How to be good

Some years ago, I read a book by Nick Hornby called ‘How to Be Good’.  (Amazon tells me I purchased it on 11 June 2002, to be precise.) The blurb: ‘According to her own complex moral calculations, Katie Carr has earned her affair. She’s a doctor, after all, and doctors are decent people, and on top of that, her husband David is the self-styled Angriest Man in Holloway. But when David suddenly becomes good – properly, maddeningly, give-away-all-his-money good – Katie’s sums no longer add up, and she is forced to ask herself some very hard questions. Nick Hornby’s brilliant new novel offers a painfully funny account of modern marriage and parenthood, and asks that most difficult of questions: what does it mean to be good?’

I remembered the story this week when I was thinking about how deeply I am striving, post-caaancer, to be a good person. To lead a ‘good’ life. Which is not about giving my spare room to a homeless person, because it’s also my office and that just wouldn’t, y’know, work. For me, being good means: being kind, giving and receiving love, maintaining mental and emotional equilibrium, going with the flow, being true and genuine, being faithful, being in the moment, choosing to fill my life with joy, forgiving myself and others, responding rather than reacting, listening, paying attention to my inner wisdom, looking after my body, being there for my friends and family, achieving my potential, being cheerful.

And not: spending waaay much time in my head, being something of a fantasist, procrastinating, being angry, cold, and hard, withholding love, shouting, being impatient, wallowing in intermittent Black Dog days, being lazy, being resentful, trying to control everyone and everything, taking no exercise, drinking unhealthy levels of wine, worrying about what everyone thinks of me, spending too much time on social media instead of playing with the children, not supporting others, being too busy for the people I love and care about, not smiling, being absent, feeling guilty, being utterly selfish. Being horrible to DH, mean to my precious babies, critical about everyone.

I am all those things, and more. Trying to Be Good requires a monumental shift in the way I am in the world. Often, I don’t think I am a very nice person. People who don’t know me well may think I’m delightful, because I’ve only ever been polite and funny and sweet to them, or they may despise me, like the poor postman whose head I bit off recently. But I know I have the potential – and certainly the desire – to be a better, kinder, gentler, more authentic, more loving and lovable human being. Connecting with the pure love and light at the centre of my being: that sort of thing.

There’s a coaching exercise called ‘Eighty Today’ where you imagine you are 80 years old, and consider what you would like your friends, partner, children, colleagues to say about you as you near the end of your life. It’s basically the same as fantasising about what people are saying at your funeral, though less morbid. I have to say, with my literary proclivities, I quite like the Gothic aspect of imagining everyone in black crepe talking in muted tones at my woodland burial, over the strains of Mumford & Sons’ ‘After the Storm’ between the oak trees, about what a bloody marvellous chap I was. No-one wants, Scrooge-style, to be thought of as not a terribly nice person to have around. I don’t want the people I love deeply (but don’t always show it), to be shouting gleefully: ‘Thank goodness that miserable old bat has shuffled off her mortal coil, let’s have a partay!’

But there’s a motivation to Being Good that is far, far more important than what everything thinks of me when I’m old, or dead, or both. It’s my belief – I might even say my knowledge – that the physical body, the emotions, and one’s thoughts are interconnected so closely that you cannot separate out what’s going on in your head and your heart from what happens in your body. My body expresses or manifests everything that I think and feel. I’ve written before about my lack of surprise at being diagnosed with breast cancer, precisely for this reason. There’s no blame attached to this, by the way: I don’t think it’s my ‘fault’, I just understand that it was inevitable. According to Louise L Hay, cancer is always connected with deep anger and resentment, often directed at oneself. Every physical dis-ease or ailment is connected to a thought pattern. Identifying and releasing those old patterns of thinking and being, and replacing them (through tools such as affirmations) with something healthier, can help to heal. If holistic stuff isn’t your bag, this probably sounds bonkers, but even Western doctors accept that numerous physical conditions, ranging from digestive and skin disorders to stroke and heart attacks, are rooted in emotional disturbance or ‘stress’.

And so Being Good could mean the difference between life and death, for me. Post-cancer existence is like being in a post-apocalyptic territory. Every familiar feature of the landscape has shifted. Finding a new reality is hard, and painful, and fraught with wrong turns. I am acutely aware of the need to make the right choices about what I think and feel and how I behave, because I really, really don’t want to go to the Badlands of Cancerville again. And as I said in June, every ache and pain and twinge in my body and bones makes me scared shitless that I have secondaries lurking somewhere. Perhaps this is just about the illusion of control, but I know I feel so much better when I am calm, and sober, and have plenty of sleep, and eat well, and get fresh air, and laugh, and am kind and loving to everyone, especially me.

Perhaps it’s not about battling to change completely, though. I Am, as Birley Shassey belted out, What I Am. Perhaps it’s simply about being a Good Enough person, like childcare guru Donald Winnicott’s concept of the Good Enough Mother. Not trying to be perfect, because it’s impossible and you set yourself up to fail, creating a vicious circle. But being a little bit kinder, a little bit more cheerful, a little bit more chilled, a little bit healthier, a little bit more forgiving. As my health creation mentor Kit once wisely remarked to me, ‘Having cancer doesn’t turn you into a Saint’.

(Or Greavsie.)

Butterflies and books

I had a vision last week. No, not Rebekah Brooks’ face appearing in a slice of toast, sadly. It happened during a Health Kinesiology session with my wonderful friend E, who is training to be a practitioner. I’m one of her guinea pigs, which is more than fine with me – I’ve used HK on and off for many years and she’s already one of the best, most intuitive practitioners I’ve worked with.

Kinesiology is one of those complementary therapies that divides people. There’s absolutely no scientific evidence that it works. It’s properly holistic: either you ‘get’ the premise that your body has infinite wisdom and a skilled practitioner can interpret its weaknesses, blocks, and imbalances, and then help to resolve physical, emotional and spiritual issues, or you don’t. I’m very into all branches of ‘energy medicine’, which includes acupuncture, so HK has been, for me, a crucial aspect of my treatment since the day of my breast cancer diagnosis. It helps that E knows me extremely well, and sometimes one of the ‘things’ that comes up, that my body and soul is urgently requesting, is as simple as a big belly laugh or a massive squeezy hug.

Anyway, after balancing all my energy points last week, the ‘thing’ that came up, bizarrely, (an HK session is frequently an open-minded adventure into the unknown, even if you think you know what you’re there for) was the apparently random word ‘ridding’. E held various points on my head, while I had to focus on the word ‘ridding’ and let the context of what it meant just sort of come to me.

I concentrated on ridding. Ridding ridding ridding. The first thing that came to mind, obviously, was being rid of f*cking caancer. Then ridding myself of cancer treatment. Focusing on these two things, I felt hot tears streaming down my cheeks as I felt very deeply all over again the full horror of having cancer and going through all the treatment. Then, after a few minutes, something weird happened. The tears stopped. In my head there was a pause, a moment of immense, bottomless calm. And then I had the vision.

It was me, or rather, The New Me. Pinchy, version two point zero. Like a butterfly stepping out of its chrysalis, I saw myself, in technicolour, striding forward, with cancer and its treatment fully behind me in the monochrome distance. I had a huge smile on my face. My hair was long, red and glossy again. I walked tall, my head high (I was also very slim, wearing tight white jeans and looked a bit like Elle McPherson on the school run, but hey, it’s MY VISION, OK?).

Pinchy on the school run. Liderally in my dreams.

It wasn’t just cancer behind me – it was all the old aspects of myself that no longer serve me: anxiety, depression, fear, that extra stone of weight, anger, lack, guilt, a desperate need for love and approval – all the crap stuff that has been my own personal albatross around my neck almost since I was a child.

And what was I moving forward to? Quite spontaneously, in the vision it was utterly normal, and inevitable, that I was a successful novelist. I am cringing slightly writing this, because it sounds a bit arrogant. Also, my loved ones have listened to me saying for practically decades that what I have always really, really wanted to do is write fiction, and then watched me do precisely bugger all about it. Writing novels – good, intelligent, funny, best-selling, award-winning ones, naturally – is what I have always thought of as simultaneously my purpose on this planet, and waaaay too scary to even start. I have a couple of dusty first chapters tucked away, but I’ve never embarked on a serious attempt to crack out my first literary baby. I’ve always been too scared. But there’s something about cancer that makes you laugh in the face of the things you once feared. Because the really scary thing happened, and I got through it.

So that simple, slightly clunky word, ‘ridding’, was exactly right. Focusing on it and watching the subsequent slideshow in my head was an intense experience. After the session had ended, I felt quite drained, but full of quiet, nameless purpose. I didn’t really go into detail with E, or DH, or anyone else about what I had seen. I didn’t analyse it. I needed to let my subconscious chew it over for a few days. Then this week, during a coaching session with the pretty darn brilliant Amanda Alexander, I spilled the beans. As always, Amanda’s sessions are a ‘safe’ place to articulate things you haven’t really said, to yourself or anyone else, and then suddenly you’ve taken the first step from turning a dream into reality. Started to put some flesh on those bones. Telling her about my vision brought it more fully to life. It was extraordinary, like I’d actually seen the future.

Even more interestingly (to me, anyway, I am well aware there are fewer things duller than hearing other people’s dreams, but bear with me), I don’t feel any sense of rush or urgency to get started. I know what I need to do right now, now I’ve put this picture out into the universe, is to just wait patiently until the right idea for my first novel comes to me. I have a sense that writing it will be effortless, like channelling the story, rather than grinding it out. I’ve never suffered from writer’s block, professionally, but I do tend to end up sailing quite close to deadlines because I’m waiting for my muse to land on my shoulder. I say it jokingly, but that’s exactly what happens. When the time is right to write, and my head is in the right space, the writing just happens, in perfect flow, with no force required.

In the meantime, I could read a few more books about the novel form, get stuck into Julia Cameron’s ‘Artist’s Way’ again (stream-of-consciousness writing every morning, as an exercise in disciplined creativity), and maybe find myself some sort of mentor in this area. But there’s plenty of time.

So now I’ve said it, out loud. I really am going to write a novel, quite soon. And you can hold me to that. Let’s just get the remaining 11 radio ga ga sessions out of the way first.

*Thanks so much to everyone who has voted for me in the Loved By Parents Blogger of the Year awards! The deadline for votes is now 5 August, so if you haven’t done so yet, please please please go to the website and put a tick next to Pinchypants. I thank you, my lovely comrades.

Blogging about blogging

Apparently there’s some taboo about writing a blog post about blogging. I imagine it’s the same sort of thing as when novelists started experimenting with the novel form: being self-conscious or self-referential does the opposite of breaking down barriers with your readers, so they can’t forget what they are reading and lose themselves in the written universe you have created.

Nevertheless, I want to write about why I write, in this medium. As I said last time, this was one of the things that came out of my coaching session with Amanda Alexander this week. Good life coaches have a cunning way of getting you to articulate things in a way you haven’t before, to yourself or anyone else, so there are often real Eureka moments in a coaching session. Here were mine:

1. Writing this blog is my therapy. I don’t really like therapy or counselling, whether one-to-one or in groups. I’ve always preferred more positive, action-based, forward-looking approaches such as coaching, which helps to shift your thinking from ‘where you are now’ to ‘where you want to be’ without spending too much time in the past, which can lead to amazing results, extremely quickly (I’m a trained life coach myself, though I’m not practising at the moment, so I have to declare some bias here!). Nevertheless, there is stuff to get off my chest and reflect on, and this is my mechanism for doing that. I now recognise that this blog has been a critical element of my ‘treatment path’, in terms of something that is contributing to returning me to full physical and emotional health. My gut instinct in the shocked days after diagnosis was to ‘write it out’, and it has proved extraordinarily helpful.  

2. It’s helped partly because writing is absolutely my life-blood, as my friend B astutely said this morning. I’ve always found writing comes naturally, and feel very lucky to have built a career on something I am good at and enjoy. I communicate far, far better in writing than in person or on the phone. It might not seem it, even to people who know me well, but I have never found socialising easy. I can act as if I’m comfortable and we’re having a nice chat and everyone’s smiling, but I often feel self-conscious in the presence of anyone but my immediate family and very closest friends. I worry about having nothing interesting to say, about striking the wrong note, about being misunderstood, of offending, of not being funny. And most of all, I fear being dull [shudder]. When I am writing, I have none of those concerns, partly because I can pause, think, and edit my words, but also because it feels so natural I can relax and be myself, here and in emails and even texts. The written Pinchy is more articulate, clever, funny and sparkly than the flesh and blood Pinchy, I think, so ironically feels more like the ‘real me’.

3. I’m a professional journalist and copywriter, and I can’t help but bring the discipline of crafting a coherent piece of writing to every blog post. It may sometimes look like I’ve just gone ‘blahhhh’ and emptied my head, but I have always given a great deal of thought to headlines, how to begin, how to structure the post, how to make it better, and how to conclude it. And then when I’m finished, I edit my copy. In this act of ensuring I am explaining things clearly, I am also framing some quite difficult or complex ideas to myself. Often, the blog post is the first time I’ve gone into detail about something that has happened, so writing it is actually part of me ‘processing’ my treatment and my feelings about it. As I seek to find where I can inject humour, or see the positive side to what’s happening, I am not only, hopefully, making the post more readable, but also making myself feel more cheerful and putting things into perspective for me. Blogging is a place to put down (in every sense) worrisome thoughts, to package them up, and let them go. It gives me greater clarity and understanding of what I and the people I love are going through.

4. As I’ve said a million times before, the incredibly supportive and loving response to this blog in the form of comments, tweets and Facebook posts from friends, family and complete strangers has been overwhelming, and very lovely. It’s really kept my spirits up and kept me going, and I appreciate enormously that people take the time to read and respond.

5. It’s an efficient way of keeping people updated. It also means I can say ‘I’m fine, all the latest stuff is on the blog, how are you doing?, if I’m too tired or too busy to talk through what’s been going on for the umpteenth time, or want to hear other people’s news instead of talking about sodding cancer.

All of which makes me wonder why I thought it was a good idea to stop blogging. First, I was having the mother of all bad weeks, emotionally. I didn’t make a good decision all week, frankly. Second, I was genuinely worried about turning into that woman who only writes about having breast cancer, yawn yawn. My solution to this one is to get back to the original purpose of this blog, which was to write about all aspects of motherhood as I experience it. So you can expect to see more posts about parenting stuff here from now on, some of which will be inevitably related to cancer because it’s affected us as a family in so many ways. This also feels like another way to get back on the path to ‘normal’.

Third, I became conscious that so many people have very kindly said they found this blog inspiring, that it felt like a huge responsibility at a time when I was lacking in any sort of inspiration, and my silver lining detector was experiencing a bit of a malfunction. But I had so many lovely comments about not needing to feel the need to ‘be inspiring’, and understanding that this journey was always going to be, well, hilly, so that concern has been laid to rest too. So it looks like you’re going to have to put up with me for a long while yet. Thank you all for reading, and thence assisting me on my quest to f&ck caaancer! Now, to work…

It’s all in my head

I think it’s time to let you into a little secret, dear reader: I wasn’t surprised, in the slightest, when I was first told I had breast cancer. Shocked, yes, but my first reaction was, ‘Well of course I have!’ Not because of the lumpy bits, but because of who I am.

I don’t really fit the typical physical profile of someone with breast cancer. I have a relatively healthy diet, I’m young, I breastfed both my babies for months, there’s no family history. But for many years I have subscribed to the idea explained in Louise L Hay’s amazing little book You Can Heal Your Life that all disease is ‘dis-ease’ – a sort of existential discomfort. In other words, stress and negative emotions make you ill.

Louise specifically suggest that anything wrong with the breast is connected with ‘overmothering’, and cancer is always linked with deep anger, resentment or bitterness. Now that I can identify with. I have always ‘overmothered’ DH and been a ‘good girl’, a caring person to others, sometimes to controlling and martyish levels. I’ve also struggled with actual motherhood and feeling good enough as a mother, from anxiety and post-natal depression with DD to overwhelming, seeing-red anger towards DS when he was a non-sleeping, refluxy, noisy baby and I felt completely out of control and loopy with no sleep. This random fury then became directed at DD and we had a rocky couple of years until she started school (there’s shouting at the kids and there’s going a bit mental).

And underneath all of this was deep, deep guilt and self-loathing about being a crap mother. I used to look at myself in the mirror and say the most appalling things to myself about exactly how dreadful I was, things I would never dream of saying to another human being. I put myself under such pressure and turned such powerful negative emotions on myself about how I was as a mother (while continuing to resent all the looking after I was doing for everyone else) that I’m not even slightly surprised I’ve got breast cancer. It was sort of inevitable when combined with my dodgy hormones. And I gather cancer takes about two years to get to the point where there are symptoms. DS was born two years ago. Go figure.

Western medicine accepts that a wide range of physical illness and disease is linked to stress, from stomach ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome to heart attacks. In other words, it’s psychosomatic. Is it too great a stretch to say that all illness is psychosomatic in nature? That’s not to say it is imaginary, but that I am not just a body, that the activity of my mind and my ‘spirit’ is inseparable from my body, and every thought and feeling I have manifests itself in my body. And strong, long-term negative emotions – anger, resentment, anxiety, depression, that sort of thing – will always have a physical effect sooner or later.

There’s some completely sensible, non-woo-woo stuff on this in the Cancer Lifeline Programme, a brilliant information source/workbook developed by Dr Rosy Daniel of Health Creation (if you or anyone you know has just been diagnosed with or is on the cancer journey, I cannot recommend this highly enough, by the way). This points out that the immune system is substantially weakened by prolonged stress, exhaustion, loneliness, being too nice and hiding or repressing our feelings, depression and lack of motivation, shock and trauma, grief, and lack of purpose or will to live. Apparently these factors decrease the number of circulating white blood cells by between 10% and 30%, and the remaining ones by as much as 50%. Having an immune system operating at a third of normal capacity can leave us vulnerable to the environmental and lifestyle factors that are recognised as contributing to cancer (and we all produce cancer cells every day).

I’m actually finding the understanding that stress has combined with hormones to precipitate this disease in me extremely helpful. Because if that is true, then the opposite is also true, and we all have the power to contribute enormously to our own healing by making some quite radical shifts in the way we are in the world.

Whoah! Isn’t that the most amazing thought? I’d much rather think of myself as being a co-creator or partner in my own healing process than a ‘patient’. Different experts in this area suggest different ways of harnessing this power we all have within us, from finding ways to process our emotions to visualisation of our recovery. A simple tool again comes from Louise L Hay – the repeated use of affirmations or mantras. At the very least, these have a strong calming effect and help you to feel more in control. The affirmation I have been using since before my diagnosis (yeah, again, it wasn’t a surprise) combines Louise’s ones for breast problems and cancer:

‘I am important. I count. I now care for and nourish myself with love and with joy. I allow others the freedom to be who they are. We are all safe and free. I now willingly forgive and release all of the past. I choose to fill my world with joy. I love and approve of myself.’

Like I’ve always said, cancer is my big wake up call. I’m a work in progress but I know I’m going to like the new, calmer, less stressy Pinchy a lot more than the old one. Because it’s who I actually am – the shining diamond at the centre of me, unhidden by the layers of crap I’ve built around myself for a long, long time.

If you’re interested in reading more about this stuff, I recommend:

Bring on the drugs!

We are GO for chemo this Thursday! Hurray! After a month of poking and prodding since the diagnosis of caaancer, I am quite excited about getting going on the next stage of my adventure. Objectively, this is weird: who the hell gets excited about chemotherapy? Shouldn’t I be scared or worried about it? But you know what? I’ve got a few tumours that need dealing with, and the best way of dealing with them is to blast them away with some very hefty, very expensive drugs.

I’m not a big one for reliance on pharmaceuticals. I don’t even like painkillers. But sometimes things get so serious that they simply are required. I’m a real believer in complementary therapy, but that means complementary to conventional medical treatment, not necessarily alternative to. (I’ve had two bouts of diagnosed depression in my life so far, and both times I used anti-depressants successfully alongside counselling/cognitive behavourial therapy to get my brain chemistry back on track.)

Never having had cancer before, there is the unknown, of course, in that I don’t know exactly how I’m going to feel on the wonderdrugs. I’ve been told to expect fatigue, ranging from mild to extreme, nausea (ditto), taste changes in my mouth that might throw my appetite a curve ball, bleeding gums and an absent menstrual cycle. Sound familiar? Yup, sounds pretty much like both of my pregnancies, which are recent enough to be vivid memories. It wasn’t much fun but hey, I got through it. No baby at the end of the next few months this time, of course, but the outcome expected by my medical team will still be a source of celebration.

I think the other reason I’m not fearful of the treatment is that I am incredibly grateful that it’s happening before surgery. When I was diagnosed, a couple of people seemed to assume that I would just want the cancer cut out immediately ie to simply get rid of the diseased breast. But I was so relieved when my team said they’d prefer to do chemo first, firstly because I thought that might feel terribly depressing, like mopping up when you’ve already had a body part removed (I am quite fond of my boobs and cleavage, actually), and secondly because it felt like I had time. Time to adjust. Time to get started on all my complementary therapy. Time for the chemo to melt the tumours away so the surgery doesn’t need to be so dramatic. And most importantly, time to learn.

Because one of the things I firmly believe is that all disease, illness and suffering happens because there is something for us to learn from it. That lesson might not be immediately clear at a time of distress, shock, pain or grief, but it will be there. I’m reading a brilliant book, The Creation of Health (subtitle ‘The emotional, psychological and spiritual responses that promote health and healing’), which includes the following passage on suffering:

‘Perhaps one of the greatest false goals of life is our belief that we can somehow manoeuvre our lives in such a way as to avoid difficulties. That is impossible, and living as thought it were possible is a belief that certainly leads to the frustration of desiring the impossible, It seems that a more realistic goal is to learn to accept the cycle of Life on its terms, striving to learn from the wisdom built into the natural momentum of conclusions and new beginnings. Rather than expecting life to be something it is not (an unchanging dynamic) it would seem that our tendency to suffer would be greatly diminished if we were able to recognise the spiritual wisdom inherent in the natural, continuingly changing processes of our lives’.

I’m starting to get an idea of the big life lessons this cancer is trying to teach me. And I know this understanding is helping me handle this whole experience, and is part of the reason that I have no fear about starting chemotherapy this week.

Plus there’s the fact that I get to spend a whole day sitting down, reading books and magazines, listening to music and lovely relaxing hypnotherapy things on my iPod and chatting to my mummy, who’s coming with me. Since I normally have two delicious, demanding small people to look after, as well as a husband, house and business, that sound like complete luxury to me! It’s virtually a day at Pennyhill Park spa without all the Russian oligarchs clogging up the sauna.

I’ll let you know how I get on – I may well be eating my words come Thursday night, but in the meantime, bring on the drugs!

Am I a hypocrite for being a godmother again?

Yesterday I became a godmother for the fifth time. That’s ten parents who for some baffling reason have thought I’d be the perfect person to guide their offspring’s spiritual growth.

The first two babies are my much younger cousins, and being their godmother when I was only a teenager was a lovely gesture from two aunts who I was very close to, but hasn’t really worked in the long term, about which I feel bad. The third is a good friend’s little girl, who now lives on the other side of the world so although I think of her often, it’s going to be a challenge to really get to know her as she grows up. The fourth is my gorgeous nephew, who I see every week and is only 12 days younger than my son – a very special bond reinforced by being his godmother. The newbie to this motley crew is the adorable son of one of my very best friends, who I met while we were both doing NCT classes while she was pregnant with his older sister (my DD’s best friend). Again, a special relationship that feels even stronger now.

I am extremely proud to be a godmother. It was a real honour to be asked, and a very emotional moment each time. And yet when my own children were born, we chose not to baptise them. Me and DH were both christened and confirmed in the Church of England, spent much of our youth in church choirs or as servers during Sunday services and Evensong, and got married in church. As we’ve got older, our feelings about all organised religion are changing and evolving, and though I’m yet to fully articulate my current beliefs, baptising my babies and officially stating they are a member of any religious group not through their own choosing  just didn’t feel right.

Instead, we had rather spiritual, though entirely non-religious, Naming Day ceremonies, with a script written by me, adapted from the Civil Ceremonies guide. They were led by celebrants, and included promises from me and DH to our children, and the family and close friends we asked to be their ‘godparents’. The word ‘god’ still feels perfect to me, as what it means to me is far broader than the man with the white beard. For me, being a godparent is about spirit, rather than religion.

We asked DS’s godparents, for example, to make the following promises:  ‘We promise to love, respect and treasure you always. We promise to share our talents, interests and experiences with you to broaden your understanding and appreciation of life. We promise to watch over the development of your spirit, encouraging you to use your heart and your head in decision-making, and to be true to yourself and your values. We promise to always be ready to advise, encourage and comfort you in all your endeavours as a child and an adult.’ I still well up when I read those words, echoed in our own promises to our children, because they feel completely right.

 The first Naming Day was a village hall party followed by champagne and a lunch buffet, and the second was an afternoon tea party. Both were memorable and special occasions as we named and welcomed our babies. I tried to avoid too much hippyishness, although we did light a ‘Baby Blessings’ candle each time, there were a few mentions of nature, and for the first one we suggested the guests might like to plant trees in DD’s name. (By the time DS’s Naming Day came around, I was too knackered to continue being quite such an eco-zealot. I didn’t even make my own organic purees – so shoot me).

I’m also not a massive fan of the exact language of the baptism service – the parents and godparents are asked to state some quite hardcore stuff, as the Church of England website makes clear: ‘When you bring your child for baptism, you will be asked to declare publicly on behalf of your child that you believe in God and that you will bring your child up to follow Jesus. You will be asked to answer, on your child’s behalf, that you have decided to turn away from everything which is evil or sinful and instead to turn towards Christ.’

Before the service and celebratory lunch yesterday, I’d been thinking about this after reading Insomniac Mummy’s blog post on the dilemma of whether or not to baptise her daughter.

So am I a hypocrite to love being a godmother and yet not really subscribe to the doctrine within which that title was awarded to me?