Responsibility

If you’re a parent, you may remember that feeling of arriving home from the hospital, putting baby in his/her car seat down in the middle of the room, and realising, Shit, I’ve got to keep this thing alive. With Benjamin, that’s an experience that happens over and over again.

The more hospital stays he has, and the longer they last, the more I get used to relying on the medical staff to keep track of his feeds, measure out his medications, monitor his temperature. I start to depend on his sats monitor to tell me if anything’s wrong, to let him lie around in his vest because I know it’s warm on the ward and his temperature is being checked hourly.

When we are discharged, late in the day, with an hour’s journey ahead of us and a whole family to feed and put to bed, I’m terrified I’ll forget something, miss something, or make a mistake. After each admission I have to get my head around new medications, changed doses, a new feeding regime, and a barely-recovered child.

This time, having been discharged once only to be readmitted for another fortnight, I had even more fears than usual. Normally I’m desperate to get out but this time I refused to take Benjamin home until he’d gone 48 hours without vomiting – which he very nearly managed a few times before vomiting at the 47th hour. When he finally did, acknowledging that I’d likely be just as nervous no matter when we took him home, I agreed to face it sooner rather than later.

The first feed back at home, he vomited straight back at us. The terror started to tug at my throat: it was happening again. He’d end up dehydrated, unresponsive, swollen, on a drip, maybe worse. After a month in hospital, stretching our family to breaking point, I couldn’t bear the thought that we might have to go back.

For two days we struggled as he vomited back more than half of his daytime feeds. I barely slept in case he was sick in the night. I spent an hour over each feed, trying to slip the milk down slowly without his stomach registering it, then an hour hovering over him … then an hour cleaning up. I approached each feed with trepidation, stomach churning, hospital bags ready by the door.

I feel like I always make the wrong decisions, especially when I have to balance the needs of the rest of the family, the disruption it causes the girls when Benjamin is in hospital. I rush my kids to the doctor only to be sent away with a flea in my ear and a note on file: ‘over-anxious mother,’ yet I carry on at home when we really should be on our way to A&E. I long for an objective observer to tell me what to do; but no-one knows Benjamin as well as me. Ultimately it has to be my call.

Thankfully, this time we had a halfway house – our wonderful children’s hospice, where we were due to go for a weekend break. I had been desperately looking forward to this as a chance to rest and be spoiled; now it became a place of safety too, somewhere with trained medical staff to share the responsibility and the decisions. I vacillated up until the moment we were due to leave. I phoned the hospital. I phoned the hospice. I packed, unpacked and repacked. I spent the journey phoning our dietician (I wasn’t driving). I fully expected to have one cup of tea and be sent packing to the Sick Kids.

But for once, it was the right call. For once, instead of getting worse, Benjy started to get better. In fact he pulled the usual stunt that he pulls at Rachel House, of sleeping all night and being no trouble to anybody so that I felt a complete fraud even being there!

The main factor in Benjamin’s turnaround was a step backwards, a step further away from ‘normal’ and closer to ‘medicalised’: we switched his feeds from three ‘meals’ a day to one long, continuous feed using a pump. It was at my request and I think it was another good, though dispiriting, call. I’ve been here before: I recognise that feeling of relief tinged with disappointment from when we finally gave in to tube-feeding instead of bottles. Now, it’s relief that Benjamin is getting the nutrients he needs and keeping them down, that he can stay at home with us and away from the monitors and needles; and disappointment that he no longer experiences breakfast, lunch and dinner like the rest of us, that he’s hooked up to a tube day and night, harder to cuddle, harder to play with.

But that’s a small price to pay, and it may yet be only a temporary one. Benjamin’s still not well; he’s tired, he’s flat, he’s pale and he’s sore; there’s a long road of appointments and interventions ahead of us to work out exactly what went so wrong over the past month and how we can rectify it, but for now we’ve found a way to manage it and to keep him at home where he belongs. The gnawing panic in my stomach is – slowly – ebbing away. The responsibility is firmly back with me, but I can handle it.

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Back in my own bed (‘Mummy, I’m okay, you can turn the light off now’)

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The long months

The eight months since that positive test have felt like the longest of my life. On top of the relentless tiredness, sickness, heartburn, constipation, nosebleeds, piles (am I oversharing yet?); on top of the endless scans and tests; has been the constant – and increasingly impossible – battle not to acknowledge this pregnancy, and the gnawing fear that I would have to terminate it.

I have to admit I never thought the doubt would go on this long – technically to full term in fact. I had naïvely hoped we might know either way by Christmas, or early in the New Year. In the end our final MRI scan was scheduled for Tuesday 26th January – which turned out mark the start of the longest week of waiting of all. When we arrived for the scan, the hospital was in the grip of a power-cut and running essential operations only. The staff searched around and managed to find us an appointment a few days later, on the Friday. The scan was successfully performed, but there were no doctors available to interpret the results. After a restless further weekend of waiting we finally got the phone call, late on Monday, 37 weeks in, that everything looked normal. The relief was almost too much to take in.

Don’t get me wrong, my relief is not that we won’t be having a disabled child. I know I could have loved and cared for another like Benjamin, that he or she would have been a valuable addition to our family. But that wasn’t an option. My relief is that at last, with no more scans or tests to go through, there is now nothing that can prompt a termination. I won’t have to fulfil the promise that I was no longer certain I would be able to keep. Our gamble has paid off. Our little family has survived, and some time in the next month, it will become a family of five.

Cue a frantic rush to get ready everything we hadn’t dared to before. To get the mountain of baby clothes down from the loft and sort them; to clean the cot, the buggy, the sling, the car seat; to start discussing names. My amazing husband not only surprised me by coming home early, bearing flowers, the day we got the good news, he also rushed upstairs that evening and started putting together bouncy chairs and baby-gyms that had lain in pieces in the loft. In my self-absorption I hadn’t realised that he, too, had been finding the long wait so hard, and the relief so immense.

Jackie too, although she doesn’t know the back story, is desperate to meet the new baby. At nursery she draws picture after picture of “Mummy and the baby in her tummy.” She keeps asking, when will the baby come? I’m so glad we won’t have to let her down (although if it’s another boy she will not be impressed!). And Benjamin, though he doesn’t know it, will benefit from having another child to watch, learn from, and emulate.

Worth millions when she's famous

Worth millions when she’s famous

Today my wonderful friends at Kidzone (our local SN early years group) threw me a surprise baby shower. I was totally gobsmacked. I have no idea how they managed to organise cakes, balloons, games, food, presents, in the few days since the scan result. But what was really special was to be surrounded by so much love – for me and for the baby. I came home laden with gifts including a whole set of tiny white bodysuits, each decorated with a unique design (and all the left over cake, of course).

Dare I put these works of art through the wash?

Dare I put these works of art through the wash?

So finally, after the long months of waiting, hiding, fearing, masking our feelings, we can all look forward with joy (and a small amount of trepidation). As the crocuses start to poke their heads up through the soil, we emerge, blinking, from a dream into the light. Whether or not the moses basket is ready, whether the name is chosen, whether the freezer is stocked or the house is clean, our little one will be joining us soon. He or she is head down and ready to go. Thank you for following me on this journey without judging our choices, for putting up with my outbursts of grief and hypocrisy, for listening. I can’t wait to introduce you to our new arrival.

We become warriors

There is no greater warrior than a mother protecting her child (N.K.Jemisin)

When Jackie turned one, she started at nursery two days a week. It meant that I could return to work, and that she could benefit from interacting with other children and adults. Although of course I missed her (I would run all the way back from work to pick her up, and not because I wanted to get fit), I was confident that she was ready for it: by that age she could toddle around to get the toys she wished to play with, could point to things she wanted but couldn’t reach, was starting to feed herself and to choose what – and how – she would eat. (Within the first week the staff reported giving her a bowl of pasta and a fork – she refused to touch it; they put pieces of pasta on the fork and tried to feed her – she refused to open her mouth; they tipped the bowl of pasta out onto the table and she ate every single piece with her fingers. That’s my girl!).

Although I would have loved for Benjamin to go to the same nursery as Jackie – and they would have been happy to take him and would have done their very best for him – it just couldn’t provide the support needed for him to thrive and grow. At the age of two, he still can’t sit up, can’t even roll towards something he wants, can’t feed himself, can’t make himself understood. Without the one-to-one facilitation of a specialist carer, which a mainstream nursery can very rarely provide, Benjamin would not be able to interact with other children, to show his likes and dislikes, to take part in activities, to learn.

So we were delighted when Benjamin was offered a place at a state-funded specialist early years centre, part of the special school he will most likely attend for his primary education. It’s a brilliant school, modern, well-equipped, with small classes and one-to-one care provided by wonderfully enthusiastic, patient, dedicated, trained staff. Although at this stage he’ll only go for a couple of hours, twice a week, I’m confident that it will make a huge difference to his physical, social and intellectual development.

There’s one snag: the school is twenty miles away, the session times clash with Jackie’s nursery hours, there is no direct public transport link, and we don’t have a car. And the council – at a panel meeting to which I was not invited – decided not provide transport for Benjamin (as they would for older children with special needs whose most appropriate school is not their local one).

So we faced a choice. We could rent a car twice a week (which would cost approximately the same as Benjamin’s entire disability living allowance), take Jackie out of nursery twice a week (which she loves, and learns from, and is entitled to) and drive Benjamin (and Jackie, and the new baby when it comes) to his sessions. Or we could say “thanks but no thanks,” to Benjamin’s place and have him miss out on the early years’ education which can make such a huge difference to the development of children like him. In effect, I had to choose between the needs of two of my children. One of them would have to lose out.

But, I take after my mother. Or maybe, as my starting quote suggests, I just am a mother. I’m not one to give up without a fight. I love a little campaign, me. So I started writing letters. I wrote again to the council expressing my disappointment. I wrote to my MP, my MSP, each of my local councillors. Several of them promised to get involved. I wrote to my local paper, the East Lothian Courier. Within a couple of days a reporter got back to me and agreed to do a story.

The very same day that the reporter contacted the council for comment, miraculously, I had a call from the service manager for early years, and then one from the transport manager. Out of nowhere, it seems, they had discovered an escorted bus travelling in the right direction at the right time to take Benjamin to nursery, and an escorted taxi doing the return journey. They were prepared to fit Benjamin into this existing transport as, the service manager repeatedly emphasised, a “grace and favour” offer. Problem solved. “Relief for boy’s family” ran the headline in the Courier.

What I don’t understand is why – when there was appropriate transport running so that it would not even cost anything extra – they couldn’t have found this solution straight away. I hear on the grapevine – and this explains the “grace and favour” thing – that they were averse to setting a precedent for fear that other two-year-olds would demand the same service. A precedent that vulnerable children should be enabled to attend the education that is so vital to their development? Shocking. And also not a massive problem, given that the class contains precisely three children at a time, of which Benjamin is by far the furthest from the school. Of course, had they just quietly allowed Benjamin to slot into the transport that was available, no one would even have been aware that it was an option. Now it has been splashed all over the Courier maybe their unwanted precedent has been set…

Forgive me if I sound cynical. A few details remain to be worked out and there is plenty of chasing up still to be done, but I am confident and relieved that a solution has been found that enables both my children to get the early years education they deserve. Yet the whole episode leaves a sour taste in my mouth. I feel, at the same time, guilty that perhaps by being pushy I have got something for Benjamin that other children might not receive, and also angry that I had to spend time and energy writing, fighting, for something that could so easily have been achieved without any trouble to anybody. Time and energy that I could have spent doing therapy with Benjamin, playing with Jackie, earning money, even sleeping.

We have received such wonderful support for Benjamin since we moved to this area. The foot-soldiers of the services – the doctors, the nurses, the teachers, the therapists, the social workers – they know Benjamin, understand his needs, appreciate that we only want the best for him, and strive to make that happen. They have been dedicated, flexible, compassionate and generally given above and beyond what they are contracted to provide. His visiting teacher even offered to drive Benjamin and I to his sessions at her own expense on her day off if it would have helped.

Where (I think) the system fails our families is in the mysterious ‘panels’ and faceless bureaucrats who control the money and decide where services should be allocated. Without meeting us or our children, without listening to our stories, they weigh us up against one another and against their budgets, policies and fears of ‘precedent.’ It is because of them that families like ours – who already face so many barriers and challenges – have to find the extra reserves of energy to fight. It is (partly) because of them that so many special needs parents face related battles with depression, anxiety and isolation. It is because of them that many do not have the energy to fight any more. I’m lucky – I am both new enough to this to still have some energy, and bitchy enough not to take anything lying down.

We have been so fortunate; our journey so far has been easy. Many parents have to fight from the very start. Fight for recognition that there is even a problem. Fight for treatment, fight for therapy. Fight for suitable education, suitable housing. Fight for respite, fight for benefits that should be an entitlement. On top of being a parent, nurse, therapist, teacher, accountant, PA – oh, and maybe hold down a job too – we must become warriors for our children. I am honoured to have joined their ranks.

Preferred warrior costume

Preferred warrior costume

Wrestling

I feel a little bit naughty. I’m on my own – completely on my own – on my way to London, in the middle of the night. It’s okay, it’s legitimate. Hubby has given me a two-day pass to go to the Mumsnet “Blogfest.”

I also feel a little bit guilty. Like many mums, I don’t feel I have a right to a life away from my family. I feel pathetically grateful to my partner for granting me some time away. I’m not sure I’ll even enjoy it all that much although I know I should make the most of it and let my hair down!

I certainly feel a bit of a fraud. I’m not a great blogger. I’m not even a very regular blogger. And despite my best attempts to look professional for tomorrow, to be honest I look a complete mess. I’m wearing my “trendy” (maybe 25 years ago) ripped jeans and a smart velvet jacket that is too tight over my bump, shrouded for the first cold night of the Scots winter in a down jacket (that also fails to meet in the middle), bright pink gloves and a straggly bobble hat. I’d started to pack into a smart leather overnight bag but it seems – once a mum always a mum – my desire to cover all eventualities necessitated a transfer to a larger, grubbier backpack, water bottle peeking out one side, umbrella the other. There are still traces of poster paint on my arms from this afternoon’s wet weather activity. Add to this a night in a shared cabin on the sleeper train and I’ll be surprised if they let me into the smart glass conference centre at all.

Anyway, I digress. As you can guess, I don’t often get time on my own to think. In fact, pretty much the only time I do get is when I’m picking up or dropping off a car. We don’t own a car; whenever I have to ferry the kids somewhere I borrow one (a car, not a kid) from the local car club. This entails a certain amount of logistical juggling since (I might be supermum but) even I can’t transport two children and two car seats across town to where the nearest club car is parked. So usually, the night before any excursion, I wait until my husband is home from work and the children are in bed, then I head out into the dark, check into the car, drive back and park it outside our house until the morning.

Except I don’t. Not directly. What actually happens is I walk over to the car, check into it, adjust the seat and the mirrors, and then I sit. And think. Wrestle might be a more appropriate term. Where shall I drive to?

Shall I go straight home, maybe be in time to read one last bedtime story, then hunker down on the sofa with some mindless telly and try to forget, for another few hours, what I might have to do in ten days’ time?

Or shall I turn the other way, head out into the dark, along the coast or across the hills, it doesn’t matter, anywhere I can hide away and protect my baby. I know my other kids would be safe. They’ve got warm cosy beds and a doting father who would keep them fed and clothed and happy. They’d miss me. I’d miss them – and my husband – like crazy. But it’s hard to resist the desire to run. I’m constantly in “fight or flight” mode. My body knows my baby is under attack.

You see none of the scans ever brings good news. At best they say “wait and see.” At worst, it will be game over for this baby. I don’t dread having another disabled child – far from it. I would love and nurture it as I have been doing for the last six months. I dread what I have promised to do to that child. To sacrifice it for the sake of the rest of my family. If I don’t go to the scans, I can’t keep that promise. And now there are only ten days left until the next one.

I tried to talk about my fears on a Facebook support group. About how I hate the waiting so much I would almost rather have the abortion now than wait for the next scan, and then the next. How I feel I don’t deserve to have a healthy baby anyway, because of what I’ve agreed to. How every afternoon, when Jackie is at nursery, I sit at the kitchen table and cry because I feel so trapped I don’t know what else to do. How I’m becoming a shadow of a mother and a wife because I’m too tired from battling my own thoughts to do anything other than watch Cbeebies. When the first comment came back: “How dare you talk like that? Don’t you know how lucky you are? Pull yourself together…” I deleted the post in shame. They’re right, of course. I have two lovely children. I have a fertile body that has made another. I have the luxury of choice. I have made my bed and I must lie in it.

I tried to talk to my husband about adoption. He says we can’t, because once we see the baby we will love it and want to keep it. He’s right, of course. But me, I’ve already “seen” this baby with my body. For six months I’ve unwittingly got to know it. I know the shape of its head. I know where it’s feet are. I know when it likes to rest and when it likes to have a good old rummage around. Despite myself, I have an inkling what sex it is and what I’d like to call it.

I never do it. Every time – I’ve lost count of how many – I blink, turn the radio up loud, and turn the wheel for home. Back to my warm house and my loving husband and my beautiful children. I can’t risk all that for this little soul that I carry with me everywhere. I can’t tear the rest of my family apart. On Sunday I will get back on the train, the day train this time, and be home in time for tea.

Thoughts from no-man’s-land

Last week, we had our twenty week scan. Everything looked normal, as we knew it would: Benjamin looked entirely normal at twenty weeks. That didn’t stop me rushing home and googling the baby’s head circumference until I found a graph that put it on the 60th percentile. That’s got to be good, right?

So now we are into that no-man’s-land, the period between 20 and 38 weeks during which we know something happened in Benjamin’s brain (or rather, something didn’t happen that should have). Within eighteen weeks we will know whether to expect a healthy baby, or no baby at all.

I’ve tried to avoid all the ‘pregnancy propaganda.’ I haven’t signed up to any of the weekly emails telling me “your baby is now the size of a butternut squash;” “this week you should be choosing wallpaper for the nursery;” but I am still bombarded with unbearably positive images of pregnancy. At my weekly pilates class we are encouraged to “hug our abdominal muscles around our baby.” The midwife gives me leaflets about breastfeeding, talking to the bump, singing to it even, getting to know the baby before it is born. And why shouldn’t she? Not many women are placed in the no-man’s-land. You either can’t wait to meet your baby, or you do something about it pretty damn quick.

Contradiction is my constant companion. Cognitive dissonance, if you will. It is increasingly obvious that I am pregnant; still I spend my energy trying to ignore the fact. I know that there is every chance this is a healthy baby; I fear what will have to happen if it isn’t. I love my son dearly, I believe that he is happy and that his life has value; but I cannot receive another like him into my family. I grieve with friends who have lost children; yet I know that if my own child doesn’t make it, it will be my own doing and I will have no right to grieve.

And so, as my energy slowly returns, I try to fill my time, to distract myself from this mental tug-of-war. Not with choosing baby names, sorting tiny vests, writing a birth plan. With working and researching and writing angry letters to the council about school transport. With coffee mornings and playdates and planning Halloween costumes and ripping weeds out of the garden. But then something will happen to stop me in my tracks. I cannot end this post without reference to a dear lady, who was good enough to reach out to me when I first started to share my hopes and fears for this pregnancy. She was also pregnant, with near-enough the same due date as me. Today she learned that she has lost her baby.

It’s illogical, of course. I am tired and shocked and hormonal and alone. But I can’t help but wonder if this is a sign: a message that life is fragile, and precious? Some days, perhaps I feel the baby kicking, I am filled with love and wonder and hope for this new life. Others, like today, it is as if I am stuck on a hurtling freight train, moving inexorably towards an abortion, and I cannot get off. All my motherly instincts are beating at the doors but I Can’t. Get. Off.

A natural mother

I’ve never seen myself as a natural mother. I’m impatient, selfish, particular, ambitious. While I’m not exactly sure what a ‘natural mother’ should be, I’m pretty certain it’s none of those things.

Yet for nearly four years I have been, without a break, either pregnant or breastfeeding. Both came (surprisingly) easily, naturally, without much effort, thanks (I suppose) to the hormones produced by my body each time I drew my babies to the breast. Physically I have been very much a mother. “I can do this,” I thought.

Now, this physical phase of mothering has drawn to a close, at least for now. At sixteen months, and with an NG tube going in, it seemed an appropriate time to stop breastfeeding Benjamin. Instead of sitting and nursing him, with breast and bottle, for up to six hours each night, I just plug him into his pump and turn out the light. That’s a big shift – in lifestyle, and in hormones – to get used to. I know I’ve been dying to get my evenings back, to catch up on the ironing, the paperwork, to get out in the garden, but I’m going to miss that time of nurturing. It feels weird, disloyal, to be back in my lacy, underwired bras again; to wear dresses and jumpers after years in easy-access cardigans. It’s saddening to bleed again each month. I’m going to have to find a new way to mother, one that comes from the heart, not the body.

Fortunately, these four years have changed me emotionally as well as physically. I have never known such love, such fear, such responsibility, such joy (and yes, such exasperation) as I feel with my children. [My husband, I love you with all my heart too, but it’s a different kind of love, a kind that comes from finding, connecting and choosing, not bearing and birthing]. I am less easily embarrassed, less easily bored, less principled and, I hope, gentler.

I have no real desire to return to work, just yet, although I have already overrun the normal period of maternity leave. I want to be there 24/7 for my children, to walk them to and from school, to serve their breakfast and their tea, to hear about their day and help with their homework.

Am I just being lazy? Am I taking advantage of the fact that no-one expects a special needs mum to work, unlike her peers who are assumed to hop back into the high heels and onto the commuter train as soon as their six, nine or at most twelve months are up. Am I keeping up my lifestyle of lie-ins and coffee-mornings while my husband pays the bill? And will I grow to resent it longer-term? Is a line of nappies drying in the sunshine and a mass of splodgy paintings on the fridge enough for me to feel fulfilled? Will I spend more time telling my children off than listening to them? Am I going to go slowly mad playing imaginary tea parties and putting toy monkeys to bed?

I have no answers, yet. I am just finding my feet. I know that, practically, I can’t return to work until Benjamin is at least three and entitled to half-time one-to-one specialist childcare. I’m keeping my brain alive freelancing a little, blogging a little, reading a little. More important will be keeping my mothering instincts alive through this transition. I may no longer be a natural mother, but I hope I can still be a motherly one.

The unfortunate recipients of my attempts at mothering

The unfortunate recipients of my attempts at mothering

It takes a village…

I didn’t know we had crocuses in our garden. When we moved in, almost a year ago, they had already been supplanted by bluebells and Alchemilla. Now here they are in swathes, brightening the front garden, popping up boldly in my new veg patch, creeping into the lawn. And here we are, suddenly, a part of the community. As the people of the town emerge into the welcome sunshine, we emerge with them and begin to call this home.

It was a rash decision to come here. Letting our hearts rule our heads, we left practicality (a five-minute drive to the hospital, a two-minute walk to the station) for a house that leaked like a sieve but had ‘character,’ with a hallway too narrow for a wheelchair but a garden big enough to run around in, in a town we barely knew but would quickly come to love.

It was all new to me, born and bred in suburbia: row after row of boxy 1930s houses; people rushing past each other on their way to the big city; no particular pub to call a ‘local;’ only the dog-walkers sharing a smile as they pass. So I find it quite novel knowing the names of everyone in the street, stopping for a chat in the greengrocer, taking in each other’s bins; the centre of my world is now two minutes down the road.

Already everybody knows us – how could they not? I’m the girl in the tumbledown house with the heavily-laden buggy, the lively toddler and that poor, sweet disabled baby. But they also know everyone that’s ever lived in our house: “Oh yes, number one, that’s Alice Donaldson’s mother’s old place, two up from the Anderson’s and along from the family with the boat.” There is a sense of continuity here, of meaningful links between past, present and future.

Here, I feel we really might be able to join that continuum of human life I believe in (and have written about before). Here we can’t hide ourselves away, wallow in our own problems, despise people that stare at us in the supermarket and will never see us again. Here people genuinely want to get to know us; we are part of their lives now, all of us. Philosopher Professor Jeremy Waldron of New York University said, in a recent series of lectures at Edinburgh University, “the profoundly disabled are human persons too, endowed with human dignity … the relation is not straightforward, but just because it is complicated does not mean it is tenuous or ambiguous.” We don’t need to understand this, only to feel it, and here, where the pace of life is a little slower, such feeling seems to come naturally. His biggest problem, at least until I get around to cutting Benjy’s hair, is people mistaking him for a girl!

I’ve been along to our local church, St. Anne’s, a few times. Not seeking God, particularly, but tradition, familiarity, ritual and peace. I found those, and I found a welcome, not just to me, but to the whole family. I mentioned to the priest that we would like to arrange Benjamin’s long-overdue christening, and he was over-the-moon with excitement. With a small, typically retired congregation, they haven’t had a christening since last summer. Would we consider Easter Sunday, as is traditional? It would be the highlight of the church calendar. So, on Easter Day, that congregation will welcome Benjamin, and us with him, into the church and into this loving community.

At every turn we find not just smiles but support, not just curiosity but concern, not just compassion but care. It might have been rash but it was the right move. We have found the village that can raise our child.

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