The Conflicting Demands of Motherhood

The Conflicting Demands of Motherhood

My youngest child is having swimming lessons with her primary school at the moment.

On the day that she is going swimming she needs me to plait her long hair.

She also had a series of swimming lessons with the school 18 months ago when Leah and I were away in Bristol.

Last week she said “You know Mummy, whenever you were in Bristol with Leah, the swimming instructor shouted at me because my hair wasn’t in a plait.”


This has really played on my mind since. I get upset every time I think about it.

I’m not angry with the swimming instructor – we all have a tendency to take situations at face value. We make judgments based on insufficient information.


I feel very sad that my 9 year old daughter was motherless for 16 weeks, (except for the two weekends when she got to visit us in Bristol.)

I asked Miriam how she managed the other weeks that she was going swimming with her class. She said that she got her daddy to put her hair in a ponytail. Then one of the other children on the school bus plaited it for her.

Being a mother is so important to me.

It’s what I’ve always wanted to be.

I work as a Parent Support Worker.

I’m passionate about such subjects as bonding and attachment.

Yet, I had to abandon my nine year old child (and my 14 year old and my 19 year old) for 16 weeks.

Then Leah and I were only home for six and a half weeks before she was admitted to Belfast City Hospital and we were gone again.

Two and a half weeks later I returned home without Leah, immersed in grief.

It is SO difficult and complex being a parent in this situation.

This in many ways is also the dilemma faced by many parents who have a child with a medical condition, a learning disability or a mental illness.

How do you meet the needs of your ‘ill’ child, without short changing your other children?

In many cases you can’t.

Quite often an exhausted mother tries to be all things to all her children and still ends up feeling that her best is never quite good enough.

When a child or young person has any kind of “additional need” it can put a huge strain on the family unit.

In reality I’ve only had to do this for a relatively short period of time. Some parents have to juggle the conflicting demands of the needs of their children throughout their parenting years.

For other parents it can be the demands of caring for an elderly relative alongside rearing their own children.

For many of us, life is far from ideal.

The life that we find ourselves living may be far removed from the script that we wrote in our heads in our idealistic teens or early twenties.

That’s where prayer comes in ………. and trust.

When we can’t be with the ones that we love, or provide for them in the way that we wish that we could, we can still pray for them.

We can trust them into God’s loving care, knowing that no matter how much we love them, He loves them even more.

We can trust that God knows what He is doing and that He has a good plan for each of our lives.


Prior to Leah’s transplant she had many hospital appointments in Belfast.

On some of these occasions Leah insisted on us visiting a Christian bookshop.

Unfortunately I am navigationally challenged, but Leah used to be my sat nav., I didn’t get lost when I was with her.

On one of our visits to the Faith Mission Bookshop the song “Forever Reign” by Hillsong was playing and we talked about how we both really liked that song.

Forever Reign

You are peace, You are peace

When my fear is crippling

You are true, You are true

Even in my wandering

You are joy, You are joy

You’re the reason that I sing

You are life, You are life,

In You death has lost its sting

Oh, I’m running to Your arms,

I’m running to Your arms

The riches of Your love

Will always be enough

Nothing compares to Your embrace

Light of the world forever reign


Peace Restored

Peace Restored

In the early hours of Thursday morning the 16th January 2014, I left Leah’s room in ICU and walked back through the winding hospital corridors, to my room in the Cancer Centre, for one last time.


I knew exactly what lay ahead for us as a family that day.

My entire body felt like lead. Walking along those corridors felt like trying to propel my limbs through deep water.

Leah had been on a ventilator for two weeks and she had been unconscious for the past four days.

I was already missing her terribly. When she was awake on the ventilator, she had found creative ways to communicate.

All of the tests had confirmed that Leah’s body was now “broken beyond repair”.

Leah’s CT scan images had been scrutinised by the top experts in both Belfast City Hospital and Bristol Children’s Hospital.

Two of the consultants in Belfast had sat surfing the internet until midnight, searching for any potential remedy that hadn’t already been tried.

Hundreds of churches and thousands of people, all over the world, had been praying.

Nevertheless, it was now abundantly clear, that Leah’s story was only going to have one ending.

At 8.30am that morning, an emergency ambulance was booked to transfer Leah and myself, along with three ICU staff, to the N.I. Children’s Hospice, where all of our loved ones would be waiting.

There Leah’s life support would be withdrawn and we would say our final goodbyes.

I packed my bags and sat on my bed.

I felt numb, empty, desolate.

I lifted my iPad and clicked on Facebook.

There I discovered that Leah’s friend Matthew had put together a beautiful YouTube video, of various photos of  Leah taken over the past year, interspersed with inspirational messages and backed with the song “It is well” by Hillsong.

I could scarcely breathe as I watched and listened:

“But Lord it’s for Thee
For Thy coming we wait
The sky not the grave is our goal
Oh trump of the angel!
Oh voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope
Blessed rest of my soul!

It is well with my soul
It is well
It is well with my soul

You are the Rock
On which I stand
By Your grace it is well
My hope is sure
In Christ my savior
It is well with my soul”

A peace flooded through me.

I knew without a shadow of a doubt, that it was well with my daughter’s soul.

I slept for a few hours then.

In the morning I left that room for the last time.

Normally the staff on that ward in the Cancer Centre were friendly and welcoming to me, but they must have been very busy, for as I slipped in and out that morning, nobody spoke to me or seemed to notice me.

I felt alone and invisible.

At 7.20am as I stepped into an empty lift to head down to ICU, feeling very alone and vulnerable, I heard a text coming in on my phone.


It was a work colleague from a previous job – her act of kindness in texting me at that exact moment was precisely what I needed.


The remainder of that day is described in my blog post How Could We Ever Have Let Her Die In An Unplanned Kind Of A Way

This is the YouTube video that I watched that night: