Caught on the hop
SINCE my last Diary (29 April), in which I wrote about cradling my baby bump on the steps of 10 Downing Street, both the baby boy I was carrying and the primary resident of No. 10 have exited — my baby two weeks earlier than expected, and the Prime Minister a lot later than some pundits had predicted. Technically, of course, Boris Johnson merely announced his intention to exit, and remains in No. 10 for the summer.
Four years ago, my first son had also overstayed his welcome by being two weeks overdue; so my husband and I had expected similar of our second. His early arrival caught us unawares. The nursery had not been set up, and the cot not put together, and I had been due to have a pedicure on the day that he made his entrance into the world.
Having grown up in an Evangelicalism that was heavily influenced by the US, I was reminded of the warnings that we were given always to be ready for Christ’s return — which could happen at any moment — and the terror that they instilled in me: the dread of judgement and the fear of hell rather than unbridled joy at the surprise arrival of the Kingdom of God. But I was overjoyed at having two weeks off being pregnant, and being blessed with a healthy baby.
There is an uncertainty that comes with pregnancy: a limbo period. While I’m likely to have decades ahead of me of worrying about my children, there is a reassuring element of certainty, as well as relief from pain, that comes with a baby’s first cry.
ONE of the best things about having a baby while being part of a church community is the love and support that you get — primarily through food. Food is my church’s love-language.
In those first days of newborn haze, simple things such as having a shower, cleaning, and cooking can seem momentous tasks; so my husband and I were so grateful to be provided with two weeks’ worth of dinners from members of our congregation, who would take it in turns to arrive on our doorstep with a home-cooked meal, words of encouragement, and a cuddle for the baby. Our church is full of foodies; so we dined like kings: a rabbit tarragon stew was on the menu one Thursday evening.
I’m convinced that the Church can be an attractive place for parents of young children. Many of us begin to think more deeply about life, and love, and God, and to question our place in the world and our own mortality, when we have children. Perhaps the way to a questioning, spiritually open, geriatric millennial’s heart is through their stomach.
AS I write, the UK is in the middle of a heatwave. But it feels as if gone are the days when the nation would welcome the arrival of the sun, as newspaper headlines of “Scorchio!” would signal that summer was here. No, this kind of heat is almost unbearable, with temperatures reaching levels I’ve not seen in my lifetime.
After all the talk of climate change in recent years, it’s hard to deny the effect that it is having on our planet. With each daily forecast of sweltering heat, my levels of guilt rise like the mercury in a thermometer. My guilt stems from the question whether I really have done enough to raise the alarm about the climate crisis. When my boys grow up — and surely face the sort of conditions that many in the global South are already enduring — will they ask what I did to prevent the planet from plunging into catastrophe?
Climate activists are portrayed as nuisances, but, really, theirs are the prophetic voices. It’s just that sometimes it seems they are simply like those crying out in the wilderness.
The long view
I LOVE watching my grandmother cooing over my baby via WhatsApp video. She is in her late eighties, lives in the south-east of Nigeria, and has just got a new hearing aid, which makes calls with her a little less painful than they were previously.
It always warms my heart to see her, with the help of a smartphone, looking at my children. My baby, at only a few weeks old, blinks at his great-grandmother on the screen. Few words are exchanged (he can’t talk, of course), but I see connection pass between them — a glimmer of recognition, as they are united through blood, despite being oceans apart.
Giving birth again has made me recognise my place in the family genealogy: no longer a child, a long way from being a grandparent, an in-betweener, looking towards a brighter future for my children.
WE HAVE managed our first foreign holiday since the pandemic. Six adults, one dog, and six children, aged four and under, made it to France, with carloads of our earthly belongings.
The days leading up to our Brittany adventure consisted of checking off long holiday-packing lists, and making sure that we had everything we needed to keep our little ones clean, fed, and entertained. The holiday admin included the rather stressful ordeal of getting a passport for a newborn.
In our quiet cabin on the ferry, in the middle of the waters, I savoured a moment of calm while the baby slept: there was no phone signal, and all I could do was watch the waves.
Chine McDonald is a writer, broadcaster, and Director of Theos.