The choice to suicide

Suicide…it’s such a delicate subject. Apart from being difficult to talk about, it’s difficult to hear about. In the last couple of years, I have heard of a few suicides. They weren’t people I knew personally, but people I knew of. Each time I felt a deep sadness for days. I couldn’t understand it. I couldn’t understand how any one in this world could feel so alone. We’re a planet of over 7 billion people and there still exists people who feel like they have no one worth living for. Friends have tried to explain how it’s often stemmed from depression which is a chemical thing and not something everyone can control.

I still couldn’t understand. And what got me more was that these people were of sound mind. Plans were put in place weeks, sometimes months in advance. Business was tidied up, letters were written, subtle goodbyes were said. I used to think of it as a selfish act. How unfair it was for the people left behind, those picking up the pieces, always wandering what they could have done to stop the person they loved from ending their life. But I also think it takes some serious courage to make that decision, knowing how it will impact those around you.

I think about Robin Williams, the funny guy, the one who made everyone laugh, the one people looked up to and admired. I think about a girl I once met who had so many friends, pictures on Facebook at the latest party carrying the designer handbag du jour. And I couldn’t understand how these people could bring themselves to end their lives.

I recently read a really good book (I won’t tell you the name, I don’t want to spoil it for you). It was about a C5/6 quadriplegic who’d chosen to end his life. He gave his family 6 months before he requested them to assist him by taking him to Dignitas in Switzerland. They hired an upbeat positive girl to be around him in the hopes that she’d be able to change his mind. It’s a beautiful story watching their relationship unfold. As it does, I got an insight behind his choice to end his life. Prior to an accident which led him to be paralysed from the chest down, he was a slick city acquisitions manager, making lots of money, travelling to exotic destinations and having lots of sex. And then he found himself wholly dependent on other’s to lead his life. He couldn’t accept this, hence the choice to end his life. And his mother agrees to take him to Switzerland.

As a mother, my first reaction was shock. How could she agree to help him? But as the story goes along, I could sort of see why she would. All we want as parents is for our child/ren to be happy. Now, that doesn’t mean I condone suicide or that I think it is the easy way out. But I can feel empathy for someone who feels like they can’t accept the life they are living and see suicide as the only way out. I could accept it in this case, given his physical limitations (and constant ongoing medical issues), I still can’t accept or understand when it’s people who have the choice to seek help from those around them.

As I said when I started, suicide is a delicate subject, but if you have another way of seeing it, I’d love to hear your views.

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Choosing kindness

Earlier in the week I read a beautiful article about choosing kindness.

For me, it was a very apt read given a scenario I am currently facing. I feel like as women and mother’s, we take the world on our shoulders. Wanting to do the best for our partners, our children, our extended families that very often we neglect ourselves. I’ve seen it time and time again with women around me. Sacrificing our desires for those we love.

Very often when I am faced with a certain situation, I find myself being much harsher on myself than I would if a friend came to me for advice in the same situation. Reading this article reminded me of how important it is to choose kindness. But not just in the way we behave with others, but in the way we treat ourselves.

We can choose to be kind in almost every moment of our day: holding the door open for someone, greeting a shop clerk with a smile, saying thank you to the bus driver, interacting with our family, even looking in the mirror. Throughout the day we have ample opportunity to choose kindness and it doesn’t cost us anything.

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And what goes hand in hand with kindness, is gratitude. About 90 days ago, I started the 100 happy days project on Instagram. The idea is to upload an image a day that brought me happiness. More recently, Dino Daswani of Dino’s words of wisdom blog started an online gratitude thread. He’s encouraged people from around the world to name one thing they are grateful for each day. So often we can name many things we’re grateful for: our family, good health, wealth, friends, etc. But gratitude is not just about recognising what we are grateful for but rather practicing what we are grateful for. And practicing making choices to be a better person.

Essentially none of us are bad people, but often because of our egos and our fears, we do and say negative things. We think the worst of people, we doubt people and eventually muddy our own peace of mind. I’ve been at the receiving end of some unkindness recently but rather than ask “why?”, going forward I’ll be choosing kindness wherever I can because in order to change the world, we need to first change ourselves.

Pushchair dilemma….solved!

When you find out you’re pregnant, there are so many things that cross your mind. Will I have a boy or a girl? What should I name my baby? Which hospital should I have my baby at? In some cases, which country should I have my baby in? What pushchair should I buy? Will I used cloth diapers or disposable?

Funnily enough, after speaking to many friends, one of the toughest decisions is deciding on a pushchair. There are so many great ones out there at the moment. I always had a name I loved but when deciding on a pushchair, I spent countless hours researching, reading reviews, watching Youtube demos and visiting stores to see how each and every one worked. Quite honestly I drove myself mad and in the end I don’t even think I made the right choice!!

So to help you along a little, here are some tips on picking the right pushchair. For me, the three most important things were:

1. It had to face both ways as I wanted to be able to see S when I was pushing him along.

2. It needed to be lightweight.

3. I needed to be able to fold it easily.

Here are some questions you need to ask yourself before deciding on a pushchair:

1. What sort of terrain will I be using it on?

2. How important is it for me to have a bassinet/carrycot with my pushchair?

3. Will I be on my own a lot or will there always be someone to help me with it?

4. Do I have a lift or will I need to be able to lift the pushchair up stairs?

5. Do I want it to be compatible with my car seat?

6. Do I want it to be able to convert into a double in the future?

7. Is it important to me that my baby is parent facing for the first few months?

8. Will I be travelling frequently?

9. How big is my car? Will the pushchair of my choice fit in my booth?

10. Do I want to be able to jog with it? Suspension then is very important.

Now you see how complicated it can get? I used to think maybe I am overthinking things but having spoken to a few mummy friends about it, I think the dilemma of finding the perfect pushchair is on all mama’s minds and funnily enough, I’ve read that a) most people make the wrong choice the first time round and b) the average number of pushchairs owned by a family is apparently 4!!

Here is a round up of some of the best pushchairs (in no particular order) and why:

1. Maclaren – The good ol’ Maclaren, almost every parent has one. Even if it wasn’t their first pushchair, it becomes one that they buy later on as their child grows and they want something lightweight or if they are travelling and want one that folds down umbrella style. The Quest and the Volo are the two popular lightweight choices, followed by the Techno XT and the Techno XLR. I always thought of Maclaren’s as only being forward facing and so a great option for when your child is 6 months+ and not before that (at least for me). Until I discovered the carrycot for the Techno XLR. This can be bought separately and it fits onto the seat of your pram, leaving your child parent facing. Suitable from birth, this pram most definitely grows with your child. Maclaren’s don’t break the bank and they are quite reliable as far as pushchairs go. The Techno XLR retails for approx. £230 but the carrycot needs to be bought separately. It comes with a rain cover, has an extended sun cover, a foot muff, a pram liner and comes in a variety of fab colours.

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2. Bugaboo – Bugaboo’s are relatively new to the pushchair market and now they are all the rage. Almost every second pram in a mall in London is a Bugaboo. The most popular being the Bee, given it’s urban chicness. It’s lightweight, easy to steer, grows with your child, is suitable from birth and comes in a range of colours. The seat can face both ways, the pram folds down quite compactly and can be done one handed. The Bee retails at approx. £500 and you’ll also need to buy the cocoon to make it suitable from birth. This retails for approx. £70. It comes in a variety of pretty colours and designers like Missoni and Andy Warhol have also teamed up with Bugaboo to come out with limited edition Bee’s. Other options are the Chameleon (if you’d like the carrycot option), the Donkey (if you’re having twins or would just like the option of more basket space) and the Buffalo (an all terrain pushchair).

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3. Baby Jogger City Mini – Funnily enough, in all my research, I never came across this one!! Go figure?! The BJCM is sturdy, easy to steer, super easy to fold (again, one handed) and good value for money. The only thing that would have put me off is the forward facing only position. But if you think that is something you can compromise on and you live in the city then this is the pushchair for you.

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4. Uppababy – A bit like the Bugaboo, the Uppababy range of pushchairs have become quite popular in recent years. When I was pregnant with S, the one I had my heart set on was the Vista. However, after much deliberation, I realised it would be quite big for Hong Kong and so changed my mind. If I lived in London at the time, I think I definitely would have gone for that. The Vista has won several awards since it came out a few years ago. It comes with a carry cot, 2 raincovers, 2 SPF 50 sunshades, 2 insect nets and Maxi Cosi car seat adaptors. All this retails for approx. £630 which is good value considering how much you’re getting. The carry cot mattress is good enough for your child to use as a stand alone bassinet at home as well as out and about. When S was a few months old, Uppababy came out with the CRUZ pushchair. It’s a compact stroller solution that doesn’t compromise on the features of it’s big brother the VISTA. It’s suitable from birth (with a carrycot), compatible with a Maxi Cosi car seat, has a great canopy for those sunny days and their USP is most definitely the size of their basket.

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5. Mama’s & Papa’s – M&P’s carry a huge range of pushchairs, I could go on forever if I had to go into each individual one. Essentially I found that many of their pushchairs were inspired by existing models in the market. The Mylo reminded me of the Stokke and the new Armadillo is very similar to the Bee. M&P’s thrive on great products at decent prices. I actually ended up buying a Sola, used it a few times before I realised I wouldn’t be able to manage it alone in Hong Kong without any help. Although the seat faces both ways, the pram only folds down with the seat forward facing which gets annoying very quickly. The sola retails for approx. £340 but look out for deals because M&P’s are always adding on their Aton car seat at a bargain.

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6. The BABYZEN Yoyo Stroller – Why oh why was this not available when S was born? The BABYZEN Yoyo was created by 5 French individuals who probably thought “Why on earth are we carrying our babies around in big, bulky, difficult to fold pushchairs?” It is a lightweight stroller that offers spectacular folding, a smooth ride and a sleek design. It is the perfect pushchair for city dwellers and frequent travellers. If I’m not mistaken, it is the only pushchair you can actually take on a flight with you because it closes down small enough to fit in the overhead compartment. Now that is small!!

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There are lots more pushchairs out there – Graco, Quinny, Icandy, Stokke, etc but I think the line needs to be drawn somewhere and above are my top choices.

For my readers who live in Hong Kong, the Combi is a great option. To be perfectly honest, I was never a fan initially but having lived in Hong Kong and realising how un-pram-friendly it is, the combi is super super lightweight, folds down one handed, steers easily and the new ones even face both ways. My only reservation would be the small (and somewhat un-sturdy) wheels but many Combi users reassure me that this isn’t an issue.

What pushchair do you use and are you happy with it?

Mums' Days

When it’s time, it’s time…

I woke up to some very sad news today. A close friends brother in law passed away in a car accident last night. It’s not that I knew him (I’d met him once a few years ago) but he left behind a wife and 4 year old son. What saddens me is the family would never have got to say goodbye. It was so sudden.

Later in the morning I read a headline about Michael Schumacher. Michael who is one of the worlds best race car drivers has been in an induced coma for over 2 months after suffering from a head injury while skiing in the French alps and chances of him making a full recovery are slim. He’s spent years driving Formula 1 cars and yet what’s hurt him is not racing but actually just going on holiday.

Days like this remind me how much I have to be grateful for and also reiterate to me how important it is to be happy. To live a life that brings me joy through my days. To let go of negativity in my life and replace it with happiness – be it people, thoughts or situations.

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I truly believe God has a plan for all of us. As morbid as it sounds, we don’t know how long we’re going to be around for. Our birth and our death are the only things we can’t plan. What we can choose is how to spend the days in between.

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The choice to single parent

One morning last week, I was watching the 100 women series on BBC News. Their focus that day was on women who are choosing to be single mothers; having and raising a child without a partner. The question asked was “Is there any way to tell if women are choosing to have children on their own or is it just a necessity (because they’re getting older)?”

Sally O’Donnell (BBC movie based on her) says it came as a decision, not a question.

She said “I am going to give this a shot and if it doesn’t work then I’ll let go of the chance of having a child.”

She was worried she’d be judged as an older woman on her own but says in fact the medical community was very supportive. She went through IVF to have her son Stephan.

She says (when criticised for having a child on her own at her age): “People can make judgements about any situation and that’s up to them but it doesn’t have to impact me, it’s their stuff, it’s not my stuff.”

Sally kept hearing people say their children are the thing they are most proud about (amongst all their other achievements). She too wanted to experience that.

Demographics are changing. Women are reaching their late 30s and 40s and suddenly realise they are going to be childless. So they either embrace the childless life or see how they can become mothers.

There were two guests on the show to discuss this.

Tim Samuels (radio presenter) feels it’s a woman’s RIGHT if they want to have a child. Zoe Williams (columnist at The Guardian) says it’s not a right but it is a NEED and we shouldn’t underestimate that.

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So what do you think? Should more women go out there and have the child they desire or should women who haven’t had a chance to have a child by the time they are a certain age just let go and accept it? I’d love to hear your views. Tomorrow I’ll be interviewing a mother who chose to go down the path of single parenting (in my Inspiring Mama’s series) after a serious accident changed her life forever. Watch this space!

For more information, check out Single Mothers by Choice and questions you should ask yourself first.