Saturday, 23 March 2013


This is the only part of jetlag I like:It's 5am and I'm sitting by myself, drinking a coffee and waiting for the sun to rise. We're in Australia right now - did I mention this plan? Actually, I didn't, and I know I didn't, and I'll tell you why.   Last time we came out here, I tried the approach of Massive Overpreparation - I treated the whole plane-with-twins thing like a military campaign and it was a DISASTER. This time, I tried Deep Denial, where I pretended that we weren't coming until about five days before the trip, then shoved a bunch of stuff into bags and hoped for the best. That worked a lot better, judging by the fact that I wasn't crying or quivering or phoning divorce lawyers when we left the airport. Could be the change of approach (maybe), could be the fact that the children are now old enough to watch the Disney Jr channel on the plane for hours at a time (yes, probably that too) but maybe also that I had to compensate for the time difference by taking a whole extra dose of brain medicine while we were in the air (ding ding ding I think we have a winner).

Okay, that's two things I like about jetlag.

I'm not a morning person, at all, so this 5am quiet and wakefulness is a strange and beautiful thing to me. I'm pretty sure that 5am only exists in Australia, and then only for two or three days after we've landed. The light is beginning to leak out from behind the clouds - yes, it's cloudy here too, as cloudy as England, which does feel like some kind of monumental injustice. When one has to pay thousands of pounds to visit family in the southern hemisphere, one at least expects that the weather is going to be nice.

Things I always forget about this place, though: how much it does rain, actually, how fast the sun rises, how noisy the birds are, how quickly I become an unbearable version of myself when I'm staying with my parents. They've moved house since we were last here, and it feels strange. This place is approximately one hundred times nicer than their old house (for a start, I am no longer younger than the carpet) and it's hard to get used to. They designed and built this new house and it's lovely - lots of white, lots of high breezy ceilings, lots of shiny surfaces, lots of wooden floor. Turns out my mother really does have a talent for minimalist design, like she's been claiming all these years. It makes me wonder where my maximalism came from. I don't like clutter and I don't like disorder but I could never pull this kind of sleekness off. Where is the velvet? Why aren't any of the walls painted charcoal grey? The leopard-print ponyskin brogues I wore on the plane are still lying on the floor and they do look a little sad and out of place.

I have no idea why I just told you that. It's probably time to get another coffee.

While we're here, J and I are probably going to have a drive around and look at the areas of Brisbane where the Ethiopian / Eritrean community tends to cluster. We don't have any plans to move, but the perpetual possibility is always in the back of our minds - Jay's more strongly than mine, which surprises me. I wonder what it would really mean to bring up two Ethiopian children here. There certainly are a lot of white people here, that's for sure.  Would living in a different suburb make a difference? I don't know. Yesterday we took two very cranky jetlagged twins down to the park and spoke to precisely one person who immediately asked where they were from. My synapses were firing at very low speed by that time so I hadn't anywhere near formed my mouth to say Ethiopia before my mother said, firmly, England. Technically true, but I'm pretty sure that wasn't what he was asking. Once upon a time I wrote about being a conspicuous family in a big multicultural town. I suspect that being here would take it to a whole different level.

Yet there are things about being here that we love, that the children would love. I think they would happily never go home if it meant that they could spend every afternoon in their grandparents' pool. And I almost hate seeing family when I visit, because it reminds me how much I miss them, and I want to be part of their everyday lives and I'm not. But of course we would feel the other way if we didn't live near Jay's family in the UK. This three-continent-family thing is no joke.

The noisy birds are up. I quite like the straightforwardness of the way they are pretty much just yelling at each other. Here I am, other birds, I'm awake! Oh good, me too! And me! Let's wake up the humans by screeching as loud as we can! Okay!

I think I hear stirring downstairs. Yesterday, I got up at five and crept upstairs to be on my own like this but they were awake. Honestly, I nearly left them to fend for themselves - these first days are filled with people and an hour or so on my own makes all the difference - but my better self won out and instead we met the morning together, munching our bran flakes and waiting for the rest of the world to catch us up. They had lots of things to tell me - Hactually, mummy, hactually - and by the end I only resented a little bit the loss of this morning solace.

I'm glad they slept for longer today, though.

Maybe tomorrow I will do the same.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

I Have Some Big News!

You guys? I've finished my book!

It still needs copyediting, layout, checking, footnoting, ISBN-ing, and all that extra stuff, but after seven drafts it's pretty much done. (About time, right?) Here's a mockup of the cover(this is only a rough layout - it will change) :

And there's the title. I could say more, but I'm a little bit out of words right now.

Thursday, 7 March 2013


He wishes he had been born from my tummy - it's as simple as that.

I think he would get under my skin if he could. He tries to crawl under my shirt. He looks up at me and says Look, mummy, I in your tummy! 

 It makes me think of Nicodemus.

I let him do it - there must be some reason he keeps doing this -  but I make sure I talk a lot about pretending. Are you pretending to be in my tummy, Blue? 

He nods. He curls himself tightly up on my lap and says Look, Mummy, I have a 'tend umbilical cord! Now that's not a sentence you hear every day.
definitely too big for my tummy. 
Although, we do talk about umbilical cords a lot in this house. It came about because of Pink - she is crazy about her belly button. She gazes at it lovingly and pats it gently, like a kitten. Often, she sidles up to me, dips her head and looks up at me coyly through her giraffe-lashes.  Mummy, can you talk about my belly button again? 

We have a whole established patter about this. Here's how it goes:

When you were a baby, before you were born, you grew in your birthmummy's tummy and was it just you?(Noooooooo!)

That's right, it was Pink AND Blue growing in there together, because you are . ..(Twins!) 

And what happened when you were in her tummy? Did you get hungry? (No!)

Well what did you eat? Could you drink milk when you were in her tummy? (Nooooooo! I had a Bilical Cord!)

That's right! You got your food through a special tube called an umbilical cord, and when your birthmummy ate food, some of it turned into food for you. And  you got bigger, and bigger, and bigger, and then you got SO big that you wouldn't fit inside any more and you had to be born. 
And when you were born, the doctor said: these babies don't need an umbilical cord any more, they are born babies! They can drink milk now!  So he went  (SNIP!)(Dramatic scissor actions at this point, of course)

And then in a little while the rest of your umbilical cord fell off and what was left behind? (MY BELLY BUTTON!)

That's right! That's how you got your belly button! So when you see your belly button, you can remember about how your birthmummy kept you safe and gave you all the food you needed when you were in her tummy. (Teachable moment or what? High five, Mummy, I've been telling myself. My children are going to be so well adjusted about their adoption).

She loves, loves hearing about herself as a baby, and this is her favourite story. But these days, she barely lets me get to the end before telling me and then Mummy and Daddy came and got me and we went home on a Neroplane and now we are a FAMILY! 

Ummmmm, yeah, I guess we did, but that is totally not the point here, Pink.  This is supposed to be a story about the umbilical cord, not the Neroplane. Did you not get the memo about the teachable moment? But at the moment, she wants to get to the Neroplane as quickly as possible.

I don't want her to skip forward quickly. I don't want him hiding under my shirt. This is slightly surprising to me. I thought maybe I would.

I always thought that it would be me who had to remember not to pretend that they came from my body. I always thought it would be that way. But no, it's them who want to gloss over what came before and pretend there was never anything except for this, the four of us.

Pink doesn't seem particularly sad about what came first, just not that interested. But Blue hurts.

Maybe one day that hurt will become I wish I had stayed with her. But right now it manifests itself as I wish I had always been with you. I'm astonished to find that this is as painful to witness as the other one would be. My boy wishes that I had been there with him, and I wasn't. Never mind the physical impossibility of what he wants - he wishes I had been there, and I wasn't.

I believe wholeheartedly that an attitude of openness in adoption is always better than the alternative. But I didn't realise this openness would be so painful for them - and especially for him - at this developmental stage. Right now, I think he would honestly prefer not to know that he is adopted. He would prefer that we were all complicit in his fantasies. Why am I surprised by this? As a adult, I have had to work and work at having an attitude of openheartedness towards my children's other family, their early history, their other selves. I don't think that children are naturally open-hearted; I think children crave exclusivity. He has no desire to be part of two families, and why should he? I wonder if sometimes we adults superimpose our own understanding of what they should want onto how they actually feel. After all, they are only three. How can they possibly understand any of this? I am eleven times that and sometimes I don't.

He knows that he came from anther woman's body, but he doesn't want it to be true. He wants to make it go away. I think he's waiting for the day when I will cave in and say only joking, Blue! You weren't adopted You were always mine! 

He wishes that we had been joined by a real umbilical cord. Do I wish that? Not really, but I wish I could take away this layer of sadness from my sunshiny boy.

He wishes he had been born from my tummy - it's as simple as that.