It’s NOT okay. Okay?

When I tell nosey people who ask when I’m “having another one” that I can’t have any more babies, they unanimously do this incredibly fucking rude thing where they ask “WHY?” whilst salivating over the possibility of a story about some peculiar uterine wasting disease which has rendered me infertile. So I suppose it’s kind of disappointing when I explain, through gritted teeth, that my husband has had a vasectomy. But then they bypass social etiquette altogether and say – with a cheeky wink that never fails to make me feel sick – “HE can’t have any more children, but YOU can!” Are you fucking kidding me? In what universe is it okay to even vaguely suggest that I might as well just go ahead and get myself knocked up by someone – anyone, apparently – other than my husband? Thanks and everything, but no. JUST NO.

Of course, the next thing they ask me is, “Don’t you want any more babies?” You know what? Yes. YES. I DO want more babies. In fact, whenever I think about the fact that I’m not going to have any more babies, I feel a certain sense of grief. But there’s a difference between what I want and what I know is good for me and my family. So, Random Stranger full of personal questions, thanks a fucking bunch for that. I didn’t get sad and wistful about it quite enough by myself.

And then there’s my favourite question:

“So why did your husband have a vasectomy if you wanted another baby?”

Really? You really want to talk about this? Alright. I’ll bite. Let’s do this.

Because we both have shitty jobs and we can’t afford another baby.

Because our house is too small and we don’t really want to move ’cause we’ve spent a fuckload of money on this one.

Because I like my car and I don’t want a people carrier.

Because SPD and constant nausea aren’t really my idea of a good time.

Because the first six months of F’s life passed in a blur of misery and sleeplessness and, although I’ve tried really hard to block it all out, I know I’ll never quite forget how shit it really was.

Because we might actually get divorced next time.

The truth, Random Stranger, is that my husband and I made the decision for him to have a vasectomy together. But he walked into that procedure room alone, both physically and mentally. I, on the other hand, sat in the waiting room trying to write and occupy my mind while it screamed things like “you’ll never feel a baby move inside you again” and “you’ll never see your newborn for the first time again” and, my personal favourite, “you’ll never have another chance to put right everything you did wrong”.

Do I want to talk about it? Do I want to tell you all of this? Do I think you need to know? No, no and er, NO. And I wonder, if I did have three children, would you still ask? At what point do I have enough offspring for you to just stop fucking asking already?

I don’t know what it is about motherhood that makes it perfectly acceptable for everyone to make such blunt, frankly unacceptable statements with nothing short of aplomb. It’s not like anyone has ever asked me what position I conceived my babies in or whether I did that legs-up-in-the-air thing afterwards. But I’m not really sure why the Personal Inquisition Squad get that those aren’t appropriate questions and yet see nothing wrong with suggesting that I start shagging random men in the name of completing my family. Whatever the fuck that means.

So, do you know what? I’m changing my story, Random Stranger. I just need to come up with a realistic-sounding name for a fictional uterine wasting disease first…

The monster under the bed

I want to talk about phobias today, so I want to warn you that this post could be triggering for those of you who are battling one – or more – of your own. If that applies to you, please proceed with caution.

Phobias are life-limiting. On the darkest of days, if you let them, they can consume you. I know this because I have a phobia that I battle with every single day of my life. Sometimes this phobia makes crazy thoughts appear in my head. The only reason, I believe, that it hasn’t yet taken over my life is that I know that allowing it to do so would actually be crazy. But that doesn’t mean that it hasn’t tried more than once. And, if I am completely honest, it does stop me from living a strictly normal life. It does mean that many of my days are tinged with an undertone of worry.

I am emetophobic.

For anyone who doesn’t know, that means I have a fear of vomiting. For me, it is specifically a fear of vomiting myself. For others, it covers anything and everything to do with the subject. So I suppose, in a warped kind of way, I should consider myself lucky in the grand scheme of things.

There’s a backstory here, of course. Phobias, I have learnt, don’t just come out of nowhere. Something triggers them.

Last May O had an asthma attack serious enough to land him in hospital. For most of the day I sat with him and he talked to me through an oxygen mask. After nine hours of this, N came to take over for the night and I went home to look after F. When I left there was talk of intravenous steroids and I walked out of the hospital feeling tight-chested and haunted.

In the very early hours of the following morning I started throwing up. Looking back, I think it was the shock. It only lasted a couple of hours, but at some point I got something lodged in my windpipe and started to choke. I very clearly remember thinking, “So this is how I’m going to die; on my bathroom floor covered in puke”. In those few seconds, I just kept coming back to how ridiculous it was that this would happen on the one night when there was no one there to help me. I was desperate and terrified and I guess my survival instinct just took over. I used the very last of the air in my lungs to cough hard, knowing that it was over if that didn’t work. When you truly and honestly think you’re going to die, it’s amazing how strong your will to live becomes.

Obviously the coughing worked and I am still here. But even now, I can’t think about that night too much without feeling the fear of what could have been. Of the fact that F could have woken up later that morning and had no idea why his cries went unanswered. Of what N and O could have found when they came home. It sounds dramatic, even as I type the words. The whole thing sounds like the kind of story that makes you want to roll your eyes a little bit. To be honest with you, sometimes I wonder if it truly was as desperate as I thought it was. But all I really know is that I was so, so scared that night.

So now I’m afraid of it happening again. And, as any parent knows, kids pick up a lot of bugs. If my boys come home with snotty noses, aside from the fact that I hate to see them suffer, I am not in the least bit bothered. I will let them wipe their little snouts all over me and not give a damn when I inevitably get a scratchy throat a few days later. But if either one of them throws up and I know there’s no possible explanation other than a stomach bug, I am immediately almost paralysed with fear. I will clean them up with a pounding heart and shaking hands while crazy thoughts of surgical masks and latex gloves spiral through my head. And it’s not the vomit itself that bothers me; it’s the fact that I know I might be next.

This also means that soft play centres are a horror story waiting to happen for me. When O was about 18 months old he caught norovirus from a soft play centre, which N and I also came down with a few days later. So I know that they are breeding grounds for the dreaded stomach bugs and I find myself feeling panicky every time we go to one, which usually results in me avoiding food for a few days afterwards while I wait to see if anyone has picked up a virus. If I could avoid the wretched places, I would. But one thing I am utterly determined about is that this phobia is not going to rule my children’s lives the same way that it tries to rule mine. It is not going to stop me from being the mother they deserve, no matter how scared I am.

The thing is, whenever I’ve tried to explain this phobia to anyone, they’ve pretty much looked at me like I’m crazy and said, “Nobody likes being sick!” which is, to be blunt, just about the worst possible thing you can say to an emetophobe. Because it’s not that I “don’t like” being sick. It’s not even that I absolutely detest being sick, in fact. It’s that I am utterly petrified of it. And sometimes I wonder, when fears of spiders and flying and the dark are perfectly legitimate phobias… How come my fear – a fear with a very solid foundation – is somehow less believable or “normal” than any other, more common phobia? Because every time I think about what could have happened last year, I get this horrible falling sensation and I know that what I am feeling is not just fear; it is terror itself.

So… That’s me. That’s my daily struggle. Thanks for sticking with me.

Review: Baker Days Letterbox Cake

It’s been a tricky few weeks with one thing and another, so when Baker Days contacted me on Twitter to ask if I would like to review their Letterbox Gift Cake, I couldn’t say yes fast enough! You know what they say: When the going gets tough, the tough eat cake. They do say that… Right? Anyway, I popped them a quick email with a few details on Friday and by Monday morning I had a confirmation email in my inbox.

 

I expected delivery to take a few days, so imagine my thorough delight when my cake turned up the very next day! O took delivery of it from the postman and jumped up and down next to me – “Can we eat it? Can we eat it? Canweeatitnowmummy?!?!?!” – while I opened it and was very disappointed when I told him he would have to wait a couple of days until I had some time to write a blog.

 

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After the kids had both had their tea tonight, I opened up the cute little cake tin and very carefully unwrapped my lovely cake. The Letterbox Cake is a wee little 5 inch cake, which the baker days website says will provide 3-4 portions, but I’m pretty sure we’ll be able to get a few more out of it since I don’t want the boys bouncing off the walls anymore than usual in the final week of the summer holidays! There are loads of cakes to choose from – you can even order cupcakes -, but this particular cake is priced at £14.99 and comes with the added convenience of being able to fit through the letterbox so you don’t even need to be at home to take delivery of it. The cakes come well packaged in a box and tin, and you even get some candles, balloons and a party horn.

 

I cut O a slice while he jigged about with excitement next me, then he rushed off and started stuffing his face before I even had chance to grab my phone and get a photo. I did manage to get a picture of him mid-bite and he assured me after he was done scoffing, “I liked it. It was a very good cake.” Nothing quite like the endorsement of a child when it comes to cake, right?

 

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Next it was my turn:

 

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I didn’t really eat the rest of the cake. Not yet anyway. But both of the kids are in bed now, so it’s probably only a matter of time…

 

I don’t know about you, but I really like cake. Cake is the answer to most of life’s problems, I’ve discovered. And this was really nice cake. The great thing about a cake this size is that you can only really have a small slice, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I found that the cake was nice and light and the frosting was sweet and filling, so I didn’t feel like I was missing out by only having a small cake.

 

I think the size of these cakes makes them a really handy way of letting someone know you’re thinking of them, because you can pick a theme or have a full photo cake like I did – the possibilities are pretty much endless!

 

Baker Days deliver six days a week and, if you order before 2pm, your cake can be with you the very next day. So, if you’re anything like me and you end up forgetting birthdays and anniversaries pretty much every year, you’re covered!

 

If you fancy ordering a cake for yourself – or someone else if you like anyone enough to give away cake – pop over to the Baker Days website and have a look around. You can also find Baker Days on Facebook and Twitter.

 

AND if you’d like to be in with a chance of winning* a Letterbox Cake, head over to the Motherhood IRL Twitter, follow me and retweet the pinned tweet at the top of my profile. I’ll be running the giveaway until next Friday when I will pick a winner at random.

 

*The giveaway is open to UK and Northern Ireland residents only and  you will need to be comfortable with DM-ing me your email address for me to forward onto Baker Days.

 

DISCLAIMER: I received this Letterbox Gift Cake in exchange for a review on my blog and hosting a giveaway. The above review is a true and honest reflection of my opinion (and O’s)  on and experience of the product provided by Baker Days.

Come September

Dear O,

I don’t write about you as much as I should, but the truth is that you’ve never given me a whole lot of trouble. You were a textbook baby and now you’re a wilful, determined and joyful four-year-old. Sometimes I wonder if your tantrums and your pickiness about food are normal or if I’m actually a really terrible mother, but most of the time I know that you’re doing okay.

Only… now you’re starting school. And I’ve watched the kids from up the street heading off to school with their parents and siblings a thousand times from our kitchen window, but I never really thought about the day when you would join them.

When we moved here, you were less than two months old. I scrubbed and painted this house with you growing and kicking inside me. Those children seemed lightyears away from the tiny baby I rocked and bathed and tickled and loved in our little cocoon. That you should be on the cusp of becoming one of them is unfathomable to me.

Sometimes I look at you and I watch you playing and I listen to the stories you make up as you play and I think… How did we get here? How do you know those words? Where did that wild imagination come from? And when did you get to be so big?

People tell you that the years go fast, but they don’t tell you how fast. They don’t tell you that one day you’ll be grimacing your way through another poonami and the next you’ll be saying goodbye at the school gates for the first time. They don’t tell you that your children will be a tiny bit different every single day and you won’t even notice until you look back at the old photos and videos.

They also didn’t tell me how choked up I would get when I think about you starting school. Because I want so much for you to grow and learn and discover new things and have wonderful adventures, but my heart feels just a little bit too full sometimes when I picture the boy you already are and the man you will one day become.

I remember your first proper day at playgroup and how hard I found it to leave you that morning. You were only two and looked so tiny compared to the other children. You found a tractor and sat yourself at a table with it, holding it out to show me. My heart felt strangled by the confused look on your face when I told you it was time for me to go and that I would see you at lunchtime. In fact, just thinking about that moment makes me tearful. As I walked out to the gate with your daddy, I turned to him and said “I can’t believe I left him” with tears streaming down my face. I’d never trusted anyone except family to look after you, and I knew you didn’t understand why I wasn’t staying with you. It broke my heart, but it was a moment that all parents have to go through as they help their children to navigate the world.

I wish I could tell you that I won’t cry when I leave you at your classroom for the first time in September. You won’t know, of course, whether or not I do because I will not let you see. I will not let you see how hard it is sometimes to know that you are growing up. That you are not mine anymore in the same way that you used to be. That you have only ever been on loan to me, when all is said and done.

I hope that you will love your school. I hope that you will find good friends and delight in learning new things. I hope that you will come home and tell me breathless, emphatic stories about your day.

I love you, O. More than I could ever tell you. Enough to stand aside and allow you grow up. Enough to let you go.

If I can just have you back for the odd cuddle every now and again, of course.

Mummy

X

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From baby to big boy, I don’t know how we got here.

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

“Romantic” city break

Over the last four years, N and I have been a bit hit and miss about spending time together as a couple. It’s not that we don’t want to, it’s just that having kids makes it difficult. But, when I saw that my favourite author was holding a book signing and Q&A in Manchester, N suggested that we book tickets and make a romantic break of it.

You know how this is going to go, don’t you? Because this is me, and this blog is basically just a comprehensive list of my failures and/or disasters.

So, the first thing was that N was just getting over a rotten cold and I was just starting with it. Which led to me driving up the M62 with a raging fever, a runny nose and a horrible sore throat. N slept for some of the journey, so I was also fucking bored and kept incrementally turning the volume up on the car stereo to try and wake him up.

sleeping husband

In 7 years, he has never stayed awake for a whole car journey

Then we got into the city centre and the GPS confidently directed me to a dingy back-alley, whereupon it jubilantly announced, “you have reached your destination on the left”. Unless I’m sleeping in a Biffa bin for the next two nights, you’ve lost your fucking mind. Obviously this was wrong, so N calmly loaded up Google Maps and we were redirected to our actual destination, a car park where we could dump The Smurf for the next two days without having to worry about it.

Of course, now we are those people navigating an unfamiliar city with a phone giving us directions. We are those people having an argument about the fact that the Google Maps app keeps crashing and why the fuck didn’t we just bring an actual map. We are those people arriving crossly at our hotel with sore feet and the dire need for five minutes of peace from each other. Which is difficult when you have to share one room.

Anyway. We checked into the hotel – “your room number is 237, dial 0 for reception, etc, etc” – and headed for the lifts. As we got into the lift I didn’t really think much of our room number. I expected that there would probably be about 50 rooms on each floor. Then we got to the second floor and we got out of the lift and there was a sign on the wall. “Rooms 203 to 237” with an arrow pointing around the corner. And I got that kind of creeping sense of dread that you sometimes get when you realise that your room is the last one at the end of the corridor. Like the cleaners might finish the penultimate room, turn to room 237 and think nah, fuck it and not bother changing the sheets. We trudged up the corridor, and as we trudged we dropped off the wifi. It was like entering the Dark Zone.

long corridor

The long walk to our room in the hotel sticks

The bathroom in the room was less of a bathroom and more of a sanitation capsule. The shower didn’t connect properly to the wall, so water sprayed out of the botched plumbing in all directions. There was only the memory of a nightstand on my side of the bed, which is to say that there were still screw holes in the wall where it had once been. And the bed. My God, THE BED. The bed was a rock hard contraption made not even the least bit softer by a rock hard mattress topper. The pillows may actually have been stuffed with gravel. How we laughed, and how I died a little inside at the thought of how little sleep I might actually get.

I let N book the hotel because he likes doing that kind of thing and I find it unbearably boring. I vaguely recall him offering me the choice between a four star hotel with a spa and a two star hotel without one and that was kind of the whole conversation we had about it. Back in 2009, we went to Sheffield for a weekend break and stayed in a hotel with a spa, which we only actually used in the end because we felt like we should. So this time I vetoed the spa hotel. I mean, it was also a whole lot more expensive than where we ended up, but I’m fairly certain there was probably a middle ground Premier Inn option.

At about 5am the next morning, after a turbulent night trying to find a comfortable position on the rock hard mattress topper, I was woken from one of my brief periods of sleep by a lot of noise from somewhere near the door. My knackered and befuddled brain eventually managed to organise itself enough to understand that this was the sound of water hitting carpet, at which point I muttered “you have got to be fucking kidding me” and got out of bed(rock) to investigate. I found wet carpet and prayed that I wasn’t being dripped on by waste water from a flushed toilet, then went back to bed to half-heartedly search Late Rooms for a viable alternative to Chinese water torture.

Flu Buster

This “Flu Buster” got me through the morning

It’s worth pointing out here that I was still sick – and getting sicker – with the awful cold, which was quickly turning into a chest infection, so on Monday morning I was GRUMPY. N and I went separate ways in Primark so we could shop without annoying each other, but I hate shopping. Really hate it. I just can’t be bothered with it at all. So I bought a few t-shirts for myself and spent a whole lot more on the boys and then I tried to call N. But he was on the basement floor and had no signal, so I then spent a whole hour looking for him. And he eventually rocked up like, “Why do you look so pissed off?” Seriously.

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Watching the rain from Primark

We took a nap later before the book signing and then it was a monumental effort to get back up and drag N up and walk the ten minutes to the library. But it was worth it, because this particular author is my hero and it was a really unique experience. Of course, N really didn’t want to hang around for the signing afterwards – having spent the best part of an hour and a half surrounded by women, most of them more than a decade younger than us -, so he headed off to the pub while I chatted with a lovely girl, Ellie, who I met on Instagram before the signing. We exchanged numbers after the signing, so I hope we’ll keep in touch for book discussions in the future.

Meeting Maggie Steifvater

Talking Gansey with Maggie Steifvater

So, I should probably mention this whole aspect of a “romantic city break”, which is the pressure to have sex. I’ve already posted about sex between N and I, so I don’t really need to go into any unnecessary detail here, but the thing about being away is that none of the usual restrictions apply. There aren’t likely to be any disruptions (unless the beleaguered air con unit fell off the wall right in the middle of things) and being tired usually wouldn’t be the same kind of issue. Except that it was, because I was fucking exhausted and really, really sick. So N kind of hopefully mentioned sex on Monday morning and I coughed a lot and it pretty much wasn’t brought up again after that.

I mean, this all sounds like a total nightmare of a romantic break, but what I came away from it with is this: N is still my best friend. He’s still the person I most enjoy spending my time with. And, on top of that, I realised how lucky we really are. We have a good marriage and we have two beautiful children and we are so, so fortunate.

I also really missed the kids and was super happy to see them when we got home, even though F was mad at me for leaving him and didn’t want anything at all to do with me for a good hour after he got up from his nap. Sometimes it’s easy to forget how wonderful my boys are when they’re wearing me out and driving me crazy. But they are wonderful, and they fill my heart right up.

I’m happy.

Thanks for another great adventure, hubs. We fucked it up in our own specific way and I had a lot of fun.

broncho stop

Powered by Broncho Stop

On growing up

Yesterday marked a pivotal moment in my adult life. Yesterday I had to admit that I am getting older. Not old, because I’m not even 30 yet and it would be ridiculous for me to consider myself “old”, but there’s no denying the fact that I’m not exactly “young” anymore either.

This moment happened in the car on the way to buy wallpaper for O’s room. Bittersweet Symphony by The Verve came on my iPod and the following exchange took place between O and me:

O: I don’t like this song.
Me: What?! This is one of the greatest songs ever made!
O: Is it old?
[Pause]
Me: Yeah, I guess it kinda is.

When I was a teenager listening to Limp Bizkit at an obnoxious volume in my bedroom, I wondered what the songs I loved would sound like to my children someday. Would they find them dated? Would they hear them and wonder what I ever loved so much about them? Would they beg me to put something “cooler” on? And I feel like now I know.

Sometimes I notice the changing times myself when I watch a movie I once loved and realise how jumpy and unrealistic the special effects are. Or I’ll catch myself wondering if the picture was always that fuzzy. But there was a time when it would have seemed perfectly normal to me. When the green screen broomstick flight in the first Harry Potter movie would have been seamless to my eyes.

I don’t like to think about how long it’s been since I left school. Sometimes I’ll be driving somewhere and wonder how I ever got to be old enough to drive a car. There are days when I think about all of my responsibilities – a mortgage, a job, bills, getting new shoes for the kids – and suddenly it’ll feel like there’s a little less air in the room. And it’s only now that I’m beginning to realise that being an adult isn’t something you just know how to do; it’s something you learn and relearn every day.

It’s the same with parenting; what worked yesterday isn’t working today. So you try something else. Your kids suddenly hate their favourite food and you’ve got shitloads of it in the fridge. So you resign yourself to the fact that you’re going to have to eat it, whether you like it or not. That tantrum-taming trick that worked a treat yesterday isn’t even touching the epic meltdown happening in front of you right now. So you sigh, scream silently in your head and wrack your brains for another way – any other way – to diffuse the child bomb before everything within reach becomes collateral damage. It’s 1000 degrees in the house and no one has slept for weeks. So you desperately search the Internet for “ways to cool down hot bedroom” and reserve an industrial-sized fan at Argos.

This is life. This is growing up. This is motherhood.

The truth is that I always saw myself as a young mum. I wanted to have children while I was full of energy and the vitality of youth. I didn’t realise that those things would be quickly quashed by continuous months of sleep deprivation. I just thought for sure I’d have my shit together enough by 25 to make some sort of decent mother. Hell, 25 was OLD to me back when I was 15 and first started wondering if marriage and babies might be in my future one day. Being 25 meant being a real, live ADULT.

Turns out that I’m just getting older, my musical tastes somehow and inexplicably dated, and I still don’t feel any wiser than I did the first time I looked into O’s angry, purple face and thought to myself “what the fuck am I supposed to do now?”

Turns out that sometimes, when I’m feeling really lost and confused, I still find myself looking around for an adultier adult, because I figure there’ll always be somebody who has a better idea of what they’re doing than I do.

Turns out that I’ll probably still be blundering my way through adulthood when I’m old and grey.

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“I haven’t got a clue what I’m doing…”

 

An open letter

An open letter to anyone who has ever thought they could do better,

When O was born, I had very definite ideas about what kind of mother I wanted to be. I went to all the classes and read all the books and I was determined that I was going to be brilliant. I would sail through the experience like a magnificent ship on a calm and beatific sea.

Of course, life – and especially motherhood – doesn’t often go to plan, and I don’t expect you to always agree with the way I parent my children.

You would probably feed them different things. Maybe organic recipes, cooked from scratch. But you’re probably a better cook than I am. You can try and make me feel bad about this if you like, but I might as well tell you now that I’ve felt bad enough over the last few years that I’ve finally reached the point of “Don’t Give A Shit”. My children are healthy and happy. Some days they eat well and other days it’s all I can do to persuade them to eat half a decent meal and a biscuit.

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I was actually really proud of this meal

That whole “boys should look like boys” rhetoric – what does it even mean? I get this all the time because F’s hair is quite long and he wears leggings a lot. The suggestion has even been made that I “dress him like a girl” because I wish I had a daughter. I can’t even describe to you how angry this makes me. Firstly, no, I do not dress him like a girl – whatever the hell is even meant by that. Secondly, no, I don’t wish he was a girl, nor would I trade him for one if I could. Why is his hair long? Because he’s not keen on having much done with it, and on the few occasions when I have allowed it to be cut, he’s just ended up with a mullet. And why does he wear leggings? Why does anybody wear them? They’re comfortable and unrestrictive. It’s as simple as that. Don’t you have anything better to worry about?

long hair, don't care

Long hair, don’t care

So tired am I of the suggestion that I don’t do enough with my children that I have now started taking them out most days. Of course, this means I don’t get anything done in my house – which I’m sure you’d also love to berate me for -, but fuck it; the kids are getting out and having fun. That being said, because of the judgement cast on all mothers who “don’t do enough” with their children – by the way, who gets to decide what is enough? – I’ve started to embark on outings which can only be described as suicide missions. Solo beach trips. Taking them out for lunch on my own. Attempting to turn a trip to B&Q into an educational experience with the promise of a park or feeding the ducks afterwards. The endings of these outings were, respectively, THAT lost bag disaster incident. Food on the floor, in my hair, all over the children but not, at any point, in anyone’s mouth. Also; TUTTING. And, lastly, F attempting to get me arrested by hastily making for the exit whilst clutching a fistful of pilfered goods. On Sunday when I explained to my mother that I would be taking the boys up into the woods for a ramble while N was at work, I finally accepted the offer of an extra pair of hands. But I didn’t half feel ashamed for not tackling it by myself, which is all your fault for being so bloody judgy in the first place.

woodland walk

If I’d gone on my own, I wouldn’t have this awesome photo!

No, actually, I don’t have enough “mummy friends”. You’re absolutely right. But how does one procure “mummy friends” if one’s existing friends do not have children? You have to go out and try and make them, don’t you? And that is, to be blunt, absolutely fucking terrifying. The whole thing can be so Mean Girls sometimes that I can’t even bear to try. I’m sort of friendly with a mum who is also friends with a lot of other mums who were absolutely petrifying when I was at school with them. And they might be really nice now – who knows? – but I don’t want to find out, to be honest. I have recently made friends with the very lovely mum of one of O’s playgroup buddies and we took our boys out to the park together yesterday, but it’s taken me FOUR YEARS to pluck up the courage to suggest “we should meet up with the boys and go do something” to someone I haven’t previously known. Who knows how long it could take for me to find that courage again? So I probably won’t be making another mummy friend for a while, but I’m actually okay with that and I don’t get why anybody else even cares who my friends are anyway.

If I can be completely serious for a moment, I can’t post this without mentioning that it wasn’t anybody else who saved us when F started to get sick. Nobody came charging in with advice or empathy or love. It was me who fought that battle. Every breakthrough happened and continues to happen because I have pushed so damned hard to get him the help he needed and to bring our family through to the other side of what his illness did to all of us. I know that I could have done better in the beginning, but I was out of my depth, lost, had no idea what was happening and didn’t seem to be able to make anyone understand that we needed HELP. So if I could have done better then maybe you could too.

So if you ever happen to watch me with my kids and think to yourself “she’s making such a shit job of raising those boys”, first of all, realise that somebody else is probably thinking the exact same thing about you and that doesn’t feel very nice, does it? Second of all, understand that there are some days when I really do agree with you.

Finally:

Know with absolute certainty that no one could love them more or better or harder than I do.

And that they like me best of all anyway.

motherhood love

What love looks like

Sincerely,

Motherhood IRL

The “advice” nobody wants

Do you know what I hate the most about parenting? More than Judgy Mummy and her Perfect Darlings. More than realising that the last two slices of bread are mouldy when I’m rushing to make O’s pack-up. More, even, than a shit in the bath that I have to fish out with my bare hands.

I hate unsolicited “advice”.

Why the quotations marks? Well, because it’s not really advice, is it? When somebody comes at you with an opinion about your parenting, it’s not advice. It’s a loud, wailing siren accompanied by the words “YOU ARE DOING IT ALL WRONG”.

“No, don’t breastfeed like that; you should be doing it like this.”

“No, you shouldn’t be weaning with purees/doing baby-led weaning. Your baby will end up obese and you’ll have to purée everything forever/isn’t getting enough to eat.”

“No, I’ve read really bad reviews about that car seat. You should get this one instead.”

And then there’s today.

“OMG OMG OMG it’s too hot in F’s room! Put him somewhere else!”

No shit. I fucking know it’s hot in his room. Guess where else it’s hot? Every other room in the house. Should I put him in one of those instead, just in case the exact same temperature is somehow cooler somewhere else?

I really don’t know why other people feel the need to tell mothers how to be mothers. Motherhood seems to be the one thing that everyone has an opinion on, but do you know what? Being a mother is actually hard enough, thanks. We don’t need to be told that we are doing everything wrong and making all of the wrong choices.

We can be doubtful and worried and second guess ourselves all by ourselves.
We don’t need someone else to make us feel guilty about what we’re feeding our children; we probably already do. It’s not necessary for you to tell us our car seat isn’t as good as yours; it’s highly likely that we are already worried about it, even though we researched it for hours and it cost more than our monthly mortgage payment. And that guilt trip you want to lay on us about whether or not our kid should still have a dummy at bedtime? Yeah, we’ve read all the same articles you have, cheers.

If you want to give me some advice about something, you could go back in time about two and a half hours and tell me that my makeshift air conditioning unit of a bowl of ice water in front of a fan in F’s room is going to lead to him seeing if he can throw all of his stuffed animals into the bowl. Because you’d think I would have seen that one coming.

But I did not.

And there were no survivors. Even Favourite Bunny got his ears wet.

So maybe I am just as inept as you already assume I am when you come at me with your words of wisdom after all.

homemade air conditioning

Why didn’t I use the humidifier first?!

My yoga journey 

This is a post about my yoga journey so far. Essentially, this isn’t a parenting post. But it kind of is a bit too, because I’ve learnt a lot about myself and my outlook along the way.

I started yoga about two years ago when I was pregnant with F. I really wanted to stay active during my pregnancy because I didn’t have the same freedom for the long walks I had taken during my first pregnancy, and I also felt like I needed something to help me focus on my baby. I noticed – and I’ve heard this from lots of mother mums since – that my second pregnancy was passing a lot faster than my first one, so by the time I was halfway through, I realised that I hadn’t really bonded with my baby as much as I wanted to.

image

After a bit of Internet searching, I found a pregnancy yoga class with a lovely teacher called Rebecca at a Sure Start centre not far from where we live and signed up. Pregnancy yoga is a lot less about moving and a lot more about breathing and visualising than regular yoga, and when it came to actually giving birth I genuinely felt like I had a better understanding of my body and how to handle labour. I laboured with and gave birth to F in an all fours position, and I’m sure this was because I found the position familiar and comforting after spending so much time in it during my classes. I also knew that it would help make the labour shorter and the birth easier.

After F was born, I fully intended to start post natal yoga, but by the time I’d waited the necessary six weeks, his feeding issues were in full swing and we went from regular trips out to the park and for lunch to pretty much being under house arrest while I struggled to get things under control and battled with crippling anxiety and mental illness. So I never made it to those classes.

Instead, I re-enrolled with Rebecca last September and have been attending a regular class ever since. I also do a lot of work at home, practising the poses I’ve been taught in the class and pushing myself to try new ones from online yoga videos. Yoga has taught me how to communicate with my body, how to persuade it to do things I didn’t think it could and how to push myself safely beyond what I thought my limits were.

Yoga has also helped to quiet my mind. Life with young children is hectic and fraught with worry a lot of the time, but half an hour on my mat after the boys have gone to bed gives me an opportunity to focus on something else, find some peace and energise my body. It has also helped me develop the strength I need for carrying my boys around and lifting them up into car seats!

Do you know what else it has taught me? A few deep breaths really do help when there’s a tantrum going on in front of me!

For me, yoga has been a wonderful, healthy escape from the everyday stresses of motherhood and I love that I have something that is just “mine” to retreat into at the end of a long day.

Namaste.

Sometimes

Most of the time I look at F and I think that you’d never know he’d ever struggled. You’d never know that there was a time when he spent whole days just screaming in pain. You’d never know that his weight had ever started to nosedive down the centiles. You’d never know that he had to sleep in a swaddling bag for the first year of his life just to feel comforted.

But every now and again, I see glimpses of the things that reflux has left behind.

F has a sensitive gag reflex. So sensitive that he gags on most foods apart from yoghurt. Sometimes he still throws up, especially if he isn’t keen on the taste of the food to begin with.

He also still seeks out the comfort of that swaddling bag sometimes by pulling his arms into his sleepsack, particularly when he’s not feeling well.

F is clearly thriving and, despite a very slight developmental delay caused by his reflux, most of the time he eats well. But mealtimes are when his past battles show their most obvious scars. Most of his meals are still puréed at 21 months old. He will eat finger foods – breadsticks, fruit, rice cakes – quite happily, but offer him baked beans or scrambled egg and he will try it, gag on it and refuse to have anything further to do with it. It means that I am often the subject of judgemental stares and scathing stage whispers when I take my children out for a meal. I’ve learnt to block it out for the most part, but sometimes one of those comments still gets through. Sometimes I still feel those stares.

“Why is he still eating baby food? He must be almost two?”

“Why is she still trying to get her kid to eat? He’s crying. He’s obviously not hungry.”

“How come the other kid is eating normally?”

There are days when I wish the ground would just swallow me up during these outings. But there are other days when I want to get up, walk over to these people and ask them why the fuck they think they have a right to judge my parenting when they don’t know a damned thing about my child.

hungry baby

Here’s the thing: sometimes this is hard for all of us. Sometimes I lie awake and I worry about the future. I wonder if there will ever be such a thing as a “normal” meal for F and I worry. He didn’t start to get teeth until he was over a year old – which was a good thing, because if he had gotten them earlier they would have been ruined by stomach acid -, but people don’t know that. They don’t know that he isn’t the same as his brother. They don’t know how hard some days are for him, and that’s the point: this is hard for him.

Yes, the stares and the whispers are horrible for me. But it’s not myself I feel the hurt and the anger for; I feel it for him. I feel it because I wish that he didn’t have the legacy of this condition to deal with. I feel it because I want to protect him from that judgement. And I feel it because I love my children more than anything on this Earth and I don’t want them to find out how cruel people can be just yet.

The truth is that I don’t really know whether or not these things are permanent, and I wish that there was something I could do to fix it. But I think this is just what we’ve been left with, and it’s okay really. It feels like a long time since I would stagger out of bed at 1AM, 2AM, 3:30AM and so on just to sit in the dark beside his cot and whisper that it would be okay while he struggled to sleep and grizzled through the discomfort.

I know that we’ve come a long way and that F will continue to get better, and I know that we will keep finding our way as we go.

That’s just what we do.

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday