Birth story of my son Beineán

I wrote these words especially for my beautiful boy Beineán, so he would always know the story of how he came to be born into this world, if he wanted to. I share them now for anyone who likes to read birth stories as much as I do.

I dedicate this to Colette and to Colm.

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BLUE

Four years ago on the 28th of November a massive cold snap brought snow and ice and my son Beineán. At twelve minutes past four in the darkening afternoon, he was born in our home on Saint Jarlath’s Road in Cabra.

He was blue.

He was moving but for his first minute he didn’t breathe. My midwife Colette worked rapidly to assist him. Colm watched at the bedside. I knew he was suddenly badly afraid, but I felt deeply serene. The massive rush of prickling energy I was experiencing through my entire body, in the wake of giving birth, meant that I couldn’t even speak.

“Don’t move” Colette said to me. And I didn’t; I only turned my head to see him, looking over my shoulder from where I was positioned on hands and knees, which is how I had given birth to him.

Maybe it seems strange to say now, but I almost couldn’t understand why Colm had fear.  Just wait, I wanted to say to him. I felt sort of other-wordly, the intensity and pain of labour suddenly vanquished. Afterwards Colm would say that it was like I was suspended in some kind of hormonal high; to me, it was like being more pristinely awake than I had ever felt in my whole life. I had this supreme confidence that our baby was perfectly fine.

I looked at Colm and tried to tell him with my eyes: All we have to do is wait. 

But Colm wasn’t looking at me. He was staring at our son. Willing him to breathe. Willing my midwife to do her thing.

I don’t even really know what Colette did to get him breathing.  At the time I was just focussing on my own breath: keeping it steady. It was cooling and expansive after the enormity of giving birth. The umbilical cord was still connecting our boy to me; though it was the that same cord that had wrapped his neck one-time-round and made him blue, through it my body was still sustaining him.

And Colette had done it.

4:13 PM. He breathed.

I think Colette said,

“Hello, baby.”

His blue colour was already turning to purple-pink. He gurgled quietly, opened his eyes, and looked around. Colette picked him up and placed him in my arms. He was wiry and strong and sturdy, and he had deep sparkling blue eyes and long dark eyelashes just like his Daddy and his big sister.

And I held him with deep gratitude: to Colette; to all of us; to the process of childbirth.

Colm cut the cord, and Colette tended to me. I had yet to deliver the placenta.

Wordlessly then, Colm lifted him from my arms. He sat on the edge of the bed by the window, snow falling thickly against the outside of the glass now. Lifting his T-shirt over our new baby, he cradled him skin-to-skin against his chest. Still he didn’t speak, but gazed down at the tiny face which was scrunching and un-scrunching inside his shirt collar. They sat like that in silence, for I-don’t-know-how-long.

ColmandB

At our bedroom window overlooking snow-laden Cabra

LABOUR

The nights leading up to the birth, I was restless yet couldn’t move. The Saturday evening, I was strewn on the stairs in the dark trying to find a comfortable position. I went to bed, and at midnight I woke to find that the waters had broken, or were beginning to. I rolled my sleeping almost-3-year-old daughter Aoife away from me and went downstairs to tell Colm, who was still up watching television. (When I told him, he immediately thought I meant the pipes had broken; a cold snap was issuing in outside, and we’d had experience of the pipes freezing the previous Winter.) Nervous excitement set in and I texted the midwife, who told me to see if I could get some sleep and keep in touch. I went back to bed, and my daughter settled herself back to sleep half-sitting up against my back, which is how she slept at that time. Mild contractions were setting in but I managed to sleep. At 6AM I came downstairs and tried to sleep through the contractions on the couch, with our little dog Molly curled up at the back of my legs.

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With Aoife a few days before birth

Before 8AM I arose and went to wake my sister Alicia, who was charged with taking care of our daughter throughout the birth. The baby’s due date wasn’t for another four days, but fortunately she had cancelled her plans to attend a birthday party in Limerick that weekend, just in case. I looked around her bedroom door and told her cheerfully, “it’s baby day!” Colette rang and said she’d be over at 11. I rang my mother in Galway to tell her what was happening. I recall that Mam took a moment to process the information and then she said that she and Dad would get on the road to be with us. Colm phoned his parents in Wexford to let them know, and got baby clothes out of the wardrobe before leaving to stock up on food. I knew all of the grandparents were anxious about our decision to have this baby at home.

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The night before labour began

Contractions – or “surges” – were still manageable when Colette arrived. I had set up the ironing-board up because I felt I needed something to lean over during the surges. Colm came back, and he and Colette brought me upstairs to our bedroom. They settled me on a chair with the curtains drawn.  I felt like being on my feet but they were worried I’d get tired. The contractions were beginning to get very uncomfortable, but I was coping. They set up the hypnobirthing tape. It seemed like I had a long way to go still, so Colette popped home for lunch – she had asked me if I’d rather she stay and though I’d said, no, I was fine yet, I realised when she’d left that I felt  uneasy without her. She came back pretty quickly in case of getting stuck in the snow, which was beginning to pile up quickly outside.

I stayed in the chair, or walked in the room, or swayed my way through the surges.  I felt myself drawing more and more inwards, as I concentrated intensely on breathing and let all sense of time and space fall away. At one point I spotted my sister and my toddler standing on the landing to peak at me. I couldn’t speak at that stage so I just nodded back, and tried to smile. Aoife laughed aloud at the sight of me – hanging by my arms from a tall set of drawers, swaying from side to side. With her long labour, I’d been able to ride the waves of surges, all of them, with gigantic breaths, in, out.  That time, inspired by the antenatal classes at the Rotunda Hospital where I’d had Aoife, I’d felt able to greet contractions as “friends”, repeatedly visualising a warm mist settling every muscle from the top of my head to my toes, again and again and again.

But these surges were rawer, even more hardcore, and they were happening stronger and faster, and I didn’t feel “on top” of them as I had with Aoife. By 3PM, they had taken charge.  I moved to the bathroom, to sit on the toilet or cling to the sink during surges. I felt despondency setting in. I began to wail in despair and Colette came into the bathroom to give me a pep-talk.

I felt out of control. I should have recognised it from all the birth stories I’d read, that this was transition.

TRANSITION

Rippling Surges  … Raw, long, close together … Anguish … Hang over  sink … Tippy-toes … Whimpering …..Won’t  hear…… No speak…. No listen….. Go away everyone …. Anger…. Beyond control…..Strip clothes….. Shower …. . Crouch on hands and knees …… Water on my back ….. Marginal relief …….Remedies on a spoon ….. No to food …. No to water …… Go away everyone ……. Rocking side to side ……. All meaning lost ….. . Body in possession …….. Surrender

BIRTH

Colm held the shower-head over me as I crouched in the bath, spraying my back with warm water. He told me later, recalling the birth of our daughter, that he’d recognised from the way that I seemed to insist on positioning myself in the bath  – on hands and knees –  and from the sounds I was making, that birth was imminent. They got me out of the shower, and brought me to the bedroom and onto the bed, which had been covered with protective sheets and towels. It was about 3:45PM. Colette asked if I wanted gas and air. I barely managed to gasp out the word “YES” and Colm went to get the bag with the equipment.  Even the thought of gas and air relaxed me suddenly.

By now I was only marginally aware of the others in the room. In fact I was barely aware of the room itself. I felt wide-eyed and electric and could perceive almost nothing beyond what I can only describe as a ‘fog’ around me – like a kind of trance.

Colette suggested checking me, but my body wouldn’t lie down on the bed. I immediately vomited when I tried to make it. (I remember that the hardest thing about labour at the hospital with my daughter, other than the sheer length of it, was being encouraged to lie down on my back with a trace machine hooked up to me). I think my body wanted to push now. I found myself turning onto all-fours, and at that moment felt a connection with my grandmother Kathleen whom I knew, from talking to my mother, had likely given birth this way too; at home, for four of her five births.  Colette checked the baby’s heart rate.

Colm came back with the gas and air.

“Baby is coming!” Colette announced suddenly.

No time for gas and air now. Colette got ready. The pain fell away. Just like that, I was pushing my baby out. Colette continued to check the baby’s heart rate quickly.  I pushed with all my might, my voice ringing out heavy with the effort. I thought I was howling, and that the whole avenue of St Jarlath’s Road outside could hear me, and could hardly believe it when my sister told me later that they’d heard nothing downstairs.

“This baby will be blue,” Colette declared then, in a matter-of-fact way, as she worked fast to unwind the cord. I remember feeling surprised to hear that, but didn’t let it distract me from the business of pushing him out. During my pregnancy, because of a case of this experience once before in Colm’s family, I had read lots of birth stories about the cord getting wound, about babies being born blue; I even had spoken to Colette about what she would do if it happened to us. She had told me that she would have the necessary equipment and would know what to do. Right now I felt a deep trust in her, which in turn supported the calm I was experiencing in the midst of the rawness of what was happening.

It was all happening so fast all of a sudden.

It took five or six pushes. And he was here.

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Beineán an hour old in our living room with my mother Catherine

CABRA’S NEWEST RESIDENCE

Once the intensity of the birth had settled, and Colette had tidied up and settled me comfortably, Aoife and Alicia came upstairs to meet Cabra’a newest resident. Colm was still sitting by the window, holding our new and as yet nameless baby. I felt eager to feed him, so Colm brought him to me then and helped me place him to my breast. He latched fine. A new nursing journey had begun. Alicia took our first family photo, he and I still wrapped only in towels and blankets.

FIrst family photo

FIrst family photo

My parents arrived from Galway about an hour after the birth, reaching us just ahead of a blizzard. Colm took the new baby downstairs to meet them. We still hadn’t dressed him or even put a nappy on him yet. I had a shower, and Colette came into the bathroom to confirm the baby’s weight, muttering the numbers to herself in her native French as she converted from kilos to pounds for me. I could hardly believe his size. He weighed 8 and a half pounds, so much bigger than Aoife who had been 6 pounds and 15 ounces at birth. Colette checked to see if I needed any repair stitches, but I didn’t. Alicia made me the best tea with toast that I’d had since the tea and toast I’d had after Aoife’s birth at Dublin’s Rotunda hospital.  For some reason I then insisted she stay to watch Colette inspect the placenta in its stainless steel bowl. She observed silently and respectfully before going back to entertaining Aoife.

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With his sister & grandmother

I went downstairs to greet to my parents, and only then, standing in the doorway between our kitchen and living room, did Colm and I confer about the baby’s name.

Beineán.

(It’s pronouced ben-awn). (Both Colm and Alicia tell me that I insisted on his name here). I had loved this name since first I heard of it via a friend of a friend. I also loved that it had an association with my homeplace, Tuam in county Galway – the town of Tuam has its patron in the fifth century Saint Jarlath, which name is quite popular there, and of course we happened to live on a road in Dublin named for that man – but not many people know of Saint Jarlath’s teacher, saint Beineán (associated with Kilbannon early monastic site, outside of Tuam). It’s an unusual name, and in choosing it and its spelling we challenged ourselves with the task with getting our families and friends used to it.

SNOWEY BABYMOON

Outside on the day that Beineán was born, Ireland was brought to a standstill for the second time in 2010 due to blizzards, snow and ice. Our house was so cosy we didn’t even notice the cold outside. After the big freeze of the previous Winter, we’d got in a new boiler, new back door and added insulation. My parents booked into a small North Circular Road hotel for a couple of days, and as it turned out, were snowed in at Dublin for the entire week as the roads in Dublin became impassable. Like most other schools in Dublin that week, the Tallaght school my sister teaches at was shut due to snow, so she was home with us that first week too. It meant that we had plenty of helping hands to take care of the house, entertain my daughter and bring food.

Colm had become a stay-at-home Dad to Aoife some weeks previously when the archaeological consulantancy company he worked for had closed down. This meant that throughout my maternity leave from the National Museum of Ireland, we could all be at home together – first in Cabra, then later in the Wexford countryside where we still live now since my contract at the Museum concluded too.

Colm’s parents and his almost 90-year-old grandmother Julia got from dangerously icy Wexford as soon as they could manage, a few days after the birth. (When they got stuck in the snow just five miles from home on their return journey, Colm’s Granny offered to get out and help push the car). Our Dublin-based family – Colm’s brother and sister and their families, and my cousin – managed their way through the snow and ice to visit us the next day. My brothers and other family and friends would have to wait until our travels for Christmas, which was still very cold and snowey, some weeks later.

Beineán one week old with Aoife

Beineán one week old with Aoife

Colette journeyed through heavy snow and ice for two weeks following the birth, to take care of the baby and me. (I regret that many of the photos we took around the time of his birth are lost, because my hard-drive broke and because my sister’s phone was stolen, meaning I have no photograph to share of her with Beineán). She made sure I was getting loads of rest and that I stayed upstairs and in bed with the baby as much as possible to let my body recover and to ensure breastfeeding established itself. I had breastfed my daughter for 30 months, with incredible difficulty at the start. This time I knew what to do, and I had support, from Colm, from my family, from Colette, and from a whole online and real-life community of other breastfeeding mothers that I’d built up since my daughter was born. I had a whole new nursing experience to look forward to with my son.

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Beineán & me a few days after he was born

Aoife was bemused by her baby brother at first, and then proud of him, and when she’d had enough of waiting for her turn to cuddle in my lap, she came to me purposefully and commanded me firmly to “put that baby down.” She did bristle at him absorbing my attentions, but when I wasn’t feeding him he was invariably in Colm’s arms.

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Beineán at two weeks, Aoife soon to turn three years old

It would be months and months before Colm and I could speak sort of openly about that first minute. We introduced our son to the world without telling anybody else that he had been blue, not for years, not really till now, as I write this blog post. Firstly, we weren’t really able to speak of it ourselves, to agree a shared version of events – how could we, if he had been so shocked and I so serene?

Secondly, we’d already been in the practice of keeping our decision to homebirth to ourselves. Most people were unsupportive of the very idea, so we had kept negative attitudes at bay simply by not talking about it beyond amongst the two of us and Colette. In the lead-up to the birth and all the way throughout, I felt strong, capable, trusting of my body and myself and the process. I had the support of Colm, who believed unquestioningly in me and in the process; and the support of my experienced, trusted and capable midwife, who knew what to do.

For those first two weeks of our Cabra babymoon, the rooms of the house glowed white from the snow outside. All that time, I did not go outside the door, not even to the front yard. It gave all the more reason for me and my new baby not to leave the house, but stay in and snuggle and get to know this brand new little person in our lives.

First morning. Beineán not a day old with Colm & Aoife

First morning. Beineán 16 hours old with Colm & Aoife

Beineán is now our busy, articulate, forthright little boy. 

Colm still soothes him to sleep in his arms every night. 

My wonderful midwife Colette Donnelly is a homebirth midwife based in Dublin.

NOTE: This post was initially published privately and has been made public on 29th November 2014

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Odd Socks Mob

Our odd socks problem is getting out of hand. They’re starting to mob us now.

Odd Socks Mob

 

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Stupid milk

Morning hair

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Either I’m a genius or I’ll live to regret this.

But there has been a marked dwindling in my three-year-old’s enduring passion for the word ‘stupid’ since this exchange today.

-Can I have juice, Mammy?
-No, Beineán.
-But I want juice!
-Water or milk.
-I. Want. JUICE.
-Water or milk.
-Water is stupid! Milk is stupid!
-So … stupid water, or stupid milk?
PAUSE.
-Stupid millk, please.
-Here’s your stupid milk.
-Thank you very much. I LOVE *stupid* milk.

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Breastfeeding in Ireland: the Difference Between “Promotion” and “Protection”

It was the kind of morning where I was feeling sluggish from less a than-adequate –night’s-sleep and a busy week so far. I was on my third cup of tea.

And then I saw this article in the Irish Independent: a children’s charity has come under fire for accepting sponsorship from a milk formula company for its annual ‘Big Toddle’ fundraiser.

Suddenly I was wide awake.

Nothing like a surge of the “ire” that storms through a “breastmilk lobbyist” to shake out the cobwebs.

Except I am not actually a “breastmilk lobbyist” – nor do I believe I know any. Certainly not in the way people interested in the whole politics of breastfeeding – yes, breastfeeding  has politics, like everything else – are usually represented. Like how the concerns of “breastmilk lobbyists” were responded to by the Irish charity in the Irish Independent article: that their decision to work with the sponsorship of Danone’s Cow & Gate brand was “not an attempt to influence any parent’s decision making about their infant”.

I am not affiliated with any organisation, but I count myself as one of the people who are dismayed at this issue. Not because I am interested in any other parent’s decision making about their infants.

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I am interested in my decision-making about my infants.

Big, blockbuster businesses like Danone know lots about formula.  The only people qualified to speak about breastmilk with any authority, are those who have breastfed. I know lots about breastmilk and breastfeeding.

It is what businesses like Danone to do to represent their product, through their marketing channels – by overtly idealising it in relation to breast-milk like MINE, in conflagration of all I have studied and experienced with breastfeeding – that gets my “ire” to storming.

There is a consistent confusion in Ireland, particularly obvious in the media, that protecting breastmilk or breastfeeding equates to promoting breastfeeding – i.e. attempting to “influence parent’s decision-making about their infant”. And while organisations like the HSE do have an agenda to work to raise breastfeeding rates in this country, for health reasons, the truth is that most so-called “breastmilk lobbyists” are not necessarily interested in promotion – they just want to see breastmilk and breastfeeding represented fairly in this country. So do I.

To date, breastfeeding and breastmilk is still not treated fairly in Ireland. The marketing practices of businesses like Danone have an enormously significant part to play in this – I wrote about this before on a post on this blog: Ireland: the Land that Forgot Breastfeeding. The UK-based not-for-profit organisation Babymilk Action also raised their concerns about this specific  sponsorship issue on their website here. There is also a Facebook page working to highlight this issue called “Ethical Sponsorship Ireland” which can be found here.

I don’t grudge an Irish charity its desperate efforts to raise cash, especially a children’s charity. I support the work of this charity when I can, but I will personally not be supporting events linked with businesses like Danone.

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Powercut Verbatim

In 1998, my family at home in Carrantanlass, County Galway, experienced our second Christmas in a row without electricity due to storms. We had Christmas dinner  by candlelight at my cousins next door. For about four days, we otherwise congregated in the kitchen, where my Dad had oil lamps lighting. The smoke from the lamps blackened everything so badly that the enormous Pyrenees Mountain dog had to be washed in the bath and my Mam had to repaint the kitchen ceiling when the power eventually came back.

On Stephen’s day, darkness ushered in once again and I sat at the kitchen table with an open copy book and a pen left in front of me. I decided to take them and write down the dialogue going around me, unbeknownst to everyone until they finally caught me out in the end. This was just another symptom of my compulsion to record. Today, while I am at home again in Carrantanlass, I wondered if I had any photographs from that powercut and was tickled to find a  photograph of my  Mam reading by oil lamp at the kitchen table, the very copy that I used to write the dialogue  just visible in the corner of the image. I still have the copybook, too. My handwriting is surprisingly neat, considering I was transcribing so fast; I can’t handwrite that well nowadays, now that all my writing is via phone or laptop.

I love reading back over it now – an entire, still-recognisable family dynamic reeks from the short conversations, including the cats and dogs who inhabited the house as equal as the humans. Thirty new books arrived in the household that Christmas, as gifts: most of us were avid book readers. I’d like to say we still are, but I know smartphone technology has changed how we read –speaking for myself, certainly; we’re more likely to be found with our noses in iPhones as books now. Marx Brothers references abound. My aunt brings the local news, the better of any professional roving reporter: still to this day, my parents need never leave the house to know what’s going on beyond.

These are the unwitting players.

Mother                Catherine
Father                  Aidan
Carmel                 Aunt
Adrienne             Me                         (19)        transcribing the following dialogue
Alan                      Brother                 (18)
Alicia                    Sister                     (16)
Aaron                   Brother                 (13)
Padraic                Cousin                  (12)
Tomás                  Cousin                  (11)
PETS
Extremely large dog
Éanna, cat (4)
Eire, kitten

Alicia and I sit on benches on either side of the kitchen table. Carmel sits at the head of the table. Aidan sits beside the oil range, which isn’t working due to the powercut. A gas heater is lighting on his other side. Mother is making supper at the gas cooker. Alan, Aaron, and Tomás are in the spare room down the hall. Padraic has just gone home to next door.

Father: A pain in her leg?
Carmel: Yeah – crippled with a pain in her leg.
Shure, you won’t be playing anywhere tonight Aidan?
Father: Why?
Carmel: Who’d be going out on a night like tonight?
Father: I wish it was like that.
Carmel: Endangering their lives tonight. Anyone in tonight should stay in. And that man in Maam Cross had some poor fella in the car with him … Henny’s funeral mass is tonight.
Father: Tonight?
Carmel: Yeah, the family want it tonight. Herself mustn’t be great. Sandwiches and all in the Cortoon Inn afterwards.
Father: God.
Carmel: And a bus overturned in Achill.
On the electricity. Well, it won’t be back for tonight anyway.
Father: Oh, ‘twill not.
Carmel: Them are grand candlestick holders
Father: Alan got me them for Christmas.
Enter Tomás.
Tomás: Picking up oil lamp. Can we take this?
Alicia: No, we’re using it.
Father: Go on.
Tomás: ‘kay.
Exit Tomás.
Carmel: Well wasn’t he very thoughtful.
An awful day.
Father: Shockin’.
Mother: ‘Twas promised.
Enter Aaron.
Aaron: Any more candles to spare?
Father: What are ye doing?
Aaron: Table tennis. A torch or something maybe?
Alicia: Can’t ye play it up here?
Father: Don’t go bringing my flashlight down there, I’m telling ye
Carmel: Looking towards the kitchen window. There’s traffic out as bad and all as it is.
Exit Aaron.
Pause.
Carmel: Back to old times.
Alicia: Yeah.
Father: To Carmel. Have ye candles or what down there?
Carmel: Candles.
Mother: From conversation with Alicia at the frying pan: If we can keep Adrienne away from the mushrooms.
Adrienne: What?
Mother: If we can keep you away from the mushrooms.
Carmel: Better go before it starts raining again. Goes to hall door. Are ye coming? Not realising that Padraic left earlier. Shure, I’d say that’s the worst of it over now anyway. I’ll see ye. G’luck.
Exit Carmel through the back door. Long silence. Aidan messing with candlesticks. Mother frying rashers in the pan and wearing headphones. Adrienne scribbling this text. Alicia talking to kitten.
Alicia: Oooh, Eire’s first Christmas, in the dark!
Pause.
Alicia: Adrienne, did you count my Sense and Sensibility book?
Adrienne: Yeah.
Pause.
Alicia: Eire, do you want to go to the toilet?
Father: Let him off outside, he’ll be grand.
Huffy silence in offence to this suggestion. Exit Alicia.
Enter Alan.
Alan: Mam, would it be alright if I drove down to collect John tonight?
Mother: And how am I supposed to go to mass?
Father: Wait and see how the weather is before you go making plans.
Pause.
Alan: Talk to Mam, Dad, she’ll start shouting at ya.
Mother: Over her earphones.  I heard ya!
Alan guffaws.
Enter Alicia.
Alicia: To cats. Hell-yo!
Alan: Adrienne, who is this? Stomps across kitchen in manner of Groucho Marx
Adrienne: Laughing. Groucho!
Exit Alan. He is heard laughing in the hall, probably at Aaron.
Mother: Have they gas down there or what have they?
Father: Jays, I dunno.
Pause.
Father: That £30 was well spent.
Adrienne: What £30? Oh, the gas heater? Yeah.
Father: And it nearly gone on that other fella. Satisfied with himself. Good bidding.
Enter Alan.
Alan: What £30?
Alan lifts leg in imitation of Harpo Marx in Duck Soup. Mother and Alicia laugh. Someone burps loudly
Alicia: But, why does the other fella do it then too?
Adrienne: Alicia, it doesn’t matter. You just laugh at it.
Mother: Probably cos he got sick of looking at the other fella doing it.
Father: To the cat. Eiry-fairy.
Mother: Adrienne, what are you writing there?
Adrienne: Nothing.
Mother: Nothing? You have a page written there.
Exit Alan. Thumps against the door. Aaron whimpering. Nobody in kitchen reacts. Mother transfers earphones to Alicia.
Mother: To Father. Do you want rice? Will a fry suit you?
Enter Aaron.
Mother: Rounding on Aaron. What’s wrong with you?
Aaron: I dunno. My knee was sore yesterday
Mother: Weary. I dunno.
To Father. Talking to you and you not listening … shure how am I supposed to know if a fry’ll be making you belch again …
Father: I shouldn’t have had them second helpings yesterday.
Mother: Impatient. You don’t have to eat it. Goes to back door. Come on Éanna, out.Opens back door, thrusts cat out. Gust of wind blows in. Cat re-enters hurriedly. Bitcheen. Picks up cat. Notices kitten. Éire! Hell-yo, little fella! Howaya! Goes to window, opens it. Shoves cat out. Go on! Ya can come in again.
Alicia: Reading answers to puzzle game Aaron got for Christmas. “…and in the second pyramid ….”
Aaron: Alarmed. Alicia! Don’t tell me!
Alicia: “… in the second pyramid …”
Father: Alicia! Did I tell you not to be telling him! And don’t pretend you can’t hear me with them earphones on.
Alicia: What?
Father: Shut up!
Mother: To Aaron. Where’s there a lighter?
Aaron: Dunno.
Mother: Insistent. Has Alan got one?
Aaron: Dunno.
Mother: Perplexed. Well, will you go and ask him?
Aaron: Insistent. There should be one here.
Mother: Exasperated. God, will ya ever go down to him!
Exit Aaron.
Mother: Muttering. Just what I wanted to hear, trees coming down all over the place
Father laughs.
Enter Aaron.
Aaron: He doesn’t have any.
Mother: There was two there a while ago.
Father: Pensive. What did she say was wrong with Peg?
Mother: Pain in her leg.
Exit Father.
Alicia: Listening to headphones. “70,000 homes without electricity.”
Mother: Fractious. It’s the weather I want!
Alicia: Right. Enter Father.
Father: To Mother. Get one yet?
Mother: No. There was two there a while ago –
Father: Proudly. Here. Hands Mother a lighter.
Mother: Menacing. Hah!
Father: Wounded. I went down to the spare room especially for it!
Mother: Oh! Apologetic. Thanks
Extremely large dog snores.
Mother: Apoplectic. Will someone shut that pig up!
Alicia: Taking off earphones. Frost, Mam.
Enter Alan. Pulls out bench that Adrienne is sitting on to sit down. Almost tipples Adrienne off the other end. Leans over Adrienne’s shoulder to see what she is writing. Adrienne shrugs him off.
Alan: I’m not “breathing down your neck” as Mam always says!
Alicia leans over Adrienne’s other shoulder.
Alicia: Mumble mumble mumble. Thats what we do at school, it’s awful annoying. No Alan, denna denna denna denna, denna denna denna denna, Batman
Alan joins in.
Mother: Shut up, will ye!
Alicia: No, this is annoying – AdrienneAdrienneAdrienneAdrienneAdrienneAdrienneAdrienneAdrienneAdrienneAdrienne
Mother: SHUT UP!
Alan: “I’ll dance with you till the cows come home. Actually, I’d rather dance with the cows than you come home.”
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The Problem of Odd Socks

Well, the internet appears to be broken.

Or else I am not as proficient at using it as I thought I was.

Has my technology addiction failed me after all? Can it really be true that it is not possible to source multi-packs of childrens socks with all of the socks bearing the same colours and/or patterns??

The sock situation in our household is perplexing. We’re down to about four matching pairs for each of my two children. It’s interesting to speculate about where they disappear to (mysterious compartment in the washing machine/domestic sock monster/domestic sock monster resident in washing machine) but instead of attempting to prevent the problem, I thought I’d at least try to mitigate against its impact by stocking up on many socks of the exact same design.

But they don’t come like that in the shops, OR, apparently, on the internet. They aren’t really sold just one pair in a pack, and all the multi-packs come with socks of radically different patterns, replete with deliberate obsoletion because, I am sure, sock manufacturers cynically know ALL about the domestic sock monster.

I am astounded that there appears to be no entrepreneurial, consumer-focussed sock producer out there that appreciates the problem of odd socks and who could enterprisingly undertake to sell multipacks of many pairs of the SAME colour and pattern.

Because I will buy them.

Meanwhile, what am I supposed to do with all these odd socks*??

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*there are just TWO matching pairs in this photo

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The Pumpkin in the Lego

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The Raddle and the Ram

In which I am unwittingly re-indoctrinated into FARMING.  

I come from an actual farm in Galway but I had a love-hate relationship with it as a child (loved pet lambs, hated the mortification of holding up traffic to move livestock between fields). Over the Summer Colm and his brother increased their small flock of sheep that they started when we lived here for my maternity leave last year.

I thought it  was just a fad then.

But it’s not.

Last Thursday I was asked to help.

Blue raddle paint

Colm                     Get the raddle paint, put it on there.

Adrienne             What, I’m doing this?!

Colm                     Yes, I have to hold the ram still.

Adrienne             Maybe I can hold the ram still?

Colm                     No, you can’t. Get the raddle there.

Adrienne             How do I put it on?! Should I get a paintbrush?

Colm                     Use the gloves there.

Adrienne                Where do I put it?

Colm            Around there- wait! Where are you going with it?!

Adrienne             Under his belly back here?

Colm                     No, no, no! It doesn’t go near his lad!

Adrienne             I didn’t think it had to go near his lad!

Colm                    Well, it goes to his front.

Adrienne             I’m spilling it now.

Colm                     Hurry up, we can’t hold him here for long.

Adrienne             I’m trying. I can’t see what I’m doing.

Colm                     Don’t put it on so high on his front.

Adrienne             Well, where then?!

Colm                     Lower down! On his chest.

Adrienne             Here?! Or where?

Colm                     You tell me. Have you his front well covered?

Adrienne             I don’t know! I can’t see and he keeps wriggling.

Colm                     Where is the child meanwhile –

Adrienne             He’s just there. To child. Get down from there!

I’m getting this stuff on my dress.

Colm                     What are you wearing?! You’re sheep farming!

Adrienne             Says who! I never wanted to be a sheep farmer!

Colm                     Why are you rubbing it on his face?!

Adrienne             I’m not rubbing it on his face, I’m trying to rub it OFF his face!

Colm                     How are you getting it everywhere?!

Adrienne             I don’t know!  I want to make sure I get enough on.

Colm                     I think you’ve probably managed that all right.

Adrienne             No smart comments!

Colm                     Is he done do you think? Will we let him out to the yard?

Adrienne             I have no idea!  I’m not a sheep farmer!

Colm                     Let him out there till we see.

Oh Christ. What have you done to the ram.

Adrienne             Oh dear.

Sorry ram.

The raddled ram

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Dublin Doors

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Victorian doors in Phibsborough, Dublin 7. I took this especially for my Instagram feed yesterday.

And just look at those beautiful tiles.

My daughter loves looking at the terraced red bricks in this area. She knows this was our neighbourhood for the first four months of her life. We lived nearby on Goldsmith Street, behind a door like these painted red.

These two doors date from after the time that postal deliveries were first made to private homes (1845 onwards), so they come replete with their own letterboxes (it must have seemed like a violation for some to have to insert letterboxes into earlier, grand old Georgian doors that didn’t already have them). These doors have timber-hinged weather boards at the bottom, along with brass door knockers and large central brass door knobs, in keeping with the new Victorian mode for prominent door furniture. (I love that a door can have its own furniture).

The fanlights above the door are fashionably plain, due to improvements in glass-work technology – earlier, more decorative fanlights of the Georgian era made use of multiple, small pieces of glass. The timber surrounds are of panelled pilasters with foliate scroll console brackets supporting the simple panelled frieze and cornice.

For more on Dublin doors see
Dublin Doors: their Stylistic Development and Conservation Requirements

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Galvanise home

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This little galvanise building is located near where we live in county Wexford. Somebody recently cut back the brambles from around it, which is when I first noticed curtains in the windows.

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