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you first bring a baby home from the hospital?

Is s/he still breathing? (You rush upstairs.)

Too hot/too cold? (You lay your finger on the back of the neck.)

Is that a chest infection? (You put your ear on his or her back.)

Tears of sadness or tears of pain? (You try a hug.)

Is this skin cancer? (No, it’s a freckle, said the doctor. This really happened with M!)



The minute, close-examining-ness of it all. Each movement and thought seeming to affect the next, and those around it, laying chaos theory bare, and you are the only one who can see it. As if any moment, there could be the worst catastrophe you could ever imagine in your life until now.


Having a child with a chronic disease is a quite a bit like that. Like there’s always something just at the corner of your vision. You’re trying not to look at it, because it’s unlikely to be real. Unlikely to come true.

You just have to keep going. Like having a new baby. You have to realise that people do this every day. Every second of every day. You push away whatever wispy dark things that might make you stop in your tracks.

It’s okay.

Well, you know it really is, and you know it really isn’t. All at once, and all the time.

Fruition in Stereo — Manistee Lighthouse

I’m waiting on a baby. Several, really — but only one actual one. Most are metaphorical: the kitchen (how many people couldn’t have seen that coming); end of term writing portfolios from gung-ho students; Laureate activities. And a few are just plain wishful thinking: a clean and orderly house, a linen basket you can put the top on, a sense of completion in general.

Completion. Maybe I should have called this post that. Like with my prose poems, I almost always title posts before I write them. It gives me a space to go into. Maybe.

Back to babies. Three manuscripts on the go at once. Little done with them in two months. Enduring a familiar ennui. In suspended gestation.


Now back to the real one, the actual star of the show: my good friend Helena is expecting, overdue in fact. For some reason I find I’m almost waiting by the phone, double-checking for texts. I had lunch with her last week, and her house was at the peak of preparation: nappies set up, little folded all-in-ones, Moses basket, cot, and pram by the door.

Sigh. How the first child razes everything, then builds it all back the same but different. Things are so empty before the baby arrives, and you don’t even know it. It’s impossible to imagine how full life can be.

Stay tuned….


From January 2010, my new blog is Waving and Drowning


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Who am I?

A writer born in Texas, who grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia (yes, like the song), and who's been living in the UK since 1988. I've published two books (see below), and teach creative writing at the University of Kent. I'm married to a composer, and we have two young children. See About for my full profile.