One Pink Toothbrush

Welcome to One Pink Toothbrush, where I will be posting moments from my days as a mum and as a wife. Funny moments, messy moments, thoughtful moments, teary moments.... and hopefully using each moment to see what God might be saying.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Mothering & Mourning

This is the story of a friend of mine and is the second post in the Mothering series...

My husband and I married 27 years ago. We had two children fairly early on and another baby boy 8 years later. Although we had long passed the baby stage, going back was easy and we really enjoyed having him. Also our children loved having a younger brother around, most of the time!
In May 2003 our youngest son became unwell with what we thought was a virus and this continued with headaches into June. We had numerous trips to the doctor and the children's hospital. After an MRI scan which confirmed a brain tumour, he became very unwell and was rushed to Kings College Hospital in London and put on a ventilator. Unfortunately a further scan revealed that there was no brain activity and we made the difficult decision to turn off his life support. He died in our arms on July 3rd 2003, just three weeks before his fifth birthday.

I was devastated. It felt like a part of me had died, and at times when I was crying it felt like my heart would break. I had to make deliberate choices to occupy myself with the mundane in order to cope with the pain. Getting to sleep was especially difficult. I had to make sure that I thought about the next day in order not to let my thoughts run wild. Even when I got to sleep I would dream that he was still alive and would have to wake myself up and face the reality. I had to take one day at a time and I cried every day. Thoughts of ending it all did occur to me but I knew I could not do that because I had a husband and two other children and I knew that it would not be fair on them.

My husband and I have a very strong marriage and we were able to draw comfort from one another. However there were times when one of us was found it more difficult than the other. I did not always know how to support him through it. It also affected the intimate side of our marriage at times. Our children were both teenagers and I'm not sure that I mothered them well during those early days. I met their physical needs, but not much else. As time went on, I got better at being available for them when they needed it. 

It was difficult to deal with other people. Some people appeared to ignore me, I assume because they did not know what to say. Sometimes I avoided people as I did not want to have to tell them about my son dying. I wanted to have a sticker on me saying "Be nice to me, I am grieving" so that people would understand if I did not talk to them. Other times I just wanted to be treated as normal. Some people did not talk about my son, it was as if he no longer existed and I found this very hard.
We were supported by a couple in our church. They were our leaders but became our friends. They would meet us regularly for coffee and just let us talk. I also met with my best friend, a christian lady who had gone through the same thing with her daughter three years previously. She was probably the only person who truly understood what I was going through. I also had and still have a great group of friends from school who made sure that I was occupied every day usually with coffee somewhere. They understood when I had had enough and needed to be on my own. All these friends were prepared to talk about my son and the memories that we had of him which helped so much. 'Care for the Family' have a 'bereaved parents network' organised by other bereaved parents and this was very helpful too.
Anniversaries were difficult, especially our son's next birthday and that first Christmas. The first anniversary of his death was extremely hard as none of us knew what we should be doing and we were glad when it was over. Now on his anniversary, my husband and I go out for coffee and take flowers to his grave. We then go to work and try to occupy ourselves as much as possible. We still go to his grave with flowers every week after church on Sunday.
As time has gone on, things have become easier but I still miss my son every day and feel like a part of me is permanently missing. I often wonder what he would be doing now. I see my friend's children at the age he would have been now, which can be difficult. When my oldest son left home for university it brought back some of the grief and again when my daughter left. We were suddenly on our own when we should have had a son at home, starting senior school.
I don't cry every day now, in fact sometimes I feel guilty for not crying. Nowadays the grief tends to catch me unawares, maybe with a song on the radio or visiting a place that we spent with our son before he died. I do not dream about him as often now but when I do it wakes me up with a start as I know that he is isn't alive. Another thing I find difficult is when someone asks me how many children I have. If I know I will be seeing them again, I tell them about my son but often they find that hard to cope with. The thing is I still have three children even if one of them is now in Heaven.

I have been a Christian since the age of 9 and although I was shaken, it did not destroy my faith. I knew that although things had changed drastically for me, the God who I believed in had not changed. The first Sunday back at church was extremely difficult and I particularly found worship times difficult. I often had to leave during those times. I felt that I would no longer be able to serve God in any useful way in the future.
Amazingly however, I am now doing more in church than ever. My husband and I are involved in pastoral care. This can at times be tough, for example visiting dying people in hospital, but I feel that God has given me an empathy for people that I did not have before. I know that if I was not a Christian I would not be here today. It is my faith in God that has brought me through and continues to take me through this time. It is because of my faith that I know I will see my son again in Heaven. I know that he is there with Jesus now and already enjoying eternity.

I have always held onto this verse knowing that it is true;

"For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope".  Jeremiah 29: 11

Monday, 10 December 2012

Mothering Special Needs

The first post in the Mothering series is an interview with Rachel. Rachel and her husband Andrew have two children and in December 2011 their eldest, Zeke was diagnosed with Autism.

What special needs does Zeke have?
By one year, Zeke wasn't hitting his milestones and continued to fall behind. He began flapping his hands and becoming quite obsessive about toys and objects. At that point alarm bells started to ring as I recognised some of the things he was doing as stereotypically autistic. Our gorgeous little man then went through a painful period of regression; his development went into reverse, he lost eye-contact, his social skills and language. This was probably the darkest period we've been through. 

How did you feel during this season?
The hardest thing was the uncertainty of what was going on and what the future would hold. It was an emotional roller coaster; his behaviour would sway each day. It was hard as a couple to agree, because I was spending more time with children his age and Andrew wasn't. I felt a lot of pressure to provide Zeke with as much input as possible; toddler groups and craft activities. Looking back I wish I hadn't put so much pressure on myself - I don't think it was a lack of "cutting and sticking" that was to blame!

How did you feel towards God?
It was harder than I expected. I would fall apart when praying or engaging with God. While this was going on our little girl was diagnosed with Childhood Epilepsy. We were constantly at appointments and there wasn't much time to pray. To be honest, it sometimes felt like I was rejecting Zeke when I was praying for him to change. Autism is oppressive and awful but it is also something which moulds with your child's personality; their strengths and their weaknesses. So it's hard to know where the lines are between him and it.
When I pray now, I pray for God's kingdom to come in Zeke. I don't believe there will be Autism in Heaven. From early on we could see that this was shaping our character and humility. It is much harder to understand how this could be God's best for our children.

Any verses or worship songs which have been a help?
I found two songs from Bethel hugely helpful, 'Your love never fails' and 'Come to me'. Both songs made me cry and made me look up and cling a little bit more to God. I read 'God on Mute', by Pete Greig, while crying in Starbucks. It helped with the 'Why' questions. And I read Isaiah 61 in a whole new way. I'd never quite seen the 'broken hearted' as 'me' before. Jesus came to bind up the broken hearted and to bring beauty out of the ashes. So He came to bind me up.

Have you been amused or embarrassed by Zeke's antics?
Yes, many times. Last year he insisted on carrying a tin of Thomas the Tank Engine spaghetti hoops everywhere he went. He also has strong feelings about songs. If the church band opened with anything non-Matt Redman he would cover his ears and scream "different song". Whereas now he's in a Lou Fellingham stage. We're entering a nakedness phase which I'm sure will be interesting, particularly as he's still in nappies! The genuinely hard stuff in parenting him, is that he doesn't look any different. He can use some language but he doesn't understand lots and he can scream/shout/hit out in public and I can't stop to tell everyone why it's happening so I just have to deal with the stares.

How have your family had to adapt/make sacrifices?

We've had to adapt our whole lives. We are routined and planned. We have to limit the amount of 'people time' that Zeke has. I've given up work. We go to bed very early as Zeke starts the day very early, and we're not nearly as hospitable in the daytime as we'd like to be. But there are also joys like swimming, walks, endless trampolining and lots of laughing. It's sad to miss 'normal' things like birthday parties, nativities and watching him make friends. Having said this Zeke continually surprises us, and when he does, it feels like a wonderful bonus as I don't take it for granted any more.

What are the pains & joys of being Zeke's mum?
A friend of mine has a child with Down's Syndrome. She has been a huge blessing to me. She described diagnosis like a bereavement; you feel a tremendous sense of loss no matter how much you love and accept your child. But the pain of what you've lost does begin to ease and the joy comes with the steps they make that you never thought they would; each a gift of grace.

What have you learnt?
We've both been incredibly broken by the past year's challenges. We identify more with parents going through challenges with their kids. I think we could have been quite smug parents and even looked down on others, whereas we are now completely convinced that we can't do this without God's help.

What are your fears and hopes for Zeke?
We want our children to develop to a point where they can know God for themselves. Everything after that is a bonus. The future is very uncertain. We've been told that Zeke will need much support and is unlikely to live independently, but it is also so difficult to know the development of autistic children. I'm a bit of a planner so God is teaching me a lot, and just as I think I've got Zeke sussed, there's a new hurdle. Long-term we would love to be able to be an encouragement to others parents and testify that God is good and very very faithful even in pain, confusion and the challenges of mothering a child with special needs.

How do you feel towards Zeke?
Zeke is one of the most loved little boys that's ever walked the earth, not just by us but also by family, friends and support workers. We are enormously proud of him and are very grateful that he was ever entrusted to us.

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners. Isaiah 61v1

Monday, 3 December 2012


I have been thinking about mothers; I am one. I have one, and fifteen years ago, I got myself one of those 'in-law' ones. I have also been 'mothered' by older women (the ones that bake you a cake when you have a baby, or put your washing away when you're heavily pregnant). From my own mother, I learnt how to be hospitable and go the extra mile for people, how to bake without measurements and live without order, how to laugh a lot and find a bargain. From my mother in law, I have learnt how to be patient and diligent, and to see the benefit of a little order in the chaos, and how to give my oldest boys individual time. From those mother-hen types, I have learnt to offer help, even when a mum says she's coping and to look out for young mums. And from being a mother, well...I'm still learning. I have learnt that wet wipes really can clean anything, that you have to say sorry often, that it's best if you try not to laugh during discipline, that you have to try not to worry what others think of you or your kids, that you need to ask for help and advice, and that you need to hand over all the 'Mother Guilt' to the one who loves us with His perfect Grace. 

As far as I can tell, some aspects of mothering are the same whether you're mothering girls or mothering boys. It is one of those relentless but joyful tasks. It's full of tears and laughter. Full of the unknown, and the same old things. Full of teaching, but also learning. Full of change yet also steadfastness. Full of worries and expectations. How to improvise on the spot; bringing Biblical teaching into this moment? How do I make a jet pack out of a Pringles tub? How do I know which size jelly mould is the right sized sick bucket, for which child?

To mother, is to be the fount of all knowledge! At any time of the day, and especially at bedtime, the questions they have see you reaching for Google for many answers; Why do bats sleep upside down? How fast is a shark? And your stored up Bible knowledge, is required for ongoing wisdom. Some days, mothering is just full of nakedness, (their's) poo (which you get to deal with), sick (which you hope makes it into the Tupperware or toilet), Calpol (or supermarket cheaper versions) and cheesestrings (especially when they're on offer).

I think that most mothers can relate to one another, despite their different situations and circumstances. Being a mum is a full time job, whether they have a second job or not, whether they have one child or a few more. On some levels, one mother's plight can be totally different to another's. Mothers can, and should definitely learn from one another, but not compare themselves Mothers should be other mothers' greatest encouragers. So here is my introduction to a series on 'Mothering'. I have interviewed different mothers to find out what mothering is like for them and see what we can learn from their journeys. The common ground I have found, is that regardless of our mothering differences, God remains the same. He remains faithful, loving and full of grace no matter what kind of mother we are. And He is willing to help us become mothers who glorify Him.

"Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning, great is your faithfulness." Lamentations 2:22-23

I hope and pray that you enjoy the series...

Mothering Special Needs

Mothering and Mourning
Mothering at Christmas
Mothering Twins 
Mothering Many
Mothering & Working
Mothering Someone Else's
Mothering with Post Natal Depression
Mothering Young
Mothering Girls
Mothering an Empty Nest
Mothering in Fear
Mothering Alone
Mothering the Prodigal Son
Mothering Mum
Mothering Across Cultures
Mothering Without Mum
Mothering Through Loss
Mothering Anorexia Part One
Mothering Anorexia Part Two (a daughter's story)
Mothering Autism