage with much conversation at all, even in between contractions.

With each surge, I realised that something that eased the pressure was to have Lloyd squeeze my hips together…I didn’t really appreciate it at the time, especially when things went much longer than I thought they were going to, but Lloyd could barely stay awake as he was also needed every 3 minutes..in the moment, I was a bit more like, dude, I think you’ll find I’m the one doing the work, but I see a bit more clearly now, my hero, swoon!

Leigh arrived after not long after 4am, and basically, she was completely present and available, but almost invisible, keeping on top of the fluid trails, maybe making coffee for Lloyd and capturing these beautiful moments on camera. Things, I thought, were amping up (although again, retrospectively, Daphne wasn’t in any rush to come over, so I guess she knew things weren’t quite as amped as I felt they were…) and so I jumped into the birthing pool around 6am.

This is the dream right? Beautiful and serene, baby flowing from me into water where he can float into someone’s hands and be placed on my chest, candles burning and some song playing gently in the background…

I got in the pool and pretty much from that point on, what had felt like acceleration started to feel like all the brakes coming on. Everything slowed right back, Daphne arrived maybe around 8am and confirmed my fears, that we hadn’t really gotten started yet. She also was interested to know how I was eating, sleeping and peeing… that was a no to all of the above. I forced a few nuts down me, and then had to deal with the fact that I hadn’t actually pee-ed for a pretty long time, I guess when there’s so much, um, else, coming out down there, it all gets a bit blurry. Alas, I needed a catheter, first an in and out one to empty my bladder, and then a permanent fixture when it emerged that my sweet boy, you were sitting on my bladder and blocking its flow.

I think it was around midday that I hit a fairly big low, everything had slowed, I was told I hadn’t even really started, I was still leaking everywhere and then I had a friggin bag that I had to carry around with me, full of my pee. Dignity. I was spent. I had thrown so much of myself into those first 8 hours that I was now feeling pretty over, my body was starting to quiver with exhaustion, but more than that, mentally I had given up a bit. Daphne sent Lloyd and I to go and walk around outside…I’m not totally sure what we talked about, maybe I cried, I know he encouraged me (because through this whole thing, I could see that he could see what a thing this was, and how proud he was)…and slowly my courage was rebuilding.

 

Still physically pretty done, Daphne gave me a full body massage (what a hero…above and beyond in so many ways) and sent me to bed…I cannot remember what happened that whole afternoon, but I remember being in bed and sleeping, and about every 6 minutes, waking up with a contraction, feeling incredibly alone as Lloyd was faaaaast sleep beside me, but then hearing Daphne, half asleep on our couch, timing things, and she would pop in and check my boy’s heart rate, then I’d drift back to sleep for another few minutes. That went on til 6am, when I decided I was done being alone and got up, had a cup of tea, some food and a shower. While contractions still remained 6 minutes apart (slow..) things felt intense, but having had the shower and a rest, I was a bit more ready for what was to come.

At 7am, I popped to the loo and realised that I had meconium in my amniotic fluid. Daphne told me this meant we had about two hours before my sweet boy needed to be out, and so we probably needed to move towards the hospital. Ok, don’t judge, but Lloyd and I had not packed a hospital bag. It’s like the most obvious thing on the to-do list, and we hadn’t done it…so Lloyd is panicked, I can see it in his face, desperately trying to find things that, only I know where – I could see that he was seeing the rush hour traffic we were going to face, and maybe starting to imagine the possible set of drama and scenarios…like giving birth in our car on the N2…but Daphne suggested she give me a quick exam just to see where things were at, before we drove. Bearing in mind my contractions were still very far apart, she looked at me, a little surprised (?!) and asked if I was ready to push, I was fully dilated, we were good to go, we wouldn’t be making it to the hospital.

 


 

Even when I thought we were going to go to hospital, I felt strangely peaceful, maybe that’s what exhaustion does, but when Daphne said that we weren’t going to go to hospital afterall, my peace was even greater. I had been wrestling with God during church the previous Sunday about all the various bumps and challenges throughout my story towards being a mum, and I felt him reassure me that I was going to give birth at home, a deep knowing I guess. And so when that was confirmed, there was no fear, I was ready.

 


 

I was laying on the bed at this point and gave pushing a go, wasn’t really feeling it, and it was ridiculously sore on my back, so that position didn’t last long. It was at this point though I noticed Lana, the other midwife had arrived, as I felt someone do something to my foot that brought some incredible relief, she barely said any words, but was this strong, gentle presence that made me feel very safe.

Just before I left the bed, Lloyd and then Leigh came and prayed with me. We knew that this was it, the sacred moment of the arrival of Snowflake, our beloved son was now in reach, and we all needed that moment just to stop and sit in the beauty of this hope. We moved to our wee bathroom/showerroom thing and I sat on the loo where I started feeling the need to push a bit more [the toilet was actually my favourite spot throughout my labour, maybe the presence of a catheter made sitting down a little less comfy, I dunno, so back I went]. Lloyd sat on the small green kiddie chair in front of me and held my hands and smiled, and maybe tried to make a joke, but mostly was just with me.

I do have a memory during one intense surge and set of pushing where he suddenly had a camera in my face – in my head I was like, what the actual [insert set of expletives]…but in my heart, I knew he was in awe of his wife and this incredible thing he was witnessing, and so somehow, I managed to not saying anything (which is pretty miraculous for those who know me).

Now, let me talk aboupain for just one second, up until now, there was pain, but it was more intensity than pain, but pushing y’all, ayebo. I don’t think that mums are superhuman or better than anyone else…but let’s just take a moment to acknowledge that pushing a human through your vagina is something quite incredible and that women who submit their body to the growing and delivering of little people understand some things about strength, humility and sacrifice…jussayin’. 

 

 

 

I knew that the dreaded ring of fire I had heard about was in process at this stage, and there were definitely the oh-my-goodness-i’m-crushing-his-head moments and the what-if-i-cant-push-him-out stage, but then I think maybe Lana suggested I stand up as it was time to push push. As I stood, I must have found some crumbs of strength from somewhere else and pushed and felt his wee head crown and hang between my legs! My contractions were still 5 minutes apart and while this felt like seconds, there was a longish pause where his head was chilling there waiting for the rest of his body to be released. The next push and his slippery body came out…Lloyd and I both straining to catch our first glimpse.

The cord was around his neck and arm and Lana was trying to unravel him, all the while, Lloyd and I are just desperate to touch him, to hold him, to have him with us. This moment is pure joy. I felt completely new and strong and fresh as my boy was placed in my arms. Oh sweet one, we have waited for you.

As I stripped off my blood and poop stained clothing and got my little one onto my skin, he found my boob and started to suck. How incredible, this little thing that has barely breathed more than a few times, is able to make his way towards food and the source of life. [Even in our weakest moment, we have the ability to stretch towards our source of life, the one who carries and nurtures us, Jesus, keep me like a child]. As the three of us lay on the bed, a song played which has been etched into my heart, and now Hudson Kane’s heart as I sing it to him every day, (more on that another time) “Take courage my heart, he’s in the waiting” and finally breathing out, I wept, with joy and exhaustion and peace and hope.

The rest of the story from here involves a rather slow releasing placenta, waaaaay more stitches than you’d want down there, but mostly just the sweetness of having a son, watching him sleep on his father’s chest, and watching Lloyd, my rock and partner in this marathon, step into fatherhood without missing a beat, as if it was what he was made for. Hudson Kane, we have waited for you.

 

 

 

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towards being a mum… [part 2]

As Lloyd and I arrived back in Cape Town from our travels, we hit the much awaited second trimester, and along with it came a scan, a heartbeat and heartburn.

As far as pregnancies go, I think I got off pretty lightly, once I discovered that gluten was in fact the root of all evil [heartburn], and let that go, physically, the pregnancy went as expected. The journey for us was more in figuring out not just that we were giving birth, but how, where and with who. Our medical cover, or lack thereof, meant that we looked at all the options, from government clinics, to private tertiary level care. We landed up following in the footsteps of some good friend of ours who had a home birth with a private doctor/midwife team, and a doula. As we explored this avenue, we met a doctor, Daphne, who was willing to walk alongside us – for us she felt like the perfect fit, as a homeopath and a GP, she helped us navigate our more medically minded heads and our hippy-fun-wild spirits. We’re not hippies, but I’ve always fancied myself as a bit of a closet hippy, like, if life were a bit simpler, I would definitely be making all of my own yoghurt and choosing seeds over doughnuts…but life isn’t simple so…doughnuts (this dabbling into the hippy world was exaggerated by the fact that I had to give up my doughy treats, and so suddenly seeds, dates and cucumber sticks were much more my vibe. Anyway..)

 

We really loved discovering the beauty that was so evident around giving birth, the way our bodies are designed to make this thing happen, the way baby and mum are a team, overcoming hurdles to do this first big thing together. We read some of the science around natural births (which placated both of our fairly logical, science-y brains) and uncovered things about breastmilk: for example how if you have a boy, his DNA gets imprinted into mum’s DNA. What?! How cool is that?! And so the fear of the unknown blended into a real excitement for what was to come; anticipation of this serene, natural, rhythm of birthing (I mean, serene, lol. But also, YES! so much YES, but also lol!).

I guess when I found out at six months that I had a low lying placenta and would most likely need a C-section at 37 weeks, I was slightly thrown.

God?! You hijacked my plans to adopt, you made me do this thing, you then got me excited about it, and now you wanna come throw another rock in my path?

Yip, I flipped out a bit…but was so sure that God had set us on the path of natural home birthing that I rallied the troops and got my community praying for the placenta to move. Whilst waiting for the miracle, I wrestled God again around my entitlement to have things my way, and realised that as much as I wanted to go au-naturale, that I didn’t want there to be a cloud over my son’s arrival, even if it was a c-section, so I fought for my peace, and found it.


I remember driving around Manenberg, I must have been about 5 months pregnant, and I was chatting to Snowflake about how I wanted to protect him from all suffering, how I didn’t want his heart to have to deal with pain for as long as possible, but how I knew that when he arrived, he was going to be so important in bringing healing, in being one that loves so extravagantly, that those in pain, those battling injustice find freedom.

Within a few weeks of this, a beautiful brother in our family in Manenberg was killed in a horrific accident. As one of the leaders in Tree of Life, I was thrown in to shoes that were far too big for me, making decisions I felt too young to make, and grieving a loss that only felt like a robbery. Once again, I found myself driving around Manenberg, this time to inform people in our Tree of Life family that Maruwaan had died. Later I cried as I told Snowflake I was sorry he had to experience this kind of pain before he had even arrived out of what was supposed to be completely protected space, my womb. I told him my heart was broken, his family was hurting, but our pain was not him, our hearts, my heart, still longed for him, for his arrival and the joy he carried. I knew he would bring healing.

[to hear more about Maruwaan, check out this beautiful movie made about his life https://maruwaanmovie.com/]


I visited the hospital for my last scan, the one that would decide whether or not Snowflake was coming out via C-section not – I must confess, I had made such peace with the outcome that part of me actually hoped he might come out via c-section as that would mean I get to meet him a few weeks earlier, that and the very natural, oh my word, look at my belly, this has to come out of me thinking had also set in!

A doctor took one look at my scan and said that everything was looking fine, he didn’t really know what I was doing there, the placenta was in the right place so birth at home would be completely fine.

The placenta had moved. Look, I don’t know how probable that is, maybe it’s totes normal, maybe not, but it was my little miracle that made me confident of God’s presence in this with me and a little glimmer of hope to hold on to.

At the same time as all of this was going on, Lloyd and I signed to buy a home in Manenberg – we signed for it a week after Maruwaan died, and so what was a massive celebration for us, and our Tree of Life family, was somewhat overshadowed with our sadness. Still, we took moments to stop and be thankful for the faithfulness of a God who answers our prayers – it was something we’d been hoping for, for over 2 years and why the Lord thought it appropriate to make it available a month before we gave birth, I’m not sure, but alas, we started to make it birthing ready. The house was (and still is) a bit of a mess, a glorious, potential-filled mess, but it was our mess, and we loved it. A few weeks before my due date, we were knocking out walls, setting up our little nest at the back of the house and hanging a picture or two to make it feel like home. We were ready for Snowflake!

 

 

 

 


towards being a mum… [part one]

This is the story of how I became a mum, and probably some of the story that follows that. I am so HYPER aware of how much sadness, confusion and stress there is around kiddos, having them, not having them, wanting them, not wanting them, biology, adoption, fostering, barrenness, loss and all the things and so I offer my story gently to those who are interested. 

 

I’ve always been a bit of a mum, even in high school my friends would call me mum, checking in that friends were eating properly, that people were getting home safe…I guess it’s in my nature, although isn’t it slightly in all our natures?…anyway. But since I was a teenager I’ve also wanted to mum some actual kids, not just my friends. For me the plan was always adoption, until that door was temporarily closed a couple of years ago because of visas. At the time, I was completely devastated and moaned (a lot) to God that this was always MY plan but wasn’t it his too (hello self-righteousness)? Wasn’t adoption what he was wanting for the ones and twos who have been left to the side? In a moment of kindness during a prayer week, he spoke back and told me, Clare, I know you believe in the redemption story, but I want to show you how it was intended, how I planned family to look.

Now disclaimer, before everyone jumps, I know that this is not the ONLY way, THE answer. I know that the stories around family and children are painful, hard, confusing and so this was simply a little bit of kindness for me to hold on to as I transitioned from a lifelong dream to adopt and honestly, a fairly  nothing feeling towards giving birth, towards feeling inspired and in awe of what it could mean to become a [biological] mum.

Having made peace with the idea of housing a small person in my body, hubby and I set out to create one (wink) and for whatever reason, this happened super quickly. I must be honest, I assumed that because God had convinced me along this path, he would keep it fairly straight, because presumably in the perfect plan of family, there wasn’t loss, miscarriage. Alas. March 2016 will forever be etched in my heart as the month I lost my first child, Acorn. You can read about that here.

So fast forward to three short weeks after losing our precious Acorn, Lloyd and I had just arrived in Belfast and were enjoying family time at mum and dad’s; merrily eating and drinking…until, I don’t know what exactly, but something told me to not start that next glass of wine before doing a pregnancy test. The human body is weird, and incredible and baffling.

I was pregnant.

I sat in this space of knowing that this was my heart’s desire, but at the same time, just not being ready to move into celebration when I was still grieving. On the other hand, I knew how many people struggle to fall pregnant for years, people who cannot conceive children, also their heart’s desire, and here I was battling to celebrate this new life growing inside me. Please don’t get me wrong, at my core I was deeply grateful and in awe, this little one was not going to grow not knowing he was loved and waited for, but I was caught in this middle.

We named him Snowflake, as a step towards building relationship, and naming him meant that I could engage my heart with his, share with him the story of his sister, and make sure that he knew my sadness wasn’t for him. The womb is a sacred space, and the more I understand about pregnancy and birth, the more I am convinced that the mystery of new life, connection, and our spirits is something to wonder at. I knew that in my speaking truth over my little one, I was protecting him from the potential negativity he could have experienced. For me this comes from a belief that we are alive and have a spirit from the very beginning, that God has created this incredible process of nurture and knowing and feeling and discovering, the secret place where mum, baba and the Holy Spirit dwell. And the more I stayed in this place of authenticity and truth, the more I fell in love with my boy.

The anxiety was real though. Every time I went to the toilet, I expected to see blood, I dreamed of miscarriage, and spent most of my time waiting for something to go wrong. Lloyd was the champion of our happy vibes over Snowflake and he gave me space to grieve and deal with my very real fears – giving me enough permission to feel them, but also being the truth speaker over our family when it was time to stop and remember that we are not alone. This season was one of wrestle with God. I wrestle a lot on a good day, but my question really reduced right down to this – how do we have hope on earth? I get the one day in eternity chat, I really do, I believe it, and I get that God is mysterious, but what does it mean to follow a God who asks us to see the kingdom now? He promises miracles and healing, light overcoming darkness and so much more, but what does it mean to believe for, to contend for those promises when time and time again, they seem to go unfulfilled?

I must confess, a year on, I still wrestle with this question. For me it’s a question that the church can’t ignore, we need a theology of hope that holds the reality of the broken world we live in. I have found hope again, but in moments of waiting, I admit I find myself doubting the promise in the first place.

Despite this wrestle, I fought for celebration, my heart found peace, both for Acorn and Snowflake, and as my belly grew, so did my excitement…

 


“My mission in life is not merely to survive but to thrive, and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humour and some style” Maya Angelou


Violence

I’m definitely not a violent person. In fact, I hate all forms of violence and don’t ever see causing pain as a useful solution to any problem. However, this week I have really wanted to hurt someone, like take someone and physically harm them, and shatter them to pieces with my words at the same time! I wanted to demonstrate my power over them because of my outrage for how they were dominating and hurting someone I love so deeply. I can see how people have gotten to a point where they think redemptive violence might just be ok.

I’m not proud of feeling like this, and while my violent urges have almost subsided, my anger has not. I don’t actually think it’s supposed to just yet, but the question I’m checking with myself is if this anger is breeding hopelessness or is this anger broken-heartedness? Anger that leads to hopelessness is a waste of time, ultimately, it leaves us in pain with no prospect of anything changing, but broken-heartedness, oh woman, that can be a dangerous force.

Over the last few weeks I have been confronted over and over again with stories of women who are being harmed by men, physically, emotionally, verbally and sexually.

My heart is exploding.

Girls as young as 13 beaten with a plank by their boyfriend because “she doesn’t want to listen”, men raping women in groups, women being told they’ll be beaten if they try and leave their partner. I see women shut down for speaking because of their anatomy, women believing that they need to give their bodies over in sex in order to feel desirable, or rather, to make the guy feel good; women’s needs being deemed as substandard and inferior by a society that continues to promote men (and just for the record, for those who might assume, I’m not talking only about life in Manenberg, I see this across society..).

A few months ago Lloyd and I found ourselves in the red light district in Thailand. By found ourselves, I mean we were in it, it was impossible to avoid, but to be honest, I’d always planned to go. I have heard so much about it, I felt it was important not just to know it happened, but to see what it looked liked, to look in some faces and to feel it [rather like coming to Cape Town on holiday, closing your eyes as you drive from the airport and then spending your time at the Waterfront, missing the uncomfortable reality of this city]. What I saw, I cannot even begin to describe. The depth of the sex trade in Thailand is like nothing I have ever seen, and it broke me. Seeing young, young women standing at poles on bartops with their toddlers at their feet, seeing men prowl (literally) for women as if they were a choice cut of meat to be chosen and men reaching inside women’s clothing before any sort of agreement of payment had been made. The business of buying sex is pretty repulsive to me, but equally, for a woman to have her boundaries overstepped even in that broken system felt like the grossest injustice. 

I cried a lot there. I have never felt such pain in my spirit as I did for those few days. And I experienced a conviction that to pray for one of these beautiful souls and then leave would be a cheap attempt to make myself feel better. It’s not that I don’t believe God could encounter them, it’s that I know that post-encounter, they need someone by their side. I have seen this over and over again in Manenberg. Genuine, holy encounters that give momentary peace, but in not being able to offer a practical love alongside that, the encounter becomes another religious experience that affirms that God is there but doesn’t really get involved in our lives.

I have found myself hating men this week. Even the good ones that I do life with, I have started watching for any inklings of misogyny, looking to see where the needs of men are being preferred over women’s needs.

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My hatred isn’t getting me anywhere, it’s not really the path I’ve chosen. I believe that this imbalance is as harmful for men as it is for women, as it holds them back from the reality of who they are but, on the whole, they are not the ones at the wrong end of the plank. What do we do with that reality? I sit with a fight in me to see something change. I sit with a pain in my spirit too great to shake off. And I sit with tears in my eyes as I think of the many women who are forced to believe that this is just their lot, they somehow asked for or deserve it.

In my broken-heartedness I can only look to Jesus or my flesh will begin to pull me to hatred and violence.

I see Jesus looking into the face of women marginalised and rejected, and speaking life over them.

I see God speaking shared purpose over Adam and Eve, words of partnership and equality.

I see imagery of God as mother all through the Old Testament, lest we think that God is a man (but that’s for another blog)!

…and I find hope that at least God is good, even if the rest of us don’t cut it. And so I look to Her for what happens next, where do I release this fire in my spirit, how do we see women valued in Manenberg, how do we redeem spaces used for exploitation, how do we point out the subtle nuances of misogyny in the most redeemed men in our society?

But what happens next, I’m not sure. It isn’t enough for me to only pray. Prayer motivates action, it moves us to speak and so I will wrestle with this discomfort until things change.

 


a more conventional update

For those of you who love reading my deep, incredibly profound and insightful ponderings (!), this is not the blog post for you. I wanted to give some of my readers a more traditional this-is-my-life update – for those not living in Cape Town.

June marked the start of a new season for me in Cape Town. I had the privilege of spending a three month sabbatical from my work/life in Cape Town and travelling to visit cool new places, family and old friends. It was an absolute treat to spend that time travelling with Lloyd, to have space to think, and to have a longer time with all my friends and family than I’ve had since I left in 2011. The 3 months were a bit of an emotional rollercoaster following the loss of our first baby but to be able to totally veg out in Thailand and then arrive home to be looked after by my parents was exactly the space I needed to grieve and process properly.

On arriving back in Cape Town, I have re-entered into a fairly significant transition for Tree of Life (our church family) and Fusion (the organisation I’ve been working with) and so the last couple of months have been filled with figuring out what that will look like, where I fit and what God is calling our family to in this next season. More on this another time! What that means for me though is a much more diverse role in leadership of Tree of Life with a bunch of awesome people, a more pastoral role rather than solely operations and the space to start thinking about what a home for girls could look like in Manenberg with my partner in dreaming, Leigh. Again, there will DEFINITELY be more on this later! Already, I am loving this new season and so thankful for my community who have given me the space to really push into where my heart comes alive. I have learnt so much in the last 3 years, and have grown more than I knew possible, honestly, not through lots of fun and easy-riding but through being stretched beyond what I thought my capacity was. I have grown in skills, in grace (I hope) and have learnt how to do things that I don’t love with excellence and letting go of the entitlement of always doing what I feel I want to do!

Lloyd is still rocking the solo architect/designer vibes, although he would love to be a little less solo at times…Spatial Studio is doing well, but as with any start-up, has its ebbs and flows. He has had a few exciting projects that get his creative juices buzzing, a stint of teaching at the university where his studies began, and then a good measure of the more mundane (but good for the bank account) house extensions. In the next couple of years, the dream is to see Spatial Studio grow to house a few more people, and potentially to have a space where designers/creatives/architects etc, can come and share ideas and resources. Lloyd has a real passion to see the design world open up in Cape Town to more than just those who can afford to study and print pretty things, but that’s his story, maybe he’ll write it for you one day.

In terms of our family life, Lloyd and I have felt held in a somewhat suspended state, wanting to grow our family but having the door for adoption temporarily closed, and then losing our first baby. We have also felt, for the last two years, an invitation to move into Manenberg and set down our roots there amongst our family, but again, financially and practically, no doors have opened up to us for this and so we have been [patiently-not-patiently] waiting for a shift. We gave up our flat, in faith, just before going on sabbatical and so have been living with Leigh in her flat. This has been super fun, and [I think] we are all enjoying the richness of community living, it’s certainly given me a lot to think about in terms of how we carve out our family life set-up in the future.

Good news: the suspension is lifting!…or dropping, or whatever suspension does when it’s not suspension anymore.

While on sabbatical we discovered that we were pregnant again and so are due to give birth in December! Happy Christmas to us! We are so excited with a healthy measure of what-have-we-done thrown in, but please pray with us as we prepare and look forward to meeting our little snowflake*. The other news is that doors seem to be opening for us to move into Manenberg and so we are currently looking at putting an offer on what might be our future home. I have no idea why the timing hasn’t been right for the last 2 years for either of these things, or why we seem to be looking at giving birth and moving house around the same time (just to keep things chilled, right?) but we are riding this wave with God, and trusting the faithfulness we have experienced throughout our waiting.

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So there you go. The Pretorii’s adventure continues!

* Straight up, falling pregnant so soon after miscarrying was hard on my heart and soul. I battled with anxiety and not being totally sure I was ready to be pregnant again. Lloyd was awesome (obviously) and was able to carry the joy of this wee life, and then we named our bump Snowflake to help build a bond between us, which really helped me connect with this little baba. I felt totally free, at the same time, to grieve and be where I was until I was ready to fully celebrate and I knew that this little one was so loved and celebrated by family at the same time. I woke up one day on sabbatical feeling totally peaceful about Snowflake and excited to be a mum…although we still think a lot about Acorn and are planning on how to keep her story alive in our family story.

 


the quiet place

So confession, on the way to worship last night, I was super not up for being there. I’d been sick this week, I was tired, I wanted to veg out in front of the TV…but I was on to lead tonight alongside a guitarist friend, and had already cried off a few responsibilities this week, so knew I had to stick uit (a useful Afrikaans phrase meaning to show up). Driving to Manenberg, I was immediately confronted with the most phenomenal pink and yellow sky. The sky is my favourite bit of creation (well, except people, mostly…) so I usually do notice it, but it made me take note, turn my radio off, and talk to God rather than mindlessly passing the next half hour in traffic. I told him I was ready to be present, I wanted to go deeper, and I would press in, despite my pooped-ness.

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Enter the most chilled worship vibes ever.

Now I know that some of us were struggling with the quiet, used to being surrounded by noise, voices, TV, music…someone creating our worship experience for us through pumping out the jams that make us feel good, or giving us the right words to say…don’t get me wrong, I love a bit of dancing in my worship, and a Bethel worship album like the next person…but as I was in that space last night, asking God whether I needed to step in to help people know how to press in, to create more energy, if I’m honest, God was like, no…Why are you afraid of being quiet with me?

And why are we so afraid of the silence? Well, I guess because in that moment it can go one of two ways:
Oh…this is so beautiful, your presence is so sweet, I can feel you, I feel known by you, I hear your voice!
or..
Jeesh, it’s quiet…I don’t really know what to say, this is kinda awkward, do I even know you?

The silence reveals the truth, we have no one putting words in our mouths, no one creating a vibe for us to feel something, just the vulnerability of us standing before God in a moment of intimacy, or perhaps, realising we are strangers. There are times when we definitely need the help of being led into God’s presence, encountering new parts of who She is, enjoying the good feeling of bopping around with others, but we have to be able to meet Her in the still, secret place of our hearts.

Once I got over the fact that everyone wasn’t necessarily having the most fun time ever (because obviously that’s my responsibility..haha), and stepped in to being still with my best friend, I went deeper with Her than I had in a long while. I was reflecting on what it means to have Christ living within us, at our centre. You see one of things I’m learning with having this little baby grow inside of me [most of you reading this will know this already, but for those who don’t, ummm surprise!] is that everything I do, everything I’m eating, how I’m spending my money, the way I use my body, the things I’m speaking, my emotions, are centred on wanting to honour this precious little one living in me. And yet, Christ lives in us. Like a little living person, she is our centre, and so all of our choices and words and thoughts and actions should be influenced by that, wanting to honour the life that is within.

Where is She not my centre? I sat with this question as I drove home and got angry at a driver, and at my husband and at myself for letting stupid things rob me of this revelation..so I guess My reactions might be a place Jesus doesn’t have centre place. Good to know, I’ll start there.

In the secret, in the quiet place, in the stillness you are there…Jesus be my centre.

[Just on the She thing…for those who are wondering. Those of you who know me well know I’m fairly passionate about the voice and equality of women, including how we engage with the person of God. God’s not a dude right, we know that, not a women either, but there’s definitely a lot of male pronouns in my vocabulary towards God, and I’m trying to be a bit more intentional about changing that over (I know feminist friends, I am so late to that party but bear with…). Also, as I am becoming a mum, I’m understanding God waaaay more as mother and learning about the fiery, gentle, powerful, protective nature of God…which I totally resonate with]


on loss

But God, my sabbatical was supposed to be three months of deep reflection, looking forward to and dreaming about what you’re calling me into next in Manenberg. God, I have so many great ideas I wanted to discuss with you, so many things that we could do together. And yet here I find myself two months in with the pieces of my broken heart still broken, grieving the loss of a little life that was supposed to be part of our future, barely able to think about anything else. This wasn’t the plan.

No my child, but I am with you.

Are you enough, God? I kinda thought you could stop this from happening and you didn’t…so can I really trust you to bring me peace now? 

 

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Over the last wee while, I’ve been on a journey of discovering thankfulness, not only as a response to God but as a weapon to fight for joy and peace…it has been an interesting one, you can read about it here.

The day I learnt that Lloyd and I had lost our little acorn, a small seed of life within me, I got home from the hospital and as a sat, I felt God ask me, Clare, what are you thankful for?

ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? (I don’t think my language was quite so pretty) Not today, God.

But yet I knew in my heart that this battle I was in was going to need me to dress myself in my armour, and my armour is thankfulness…and so I asked God to remind me of stories of his goodness, and He did. He reminded me of some of the stories of healing coming out of my Tree of Life family in Manenberg, of his presence, of his with-ness, and I was able to say thank you.

I’ve been learning how to say thank you, how to celebrate even when everything else falls apart, this is so hard, but it is rich. My heart gets to enjoy the richness of excitement and joy and hope while knowing how to be in the places of brokenness and despair. This is not life in the middle of good and bad, this is life, lived at the extremes, squeezing the life out of all of it, this fullness of life that I know Jesus understood greater than I ever will. This child we had waited for came after a longer wait to be told we weren’t eligible to adopt yet because of my visa, so the news of this pregnancy was celebrated by our whole community, and equally, as acorn went to be with Jesus at a few weeks old, this life was mourned by our community, and I have found great comfort in being able to process and cry and be ok and be happy and be miserable with my community who stretches across continents.

Miscarriage isn’t a subject matter I ever imagined myself writing about, and to be honest, it’s really not fun to write about in any way, but it’s important. As I shared a bit of my story, I heard of more and more people who had gone through the same thing. And then there was this moment while I was still at the hospital when there was a whiff of a lie that crept in, that perhaps I wasn’t good enough as a woman, that I couldn’t even stay pregnant! No, like seriously, this flashed across my consciousness and I batted it out of there very quickly, but I started to wonder if you don’t hear much about miscarriage because there’s shame attached to it, and so I’m writing, letting the ugly and the sore hang out.

I’m still very much in the middle of my grief, of processing and wrestling with God and as I think about being pregnant again, I am totally terrified. But, I have known God with me. I read this bit in a Brennan Manning book where he suggested that if you were struggling to know how to approach God or are sitting with pain, to simply hold your hands out and say ‘Abba, I belong to you’ and allow the father to step in. So I did. There was nothing else for me to say anyway!

One day as I prayed that, I saw myself slumped across his chest completely surrendered and with nothing to bring…as I painted this image, I felt God nudge me to connect our hearts as his presence surrounded me. A few days later I went to visit a beautiful new addition to our Tree of Life family, and as she fell asleep on my chest, I had this moment of clarity where I realised she didn’t need to try, she wasn’t looking for answers, she trusted me completely to be her safe place, totally surrendered in that posture and I felt God tell me it was ok to stay there, in that slumped posture.

I’m a thinker, I like to figure things out, but that just doesn’t exist in this, all you have is being true in the moment to what you’re feeling, and keeping your face as close to Jesus as possible, and when you can’t, he brings his face to you.

Do I have some/any wisdom on how to cope with this? Hardly. I’m still in the taking-it-one-day-at-a-time stage, but it does help me to talk about it (though that won’t be true for everyone),  it does help to be in God’s presence (even if all I do is cry…or shout), and it does help me to know that people know my story and they’re with me in the good and the ugly. There is no answer, no easy-fix, it’s another season of waiting, waiting for healing and waiting to be able to trust fully again…but in this waiting, I wait with the one who knows.

Abba, I don’t know what the future holds, I hardly know what the present holds, but I’m thankful that I am surrounded with friends and family, I am thankful for new life, I am thankful that your goodness is always visible and that all you need is for me to be.

Abba, I belong to you.

 

 


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