Making Life Easy, A Simple Guide to a Divinely Inspired Life by Christiane Northrup, M.D.

making-life-easyThis was my first read of Christiane Northrup, despite the fact she’s written lots of books, with titles like: Goddesses Never Age: The Secret Prescription for Radiance, Vitality, and Well-Being, The Wisdom of Menopause: Creating Physical and Emotional Health and Healing During the Change and Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom: Creating Physical and Emotional Health and Healing (39 editions published).

In this newest title however, she say’s she’s ‘coming out’ in relation to her spiritual beliefs in a way she has not done before, relying on the banner and weight of credibility of her medical qualifications, which has allowed her to write about more mainstream subjects related to health, ageing and women’s afflictions. Now she reveals another side to her rituals and practises, bringing oracles, angels and raised vibrations into her mainstream medical world.

The first section where she speaks about her spiritual life and the lessons and courses she did to learn the things she has made part of her life was the stand out part of the book for me and a strong affirmation to come across a women from such a traditional profession being so open and honest about her beliefs and experiences beyond the five senses.

“We’re here to develop faith – faith in things that our five senses can’t see, touch, hear or feel and that our intellects can’t prove…clinging to logical, rational, linear thinking is what keeps life hard.”

In essence her message comes down to a basic premise, her philosophy about living an easy life:

“To live an easy life, you have to align with the Divine part of yourself? In fact, you have to let it lead your life. This is not the same thing as waiting for some kind of Divine force outside of you to come swooping in to rescue you from your life. That’s not how it works. You have to make changes.”

She warns that the logical left-brain may find the information she shares challenging, the part that’s always looking for scientific proof, something that is increasingly being discovered in the metaphysical world, which means that many more people are seeing these kinds of developments as more mainstream than they were 20 or 30 years ago.

Christiane Northrup shares the turning point in her life that lead her to develop an interest in the true nature of self – of ego, spirits, souls and combined with her medical knowledge she developed a more holistic way of regarding the health of our emotional and spiritual bodies.

wisdom-oracleThe health and sexuality sections held less interest to me, probably because I was attracted to the book after listening to her speak in a ‘raw and real’ conversation with my favourite ‘intuitive’ Colette Baron-Reid, in that conversation it was the more spiritual aspects that were under discussion, particularly as Colette’s book Uncharted: The Journey through Uncertainty to Infinite Possibility had been published in October 2016. Northrup is a fan of Colette Baron-Reid and mentions that she uses her Wisdom of the Oracle card deck as one of her spiritual tools for guidance.

In fact, she makes quite a number of recommendations regarding authors and people whose work she is interested in and follows, so there is plenty for readers to follow-up on if interested.

“The connection between our thoughts, our emotions, our beliefs, and our biology has now been thoroughly documented by many, including Dr. Bruce Lipton in his book The Biology of Belief and Dr. Mario Martinez in his book The Mind Body Code – a book in which he also describes the devastating biological effects of shame, abandonment, and betrayal.”

She discusses astrology, prayer, ego, soul, medical mediums, communication with the divine, practises to raise your vibration and clear energies, signs and symbols, angels and synchronicity, dreams, oracle cards, tarot readings, psychics, explaining each thing and how people use them, sharing her own experience. She demystifies everything in a grounded, common sense way.

making-life-easy2She also discusses thoughts and inputs, the effect of what we are constantly exposed to and how it should be managed in order to avoid overdosing on negativity and the toxic, fear-enhancing effect of the media for example. She discusses the positive power of affirmations, meditation, gratitude, the power of giving and receiving, connecting with nature, tapping and much more.

“No human being has nervous, endocrine, and immune systems that were designed to process the negative news from all over the planet that’s being piped into their living room on a daily basis.”

“On a purely physical level, fear lowers our vibration and makes us far more susceptible to viruses and bacteria. The biochemical state that fear creates in our bodies adversely affects our immunity and increases our susceptibility to the pathological viruses and bacteria that are all around us.”

I think this will make a significant contribution to bringing a wider and more mainstream audience into the realm of the spirit and the divine, showing us alternative ways to navigate life’s mysterious pathways with faith, confidence, patience and compassion, providing us with small easy practises to help raise our vibration, reduce fear and be open to messages and signs.

“Inspiration from a higher source can’t reach you when you are in the low vibration of states like anger, sadness, and fear. To make life easy, we have to get out of our own way as we seek to get in touch with the Creator.”


Click Here to Buy a Copy of Making Life Easy via Book Depository

Note: This book was an ARC (Advance Reader Copy) kindly provided by the publisher via Netgalley.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Henrietta LacksIn the same way we sometimes debate whether the story should be seen as an entirely separate entity to the writer, so too scientists perceive a sample of cell tissue as separate to the human body it was extracted from.

Except that it is not possible to extract a story from a writer’s imagination without their consent. 

Henrietta Lacks was a young mother in her early thirties when she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer that would quickly take her life. She was fortunate to live close to John Hopkins hospital, built in 1889 as a charity hospital for the sick and poor, to ensure equal access to medical care for all, no matter their race, status, income or any other characteristic that might have otherwise given cause to discriminate in many of the hospitals at the time.

Before undergoing treatment, one of the Doctors took a tissue sample of both her healthy cells and the cancerous cells, as he had been doing to most patients, in an effort to try to find cells that would continue to replicate without dying – searching for the elusive “immortal” cell. It had never been done successfully with human cells.

He succeeded and the cells became known the world over – as he gave them away freely – as HeLa cells, immortal human cells that never died and could be used over and over to test for cures to disease and to observe how cells react to numerous variables, furthering science in ways unimaginable previously.

‘In culture, cancer cells can go on dividing indefinitely, if they have a continual supply of nutrients, and thus are said to be “immortal”. A striking example  is a cell line that has been reproducing in culture since 1951. (Cells of this line are called HeLa cells because their original source was a tumour removed from a woman called Henrietta Lacks.)’

Few paused to ask about the woman behind these cells, what was her story, how her family felt about the multi million dollar research industry that made great strides in science , yes, but also made entrepreneurial types wealthy in the process.

Rebecca Skloot first heard of the HeLa cells in 1988, she was 16-years-old, sitting in her biology class listening to a lecture on cell culture by her instructor Donald Defler. He described the many things that have been learned by being able to grow cells in culture, indicating that much we knew today was due to the proliferation of cells made available thanks to Henrietta Lacks.

‘HeLa cells were one of the most important things that happened to medicine in the last hundred years, ” Defler said.

Henrietta_LacksSkloot made Henrietta the subject of her research for 10 years in the creation of this thorough, respectful account of the life of Henrietta Lacks and her journey to uncover the events of the time within the context of what was the norm in her day.

In much of her location research, when she travelled to meet and interview people, she was accompanied by Henrietta’s daughter Deborah, a passionate woman, unable to find peace in her own life, until she had helped bring her mother’s story to light.

Henrietta Lacks was born in Roanoke, Virginia in August 1920, in a small shack overlooking a busy train depot, where freight cars constantly shunted to and fro. She lived there with her parents and 8 older siblings until 1924, when her mother died giving birth to her tenth child.

Her father lacked the patience for raising children, so took them all to his family in Clover, Virginia, where they farmed tobacco and split the children between those who could take them. Henrietta went to live with her grandfather, Tommy Lacks and her nine-year-old-cousin Day, left there after his birth, by his mother.

‘A twelve year old cousin and midwife named Munchie delivered him, blue as a stormy sky and not breathing. A white doctor came to the home-house with his derby and walking stick, wrote “stillborn” on Day’s birth certificate, then drove his horse-drawn buggy back to town, leaving a cloud of red dust behind.’

Their life there, became one filled with chores, waking at 4 o’clock in the morning, feeding animals, tending the family garden and then off to the tobacco fields to work.

Skloot finds out about her childhood, her marriage to Day, the 10 years they were married and had their children and the diagnosis that she kept from everyone, until it became obvious she was going to die.

It is tragic, sad and yet also a brilliant and informative story and piece of scientific medical history that reads like a novel and brings our awareness to the many who unknowingly make sacrifices for the better of others and that always present aspect of commercial vultures, hovering in the wings, recognising an opportunity to profit.

It rightly reveals and celebrates the life of the little-known woman behind those cells, Henrietta Lacks, who died at a young age from a ravaging cervical cancer, her children’s struggle, the family’s history and all that is kept from them in the name of science.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks was one of my Top 5 Non-Fiction Reads of 2015.

Brain On Fire – My Month of Madness

Susannah Cahalan was twenty-four-years old when something in the way she perceived things changed. It started with an obsession over bedbugs and descended into hallucinations, seizures and unpredictable acts of bizarre behaviour. Blood tests, scans, numerous procedures, initially all the tests came back negative, her Doctor (a renowned neurologist) insisting it was stress and alcohol consumption. It was neither of those things and if there is one stand-out learning to be gained from this incredible story, it is to ensure always to obtain a second opinion.

Brain on FireThis true story provides a fascinating insight into a rare autoimmune disease which causes the body to attack itself and in this case – the brain. It truly is a story that can and has already changed people’s lives; the writer, a reporter on the New York Post observes her own physical and mental decline and then as her mind descends into chaos, she recalls nothing. Her account is pulled together from interviews, hospital video footage and the journal of her family, until her brain begins to regenerate memory.

It is a path that many will have followed who end up spending the rest of their lives in an institution, if they actually survive it.  Susannah Cahalan, with the help of a supportive and determined family who won’t give up until they find a treatable diagnosis, is fortunate to be seen by the tenacious and talented Dr Najjar, and one final test later, a simple pen and paper exercise, leads him to the all-important diagnosis and her to the path of eventual recovery.

It was his focus on non-psychiatric causes that prevented her from a much more disastrous outcome.  His continuous ground-breaking research posits  that some forms of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression are actually caused by inflammatory conditions  in the brain.  This research may eventually help to break down barriers between immunology, neurology and psychiatry.

Lower Manhatten from Staten Island Ferry by Diliff

Lower Manhattan from the Staten Island Ferry by Diliff

Before writing this book, the author published an article for the New York Post about her experience, prompting an outpouring from many people who had a family member with an inexplicable brain disease – her case highlights the very real possibility that there are thousands if not more people out there descending into a similar madness.

StrokeHer story reminds me of  ‘My Stroke of Insight’, the extraordinary story of the brain scientist, Jill Taylor’s experience when at 37 years a blood vessel exploded in her brain and she too observed her mind deteriorate to the point where she could not walk, talk, read, write, or recall any of her life. She recovered and used her incredible insight and knowledge to share that experience with the world – creating an important resource for the sufferers and carers of stroke victims. She gives an excellent TED talk on the subject here. Interestingly, she became a brain scientist herself due to her brother’s diagnosis of a brain disorder, schizophrenia.

A gripping, unputdownable memoir that shows how little we really know about the workings of the brain and how difficult it is to diagnose. It’s thanks to books like this that more diagnoses can and are being made helping sufferers to find the right path to recovery.

Episode 10: The Move Down Under and a Shocking Diagnosis

Thinking that a move would give us more family time and offer a less stressful lifestyle, we left London behind and travelled half way around the planet to New Zealand, where most of my family still live today. I had been away for many years and hadn’t expected to return, however now that I was back, everything looked and felt familiar and it wasn’t long before we had moved into a house in the city and I had found a full-time job.

Not quite that large an island, Allia’s interpretation of somewhere very far away.
Putting New Zealand on the Map!

Initially we spent time staying at my parent’s home on the sheep farm they had lived for twenty years. It was wonderful to be there with Allia, for her to spend time around her grandparents and for them to get to know and love her.

Being a long way from the nearest town and a very windy road to get in and out, the forced isolation was a little more difficult for my husband to endure, but he was fascinated by the workings of the farm and in particular the shearing shed when it was in full working motion. Not so for me, years of spending school holidays working in that intense, stinking, hot and competitive environment (shearers get paid per sheep shorn, not by the hour) sweeping away wool, dags (sheep shit) and the occasional maggot were something I felt no nostalgia for at all.

It seemed to be good timing to have returned at this time as my mother was unwell, so I was able to go with her to her appointments and provide support. Good timing was an under-statement; she had lost a lot of weight and was having problems with her balance. She was only 59-years-old but seemed to have entered what looked like old age in an awful hurry.

Of course it wasn’t old age. By the time it was understood that it also wasn’t asthma or some diet related weight loss and she had been for a follow-up MRI scan, we found ourselves sitting in an office, opposite an oncologist who mumbled something that sounded like “three weeks”.

“Excuse me”, what did you say? I blurted out.

“The cancer is in the lungs, but it has spread to the kidneys and other organs and those lumps in the neck and brain are tumours. In the state that your mother is in now, I would say that three weeks is being optimistic.”

“But isn’t there anything we can do?”

“Yes, we can start chemotherapy to try to slow down the rapid advance of the cancer and the radiation treatment should be able to remove those tumours so you should actually start feeling better and get your balance back” he said looking at my mother.

We were both stunned. I wanted to protest and say hey that’s not fair, you can’t wait all this time knowing something isn’t quite right, you know it was more than three weeks that we have been worrying about this and we survived that, only to hand out a three-week life card as if you are prescribing community service. This is an unfair sentence being handed out for absolutely no crime!

Completely and utterly helpless, we sat and listened to what would happen in the next few days. I don’t recall much of what he said, but I remember my mother turning to me with that familiar, uncompromising look in her eye and saying, “I’m going to fight this.”

Yes, she would fight death as she had fought life; like every other great challenge that had faced her, she never gave up without a fight. But I looked at the thin frame of a woman she had become and knew that this was a fight she was not going to win. Not this time.

Next Up: in A Silent Education: Our Quiet Challenge in Provence

Episode 11: Adapting to a New Rhythm and Creating Lasting Memories

Previous Episodes

Episode 7: The Verdict, the Recovery and Home in time for Christmas

Waking up the day after the birth and the operation was difficult but waking up without our baby there next to us was gut-wrenching. We returned to the hospital as quick as we could and it would become my resting place for the next three weeks. I was kitted out with a mobile, electric breast pump, not too different from the contraption we see in a cowshed, only this cow had to be milked every three hours. I saw how little they survive on in those first few days, poor starving babies, but I also saw the rich colour of that life-giving, nutritional start a newborn needs, colostrum. Seeing that invoked a determination to ensure I ate in the most healthy way possible.

Allia spent three days in intensive care and apart from being asked to leave when they removed the respiratory equipment, the days passed with little drama. We learned that she had an Ileal Atresia, basically an obstruction in the small bowel, which required 35cm of it to be removed, leaving 130cm. Reading the notes of the operation and procedures in the Intensive Care Unit, I completely understand why some things are best not witnessed or even read about at the time one is going through them. I recently came across the discharge summary and actually have no recollection of ever having read it before, it’s not pleasant reading and I feel thankful to have a healthy daughter who shows no sign whatsoever of this challenging start to her life except the scar across her middle.

As if making up for that initial separation, we were then gifted with something few mothers experience I am sure, three uninterrupted weeks of constant companionship, the two of us sharing a room that became our world,  three weeks in which I learned that this small being was connected to me in a way I had never imagined possible.

Apart from when the nurses struggled to find a vein when doing blood tests, Allia never cried. She slept, she awoke, she rested in my arms as we waited for that all important organ, the bowel to commence its function. That would be one of the first signs of recovery. She was given milk through a line, so it had to happen soon and if everything functioned well, I would be able to start feeding her.

I would slip downstairs to the cafeteria for my breakfast when I saw she was sleeping and she was always quiet on my return, I would then read the notes to check if anything had occurred while I was away and it was via this I learned that this blissful sleeping baby was aware of my absence. The nurse had noted that Allia had cried and next to this note, that the mother had left the room to have breakfast. That the two events were connected was something of a shock initially, but so reassuring, to come to understand and experience something of the magic of the bond between mother and child. It is something I remain in awe of.  The next time I left for breakfast, I made sure to tell her where I was going.

Once she recovered and was feeding and putting on weight, we were ready to go home. We were discharged on December 18th and re-entered a city transformed by the approach of Christmas. A festive celebration it was indeed and the perfect time to be coming home and preparing for the season of joy and hibernation.


Next Up: in A Silent Education: Our Quiet Challenge in Provence

Episode 8: Ten Months of Bliss and Facing a Return to Work

Previous Episodes

Episode 6: Late Night Surgery, the Most Difficult Wait a New Mother will Endure

Exiting the lift, we entered the Anaethetist’s medical room and I watched as they prepared what they needed, looking confident and as if they had done this many times before, which of course they had, it was only Allia and I for whom all this was alarming and new. As they attached three new lines to Allia I noticed that each one had a small square sticky label with a different animal on it. Everything in there was so miniature, the sight of those tiny little animal figures like a kind of bait, luring one into a false sense of security momentarily. But then I saw the tiny mask and the realisation of what that mask signified gave me serious heart palpitations. My little girl had made it into this world, through all these months of waiting and had survived birth and was breathing effortlessly and now this gas mask was going to knock her out.

“Okay, I think I shoud go now” I said stumbling out of the door and into the lift and back up to the relative serenity of the nurturing Woodland Ward. I had stayed as long as I could, but I wouldn’t witness her lose consciousness, that I just couldn’t bear. We then waited in what seemed like and probably was the longest day of my life. Allia had been born on that very same day at 5.16am and we would wait there until after 11pm for the doctor to report back to us.

He returned alone. It was then I understood that Allia would not be coming back to this serene ward.

“She’s okay” the doctor said. He spoke softly and quietly. “She has been taken up to the intensive care ward and you will be able to see her tomorrow. We will try and organise a room for you here then” he said looking at me, “but for now she is being taken care of and the best thing would be for you to go home and get some rest.”

It was both a relief to know she was okay and an anti-climax because we couldn’t see her. I tried not to allow the nagging fear or was it paranoia that he was hiding something or protecting us from something engulf me. A mother in a state of distress has such fine-tuned nerves she picks up on everything. The wild animal instinct in me was sensitive to every word and gesture, trying to read behind every intention in this strange unfamiliar territory.

Everything comes as a surprise when we are so focused only on what is happening right now. With the benefit of hindsight, I see that all these small shocks and surprises are the things that create anxiety in the lead up to knowledge about out what is going to happen next. But the maternal instinct is a wonderful shock absorber and close to the survival instinct I am sure.

Which is just as well, because no one can warn you that will only hold your baby for a short while after birth, that she will be taken away and put in a different ward from you, that she will go to another hospital without you, that they will ask for your consent to perform surgery over the telephone and then tell you it’s better for you to stay where you are and rest, that you will escape the hospital to follow your child, not even knowing the address of where she is, that you will wait four hours for an operation to be performed and you won’t see your baby afterwards and that you will find yourself walking out into the dark streets of London just before midnight on the same day that you first gave birth, looking for a taxi that won’t appear in the freezing cold of a late November winter, that the taxi you eventually find will throw you around its back seat violently as it turns corners, accelerating into each street, that you will be too tired and stunned to even protest as the physical pain of what you have endured finally overpowers the drug-like effect of whatever bodily hormones have up until now been providing you with some measure of pain relief.

As we left the hospital to search for that taxi, the nurse insisted that I sit in a wheelchair.

“It’s been a long day and your body also needs to recover” she said.

Next Up: in A Silent Education: Our Quiet Challenge in Provence

Episode 7: The Verdict, The Recovery and Home Just in Time for Christmas

Previous Episodes


Episode 1: The Benefits of Insomnia

Episode 2: We are not Living in France!

Episode 3: The Benefits of Contra-Indicated Essential Oils

Episode 4: Where’s My Baby and Why Isn’t She With Me?

Episode 5: GOSH: Where Peter Pan’s legacy resides, a kind of Neverland

Episode 4: Where’s My Baby and Why Isn’t She With Me?

We laughed as the doctor left the room and I tried to remember how to breathe.

I even slept a little throughout that long night until around 5am when we reached the moment when the baby finally arrived. A beautiful tiny baby girl, an almost pained look of relief on her face, happy to have escaped I thought, or is it the other way around, I wonder, pained by that physical confrontation of birth into our harsh world? I only held her for a short while before she was taken away to be further checked, taken to a ward on another level.

We knew that there was a problem in the intestine, the hospital had picked it up at 22 weeks after the scan revealed fluid in the intestine making it balloon slightly. Due to this effect, they had been able to observe peristalsis, the smooth muscle contraction of the intestine wall, which moves food or liquid along the intestine. Ordinarily, we should not be able to see this, but if there is some kind of blockage, it is possible to observe.

It had caused us significant anxiety, particularly because the doctor could neither guarantee nor predict an outcome. There were two options he had said. Either the baby will require an operation immediately after birth, or you will take the little one home and at some time in the near future it will be necessary to return to the hospital, because it will be a problem for him or her to keep food down. In this case, the baby will vomit continuously because the bowel will have ceased to function.

We preferred that the problem be dealt with as soon as problem, but we were not given sufficient information to feel in any way empowered to make any kind of decision. So it often is with hospitals, perhaps believing that too much information can only increase anxiety, it seems as if they withhold it. I’m not so sure it’s a good strategy, being aware of one’s ignorance and feeling powerless are more painful symptoms of anxiety than the harsh dose of reality, complete information might bring, at least in my mind.

I mean, why send a baby home and wait for something terrible like that to happen? What were the risks of the operation? Every question always ended with “It depends. We can’t know exactly until we can see inside.” There was no reassurance, we just had to wait and so I had tried not to absorb too much of the anxiety already flooding through my veins.

Now that the moment had arrived, they seemed to be acting quickly, there was no suggestion of any “wait and see” now. The baby was gone, they’d cleared her breathing passages, shoved a tube up her nose, tied off her umbilical cord, weighed her and taken her out of the room. I know I did get to hold her, but I have no memory or feeling of the bliss of holding my baby after birth; the rush and feeling of panic and anxiety obliterated all that and I only remember the helplessness of not being able to follow and wanting to make sure that someone who I knew and could trust would keep an eye on my baby girl. I hadn’t held her long enough to even remember what she looked like!

The baby is in the post natal ward they told me. I sent Susan immediately to go and find her, I was too weak to get out of bed, but I was desperate for someone to go and see my daughter, to find her and tell me that everything was okay.

“She’s okay” said Susan. “She’s downstairs in an incubator and she’s quiet, you can go and see her once you are up and showered.” I dragged myself to the shower, washed then went down to the ward to see her for myself. There was a place to insert my hands but I couldn’t actually touch her. Barriers, barriers, I sent her all the love and maternal energy my heart could generate; I sent it to her in abundance, through my mind, my heart, my hands, from every cell in my entire being. And I decided to call her Allia.

The nurse came to tell me that Allia would be transferred in a few hours to Great Ormond Street Hospital. She advised me that she would be transported in a specially equipped ambulance designed for babies.

“It is not possible for you to travel with the baby” she continued. “It would be better for you to stay here for the night, you need to recover. Your baby will be okay.”

My baby would be okay she had said. I was not okay. I did not want to be there alone, I did not care about recovering, I wanted to be with her, she needed me, she was about to face something drastic and invasive and they were recommending she do that alone, without me even being in the same building.

I told Susan to go home and get some rest. Other people came to visit me and were shocked to find me there alone. I hated lying there watching the other women with their babies, feeling as if I had abandoned my own, powerless to have kept her. I remembered that my husband was due to arrive back in London that day. We had been unable to reach him.

Someone called from Great Ormond Street Hospital to ask me for parental consent to conduct surgery on our daughter.

“Ordinarily, we would get you to sign a consent form, but as you are not here, we need to get your permission over the telephone” the Doctor explained.

“When will the operation be?” I asked.

“At about eight thirty this evening” he answered. I looked at the clock; it was nearly 6pm already.

“Wait” I said, “I’m coming now.” I went back to the ward to find my husband and my Aunt waiting there for me.

“I need to get out of here” I said. “They’re going to operate on her in two hours and I’m not waiting here while that is about to happen.”

“I’ll take you in my car” said my Aunt. I grabbed my things and the three of us sped out of the Royal Free Hospital and raced towards Russell Square to Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital.

Next Up in the mother/daughter collaborative story A Silent Education: Our Quiet Challenge in Provence

Episode 5 : GOSH – A Kind of Neverland

Previous Episodes: Introduction

Episode 1: The Benefits of Insomnia

Episode 2: We are not Living in France!

Episode 3: The Benefits of Contra-Indicated Essential Oils

Episode 3: The Benefits of Contra-Indicated Essential Oils

The baby was due a few days before Christmas, so losing my job gave me plenty of time to prepare for its arrival, at least that’s what I thought. A month before the due date I nonchalantly told my husband not to worry, he should just go ahead and visit his son in France for a few days while everything was quiet and in control at home.

A couple of days before his return, my friend Susan was due to come and help me clean windows and get things ready for the imminent arrival of our new family member. That morning I woke knowing something had changed; it looked different too as I observed traces of blood. I called the midwife and she advised me to come to the hospital immediately for a check-up and suggested I bring my not yet prepared hospital bag.

I went to the hospital that same day and apart from one brief night, I was not to return home for the next three weeks. Tests indicated the waters were leaking and I was informed an inducement would be performed as soon as a bed became available. There were eleven delivery suites at the Royal Free Hospital, all occupied; and so the long wait began.

That wait proved fruitful, long enough to skip over a few chapters of the book I was reading on Preparing for Childbirth and start reading about inducement. I didn’t like what I read at all, injected with drugs which make contractions more severe than they would otherwise be, did not sound in any way appealing. I looked for the chapter on breathing; I hadn’t read that chapter yet either. I had not finished the preparation classes, three weeks was plenty of time to get into the huffing and puffing part I’d thought.

My friend Susan arrived and read to me from the chapter about inducement, I listened to her calm, soothing voice with increasing horror and fear at the alarming words tumbling forth in that gentle voice and my thoughts drifted to my aromatherapy training and all those essential oils that are contra-indicated in pregnancy because they are emmenagogue, able to trigger contractions. Clary Sage, Jasmine, Rosemary. I had put some Lavender and Rosemary in my bag, one to stimulate, the other to relax. I decided that a natural intervention was required, I had to at least try, I had nothing to lose and a few hours left to do something.

Kimberley arrives to administer a calming, hopefully effective, abdominal massage

Susan went home to rest, promising to come back later in the evening. She had started the day out intending to be my window cleaning helper and she would end it as my birthing partner, something neither of us had envisaged and something I will forever be grateful to her for.

My dear friend Kimberley came to visit. Kimberley had been pregnant at the same time as me. We used to work in the same office, laugh together, drink big mugs of tea together and talk about our future. We were supposed to have our babies at the same time. Her beautiful, so loved already baby didn’t make it and now here she was coming to comfort and be with me.

I asked her if she would massage some of the Rosemary and Lavender mixed with almond carrier oil on my stomach. I told her my plan and she laughed that gorgeous, contagious laugh she has and said she hoped it would work. I felt some flutters, but not much else, it felt good to laugh and the aroma of the oils made me forget the blood-curdling screams that had been coming from the bedside next to me earlier.

About 10pm Susan returned and the nurse arrived to announce the availability of a delivery suite. We moved to the room and as they set up the monitors the fluttering started up again and the indicators on the monitor started to jump around. I looked at Susan and at the nurse. The nurse gave me nitrogen gas to inhale and I started to laugh uncontrollably, the room seemed to have become a little crazy, like we had entered a different zone. We had. The baby was ready to move.

The doctor returned and asked what was going on. He had expected to come in and administer drugs for an inducement. He took one look at the monitor and said “No drugs needed here. You are on your way” and left the room.

Next Up in our mother/daughter collaborative story: A Silent Education: Our Quiet Challenge in Provence

Episode 4 : Where’s My Baby and Why Isn’t She With Me!

Previous Episodes: Introduction

Episode 1: The Benefits of Insomnia

Episode 2: We are not Living in France!

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

Emerging from Abraham Verghese’s ‘Cutting for Stone’ reminds me what it was like returning home after three months travelling in Asia; home is familiar, but everything else feels strangely altered by the recent experience.

Except, it is not Asia I traverse, but reading my way through Addis Ababa in central Ethiopia to a hospital in the Bronx, via the eyes, ears, heart and hands of Marion Stone. Marion and Shiva are identical twin boys left orphaned when their mother dies during childbirth and their father, unable to cope with the revelations of that day, abandons them for good.

Raised by Hema and Ghosh, doctors in the Mission Missing Hospital, kept running by Matron’s unrelenting pursuance of international donors, they become a close-knit family, often struggling but nearly always overcoming the day to day dramas of the hospital and the equally unpredictable events of a volatile political environment.

Marion and Shiva follow their role models into the medical world and we too enter the operating room with such verisimilitude, it’s almost like watching an episode or ER (the nearest I have come to knowing what trauma surgery might be like).

Ethiopia & the Horn of Africa

Five hundred plus pages of bliss, I don’t recall when I was last so content that a book continued after 400 pages, so happy was I to enter the author’s realistically created world, taking me to those exotic but familiar to him locations, putting me through numerous experiences I will likely never encounter.  Verghese’s words on the page bring a life-like quality; there is a richness to his prose that is metaphorically beautiful and a perceptive tension that is heart racing mad. It’s a roller coaster ride from start to finish and by page 472 tears of joy were flowing.

Gripping, enticing, compassionately delivered, eye-opening, heart racing, it is an unforgettable journey and a thrill of a read.  I finished it on the first day of 2012 and I can’t imagine reading better than this for a while, it could well become one of my best reads of 2012.