To a new big sister… 

Life changed 7 weeks ago.  For all of us. But, I now realise, the change was biggest for you. 

You’ve been poorly this weekend,  and as I lie in bed, feeding your sister, I am reminded of the times this used to be you and I. When your feeds were not on the sofa as they now are, but snuggled up in bed until you fell asleep.  

A weekend with a sick bucket has reminded me of how much you still need me.  Your energy and wisdom beyond your years makes it easy to expect too much from you, to forget that just 8 weeks ago you were all I had to worry about. 

You still need me.  And I still need you.   I’m sorry. 

Tomorrow will be different.  I will put the phone away.  I will leave the washing up. We will play. We will read that book. (as many times as you want!).  I will be Sula, or Ryder, or Marshall, or even Mummy Pig if that’s what you would like.  When you don’t eat lunch I will keep my temper.  I will not shout at you.  When you make a mess (on purpose!) I will stay calm and encourage you to help me clean up. When you make mistakes (as three year olds are inclined to do) I will help you learn. I will hold you and help you.

I’m saddened now that I have not been as patient as you deserve.  I understand now. You are learning, exploring, adjusting and accepting the new life we have given you.  Big sister.  A role you have embraced with full valour. 
Your love for your sister is entire. Complete.  Overwhelming.  You too cried with joy at her arrival. You too sob at the idea of her growing. And each day, you too show new amazement at her very existence. “mummy, she’s so cute.”.

She has a wide eyed look reserved only for you. She watches you, and learns from you.  She is already keen, it seems, to join in your games, to play with you, chat with you and grow to be like you. And if she does, I will be a very, very lucky mummy indeed.  

To have two such wonderful girls. 

My world. 

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The lost baby.

imageI never met you, you never really existed. Getting lost on your journey as you were formed and not making it to the womb you were not able to grow as you should.

No pictures of you were ever seen. The only evidence of your attempt to join us was in the form of lines on sticks, and of the words “Pregnant. 2-3 weeks” as they stared at me from that tiny screen. I think, deep down, I knew that we would not meet, but that does not remove my love for you.

Unable to understand what has happened to our family I turn to the dictionary for help. (The Cambridge Online English Dictionary to be precise.)

Lost: adjective (PLACE UNKNOWN)

…not knowing where you are and how to get to a place:

Place unknown, that very phrase so accurately describes you.  Pregnancy in unknown location, suspected ectopic. You did not know where you were, your journey was cut short and you never made it to your destination.

I wish I could have helped you.

Lost: adjective (PLACE UNKNOWN)

…if something is lost then no one knows where it is.

No one. Not the doctors, not the sonographers, not the nurses and not me.  Your mother.  The one person who should always know where you are.   They offered me surgery, to “bring the hormone level down “, but they, the professionals whose job it is to hunt you out, were not confident that they would find you. So lost were you, that you were only visible to us as levels on a blood test, levels that continued to increase, “but not as much as they should.

Lost: adjective (CONFUSED)

…not confident and not knowing what to do in a particular situation.

I have never felt so lost.  Perhaps in sympathy for you. No amount of talking, or reading, or listening, could help me to understand what I needed to do. Without your daddy and your sister I would not have searched for the way out of the dark maze I found myself in. I did not know what to do.

Lost: adjective (ATTENTION)

…be lost in something.

I was lost in you.  In the idea of you.  In the dream of you.  The complete family you would have created. The hole that you have left instead.

And then you left.  As quietly and as discreetly as you arrived. Apologetic in your departure as you were in your arrival. Saving mummy medical intervention you remained selfless to the end.

Lost.

I lost a baby.

My baby got lost.

A lost opportunity- a lost life, a lost sibling, a lost grandchild, a lost niece or nephew.  Who knows what you may have achieved had you have arrived to your destination.

Lost.

It’s time to find myself again.

To the mums I met before I was one. I’m sorry.

Some things in life you will not understand until you have experienced them. Parenthood is top of that list. There is much I have said, or thought, before my daughter was born, that I am totally ashamed of now. To all those who embarked on the motherhood journey before me, I am sorry.

I am sorry for asking you “does she sleep through the night?”
I know now this was wrong. Not only wrong, but frustrating, inflammatory and down right none of my business. To start with, sleeping through means different things to different people, secondly, babies aren’t supposed to sleep through, and finally, my question set you up to criticise your child. I should never have asked you this. I am truly sorry.

I am sorry for tutting at your bed sharing.
I confess, I thought you were odd still sharing a bed with your daughter when she was nearly 2. I couldn’t understand why you didn’t want your space, or why you were not forcing independence on her. I realise now that being independent comes only after being dependant.

I am sorry for asking “how long are you going to do that for?” when you breastfed your six week old.
I really didn’t mean to judge, I just didn’t know. I didn’t know the bond created when you nourish your child. I didn’t know then, that the NHS recommends breastfeeding exclusively until six months. I had no idea that the World Health Organisation suggests breastfeeding alongside food to two years ‘and beyond’. I know now, now I preach what I once misunderstood. I am sorry.

I am sorry for judging your lack of “discipline”.
I had been fooled by TV personalities who taught me how to “tame” toddlers, (as if they were wild animals and not children). I had been misled and I believed that you were spoiling your child when you did not sit them on the naughty step, or leave them to cry. I know now I was wrong to judge. Yes it works for some, but not for you, and, turns out, not for me either.

I am sorry for thinking you were boring for talking about your baby all the time.
I am now more boring that you could ever be. And I am not sorry for that. But I am sorry that I didn’t understand your desire to share your pride, and I am sorry for not listening.

I am sorry for the sleep and behavioural “tips” I offered unsolicited when we met in the street.
I was a back seat parent. So much worse than the back seat driver. It was none of my business, I had no experience, I had no attachment. Yet I thought myself an expert. Thank you for not punching me.

I am sorry. I had no clue. I didn’t understand.

How true it is that you should never judge a person before you have walked a mile in their shoes.

Parenthood is one hell of a mile.

My Mother’s Hands.

4am and I am downstairs with an overactive toddler on top of me. As I try to convince her to let me snooze on the sofa, she tries to convince me to read just one more book. As the hard and cold board book is shoved in my face I look down and see my mother’s hands as they delicately open the book and pull the toddler onto their lap.

My mother’s hands. These hands have given love beyond all measure.

They have wiped snot from sore noses. As the face attached to that nose squeals and twists away, making things harder and the quick job a long one.

They have tapped out a beat on the steering wheel as the voice has sung along to the radio. Driving the child wherever she needs to be this time.

They have rocked and stroked to sleep. The daughter who couldn’t settle without her mother there and then later, the grandchild who needed someone to soothe her while her mother had a moment’s rest.

They have patted the baby’s back. Mimicking the mother’s heartbeat in the womb they have continued to provide safety and security in the unpredictable and so much scarier “real” world.

They have held back hair. As the head leaned over the bucket or toilet the mother’s hands held back the hair and soothed the child. Sickness bugs received the same care and sympathy as the alcohol induced moments in the teenage years.

They have applied lipstick. On the wedding day, when hands were quivering and tears were rolling the mother’s hands calmly applied the pink gloss and sent the daughter to her happy ever after.

They have squeezed and stroked and held me with joy. They have clapped and covered gasping mouths. They have taken the grandchild into their arms as she entered their heart.

As I look down once again at these hands, my mother’s hands, I realise they are my hands.

The long fingers are paler than I remember, less plump and seem more aged. The palms are lined with tales of love and laughter and I am sure that a clairvoyant would see happiness in their future.

I am awash with a sense of both gratitude and pride.

My mother’s hands have held me up when all was falling around me, and I couldn’t be prouder that my hands are set to do the same for my daughter.

I am not the parent I planned to be (and that’s OK)

Routine “a fixed way of doing things”

Before my daughter was born I was a Supernanny obsessive.  I loved her clear and precise routines, I loved her no nonsense care and her uncompromising standards.

As a teacher I liked the discipline and the way that she does not have to shout to gain control.

I had idealised views about life as a parent, but not in the way that many do.  I knew I wouldn’t get much sleep, I knew that things would be harder than I could imagine, I knew that I would cry, but I knew it would all be worth it. I also felt, that my experience as a teacher, and my understanding of routine, systems and disciplines, would make it easy to maintain order in my life and that I would easily nip any “bad” behaviour in the bud.

There was something I didn’t count on.

My love for my daughter.

Maternal instinct is strong, and for me it has completely taken over.

I am not the parent I planned to be.

THANK GOODNESS FOR THAT!

I tried to have a routine, I really did. I set alarms and wrote it all down. I did everything it took to get baby to sleep at the designated time and I fed her by the clock.

We lasted less than 48 hours.

There was one simple thing that caused my failure. My daughter.

Apparently no one notified my 3 month old of the things she should have been doing at this time. Nobody told her that she needed to sleep for 2 hours before feeding for 20 minutes and she certainly hadn’t listened when she was informed that she wasn’t supposed to need a nappy change until 11am.

My 3 month instead chose to stare at my face and gurgle up at me. She chose to feed for hours on end and smile as she stared into my eyes. She chose to be a baby. To follow her own natural cycle in life and not a system created by a woman she had never met in a book that she could not yet read.

Some might say it was my responsibility to teach her. That as her mother I should have helped her learn that when she is put in her cot she must sleep. That I should have taken her off the breast after 20 minutes so that she learnt to fit to my timescale. As her mother I chose to teach her something else. I chose to teach her that I love her, and that I will protect her and support her no matter what.

The mummy me laughs ay my pre parent self. I thought I knew what was coming- I didn’t have a clue. I was totally ready for the lack of sleep and the dirty nappies but I was unprepared for the love. The love changed everything.

I don’t pretend to be an expert on attachment (although I have had attachment training in my professional life), but I do know this: You can not love a child too much.

I will never leave my daughter to cry. If I respond to her cries it will not spoilher, it will not teach her that her tears can manipulate me. It will teach her this: I am her mother and if she is sad I will help her to be happy again.

As she gets older this may require discussion, and I am sure my gentle and positive parenting plans will be challenged many a time. But I will always, without question, put her first.

I am not the parent I planned to be. I am better than that.

The stacking cup on the stair.

image

Mess.
I’ve always had a talent for creating it, (luckily for me I married a man who seems to have a talent for cleaning it up) but having a daughter has brought a whole new meaning to the phrase organised chaos.

Where is…? Is a common question. The answer, however, is never common.

Where is my hairbrush?
In Noah’s Ark, with your other hairbrush. They went in two by two.

Where are my car keys?
Under the sofa- I wanted to see if they fitted.

Where is that half eaten biscuit?
Inside the radiator. Did you know that it fits perfectly through the grill at the top?

Where are my glasses?
Behind my back Mummy. I really love them so I am hiding them from you.

Where is your cup?
On the floor behind the sofa- I told you I wanted boob not water and you didn’t listen.

How did your stacking cup end up halfway up the stairs?
I took it up to have my nappy changed. I changed my mind halfway up.

How has the remote control ended up in your toybox?
You left it in reach Mummy, not my fault.

These are questions I have found the answer to. There are many many more that as yet remain unanswered. I choose just three for your entertainment.

Why does bathtime octopus keep moving?

How did my reusable breastpad end up in my marking pile?

How has the largest of the stacking rings disappeared from the face of the Earth?

The thing is. You see the biggest problem isn’t actually having a messy baby. It is being a messy person and having a messy baby.

I’s not just her mess. It’s my mess, plus her mess, plus the extra mess I create because I am too busy having fun and parenting to take time out to tidy. That makes for a whole lot of mess indeed.

And do you know what? I don’t care. I love the mess. I love what it represents.

I love that each carefully placed block or cup represents a smile from my darling girl.

Each abandoned book signifys a moment spent reading and the joy it bought her.

Each half eaten biscuit is a reminder that my angel is healthy and well.

Each hidden hairbrush shows that my daughter’s brain is developing, that she is now understanding in and on and under.

Each stacking cup strewn across the floor is a giggle, each bear is a memory and each item of clothing is a moment of happiness.

Thank you for the mess my darling. Thank you for opening my eyes to what really matters.

One small step for a toddler

One giant leap for my heart.

She’s walking. My darling girl is on the move. She took her first steps a week shy of 11 months and is now, at 11 months 2 weeks, running around the living room giggling.

What mix of emotions those first wobbly steps created.

Excitement
With every new milestone and achievement from my darling, comes a new rush of excitement. There is no joy I have found that can equal that which I feel when she laughs. And with each new discovery she glows. She laughs and she smiles. How exciting! I have a walking baby- and she is not yet 1!

Fear
My heart is walking around outside my body. I feel intensely vulnerable right now. With every step she takes she is at risk of hurting herself. This scares me.

Useless
This independence is just the start of my redundancy. (I realise this is a tad melodramatic) First she starts solid foods and doesn’t rely on me for 100% if her nutrition. Now she doesn’t need me to get about. What next?! Potty training?!

Regret
I am once again reminded that my baby is growing up. In fact, she is no longer a baby, she is a toddler. I am reminded of the time I failed her and all the things I did wrong in the early days and weeks. That time has gone and I will never get it back.

Pride
My baby is walking!!!