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It's Mothering Sunday, and I'm here in Basildon maternity unit
in Essex to meet some brand-new mums
and their lovely newborn babies.
Welcome to Songs Of Praise.
In today's programme I meet the mums
and midwives bringing new life into the world.
As a Christian, I think it's a calling to do the job I do,
and I treat it as more than a job - I treat it as a vocation.
Pam Rhodes talks to the young Christian who's reaching out
to those who find it too painful to go to church on Mothering Sunday.
Those who have struggled to have children or have lost children.
To acknowledge that this day was difficult.
And one mother shares her experience of raising a child
with additional needs.
When Barney achieves something, it's just like joy magnified.
Mothering Sunday always falls on the fourth Sunday in Lent and,
traditionally, it was an occasion for children
working as domestic servants
to have the day off to go home
to their mother church and see their families.
Today, millions of cards and gifts are given to those
women in our lives who have often spent much of their time
putting us first.
This Mothering Sunday is extra special for me
because in just a few weeks, I'm expecting a baby,
and even though this is my second child, I'm still both excited
and nervous, especially given that we're here, at a maternity ward.
But above all I'm thankful, and our first hymn,
written for Mothering Sunday, expresses our thanks to God for our
children, our mothers and all those special relationships in our lives.
Basildon Hospital serves over 400,000 people in Essex,
and this maternity unit delivers over 4,500 babies each year.
I can't wait to meet one of the most recent arrivals.
Hi, who's this?
This is Aurelia.
Aurelia, what a beautiful name.
And she's less than 12 hours old.
Yeah, she was born this morning at 1:03.
And how do you feel? Is it your first?
So it's just the most...
-Yeah, just totally overwhelmed.
Completely in love with her.
She's absolutely beautiful.
-And you look amazing considering you've just given birth.
Thank you very much.
Oh, my gosh, you are gorgeous.
Meanwhile, on a neighbouring ward, another baby is on its way.
We're expecting a little boy, it's our second.
Name's going to be Eddie.
Just wish this labour would hurry up!
I'm excited and nervous all at the same time,
and tired because, obviously, lack of sleep.
There are nearly 200 midwives looking after the women
here in the hospital and in the community.
Joanne Hoare is one of them.
It's not just about delivering babies.
Being a midwife is being with women, and that's what it means.
So we just walk with them on their journey, in their pregnancy.
As a Christian, I think it's a calling to do the job I do,
and I treat it as more than a job - I treat it as a vocation,
that I can be there and help those ladies.
I've got twins, so it's been hard but I've done it
and I've had the support of my parents,
who also are avid Christians,
and they've given me amazing role models of parenting that I've
been able to adapt for myself and that I can pass on to my patients.
So I hear that Charlene, your girlfriend,
has just gone into labour.
Yeah, she's going to have a lot of contractions now. And...
getting more nervous each time it goes along.
Well, I'm hoping that she might deliver today in which case
-we'll get, maybe, to see him.
-I hope so.
Yeah, really excited.
Fingers crossed everything goes well.
I'll have to wait and see if baby Eddie arrives
in time for me to meet him.
But now a hymn that celebrates all of God's creation,
including family love.
On any maternity ward, amidst the joy there can also be sorrow.
Deborah Olajugbagbe is both a midwife
and a bereavement specialist.
How many babies have you delivered?
-I wouldn't have a clue.
-You've lost count.
Being on a ward like this is a very happy and joyful place,
but I'm sure that you do experience some difficult days.
How do you deal with that?
Yes, there are difficult times, and...
..it's actually my faith that helps me through that.
And I'll try not to cry!
Well, what I believe, where babies go - I believe in an afterlife
and that, you know, they're being cared for and that kind of thing,
no matter what the gestation the woman loses the baby,
and that really helps me.
There's a Scripture in Psalm 139 talking about how God knew us
in the womb, and that just is really encouraging to me,
that we're not forgotten
and those babies are not forgotten, even though they haven't survived.
The best part is,
yeah, when people have had a tough journey
and you see them when there's a really good outcome
and they're really happy, and just to share in that is really special.
But for those who have suffered loss,
Mothering Sunday can be a difficult day.
Pam Rhodes has been to Liverpool to meet one Christian woman
who's set up a service for those who can't face
going to church on Mother's Day.
Lizzie Lowrie runs this busy Liverpool cafe
as part of a church outreach project.
-Are you Lizzie?
-Yes, I am.
-I'm very pleased to meet you.
-Nice to meet you.
-It smells so lovely.
Yeah, we've been baking all morning...
But the special service she ran last Mothering Sunday,
here in Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral,
had an impact way beyond her community.
It was a really special service.
So, it was called the Mother's Day Runaways service.
And the service was for anybody who finds Mothering Sunday
difficult, for whatever reason.
If they'd lost their mothers, also those who have struggled to
have children, or have lost children as well.
So it was to acknowledge that this day was difficult.
This is obviously very close to your heart. Why?
I always kind of believed that my life would kind of move
effortlessly from one stage to the next - that I'd meet someone,
fall in love, get married and have children.
And I've met someone, I fell in love, I got married,
but I still don't have children.
For me, my experience of childlessness has been
through miscarriage, and I've had six miscarriages.
And I always wanted to be a mother and that hasn't happened.
What about your feelings towards God?
Did it shake even your belief?
It completely changed my faith.
I think prayer is something, in particular, that is really
..navigate or wrestle with, when you pray for something
and it doesn't happen.
Then you just think, "What's the point?
"Why pray, when we've experienced so much loss?"
But the thing about the Christian faith that
rebuilt my faith in God was
the principle of redemption that is kind of woven throughout Scripture,
that acknowledges pain,
but also demonstrates that God can bring good from it.
Is the church sensitive enough to how you and others like you feel?
I think in church we've lost that language,
that vulnerable language of grief and vulnerability and lament.
And so if you're struggling, you can feel very out
of place in church when, actually, it should be the best place to be.
Do you think the news of last year's service has hit a raw nerve?
Yeah, it's been incredible, the response.
We've had so many e-mails from people requesting the service packs.
And the people that came to the service,
it was as though we'd all shared something together.
Thanks to Lizzie sharing her story,
many churches are hosting similar services this Mothering Sunday.
That was Blessed Be Your Name,
a song that praises God in times of celebration and of suffering.
And our next is a hymn for this season of Lent, which reminds us
of Jesus' own trials and of his presence with us always.
Bringing up a brand-new human being is a daunting responsibility,
so it's great to know there's help and support available.
Katherine Hill is the UK director of the Christian charity
Care For The Family.
What would you say is the best advice for parents?
Well, do you know, Katherine, I'm a mum of four,
and I remember that first day, the first day we had our son,
just looking at this little bundle and feeling completely overwhelmed.
And at Care For The Family, when we go around the country,
we say when it comes to their own children, there are no experts -
not the people who write the books,
not the people who speak on television.
Parents really need to have confidence -
no-one knows their child like them, no-one loves their child like them.
So there's no one way to be a perfect parent,
but there are hundreds of ways to be a great parent.
Good advice. And when we think about the Christian faith, we think
very much of God as the father, but is that all that there is?
It's a wonderful image of God as our father, but there's
so much in the Bible about God as a mother, as a mother to her children.
And it says, you know,
would a mother forget the child that she's borne?
But even if she did forget,
then God says "I will not forget you."
It's that tenderness, that compassion,
the, sort of, heart of God.
There's a lovely story of a farmer walking through his farmyard
after there's been a terrible fire, and he comes across a hen
that has been burned - it's just the charred remains of this bird.
And as he kicks it, there's a bit of a scurry
and these little chicks come out from underneath.
And the hen has protected them from the fire.
And it just reminds me of that beautiful verse where Jesus
looks over Jerusalem and he says, "How would I long to gather
"my children just like a hen that gathers her chicks under her wings."
And it's just that lovely, tender heart of God.
I love that. I've never heard that story before.
I think that, actually, if we look at that mother heart,
this isn't just about those who have natural children,
but there is an incredible role that many, many women can play -
humming alongside families and just giving that little bit of wisdom,
and giving them support and encouragement.
It's really, really powerful.
# Ave Maria
# Gratia plena
# Dominus tecum
# Benedicta tu
# In mulieribus
# Et benedictus
# Fructus ventris
# Tui Jesus
# Sancta Maria
# Sancta Maria
# Ora pro nobis
# Nobis preccatoribus
# Nunc et in hora
# In hora mortis nostrae
# Amen. #
The moment you discover your son or daughter has additional needs
Even 25 years on, Pippa still vividly recalls being given
such news about her third child, Barney.
I remember it so clearly.
He was born at home, which was planned. That was great.
I was just holding him, relieved, grateful it was all over.
The midwife said, "I'm just going to use the phone, if I may,
"and ring the GP."
I thought, "OK, fine.
"Perhaps that's what they always do when it's a homebirth."
And she came up about five, ten minutes later,
and simply said, straight to me and to Pete, my husband,
"We think your son has Down's syndrome."
My mouth was saying, "Well,
"he's as much a gift from God as our other two children."
And I really meant that.
But, inside, I had gone into...
I can only describe it as being like a bereavement.
And I just remember, in that room, I felt like I was drowning a bit.
It felt like I was holding on to God - I couldn't, didn't almost feel
him, but I knew he was there, and I was just saying,
"OK, God, help me. I don't want to, you know,
"I don't want to go under, here.
"I want to trust you for this."
But my emotions were...in bits.
I knew that we'd love this baby,
but I just didn't know what the future held for him and for us.
It seemed in an instant as if the things that
I dreamt of for this child had kind of just disappeared.
I didn't even know I had those dreams
until I suddenly saw that they went away.
I'm Barnabas Martin Ankers.
This is my lovely bedroom.
The picture of Barney now is so different from those fears
and imaginations right at the beginning.
He's great. He has lots of interests,
he enjoys talking to people,
he loves food a lot, he loves drumming, he loves performing arts.
So we're doing a summer show - I'm talking about Grease.
There's all sorts of things that he can do that
I would never have imagined, if you'd asked me on that July day.
Going to be... # Greased lightning. #
Barney has a strong Christian faith.
That's a thing I like to do in my life - to follow him, to honour him.
It's nice and clean, but I think we're going to need to...
-..iron it, yeah.
What's really exciting is that he's going for a job interview tomorrow.
Hopefully, he will be working as from next week, if he gets the job,
on a couple of mornings a week.
I think he can do it.
Are you looking forward to your interview tomorrow?
I think that I am.
You are? That's good.
But, you know what?
You're going to have to get up early on a Monday morning.
Oh, yeah, I do.
Cos I think you might find that a challenge.
Because it's really a big thing, a really big step for me.
It is a big step for you, love. I know it is.
Many of the things are similar to having any child -
because there are the frustrations and the pains at time -
but the joys are almost greater.
When Barney achieves something, it's just like...
joy magnified, really.
I think Barney brings a lot of joy into the family
just by being who he is.
And I think that we've learned to appreciate one another,
all of us, actually,
for who we are rather than for what we do or achieve.
So, Songs Of Praise, my favourite song I like to sing -
Beautiful Name It Is.
And we're delighted to say the interview went really well
and Barney got the job. Congratulations!
And, back at Basildon maternity unit,
it's time for baby Aurelia to go home.
-Are you on your way home already?
-Yeah, we're going.
-Yeah, we are, yeah.
-Nice to meet you, Dad.
-Yeah, nice to meet you too.
-Thank you very much.
-Oh, my gosh, well...
-Don't you forget your Auntie Katherine, OK?
-Oh, I'm so happy for you.
-Thanks so much.
-Take care, guys.
-You too. Thank you.
Get home safe. Bye-bye.
the Rev Kate Bottley is celebrating spring
on a Christian farm in Derbyshire,
where the owners give new opportunities to young people.
And we reflect on the extraordinary life
and legacy of the American evangelist Billy Graham.
But for now, there's just one more person I've got to meet -
baby Eddie has arrived safely.
Well, my time here on the maternity ward is nearly done,
and it's been such a privilege to meet some of the staff
and mums bringing new life into the world.
We finish now with a hymn of thanks to the one who,
from our mother's arms, has blessed us on our way.
Until next time, goodbye.
And I'd better give this one back to his mum, I think,
even though I don't want to.
To celebrate Mothering Sunday, Katherine Jenkins meets parents and their newborn babies at Basildon's Maternity Unit. It's particularly poignant for Katherine, as she's expecting her second child this April. She also talks to two midwives about the joys and the challenges of their work, and how they feel called by God to do their job. Katherine also meets Katharine Hill, UK director of the charity Care for the Family to hear her tips for parenthood and learns about often overlooked references in the Bible of maternal language to describe God.
Pam Rhodes meets Lizzie Lowrie, who held a service in Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral entitled Mother's Day Runaways last year. It was aimed at the increasing number of women who, for reasons of loss, singleness or infertility, cannot bear to be in church for a traditional Mothering Sunday service. The idea came from Lizzie's own personal journey - happily married to a trainee vicar, she expected children to follow, but has since suffered six miscarriages.
Mother Pippa Ankers talks of bringing up her son Barney who has Down's syndrome. Barney speaks of his strong Christian faith and shows off his drumming skills, while Pippa shares her experiences of raising a child with additional needs.
Music: Our Father God in Heaven from St Alban's Church, Bristol For the Beauty of the Earth from Church of St Cross, Winchester Blessed Be Your Name from City Gates Church, Ilford Forty Days and Forty Nights from Hereford Cathedral Ave Maria performed by The Priests What a Beautiful Name It Is from New Wine Festival Now Thank We All Our God from St Patrick's Church, Dungannon.