Friday, 28 November 2014

Living Green-Ish

Every so often I read about things like BPA in plastic causing cancer or how even disposable 'eco' nappies take a lifetime to decompose and I think about my family's health and our impact on the world. And often I do try to do something about it. Not always; I'm reasonably green-minded but I have to admit that if it significantly inconveniences us or costs too much, it doesn't happen. I'm not all-or-nothing about it - just trying to reduce our footprint while maintaining a reasonable quality of life.

So, recently after reading an article written by a woman in New York who generates 'Zero Waste' I've been thinking about our family's ways again. I do think we're quite green in some ways, but I don't think we're all that radical... here are some things we've thought about, and what we're doing about them.

Baby being washed in water :)
  • BPA in plastic and cans. Apparently tinned tomatoes are the worst offenders. I buy Cirio tomatoes in a tetra pak now, and all our tupperware is BPA-free. Yes, we're still using plastic - all other alternatives have a drawback: glass obviously is heavy and breakable, metal can't be microwaved. Which brings me on to...
  • Microwave. Yes, we've got one, and yes, we're keeping it. It's quick and low energy, therefore green, and I really haven't seen enough credible research to support the fearmongers.
    Besides, since the gas man condemned our oven as "Immediately Dangerous" the microwave has become even more essential in my kitchen!
  • Pressure Cooker. Quick, therefore green, this is an unmissable staple in my kitchen. We used to have a slow cooker but we've replaced it with this gadget now, which has a slow cooker function as well as pressure cooking.
  • Supermarket shopping. We shop online and have it delivered to our door. That's no less green than getting in a car to to there ourselves, in fact the van going house to house is probably less of an impact than all those people individually getting in their cars and going to the supermarket; plus, it's so much more convenient and it stops me impulse buying!
  • Local produce. My neighbour's son is a greengrocer and he supplies me with a weekly veg box. It's not organic: it's much cheaper than organic boxes you can get, it's even cheaper than the same non-organic produce at the supermarket! But it's travelled fewer miles and comes in a cardboard box, so we have minimal waste to deal with - the cardboard box either functions as kindling for our fire or we give it back to him.
  • Transport. We do have a car and we're keeping it - in fact we're thinking about upgrading to a transporter and converting it to a campervan - but it's not used daily. Normally twice a week, maybe three times. It gives me peace of mind to know there is a car should we need it, although Mr. commutes to work by bike, and I walk when not on maternity leave. Walking is good for me and the dog.
  • Personal grooming. I don't use any products except the deodorant rock and pure jojoba oil; I gave up using shampoo over two years ago (I wash with water only) and my hair has never been better. I do use some items of make-up - mascara, eyeliner - which are small and last for ages. Mr. uses liquid soap, and we buy the vegan kind. Baby gets washed with water only, like me, and we use pure coconut oil on her bum to protect her skin - she's got great skin all round.
  • Cleaning. Most of my cleaning is done with vinegar and essential oils. For laundry we use soap nuts and essential oils. Where the vinegar doesn't cut it, we use eco products.
  • Nappies. We use cloth nappies when we're home, eco-disposable when travelling, which isn't very often - has been more often in baby's early life, because family wanted to see her - and I've actually found my Mother-Ease cloth nappies much better at containment and kinder on baby's skin, and I've got a simple washing routine that doesn't really add that much to what I normally have to do. (we use disposable liners to minimise the need to deal with poo - it just gets thrown away). Whereas the amount of dirty disposable nappies we generate over just a few days is really quite disturbing!
  • Home Cooking. Apart from the weekly fish-and-chips treat Mr. insists upon (I tend to stick with some chips, and the dog loves my leftovers) we cook at home and Mr. takes the evening's leftovers to work for the next day's lunch. That's green as well as cheap.
I can't think of much else at the moment but really - all of the above make up a simple way of living, without adding too many complications to our lives, and they all help to some degree to make our family's footprint on the environment a little bit smaller. As I think we all ought to do - maybe not the way we do it, but I think we all should consider our ways and see if we could make small changes that add up.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Emotional depth: Motherhood Level

An alternative title for this post could have been, "Things that make me cry"... I've never cried easily. In fact, there must have been whole years in which I never cried. How times change.

Happy baby
She cries a lot less
than I do
I've been crying often since giving birth. No, I'm not depressed - I'm just experiencing emotions much deeper than I ever have before. And not just in relation to my child. A few things that have made me cry lately:

  • Joy. The most surprising thing, the depth of joy I've experienced with this baby; just looking at her, watching her as she sleeps or feeds or looks wide eyed at the world, has reduced me to tears. As I talk to her and tell her how much I love her, more often than not I cry and fail to get the words out. But she doesn't seem to mind.
  • Thankfulness. The other day, baby was in her hammock and I had some cuddles with the dog when I just lost it at the sheer amount of love surrounding me - Mr. came home just then and found me in a flood of tears that I found difficult to explain.
  • Her pain. Seeing my child in pain hurts me in some ways deeper than it probably does her. She was struggling with wind for weeks and has had days of crying in pain as she strains to do poos, and eventually she would just fall asleep from sheer exhaustion. I can't help, and her pain is wounding me deeply. When she had blood taken at hospital for tests - a procedure that took minutes, not seconds, and during which she was screaming with pain and distress - I cried throughout.
  • Reading about other babies. This one is a real surprise to me. Where before I would have read an article with some interest, now I connect. The other day I read about babies who experience abdominal pain so severe, where parts of the intestine die, I saw my own baby's distress amplified and that brought on the tears.
  • Frustration. Only once in the six weeks of her life have I actually cried with frustration, but I was pushed to the point of tears after a very, very long day full of challenges and worries, when in the evening she threw a full feed back up (on me) and I knew she'd be hungry again but I felt I had nothing left. 

It's well known that pregnancy hormones make you more emotional. But hormones are neither here nor there - for me, this is part of the continuing journey of a deepening, richer emotional life: the next step. I felt the loss of my mother at age 15 extremely deeply, months of daily crying for hours until a certain numbness set in; then three years of emotional abuse in a very dysfunctional family situation taught me to protect myself by burying emotion to the point of truly not feeling it, rather than hiding or stuffing it down. As a young adult, I was truly without deep emotion: a serene inner wasteland.

Into this intruded Christianity, or rather, Christ. I had felt no draw towards religion of any kind, and emotional appeals would have gone nowhere at all with me; it was the cold, hard facts of history that (eventually and after much research) convinced my mind that the outrageous claims of Christianity were true. Other than a certain wounded pride at this discovery (having been strongly atheist) my heart and emotions just weren't involved. I was a Christian because it was the truth, not because I liked it.

But then I started to learn about this God I was now following. And one of the things about him that surprised me most was that God is deeply emotional. He is not serene and undisturbed. A few samples...

  • He dances and sings with joy - for example, Zeph. 3.17: The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. 
  • He grieves - for example Jn. 11.35: Jesus wept.
  • He can be extremely angry - for example Ps. 7.11: God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day.
  • He is caring like a mother - for example Is. 66.13: As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you and Is. 49.15: Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!
  • He's very jealous - for example Ex. 34.14: [...] and you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.
  • Love - of course, he's loving to the point of not just being willing to, but actually having died for those he loves.

I really believe that this new depth of feeling is only a taste of the depth there is, being made in His image... perhaps I'm being walked into deeper realms step by step because I'm finding it pretty overwhelming already and I just couldn't take more right now. 

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Accepting Help

She's five weeks old tomorrow. So little! So big! Such a short space of time to get to know her, yet I feel so incredibly close to her. Such long days, each full of new learning yet one much like the other.

Opposite things totally true at the same time.

No one ever told me (or perhaps there's no way of appreciating until you experience it) just how all-consuming this mothering business is. Days fly by and suddenly she's a month old and I'm starting to get into a routine at the same time as still feeling like I have no idea what I'm doing.

I learn new things every day about how to take care of this little person. But I'm learning another lesson, too: how to humbly accept help. I'm not a natural at that...

I've been receiving so much help in the last few weeks.
  • The church has organised a rota that continues until next week, where friends bring us dinner every other day. Six weeks without really cooking - time to get our act together enough to be able to do it when we need to.
  • My neighbour with the 9-month-old, who passed on loads of baby stuff to me and drops by every so often with fresh food she just made. Who is always around for a chat and lots of practical advice.
  • The old friend whom I haven't seen in years offering me a brand new sling because she's won two in a competition.
  • My housemate from years ago who's a maternity nurse and made a trip all the way from London to visit me, offer advice, and shower me with truly useful gifts for baby.
  • Baby items given or lent to me left right and centre by other mums from my church: feeding pillow, breast pump, sterilising equipment, baby carry sling... and much more.
  • Gifts from family and friends - baby clothes (several hand knitted pieces by granny and great-granny, a hand-crocheted blankie from a friend dropped off with dinner one day; my cousin from Austria sending care packs of baby things from her daughter who's five months older)), toys, books.
  • And daily, Mr. who never stops working and sorting things out around here - right now he is fixing the fridge - in addition to making cups of tea, cooking, bringing me cold drinks when I feed the baby. He is truly amazing and his support is unwavering.

The truth is, I've had to consciously accept that these gifts are given freely, and that I would devalue them by refusing any of them. Especially with Mr. though, it's been tough. When I sit on the sofa feeding the baby or just letting her sleep on me while he goes here and there, working on this and that, it takes a lot of determination not to ask him if there's something I can do to help or if he'd like me to do that... I feel like I'm taking advantage, when I know in my head that he is only trying to bless me and is doing these things because of love.

I have to get better at accepting freely given love. There's so much of it around.