The Mummy Tag

The lovely Bridget from Bridie By The Sea nominated me to take part in The Mummy Tag, and, to be honest, it’s really quite a relief to be able to write a blog that doesn’t involve having to come up with a subject all on my own (seriously; I’m struggling lately!). So huge thanks to Bridget, and y’all should go check out her brilliant blog.

OKAY! So, here are my questions and answers:

1. Are you a Stay at Home Mum or a Working Mum?
I am a working mum. I’m contracted to work 13 hours a week as a charity shop manager (IKR? Livin’ the dream), but I often end up doing more and travelling further than I really want to. All that being said, I love my job and I have met some wonderful and fascinating people over the last six years, so it isn’t without its perks.

2. Would you have it any other way?
Honestly, no. I’m the kind of person who felt like I lost a lot of my identity when I became a mother and, although I cried profusely – on the kitchen floor, because I do love to be dramatic – the night before my first day back at work after my maternity leave with O, I was also really glad to rediscover Davina the person and find out how she fitted in with Davina the mother.

3. Do you co-sleep?
No. I sort of have done in the past, if you class passing out with a baby attached to your nipple and waking up in a puddle of milk next to a soggy newborn with a shitty nappy as co-sleeping, but it was never intentional and I don’t think I would have been comfortable with doing it regularly. I’m quite a light sleeper and I think I would have found myself waking up every five seconds in a state of blinding panic about the possibility of crushing the baby!

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4. What is your one must-have item for your baby?
I’m going to apologise for this one in advance because I’m sure there will be judgement coming my way, but… it’s got to be a dummy. O is almost four now and hasn’t had a dummy since he was two. F still has his for naps and bedtime. I owe a lot to dummies. They have sometimes been the only thing that would settle my sleepy, crabby babies, and when F’s reflux was really bad, they were indispensable. And, in fact, recommended to me by his consultant.

5. How many kids do you plan on having?
I would love to have a third child, but N and I decided when F was pretty small that we couldn’t manage another one. There were myriad reasons for this, from the fact that I had a really difficult pregnancy with F to the practical concerns like the size of our home and car. And, of course, money. ‘Cause that’s always a biggie. So, when F was five months old, N had a vasectomy. And although I sometimes feel utterly bereft by the thought that we won’t be having any more babies, I know that we made the right decision for our existing family.

6. Date nights? How often do you have them?
Honestly? Never. That’s fucking terrible, isn’t it? N works awkward shifts and I’m constantly swinging from insomniac to Person Who Cannot Sleep Enough, so between us we utterly lack the energy for date nights. We almost got divorced last April and we promised to do better once that whole debacle was over, but things got a little more complicated when I went back to work and… You know what? I’m jut going to stop making excuses. We’re shite at date night

7. Your child’s favourite show?
At the moment O loves Paw Patrol, which I hate because I can’t stop singing the fucking theme song. Seriously. It plays on a loop in my head all bastard day and I find myself singing it in the shower. And F… Well, he’s not really into TV. It just doesn’t interest him that much, although Twirlywoos seemed to settle him nicely when he was younger and feeling tired and pissed off. And I quite like that theme song too.

8. Name one thing you bought before you had the baby and never ended up using?
Um… This is a tough one. I bought a lot of shit when we were expecting O, but I did end up using most of it. I think the one purchase I made that turned out to just be completely useless was a Wedgehog wedge pillow for F when he was first diagnosed with reflux. On the few occasions when I tried to use it, F just wriggled until he wasn’t on it anymore and then it was rendered utterly pointless. So I took it out of the cot after less than a week and I actually don’t even know where it is now.

9. Your child’s favourite food?
Do you want the answer that makes me sound like a good mother or the truth? Because the truth is that O loves nothing more than a cheese sandwich and F is addicted to bread sticks.

10. How many cars does your family have?
Two. I drive a Nissan Juke and N has a Ford Focus. We do not like driving each other’s cars.

11. Weight gain, before pregnancy, during, after and now?
Eurgh… I feel like everyone is going to hate me by the time I’m done with this! I really didn’t gain much weight during either of my pregnancies and I weigh less now than I did before I had children. I don’t diet and I only do two forms of exercise: 1. Running around after my boys and 2. Yoga. So I’m just lucky and now you hate me. I’m sorry.

12. Dream holiday with your kids?
I’m on it right now. As I type this I am sat in a log cabin in the middle of nowhere in Cumbria. There are red squirrels eating from the feeder outside on the decking and all I can hear right now is birds. We have lots of activities planned for the week and I am so far really enjoying doing things with my children that I did myself as a child.

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13. Dream holiday without your kids?
Something cultural. N and I went to Rome for our honeymoon and it was amazing, so I think I’d probably like to go to Venice.

14. How has your life changed since having kids?
Is that a trick question? Everything has changed since I had children. I have different priorities now and I’m even more passionate about caring for the environment and preserving wildlife than I was before I had children because I want them to have the chance to experience all of the natural wonder and beauty that I did growing up.

And sleep, of course. I never fucking sleep.

15. Finish the sentence “It makes heart melt when…”
My children give me spontaneous cuddles. Or give each other spontaneous cuddles. Or do kind things for each other or someone else. Or tell me they love me. And when they first get up in the morning and they’re so happy to see me.

16. Where do you shop for your kids?
Anywhere and everywhere. I love handmade things, so F has a few lovely pieces from Caleb and Company. I also love leggings from JoJo Maman Bebe and Blade and Rose.

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17. Favourite make-up and skincare products?
I try to shop cruelty-free as much as possible, being a Vegetarian, so I’m a big fan of Lush for skincare, although I can’t afford to buy their stuff on a regular basis. Sainsbury’s skincare is all BUAV approved and really nice stuff, so I use their face wipes and Miracle Cream. And I love Urban Decay for make-up

18. Huggies or Pampers?
Pampers. We’ve tried a lot of different nappies, but only Pampers seem to hold in the leaks for my boys.

19. Have you always wanted kids?
Yes. I knew from being 18 that I wanted to be a mum someday. It just seemed like I wouldn’t feel complete until I’d had children. I don’t know. It sounds really cliché, but it’s the truth.

20. Best part of being a mum?
Watching babies grow into little people has been wonderful. Seeing their personalities develop is just such a magical thing. And loving them so much is terrifying and awe-inspiring. There are some really shitty things about parenthood that no one really tells you, but it’s also a bloody amazing experience. I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Thanks for sticking with me through this one!

My nominations are:

Lauren, from Loz and the Sprog

Gemma, from Colleys Wobbles

Shaney, from iMummy

Vegetarianism & Motherhood

There are three essential things that you should know before we get started:

1. I am a vegetarian.
2. N is also a vegetarian.
3. Our children are not vegetarians.

Okay? Let’s do this.

So, I’ve been a vegetarian for eight years now. It wasn’t a gradual thing. One night I watched a documentary about chicken farming in Britain (FYI, it’s not great) while eating a Marks & Spencers chicken risotto and the next day I declared myself a vegetarian and haven’t touched meat since. You hate me a little bit right now, don’t you? The thing is, I’m not one of those self-righteous, sanctimonious vegetarians who goes around telling people how evil they are for eating meat. Aside from the fact that that’s an asshole thing to do and I am definitely not an asshole, I get that shit from self-righteous, sanctimonious vegans all the time and it pisses me off. I once had a vegan tell me that O’s asthma (hereditary) and F’s reflux (unfortunate) were my fault for not being vegan when I was pregnant with them and subsequently not raising them vegan. So, no, I don’t do that. And this post is not actually about me anyway; this post is about my children.

I decided when I was pregnant with O that I would not raise him vegetarian. I’m not going to lie and say that I don’t hope one day my kids will choose to be veggies because, to be honest, I really hope that they will. But that’s the point; they should get to choose. And it won’t mean anything to them if they don’t make that choice for themselves. They’re both too young to really understand the fact that their daddy and I don’t eat meat because they’re too young to understand what meat is anyway, but I’m pretty sure they’ll ask at some point and then I’ll have to decide what I’m going to tell them. I’ll be honest with you; I am not looking forward to that day.

O has always been pretty cautious around animals. It’s not that he dislikes them; he’s just not sure whether or not they’re safe. F, on the other hand, is already a great lover of all animals and always wants to make new furry friends. I know that neither of these attitudes is any indication of whether or not they’ll grow up to be vegetarians, but I am trying to raise them to be compassionate towards the creatures with whom we share our planet. I won’t think any less of them if they choose to be omnivorous, and I will never impose my diet on them. I don’t cook a whole lot of meat for them at home because I actually can’t even walk down the meat aisle in Sainsbury’s without gagging. But they eat meat when they’re with their grandparents and when we go out and I can cope with it if it’s already cooked. That makes me sound like a really shite mother, doesn’t it?

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O loves our cats, especially Lazzy

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F is pretty good at making new friends

I think the thing about the whole veggie issue is this: It’s not up to me to tell my children who to be. My job is to help them discover who they are and who they want to be. Yes, I will offer them guidance when it comes to a whole lot of things. But, when it all comes down to it, their diet just isn’t that important to me. Well, no, I don’t mean that quite the way it came out. Of course I care what my kids eat, but I grew up eating meat and I’m not psychologically scarred or physically damaged by it. So I guess when they ask me, I’ll tell them the truth. I’ll tell them where their food comes from, that their meat is from animals. And they’ll probably do what I did for a lot of my life and push that to the back of their minds while they tuck into a hamburger or a bacon sandwich. That’s fine. I’d be pretty fucking hypocritical if I said otherwise, wouldn’t I?

A Mum Track Mind
Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

I have no name for this

TRIGGER WARNING: This post is about death and loss. Please keep yourselves safe.

One year ago today, one of my oldest friends lost his girlfriend suddenly and silently. His story is not for me to tell, but I remember with sick clarity the moment his text came through that day. I physically felt the blood drain out of my face and I composed my reply with trembling fingers. I’d only met her once, but I thought of her all weekend. Several months later he posted a blog about their love story, culminating in what we only ever refer to as “that morning”, and I sobbed as I read it. I could not – and still cannot – imagine the hell he experienced that day and the heartache he has battled, with bravery and dignity, ever since.

Today I have thought about him and I have thought about that text a lot.

Things have changed now for all of us. Suddenly death doesn’t just come for the old and the very sick; it comes for the young and healthy too, on silent and unbidden wings. Death sneaks around corners and hides behind bedroom doors. It’s what makes me check on my children with just that little bit more care before I go to bed, and what makes my husband ask me just that little bit louder and with a slightly different cadence if I am okay when I’ve fallen asleep on the sofa. When you become a parent, death becomes your ultimate nemesis. You will fight tooth and nail to keep it away from your children, but there’s always that nagging little worry in the back of your mind that it could take you away from them too. I know this happens because it happened to me and, when I got a little older, I watched it happen to my friends too. Through sickness or accident, several of my peers lost a parent during their teenage years. Diseases like cancer creep up silently and leave devastation in their wake. Accidents perform a sickening snatch-and-grab of our loved ones, taking them from us before we even know what’s happening. Both are ruinous and heartbreaking, and neither are easy to survive.

At 17, a college friend of mine and his best friend were killed in a car accident. I’ll never forget that phone call, which came on an ordinary Sunday afternoon and changed everything. I knew, of course, that young people were killed in car accidents. I’d seen the stories in the newspaper, cautionary tales warning teenagers away from taking risks in their newly acquired cars. But it didn’t happen to people I knew. It didn’t happen to my friends and classmates, to someone I’d been making jokes with less than 24 hours before. Until it did. And all of a sudden, none of us were immortal anymore. Probably we were all a little more alert and careful after his death. I was still learning to drive at the time and didn’t get behind the wheel for weeks. It’s been 11 years now since that day, but I still always opt for the easy pass. I am still cautious. Maybe not always as cautious as I should be, but certainly more so than I perhaps would have been otherwise, without that hurtful and unwanted lesson.

On the seventh anniversary of his death, when I was pregnant with O, I went to put flowers on his grave. His best friend is buried beside him and, shortly before his death, his girlfriend had given birth to their son. What hit me and knocked the air out of me that day was that that baby was now seven years old and had written a note for his daddy that said simply “I miss you daddy”. I cried in my car until I thought I would turn myself inside out. Suddenly, it was all too easy for me to imagine how unbearable it must be for a mother to see her child grieving, and I made a promise to my unborn son that day: I promised him that I would never leave him. Of course, it’s a promise that I will one day break. I don’t know when that day will come, but I hope only that it will be when he is grown up and no longer needs me the way that he needs me now. I will do what I can to make sure of that for him, and for his brother too.

Children should not have to suffer the cold grip of grief so young, and it goes without saying that no parent should ever, EVER have to live through the death of their child. I’ve seen this too, with a colleague whose baby was stillborn a few years ago. She talks about her daughter often, and I am always blown away by her strength and tenacity. She, and every other parent like her, deserves the utmost of respect for her sheer ability to go on living through such hell, the depths of which are unfathomable to me. Nobody should ever have to experience that loss.

But sometimes life is cruel. Sometimes the things that happen to and around us don’t make sense at all. Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we can’t find a reason for these things or a light at the end of the tunnel. When I think about our future as a family, my only payers are these: Please don’t take my children from me and please don’t take me away from them while they are still young.

Perhaps we all think a little like this sometimes. Perhaps, every now and again, we all find ourselves heading down the rabbit hole. I hope, more than anything else, that we all have someone to reach out to and hold onto in those moments.

Take good care of yourselves.

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
My Random Musings
Cuddle Fairy

Awaiting judgment

One of the hardest things about being a mother, I’ve found, is the certain knowledge that someone somewhere is judging you and finding you wanting. In the age of social media, where our actions and interactions are scrutinised daily by random strangers, there will always be somebody waiting in the wings to tear you down. To tell you that your kids aren’t eating the right things, that they should be sleeping more – or less -, that you shouldn’t let them do this or have that and why the hell are/aren’t you still breastfeeding them? It goes on and on and round and round. They’re sitting at their keyboards right now just itching to make you feel like shit because they don’t like your choices.

And this isn’t confined to the Internet either. This happens in real life too. I’m sure it’s probably happened to every mother at one time or another. It’s the people who tut in your direction when your kids won’t behave themselves in a restaurant. It’s that person who shook their head at you when you stood just a little apart from your toddler and let them have the tantrum they’ve been threatening to have all the way around the supermarket. It’s the mother with older children who tells you, when you dare to confess that you’re tired because your kids just won’t fucking sleep, “oh, my children were such Angels. They slept 12 hours a night right from being a few weeks old.” Especially her, actually. She can piss off.

I know that one day somebody will stop by my blog, read my post and dish out some judgement. I’d like to say that I’m prepared for it because I’d like to think that I am, but I know that I probably won’t feel very prepared on the day it finally happens. But the thing that I’ve discovered is this: Judging people is easy. When you only see a snapshot of somebody’s life, it’s easy to assume that you know what the bigger picture looks like. When a child runs out in front of your car while a mother looks on in terrified horror, it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that she hasn’t taught her child how to be safe around roads. Who knows? Maybe she hasn’t. Or maybe, just maybe, she’s having a really fucking awful day and her child is being a total brat (because kids are sometimes, aren’t they?) and made a break for the road out of sheer bloody mindedness. Hell, I’ve spent a lot of time teaching O about not crossing the road without an adult, waiting for the green man and never running off when we’re in a busy car park. Guess what? He hasn’t always listened to me and sometimes I’ve had to run after him. Does that make me a bad mother?

I spend a lot of my time as a mother feeling guilty about stuff. Not taking my kids out enough, losing my temper with them, not being able to persuade O to eat green stuff. That’s just the tip of the guilty iceberg. I judge myself harshly enough that I really don’t need anybody else to throw their judgement into the ring too. In fact, I spend so much time beating myself up for my failures and worrying about how everyone else perceives my parenting that I don’t really dedicate any time to celebrating my successes. Actually, nobody likes it when mothers succeed at stuff. Everybody just loves to tear down a successful mother. We just can’t win sometimes, can we?

But do you know what I’ve found? Since I started blogging I’ve found this wonderful community of parents who DON’T judge each other. These women – and men – have been there with a virtual high five during a particularly shitty morning of pissy children and festering sleep-deprivation. They have given me the strength and confidence to be honest in my writing, to admit to having made huge, glaring mistakes in my parenting and not worry about being judged. Blogging has provided me with a safe space to write about the worst challenges that motherhood has thrown my way with the knowledge that somebody I’ve never even met will nod along in sympathy somewhere and leave an uplifting comment for me.

So do you know what I’ve decided? Thank fuck for the bloggers and the people who stumble on my blog, read a few posts and have something nice to say. Thank fuck for them. Without them, I don’t think I’d still be bothering to put my words out into the world.

A Mum Track Mind
Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
R is for Hoppit

The troubling world of children’s television

Do you ever watch a kids TV show and feel really troubled by some aspect of it? I do. All the time. Here’s a rundown of the ones that worry me the most.

Sarah and Duck

Now I love Sarah and Duck. I actually watch it sometimes when the boys aren’t around because I think it’s that bloody good. BUT. There’s some really weird shit going down here. For a start… WHERE are Sarah’s parents? I mean, I reckon she’s about, what? Eight years old? And she lives in a house with only a duck for company and NO parental supervision. Except for maybe Scarf Lady, who checks up on Sarah every now and again, appears to have the early signs of dementia and is mostly looked after by her knitting bag (unless she leaves it on the bus, which she has done once or twice). None of Sarah’s friends have parents either. One of them has a flamingo as a pet/companion, another one is weirdly obsessed with plates and there are mostly mute twin girls living in the house next door. And Sarah is pretty chummy with the moon too, FYI. There are adults around, mostly doing jobs (baker, crayon shopkeeper, etc), but none of the kids in the show appear to belong to them. At first I thought I was missing something, like maybe it was a Charlie and Lola kind of set up where there ARE parents, you just don’t ever see them. But no. No parents. And that troubles me.

Bing

While we’re on the subject of absent parents… BING! Where are his bunny family at? Bing is looked after by a brown sack thing called Flop, who has endless patience for all of Bing’s infuriating habits and struggles to reach the front door handle without a stepladder. Some help he’d be in a house fire. Flop basically keeps Bing’s moral compass on track and looks after his equally irritating friends every now and again (when they’re not being looked after by a sack elephant called Ama at playschool). Flop even has baby photos of Bing, but there are no parents anywhere to be seen in any of them. Did Flop snatch Bing from his crib in the night? Who knows?! I suspect he probably wanders around the house swearing a lot after Bing has gone to bed though. And I have to wonder, since there are no adult animals anywhere to be seen and only weird sack creatures doing anything responsible… Is there a rather horrifying transformation in Bing’s future, or is he doomed to live in some kind of perpetual state of toddlerhood forever?

In The Night Garden

God, this show is creepy. For a start, Mr and Mrs Pontipine need to get a handle on their parenting. They never fucking know where their kids are. I mean, I don’t know if there’s some alcoholism going on behind that red door or what, but somebody needs to do something about that. Aside from the troubling parental issues, there’s Makka Pakka and his cleaning OCD, Upsy Daisy and her frankly terrifying singing and possessed bed, and three funky little critters called Tombliboos who play ghastly music and lose their trousers far more often than is strictly necessary. Then there are the Ninky Nonk and Pinky Ponk, both of which regularly try to annihilate all inhabitants of and visitors to the garden with their crazy upside down, head-on collision antics respectively. And then. Then there’s Iggle Piggle, the Night Garden overlord himself. That thing is nightmare fuel. Enough said.

Nelly and Nora

I might be missing something here, but I don’t think these kids go to school. They live on a caravan site and kind of run around doing not very much and most episodes seem to have something to do with the weather. Maybe they’re homeschooled? I don’t know, but I suppose at least these children have parents, even if those parents do abandon them on a hot beach in one episode while they go frolic in the sea. Not that I’m being judgy, but who does that? Pack your kids some fucking flip-flops in the beach bag FFS.

Mr Bloom

There isn’t anything wrong with this unless you overthink it. Which, of course, I have. This show is basically about vegetables. Singing vegetables with names and personalities. And that’s sort of where this becomes problematic for me. Because I really want my kids to eat vegetables, but I worry that this show might cause them to empathise with their butternut squash risotto. So far, O has not made the connection between Margaret the cabbage and co and anything he’s seen in the fruit and veg aisles at Sainsbury’s. But O is nothing if not observant and he will make that connection one day. The best part is, I haven’t got a fucking clue what I’m going to say to him. I am prepared for the Peppa Pig/bacon debacle, but anthropomorphised vegetables is another matter entirely.

Tree Fu Tom

Where do Tom’s parents think he goes when he’s actually gadding about in Treetopolis? I’m a little concerned that they let him go raking about in the woods by himself in the first place, if I’m completely honest. But then he pushes the boundaries that bit more by doing his magic shrinky thing and disappearing off to a magical land. What if something happened to him there and he didn’t make it back in time for tea? His poor parents would be doomed to spend the rest of their lives searching for him in vain and making ever more desperate TV appeals whilst cursing themselves for letting him play in the woods by himself to begin with. What a thoroughly depressing series that would be.

What about you? Have I missed any shows that give you the willies? I must confess that we only really watch CBeebies in our house, so there could be all kinds of freaky stuff going on over on Nick Jr that I’m not even aware of! Let me know in the comments or via Twitter/Facebook.

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F’s story

I’ve been so overwhelmed by the response to my last post, Looks like we made it, that I wanted to share F’s story. The full story. But I want to make one thing very clear before I get started, and that is this: I owe every breakthrough, every hour of extra sleep and every tiny ounce of peace of mind to the wonderful doctors and nurses who took care of F during his hospital stay last January. It’s true that F is my hero, but if he is mine then those medical bods are definitely his. Without them, we would not be where we are today.

In hindsight, I knew that there was something wrong with F from him being about two weeks old. He was a snacky, fidgety feeder and he would often throw up an entire feed just minutes after finishing it. The vomiting probably distressed me more than it did him, but he was clearly uncomfortable most of the time and I tried everything to persuade him to feed. I administered gallons of Infacol and gripe water, rocked him until he was almost asleep so he would take the bottle more willingly, tried every milk on the market once I’d realised that breastfeeding just wasn’t an option anymore… You name it, I tried it. But nothing worked. Alongside this, F did nothing but cry. He would cry and cry for hours and there was nothing I could do to comfort him. And he wouldn’t sleep. When he woke up in the night for a feed, there was often nothing I could do to get him to go back to sleep. Once, after trying for two hours to settle him in his Moses basket, I told N I couldn’t cope anymore, got in my car and drove up into the forestry where I slept in the passenger seat under a blanket for a couple of hours.

I took F to see a doctor, who said he probably had reflux and sent him home with a box of infant Gaviscon. That worked for less than 24 hours. Another doctor gave him a prescription for Ranitidine, but neglected to tell us that the dosage would change with his weight or follow up the appointment with his promised referral to a paediatric consultant, so that worked for a week or so, then we were back to square one. Nobody seemed to want to help us.

Things finally came to a head when I had spent a whole day failing to feed F or get him to sleep. N was at work and my mom came round to find me clinging to O and sobbing my heart out while F screamed in his cot upstairs. I said some awful things that day. Things like I wished somebody would just come and take him away, or that I wanted to leave him somewhere and drive away because I simply couldn’t cope with him anymore. I said I didn’t love him, didn’t want him, wished I’d never had him. I can forgive myself for these things now because I know that I was mentally ill at the time from all of the stress and the crippling lack of sleep. But saying them made me feel sick. Saying them made me hate myself.

My mom had no idea what to do, so she called 111 and they decided to send an ambulance. When the paramedics arrived, they asked me some questions and I tried to explain that whatever was wrong with F was also, in another way entirely, what was wrong with me too. They decided to take both of us in, and as they left me in the A&E waiting room, I remember one of them saying to me “Because you’ve come in with us, they have to check you both out properly. It’s going to be alright.” We were quickly taken into an assessment room where a triage nurse took our details and checked F over, then we were left alone for a while until a doctor came to see us. When he asked me how we had ended up in A&E, I explained every tiny detail of F’s issues and symptoms right up to the uncontrollable crying that had finally led us here. I was honest about the fact that I no longer felt able to cope, which was when he asked me “have you ever thought about hurting your son?” I replied, “No, but I can empathise with a person who gets to the end of their rope and shakes their baby.” I knew it would be a red flag. I knew exactly what would happen next, but I’d reached a point where I had to be honest. A point where I knew we needed help, whatever the personal cost.

After that, I wasn’t allowed to be alone with F. Even when N arrived, the door to the room had to be left open. Then another nurse came and took him away to the children’s ward. I was told that I wasn’t allowed to stay with him, but that someone would come to see me when he’d been assessed and take me down to the ward so I could see him and say goodbye to him. I was in shock. I couldn’t even cry. I’d known what would happen, but I felt like a monster. Even though I knew that I would never do anything to hurt my child, in my mind I was already a criminal.

A crisis meeting was arranged for that night, so we hung around at the hospital once we’d seen F and been assured by the staff on the paediatric ward that they couldn’t feed him either and that they didn’t believe for one minute that I was a risk to my son.  The doctor on the ward told me that she felt it was very brave of me to admit to feeling so helpless and out of control, but all I could feel was shame and disgust. It was, and still is, the darkest night of my life.

The social worker who came to assess me said he felt it was ridiculous to keep me at the hospital well into the night when it was clearly obvious that what I really needed was to sleep. I shrugged, told him we’d all seen the horror stories about shaken babies and children beaten to death by those who were supposed to protect them. I understood why I was there, why it was necessary. I answered his questions honestly and he told me that he thought I was probably depressed, but that he in no way believed I would harm either of my children. I was finally allowed to say goodbye to F, given a strong sleeping pill and sent home.

F was kept in the hospital for four nights. During that time, N and I had a meeting with the team who were looking after him. One of the nurses in that meeting asked me why I had struggled with him for so long, essentially on my own. Not really knowing what she expected me to say, I replied “I didn’t think I had a choice.” I explained that I had spent the last three months feeling like a complete failure, like I just wasn’t up to the job of being F’s mother, and an amazing thing happened; a whole roomful of medical professionals told me that they all thought the fact that I had somehow managed to feed F and do a pretty decent job of keeping his weight up in light of the severity of his reflux was nothing short of a miracle. They told me they thought I was remarkable.

Later that week I was also psychiatrically assessed and diagnosed as being borderline depressed, but it was suggested that that was largely due to the stress of F’s condition rather than anything that would require medication. Also, I was assured that there was no question of me being considered a danger to my children. Looking back, I don’t think anyone ever really believed that I was, but I know that it was necessary for them to check me out and I found that I was incredibly grateful to them for doing the best job they could to protect my son. For a while we got extra help with childcare so I could get some rest, and everyone in our families finally knew what we’d been going through. I’m not going to dress it up; it was a shitty time. Having Social Services involved was terrifying, but it was something we had to go through to get the help that we needed.

What I took away from the experience – aside from the fact that I am not, in fact, Wonder Woman – was that mothers don’t talk about this stuff enough. We all pretend that we can cope with anything. Who knows; maybe there are some women out there who can. But I’m not one of them, yet I pretended for months that I was fine even though I felt like I was drowning. And what I’ve realised, at the risk of sounding melodramatic, is that it’s actually really dangerous to internalise parenting problems. It might seem like every other mother you know is sailing through on a sea of endless patience, but I can almost guarantee you that that isn’t the case. If just one mother who feels like she isn’t coping reads this post and opens up to a relative, friend or health visitor – anyone – then my work is done. Being a parent is hard and being a mother can be very lonely. Don’t make it worse by pretending you’re okay if you’re really, really not. Believe it or not (and I certainly wouldn’t have a year ago) no one is going to think you’re a monster if you admit that you’re struggling.

And I want to say thank you to every single person who read my last post and left me a lovely comment. It’s because of you that I have felt brave enough to post this story today.

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Just look at you now, F!

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Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
Cuddle Fairy
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