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Summer 2013 Issue No. 2

D R O W T M ! it n e t it r w e we’v s a it d a e r u Yo see us

COME J OIN US a nd dip your toe into t h world of Mums wh e o are wanting to write!

time to e h t e k a t ing from! m o c May you e ’r e where w d n a t s r e d Un lks of life a w ll a m o drum! m u h Mums fr d n a es, loves v li g in r a h S to write t e e m e w Together ll do feel a e w w o H mums s a y a d y r e Ev uest l q a e e r r r e u w s t t a e an g r, is all th u o he rest! m t u When life c o h d f l o ’l e e s w n & a se hat’s fine T ? g in Objective h t ying any a s today! t s o u n h r it e w h t e a it r R me and w o c y la e d Don’t etry. o p d n a s e i heir stor t e r ord! a h W s e ’s Th m s u m M L o ca l fun, Mu y l l a e r o t e f li From real

ordSwindon

W s/MumsThe p u o r g / m o ook.c

www.faceb Supported by:


Special thanks to... ...our contributors... Karen Smith, Monica Timms, Martine Steinhardt, Liz Brackenbury, Donna Liggins, Lee Navarrete, Joan Brooks, Danielle Brown, Joy Perkins, Elizabeth Hawke, Gillian Freeman, Helen Newman, Victoria Twigg, Anne-Marie Delaney, Julie Kernow, Juliet Platt, Katherine Owen, Angela James and Hilary.

...and for our funding and continuous support by ...

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ontents

Pg 4 - The Real Me, Danielle Brown Pg 4 - Missing You. Joan Brooks Pg 4 - Angelina Jolie, Karen Smith Pg 5 - Apply Within, Liz Brackenbury Pg 6 - The Bubble, Elizabeth Hawke Pg 7 - My purse is empty, Alda Smith Pg 8 - Foxy and Badger, Gillian Freeman Pg 8 - A character in a book, who would I choose? Lee Navarrete Pg 9 - It took me back, Monica Timms Pg 10 - Mum on the Run, Victoria Twigg Pg 11 - On-line hub for Swindon’s creative talent Pg 11 - Geocaching, Helen Newman Pg 12 - A Social Taboo, Lee Navarrete Pg 13 - Factor Serendipity, Julie Kernow Pg 14 - The Ultimate Gift, Anne-Marie Delaney Pg 16 - Letter to Santa, Lee Navarrete Pg 17 - Alf’s World, Rebecca Nanwood Pg 18 - Super-Moo, Martine Steinhardt Pg 20 - The Hug, Katherine Owen Pg 20 - Tea break chat with author Angela James Pg 21 - Starbucking, Karen Smith Pg 21 - A Fish, Harry Smith Pg 21 - February, Donna Liggins Pg 21 - This Day, Natalie Gray Pg 22 - We and Me, Unknown Pg 22 - Mud, Liz Brackenbury Pg 22 - School Days, Karen Smith Pg 23 - My Children’s Castle, Joy Perkins Pg 23 - How I feel about being a mum, Hilary

O

nce upon a second year... Welcome to the world of Mums The Word and the 2nd edition of our magazine! A simple idea just over 2 years ago of bringing women together to write as a group; in a supportive, nurturing and inspiring environment, has lead to the concept for Mums The Word (MTW). Thankfully Matt Holland (Swindon Festival of Literature founder) agreed, and funding was provided by Artsword for the group. Thus the birth of MTW in April 2011. WOW! What an incredible journey it has been so far. Creating writing to share, the MTW ladies have all now achieved personal writing goals, and with those that desired further development, have also seen their work published in a book, been heard on local radio and TV. Have read to audiences, and been inspirational in creating this magazine. Go MTW ladies! And here we are launching our 2nd edition ‘MTWord’ magazine! Reaching further into the community and beyond to bring writing and writers together and be published! Full of heartfelt, funny and engaging pieces of writing and poems, written in a grass root way that connects to life and human emotions, with a bit of fiction and escapism thrown in. No celebrity. No sensationalism. No commercialism. Real writing from the most amazing, talented, sensitive and real women. Women like you. Welcome all, to MTW!

Liz, K aren & Donna

C

ontact Us

T: 01793 832715 E: bizzybs@btinternet.com

Mum’s the W

ord!

MTW 2013 Dates

Special thanks also to Swindon printers CATS SOLUTIONS for being so kind, efficient, and speedy! Tel: 01793 432913 www.cats-solutions.co.uk

Thank You!

Swindon Child Carers Swindon Child Carers have over 20 years experience in running mobile crèches for groups as well as training days, exhibitions, long term courses, one-off conferences, weddings and family functions, and a wide range of corporate events. Whatever the occasion, a Swindon Child Carers mobile crèche provides a bespoke service, individually tailored to suit the needs of the occasion. For more information tel: 01793 480048 or email: enquiries@swindonchildcarers.co.ukoccasion.

June 6th, Open night, come and meet us. 7.30pm at Lower Shaw Farm July 4th, 7.30pm at Lower Shaw Farm Then we break during the Summer Holidays and carry on where we left off in September - dates to follow!

Some of the Mums from Mums The Word (Back L-R) Carrie Ballard, Karen Smith, Monica Timms, Naomi Whitehouse (Front L-R) Lucinda Frankel, Martine Steinhardt, Liz Brackenbury (Founder), Donna Liggins


The Real Me...

by Danielle Brown - founder of Swindon Youth Life Project

If you peel away the concealer, the hair dye, and these super tight suck in pants. You will find, the person I really am. Because there lies... A few grey hairs, stretch marks, and dark circles under my eyes.

Apply Within Position Available: Mum Experience: None Required Training: On the job training provided, free for the duration of the contract Length of Contract: Life

If you were to remove this mask I wear, it would reveal the hidden truth... Because beyond this strong exterior, I feel pain, I cry, I hurt the same as you.

Hours of Work: 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year, year, after year, after...

The happy, amazing life I live, along with a promising future, Was built upon a past of torment, child abuse and torture.

Essential Requirements: Broad shoulders, a big heart and an even bigger bank balance

You see me as confident, happy, and full of positivity. But you don’t see the daily battles that I have with all my insecurities. I love my life and the people in it and I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. But of course I have flaws and make mistakes, that’s what makes me A human being. Before you lay judgment on another, remember, Just like you, they have a story, secrets, And a past... Nobody’s perfect and everyone Deserves the right to be loved And accepted for who they are.

Missing You by Joan Brooks

My Great grandchildren moved away and I miss them every night and day. I know they’re happy ‘cos they phone. But I am feeling so alone. I chat and laugh and really try but hang up the phone, oh how I cry. It’s too far for me to drive and see. I know they’re happy ‘cos they tell me. I get their news, hear of their friends. They got new clothes, the latest trends. They’re by the seaside now and love it. Colds and Asthma gone; they’re fit. So I’ll be happy for their sake. Treasure cards, for me they make. Count the days ‘til my next day when I can meet them both half way.

Angelina Jolie – I am not! by Karen Smith

Angelina Jolie, I am not! Instead I am covered in snot! With bags under my eyes and cereal in my hair Maybe Angelina does look like this and she just doesn’t care? My Uggs are cosy and my jeggings are tight My hair often looks like I’ve lost in a fight! How does Ange do it with 6 kids? With toys sprayed everywhere and yogurt lids! It’s all an illusion, with her you see For she has a team of maybe 1, 2 or 3? And let’s not forget, to save her from going mad Helping her do the dishes is dear old Brad!

Over time: Mandatory Pay: Yes, with your sanity

Job Description: • A challenging but varied position awaits the right candidate. Must have the ability to think on your feet (well there’s little chance of sitting down) and be flexible (emotionally and in body). • Must work effectively in a highly pressured and chaotic environment and perform resourcefully as part of a team and individually under own initiative. Most work will be on your own even though your part of a team, (when it’s them verses you .. trust me .. you’ll be on your own!) • Must possess the ability to communicate efficiently in demanding and awkward situations • Candidates should have the organisational skills of an army, plus hold a black cab knowledge of local area; as the ability to drive short distances in unachievable time scales is essential. • A degree in cake baking and costume design would be preferable, as your role will involve making fancy dress outfits within a 12 hour turnaround and producing cakes to rival Mr Kipling for fund raising events. • Experience with circus skills would prove a useful addition to your portfolio as you will find yourself juggling a million things at once. • A vital requirement is to be prepared for the unpreparable. Job Duties: • Be responsible at all times (even when irresponsibility seems the better option) • To provide 24hr unconditional support and a full back up service all year round. PLUS offer extra support both emotionally and financially as and when required, (and it will be... often!) • To honour the responsibility to be resourceful, resilient, and run ragged. • Also to have the patience of a Saint, the morals of a judge, the skin of a rhino, the memory of an elephant, the energy of an energetic thing, the speed of light and more balls than a bingo caller • In addition you must remain cool, calm, collected, conscientious, centred, creative, clever, clean, and ... sorry I got carried away .. I meant ‘ whilst remaining sane’! Additional skills: • To fulfil the role effectively it is beneficial to have some experience in being a home maker, a taxi service, a counsellor, entertainer, medic, psychologist, therapist, and any other form of career ending in ‘ist’ ‘gist’ or ‘pist’ (wine helps!) is favourable. • A military background in discipline and crowd control (for when their friends come to tea) would be helpful. Application deadline: Changes month to month Benefits: Varied work load, loyalty scheme (subject to change). Job for life! Good Luck! by Liz Brackenbury mum of 7 and founder of Mums The Word writing group. As published in Rosa Mattheson’s ‘A day in the life of 100 women’.

www.the100womenbookproject.com

5


The Bubble

My purse is empty by Alda Smith

by Elizabeth Hawke

Living within the seaside Bubble was bliss. There were other Bubbles covering cities and rural areas but the coastal ones were the best. At least that’s what my friends told me. “Let’s go for a swim!” they all said pulling me up off my beach towel. Gretchen was the fairest of us all. Her flowing bright red hair and pure white skin always set her apart. It’s also what drew us to her. She stood out from the crowd and we liked that. The four of us gelled so fast none of us could think of a significant time before our little clique took hold. Salome was quite the opposite of Gretchen. Her dark hair and skin was in stark contrast to the pale sand and blue water that surrounded us. She was the first to run into the sea and soon we all followed after. Gina and I were slower swimmers than Gretchen and Salome. We realised they were doing laps around us as we tread along. Gina had the most dazzling green eyes which beamed even more as the sea water irritated them. I paused to take reference and realised we were much further out than I’d ever been before. The edge of the Bubble was 50 metres away, a goal not to be missed. “Come on.” I urged the others. “Let’s go to the edge.” Gina was the only one to hold back at first, but when she realised she was being left behind she picked up her pace and joined us in our adventure. There were no restrictions or warnings. It wasn’t like the Bubble was charged. The Bubble was made of perfectly clear, infinitely strong polydurablast. It acted as a shield from any weapons of mass destruction. Once there was a shower of bombs at night and we all watched from our front gardens as they erupted like massive fireworks against the shield. Even through the ear defenders the noise was nearly deafening as the Bubble vibrated with each impact. Some people were too scared to watch and listen but I was fascinated and thrilled.

Our ancestors wrote of cities being laid to waste and now we could stand above ground watching a display of power fail beautifully over our heads. Salome reached the edge first, then Gretchen and I. As Gina was approaching I dove under to look through the shield into the ocean beyond. The dance of life all around was amazing. I popped back up to tell the others and they were quickly under the water watching the show with me. The shoal of fish performed for us, shifting and glimmering in unison. Suddenly they parted revealing a seal on the chase. We all came up for air and then went back down again. More seals shot though the shoals of silvery fish. The display seemed to last for several minutes while each of us took it in turns to go up for air. All of us were under, transfixed, hands against the Bubble when subtle vibrations began and intensified until right before our eyes a flash of grey and white shot directly past us thundering its flexing body against the shield as it flew past. We followed, popping out of the water, only to see the Great White shark splash back into the sea. Down again we went and it was gone. Back to the surface we all gasped and shrieked with joy and awe over such an amazing sight. Salome and I were resting against the Bubble while Gina and Gretchen faced us. Gina went pale looking beyond Salome and I. Without thinking I spun around and went under. The jaws were agape, rows of teeth protruding, eyes as black as night coming straight for us. On impact the Bubble gave just enough to bounce me backwards, slamming me into one of my friends who embraced me as if I was a floating device. I couldn’t get free and we were sinking. My whole body went into panic mode as my need for air took over. I bit into her arm and propelled myself off of her to the surface.

It was Gretchen who had been clinging to me. Salome, Gina and I got our breath and went back under for her. There was blood on both sides of the Bubble. We searched frantically for her as deep as we could go. Back on the surface we cried out her name and sobbed for our own helplessness.

Long ago when wheels were square and my Husband had some hair

Quickly we were under again going deeper and further from the edge. There she was a weightless vision, hair floating freely, lifeless body. We dragged her to the surface and began our feeble attempts at CPR while pinning her against the shield.

It seemed such fun to run around never keeping my feet on the ground

Salome signalled back to shore in hope of a rescue. We were so far out that the people on shore looked like bright dots of colour rather than human figures. We prayed they would see Salome before it was too late. Gretchen’s colour had gone from pale to blue so quickly. We took turns blowing air in and pumping her chest as best as we could. Then the whirl of an engine came into earshot. All of us yelled and waved as they came near. They grabbed Gretchen and quickly wrapped her in the life-cocoon preparing to tow her back to shore. The lifeguard heaved her up in such a way that water began flooding out of her mouth and she began to stir and cough. He quickly secured her in a safe position and then he sped away. The remaining lifeguard explained that he could take us back one by one. Salome and I decided that Gina needed to go first while she and I made the effort to get back on our own. When Gina was gone, Salome and I took one last look back into the ocean. There was no movement. No life. Just water, lapping rhythmically against the shield, tainted with blood.

When my waist was thin and legs were shaved it was up to us how we behaved I remember days when my purse was full what I didn’t know was life was dull

Where to eat, what to wear what latest style to do my hair We planned for a home, a dog, a car, foreign travel to lands afar Two cute children obedient and good all together in a nice neighbourhood Reality bites all these years on when we look back on what we have done Yes we have a home, a dog and a car and we’ve travelled a bit but not so far We have two children that is true they’re free and spirited through and through We no longer worry about where to eat I spend longer worrying about the price of meat What to wear is no longer a worry as long as we can put it on in a hurry The style of my hair is not a concern a hat is the answer you quickly learn So time has passed Geoff’s hair has thinned my waist is a long forgotten thing My purse is empty, life is full but I can’t remember last time it was dull.

7


It took me back

Foxy and Badger

by Monica Timms

by Gillian Freeman

It took me back, when Belinda was pregnant, to when I was expecting my own children.

The fox and the badger came out to play in my back garden early today. They swung on the swing and slid down the slide, they jumped on the trampoline, side by side. The fox he jumped higher and shouted with glee, the badger went higher and jumped in a tree. Badger climbed down, then foxy and he raced round the garden, happy and free. They jumped in the sandpit, right up to their knees. The sand it went flying and they sneezed and sneezed. All sandy and itchy they spotted the pool and in they both jumped, so fresh and so cool. Now happy and tired the hammock they spied, the last thing in the garden they wanted to try. The sun in the sky was shining so brightly, as the mid-morning breeze swayed the hammock so lightly. As I crept to my window for one last peek, both foxy and badger were fast asleep.

Writing Exercise

A Character in a book, who would I choose? by Lee Navarrete

A character in a book who would I be? Now that’s a hard choice there are so many I see. The strong determined woman to whom everyone turns, The one who is feared, just one look and you burn, I could be magical and mystical, the fae at night, When they are around you know you’re alright, The ones with the swords they fight fair and true, You wish in your dreams if that could be you, Goblins and dragons, witches and spells, What do you mean, that’s me, how can you tell? Princesses’ and princes the beautiful ones, Or the evil and cunning who will you become?

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All of us play out our characters in life, We feel at times their happiness and strife, For me I will be who I choose to today, Tomorrow I’ll be different and that’s ok!

Joanna and Raymond were both born in the G.P. Unit built behind St. Mary’s Hospital, Portsmouth. It was lovely, as far as I can remember. I had my own room, for the birth and the couple of days afterwards that I was staying in. My mother was horrified. She had stayed in bed for a fortnight after I was born. I could have stayed in for a week, but against my better judgement (what did I know about giving birth?) I decided two days would be fine and I could go home. Well, of course no one prepares you for a new baby. No one can. They can tell you about crying babies, broken nights, and dirty nappies – and when Joanna and Raymond were born it was terry nappies that had to be soaked in a bucket and washed by hand every day. I have one particular memory. We lived in a flat in Farlington, just outside Portsmouth and one morning I found myself hanging out the usual line of nappies and small items, thinking, how did I get here? I had no memory at all of doing the washing. I didn’t have a washing machine until we moved to Highworth in 1974. Well, Joanna was born at 9.43am on the 25th August 1971. She was perfect – of course, and I managed to breast feed her until I developed a breast abscess. We were on holiday in Torquay, staying with some friends. I ended up in Torbay hospital having the abscess drained. Joanna was looked after in the children’s ward but I wasn’t allowed to see her. So I spent most of my days in great discomfort from the abscess combined with regular bouts of crying. Eventually I said ‘I want to go home’ so we did and I had to go to the hospital in Portsmouth to have the abscess drained again. I was quite poorly for some time. A district nurse came to dress the wound and I was given vitamins to help me get better. Joanna thrived on SMA. Two years, eight months later, Raymond was born, and three weeks after his birth we moved from Portsmouth to Highworth. I managed to breast feed him, so he never needed a bottle. In January 1978 Andrew was born in Princess Margaret Hospital. I should have known I would have problems with him right from the start of my pregnancy. Apparently I was big for my dates so I had to have a scan. Now, in 1977 scans were rare and you didn’t get the lovely photo’s you get these days. The doctor ran the scanner over my tummy. I couldn’t see the monitor, when he and his colleague started talking and pointing at it. ‘What’s wrong’ I asked. They turned the monitor so that I could see my umbilical cord in all its glory, then I saw a leg and a foot. Oh my, it was so amazing. When it came to finding out my dates, I was correct – just big. Andrew was due on the 6th January but as both Joanna and Raymond had been late I didn’t expect anything different from this child. He eventually made his appearance on the 20th January. This time I stayed in hospital for a week and was so glad I did. I went home much better able to cope with Andrew, Raymond, and Joanna, who was now at school. Belinda produced our third grandson, Lennon Michael, on the 21st February. A dear little soul, who we will watch grow, like we watch our other grandchildren. They are all lovely, of course; and it’s great being a Nanna. You can go home after baby-sitting and go to bed, knowing Mummy and Daddy are looking after them.

9


Mum on the Run

On-line hub for Swindon’s creative Talent

by Victoria Twigg

Sitting in the hot bath, sipping my stewed tea and listening to the gurgles from the pipes in the next door room, I realised my fantasy of skipping away to a hotel room to claim some me time, was shattered.

Great Western Writers’ Network is a new virtual community for writers and those who provide services to writers – illustrators, copy-editors, proof-readers, coaches, workshop leaders, publishers – to connect and share information, events news, writing samples and inspiration.

Almost nightly, since giving birth three years ago, I dreamed of dropping everything - even the babies - and driving to the nearest hotel. I longed to have a bath, uninterrupted; eat my dinner, uninterrupted, and sleep. All night: uninterrupted. Sometimes, just sitting in a McDonald’s having a polystyrene tasting coffee and reading The Star, often beats staying at home. The need to escape feels entirely justifiable. Especially, if you can no longer go to the toilet in peace! So, when I found out I needed to be in Coventry for a conference, I quickly cooked-up plans to wangle an overnight stay. Ok, it wasn’t exactly Paris, but it could be my night away. Of course, I couldn’t tell my husband my selfish plan. It would need to be a spur of the moment decision. Something ‘out of my hands, sweetheart.’ Excitedly, I booked a ‘delightful Tudor country house set within beautiful landscaped gardens.’ Bliss. How surprised I was, to see the ‘Tudor’ house was on a main road; next to a 24-hour petrol station and opposite the White Hart. Never mind, I thought, I’m sure inside would be resplendent. It wasn’t. I reminded myself, it didn’t matter what the place was like, I was just happy to be away. Then I saw my room. A single bed, a tiny TV, stinky carpets and a window overlooking the hotel’s wheelie bins. But at least there were two custard creams waiting for me.

10

H

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tr n e ov

Established by local author, freelance writer and mum of two Juliet Platt the Network currently consists of a Facebook page where people can post messages, events, ideas and requests for help. 2.30pm on Saturday afternoon. What could I do? I could do anything! What did I want to do? I wanted to go home. Pull yourself together. Enjoy your day of freedom. Right, I’m having an afternoon nap! I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t want to sleep. I felt so lonely, trying to sleep on a single bed in a hotel room in Coventry. I read my book. I read the local paper. I watched an old episode of Buffy. I pored over the hotel’s fire regulations, and I sent texts to my husband to say how much I was missing everybody. He replied with smiley photos of the children making fairy cakes. Ok, bath time. I could sit in a hot bath, full of bubbles and not have to worry about someone bursting in to use the potty or getting in with me and weeing on my flannel. I poured in the luminous green, industrial looking bath foam and stepped into my private spa. I wanted to just lie there – under the glow of the fluorescent tube lighting – and read my book. As my head hit the uncomfortable slope of the bath, I heard the incredibly loud noise of the guest in the next bedroom, having a poo. That’s it! I’m going home!

Describing her inspiration for the network Juliet said: “There is so much creative talent and activity in Swindon. Every time I attend a literary event I meet people who are keen to get their writing off the ground, and I know that there’s a lot of skill in the town to tap into. I wanted to create a virtual hub to bring people together and raise awareness of the great resources there are in Swindon.” The Network also has good links with young writers and aims to provide a place where youngsters can show-case their work. The next step for the Network is to create a blog where writers can contribute articles about their experience and snippets of their work. To get involved visit: www.facebook.com/ greatwesternwritersnetwork

Geocaching? What is that? I hear you ask...

by Helen Newman (Mum of 6, ranging from 19-5) Geocaching is treasure hunting using a GPS (Global Positioning System). Geocachers hunt for containers (caches) hidden by other Geocachers. Another way to describe it is a modern day form of orienteering. Geocachers hide containers and then upload the co-ordinates onto Geocaching.com for others to download onto their GPS or phone (you can get the geocaching App for most modern phones) for them to go and hunt and find. Caches come in all shapes and sizes from the tiniest nano cache to an oil drum size. All caches contain a logbook, which the finder signs to show they have found it. Some caches, especially the bigger ones, contain “swag”, items to swap. The rule is if you take anything from a cache you put something back of the same or greater value. When you return home you can write about your experience of the cache on the website. Geocaches are placed all over the world and can take you to some lovely places. We have been to places we’d never have known about if it wasn’t for Geocaching. Some are placed in series on long walks, some stand-alone, some are child friendly, some are not … often they are placed near historical places and of natural beauty. A lot are rural but some are urban. It is a great way of getting out and exploring the great outdoors. We started Geocaching in Oct 2010. Our children enjoy it and they enjoy finding the treasure. We love it, it’s a great way of getting out in the fresh air, good exercise and a great family activity. To date we have found nearly 2000 caches and we are addicted! See: www.Geocaching.com for more information.

Mums The Word meet monthly at Lower Shaw Farm from 7.30pm - 9pm. Your first session is free and £2 there after - the kettle is always on! If you’d like to come along, please contact Liz Brackenbury by email: bizzybs@btinternet.com or call: 01793 832715

11


Factor Serendipity

A Social Taboo

by Julie Kernow

Infertility and miscarriage what terrible words they are, what terrific pain they bring to thousands of women around the world, pain that cannot be put into words. Yet when you are travelling that road you think you are the only one. You hide your grief and distress inside, silently, alone.

If you decide to try for a baby and you become pregnant when you try, then you are unlikely ever to consider the circumstances around your fertility that month. However, roughly one in six couples, don’t conceive when they’d hoped and there may follow months, or even years, of trying and not succeeding; hopes high and hopes dashed.

by Lee Navarrete

As people get to know what you are going through, you become this person to avoid. ‘What can I say to that poor woman, I’ve never known anyone go through that before, better I stay away in case I say the wrong thing?’ So, you, the person who is grieving becomes the one who comforts others, ‘it’s ok’ I say, ‘don’t worry’, give them a hug and send them on their way. Funny that, but it’s not funny. The infertile, childless woman becomes a social pariah, ‘better not invite her today, there’s going to be lots of children here’. The room falls silent as you walk in and suddenly people stop talking about their children in front of you, although, I must admit at times that was a blessed relief. You really find out who your friends are and I would like to thank my friends for seeing me through. The ones who still invited me, even though there would be lots of children there. Leaving the choice to me whether I stayed or left. The friends who swiftly and sensitively changed the subject when the room fell silent and the friends who still shared their children’s lives with me; they know who they are. I didn’t know if I could publish this for the entire world to see. Put in print about something so painful and personal, but I do know we brush infertility under the carpet and if women like me who live with infertility can’t talk about it, who will? Some of us choose not to have children; some of us like me have the choice taken away from us and some of us are lucky enough to hold our baby in our arms. Our one thing in common is that we are all women. Women, I have decided, are like oceans. Sometimes still and calm, sometimes crashing and twirling like the waves. Sometimes we go backwards and forwards like the tides. But underneath we all have hidden depths and reserves of strength that only we know are there. Sometimes it takes terrible experiences to find that hidden strength. I would like to take a moment to think about the thousands of women who have been through IVF or have lived with miscarriages, we don’t all get to have our miracle baby. I would like to celebrate the lives of those children who were never born, and the lives of those children so desperately wanted who were never even conceived. There is no grave to mark their life, there is no memoriam to grieve over. We grieve for those children in our hearts. Just because they were never born doesn’t mean they never existed and I would like to acknowledge that.

Infertility is a subject much more openly discussed these days but we seem no further in understanding why fertility happens when it does. Doctors practising IVF and other treatments will have some idea of the optimum physical conditions which may help a pregnancy occur (folic acid, good diet, no smoking, drinking etc) but even if these conditions exist, with the best will in the world, pregnancy does not always occur. We’ve all heard the story of the person who was told she could never have children and so she chose to adopt. Having adopted a child, she then finds that she has fallen pregnant, against all the odds, the old fashioned way. Does this suggest that the happiness and fulfilment she feels at becoming a mum affects her hormones and/or her emotional state which in turn effect the quality of, well, what exactly? The quality or number of her eggs? Do the eggs become easier to penetrate? Or is it something else? Let’s call it ‘factor serendipity’. In my case my husband and I had a clear cut case of ‘unexplained infertility’. During all the investigations and intrusive treatments I sometimes used to long for a ‘find’ which might suggest that something was blocked,missing or low in quality. It would have been useful to explain why we hadn’t conceived. But no, everything was in fine working order... except that it wasn’t... working, that is. After giving up my burgeoning career for something less stressful: trying to be proactive by setting up a fertility help group and generally trying to make the best of the life we had together, we hurtled into our late thirties and the stress of living in ‘Infertile Limbo Land’ was beginning to tell on our relationship. My husband began to wonder whether, at his age, he really wanted to become a dad at all (really?). Then I fell ill with the ‘flu. ‘Don’t bother to go ahead with treatment this month’, they said, at the fertility clinic, ‘because you won’t fall pregnant when your immune system is so compromised’. My husband and I continued to argue at just about everything. Then my elderly grandmother fell ill. From her hospital bed she observed my husband (of some six years) and declared ‘Julie, there’s a handsome bachelor, you should marry him’. It’s true what they say about older, infirm people losing their inhibitions! She would never have said anything like that before. Three days after my grandmother died, I conceived my daughter, the old fashioned way. Instinctively I felt she was in some way a gift from my grandmother, or that my grandmother had to leave this life before my little girl could enter it. I talked to my consultant at the hospital about this and she said that ‘one in, one out’ had happened many times in her experience. Another ‘factor serendipity’ I do believe. Speaking to many mums over the years, I have heard stories similar to those above and also others where people feel intuitively something had been preventing them from becoming pregnant, something which had nothing to do with folic acid or having sex when your egg(s) can clearly be shown on the scanning machine. I have no particular theory to offer other than to say I believe, where human fertility is concerned, there is more at work than just mechanics and, until we know more, factor serendipity will have to suffice.

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The ultimate gift? Swindon Mum Anna-Marie Delaney shares her amazing and emotional journey in her own words, on being a surrogate mum. In March 2012 I gave birth to a gorgeous baby boy. Nothing special about that I hear you say, but the circumstances surrounding his birth were a bit out of the ordinary... In early 2009, I made a decision that would affect my family forever. I wanted to help a couple achieve their dream of becoming parents. My decision was met with a mixed range of emotions, from people telling me I was ‘completely mad’, to ‘that’s wonderful’ and ‘you have our full support’. “Great” I said “but where do I start?” I was guided to place my advert on an American surrogacy website. Any potential parents knew to look there for a UK based surrogate. I placed my advert. And I waited.

Within hours my email account had 40 messages, within days it was close to 100. Then began the daunting task of reading every single one. It’s hard not to feel real emotion when you read what these couples go through just to achieve their dream of having a baby. After spending days reading and answering emails I finally chose a couple and we arranged to meet for coffee. I spent all night worrying about whether they would like me and think I was good enough to have the privilege of having their baby. My fears were put to rest as the meeting went really well and we got on right from the start. A torrent of meetings with clinics and counsellors followed and once successfully through this we were finally on our way. The next bit I think is the hardest part for the surrogate as you have to start medication which switches off your own normal cycle and you are completely under the control of the clinic. The medication is designed to make the lining of the womb extra fluffy and sticky so that when the embryos go in, they have more chance of successfully attaching.

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I have NEVER felt so huge and bloated. So bloated that people asked me if I was pregnant and I’d reply that the embryos hadn’t even gone in yet!

Embryo transfer day arrived. They had defrosted well and survived the night. Three embryos were implanted. Then we waited the longest wait ever to do a pregnancy test. It was absolute torment but however bad it was for me, it was much worse for them. I already had a family. So much was resting on this. I felt so much pressure, surely it would work. But what if it doesn’t? Then I would have to tell them this dream is over. I got out of bed at 4.00am on testing day, I hadn’t slept a wink through nerves. I made a cup of tea and sat back on the bed. My house was so quiet, it isn’t usually. I could bear it no longer and decided to do the test. My hands were shaking and I felt sick. ‘Oh god please let it work’ I prayed. I don’t usually trouble the big man upstairs but on that occasion I did ask nicely. I stood in the bathroom unable to get my hands to pick the test up to look at it. I needed a reinforcement so I woke my husband. He marched straight into the bathroom, picked it up and looked at it. He didn’t say anything. My heart sank. All that emotion, I started to cry. He then muttered something. Through silent tears I saw him coming towards me. ‘Unbelievable’ he’s saying, ‘babe it’s positive’. It was only 5.00am, but I needed to phone them, certain that they wouldn’t be sleeping either. I found them on speed dial. It barely rang once before it was snatched up. I then put them on loud speaker. Nothing was said for a few seconds then I told them,‘Congratulations mummy and daddy’. Well you’ve never heard so much noise in your life! They were crying and screaming. We were crying too. All of us emotional wrecks. We had a scan early at the clinic and they could see the little heart beating. Lots of photos to take home for everyone. Only one baby, but one is good enough.

My pregnancy continued as normal, the very same as if I was having my own baby. All the usual checks and scans were done which the parents attended as well. But at the back of my mind I was more aware of the little twinges and always a bit more anxious as this was indeed a very special cargo. The day of the birth arrives. I go into hospital for a check up as I’m overdue. I’d been having contractions for at least a week but they weren’t enough to kick start labour. The consultant was clearly in a good mood as he said ‘the labour ward is quiet, lets pop your waters’. It was a good quick labour resulting in a healthy baby boy. I cannot put into words what the feelings are like. Midwives came in to see us and congratulate us all.

I had a quick cuddle with him after mum and dad had theirs. But I knew deep down I could not allow myself more than that. We left hospital together but then went our separate ways. Me home to my family where I belong and them home to start their new life as a family. She called every day out of concern as she knew I was going through hell. My body was telling me I’d had a baby, but I didn’t have one with me. I can only describe it as being like a bereavement yet I knew he was alive and safe with his parents. Time is a great healer, and this proved to be the case. We all just needed time to adjust to our situations. We talk regularly on the phone and she sends me little pictures. However tough it got I never regretted the decision I made to be a surrogate mum.

“Congratulations mummy and daddy”


Alf’s World – Buckle Up for the Ride by Rebecca Nanwood

Motherhood - the magical roller coaster ride which will change your life forever. After 3 children I had accepted that my life would never be the same. From now on it would involve a series of ups and downs equal to being on the biggest, scariest, but most awesome roller coaster ride. Then came along child number four and the ride changed again.

Letter to Santa by Lee Navarrete

Santa, Santa have you seen, What a very, very good girl I’ve been, I’ve been cleaning, hoovering, cooking and scrubbing, I’ve done all my jobs before I go clubbing. In this letter I’ve written to you, Are my hopes and dreams to name but a few! Well one, It’s that man over there the one in the britches, I’ll give everything up even my riches. He’s so gorgeous and handsome, Look, he’s so fit, Please put him in my stocking, Put him in quick. I’ll be grateful and happy; I’ll feel so bright, Especially if, you put him in tonight, Oh how I wish to be seven again, The letters I sent were answered back then.

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Being able to see the world through your child’s eyes is one of life’s most precious gifts and revealing experiences of them all. Seeing the world through the unique eyes of a child with additional needs is, I believe, one of the highest honours to be bestowed upon a parent, and something which I have treasured throughout the nine years of my son’s life. Let me tell you about Alf. Alf is partially deaf in both ears and suffers from a sensory processing disorder. This means that (a) he might not hear what you have said properly or, (b) he might hear what you have said, but may not have understood or interpreted the information correctly. This, coupled with an extremely active imagination, makes life pretty interesting, for him and also for us, his family. Alf has been through three operations in Swindon and a further two at Oxford Children’s Hospital. He often asks to have another operation at Oxford. They have a Playstation there and a huge pile of games which he could choose from. Pain has been a part of his life and he endures it well, and the one thing which you can guarantee is; whatever Alf goes through, he bounces back double quick, with a huge smile and a mischievous twinkle in his eyes. When the sun shines in Alf’s world it can be 1c or 25c, it does not matter. As soon as Alf catches a glimpse of sunshine, even if the ground is still frozen and crispy white on a winter’s morning, then I am asked to get the paddling pool out! That same sun which is his friend can also be his worst enemy though. Come winter or summer you will always find Alf with his baseball cap on. He is not trying to make a fashion statement like so many of the kids do. He genuinely needs the cap in order to shield his eyes from the sun. Without it he could develop a migraine complete with severe vomiting fits lasting for several hours.

Santa, Santa, you were a dream, A man in red a magic unseen, It’s now up to us to keep your presence alive, A quiet whisper, mince pies, reindeer dust on the drive.

Alf has a wonderful and unique way of describing things and likes to share his thoughts with everyone and anyone who will listen. It can make for some very entertaining and random conversations...

Now I am big and grown up in my life, I sometimes forget I’m already a wife, Long ago I realise, you answered my letter, I look to my hubby, I couldn’t have better!

Alf is really affectionate and can always be guaranteed to make you smile, either with his actions, or his words, or in the way he has interpreted something. Sometimes it is an unexpected hug, sometimes it is seeing the mischievous twinkle in his eyes, whilst he bear hugs your legs and you wonder just what is coming next – you never quite know! Every one of my days now has an air of unpredictability about it.

Writing Exercise

So little is known about Alf’s rare chromosomal abnormality and we just do not know how it will affect his health in the future. What I do know though, is that I am truly blessed to be able to share Alf’s world and just seeing his smile and having him by my side makes my day.

Rebecca and her son Alf


Super-Moo by Martine Steinhardt

There was a cow called Bessie, who didn’t like to say That really she was bored of grass for dinner everyday But Bess’s Gran told stories of the food beyond the gates, And how she’d go exploring on her Superhero skates! The next day Bess was grazing, beneath the morning sky, Watching farmer Barry hang the washing out to dry. When Granny cow who’d hidden, behind a pair of jeans, Asked why Bess was quiet and had hardly touched her greens. Bess replied, ‘Its grass Gran, it’s just a little dry, Could we add some chilli sauce, or put it in a pie?’ ‘I want a food adventure, like you had on your trips, When you dined on meadow mash and four leaf clover chips’ Gran handed Bess a parcel, she’d kept inside a drawer, Wrapped in coloured paper with a bow made out of straw. Bess was so excited, she ripped along the tape, And underneath the paper was a Superhero cape! A pair of Lycra underpants and money for her meals, Then she counted seven shoes, all with shiny wheels! ‘My Gran’s a Superhero!’ Bess cried out in surprise. ‘She’s even got a cape’ Bess thought, ‘I wonder if she flies?’ Bess tied the cape around her neck then hugged her Gran goodbye. ‘I’m ever so excited Gran, but can I ask you why, I need so many pairs of skates, I only have two feet?’ ‘Because my dear you’ll never know how many friends you’ll meet!’ ‘Imagine where you’d like to go, a planet or a park? You just need to remember to be home before its dark’. Bess closed her eyes and thought of pages from her favourite book, Before she started spinning and the ground beneath her shook. Opening one eyelid Bess could not believe her luck, She’d landed in a story with a terrier named Chuck. ‘Chuck I’m in your fairy tale!’ He laughed and scratched his chin, ‘Welcome to the Highlands Bess, now where shall we begin?’

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Chuck made them both a feast of Scottish porridge oats and then, He borrowed Bess’s purple cape to make a cosy den. They finished this adventure with a game of farmyard chess, And Hide ‘n’ Seek with Nessie on the cool shores of Loch Ness. ‘I cannot stay forever Chuck, I’m on a quest you see, I’ve promised Gran that I’ll take home some tasty things for tea’. ‘Let’s go somewhere nice and hot, Australia!’ Chuck cried. ‘We’d better get our skates on, it’s a long and bumpy ride!’ They flew so high up in the air they touched the highest cloud. Then floated down to golden sand, when someone spoke aloud, ‘Hi, I’ve been expecting you; I’m Bev the Kangaroo, You’re just in time for tea today its leek and pumpkin stew’. They went to Sydney Opera House and then Taronga Zoo, And sailed around the Harbour Bridge, just to see the view. Then eating juicy mangoes, they rested on a couch, And Bev produced a piece of paper from her furry pouch. ‘If you like exploring I’ve a cosmic treasure map!’ ‘That sounds like fun’ they all agreed, and vanished with a zap. Pretending they were pirates on a great galactic chase, They found a friendly planet lost in deepest outer space. ‘Welcome to food Island!’ said an alien called Pete. ‘You’ll find the treasure over there, it’s all that you can eat!’ But Bess’s tummy grumbled, it gave a mighty groan She longed for a grass sandwich and to find her way back home She realised how Grannie cow made everything taste great, With special Gran ingredients served up on every plate. ‘You must come home and see her Pete!’ then linking Bess’s arm, They saw a flash of stardust and were back on Grannie’s Farm. The four explorers found themselves behind the chicken coop, Where Bess enjoyed a steaming bowl of Grannie’s meadow soup. ‘Gran this is delicious, though I’ve searched the world for treasure, I think I’ve found it here at home, you are the best cook ever!’ Now everyday on Grannies Farm, the golden lunch bell rings, Reminding Bess and all her friends that trying different things, Can lead to great adventures! And you’re invited too. Cos having great adventures is what Superhero’s do!

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The Hug As I sit on the doorstep, looking out, I am aware of sudden company: more of a crumple, a leaning than a hug – baby skin touches my own; a spontaneous, momentary communication of love. Katherine T Owen spent 14 years bed bound with severe ME/CFS. She is author of It’s OK to Believe – A Journey With Faith And Reason, available in Swindon’s Rainbow Bookshop.

Then he is gone – no expectation of thanks, no chance to reciprocate. Off to randomly bestow love and mayhem, as is the way with three year olds.

Starbucking by Karen Smith

Things seem to have gone full circle I’m in Starbucks again But instead of baby in a pram I have a little friend! We share a hot chocolate & a cheeky bit of chatter We giggle & share stories Time doesn’t seem to matter! My little friend is charming but only just three, She sits & listens, watching everything intently But soon things will change again and off to school she’ll go No doubt I’ll still visit Starbucks, but with whom? I just don’t know!

© Katherine T Owen

www.a-spiritual-journey-of-healing.com

Wri ting enc mum s, our a g ch il dre e to w n rite

Tea-break Chat with Angela James You’re a busy mum with no time to write but want to write – what can you do? Firstly, believe in yourself that you are or will become a writer. Then, find a way of writing that works for you, and here I mean ‘when’ you find time to write. This will vary greatly from one mum to another according to family needs, along with the hundreds of other things that creep in and ‘steal’ time. The point is, make a start and know that you are now on your way to becoming a writer. It doesn’t have to be a fancy notebook or expensive piece of computer gadgetry, but do keep any jottings and ideas in a box file so that you know your work is not sitting underneath the pile of latest artwork the kids brought home from school. Your work is just as important, so keep it safe. ‘But I’m too busy to write!’ I hear you cry, but think on this – if you only wrote 125 words (a small paragraph) every day for a year, you would have written over 45,000 words! My first book The Golden Moonbeam is around 63,000, so you can see how in one year, you could almost have written a book! That is a truly wonderful thought, but... writing can be a lonely occupation, and this is where writing groups such as MTW become invaluable. They can give you an introduction to others with a similar interest, offer advice and feedback, and most importantly, keep you motivated. If you’ve always dreamed of being a writer, then start today and make your dream come true. I did!

Find out more about Angela James on her website: www.angelajamesauthor.co.uk

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by Harry Smith, aged 6

This Day by Natalie Gray

This day I fly open in the spring sun This day I fly over the meadow, fresh in my view As I do, I scale the heights Of a golden heart made pure through love This day I fly through everything that withers And come to myself, my heart, my peace And there connected I build my life Tasting the joy that wells from within Laughing the gifts to others Harvesting the stars, eyes shining bright with fire. Tomorrow holds uncertainty Yesterday is passed So this day...................is all that we need.

Writing Exercise February

Acrostic Poems

by Donna Liggins

Free of illness in this month of love Excited for life that was nearly snubbed Back in January we came to near Reverse the symptoms! Let his lungs draw clear Up until then we’d been care free Alfie our first born was only 3 Rejoice he is doing well

Young and playful, my Alfie will be

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Just Me

My Children’s Castle

I used to think that, if alone, how simple life would be, With just myself to think about - just me instead of we I’d do the things I’ve never done, but always wanted to: I’d go to bed just when I chose and read the whole night through, I’d eat and drink just what I liked and when I liked as well, And then I’d leave the washing up til morning - what the hell!

If I had a castle, I’d fill it to the top With soldiers made of jelly and a cannon lollipop

Oh yes I’d have a rare old time with just myself to please, With half the shopping, half the cost I’d live a life of ease. But now I find I am alone and life is not the same, Without you here to share it, dear, it’s just a dreary game, The things I’ve never done before no longer count for me, I creep into my lonely bed, just me instead of we. It doesn’t matter what I eat, I don’t care what I drink; And when I’ve washed one plate, one cup, I sit alone and think of all the things you used to do to help my days along, to make me laugh and cheer me up whenever things went wrong, And though we had our ups and downs, I’d give the world to be with you again the way we were - just we instead of me. By unknown. This piece was given to Kathleen Bond by Cyril Tarrent, but we’re unsure as to whether Cyril wrote it or not. If he did, beautiful Cyril!

School Days by Karen Smith

I’ve lost my little boy, Not literally you understand! That cheeky smile is still there and Reaching for my hand! But to school and bigger things it seems Time to realise his potential and release those dreams With lunch box wars and scraped knees, ‘Yes Teacher’, ‘No Teacher’, eager to please! He’s still my little boy But time moves swiftly on.. He’s always happy when he gets home And will always sing a song! So my little boy is here and as I say good night I must be comforted with the thought… That surely I did something right!

Writing Exercise

by Joy Perkins (Foster Carer)

If I had a castle The moat would be blue bobbles With liquorice eels and Bertie men, one of which would hobble If I had a castle, A wheelchair ramp would raise, 10,000 million children into its awesome gaze If I had a castle A princess I would be. I’d climb up to the very top and meet my family

How I Feel About Being A Mother by Hilary

It defines me (but it is not my label - my name is my label)

Mud and fluff and snacks and stuff Dirty faces, mucky hands Sticky fingers, licking lips, Lots of laughter, children carefree Now then mum what’s for tea?

It is the only thing I have always wanted to do, every other ‘aspiration’ was fleeting. It has nothing to do with carrying a child in your womb for nine months. That is a beautiful experience that I am so glad I had (but it could never be the same again for me). It allows you to appreciate how amazing human life is and begin the journey bonding with your child but you are bonding with an abstract idea, a picture in your head...nothing more. In the same way the bonding process is already starting with my adopted child, a picture in my head of a little person I want to care for.

by Liz Brackenbury

It has nothing to do with giving birth or breast feeding a child. The moment I truly knew I had bonded with Harry was not when he was born, but when he nearly died. I’m not too shabby at it...I might go so far as to say I’m pretty proud of what I’ve done so far. I haven’t done any of it alone. I make a lot of mistakes, and I don’t even learn from them all first or even second time. Harry has made me the mother that I am, I know what is important and never worry about ‘silly little things’ or whether or not he is achieving milestones before any other child. As a result Harry is a very happy, confident and relaxed boy. I know I would not be like this if Harry had not been my first child...by nature I am a typical middle class mother! Just not the yummy type. Parenting a disabled child is very emotional work but the most special experience anyone can have. I am so very proud of every tiny thing Harry achieves.

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It is the best job in the world.

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The Rise and Fall of Little Voice Written and directed by Jim Cartwright, the Olivier Award-winning The Rise and Fall of Little Voice returns in 2013 starring Beverley Callard as ‘Mari Hoff’, Ray Quinn as ‘Billy’, Duggie Brown as ‘Mr Boo’ and introducing Jess Robinson as ‘Little Voice’. The cast also includes Simon Thorp as ‘Ray Say’ and Sally Plumb as ‘Sadie’. In this heart-warming northern fairy tale, shy Little Voice spends most of her time immersed in her late Father’s record collection and perfecting her astonishing impersonations, much to the dismay of her fun loving, out of control mother Mari. Overheard singing by Ray Say, a hapless talent scout and Mari’s man of the moment, Little Voice is propelled to stardom as Ray sets about creating the show of the century in a dingy local working man’s club. With an agent from London coming and everything counting on this one performance, Mari and Ray’s ticket to the big time rests squarely on Little Voice’s shoulders. But has anyone asked Little Voice what she wants? Featuring songs from some of the world’s most iconic divas including Marilyn Monroe, Shirley Bassey and Judy Garland, this is a night of star-filled magic to remember. The Rise and Fall of Little Voice will run at the Wyvern Theatre, Swindon, from Monday 13 to Saturday 18 May 2013. Book tickets today at wyverntheatre.org.uk or by calling the Ticket Office on 01793 524481. When Beverley Callard was last in Swindon it was in a play called Mums The Word! Juliet Platt writing for the Swindon Link magazine made a connection, got in touch with MTW and as a result The Wyvern Theatre and Beverley Callard have offered MTW readers a £5.00 discount off her Little Voice show on Thursday 16th May 2013. Just quote Mums The Word at time of booking. Juliet Platt is founder of Great Western Writers Network and runs Writing Journal workshops, see pg11 for more details. To book tickets tel 01793 524481 Wyvern Theatre Square Swindon, Wiltshire SN1 1QN. For The Swindon Link magazine contact Roger Ogle 01793 608840. www.swindonlink.com

MTW

June 6th - Open night, come and meet us. 7.30pm at Lower Shaw Farm Just turn up! Free conversations and no obligations :) xx

ing mums it n u p u o r gg laughter in d n a r “An amazin e p a ith pens, p y personal m s t’ a h together,w T . e atmospher , a relaxing this group” g in in jo in experience ankel Lucinda Fr


MTWord 2013