I stopped watching the news during my first pregnancy. Footage of war-ravaged far-away nations and desperate faces clung to my nightmares. I imagined myself as the mother of every ill-fated child, crossing choppy seas on flimsy boats, shipwrecked on swollen shores. The tragedy of every lost soul shook the walls of my womb. I wept into my pillow with all the sadness of the world, cradling my unborn child, promising hope and safety. I gave money to relief funds and futile tears to the moon, but feeling too pregnant to volunteer my sweat or blood, I ultimately felt useless.
Instead, I focused on my changing body and realised that I had to give all my strength to our tiny baby. It was clear to me that I had to believe that our world was pure and good for this little child who'd one day walk its streets. By 10pm, the TV was off and my brain was immersed in positive thoughts. As my body stretched to accommodate his growing limbs and powerful kicks, my mind shrunk away from the reality beyond the safe walls of our cosy loving home.
I kept my head in the sand throughout his babyhood, determined to believe that all is well. I breastfed and changed nappies, sang and dandled, played and babbled. All the while, innocent lives were lost to terror everyday, all over the world: Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Syria, Yemen, Pakistan, Turkey, Ukraine, Somalia, Egypt, Libya, Ukraine, Tunisia, US, France, Germany, Sweden, Belgium. Names became endless soulless headlines, too many deaths to compute, the loss too epic to evoke true empathy. I tried to Google "volunteering with your baby", but all I could do was package up food and shelter for the dispossessed. Send money. Warm clothing. Baby clothing. I tried not to pause to reflect or cry, but fought to keep our cosy home full of sweetness and joy.
During the labour of our second child, ballot boxes were being prepared for the EU Referendum and news stations covered the horrific Orlando nightclub attack. We chose not to frame the daily newspapers as a memento of the day. As my children grew in strength and smiles, I dug our nest deeper into the sand, submerged by nursing, nappies and Netflix. By refusing to listen to or to read the daily news, I could pretend that there's no Big Bad Wolf lurking in the shadows nearby.
Since March 2017, the wolf's breath can be heard at the door. Close friends and family mark themselves as safe on social media. Familiar places and favourite haunts are cordoned off and illuminated in blue flashing lights. London, the city where I've called home for over a decade, has suffered two brutal attacks. Manchester- where my brother lived, celebrated his wedding, saw Bjork perform and enjoyed Blur's gig at the Arena - still licks its wounds. Perhaps we should have built another wall, or added extra locks.
It's time to face the anger, I think. I switch on the neglected TV, but instead, all I hear is love. Love. Defiant love in the face of hate. Last night at the Ariana Grande @One Love, Manchester concert, thousands singing in one voice: "Don't Look Back In Anger", echoing the seemingly innocent year of 1996. I remember singing those words on the back seat of my parents' Vauxhall Cavalier, as a happy and fearless teenager. Now, in June 2017, these words and the collective love of the homely crowd has pulled my head from the suffocating sand. I finally watch the news and see the faces of the fallen. I hear the calm lament of mothers who have lost their children too young. I see their strength and their resolve. I hear their pain and their promise. A promise to never be beaten by hate. To remember the fallen. To remember the innocent child washed up from the Mediterranean Sea. To look to the light, the rising sun. I look at the little faces of my babies, their big brown eyes full of hope and vitality and I lie in my best Gallagher drawl: "You and I are going to live forever". I hug them close and fling open the door; I give the wolf my best smile and we step out into the brilliant sunshine.