Mums In Leadership Interview

I had the pleasure of interviewing my good friend Joanna Adeyina as part of the ongoing conversation around Why Mums Make Great Leaders

Watch time: 25 mins 

Grab a cup of tea (I’m British!) and a biscuit and have a watch. Find out what Joanna thinks about being a mum and a leader, how it’s made her better, the challenges it brings and her favourite parenting tips – because we all love a good life hack!

Joanna is a wife, mum, actress, presenter, author and children’s entertainer. She leads in three main spheres of life, in the home with her husband, in her career and at church. You can check out her website here: www.itsjoanna.co.uk

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic and you can catch up on previous posts and the introduction to the series here: Why Mums Make Great Leaders

 

Why Mums Make Great Leaders Part IIII

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For those new to this theme, let me explain. Last year I started a conversation entitled, ‘Why Mums Make Great Leaders’ Initially, this was mostly due to me becoming a first-time mum and navigating the new territory and title of Mother against the backdrop of leadership. The aim of the conversation is to encourage Mothers that they can make great leaders despite a historical context of being overlooked for leadership, by themselves or others due to their motherhood season. Sadly women and mothers still face discrimination within the arena of leadership today. Despite the fact that in Western culture we have made good progress and are moving forward, there is still work to be done. I am however grateful to live in a country and era in which we are free to address the topic. Women in different cultures and countries to my own still aren’t afforded the basic human right of freedom of speech and so we must help to fight for them.

With that said, this isn’t a political or rallying post, but rather one to inspire and encourage and bring hope to another. Whilst it’s addressed primarily to mothers, the message of positive influence transcends title and is the privilege and responsibility of all.

Good leaders influence well, they inspire greatness in others, they believe in a better future and they pioneer into the unknown. Today as I was scrolling through my Instagram stories, I came across an incredible example of great leadership by a mother posted by a friend who is herself a great leader and mother to five children! She posted a tale about Thomas Edison and his mother that reads as follows:

One day, as a small child, Thomas Edison came home from school and gave a paper to his mother. He said to her, “Mum, my teacher gave this paper to me and told me that only you are to read it. What does it say?” Her eyes welled with tears as she read the letter out loud to her child, “Your son is a genius. This school is too small for him and doesn’t have good enough teachers to train him. Please teach him yourself.”

His mother did just that until she fell ill and passed away.

Many years after Edison’s mother died, he became one of the greatest inventors of the century.

One day he was going through some of her things and found the folded letter that his old teacher had written to his Mother. He opened it… The message written on the letter read, “Your son is mentally deficient. We cannot let him attend our school anymore. He is expelled.” Edison became emotional reading it and later wrote in his diary, “Thomas A. Edison was a mentally deficient child whose mother turned him into the genius of the century”

Source unknown

Thomas Edison was a famous American inventor, probably best known for creating the first electric light bulb. If you google the above story, there is speculation around whether it is based on fact or more allegorical in style. Some believe that there was actually a conversation between the teacher and mother rather than a note, but whatever the truth of this particular report, the message is still important, words have power and mums have influence.  

Fact or fiction, reading about the courage and tenacity of Thomas’s mother reminded me once again of the power of leadership within mums. What a responsibility we have as parents to lead and influence our children well. Mrs Edison was unwilling to settle for a negative diagnosis of her son’s abilities. Believing in his potential and motivated by a mother’s love, she decided to set about creating an environment in which she could forge a better future for Thomas than that prescribed by his teacher. I doubt she could have foreseen the scale of impact that her decision and effort would have. What a great example for us all, whatever title we hold, mother, father, grandparent, friend, neighbour, work colleague or stranger, we each have the power to encourage or discourage. It’s a sobering thought to think that because of the nurture, influence and leadership of his mother in his early years and the guiding of his potential, his and her legacy continue to this day. If you’re reading this with the help of an electrical light, you are sitting partly under the fruit of Mrs Edison’s labours. A leader in her own right. 

I am blessed with two lovely sisters-in-law, one is my brother’s wife and the other Rich’s sister. Both are people who you could comfortably introduce to anyone because not only are they lovely, both can also hold a conversation with pretty much anyone. Interestingly, however, Rhiannon, Rich’s sister, as a child of about 18 months old wasn’t correctly finishing the end of her words. The Health Visitor wanted to refer her to a speech therapist, believing there to be further issues with her communication. Her mother Amanda, refused. Amanda knew that this developmental phase wasn’t due to a lack of intelligence or understanding on Rhiannon’s part as she was using language appropriately. Amanda believed that Rhiannon would eventually get there in her own time as long as her and Andrew (her Dad) kept regularly speaking to her. Today Rhiannon is a Cambridge medical graduate who went on to become a GP and is now a pastor who teaches and preaches as part of her job. Although Amanda didn’t know what Rhiannon would become, she believed in her future and influenced her present to help ensure her greatest potential could be fulfilled. 

Whatever season we may find ourselves in and whatever influence we may have or however we view that influence, big or small, whether it’s over one person, ten or multitudes, we have the ability to make a difference for good. We have an opportunity to create change and to speak hope and life into desperate situations. Never doubt the importance of who you are to someone and the power that your words hold. This post sits within the category of, ‘Why Mums Make Great Leaders’ but it’s really a message to anyone who is willing to love another and be brave enough to lead, even against the odds and at the risk of being misunderstood.

What legacy will we leave?

“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”

Proverbs 18 v 21 (NIV)

To read more of this conversation click here 🙂

How I Create My Blog Content

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Just a quick little post about how I create content for anyone out there wondering or needing some encouragement in getting started. So here are 5 ways in which I create content:

LIVE – Simply, I just live! I believe that every day I wake and have breath still in my body, I have a purpose. Most days can seem pretty mundane and monotonous if you look at them purely on face value but God can move, whisper and nudge through anything! Most of my thinking time is done when cleaning or doing an everyday task and I’m often inspired by simple things and my day to day comings and goings. 

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” James 4 v 8

KEEP MY EYES AND EARS OPEN – I try and follow, watch, read and notice things and people all around and allow myself to be inspired by most things. Something or someone may trigger a train of thought that leads to a completely different outcome from where it was conceived. My husband might call this one nosey, but I like to think I keep informed about things that are important to me. I also listen to my inner voice for recurring themes or phrases.  

“I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” Albert Einstein

MAKE NOTES – Most of what I post starts as a phrase or thought. As soon as I have one I jot it down, usually on my phone for ease and speed as I’m often in the middle of something or about to change a poopy nappy. I have many notes on the go at any one time and I just leave them on my phone until I’m able to sit down and read through them.

PRAY – Often I pray a simple prayer before I delve into my notes to ask God what if anything to expand on. Often specific scriptures drop into my mind and I write them down, read them and mull over them.

WRITE – I open google docs, import my thought or phrase and start to type and see where it leads. Depending on the time of day and the type of day I’ve had, I could finish it in one sitting, other times I may start one and leave it overnight to settle in my head and heart and approach it with a fresh mind the next day.

It’s easy to feel limited in terms of resource, for me time is of the essence being a full-time mother, there’s no way I can write with Sienna around. Discipline and goal setting have been key to me prioritising space to get things done. Sometimes I start during her nap time and finish in the evening depending on the week and what else needs to be achieved and when. Because I’ve committed to doing it, I always make time. It’s funny how we find an opening to do something that we deem important.

I’m not an expert writer but I try and learn each time I post and I definitely have very limited IT skills. I use WordPress to host the blog which provides super easy template options for beginners like myself as well as more advanced ones for those in the know. For all images used on the blog and social media, I use Canva which again me is amazing for a novice like me in all things graphic design.

I’m a work in progress and so whilst difficult to accept I realise that all content isn’t going to be perfect. For me, it’s a collection of thoughts and encouragements based mostly on my faith and because of that, I expect the blog to grow as I do. Recognising this allows me to do my best now and know that that is excellent for this season. I also play to my strengths. As silly as it sounds, thoughts are my strength, photos, theology, graphic design are not my strength, I just try and stick to being and me and commit to being better. 

So that’s me! How do you create content or capture your thoughts? Do you journal or take photos or simply have conversations with others? How do you find inspiration in your everyday life? 

You can also read why I write a blog here 🙂

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Why Are We Waiting?

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Deciding when to have children was probably a bigger decision for me than it was for Rich, although it affected us both hugely. I was acutely aware of how much my life would have to change in order for us to become parents. It was something we always planned on doing but the timing was up for negotiation. There are many reasons as to why we waited for as long as we did to start trying, but they really all boil down to the fact that we thought we had life to live before we took the plunge. Reasons that felt justified and I’m sure some were. I had trained as a dancer and didn’t feel I could pursue that to the best of my ability physically with a child. We wanted to become more financially stable so that we could support our child. Good reasons and sensible decisions to many.

On having Sienna, I admit that some of the concerns I had about having children most definitely came to pass, lots of sacrifices, limited availability for other pursuits, tiredness, but all of them pale into insignificance in comparison with the pleasure of being her mother. It’s not an easy journey, I’d be lying if I said I’d loved every second of it, there have been really tough moments, but it is by far one of the most worthwhile things I’ve ever done. Despite the fact that I don’t think it’s my only life calling, it’s already given me more fulfilment than other things I’d chased. 

We were so concerned about losing out on life, or at least I was, that at times we failed to recognise all that we’d gain. There’s definitely a cost to being a parent and for me personally in many ways, it’s cost everything. I’ve had to work hard to regain physical strength after a less than ideal birth, I’ve had my faith and patience stretched to the max, I’ve let go of many things and it has pretty much turned my world upside down. There is good news though! I do love Sienna inexplicably, and challenging as it may be, I can’t imagine a better life without her.

Being able to experience the joy of parenting requires dealing with a lot of unpleasant stuff. Just meeting your child requires labour, aptly named as it’s no walk in the park. Before you become a parent you can only imagine what it’s like. I believe God took us on a journey of excitement and expectation to prepare our hearts for the gorgeous munchkin that we now call ours, yet still, we couldn’t have imagined the joy we would feel, we only hoped for it. We had to make the choice to surrender what we had known and go through the process of discovery to find it.

In an encounter with His disciples, Jesus outlines a tough decision that they and all followers of Christ must face if we are to fully embrace salvation. It’s not a pretty scripture, it’s one of those grin-and-bear-it reads until you turn to another more pleasant and palatable text about all of the inheritance and good things we attain as children of God. Yet on the other side of the decision, although it requires loss, is inexpressible joy and eternal abundant life.

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life, will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”

Matthew 16 v 26

It sounds like a pretty big deal, and well, it is, following Christ requires letting go of a lot, your whole life in fact, but I want to encourage you, the gain is far more than we could ask or imagine (reference to Ephesians 3 v 30). Since having Sienna, yes I’ve laid down and let go of some things but it’s afforded me so much more than just the overwhelming love of a mother. It’s allowed me to pause and reassess certain aspects of life as well as gain a greater perspective. It’s forced my hand in discipline because I want to be the best mum to her and provide the best as much as I’m able. It’s heightened my senses to His purpose and given me a greater appreciation of others and a deeper level of empathy. Time and how I spend it has become ever more precious and I’ve found the ability to dream again in more ways than one. I’ve been surprised at new passions and ideas that God has given me. I’ve pressed into God further and upped my prayer game. On the other side of the decision to lay down my life for another; all my hopes and unfulfilled dreams, doubts and struggles, the need for control, I’ve found so much more than I lost.

If only we could have a taste of the abundance before we make the leap of faith right? Maybe then we wouldn’t deliberate or procrastinate for so long before taking the plunge. But faith requires us to hope and have confidence in things not yet seen. One thing I would always encourage those under my leadership with is that you can’t trust someone you don’t know, so I the first step to letting go, is getting to know! Get to know God, Psalm 34 v 8 says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good, blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him” This verse is an invitation to experience the Lord’s goodness, but it requires us to first take a bite, to trust, to seek, to act. Jesus moved heaven and earth to display His love for us, He’s laid it all out for all to see, but the issue with merely seeing and not tasting/doing is that we can look away. Tasting is an experience, it leaves a flavour. Give God a go and see what flavour you’re left with.

So I want to ask you what are you waiting for? What’s holding you back from laying down everything, that issue, the pride, the hurt, your past? Like the scripture in Matthew says, what do we gain by holding onto things? Let us not sacrifice our wholeness on the altars of being right, unforgiveness or temporary pleasure. Hope and promise await in a future where we let go and let God. I had to lay down the life I had come to know, and even though it wasn’t perfect there was comfort in its predictability. One can only hope that the investment into Sienna pays off, but investing all that you have and everything you are, past, present, future, dreams and hurts into Christ has the best and most secure payoff, not only in eternity but also in the present. So let’s let go and let God.

“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart”

Psalm 37 v 4

 

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Mirror, Signal, Meltdown

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Recently we purchased a new car, I know what you’re thinking – what an exciting life we lead! It’s not ‘new new’ but new for us and still in great condition and get this – amazingly, (this feels like a novelty) –  everything works! We were blessed with our previous one and it’s been a huge help since having Sienna to have the extra space it offered for the mountain of things that come along with travelling with a child. However, it was a miracle that it passed its last MOT as there was a lot of onerous things wrong with it. For example, the driver’s seat fixed in only one position, so both Rich and I had to manoeuvre a one-size-doesn’t-quite-fit-all driving posture. If the driver door wasn’t at least ajar when unlocked, the car automatically re-locked itself causing the alarm to trigger – tricky when trying to get yourself, bags, pram and kid out of the car. It wasn’t far off a crystal maze challenge! There were also various important buttons missing, no air-con (imagine that in this heat wave UK peeps) and other minor but annoying issues that all made vehicle operation pretty tedious at times.

The new, but not ‘new new’ car has all sorts of fancy bells and whistles and fandangled ways to turn on the car and operate a variety of gizmos and gadgets. All wonderful and super efficient – as long as you know what you’re doing. You can probably tell by my description of car parts that I’m not completely au fait with motors. I’m not ashamed to admit that I took a test drive with the hubby to ensure I knew what I was doing. The first attempt was only mildly successful, as it resulted in me stalling in the middle of the road whilst passers-by asked if we needed a push! Cue the hubby wanting the ground to swallow us up whilst I break into a mild sweat and hit all sorts of buttons in an attempt to restart the car. Have you ever done the same thing multiple times and expected a different outcome and find yourself shocked every time that you achieve the same result? That was me! (That can be a different blog for another day!) We had to quickly jump out and switch positions amidst the ever-growing queue of traffic as I tried to politely smile and wave with a confused look expressing, “sorry, not sure what’s wrong, it’s a mystery, we’ll be gone before you know it,” – Eek! You’ll be glad to know, the streets of South East London are now safe to drive again and I am of course a pro at driving our lovely new but not ‘new new’ family car.

Despite the fact that I had been desperate for a new car, in that moment of discomfort and ever-so-slight mild beetroot face embarrassment, I longed for my old broken and dysfunctional car, because at least I knew what I was doing and that brought me some comfort. Even though the seat didn’t quite fit my stature and preference, I had adjusted accordingly to its awkwardness and it became my ‘norm’. Even though everything took twice as long to accomplish, at least I was prepared for its malfunctioning parts. I’d become accustomed to its irritating nuances.

Isn’t that a bit like life sometimes? We long for ways to make our journey smoother and more efficient but when opportunities arise, if we don’t ‘click’ with them straight away, our lack of experience and insecurities can make us want to run back to our old broken and dilapidated ways. Even though our old ways are broken and dysfunctional, like my old car, at least we knew how to function in them, how to get by and make things work. We became accustomed to operating slightly off-kilter.

When pushed out of our comfort zone, it takes a while to adjust. It can offer a better experience of life in the long run if we embrace the stretch. But can we take the risk and embarrassment of our vulnerabilities being exposed as we stall in the middle of the road in full view of nosey onlookers whilst trying to find our feet?  

One thing I’ve realised about the stretching seasons of life is that they are rarely planned or welcomed. We don’t wake up one day and think, “today is a good day to feel uncomfortable, vulnerable and overwhelmed”. Rather, they seem extremely ill-timed and we can feel completely unprepared and ill-equipped to deal with the changes required. So, here are some quick things I’ve learnt about the seasons of stretch from my new but not ‘new new’ car test drive experience:

  • I’m Perfectly Equipped – I’ve actually been driving for a decade and ask Rich on a good day and he’ll agree that I’m a great driver! I know the laws of the road (mostly – ha! Who knows all of them seriously?) and I can do all of the necessary procedures to get safely from ‘a to b’. In this instance and often with stretching and new ventures, I just needed a bit of practice to adjust to the new settings. We actually know more than we think and have more in us than we realise. Take salvation, the initial decision and the daily walking it out, it offers many new revelations which present choices for us all on how to apply them. Sometimes we soar and sometimes we struggle, but we need not worry because the Bible reminds us that, “God has placed eternity in the hearts of men” (Ecclesiastes 3 v 11) In other words, we are hard-wired towards our destiny right from our conception. It’s His plan and His will that we find Him and learn to navigate this life with Him. He wants us to stretch and grow and even prosper. So take heart that you have everything you need to face what’s ahead, you just need to practice and grow into it.

 

  • Try Again Straight Away – For a moment I felt deflated and a tad anxious to try again, but as soon as we had managed to pull over, we swapped seats and after a little recap of all the important buttons, off I went again. I was probably a little tentative and over-cautious, but nevertheless, it was easier. It’s so important not to let a failure or failures stop us from going again because our success could be on the other side of one more try.

 

  • Don’t Stretch Alone – Fortunately for me, I had Rich at that moment to help bring some guidance, clarity, encouragement and let’s be honest, a kick up the bum. We weren’t made to do life alone, we were made to live, love, laugh, cry, try and fail alongside others. Life is better when shared, warts and all. Who can we lean on to take the wheel when we need them to and who will encourage us back into the driver’s seat when it’s time? Or who can we do that for?

 

Well, there you have it, I hope my mini, ‘new but not new new’ car drama has brought you some encouragement. Whatever you’re facing, be it big or small, don’t be tempted to jump back into old and broken ways that weren’t really working for you anyway. Have faith that it’s within you, take a breath, try again and don’t do it alone. Once you get the hang of it, the ride will be much smoother in the long run.

Right, I’m off to swat up on some road theory – jokes!

 

365 Days Later

365 days later

Technically upon writing this, it’s only 361 days since the birth of our beautiful daughter Sienna, but it’s her birthday week and I try and post on Mondays, what are a few days between friends?

Coming up to her first birthday has made me reflect on this past year and the highs and lows of becoming a parent.
I thought I’d ask myself and Rich, “If we had to choose three things that we’ve learnt over the past year what would they be?” It’s almost an impossible task to only pick three because it can be a daily stretch into the unknown, navigating continual beginnings, as she progresses from one stage to the next. However, we’re always up for the challenge so here they are:

Anna:

I’m Stronger Than I Think – Perseverance Pays Off

Perseverance takes on a whole new meaning when there is no get-out-clause, you’re sleep deprived and you have no previous experience to draw from. In the early days, weeks and months it often felt like I was climbing a rocky mountain in flip-flops after not sleeping for a month! An uphill battle, with the least amount of energy, whilst feeling totally ill-equipped. Every now and then you stop to take a breathe and are awed by the view, but then it’s head down and back to the grind. However, I made it, each day was followed by night and each night followed by a new day. One step at a time, often one day at a time I put one foot in front of the other and just kept going. Not because it was easy, not because I had the training, not because I was always excited or passionate but because I had to. Now I think back to those early days as welcome distant memories, smiling at the highlights. Today Sienna presents new challenges with her strong will and determination (ha!) but every day she brings joy and life, and to see her grow and learn, smile and flourish make every drop of blood, sweat and tears worth it. There’s no amount of preparation that can make you ready for your individual unique child, it’s a journey that has to be lived, like many things in life.

I Love Sleep – Discipline Reaps Rewards

Thank God for sleep training! Like anything worth doing, it requires consistency and determination but it has huge benefits. From the start, we established the difference between night-time and day-time for Sienna due to some great advice. It hasn’t been easy and this year has meant I’ve hardly left the house on an evening. However, she now has no issues going to sleep pretty much anywhere as she’s in such a good routine, the sacrifice and continuity are really paying off. Parents have different approaches to different things but most likely for most, there’s still some discipline involved somewhere. Discipline requires keeping the long-term goal in view in order to outwork the daily, often mundane tasks to achieve your goals. Discipline can feel restrictive but it actually brings freedom in the end. Freedom to plan, freedom to enjoy its benefits, freedom from issues avoided through lack of discipline.

Just Call Me Bendy Barbie – Flexibility Is Key

One huge lesson for me has been learning to relinquish the need to always be in control. Preparation and schedules are all important and necessary but when the poop hits the nappy at 3 am in the morning in catastrophic proportions, you have to strip your child and chuck them in the bath whether you or they like it or not! I like to be in control of my own life, that’s not an uncommon or unreasonable ask. I’ve learnt to make plans but hold onto them lightly. I take a breath and whatever happens, try and enjoy and embrace the moment I find myself in. There’s nothing as important as this little tiny life that can’t wait another 5 minutes, a day, a week, a month or even a year if necessary.

Rich:

Be Kind To Each Other- Everyone Has Had A Tough Day

Being a parent is not easy. Whether it’s dealing with a cranky child all day, or having no sleep and having to go to work and deliver on projects. It’s tough, you’re shattered and probably just about holding it all together. It can be so easy in this type of stretching environment to play the “woe is me” card and paint a picture of how your day was way worse and far more stressful than that of your spouses… but don’t. Be kind to each other, prefer one another, go out of your way for one another. Try and laugh together, enjoy the absurdity of parenthood. Be kind with your words, they’re the oil that keeps the wheel spinning.

Children Love Easily And Forgive Quickly

It’s true and thank God that’s the case. We all get it wrong, probably way too frequently for our liking, but children are far more forgiving and resilient than we give them credit for. They aren’t insecure, they don’t care about what people think about them. As far as they’re concerned, they are the most awesome human being in existence. They don’t try and hide their emotions to be cool when daddy comes home from work, Sienna’s face lights up. When daddy tells Sienna off for touching the TV, there’s usually lots of frowns and a few tears, but her default position is towards love and closeness. It’s only when we grow up do we, unfortunately, learn how to be insecure.

“Important” Things Aren’t Really That Important

Oscar Wilde once said, “Life is far too important to be taken seriously.” I like that thought. This year has been a discovery of what actually matters. As adults, we get so myopic in our view of success. Having Sienna has stripped away all pretence. The things I used to worry about just aren’t as important as they used to be. Perhaps I’ve got wiser, maybe I’m just more tired. Whatever it is, it feels good to remember that Sienna couldn’t care less whether I’m good at my job or not. She doesn’t care whether I get promoted, get a pay rise or drive a nice car. She just knows me as Dad, and to be honest I think that’s pretty cool.

365 days later sienna

 

“Colic – come at me bro!”

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Colic is definitely not my “bro”, nor my “sis” or any other relative for that matter, and is actually more foe than friend. So why the title? Well, living in South East London, I’m acquainting myself with the colloquial lingo, (who am I kidding?!)

According to my parents, I suffered from colic myself as a baby. If you have any experience of a baby with colic, you know it’s a miracle that any parent and baby survives past the newborn stage.

When I look at other newborns that lie contentedly in their parent’s arms, or on the floor, in a pram or Moses basket etc. I look on in wonder and disbelief. This was not our experience of our fresh-out-of-the-womb, Heaven-sent little package.

Quite a few health professionals were in disbelief that Sienna had lost 17% of her birth weight within the first week; all of her other health checks had gone really well. After a recommendation from our health visitor, we took a trip to A & E. This resulted in a 48-hour plus stint in the hospital. After being unable to insert a cannula into her tiny arm, (after what felt like an eternity of trying), the doctor said that we should try to feed Sienna some formula. Fortunately, after a strict 48 hours of planned feeding from both myself and the bottle, our gorgeous little poppet had gained enough weight to be discharged. We thought, ‘finally, we can start to enjoy being new parents.’

Enter colic. With hours of relentless crying, sometimes screaming, often in inconsolable discomfort, we could never put Sienna down between the early afternoon and late evening, without her becoming hysterical. It’s one of those things that you can’t imagine until you’re in it. Rich’s greatest hope for parenthood had been scaled back to, “I just want to be able to hold my daughter without her crying.” Mine, “I just need to get through the hours that Rich is at work.”

On the back of 9 months of cooking our child and all that this entails, followed by a pretty traumatic birth; labouring for 4 days with little sleep, a late epidural, meconium in the waters, and an emergency C-section, colic at a few weeks old was certainly an unwelcome guest.

Colic seems to be a mostly undefinable and untreatable phenomenon that some babies get. Both child and parents somehow have to struggle through this period, which can last anywhere between a few weeks to a few months, until it decides it’s had enough of tormenting its victim; the baby grows out of it, the tummy matures.

After trying Infacol, gripe water and taking other advice on how to manage this unrelenting issue, we were at the end of our resources both practically and emotionally. 

If you were to apply for a job with a high level of responsibility, with no prior experience, the chances of being asked for an interview are slim to zero. Yet as new parents, here you are with the most precious treasure on the planet, with zero experience (at least for us anyway), 24-hour responsibility and very little sleep. Now add on top of that, the phenomena that is colic. Argh!

We mustered every bit of strength within us and both Grandma and Grammie to try to ease the discomfort of our special little one. We discovered a few tricks, that eventually, sometimes, 50% of the time, worked every time (not the best odds!) It was proving too difficult to manage. People tell you that the first 6 weeks are the hardest, meaning to be helpful, but 6 weeks feels like a lifetime away when every day is a battle.

Friends wanted to come and visit and drop off food parcels and see our beautiful little girl, but I was barely getting through each day. Walking to the park or the shop was often a cause for mild anxiety, with us hoping and praying she didn’t have an episode in the store. To see your baby cry in distress for at least 6 hours a day is less than fun, in fact, it is an absolute nightmare. I would dread her being awake (how sad is that!) beyond 2pm because that is when it seemed to hit the worst. It’s in those moments that you realise how out of control and on edge you are. 

One day, with emotions, hormones and physical discomfort chipping away at my positive outlook, topped off with a good dose of sleep deprivation, I’d had enough. Rich had gone back to work, and on this particular day he’d had to leave at 5am and wasn’t due to be home until around 11pm. The morning, as usual, was pretty good, with Sienna having some lovely awake time and napping on schedule, confidence built and I thought, “I can do this!” It turns out I couldn’t. I tried every trick we knew, the bouncy ball, the rocking, the gentle shushing, the singing, the feeding, the Infacol, and so the list goes on, and nothing was working. Sitting on that bouncy ball I cried out to God, “I can’t do this, you need to help me, I’m desperate.”

One emotional phone call later and Rich made his way home for as early as he could, arriving home at around 9pm. Just as he walked through the door she went to sleep – typical!

We sat down and chatted and decided that this was not OK and if God had called us to this life and to be parents to this child, then we needed to see His breakthrough. Every day we had prayed faith-filled prayers, but it felt like we needed to go to war for this little one. In the natural, going into battle at your weakest point seems borderline suicidal, but standing on the truth that His Grace is sufficient for us, and His power is perfected in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12 v 9) we decided to fast (sensibly given I was feeding and Rich working) and pray for 7 days.

The first 6 days of the fast were still just as tough, but we had a renewed sense of hope and belief that the end was in sight. The seventh day came, it happened to be a Sunday. What a perfect day to end the fast on! It was also the first time that I had made it to church with Sienna. The day wasn’t without its hiccups and she had a meltdown towards the end of the service, but I thought, “We’ve made it.”

During the period in which Sienna suffered from colic, I had become a Google addict, typing in everything I could think of related to colic that might show up some useful results or advice on how to cure it or deal with it. I did it religiously every day for a few weeks in the hope that maybe I had missed something. In the week of the fast, I did the same thing. The same sites that I had previously clicked on all popped up as results to my new searches when suddenly I came across an article from the Guardian that helped me to refine my feeding methods for Sienna. Where had it been? How have I missed this? The article definitely helped to ensure that the colic didn’t return as the feeding had exacerbated the situation, and it was something I put into practice immediately, but from Monday onwards, Sienna was miraculously healed. God stepped in and healed her and relieved her of her discomfort and gave me the tools to ensure that it didn’t return again. Writing it in a sentence doesn’t seem to do it justice. It is that simple, but it wasn’t that easy. 

I have to admit that every time she cried during the weeks following her healing, I was a little on edge. We had to re-learn that crying is one of the ways in which babies communicate and just because we hadn’t had a “normal” initial experience, we were now able to attend to her needs. The scream that made us fear the neighbours might think we were chopping her leg off had disappeared, and we could finally start to build a meaningful bond and relationship with our daughter. Now we can’t believe it’s the same child, she’s so happy and easy-going, so much fun to be with and has a clear determined spirit. Every day we are thankful.

There is advice out there for coping with colic, and help in trying to manage it, as well as advice on how to get through it emotionally and physically for parents, but there is no medical absolute cure. I am really grateful for medicine and science, however, one-size doesn’t always fit all and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, however, I believe one God does fit all.  

Some might think it’s a fluke, a coincidence, but I’m here to say that God healed Sienna and everything I read in the scriptures about Jesus, show that He healed without condition and He was and still is always willing to break into people’s situations. There was no illness, injury or issue too big or too small for Him to care about, and it was and still is His will to see people restored. I can recount many events in my life, and the life of friends and family, where God has responded to our faith and stepped in with His loving hand, to turn things around.

I write this blog in the hope that anyone in the same predicament as me, possibly at the end of their tether, with colic or even some other sickness or issue, may somehow stumble across it. I want people to know that there is hope in a God who is real, who cares and who can and who wants to break into your situation.

I always say that it’s difficult to trust someone who you don’t know. For Rich and I we didn’t just arrive at the decision to pray and fast randomly. It was a decision made based on a Person that we know, whose traits, character and provision we have seen on many occasions. He’s available to be known by all.

Hebrews 4 v 16

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

 

For anyone interested in the article related to colic:

https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2005/mar/30/familyandrelationships.healthandwellbeing

My Journey to Motherhood 

MY JOURNEY TO MOTHERHOOD BLOGcopy

When you start dating, people often ask, “So when are you getting married?” and then when you’re married, “When are you having children?” On both occasions, if you’re anything like me, you think, “Slow down people and let us enjoy the moment!” For us, having children was always something that we wanted to do… in the future. Moving to London when just married, we both had an excitement and anticipation for our futures, believing we were following God’s direction to use our talents, (dance and sound), in the entertainment industries. At that time children didn’t yet fit into that picture – and that’s OK. We were still young enough, and possibly naive enough, to accept living with other people despite being newlywed, and working in jobs that were a means to an end to allow us to pursue our passions. We could survive on a steady diet of beans on toast, cheese on toast, egg on toast, toast on toast, right?

Five years in and many challenges, highs and lows, stretching and growth later, God started to change our hearts and impress on us a softness towards the idea of having children.  Once Rich made the decision, he was ‘all in’ and ready, but for me, it took a little longer to accept the challenge. After all, carrying and giving birth to a baby changes the game, in every way. Dreams I’d held onto, things not yet accomplished or even had the opportunity to dip my toe into, seemed like a distant pursuit that would be pushed even further away if I chose to put my ‘life on hold’ to have a baby. Having a baby was a huge step of faith for me because that side of giving birth, everything was so unknown and as it was a ‘new’ desire to grow and nurture a tiny human, I had little experience of what that could or would look like.

Fast-forward to Rich and I eating fish and chips, (one of Rich’s faves), after work one evening and the conversation again turned to…. “So kids”… and us both smiling at the prospect of what that could be like. We finally made a decision together to go for it. In my heart, I made a whisper to God, “OK God, I trust you with this.”

Getting pregnant for us was easier than we thought, and pretty much within the first two months of trying, my little regular monthly friend failed to appear. I must mention in the run-up to that I probably thought I was pregnant every day – ha – turns out I was just bloated! Now that we’d made the decision I was excited, albeit a little nervous at the prospect of us becoming parents. We decided to keep the news to ourselves until we reached the ‘safe’ 12-week mark and had seen our first scan. Even though it was still early days and it felt very surreal, we couldn’t help but start to imagine what this little life might be like.

Unusually the hospital had somehow confused our paperwork and we were due to have a 6-week scan, something that seemed a little odd, but as we were newbies to this whole thing we went along with it. At the time Rich was the Head of Production at our Church whilst I was leading the ‘Glam Squad’ – (hair, make-up, wardrobe) – team, and we were coming up to our annual Christmas Carols at Wembley. Lots to do with lots of moving parts. The day before Carols was a Saturday, and we were at our Church warehouse doing the final prep for the big event when I started to experience cramps and experience some light bleeding. A mixture of emotions ensued as I tried to continue to organise the team and final prep, whilst battling this underlying distraction. I found Rich and told him and we both decided that we would pray and give it to God and wait until our scan on Monday, the day after Carols, as there was nothing we could do and we needed to focus on the task in hand.

Praying on the way to the hospital, a little nervous but full of expectation we arrived and patiently waited for our turn.

Lying on the bed and hearing the news that nothing was there, they couldn’t see anything, was somewhat of an out-of-body experience like I was watching from afar. Again, they said it, “I can’t see anything, it looks like you’ve had a miscarriage.” Initially, I managed to get up from the bed and sit next to Rich whilst maintaining a reasonably steady demeanour. As I started to process the words, reality suddenly began to sink in and it seemed like all my hopes had come crashing down, and the tears began to fall.

So much was riding on this moment, I trusted God and I’d put my life on hold, I’d started to imagine a little person, and myself as a mummy. I tend not to cry in public, but this time I couldn’t stop the tears from flowing. What followed was the walk to the crowded waiting room full of expectant mothers. I felt overwhelmed with sadness and disappointment, made all the worse by the embarrassment of not being able to control it in front of a room full of strangers. Rich was looking on in shock and doing his best to console his inconsolable wife whilst trying to process his own emotions.

Fast-forward to many appointments and hours of waiting later, what transpired was, in fact, an ectopic pregnancy, something I had remembered reading about and thinking, “That won’t happen to us.” It was like a cruel joke the enemy was playing, “Ha, you think it won’t happen to you”.

The day I was booked into the hospital to have an injection that would help to remove the cells from my fallopian tube was a Sunday, the Sunday after Christmas, and a touching Heaven service at Church, (extended worship and prayer). I was so desperate to be there; so desperate to not accept this fate, and so desperate to lift my eyes higher.

From a medical point of view, I was in danger if the cells continued to grow in the wrong place. The fertilised egg was going to die anyway, so the sooner we could get rid of ‘it’ the better. Thank God for the concern and diligence of the medical professionals! However, I knew that the living Almighty God of the universe that created everything, who is omnipotent, was able to change this situation around and move this fertilised egg to the womb as this was the beginning of a precious life.

I still believe He is and He can, but on this occasion, He didn’t. Something I still question and seek answers to and may still for a while. Was my faith not enough? All I know is, it’s not God’s will for the innocent to die but we live in a fallen world. My prayer is this, “Teach me to call Heaven to Earth like the Lord’s prayer instructs.” 

So many emotions and feelings ran through me; faith that God was in control no matter what the outcome, reliance and dependence on Him, faith that at any moment God could still infiltrate this situation, grief for a life so short-lived it hadn’t even had a chance, grief from the death of hope.  Disappointment and heartache joined this mix of sensations and a sense of hopelessness settled in, I mourned, “But God, I trusted you with this.”

Rich made the necessary calls and he was excused from work, feeling a little helpless he waited patiently until he could come and be with me at the hospital. Strangely, that Sunday, during the extended worship, the sound system suddenly cut out at our Church venue, the one week Rich wasn’t there! No coincidence I think.

The weeks and months that followed were tinged with a black cloud, trying to make sense of what had happened whilst carrying on and still leading in each of our respective areas. Trying to bring encouragement to others when our hearts were filled with discouragement. There have been so many challenges since moving to London and those bright-eyed, bushy-tailed youngsters were close to being chewed up and spat out by the big City, “why was nothing easy?” There had been many blessings along the way too because God is God, but in moments of despair, they seem to fade into the background if we don’t fight to remember.

A turning point for us was when we were invited to a leadership evening with an American pastor, who shared about losing his wife to cancer and still having to lead his Church. He shared on the report given by the Israelite spies when sent to scope out the land of Canaan, and how the negative report of 10 of the 12 stopped a whole generation of Israelites from entering the Promised Land despite the promises of God spoken over them previously.

I realised I didn’t want us, or the people under our care, (many of whom had no knowledge of our situation), to miss out on what God had for us just because I couldn’t remember the promise of God and had become discouraged at the first hurdle. Little did anyone know in the room that evening how this testimony was watering my soul. Hearing his testimony and the Word that is alive and active, faith once again began to rise within our spirits. The decision to try again didn’t happen overnight and it involved a process of choices, sometimes daily, to believe and profess God’s goodness. I once read a definition of perseverance that reads like this: “Perseverance is a continuation in the state of God’s grace.” Each day was a decision to continue in the “state of His grace.”

There is so much more I could write and share but for the sake of brevity, we finally decided to try again. I’d like to say from the moment we made the decision all things fell into place and we jumped in feet first, and when we fell pregnant again, there was definite joy, but also trepidation and a little numbness as we sought to protect ourselves from further disappointment. Keeping our hearts soft towards God and holding onto hope for the future was a battle we had to fight.

Today our family of 3 is a wellspring of joy to my life. Sienna Faith Harris was born on 23/02/2017. Her entrance into the world wasn’t without struggle, a story for another time, but she is beyond worth it. Piece by piece our broken hearts have mended and God has restored joy to us through her. 

These days I’m a little more careful about asking others, “So when are you getting married?” or “When are you having kids?” knowing that every person’s journey is different.

There is no deep and fancy meaning to the name Sienna and we’ve never visited the town in Italy called by the same name, (although spelt differently). In fact, it means ‘reddish – orange/brown’, not particularly inspiring. However her middle name – Faith – is of great importance to us.

Had we let our story end with discouragement she wouldn’t exist; had we allowed the negative report to be the end of our story she wouldn’t be bringing joy, (and lots of poop), into our every day. It’s also a profession over her life, that we believe that she will have faith that will move mountains and see her enter into the adventure of a life walked with Jesus when she chooses. We believe that she will have faith that will be an inspiration to us and her generation. I have such an expectant hope for her that I couldn’t describe to you what I think it looks like because it’s beyond my imagination.

I realise there are many people out there who have had even longer journeys to parenthood than myself and some may even still be on that journey, but I write this in the hope that it brings courage to someone who needs it, to face whatever struggle they are facing on this day. To know that God’s word cannot return to Him void and if you don’t allow hopelessness to be your end, there’s a promise waiting to have life given to it on the other side of your hope. For us, literally.  

Proverbs 13 v 12 

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life”.