Zipper Club (flashback): Pain & Faith

Written before Georgie was born:

In our current Christian climate, there can sometimes be a bit of embarrassment to admit grief, pain and faith can co-exist. In fact, not only can but frequently have to.

We want a nice tidy world, a nice tidy God and nice tidy lives. Well, at least I do. I don’t want uncomfortable questions or questions that don’t have easy answers. I don’t want to have to say “I don’t understand”. But that’s not my choice.

It is possible to raise your arms in praise with deep, deep tears of pain rolling down your cheeks. It is possible to sing “Blessed be Your Name – You give and take away, my heart will choose to say, Lord blessed be Your name” and feel like your whole world is shaking and you’re not sure if you’re going to make it.

I delight in the stories of God’s miracles in people’s lives and yes, I hunger for one in our own. Perhaps we will get it, perhaps after all this our little one will be born with a healed heart. Oh, my mother’s heart wants that. But perhaps there is a miracle in raising hands in praise and surrender when everything within you humanly speaking would rail and clench fists?

I don’t want anyone to think this faith walk of ours is easy. It isn’t. I thought I was doing well until worship on Sunday when everything in me wanted to fall on my knees and scream in pain, deep guttural cries. I wanted to scream and pound the floor and tell God it wasn’t fair, what He was asking of my little one wasn’t right. The tears aren’t far at any one moment because this isn’t the story I wanted. I thought the CFS/ME had taught me to walk by faith and to trust when we can’t understand – that was just the introduction, I’m finding. Trusting God with your own life would appear to be a lot easier than trusting Him with someone else’s.

Please be patient with us as we learn to walk in a very different direction to the one we were expecting. If we sound trite when we say we trust God – it isn’t trite, honest. It’s a gift He’s given us. But just because we trust Him doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt. Job didn’t stop trusting God but I wonder if a day of his life went by, even after so much was restored to him, when he didn’t think of his buried children.

If we want a real faith, we need a faith that can cope with a broken world where we don’t always get glittery, sparkly answers instantly. Jesus prayed for the cup to be taken from Him but “not My Will but Yours”. Our burden is nothing in comparison to His but not our will but His, whatever that may involve.


Zipper Club (flashback): God is Good

Written before Georgie was born:

I will never forget reading a story (not that I can find the link to it now) of someone approaching a father whose daughter had been through serious heart surgery. They knew that if she didn’t have the surgery, she would die and there was a good chance she wouldn’t survive the surgery. As it was, she did survive the surgery and made a great recovery. Anyway, after the surgery, a person approached her father and said, “Isn’t God good?” And it was the reply of the dad that stood out to me: “Even if she had died, God would still have been good.”

It’s easy to believe in a good God when all is right in our little world.

These last few months, though, He’s challenged us on that. Even if things aren’t going right, is He still good? Is He still keeping His word? Is He still on the Throne?

We’re expecting the birth of our first born in the next few months. It’s a time of excitement, and terror, pretty much like what every first time parent-to-be experiences, I suspect. But there’s been more. At the 12 week scan, they picked up a cystic hygroma and explained this could mean many things. It could just be a growth, a twisting of glands, and it would sort itself out or need minor surgery, or it could mean heart problems, or it could point to a genetic problem. Straight away you could see the question on the faces of the medical people: “Do you still want this baby?” There was never any question for us – little Smidgin is a gift from God to us. Medical problems haven’t changed that.

So the 20 week scan came and they started worrying about the heart.

By now, we’ve had several more scans and it’s clear our little one has a problem with their heart. We’re still waiting to see how much of a problem and whether it’s indicative of more problems.

Is God still good?

Is a God who is capable of healing, who is capable of stepping into humanity’s messed up world and putting things right – is a God who can do all that and yet, for some reason, has not – is He still good?

You reach a point in your Christian walk where you have to take something by faith, you have to choose to say “I believe in a Good God” even when circumstances don’t necessarily appear to tie in with that. I have had to make peace with the fact I don’t understand my Heavenly Father. I don’t understand why He does allow certain things, I really don’t. But the fact remains that I believe 100% that He is Good, that He is always fighting for us, that He has plans to prosper us and not harm us. Sometimes that faith is a little shakier than other times but He is helping me walk through it.

Our prayer for Smidgin, for us, as we step into an unknown future, is God’s will be done. If that involves miraculous healing, praise Him! If that means we spend months of our lives in hospitals, we will praise Him! His goodness is not reliant on how we perceive him – thank God!

A few weeks ago, we were sitting in the car driving to the first of the extra scans, a scan that would confirm whether it was poor visibility at the 20 week scan or a real problem with the heart. As a side thought, as we ran out the house to do the 2 hour journey, I grabbed a few Christian cds and one of them has become the soundtrack of this pregnancy: The Attributes of God by Shai Linne. The lines of the chorus of one particular song have stuck on repeat in my head:

“If you’ve tasted and seen – then you know what I mean, He’s Good

In His nature is love, everything that He does, He’s Good

Even when it gets tough, yes, the Lord is enough, He’s Good

Yes, God makes it plain through the Lamb that was slain, He’s Good.”

The Glory of God, Shai Linne, The Attributes of God

Faith doesn’t make sense to an unbelieving world. I’m not even sure it makes sense to a believing world, let alone to my head! But I can’t let go of my belief that God is good just because He has failed to fit into what I perceive as good right now. I don’t know how my story is going to meander through this life but I hope it ends in His arms and that’s the greatest thing I can pray for Smidgin. I can’t guarantee him/her an easy life – and as a mother, don’t you desperately want to? – but I can pray deeply that Smidgin’s story ends in the same Arms as mine does.

Sometimes God just says: “Trust Me” and it doesn’t make sense, it hurts and even other Christians cannot understand it but that is when we have the choice to step in a little deeper to the river of faith and learn even more about either our swimming skills or our Heavenly life jacket!


I apologise for how long it’s taken to post – WordPress was deleting all my drafts as soon as I wrote them! It seems to have sorted itself now though so hopefully I’m back! 🙂

Zipper Club: Heartbeats


Everyone has them. Block your ears and concentrate and you will hear your own very clearly, the drumming of blood being pumped off on its journey around your body. Lean into someone’s left shoulder/chest and you’ll hear their heartbeat. It’s such a comforting sound, like breathing.


Until you’ve heard heartbeats on monitors and watched their squiggly lines on screens, you’ve seen them dip alarmingly, you’ve been in a room with other incubators and heard staff rush to resuscitate another child.

Heartbeats become scary.

I cannot hear Joel’s heartbeat any more without its rhythm feeling like an echo of a past I don’t want to revisit. I hate feeling Georgie’s heartbeat under my hands and how delicate it sounds, like a bird’s. If you’ve ever held a chick in your hands, do you remember that surge of panic when you felt its fragility and knew you could crush it in one movement? That’s what I feel whenever I feel Georgie’s heartbeat.

I hate heartbeats. I hate the reminder of mortality, how little control I have over anything, especially the state of my daughter’s heart, how easily a heart can stop and a person just be gone.

I wonder if that is a reason God lets us hear and feel heartbeats? Does He know we need a reminder that we are not invincible and we need a God who can take care of things like the heartbeats of little chicks? Whilst I hate being reminded of the fragility of life, particularly my daughter’s, should I not be using that to turn to the One Who holds hearts?

I recently was reminded of the story of Lazarus. He was dead in a tomb. No heartbeat. Nothing. And yet Christ, by just His voice, commanded that heart to start beating again. Instantly, blood being pumped, breath happening, muscles squeezing and working.

Fear tells me hearts are fragile.

My Lord tells me He created hearts and He is in control.

I don’t understand. Bad things happen – I don’t understand why.

But I also draw comfort from the story of Lazarus and how Jesus wept. The King of Kings saw humanity broken and destroyed and twisted by evil and He wept. He does not see the pain of our fragile hearts and remain a hard, cold, distant being. He weeps. He knows how He designed the human heart to always beat strong and never falter and we humans decided we knew better and rebelled against Him and suddenly our hearts were touched by pain and brokeness, wearing down until they one day stop. Oh, how I long for Heaven, a place where hearts don’t stop, where monitors aren’t needed to check children are still alive.

I’m not saying I’ve got past my fear of heartbeats. That is a long journey. But I am trying to remember that we have a God who is watching every tiny pumping action Georgie’s heart makes. One day, I will hopefully be able to hear a heartbeat again and be reminded of the comfort of life. The Heart Maker and Heart Healer is on Georgie’s case. I shouldn’t fear. I do but I shouldn’t.

Zipper Club: A Selfish Mother

I am a selfish mother. We had a positive check up for Georgie today – she’s doing really well – and I’m on the floor in the bathroom a blubbering mess.

I want this next operation to just happen so we can move on. I know that’s not what’s best for Georgie, I know it’s better for her that they delay as long as possible (potentially up to 5 years), but I want it to happen now. See what I mean about selfish? I don’t want an operation at all. I don’t want my daughter to have a heart problem. But if she has to have a heart condition and if she has to have an operation I want it to just happen so we can work on healing and getting on with normal life.

I don’t know. Is normal life a thing? Is it even possible with a heart baby? Is there always going to be a question mark hanging over us?

I change my beautiful daughter into her pajamas and feel her smooth chest and I cry when I think that at some point in the future a surgeon is going to take a scalpel and slice her open and stop her heart so he (or she) can mend it. Then there will be another scar on her body, a very visible reminder of this broken world and her broken heart that needed fixing and as her mother I cannot do a thing to save her.

Selfish because I am living a life so many mothers in Alder Hey dream of. I have a healthy daughter (apart from her heart), an active daughter, a daughter who so far is meeting all her milestones and is alert and with it. I know that Georgie is one of the blessed ones. I know I am one of the blessed mothers. I walked out of Alder Hey with my daughter in a car seat. Others have a far harder story to tell. I’m not saying this to gain sympathy because there are going to be people reading this who, rightly, wonder what on earth I have to whine about. I’m saying it just to raise awareness of what the parents of NICU babies can go through, even when things seem to be going incredibly well. There is a tension that is there for all parents – how long have we got? – but most parents don’t have the visible reminders of it to the same degree.

I believe God has a good plan for my daughter. I don’t know what it is. I know what I want it to be but I also know that the plans I had for my life didn’t include my incredible husband and absolutely darling daughter so there is every possibility the plans He has for Georgie’s life don’t include what I think they should. Parenthood is a faith walk unlike any I have had to date. I am learning what it truly means to trust, what it truly means to not have everything tightly in my hands and under my control. I am learning I am not as strong as I thought I was and that God is stronger than I thought He was. I am discovering there is a world full of hurting people and a world full of people wearing masks to disguise pain. I have found friends in people I didn’t expect to. I have discovered that for all its flaws, the NHS is full of caring, compassionate people who are doing their best and I am so blessed to live in a country where my daughter and I can access it.

I am learning.

I am selfish.

I am learning to be less selfish.

I am learning that parenthood is about laying aside what you want for the good of your child and that is a very hard thing to do and I have got a long way to go in this area.

So, I’m a learning, selfish mother who is still a work in progress in the ongoing area of holiness and sanctification. That probably just makes me human, doesn’t it?

Goodbye, 2017 (*shoves it outside, slams the door, and locks, padlocks and bolts it*). Hello, 2018…

2017 was a reactionary year. Things happened to me and I reacted. There wasn’t a great deal of planning. I got pregnant, I threw up, I gave birth, I stayed in hospital, I got sent home, I somehow survived the early months with a baby I adore but is petrifying. None of it could be planned and the few things I did have planned exploded.

2018 though. I have hope for 2018. We’re slowly settling into a routine (not nearly enough sleep!) and time, medication, and prayer is slowly helping me fight the PTSD.

In previous years I have made pages and pages of New Year’s Resolutions, some years kept better than others. This year I want to set some achievable goals. The kind that I can tick off by the end of next December and remember I accomplished something! Realistic is the catchphrase. Not a catchphrase I’m terribly good at but one I’d definitely like to be better at.

So for accountability, here are my goals for 2018:
1. Declutter the house following this guide:
2. ‎Toddler proof the living room and Georgie’s bedroom
3. ‎Pray daily for Joel and Georgie and others (my prayer life is never static as I learn and try different ‘techniques’ to stay focused)
4. ‎Finish my Bible study of Proverbs 31! (Now I’ve finally found a form of Bible study I’m excited to work with!)
5. ‎Start and finish a Bible study of a minor prophet and one of Paul’s letters
6. ‎Regular exercise (at least one walk a week) – I’d say I wanted to lose a stone but I need to be kind to myself and r-e-a-l-i-s-t-i-c. If I happened to lose a stone though, I won’t be complaining!!
7. ‎Blog entry every fortnight
8. ‎Make at least an item a month to sell
9. ‎Clear my wardrobe out
10. ‎No-spend (on food outside of milk) January and generally try to find some healthier and cheaper meals. I’ve discovered this blog ( so am experimenting with some WW2 meals which has been quite fun.
11. ‎Bonus extra: completely finish the kitchen (building work and decorating included)

Oh, and minor things like keeping Georgie alive, not burning the house down, and making sure we occasionally have clean clothes and food, are also allowed. 😉

I think those are realistic… I’ll let you know in about a month! Hopefully it will mean this blog is a bit more active too… We’ll see what Georgie permits. 😉

To everyone who has prayed for and supported us through 2017 – THANK YOU. We survived. We made it. We know now, deeply, that God is our Sustainer. Every dark second, we kept breathing and kept the faith and we’re here now. Scarred, wounded, beaten black and blue, but here. The waters did not drown us, even if it felt, and still does sometimes, like we were only one mouthful of oxygen away from it. I don’t want to go back, I don’t want to relive 2017. Maybe I will one day see the good that came out of it but right now this girl is still traumatised by it.

But for your love and support – thank you. We cannot express our full appreciation for you all enough. Georgie’s Army, you fought in front of us, behind us, to the side of us and with us. You people truly are incredible.

Zipper Club: Hearts and Minds



Contains references to birth trauma and our hospital stay.


I want to cry but I can’t so I’m writing instead.

Actually, I want to sleep but my body clock has gone all crazy with the broken nights and although it’s 1am, I can’t.

Georgie is doing really well. That I can say with absolute delight and confidence. She is a joy, not only to us, but to everyone who meets her, even including the other members of the audience at the recent SSAFA concert where Joel was performing. When she smiles, her whole face lights up – which is pretty special when it’s directed at you.

Health-wise, apart from giving us the usual parenting scares like refusing to feed (that was fun!) and colds, she is doing incredibly well. Her first op was a great success and her heart is slowly healing itself. The hole between the bottom chambers of her heart appears to be closing all on its own (isn’t it incredible how God designed the human body?!) which means the surgery on the hole at the top of her heart isn’t such an emergency now and her doctor is even talking of potentially leaving it for a year or two. Obviously the bigger she is, the better for the op, so they would like to leave it as long as they can.

We’re now planning her dedication service which will be a proper celebration, I can assure you!

Georgie is doing really well.

I’m struggling.

In many ways, I have a miracle baby. My beautiful daughter was born in about a good a place as she could be while still having a serious heart problem. She is thriving and is not on any medication and even her check ups are once every two months, the doctors are so happy (as opposed to weekly like we were told to expect ).

I still have a sick baby though.

I still have memories of a pregnancy haunted by the knowledge I would go into hospital pregnant and potentially not come home with my baby. We trusted God through it but we also knew there was a strong possibility we wouldn’t like what He chose to do.

And to be honest, I don’t like what He chose to do.

I have lived through the hardest year of my life. I literally have walked through the valley of the shadow of death – and I’m afraid I did fear the evil that surrounded me. I trusted God was leading but I breathed in the sulphur and got scalded by the lava on either side of the path. I’m not sure why I’m even writing in the past tense because this is still all present for me.

I had a horrible labour and I laboured through it knowing that those could be the last hours I spent with my child. After she (awkward child!) shifted her position, I was taken into theatre and she was born with a forceps delivery. For about three seconds they laid her on me as they cut the cord (and I was too wired up to various drips to be able to touch her – and had a hospital gown on so couldn’t feel her) and then she was whisked away to the other side of the room. I can’t remember how I even found out she was a girl. My lasting memory of her is a group of people clustered around her at the other side of the room whilst I lay there completely helplessly as a stranger stitched me up and, crane my neck as I hard as I could, I could not see her. They brought her back to me for a brief minute so I could see her beautiful little face and then she was taken away to NICU and I to recovery.

I didn’t see her again for 8 hours.

Having your baby taken away is a pain I didn’t even know existed. You’ve spent 9 months nurturing this little one, you cannot have a closer bond, and suddenly it’s snapped and she’s gone and for all you know, you may never see her again except as a lifeless corpse. It’s a what if. It didn’t happen. But there are times my mind drags me back there and I feel the same helplessness and fear as I did then and have to hug my bubba to remind myself she did make it.

I remember begging a nurse to help me express because it was the only thing I could do for Georgie, my only connection with her, stuck in that merciless hospital bed. I urged Joel to go and see her, I begged my mother too – I wanted someone to be with my daughter even as I couldn’t be. I’m weeping now, remembering my desperation to see her, to check she was ok, and my frustration with my body that wouldn’t let me.

Joel could finally wheelchair me down to her ward. Urgh. I sometimes find myself being wheelchaired through those corridors even now in my head and the dread and anxiety haven’t lessened. I don’t remember much about first seeing Georgie. This horrible mental illness has stolen that away from me. Or the fact I was doped to my eyeballs. I don’t remember reaching out to touch her, I don’t remember what I felt. I cried, I know that. And I watched my little daughter in an incubator, surrounded by plastic and wires, and my heart ached and I wanted to just stuff her back inside me, drive home and pretend I could carry her inside for the rest of my life.

I hated the hospital. I hated the fact I was separate from my baby and completely useless and helpless. I hated the fact I was in so much pain and exhaustion I couldn’t stay with her for more than an hour and she had to be left alone with her nurse (and they were all amazing).

I didn’t get to go with her in the ambulance as they hadn’t discharged me and once again my baby vanished.

The drive to Alder Hey was agonising, mentally, emotionally and physically. I’d got an infection in my stitches and a 4.5 mile drive took us over 30 minutes thanks to roadworks. I’d have run if I could to the ward.

One small memory that makes me smile in the next scene – we asked at the first desk as we entered the ward where Georgina was and was told she’d be down the other end. Off we trekked down the other end and halfway along we both saw a little baby lying in a heated cot. They were facing the other way so all we could see was this mass of hair and a cocooned little body. We both whispered we thought it was Georgie but the nurse with us seemed adamant she would be further down. Turns out it was Georgie and she was fast asleep, completely oblivious to the fact her daddy and I were going frantic trying to find her. We both felt rather pleased that we could identify her from the hair on the back of her head!

I cannot praise the staff at Alder Hey enough. We slowly began to feel like maybe Georgie was our baby and not the hospital’s. A baby we could hold when we wanted, not when a nurse informed us we could. She was our daughter, even if it was a very strange introduction.

I walked away from her each night trying not to cry and praying desperately that she would be alive the next morning. We waited on tenterhooks for nearly a week for her first op, never quite sure when it was going to happen. We watched other families screaming in agony as emergencies struck and sat praying desperately as medical staff rushed in to another cubical. I am still haunted with the thought and guilt that I got to bring my baby home – I know there will have been others who didn’t. Did the three in Georgie’s first room get home? Did the little one across the hallway who kept having emergencies make it? What about the parents we befriended whose little boy kept having to go back to ICU for another emergency operation? Survivor’s guilt runs deep in this.

The day of her operation was the longest of my life. We couldn’t feed her after a certain time. I sat there holding a screaming baby who wanted food, who I knew wanted food, and could do nothing. Her op kept getting pushed back and she kept getting more frantic. They brought in a little hospital gown for her and I lost it. Hospital gowns shouldn’t come in baby sizes. I couldn’t bring myself to put her in it. The walk down to theatre I still do in my sleep. My beautiful baby in her cot, the porters, her nurse for the day, and me gripping Joel’s hand tightly. No parent should have to see their child go under anaesthetic. They told us we could kiss her goodbye and leave and I couldn’t do it. I wasn’t even pretending not to be falling apart by this point. I walked out the room and left Joel to kiss our drugged baby. I remember Joel asking me how we could love someone we had only known for 9 days that much.

We then spent hours waiting to hear how she had done. Whether she had made it through the surgery. Whether we could begin our journey to going home. I asked Joel what we would do if she didn’t make it and he calmly told me we would breathe, go home and keep trusting God.

As you all know, she did make it through surgery and did so miraculously well. They hadn’t finished cleaning our old room on the ward before we were back!

Eventually we finally left and came home and I expected sheer relief and there was that to start with. Then Joel went back to work and it dawned on me that there was just me looking after a baby who had previously had an entire medical staff waiting on her! I turned hypervigilant. I couldn’t let her out of my sight for a second. I had to check on her multiple times a night, even though she was next to me in her crib. I walked around constantly scanning for dangers, trying to figure out how to deal with any potential hazards that may come. What would happen if I dropped her? How would I try and land so I could protect her? Could I remember my first aid, was it the same for a baby? Why hadn’t I picked up my phone so I could call an ambulance immediately? How would I phone an ambulance and let Joel know? Would it be quicker to drive? And then I’d arrive at her changing table and my concerns about dropping her would turn to concerns about her rolling off or me snapping a finger, or dropping something on her, or her turning too cold. It’s exhausting. It’s paralyzing.

Fear ate into me. I trusted God knew what He was doing – I just didn’t trust that I’d like it.

After a few weeks of this, my parents and Joel suggested I went to the doctor and I began the slow process of being diagnosed with PTSD.

Not only soldiers struggle from post traumatic stress disorder. Turns out mothers can get it too. I trust God but my mind is broken. When we found out Georgie’s heart was broken, it snapped something in me as well. There is grief and helplessness and trauma sliced deep into my brain. I can’t hear the words “broken heart” without holding my little girl closer and knowing that it’s literally true for her. I get flashbacks where I forget I’m here at home with my daughter and husband and I feel like a vacuum cleaner is sucking me back into the past where I will get spun in circles and smashed into little pieces and in that past the ending isn’t always as positive as it really is. My nightmares have eased a little with the help of medication as well. My memory is in pieces so don’t ask me to remember anything. I struggled to spell the word ‘reckon’ the other day…auto corrective text saved me! I am balancing a trust of God for the future with absolute terror that I’m going to lose Georgie or Joel – or both of them. I would happily stay locked away in our little house and try to ignore the outside world with all the things that could happen.

I still smile, I still delight in how utterly amazing Georgie is. I can stare at her for hours and love playing with her, especially as she has always been fascinated by the world she’s surrounded by. I still enjoy chocolate and sunsets and kisses but there’s a cloud I can’t shift. I’m working on it. I’m processing it with an incredible woman of God, I am on medication which has also chilled me a lot, and I’m on the list for counselling. But I think I have a long way to go on this journey so bear with me. And bear with Joel has he is once again taking the brunt of my illnesses whilst also processing his own trauma. I tell him I’m sure he could have found an easier wife to do life with!

God is good.

This world is messed up.

I trust.

But I fear.

Faith is holding on to the first – God is good – when you’re feeling the hammering of the second – the world is messed up. Faith is trusting even as fear tries to strangle you.

I want to be better and I will be one day.

I’m not going to stay stuck here. I don’t want that for this family.

But it’s going to take time.

I need to see what happened through Heavenly lenses, not my own.

I am still hurting now and wounds take time to turn into scars – I can testify to that. I have watched the massive wound on my daughter’s back, the one signifying the surgery that saved her life, turn from a big weeping mess to a purple and red line. It’s still not fully healed and we wouldn’t expect it to be after only four months. So why do I expect my mind to be healed so quickly? I need to work through things and let go of the fear. Please, pray for us as we walk this. The pregnancy was tough, the hospital stay at times nearly unbearable, and life now is wearing at times. Georgina needs a mami who isn’t bound by the chains of a past she had no control over and that release is what I am praying for.

God is good.

He is our Sustainer, an ever-present help in times of trouble.