Let’s Talk: Pregnancy and Infant Loss

This month has been Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month and social media has been flooded with people’s posts, stories, images and simple acknowledgements that they too have felt the pain that comes with pregnancy and infant loss. I have come to realise that pregnancy and infant loss is not as uncommon as you think. I’ve seen posts from friends or acquaintances that I would never have guessed had gone through their own loss. Silly really. It’s silly that, just because their Facebook or instagram posts reflect a happy, care free life, I would be surprised that they too had experienced loss. It made me realise that many of us present only our best lives through social media. I too am guilty for that. After all, why would you want to document your challenges, the dark days and the low times? They aren’t the days you want Facebook to remind you of this time next year and the years to follow. Many times I have written out a post that is a real reflection of the shitty time I am going through but then have hesitated just for a moment too long, hovering over the ‘post’ button. I don’t want people to think I am a whinge-bag. I don’t want people to think I am having a moan, or complaining. After all, there are people in the worse situations. I shouldn’t complain. Delete. Delete. Delete.

So, an awareness campaign like this does good. It not only raises awareness but in a strange way it creates a community. A community that nobody wants to be in, granted, but a community no less. A community where we have all, at some stage in our lives, experienced pregnancy or infant loss.

I experienced pregnancy loss following a number of years of fertility treatment. I had secondary infertility and we had tried a number of different treatments over the years. After the weekly blood tests and the twice monthly scans, trying for a baby had definitely lost its romance. It was now clinical. Mind you,  I would have had sex whilst standing on one foot with my right hand behind my back, reciting the alphabet in reverse order in Latin if they’d told me that would improve my chances of becoming pregnant. Every month I’d have to make ‘the call’ to the clinic to see whether the bloods had come back positive with pregnancy hormones and let’s face it, after years of trying, I was pretty used to them saying ‘I’m sorry, it’s a negative’. I’d have a mope about and then I’d get straight back on that rollercoaster of hope and think to myself  ‘this cycle is going to be the one’ and so the cycle continued. So when I made that call from my desk at work and they told me it was positive I didn’t quite believe them. For me, at this point, the hurdles had been overcome. I was pregnant! Nothing more could stand in our way – we were having a baby!

When on fertility treatment, you have early scans so we were scanned at six weeks. We were warned that a heartbeat at this stage would be unlikely so not to expect much; it was for monitoring purposes. I can’t say that when I lay on that bed in the scan room I expected anything other than the sonographer telling me everything was looking as it should in there. We didn’t get bad news, per se, but it wasn’t great either. The sonographer did some measurements and expressed some concerns but said it was likely because the scan had been arranged for too early on in the pregnancy. They said to come back again the following week. The following week came and we had another scan and this time they advised we may be able to see the heartbeat. We waited and waited but again we were met with concerned faces. The sonographer pulled in another colleague and they zoomed in and zoomed out, they moved the screen about, they got up close to the screen. Again, they advised they didn’t see what they wanted to see but that we could be a week too early. I asked them for a glimmer of hope and they gave it to me. They said that it could be that it was just too early for a scan but at 8 weeks next week, they were sure they would be able to see what they needed to see to reassure us that our baby was growing fine.

That week was a tough week. It was long. It was hard. At 8 weeks pregnant barely anybody knew which meant there were very few people to confide in. Those I did confide in would tell me exactly what the Doctors had, it was just too early. Hang on in there for one more week. I’m sure this time next week you’ll have seen your baby’s heartbeat and everything will be fine. After all, you’re still being sick, you’re still off coffee – they’re good signs, right?

Something in my gut at this point told me that despite the morning sickness and other pregnancy symptoms, something wasn’t right in there. When the 8 week scan finally came, I was ready for answers. Living in limbo for three weeks had been tough on us and I was tired. I was exhausted of lying awake at night analysing every symptom or every ache or pain. I was exhausted of having to keep it all together emotionally when inside I just wanted to have a wobble. The scan started and within five minutes there wasn’t just one sonographer in the room but there were three. One thought they saw something but then the second didn’t agree. The third was unsure. They dithered about. They called my Professor in. She had been our specialist throughout our treatment. Within thirty seconds of looking at the screen she delivered the verdict and she did it with absolute certainty. I hated her at the time for it because it wast the verdict I wanted but looking back, that definitive answer was definitely needed. The long drawn out uncertainty of her other colleagues was soul destroying.

Our baby had started to develop but had, for some unknown reason, stopped developing in the early stages of the pregnancy. My body hadn’t even realised it yet, hence the continued symptoms. That afternoon I was sent across to the hospital to arrange the surgery to remove the pregnancy. I remember being in a side room in the hospital waiting for one of the nurses to come and explain what was going on and I felt numb. I felt like I wasn’t there, like I was almost looking down on myself being there, watching it from a birds eye view. This wasn’t happening to me. It can’t be. We’ve tried for this baby for years – six years in fact. When the nurse did come in I couldn’t even bring myself to look at her, or to process what it was she was saying. It felt like I had just emotionally shut down. I didn’t want to talk about it and I didn’t want to know anything about what was to happen next.

The surgery the following day made everything seem so medical, so clinical and so final. The nurses were sympathetic but all the sympathy in the world wouldn’t make this any easier. I remember coming round from the procedure afterwards and feeling empty. I felt physically empty and I felt emotionally empty. An infection following this procedure meant that my body was in for a long period of recovery from the miscarriage. I was ill for a good few of the weeks that followed. I had to return to the same ward because of the infection and that was difficult. I remember being referred to an occupational therapist because of the time I had taken off work and he very insensitively suggested that I should only have had two days off sick for a miscarriage. Two days! There was a complete lack of awareness of how a miscarriage impacts on someone emotionally, let alone physically.

Throughout the whole journey we were on, my husband was incredibly strong for us both. I knew he was broken too but he put a good front on. He really stepped up for me and I won’t ever forget the way in which he put his own emotions to one side in order for him to support the difficulties I was having with mine.

I chose to tell some family and some friends after this happened because there were questions being asked about my health, about absence from work and so on and it was too difficult to conceive a lie at this point. I only told those who needed to know though and as I look back on the whole experience now I do wonder why I made that decision. Miscarriage isn’t something to be ashamed of so why do we shy away from telling those around us about what is going on? For me, it was difficult because I hadn’t told many that I had been pregnant, never mind that I had miscarried. I couldn’t bring myself to say to someone ‘by the way, I was pregnant but I’m not now. And I’m not coping very well’ with it. Had I have been more open with people about being pregnant in the first place, I think I would have felt very different about opening up about the miscarriage.

I’m not sure why there is still this stigma about waiting for that 12 week scan before telling people you’re pregnant. I get that people are cautious and don’t want to celebrate the pregnancy prematurely but should the worst happen, it leaves you with nobody to confide in. If nobody knows you’re pregnant, there’s nobody there to support you through the miscarriage.

We were lucky enough, four years later (after two further years of fertility treatment and then a break for two years) to be blessed with another pregnancy. It was a shock. We had decided to stop the fertility treatment after being told it was highly unlikely that we were going to conceive again. Instead of the squealing celebratory response to the positive pregnancy test I instantly felt anxious. It wasn’t like the last time where I believed we had conquered all the hard bits by getting pregnant. I knew this was just the start of a very difficult journey to come; a journey that would see me never relax and never enjoy the pregnancy. We told all our close friends and family straight away. I didn’t want to be isolated if it all went wrong again. I wanted to make sure that I had a network of support around me incase the worst happened again.

After eight months of anxiety, liver complications, regular bleeds and lots of prayers that this time would be different, our baby girl was born by emergency section. She will be 2 in a week. After we made the painful decision to give up the fertility treatment and to accept that we were never going to have a second child, never did we expect to find ourselves with the beautiful baby girl that we had dreamt about for so long. She has definitely eased the pain that came with having the miscarriage but it’ll never be something that I will forget. It has made me fiercely grateful for what I have. I have two beautiful children and I know every day how blessed I am to have them. Even on the toughest parenting days (and let’s face it, we all get them!) I know I am blessed and I am so grateful.

For those who have experienced miscarriage, I am thinking of you. I know this is tough. It’s just shit. There’s no polite way of describing the situation; it’s just shit. I’ve been where you are now and I know that grief is heavy and the darkness you feel around you is thick, like a thick fog. You will get through this. You won’t ever forget this but you will get through this. Talk to people. As hard and inconceivable it may seem, talk. Let people in. Let people know what you are going through. You need them. Take one day at a time and when a day seems too much, take one moment at a time. Allow yourself the time and space to grieve. You are entitled to grieve for your baby, no matter how early on in the pregnancy you experience your miscarriage. It doesn’t matter how small or how formed the baby was inside the womb, the baby was your baby in your head and in your heart. You had hopes and dreams for that baby in the same way others do for their children. You may have envisioned what your baby would look like,  perhaps, inside your mind,  you had played out the moment you would first hold your baby in your arms. You need to grieve that loss and you have every right to do so. Take your time.

Don’t befriend me. I’m not good at the whole friendship thing.

There’s friends and then there’s ‘Facebook Friends’, i.e. people you once knew but will never see again, yet you remain interested in gawping at the wedding dress they have chosen , their Great Aunty’s third cousin’s ex husband’s holiday photos, or their weekly mirror selfie demonstrating how their weight loss journey is going, or what their third boyfriend in six weeks looks like, or how perfect their brand new high gloss white kitchen looks (they’ve got no children, obvs). They are the friends that never forget your birthday, but they only ever speak to you (aka type) on your birthday. They don’t speak to you on any other of the 364 days of the year, but you get a happy birthday from them at the very least.

I have a group of amazing friends. One bestest best friend, a couple of really squeally good friends and a number of friends that I’ve met in various circles that I see every so often. I know that I could call on them at any given time and they would be there for me, without question. They bring so much to my life and by God have I needed them in recent years. Since having Little Miss though and going back to work from maternity leave, I feel like I don’t really deserve the title of ‘friend’ in return. I am fast fading in to the Facebook realm of no return. I am going to be one of them. I am going to end up a Facebook friend. A Facebook friend to someone I genuinely love and care for. They’ll have a neb at my photos every so often and nothing going on in my life will be of any interest to them. Nor will they need me. Because they’ll have real life friends for that.

Is it because I’m a horrible person? I don’t think so. Is it because I don’t want to be their friend? Hell no, I love the very bones of each of them. Is it because I don’t care? Absolutely not. In fact, I think about them more so now than ever before. So why? Why am I paling into insignificance in the friendship stakes? Because I’m just not good at it anymore.

My best friend lives on the other side of the world and, frankly, it’s a good job she does, otherwise she’d have binned me off by now too. I can manage the occasional phone call, the weekly text messages and emails and Facebook exchanges; that’s all good. But when it comes to doing friendy things, like actual things with my friends, hanging out with them, coffee dates, long drawn out telephone calls where we put the world to rights, cocktails and drunken chat, delivering McDonalds the morning after the night before and devouring it in our jim jams because we have both never been so hungover in our lives before – all of this I once did. Now not so. It’s getting less and less (and I’ve definitely not drank enough to have the mother of all hangovers since circa 2003 so that last one definitely hasn’t happened this century) and every time I say ‘no’ to an invitation I can feel myself slipping further and further away from my friends.

It’s not even that I don’t want to go. Show me a frazzled mamma who doesn’t want to meet their friends (for either caffeine or alcohol, one wakes me up, one sends me to sleep so at this point in my life I favour caffeine over the good stuff. Falling asleep on my friends wouldn’t do me any further favours in this situation after all…) and have idle chit chat, refreshingly adult conversation and find common ground as we compete as to how sleep deprived we are and how bad our baby brain has become. If I could, I would accept every single invitation I received and I’d rock up those coffee mornings, cocktail nights and soft play nightmares with bells on. I’d be there every single time. But it’s just not that easy.

The reality is that I am a mama to an 18 month old baby and a 15 year old boy. They need me in equal measures right now. My boy has his GCSEs round the corner and suffers from social anxiety so we spend a lot of time working with him, supporting him and ensuring he is equipped to go to school and fulfil his potential. Then there’s my Little Miss, she is currently getting sick a lot; almost on a twice monthly basis right now. Even when she’s well, she’s not always a great sleeper, and with her going to nursery Monday to Friday, I really value the time I have with her after nursery and on weekends. Our time as a family on weekends, bank holidays and so on is so precious. More precious than anything I’ve ever known or seen. After years and years of building our businesses and working seven days a week, we know how lucky we are to have our weekends as a family. Because we know what it is like not to have that quality family time, it’s not something I ever want to happily give up.  Then there’s the working full time thing. I manage our family business, which doesn’t allow me or my husband the privilege of knocking off at 5pm. It’s not that easy to promise lunch dates or ‘after work coffee meets’ because every day is so unpredictable and at the end of the day, our only income is from this business. My husband and I have no choice but to give it every single thing we’ve got in order to take care of our family.

Even when that is all taken care of, I just don’t even have the energy most days. Once I’ve got the kids sorted and to bed, I’m literally lucky if I can muster enough energy to carry my sleepy (and rather big) ass to bed. The thought of getting dolled up to then go out and hold down an adult conversation without falling asleep mid sentence and drooling over a Mojito, is enough to make me cry. I know I’d feel much better for going out but that doesn’t change the fact that I am completely exhausted.

I have friends who don’t work or work part time. They meet through the week, soft play one week, baby sensory class the next, swimming the week after. They think because I own my own business that I should be able to make it to these play dates. I tried it once. I thought I’d actually take a lunch hour for once and meet my friend for a coffee at a coffee shop nearby my office. It ended with me being away from my desk for an entire half day because once we got chatting, we lost track of time and before we knew it hours had passed by. We hadn’t seen each other in months and months (obviously) so naturally we had a lot to catch up on. I ended up coming back to work to find 108 unread emails, five squillion phone calls to return and a mound of paperwork that would give Mount Everest a run for its money.

Maybe I’m getting boring. Or Old. Or both. Yeah, definitely both. On a Saturday night I look forward to getting in my jim jams (supposing I actually made it out of them that day…) at like 5pm, getting the kids sorted, lighting a few scented candles, ordering a take away and watching something on the TV that doesn’t require a brain cell, wrapped in a duvet on the sofa. My days of standing in the taxi queue half drunk (actually, disclaimer: I was never ‘half’ drunk, I was definitely ‘full’ drunk, whatever full drunk actually means…) wearing next to nothing in the bitter cold, dipping chips in to the smelliest garlic sauce on the planet, are definitely numbered. Maybe even over for good. These days I prefer the simpler things in life. There is nothing more important in my life than my family. Doing simple things with the people I love the most means the world.

I feel like I say ‘no’ a lot when invited out by friends. There was a time when I said yes to everything but never actually made it out due to poorly babies, a work deadline I had to meet, lack of babysitter, feeling ill and exhausted myself – the list is endless. I felt like I was letting them down every single time. I worried I upset them. I would feel crap about it for days after. But, let me tell you, there’s only one thing worse than having to say ‘no’ to a friend when they invite you out and that’s not to be invited out at all. I’ve been there with friends that I have now lost contact with. The term ‘party animals’ doesn’t really do them justice; ‘Party Beasts’ suits them better. They went at it hardcore every single weekend. A couple of drinks and a meal with them only ever ended one way: passed out on the (very sticky) floor of some dated nightclub at 3am. I like a drink as much as the next mama but pulling chewed chewing gum and washing spilled beer out of my hair the following morning is not the way I like to start my weekend. I did think that our friendship was deeper than me just being another person to add to their night out headcount but obviously not because after saying no a couple of times, the invitations stopped and now I’m a Facebook friend to them and vice versa. But even though the way they spent their Friday and Saturday nights wasn’t my idea of fun, it still hurt when they stopped inviting me. I felt like they’d given up on me. I’d now become ‘the one that never says yes’, ‘the one that never goes out’, ‘the boring one we don’t waste our time on anymore’. You know what social media is like, there is no hiding the nights out that I was missing. The pre-drink selfies, the dance floor selfies, the eyes rolling into the back of your head drunk selfies and the like. I’m sitting at home in my jim jams watching the photos update over the course of the evening and the most exciting thing to happen to me all night is that I missed my mouth and spilt strawberry yoghurt all over my PJ top. It’s not like I even wanted to be there! Why does this upset me! I am a crazy lady! I go from ‘not caring’ to feeling totally left out and isolated in three point five seconds. My feelings about it all were completely nonsensical but I was feeling them regardless so they were real to me.

With that life lesson under my belt I don’t want to lose my support network because I’m no longer present in their lives. I need to find a way of making it work. My friends, particularly my close friends, love me unconditionally as I do them. They are there. Always. So I need to work it out. I feel like the worst friend on earth. I feel like I’m never there (or ‘available’) when they need me, I’m never able to make plans when they are free and I rarely say ‘yes’ to invitations anymore and busy or not, exhausted or not, they do deserve better than that because they are good people and beautiful friends of mine. They deserve better.

They say life is all about balance, don’t they? I’m not sure who ‘they’ are, but if ‘they’ are able to advise me of how to keep all the plates spinning and keep up my friendship duties, I would be oh so grateful to them. After all, we all need friends. It doesn’t matter how solid our family network may be, you will always need a friend at some point in your life and that works both ways. Life is short; we are here but for a while. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life as a ‘Facebook friend’ to people I love and adore. Besides, my craic on Facebook is piss poor so I’d probably be demoted from even being that.

The Second Time Around

 

 I was just 22 when I had my first child. At the time I remember thinking that I relatively had my shit together, however looking back, I knew zero about parenting and together with my (very young) husband, we were just feeling for the lights in the dark for many years, winging it on a daily basis whilst trying to do the best we could by our boy.

 Less of a child and more a man-child, our boy is 15 now. There are 13 and a half years between our son and our daughter so naturally, we are different people than we were thirteen years ago. I’m sure that’s not abnormal; I’m sure most people change as they get older, whether that be changes in maturity, in temperament, in attitude, in priorities; people must naturally change as they age, meet different people and take different paths with their lives. The biggest change we have seen in each other is the way we parent.

 These are just a few things we have done differently the second time around:

 

  1. Relaxed a bit:

Even at 22 I was highly strung. That was nothing to do with becoming a young mum, I was pretty highly strung before I got pregnant. For some reason, I was just like that. It did, however, spill over in to my parenting. I was a big worrier. If it had been socially acceptable to wrap my baby boy in cotton wool and tie him to my left leg so that he could never leave my side, I probably would have done so. No ‘probably’ about it, actually. I was a ‘text book Mum’ according to my out-law. As much as I would never admit that she was right, I do sort-of-kind-of-agree-through-gritted-teeth that she was right. I was trying to be the parent they talked about in the guide books, the parent you see in Pampers TV Ads or the parent you see in the Mum & Baby magazines. I tried to be perfect. I will never forget the ends of the earth I went to in order to look ‘perfect’ for my Midwife’s first home visit. I got up ridiculously early (even before the baby – what complete and utter madness that was!), washed, dried and straightened my hair, chose a smart outfit (one far too formal to be wearing sitting around the house with a colicky baby) and dolled on the make up. The result? My midwife was suspicious! I thought I’d present as the ‘perfect mum’ and it actually had the opposite effect! She looked at me up and down in surprise as she asked what I had planned for the day. I said ‘nothing’ and she looked utterly confused. Probably because I looked like I was about to go to the biggest job interview of my life; and all three days after giving birth to a whopping nine pound ten ounce milk-guzzling machine.

With my second, there was no reading of guide books, no Mum & Baby magazines (having the time to read them would have been a fine thing) no lusting after the perfect mummy image. I greeted the Midwife in coffee stained pyjamas, with hair that hadn’t been washed in a week and she had to wipe the crumbs of digestive biscuits off the sofa before she sat down. I remember with my first baby feeling really exposed when getting him undressed in front of the Midwife to be weighed. I worried that she was examining the way I was pulling his little arms through his vest. I worried that she would bellow at me ‘You can’t do it like that!!!’. Obviously there had been a large gap between my children so in some ways it felt like I was having my first baby all over again. It wasn’t like riding a bike, much to my dismay, it didn’t all come back to me naturally. There were no two ways about it; I did feel out of touch with it all. But, this time, when the midwife was sat watching me undress my baby girl, I didn’t feel like I was being scrutinized. Yes, sometimes I felt clumsy in the way I was undressing her but that was more about me wanting to be gentle and careful with all five tiny teeny pounds of her. I felt a confidence about the way I cared for, and interacted with, my daughter. A ‘this is the way I parent, like it or lump it’ type of confidence.

 

 

  1. Felt able to ‘let go’ a bit:

I never allowed my son to swing high on the swings at the park, climb the climbing frames, sledge down hills, jump in the deep end of the pool – if I considered the activity to pose even the slightest bit of a risk (even if it was a totally safe, measured risk), it was a no-no. I didn’t encourage him to embrace freedom because I didn’t want him to have any! Looking back I now understand that was more about me than it was about him. I wanted him to need me and for that reason I never made a conscious effort to encourage independence or freedom. Years on, I can see the ill effects of that style of parenting and it isn’t something I’m particularly proud of.

Little Miss is only 17 months old but I can already see a difference in her character and confidence compared to what my son was like at that age; I firmly believe that a lot of that is down to us embracing a completely different parenting style. This time round both my husband and I have made a conscious attempt to ‘socialise’ her, ensuring she spends lots of time with other people so that a dependence on us doesn’t develop. She can, of course, be clingy sometimes, usually when she’s poorly or tired, but she isn’t afraid to go to other adults she knows or play with other children.

We embrace the swings, slides, jumping in puddles and jumping on the bed; she has so much fun and is adventurous as a result. I might have bitten all my nails off in the process watching her but it is her that matters, not me.

 

  1. Became ‘at one’ with crying:

There was never any question as to the pair of lungs my boy had as a baby – he was the loudest baby on the maternity ward; he single handedly out-cried all the other babies. Even when I’d gone through the ‘why is your baby crying?’ checklist and knew he was dry, fed, warm and so on, I always found it really hard to listen to his crying. To me, that was my precious baby telling me he was unhappy and I found it really hard sometimes that I couldn’t soothe or settle him. As he grew in to a toddler, I still would find it hard to see him upset and boy did he know it! He played me like a good’un! He ended up getting his way more times than not. He still does come to think of it!

I don’t know whether it’s something that has come as a result of maturity or what but this time round, I am good with crying. Me and crying have made amends. I don’t want to sound careless because I don’t care any less than I did with my first, but this time I am able to keep things in perspective. A bit of crying is not the end of the world for them or for me. Certainly now Little Miss is a toddler and starting to show she is quite the stubborn and strong willed little thing, we are no stranger to tears and tantrums in this household. The difference this time round is that hearing her cry doesn’t upset me or stress me out. Obviously I’d prefer her to be happy, but her shedding a few tears over not being able to have ice cream for her breakfast, lunch and dinner (nasty mother that I am…) or because she wants to wear odd shoes for nursery is not the end of the world. I now understand that a few tears here and there aren’t going to harm her. And it’s all character building, right?

 

  1. Been Selfish

I used to be the female equivalent to the ‘Yes Man’. I just never said no – like, to anyone. If someone wanted help, whether that be with a uni assignment, their decorating, their work, their babysitting or anything else it may be, I would say yes. I never felt able to say no to anyone, even when the saying ‘yes’ meant giving up my free time or time with my precious family. I’ve gradually, over the years, got a lot better at saying no. My boy got big in the blink of an eye. One day I was cradling him in my arms and the next he’s going out to town with his friends and about to sit his GCSEs. I have longed to go back in time and enjoy him being little for just a little bit longer. I now realise that if I had said ‘no’ more and been more selfish with my time, I would have spent more time with him. I was, by no means, absent from home on a regular basis but when you factor in full time work and all the other bits I said ‘yes’ to, it starts to eat in to the time that should be strictly reserved for family time.

This time I have said ‘no’ more and I have been extremely selfish with my time. I know how quickly my baby girl is going to grow up and I don’t want to miss a thing. If that means appearing like a bad friend, or a boring person who doesn’t have a life outside of her work and children, then I’ll take that. I’ll take that ten fold, because I want to spend every possible moment with my family. They make me happy.

 

  1. Been more ‘Present’

I’m not one of those people that ‘s about to launch in to a lecture about the effect our mobile phone usage is having on our children because a) I’m not judgmental and b) I would be being a complete and utter hypocrite because I’m quite fond of my phone myself. However, speaking from personal experience, I know how easily my phone can hook me in and before you know it, half an hour is passed and you’re not quite sure what you’re looking at or how you got there. I use my phone a lot – for work, for keeping in touch with friends and family, for my diary, for social media and for lots of other reasons. Whilst I acknowledge that I’m quite a heavy user, I also acknowledge that it takes you away from the moment you’re in. I didn’t realise until I went on a social media detox on holiday just how much I was missing by being on my phone a lot. Just like with the above, I know that my daughter’s childhood is going to fly over in a millisecond. I’m not prepared to miss that for anyone or anything. I am definitely more acutely aware of my phone usage when I am around the kids. Yes I’m glued to it once the kids have gone to bed but there’s no harm in that if that’s how I choose to spend my (very limited) free time. When my phone is off or away I am definitely more aware of what is going on around me, I’m more active in conversations with my Big Lad, I’m more able to concentrate on what he is telling me and I’m definitely more present in the moment with Little Miss.

 

 

  1. Been more grateful

After ten years of trying for our second child and battling with secondary infertility, we were always going to feel extremely blessed to have a second child. We have been blessed with two gorgeous children and I feel so incredibly lucky.

However, when we had our first, I was too young to realise just how lucky we were. I took the conception, the straight forward pregnancy and the healthy baby at the end of it all, all for granted. With Little Miss I have felt extremely blessed at every step of the way and her existence has made us even more aware of how lucky we are to have both our children. For a number of years we genuinely thought we weren’t going to have a second child. I’ve sat in the waiting room at the fertility clinic opposite couples without any children. That was an experience that instantly opened my eyes to how lucky we were to be parents at all.

Now we are a family of four, something that I never thought we would achieve, I feel like the luckiest woman in the world and I will never, ever, take either of my children, or the time I spend with them both, for granted.

 

So, you see, the second time around can be very different to the first. It’s no better or no worse to the first, but it can be very different. My only advice would be to relax, go with the flow and you will enjoy parenting so much more. It’s a tough gig, I get it. I have those moments where you just want to scream in to the abyss or sit in the corner of the room sobbing, rocking back and forth. But we get back up, and we get back up again for the gorgeous kiddiwinks in our lives.

How to Survive the First Year of Parenthood

How to survive the first year of parenthood….

So, as many of you know I have a 15 year old lad and a just over one year old little girl. Due to fertility issues it took us ten years to conceive our Little Miss and during that time we forgot it all. I forgot how small newborns were. We forgot how exhausting the sleep deprivation was. We forgot the timescales for weaning and immunisations. We forgot how much babies cost. We forgot EVERYTHING. The only thing we hadn’t forgotten was how to make a baby (and thank goodness for that!).

In a way, I think it was a purposeful loss of memory. Like all my brain cells got together and agreed ‘If she remembers how sheer bloody difficult it was, she might never want to do it again so let’s wipe her memory. Get rid of it all! The all-nighters, the projectile puking, the soggy shoulders, the I-haven’t-washed-my-hair-in-three-weeks look and every other tough time that they went through. Sayonara memories! Smell you later!”

Maybe it was for the best.

So when we were finally blessed with our Little Miss, it all came as quite a shock. Yes, we had been there before, but it was 14 years ago. It was a lifetime ago. A lot of the official guidance had changed so it was like having our first all over again. We were older (but certainly not wiser) and not as spritely as we had been with our first and having a high risk pregnancy followed by a special care baby placed us under pressure from the moment that little blue line changed our world.

I’ll tell you the punch line now though: it was so worth it. On many occasions over the course of the first year, it’s been tough. Like really tough. But never has ‘tough’ been so joyful, so full of love, so fulfilling.

 I’m no parenting expert (says the woman who has to bribe her one year old with a bag of Pombears, the top of a french stick and half a packet of chocolate buttons just to get round half of Asda) but thought I would share a few things we learned along the way:

  1. Pack a couple of different sized sleepsuits in your hospital bag. With my first (he was a whopping 9lb10oz so came out the size of a fully grown 3 year old) he was too big for newborn so needed the next size up and with my second, it was the opposite! She was far too small for newborn. I had lovingly chosen what was to be her ‘first outfit’ and all that went to pot when she was born so teeny. I ended up having to send my Hubby shopping for tiny baby sized clothes. I felt awful that I didn’t have something to put her in that fit her straight away. This wasn’t helped by the fact that my baby brain had led me to packing a hat for a 6-12 month old in my hospital bag. I ended up being given one of those nana-knitted wooly hats from the hospital to put on her when she was first born. I treasure it now though.
  2. Try and control your spending – this was something I was TERRIBLE at. I exercised no self control whatsoever but when I was handing over a black bag of brand new, tagged, unworn baby clothes to a pregnant friend, I sure wish I had. My baby would have had to remain at newborn size for three years to get through the wardrobe of clothes I had bought for her. I wasted so much money, which would have been far better spent on the boring stuff like nappies and wipes!

 

 

  1. Try not to romanticise the birth in your head – go in with an open mind, what will be will be. This is a biggie for me because both of my deliveries had their complications. I had an extremely difficult birth with my son which was incredibly traumatic and with my second it was an emergency section. So many mums visualise a boho-chic birthing-pool-with-whale-music-and-absolutely-no-pain-whatsoever- birth. Some mums get it. They are lucky. People like me don’t get that lucky! I think if I had gone in expecting a birth like that, I would have been extremely disappointed. All that mattered to me was that I had a healthy baby at the other end. I know that birthing experiences are very important to women – and so they should be – and women should absolutely have every say over how their birth is managed and planned. Unfortunately for me, both my deliveries went tits up but did it matter? No. My babies matter. They came through it, and that is all that matters.

 

  1. Take control of your first moments together – I learnt the hard way with my first. I welcomed every man, woman and child to meet my son when he was only a matter of days old. I soon felt really overwhelmed with it all. I resented handing my baby around all the friends and relatives for cuddles because I didn’t feel like I had even had a chance to enjoy those cuddles myself. With my second I was a bit of a Mum-Zilla. She was in special care for a while and quite poorly and I didn’t feel up to visitors. Nor was I ready to share her with anyone. We welcomed grandparents (and the cuddles, support and reassurance they brought with them) but we said no to everybody else. Once we got home, I still took my time before inviting friends and family around. I wanted time as a family. I wanted to close the doors on the world and just enjoy her. I wanted my Big Lad to adjust to having a baby sister without the doorbell going every half an hour. I think she was almost a month old before my best friend met her. I don’t regret it though. I’ll remember that time we had, feeling our way through becoming a family of four, forever. It was beautiful.

 

  1. Forget your usual standards. So, you used to have an immaculate home? You used to hoover on a daily basis? You used to make all meals from scratch? You used to put your make up on every morning? Whatever your standards were before having a baby, make no mistake that there is no shame in lowering them (and lowering them again) after having a baby. Becoming parents is the most beautiful gift. But it is bloody exhausting. For a while, you live in a bit of a bubble. A big, love filled bubble of loveliness. Then shit gets real. It has to get real, unfortunately. I would LOVE to spend the rest of my life in that love filled bubble but, and it’s an unfortunate but, life kicks in. The hubby goes back to work. The washing basket is overflowing. The fridge and kitchen cupboards are empty. Reality bursts that bubble and suddenly you are expected to do everything you did before having a baby, now with a baby. I remember on my hubby’s first day back to work after paternity leave, I tried to be the ultimate domesticated wife. I tried to make a hot pot for him coming home whilst feeding the baby and shushing her and hoovering and dusting then shushing some more. I ended up burning the tea. The hoover spit out crap instead of sucking it up because it needed emptying and I hadn’t even noticed. And the milk I had just lovingly fed my baby ended up being sprayed all over the sofa in a reflux inspired vomit sesh. Yup. Never have I ever looked less domesticated.

Just because the hubby went back to work and I was at home on maternity, I felt under immense pressure to be the all-singing-all-hoovering housewife. I put myself under pressure to have a homemade dinner ready for him coming home, a clean and tidy home, a freshly bathed and changed bubba for post-work cuddles and maybe even a dash of lippy on my chops. What he got instead was a warbling hormone crazed mother with vomit in her hair, a shit tip of a home and a burnt hot pot. Did it matter? No. Was he expecting anything different? No. Taking care of baby is a huge deal. It is bloody hard at times. Don’t be afraid to lower your standards while you feel your way in to motherhood. You’ll never look back on this time and say ‘I really wish I had kept my home tidier’ but you might think ‘I wish I had just lowered my standards and focused on me and my baby.’

 

  1. Trust your instincts. On a couple of occasions during her first year, I have felt, instinctively, that something has been wrong with Little Miss. I sometimes felt silly making a GP appointment ‘on a whim’ or phoning the Health Visitor for the 35th time that week to talk through something that I was sure was totally in my head. My GP told me to always trust my instincts. If you feel like something is wrong, don’t be afraid to say so or seek help. The consequences of not saying it could be too big.

 

  1. Sleep is a constant topic of debate amongst parents. Or, more like, lack of it. Sleep deprivation is hard. There are no two ways about it. And as much as I loved to steal extra night time snuggles, when you’ve been ‘night time snuggling’ for twenty three nights in a row with about 40 minutes of uninterrupted sleep, it gets wearing. I was the silly mother trying to be Super Woman, telling her husband to go back to sleep while I sort the baby out. I was worried that he wasn’t getting enough sleep for work. And, well, let’s face it, I’m on maternity leave, so I don’t need the sleep as much as he does. Right? Wrong. We all need sleep. I reckon even super duper survival expert Bear Grylls would agree with me. You’ve got to be in it together. It becomes impossible for one person to continually bear the weight of sleep deprivation. It leads to exhaustion, resentment, illness – it’s not good. Share the load. Do alternate nights, or alternate get ups. You’re in this together. Don’t try and be a Super Hero, just be you, be the best mum you can be whilst taking care of yourself also. You are no good to anyone if you end up collapsing with exhaustion!

 

  1. Take photos. Steal precious moments. Breathe it in. That might sound a bit airy fairy but believe me when I say that time flies. They aren’t small for long and that first year is really special. Even the evenings I spent pacing the floor with a baby who thought sleep was for the weak gave me the opportunity to steal precious moments. Holding her close to me, in the dark, in the silence, just me and her . Ok, I was an exhausted mess, but I consciously told myself that one day I will look back on that moment and want to relive it. So I held her a bit closer. I breathed her in. The smell of her, the soft touch of her skin, tracing her tiny fingers as they grasped mine. There is something to treasure in every moment.

 

  1. Don’t ever be afraid to ask for advice and don’t ever be afraid to ignore unwanted advice. Everyone thinks they are an expert when it comes to parenting. It is one of those topics that no one is ever going to agree on. We all have different ideas, different parenting styles, different ways of doing things. And thank goodness we do – it’s our differences that make us beautiful, after all. Get used to the idea that family, friends (and maybe even complete and utter strangers) will want to share their advice with you – even if you express no apparent need for it. Don’t take it personally. Listen to it if you like, consider it if you want to, but it is equally fine just to ignore the buggar and continue doing your own thing. My mother in law once mocked me for parenting my baby ‘as if I’d read a text book on it.’ I’m not sure what she meant by that. That I was trying my hardest to get it right? That I had done my research? That I was an uptight parent? I’m still not sure what she meant by it and she said it 15 years ago. But the look on her face when she said it definitely suggested that I was getting it wrong. I was only young at the time so it definitely knocked my confidence. Don’t give anyone that power. Parent the way you want to parent. By all means get support and advice but on your own terms – when you want it or need it – and forget everybody else.

 

  1. Finally, try not to compare your child to others. Both my babies have been slow at achieving the physical milestones like crawling and walking. With my first I actually lost sleep over the fact he wasn’t walking at 14 months. I would go to playgroups and see babies the same age as him whizzing around the place or see babies older than him at his nursery well ahead of him. I was convinced he was never going to walk. My Little Miss isn’t being much different either. She’s definitely got a bit of the lazy thing going on. I mean, why walk when you can flutter your eyelashes and get your big brother or daddy to carry you?! She’s a diva in a nappy. This time though I am so much more relaxed. Contrary to my fears, my Big Lad is not still crawling about at 15, he just walked in his own good time. Nothing good can come from comparing your child’s development to that of others. If you have any concerns about their development, it is best to see a professional for advice. Every baby is different, they will achieve milestones at different ages, they will grow and develop at their own pace. That doesn’t mean that there is anything to be concerned about. Just focus on your own little bundle and support them to learn and grow and flourish and they will get there.

I hope the above helps, even if just in a teeny way. Wherever you are in your first year, enjoy it. The joy our little treasures bring to our lives is just immeasurable. They are the most precious gift. Enjoy every moment. Even the poo and vomit filled ones.

Zero Sleeper to a Hero Sleeper!

How we went from a Hero Sleeper to a Zero Sleeper and Back Again

There is almost fourteen years between our first and our second child. We’d got past the sleep deprivation years ago with our first and so had been enjoying many years of lazy lie ins and good, decent nights’ sleep. So when our baby girl came along and brought sleep deprivation with her, it was a shock to the system. Of course, we knew it was coming so we had tried to prepare ourselves mentally for the situation but nothing can really prepare you for the twelve hour long scream-and snot-a-thons and the getting-up-to-put-the-dummy-back-in marathons that see you greet every single half hour on the clock through the night. I hate to digress but when is someone going to finally invent a contraption that keeps dummies in babies’ mouths? I for one would be screaming at Peter Jones from the other side of the telly to invest if someone took that invention into the ‘Den.

Having been through the sleep deprivation that the baby and toddler stage brought with it with our first, and having regained a better quality (and quantity!) of sleep, we desperately wanted to try and implement a healthy sleep routine for our Little Miss. Unfortunately this was impossible when she was first born due to her needing special care (I’m certain there is no night and day in special care – just lots of round-the-clock nurturing and care and lots of lovely, jolly Doctors and Nurses who do an incredible job regardless of the time of day) which saw her needing treatment round the clock. Once we got her home it was essential that we continued with that care and so we had to wake her through the night periodically for her medication. This really disturbed her and interrupted her sleep routine and so, for the first couple of months we just went with the flow. Once she was weaned off her medication though, that was when we really started to think about her routine and how we could promote a better quality of sleep for her (and us!).

Many years ago I did my training to become a qualified Baby Massage Instructor so I was aware of the benefits of using something like massage as part of a baby’s pre-bedtime routine. So, every night whether it was following her bath or her top to toe wash down, I would do some baby massage with her, with the lights low and any sounds down. I didn’t want her to become accustomed to needing silence to chill out and sleep so I was always very conscious to keep some noise going on but I kept it low enough to create a relaxing environment. Little Miss loved a bit of classical music when she was teeny so I used to play that sometimes when I massaged her. She wasn’t keen on lying on her front and being massaged but she did respond positively to lying on her back so I would massage her scalp, her face gently, and then move down slowly to her shoulders, arms, tummy, legs and all the way to her toes. I would always finish with the same stroke; using my two hands across her front and moving them towards each other in the shape of a heart. I would then quietly, and without much talk, slip her into her sleepsuit and give her her dummy and comfort blanket. I then gave her her evening feed and placed her down in her moses basket awake. I was really wary of getting drawn into the routine of having to rock/shush her off to sleep myself and I really wanted her to learn how to self soothe and get herself off to sleep. She did this really well and after looking around for a bit, her eyes would get heavier and heavier and she’d eventually drop off to sleep without any fuss.

It didn’t take long until she recognised this routine as being ‘bed time’ and I was really encouraged by the fact that she was able to get herself to sleep (which helped when she woke for night feeds because I could put her straight back down in the moses basket after a feed and she would go straight back to sleep which meant we weren’t up for long periods through the night) and she was soundly sleeping for sustained periods in between feeds. I was just starting to feel really smug thinking I had totally cracked it, when another month or two down the line she decided that she didn’t much like sleep on a night time anymore and decided that she was going to challenge the beautiful routine we had in place by constantly waking up all the time!

I was gutted. I really had thought that we had nailed it. She got poorly with a bad cold and she developed a night cough that disturbed her sleep terribly and I think, that because it went on so long, she just became accustomed to waking regularly through the night and then she wanted the comfort of a cuddle or a bit of the old ‘rock and shush’. We decided at that point to move her through to her own room. I wasn’t sure what else I could do to improve her sleep and I was acutely aware of the fact that my Hubby snores like a wild boar with a blocked nose so I did wonder whether he was disturbing her (as well as me!).

Things just deteriorated from this point. It got to the point that Little Miss would wake within half an hour of being put down on an evening and then I’d be back up there pacing the floors with her to get her back to sleep, then she’d be up again three or four times before we even made it to bed. Then the graveyard shift would commence and there were many, many nights where I spent more time pacing the floors of her nursery than I did in bed. This went on for months. She wouldn’t settle for my Hubby when he went through to see to her during the night so then I would go in to settle her (which was a big mistake because from then on she would only settle if I went in) and I would spend hours (I wish I was exaggerating but I’m not) and hours trying to get her back to sleep then transfer her in to her cot and exit the room like a stealthy ninja whose life depended on it (only with very creaky joints that like to creak at the most inopportune time). I sometimes hadn’t even made it back to my bed before she would wake again and start crying for me.

I know we all joke about sleep deprivation and we all know it’s coming when we have a baby but when I say I was sleep deprived and barely functional, I am not in any way exaggerating. I was surviving on a couple of hours sleep a night and most of that came from the naps I had when I was sat in the rocking chair in her nursery with her in my arms. I lost the capacity to think straight, to remember, to cope with the smallest of worries. I was an absolute mess. Throw in to the mix a return to full time work and I became ill with exhaustion.

It got to the point where I dreaded night time. I actually put off going to bed on an evening because I couldn’t face the thought of the up and down marathon that would start as a result. I would burst in to tears at the drop of a hat and I felt drained. I had no energy and no enthusiasm. I struggled with that in itself because I consider myself to be a positive and upbeat person most of the time (terms and conditions apply!). I started reaching out to friends and family for advice and I received a flood of ideas – some I knew instantly wouldn’t work with our Little Miss, and some I thought were worth a try. We tried things like the LUSH sleep cream, playing white noise, tweaking her day time naps and lots of other things to no avail. I also did my own research, scouring the internet for any advice or sleep aids that I could try with her. She was reaching one year old at this point and I worried that all of the advice I was reading seemed aimed at younger babies. I worried that we had ruined the possibility of getting her in to a positive sleep routine because she was too old. But both my hubby and I decided that we couldn’t not do anything because we couldn’t carry on with things the way they were.

We decided that we would try controlled crying with her. This wasn’t ideal for two reasons – firstly because her sustained crying would keep our eldest up through the night and he had school to go to in the morning and secondly because I’m the biggest softie to walk the planet and can’t bear to do nothing when she was crying. Her standing at the end of the cot and crying ‘Mama’ so I could hear it on the other side of the door was so hard. I know that this approach gets a mixed response from people. I totally get why some people can’t or won’t try it but I can equally understand why people do it and how they get good results from it. Our experience of it was initially quite bad. We did controlled crying for several hours one night, going in to reassure her every few minutes, lying her back down and so on but the second we left the room she was straight back up again and she almost made herself sick crying one night. It was awful. I know there are much worse things to experience in this world than your baby crying but I found it almost impossible.

We decided to attack the ‘all new and improved’ sleep routine from all angles. We cut out one of her daytime sleeps and we made a point of building in some good quality one to one (or one to two!) play time between collecting her from nursery and her going to bed through the week. I moved her bedtime story up to her room so we now have a story in dimmed lit room before her bed time bottle. We decided to take the leap and purchase a ‘My Hummy’ bear which plays white noise continuously for 60 minutes and has a sleep sensor so the white noise kicks in automatically if she stirs in bed and then it plays for another 60 minutes. I considered it quite an investment and considered buying one for a few weeks. Consequently we ended up ordering one at around 2am one morning when we were both stressed and exhausted and desperate to give anything a try. I had seen the positive reviews on Facebook so I was encouraged but I was concerned that my Little Miss was too old now to start using white noise. But I was desperate and thought anything was worth a try.

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I was concerned because she didn’t take an instant liking to the lovely bear called Filbert – in fact she kept giving it back to me. I don’t know why because it is a beautifully made toy and despite its sound function it is lovely and soft and light. I introduced it to her as a play thing as I had hoped she would connect with it but she was really disinterested. However, I was determined to give Filbert a whirl and give him a chance to make a difference. I placed Filbert in her cot and start the white noise immediately after we finish our bedtime story and just before I start her bottle. She is very sleepy by the time she gets to the end of her bottle and I place her in her cot. She still wakes after half an hour which is really frustrating, it’s almost as if she can’t get in to that deep sleep phase initially. She cries when she wakes but she settles a lot quicker with the white noise going. I go into her room and stroke her head for a minute or so then come back out. We’ve had to do a bit of controlled crying on an evening after she first wakes but she’s not getting half as upset as before with the white noise going on at the same time. We are in there three times maximum before she goes back over to sleep. This happens maybe once or twice on an evening before we’ve gone to bed at the moment; I suspect that despite the best will in the world to be as quiet as possible, the noise of us downstairs and the Big Lad in his room next to hers, she must be being woken by the odd noise here and there. Once we all go to bed she really settles now. She is up maximum once through the night but (and this is HUGE but – get the fanfare at the ready and start up the drum roll…) she has consistently SLEPT THROUGH for three nights now!!! I could never have imagined that introducing just a couple of minor changes could have such an incredible impact.

What a difference it makes too! She greets us with a beautiful smile on a morning because she is well rested and content and I’m not having mummy meltdowns on a daily basis because my brain is actually getting some rest! I appreciate that it is still very early days and I’m acutely aware that all it will take is for her to get a bad cold and it will throw us off course completely but I am feeling so much more confident about her sleep (and my sleep!). Life really is brighter when you’ve knocked out a few decent hours of zeds. It may have taken us a while to find a routine that worked for our Little Miss but now we have, I am strictly going to persevere with it against all the odds if she has a little relapse. As recently as just last night we were doing controlled crying at around 9pm, I was returning to her room every few minutes to lay her back down in the cot and tuck her back in and she was stood crying at the end of the cot. Every bone, brain and heart in my body was screaming at me to pick her up, cradle her in my arms and hold her close. It’s not easy seeing your little treasure upset. Luckily common sense prevailed and I realised we’re in this now – we’ve started this sleep routine, now it’s down to us to ensure that we continue to provide consistency for her. She was fresh out the bath in a freshly laundered sleepsuit and I literally yearned to pick her up and hold her. Then a moment of harsh reality kicked in: my Little Miss didn’t NEED me to pick her up and cuddle her. She might have wanted it, but she certainly didn’t need it. That was more of my need than hers. And it was her needs that mattered. She certainly wasn’t impressed when I simply laid her back down and left the room but within ten minutes or so she was flat out enjoying a lovely sleep – exactly what she needed more than anything.

It’s been a tough few weeks and the lack of sleep has challenged me physically and emotionally but I am so glad we decided to tackle the issue head on. The easy way out would have been to carry on dozing with her in my arms in her nursery but that wasn’t helping anyone. It’s good to just face these things head on and get the right result for our little cherubs.

One final thing, I’m acutely aware that this may sound like a bit of a sales-pitch-type-all-round-love-in for My Hummy. It’s not. I’m not being paid to write this post and my opinions and views are 100% informed by our own experiences of using it. The team behind the My Hummy bears are a bit spesh though. They deserve all the positive reviews and credit they receive. We are totally thrilled with the impact little old Filbert has had on our wee one.

2017: The Year in Reflection

I know I’m a bit previous with this but Little Miss is poorly at the moment so is sleeping even less than normal (who knew that was even possible?!) and if I become any more sleep deprived over the next couple of days I would worry that I would, very genuinely, not be able to string a sentence together, never mind making that sentence meaningful or semi-interesting.

Plus there’s naff all on the telly and I need to keep my mind (and belly) off the chocolate and wine that is taunting me from the fridge.

I think most people in the UK would agree that 2017 was a bit of a bastard. My hubby has notifications set up on his phone to bleep when there is breaking news. There was a time during 2017 where my heart literally sunk every time his phone beeped because every single time it did, it was to report something hateful, sad, violent or worrying.  The only time I noticed it bleeping with good news was on the announcement of Prince Harry’s engagement. I’m sure there were other bits of good news here and there but very generally it was a shitter of a year generally. I’ve spent far too many hours this year sat in front of Sky News with a knot and churning in my stomach as news stories unfolded live. I’ve read of too many deaths. I’ve heard of so much injustice. I’ve seen too much hate.

I’m not minimising any of the tragic incidents that have happened during 2017. There were some utterly horrendous events that were truly senseless in every respect. Those reckless events stole life. Changed lives. For many, those events altered the way we live our every day lives, and the thought patterns that we have in certain places or at certain times. Whether we were there witnessing it in front of our very eyes, or watching from the protection of a TV screen, those events have taken enough from us. They’ve taken innocent lives. They’ve taken our peace of mind. They’ve taken our right to feel safe. They’ve taken enough from us already; no way are they going to take the year.

To re-balance things I asked the lovely folk of Twitter what their highlight of the year was. The responses were heart warming. There wasn’t one response that was not family or home based. There were a lot of births of beautiful new babies, where 2017 marked the significant start of new life. For those mums, dads and the babies themselves, 2017 will forever mean the start of something so precious. That certainly helped tipped the balance back in the right direction. There were marriages; weddings that united soul mates in matrimony and the start of an incredible new life together. The year 2017 will forever be recorded on their Marriage Certificate as a year to go down in their own history. Then there were other lovely highlights like moving to a dream home in the country, the start of a new job that paid more, overcoming mental health struggles and so much more. For all of these lovely people, 2017 was more than a year of doom. They showed up and insisted on 2017 giving them something positive in the wake of such sadness and hate. For these wonderful people, 2017 will forever go down in their personal or family history for a good reason. Reading all these lovely tweets certainly helped me to focus on the positives that 2017 brought us.

On a personal level, 2017 brought me one gift in particular. This gift totally opened my eyes. It made me view things differently; in a different light or from a different angle almost. It made me process thoughts and emotions in a way I hadn’t really done before. Want to know what 2017 brought me? It brought me realisation.

This time last year one of my closest friends was enjoying the festivities with her wider family; her parents, her sister and all the grandchildren. They celebrated Christmas and New Year like every other year, paying tribute to the family traditions on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Not once did they ever consider that it would be their last Christmas as a whole family. Only 8 months later my friend’s father was diagnosed with a terminal illness and despite his courageous fight and infinite strength, he sadly died only a matter of months afterwards. This year, my friend celebrated Christmas without her father, her mother without her husband and her children celebrated without their grandfather.

2017 saw my Step Father have his own collision with his health. Following diagnosis and prior to further tests, there was a point where we too as a family were faced with the possibility of his life being significantly shortened due to a terminal illness. We were extremely fortunate that following further tests, the consultant reassured us that it wasn’t terminal. It was a diagnosis that would possibly change his life slightly, but he was alive and staying alive and for us, that was all that mattered. For those few terrifying weeks, it was like staring down a barrel of a shot gun (not that I have ever actually done that, obviously). It felt like every fibre of our being was tensed in anticipation of the shot: the bad news, the prognosis. It was exhausting. We couldn’t relax, not even for a second.  We discussed action plans with my Mum, she looked at her finances and discussed how she would cope alone. For a moment, although brief, we had to picture our lives without the man who had gone from being our step father to our Dad. It looked dark and it looked empty.

2017 took my biological father. Actually, I’m going to change that. 2017 didn’t take him. He decided to take himself, a result of sustained drug and alcohol misuse over a period of tens and tens of years. I wasn’t in contact with him so I didn’t and don’t feel his absence. As harsh as it sounds, he was never the father he needed to be for my sister and I. Not as children, and certainly not as adults. He was given second chances, third chances, fifty-fifth chances over the years and each time he would let us down. In the end, we voted with our feet and decided that we were no longer willing to accept being treat like that. I hadn’t seen him for a number of years before he died. I surprised myself in that I reacted to the news of his death with some grief, albeit limited. I was angry at myself for feeling grief. I couldn’t understand why I would be grieving for a man who did nothing but let his children down. It wasn’t too long before I realised that I was grieving for the father that he wasn’t. Not for the father he was. His death meant that I would never hear an apology from him; I would never hear him begging for forgiveness; nor would I ever hear him asking for another chance and promising to make a go of being a proper father this time. Now the chances of this happening were pretty much zero. In all the recent years I was estranged from my father he never apologised or begged for forgiveness. His style was more akin to the ‘I’ve done nothing to apologise for’ denial. But his death made that final. His death meant that he would never be the father I needed him to be. Even if had lived to 104 I know, in reality, he would never have been the father I needed him to be. It would just never have happened. But his death meant that there wasn’t even that possibility.

Perhaps harder was the timing of it all. My father and my friend’s Father died within weeks of each other. As I listened to my friend’s final moments with her Dad, and how they begged for even just one more hour together, I felt dirty. I felt dirty because my father had abused his life. He had been blessed with a life full of possibilities. He was from a middle class family, his mother a Teacher and his father a Mayor and politician. He could have been anything he wanted to be. Instead, he chose death. I say ‘choose’ because only he decided to walk down the road of drink and drugs. Nobody pulled him down that path, nobody enticed him down there; he wasn’t born in to it or pressured in to going down that path. He knowingly went in that direction and it was only ever going to lead one way. I know there will be many people who will disagree with me, and that’s totally Ok, I’m not saying that my take on the whole thing is gospel and truth but it is my truth and that’s the only truth I can give.

There was my friend’s Father, who had never smoked, never abused drugs, had the odd beer occasionally and had built an entire family filled with love, truly making a difference with his life; and there was mine – someone who had carelessly squandered his life away with every single drink he took. It didn’t feel fair. I was embarrassed and ashamed that my father would have such a lack of understanding of how valuable life was when so many would have given anything and everything for just one more minute here on Earth with their loved ones. I didn’t share my Father’s view on life and I certainly didn’t approve of the way he squandered it away but I still felt a sense of it being linked to me, a sense of it being my fault, a sense of me needing to acknowledge it, because of the bare fact that I was his daughter. His genetics make me part of who I am.

Not once do we ever think, as we sit down around the dinner table about to tuck in to our Christmas dinner every December, and cheers our drinks for the 104th time (because the kids love doing it with their little beakers! – or is that just our family?!), that a year down the road, our lives could be so changed that we might never re-live this moment with all those we love again. Or at least, I never had done.  I had never just closed me eyes and breathed in the fact that we were all together. I had never just stopped a moment and allowed the gratitude to wash all over me, realising how utterly blessed I was to be living in that moment.

2017 has brought me the realisation that nobody on this earth is guaranteed a tomorrow. I actually raised this with my family on Christmas day as I really felt like I needed to just tell them all, as one big group, how much that moment, and the whole day, had meant to me because we’d spent it together. Some of my family totally got it whilst others felt it was a little morbid. That’s not how I see this gift at all. I see that 2017 has brought me a gift that not everyone gets the benefit of experiencing. Not everyone experiences something in their lives that brings home that cold reality, that harsh realisation.

If nobody is promised a tomorrow, then we have to make the best of every single ‘today’. That doesn’t mean we have to write a bucket list and start abseiling down bridges or jumping out of planes; it is more about just being aware. Being aware of the moments that are everything; being aware of how blessed we are to share moments with our loved ones. It is about gratitude. It’s about never taking things or people for granted. It’s about taking in those special moments and breathing every inch of them in, savouring them in our memories for ever. It’s about not wasting time or energy – or life – arguing over who forgot to put the milk back in the fridge, who didn’t replace the toilet roll when it ran out, or who spilled chicken korma over the sofa. It’s about leaving this earth, whenever that may be (let’s hope it’s gazillions of years away yet)  with not a single regret. It’s about doing what you want to do (only if it’s legal like…), telling people how you feel, loving without reservation or hesitation, really living your life in every sense of the word: it’s about making the most of every single day of your life – and the lives of the people you love.

Before this realisation, I’ve always been one for using the new year as a fresh start. Whether that be for a diet, healthier living, about achieving more at work or whatever – I’ve always seen it as a point in the year to reflect on the year gone by and I have to admit that I can’t remember the last time I said ’This year has been amazing! Bring on another one like it!’ In fact, I’m not sure I ever have looked back on a year positively. I do remember, however, all the times I’ve said ‘I can’t wait for this year to be over with’ or ‘Good riddance to 20XX!’ for, in hindsight, seemingly insignificant reasons. I am now able to look upon the closing of this year and the coming of the new year in a completely different way thanks to the realisation that 2017 has brought me.

I have now realised that it doesn’t matter what does or doesn’t happen in a year. As long as I am transitioning out of one year and in to another with all of my loved ones around me then there is no ‘bad year’ or reason to bid it ‘good riddance’, because I am blessed. As long as I have all the people I love with me as I embark on the journey out of this year and in to the next, nothing else matters. It really doesn’t.

For that reason, I’m not even sure if I even want to do the ‘new year’ thing. This time I’m not celebrating the departure of a bad year and the arrival of the blank canvas of the new one and all the possibilities it might bring. Instead, I want to celebrate every single day just how lucky and how incredibly blessed and grateful I am to have the people I love around me.

I hope you transition in to the new year with all the people you treasure the most around you.

 

 

 

 

 

The final #ThisMum: A Day in the Life of Amy.

Well hello festive folks! I’m sure the festivities are in full swing where you are and that you’re getting up to some fabulous crimbo shenanigans! Although that word takes on a whole new meaning when you have to grow up and be Mum! My ‘shenanigans’ aren’t the same as they used to be! It may not be all rock and roll these days but, you know, I wouldn’t change a thing. The best thing about Christmas is being able to see it through the eyes of the kids. It takes on a whole new meaning, doesn’t it? The magic of it all is just so special. I love that for one day in the year we believe in the unbelievable, we embrace the unrealistic and we celebrate family. I know it can be a stressful time for us mums, but   it’s the best stress I reckon. Beats stressing about a looming deadline at work, or stressing that we’ve got two wipes left and a shit storm in a nappy to deal with. Christmas stress is totally acceptable. 

I’m hoping that maybe once the kids are tucked up, you’ve nibbled Santa’s mince pie and deposited the prezzies under the tree you’ll have a couple of minutes to sit down (with a baileys, maybe?) and enjoy the final #ThisMum post of the series. 

Our final #ThisMum is Amy from her blog, Amyjane and Baby. Amy has a gorgeous nine month old baby boy called Freddie. I love that name, Freddie! We were going to call our Little Miss, Freddie – if she’d been a Little Mister, obviously. Amy is a stay at home mum at present and is currently working on her blog. Amy starts with a really honest account of how difficult she found motherhood when Freddie was teeny tiny, explaining that Freddie had silent reflux. I could really relate to this because our Little Miss was exactly the same. I’ve been showered in warm projectile vomited milk more times than I care to mention. I too struggled during it all. My Health Visitor was very dismissive at first. I felt like I was going mad, like I was the only one noticing that my baby girl wasn’t right, that something was wrong. I used to video her after feeds to evidence to the health visitor and GP that something wasn’t right. Eventually they got to the bottom of it and as soon as we changed her milk everything started looking up. 

A lot of mums are reluctant to admit when they are struggling. For fear of judgement, I guess. I’ve had my fair share of run-ins with judgemental folk. It does encourage you to be more tight lipped about your struggles but we should all feel able to be honest, like Amy. It is this denial that causes mums to feel inadequate or a failure, because nobody else speaks out about how tough it can be having a new baby. I know blogging has certainly helped me to be more open about my honest feelings. I can’t thank Amy enough for being so open and allowing us in to her life for a day. It sounds like Amy and Freddie have such a lovely routine going where Freddie gets to spend one on one time with both Mum and Dad. That’s something we need to pay more attention to, I get lots of one on one time with the kids but a lot of the time the kids spend with my hubby are when we’re all together and like Amy says, it is important for Dads to have one on one time too. 

Without any further a do, here’s a day in the life of Amy:

On reflection, it probably took me until Freddie was over six months old to feel properly settled into Motherhood. We had a rough start. At six weeks old Freddie was diagnosed with Silent Reflux and although it breaks my heart to say this, it really tainted the first five months or so. Having a baby that screamed for long periods, wouldn’t lie in his pram and breastfed near enough constantly amongst other things made me doubt whether I was a good Mum or not. Since the Silent Reflux began to go away at around six months, Freddie and I have slowly settled into a routine. I can say with complete honesty now, that I love being Freddie’s Mum and apart from the occasional (and completely normal!) self-doubting moment, I know I am a good one. Here is a day in our life!

Freddie is my first baby and he is now nine months old. I had him when I was twenty-five which seems to be ‘young’ by the current standards. G (my husband) and I have been together on and off since we were fifteen and had settled into life together when I was around twenty so I felt ready. Although I don’t think you can ever really feel ready for a tiny whirlwind to turn your life upside down! I currently stay at home with Freddie whilst G goes to work. I am not sure I will return to my current job but I do know that I personally need something else on top of being a Mum, in order to feel fulfilled.

Our day starts around six-thirty/seven when Freddie wakes up- sometimes earlier! My husband takes Freddie downstairs and they have breakfast together and a bit of a play before G leaves for work. I tend to stay upstairs during that time savouring my morning coffee because I think it is important for the boys to spend some time together on their own too. After G leaves for work, Freddie and I have a bit of playtime and I also try and pop up a post on social media because Instagram is a guilty pleasure of mine!

At around half nine it is time for Freddie’s first nap, it is a short one because I wake him after around half an hour otherwise he won’t nap properly at lunchtime! I try and use this time to get ready because Freddie is currently obsessed with my beauty products etc and I have to watch him like a hawk! I will try and squeeze in a second coffee during his nap as well.

Waking Freddie up at around ten is one of my favourite parts of the day. I get to sneak in and watch him sleep- a bit creepy I know – and then enjoy sleepy cuddles together! I get him ready for the day around this time too. I am obsessed with baby boy clothes and Freddie has a far better wardrobe than I do. Baby Zara, Marks & Spencer and Next are my favourite places to pick up new clothes for him.

The time between his morning nap and his lunchtime nap is generally used for popping out to do errands, see friends or do a class. For the first eight months or so Freddie would be content with just people-watching at Tesco but now that he is crawling and pulling up he wants to explore! We do a Baby Sensory class which he absolutely loves and it is the one class I would highly recommend!

After Freddie has had his lunch, and deposited lots of it on the floor/tried to feed our two cockapoos, it is time for his second nap. Another highlight of my day is reading stories to him before his nap although at the moment he likes to sit on the book which makes it slightly challenging… I also use the time before his nap to potter around the upstairs trying to get some sort of semblance of order. With two dogs and a nine month old, I feel like I spend most of my time tidying up!

Freddie is generally asleep for around two hours so I take that opportunity to work on my blog. I started my blog five months ago and it has really helped me to feel like I have something for myself again. Over the last few weeks, it has started to grow a bit which is so exciting and has really motivated me to keep going. I love writing, I always have. It is so cathartic to share my experience on my little corner of the internet and connect with other Mums as well.

Once Freddie is up, he has a little play and then we head out on a dog walk. When Freddie is having a screamy day, taking him out in the pram with the dogs really seems to settle him. He loves facing out and watching the dogs run around and it helps me to get some fresh air. The rest of the afternoon is a it of a blur of trying to tackle our washing mountain, making Freddie’s tea and then beginning the bedtime routine.

Usually by Freddie’s bedtime, I am ready for a bit of a break. G doesn’t get home until around half six most days so up until recently, he didn’t get to see Freddie before he went to bed. Now that Freddie goes to bed at seven, G gets to have a cuddle before bed which I know means a lot to him. We always go upstairs a while before bedtime so he can burn off any energy by crawling around and getting into everything he shouldn’t… I use this time to pop some comfies on too!

Freddie has a very strict bedtime routine and has had the same one for several months now. To be honest, I think it was more for me than him at the beginning because I needed something to follow when I was finding everything very overwhelming. We do a massage with a special song, then read some books together, he has a final feed and I pop on some white noise. Nowadays he goes to sleep without much of a fuss which is a huge relief because having a bedtime battle at the end of a hard day is tough!

In the evenings, G takes over. He will cook us dinner and make me a cup of tea whilst I crack on with some more blogging stuff. I am trying to go to bed earlier at the moment because sometimes I lose track of the time enjoying the peace and quiet! Freddie is usually up for a feed around 4am but lately it has been a bit later which is a real treat.

Now that I have read it back I am not sure if our day is particularly interesting but I have enjoyed sharing it with you nonetheless. I would love to see you over on my blog soon and thank you very much for letting me share my day with you!

 

Freddie sounds like such a gorgeous boy and I loved all the opportunities that Amy has built in to his daily routine to enjoy songs, books and stories. If you enjoyed this (and I know you definitely did!) then you should go and check out Amy’s blog! You can find it here

If you’re one of these super trendy ‘insta types’ then you can look Amy up on instagram here! I am ashamed to admit that I have never tried Instagram. I know I definitely should for the sake of the blog but I feel a bit over the hill for it. I feel old when I see instagram photos and screenshots. I’ve just got to look in the mirror to feel old like so it’s not just Instagram’s fault I’m getting the pensioner feels! I really need to check it out, I know. I’m going to make an effort to enter the world of instagram in the new year. If you’re already making insta waves, keep an eye out for a lost soul in 2018 and give me a wave! (can you wave on Instagram?! I genuinely have no idea…)

And finally, you can check Amy out on Twitter here ( a platform I’m far more accustomed to!) A HUGE thanks to Amy for being so patient waiting for her guest blog post to go out, it was definitely worth waiting for and I have absolutely loved having Amy involved.

And with that, it’s a wrap! Like, it’s the end! I feel a bit emosh. How ridiculous is that?! It’s not like I’m picking up an oscar and doing my acceptance speech!! I’m emotional thinking of all the lovely Mums who have taken time out of their (very) busy lives to be part of the series. Whether we are a working mum, stay at home mum, a single mum – all mums are busy people. It’s the nature of the job; so I know how valuable time is. You can’t put a price on time when you’re a busy mum. I appreciate so much that all my fantastic guest bloggers have used their precious time to write a fabulous post for the series. As a relatively new blogger it has been a brilliant way to meet fellow bloggers and make connections, building friendships. I know that on a personal level this series has meant a lot to me. Reading about the days and feelings of other Mums has reassured me that I’m not the only mum feeling this, or doing that. Whilst we all lead very different lives, we have one huge thing in common: motherhood – and it’s bloody hard sometimes! Reassured by other posts, I know even more so now than ever that bad days come with the territory, that none of us are perfect and nor should we strive to be, we’re all doing our best.

I really hope that you have enjoyed the series as much as I have. I can’t thank every single Mum who guest blogged for me, enough. You are beautiful people and I wish you a very Merry Christmas. Looking forward to catching up on all your blogs over the Christmas hollibobs!

Now! Go and get yourselves another Baileys! You’ve earned it!

 

A Day in the Life of #ThisMum: Jen from Life-Milk Blog

Hi folks, I hope you’re all having a fabulous weekend and enjoying the lead up to the festivities. I can’t actually believe we are so close to Christmas! This time next week and the main event is in touching distance! We braved town yesterday to get a couple of last minute bits (if I spend any more money on this Christmas please feel free to hit me round the chops with a wet spanner…) and before going I was dreading it. Who is stupid enough to go in to the city centre, a week before Christmas, with a one year old (who, by the way, isn’t much of a fan of shopping) whilst feeling very hormonal? Me. That’s who. I thought it would be hell on earth. Mainly, because it’s bad enough to be in a wheelchair in a busy place (constantly apologising for catching people’s ankles on the wheels or constantly pleading with people to actually see me and let me past, you know, that sort of thing) but being in a wheelchair with a baby sitting on your knee a week before Christmas sounded like a pretty bad plan to me. But we had to go, I’d left it too late to order the stuff online – ‘my bad’ (isn’t that what the young’ens say these days?!). Anyway, we went and what started as a ‘we’ll dash in, get what we need and dash out’ trip ended in us staying there all day. It was actually really lovely. Yes, it was busy – it was heaving in fact. But it was heaving with lovely people generally. We got stopped by a couple of people in the street who were handing out christmas cards and chocolates to the passers by – there was a slightly religious theme to the card but what a lovely gesture. My Little Miss is going through a phase of saying ‘Hiya’ to EVERY single person that she sees – regardless of whether they look friendly or not. Lots of people stopped to say hi back, squeezing her little hands, or patting her on the head. Even the ones in a hurry said hello back and smiled as they hurried past us. There were buskers in the street singing festive songs (and one very heavy rock singer who wasn’t quite so festive but, you know, not everyone wants to sing Wham or Mariah Carey at Christmas time) and shop staff dressed up as jolly elves greeting the children that entered the shops. It was lovely; it was a nice time to be a human. And we got everything we needed so I am now officially DONE! Hallelujah! I still have to wrap it all like but hey, details details…..

I have been so excited about sharing today’s #ThisMum post with you all. It is by Jen from the Life-Milk blog and she has very kindly allowed us in to her life for a day as part of this series. I tweeted many times to invite lots of fabulous mums to join in and participate in the #ThisMum series and, to my knowledge, Jen was the only single parent to respond. I’m so pleased that we have been able to feature a single mum. I come from a single parent family; my mum was a single mum after my Dad left when my sister and I were little. I know from first hand experience that being a single parent can be challenging. I say ‘can be challenging’ because I don’t want to make any rash generalisations because every family is different but i know on a personal level that there were times when being a single mum was really hard on my Mum. After reading Jen’s post I instantly found her inspirational. Her love and dedication to her daughter comes across loud and clear and the relationship between Jen and 9 year old Kourtney sounds really really special. I won’t spoil it for you by giving away any further spoilers and I’ll let you read it for yourself. You are going to love this one just as much as I did, I know it!

Hello Everyone,

My name is Jen and I am a 28-year-old single mother to my gorgeous 9-year-old daughter, Kourtney. I currently work part-time for a local authority in corporate services as a Marketing Business Development Executive. My usual day is quite full on as I juggle it all alone and although it can get very overwhelming at times, I am definitely used to it.

My alarm clock is Kourtney… I rarely set an alarm as I can guarantee that she will wake me up before it goes off! I would say that my usual day starts any time between 6 and 6.30am, with Kourtney delving into my bed for cuddles. We have an extremely tight bond as it has just been me and her for the last five years. We lay there for about 10-15 minutes, just chatting about anything and giving each other squeezes. Sometimes it is nice and other times annoying as I could do with the extra minutes sleep… ha-ha.

Once we have finally left my bed, we will brush our teeth and wash our face in the bathroom sink. As Kourtney is nine, she is at the age where she will wash and dress herself. Whilst she showers, I will go to the kitchen and make my first hot drink of the day, this can vary from coffee to green tea… depends whether I am on a detox or extremely tired. I try to sit at my dining table for at least 5 minutes with my hot drink, to gather my thoughts and enjoy the peace, I get whilst Kourtney is getting ready. After that, I am literally gulping my tea/coffee at any chance I can get before, we have to leave out. I always make Kourtney a glass of water and leave it on the side for her as she is usually quite thirsty, when she first wakes up.

Depending on the time we have got up, at around 7.15/30am, I have my shower whilst Kourtney is now getting dressed. Kourtney likes to listen to a times table song when she is getting ready, which has a really annoying excited tune that’s far to elaborate for these zombie hours. However, I embrace it as best as I can, because I know it is beneficial.

Once I am out of the shower, I immediately get dressed and do my hair and makeup. By this time Kourtney should be ready (she operates slower than a snail,) and then I will do her hair unless she already has it in a style in from our hairdresser. Breakfast is next and I have usually prepared it from the night before… this ranges from pancakes to toasties – my daughter isn’t really a cereal kind of child. I try my hardest to not skip breakfast but I would be lying, if I said it didn’t happen from time to time. When we have finished breakfast, I collect the lunches from the fridge as I always make them the night before as well. We pack our bags, get our shoes and coat on… and were ready to leave!

This September, Kourtney started a new school which is forty minutes away and we travel by car. Kourtney always reads to me for ten minutes of the journey, apart from weekends. We discuss what she has read before turning on BBC Radio2 for the remainder of our car journey. We always arrive at Kourtney’s school about 5-10 minutes before the school bell rings as I hate rushing and can’t deal with feeling hot and flustered. School starts at 8.45am, however Kourtney’s teacher will let them in class from 8.35am – this is handy for me as it gives me extra travel time to get to work.

Once I have kissed Kourtney ‘goodbye’ and seen her off, I get back into my car and make my way to work. I went part-time as of October, this year and so my working hours are 9.30am to 2.30pm every day. If traffic is on my side, I can get to work in thirty minutes from Kourtney’s school BUT, if it wants to be a sod then it can take forty five minutes to get in. My best friend always calls me at 8.50am, as we have both dropped our kids by then and we have a catch up and gossip until one of us reaches work. I park my car, ten minutes away from work as it is free parking (YASS) and I do love walking anyway.

 

Although I am not in my chosen career, I do enjoy what I do plus it is my time to be my 28 year-old self without a child in tow. As I mentioned before, I am a Marketing Business Development Executive and my role involves running campaigns and maintaining a relationship with our clients across the United Kingdom, through various platforms. I consider myself to have a very good work ethic and as I am the only one in my role, I have a daily hefty workload to manage. I have both a photo of Kourtney and a drawing, which she made for me on my desk. It is my daily reminder for me, to never give up and to always work as I want to be the best role model for my princess.

My day goes super-fast now I am working part-time, I usually have at least two meetings day and 50 odd emails that I aim to respond to within the same day of receiving it. I do have the option to work from home but I only do it, if I need to i.e. Kourtney is sick or it is the school holiday. I write a to-do list at the start of the week which usually increases as the week commences; however I do aim to complete everything by Friday or I will end up switching on my laptop on the weekend and doing work.

 

I leave the office between 2.30 and 2.40pm and head straight to Kourtney’s school. I absolutely adore being able to do the normal school as previously she attended after school club and collection was at 6pm. Most days we head straight home as I like to keep Kourtney in routine as much as possible, apart from Wednesdays as she has gymnastics after school. When we arrive home at 4pm, I immediately empty and wash Kourtney’s pack lunch box, whilst Kourtney unpacks her school bag and changes out of her uniform. Hold on… actually I remove my bra as soon as I get in – I despise them!!!

Once we have sorted ourselves out, I prepare a healthy snack for Kourtney which will range from fruits to oatmeal bites. We have a catch up about our days and then we either crack on with home learning or free play dependent on the day. As Kourtney attends Saturday school and I am preparing her for an independent or grammar school for her secondary education, it is very important that we do home learning 3-4 times a week. We do home learning or free play for one hour and then it is dinner time. Obviously, my days don’t run as smooth as I would always like it to but hey… that’s life!

 

The time is usually about 6/6.30pm when we have finished dinner and I always wash up straight away to avoid a huge pile up whilst Kourtney gets into the shower. I will also make our breakfast and lunches at time so any hot food has a chance to cool before they go in the fridge. Once I have finished giving the kitchen a quick whizz, we are settle on the sofa to read for ten minutes and do our peak & pit – a concept I introduced to describe the highlight and downfall of our day. We have a discussion on what we have read and then myself of Kourtney, records our comments in her reading record. This will usually take thirty minutes in total and the time will be roughly between 7 and 7.30pm. Kourtney goes to bed at 8pm and will tidy her room and get all her things by the door ready for the next day.

 

Once I have kissed Kourtney ‘goodnight’ and seen her off to bed… IT IS OFFICIALLY ME TIME!!! Although, I would say it is 50/50 of me getting to enjoy the things I like doing. Sometimes, I can kick back and watch a movie with a glass of wine or chinwag on the phone to a friend; but other times I am either doing work on my laptop or cleaning somewhere in my gaff (no rest for the wicked.) I always have a bath before bed as I like to feel fresh and relaxed as possible before I go to sleep. Once I am fresh as a daisy, I delve into bed about 10/10.30pm and aim to be asleep, at the latest 11pm, ready to do it all again the next day.

 

Links:

Email: LifeMilk@mail.com

Blog: Life-Milk.com

Insta: LifeMilk_

Twitter: LifeMilk2016

Told you you’d love it! Thank you so, so, SO much for guest blogging for me, Jen. I have really loved working with you. I’m going to steal Jen’s ‘Peak and Pit’ concept – what a fabulous way to get children engaging in conversation over the dinner table! Hopefully using Jen’s fab idea I’ll get more than a very grumpy ‘I dunno’ answer to every question I ask my teenager about his day! Massive thanks to Jen for sharing her life with us for a day; before you do anything else give Jen’s blog a visit, you will LOVE it! You can find it here

I’ll be back on Tuesday with yet another fabulous mummy and the #ThisMum series will wrap up a week today with another fantastic post to close the series. It’s been an amazing project to work on and I have met so many fabulous, inspirational mums as a result.

A Day in the Life of #ThisMum: Amy

Ola! It’s that time again folks! This time it’s the turn of Amy from ‘The Rolling Baby’ blog. Amy has a beautiful baby girl and is giving us an insight to an average day in her life. She’s currently on maternity leave so it was really lovely to read about how she and her little one spend the days together. I loved that every week they have dedicated time to spend with the baby’s grandparents – they aren’t small for long and sharing the precious first months and years with family is really special – for both them and the baby! My mum lives a good fifty minute or so drive away from me so still relatively local but she doesn’t live close enough for me to just pop in unannounced. She gets so much joy out of spending time with both my children and they absolutely love seeing her. Even my Big Lad, who turns 15 in January, will continually ask to stay over at Grandma’s or to go and see her. He gets absolutely spoilt by her – there’ll be popcorn, sweets, ice cream on the go – the lot! But I love that they have such a close relationship. I know not everybody has grandparents so I feel very blessed to still have two of my grandparents around and that my children have grown up with two grandfathers and a grandmother. Not everybody has that luxury these days and it’s something I won’t ever take for granted. 

Without any further a-do, let’s open the door on a day in Amy’s life!

Little one usually wakes up somewhere between 6:30 and 7:30am. My other half will usually change her nappy while I get her milk ready, then I’ll feed her while he gets ready for work and takes our dog for a walk.

An hour to an hour and a half after first waking up and after daddy’s gone to work, little one will have her first nap of the day. During this time, I grab the laptop and a cup of tea and will blog, catch up on what I’ve missed on Twitter and join a linky (or two!) I usually put either Emmerdale or Coronation Street on in the background too, but have to quickly turn the volume down when the theme music comes on otherwise it wakes up baby.

When little one wakes up, I’ll prepare a breakfast of porridge for us both. Then, we’ll head back upstairs and get ready. Being on maternity leave means we have real lazy mornings and by the time we’ve dressed and ready for the day it’s usually late morning.

From there I’ll do a few chores such as the washing and putting the drying up away from the previous evening’s dinner. We often then go for a walk around the block. It’s not far but it gets us out of the house and some fresh air into our lungs for half an hour or so and the dog loves it! I’ve got a shopping bag clip which I use to attach his lead to the stroller so I don’t have to worry about him running away.

Two days a week we spend the afternoon at my mums. We have lunch there, a catch up, a bit of play and little one generally falls asleep while cuddling her nanna. I usually use this time to do a bit of shopping on my phone – it’s mostly Christmas shopping at the moment, but I also throw things in my online Asda trolley too. When my dad gets back from work, he has around half an hour with little one before we head home to see daddy, have dinner and get to bed.

On the days we don’t go to my mum’s, we mostly potter around the house. Sometimes we’ll go out to the shops – we love a little wander around B&M and it usually sends little one to sleep. I also try to squeeze in an exercise DVD as I’m trying to get fit and lose my baby weight. We play fetch with the dog a lot as little one loves laying on her tummy on the floor so she’s face to face with him and it really makes her laugh.

My other half gets home around 6pm and I try to have dinner ready for then, although it is baby permitting! We’ll eat, give little one a bath and get her ready for bed. She then has her milk before I lay her in her cot and read her a story. From here anything can happen! We encourage her to stay in her cot for as long as possible, but at the moment we’re going through a ‘I’m not sleeping until at least 10pm‘ stage, so when she starts kicking and screaming we usually end up taking her out and rocking her to soothe her.

If we’re lucky we’ll then squeeze in a bit of TV before heading to bed, ready to do it all again the following day!

Ahh, thank you so much Amy for being involved and for guest blogging for me. I have to thank Amy also for being such an all-round-lovely-person too – whenever I take to Twitter to blow off some (digital) steam or I grumble on about not getting any sleep or about the time I’ve spent picking boogas out of my Little Miss’ nose, Amy is always there with something lovely to say. She is so supportive and it is appreciated loads. 

Reading about Amy’s days on maternity leave brought back fond memories of mine. It feels like it was years ago but it was only this time last year. One thing that Amy manages in her day that I didn’t most days was to get dressed and get out! I’m no mathematician but I think it would be pretty bang on to guesstimate that I spent at least 75% of my maternity leave in my Pyjamas, with no make up on and my hair pulled (very roughly) in to the ultimate of mum-buns. The days were never very organised or routine but we bumbled through it, the two of us, enjoying the time together. In the early days I would stress about the state of the house, the never-ending pile of washing and ironing, the lack of time to prepare meals in advance (looking back I’m not entirely sure what I WAS doing mind, she slept for the best part of 3 months!) and the list went on. The best piece of advice I was given was from a friend who told me ‘With a baby you have to lower your standards for everything else, then lower them again’ and I totally got that. Having a newborn baby – any baby – changes everything – your pre-baby routine, your energy levels, your priorities – the lot. It is impossible sometimes to keep all the plates spinning just as fast and efficiently as you did before. I gave myself a bit of a tough time at first over not managing to be the ultimate house wife whilst on maternity leave but my friend was right. As long as the baby is warm, fed, loved and the house is relatively clean (you’ll note I didn’t say ‘tidy’ – my house was never tidy for a number of months!!!) that is what matters. The moment I stopped giving myself a hard time over the absence of any ‘Super Mum’ qualities I started to focus on, and enjoy, the time I had with my Little Miss and now I’m looking back on it, I’m so glad that I did that because it does go over so quick and you can never get that time back again.  It sounds like Amy is a lot more organised than me and that they have a great routine going, it sounds like Amy and her Little One have wonderful days, and that’s what it’s all about.

You can keep up to date with Amy and what she’s up to via her blog therollingbaby.co.uk You will love it so make sure you give it a visit! The #ThisMum series continues on Sunday evening with an amazing guest post written by Jen from the Life-Milk blog. I’m really excited about sharing it with you because for one it is utterly brilliant and secondly, we are yet to feature a single mum and Jen very kindly let’s us take a look at an average day in her life as a single mum to a beautiful nine year old daughter. It’s definitely a post you don’t want to miss so keep your eyes peeled for it on Sunday! Until then my lovelies, have a fabulous week!

A Day in the Life of #ThisMum: The Cuckoo Mama

Well hello again lovely peoples! These Sundays are coming round so quick! It literally feels like two minutes ago I was saying the same this time last week! We’ve had a lovely day today – we did nothing fancy or exciting, it’s been a day of simple pleasures. My husband and I did a bit of a tag team spring clean of the house (Little Miss doesn’t ‘do’ playing independently at the moment – we’re in the throes of a very clingy phase!) so one of us would entertain LM and the other do some house jobs and then swap over! It gave us both the opportunity to sit and play with her and get some quality time with her. Once the house was all spruced up, the teen joined us to put up the Christmas tree. Decorating the tree was a lot more chaotic than it’s been for a number of years now but with a baby on the move now joining us, it was bound to be! She spent most of the time sat in the cardboard box that the tree came out of but she had a great time! I love that my Big Lad, although almost fifteen, still gets so excited about the things we do together. He must have asked us a gazillion times this morning ‘How long until we do the tree?’ and although it started to feel a bit like the ye olde favourite ‘Are we nearly there yet?’ question, I absolutely adore the fact that he still wants to join in with this sort of thing. I really hope that continues in years to come.  Once the Christmas tree was up, we got in our jim jams, stuck movies on the box and snuggled up on the sofa in the warm glow of the Christmas tree lights. As if all part of the plan, it started snowing outside and within ten minutes our estate was covered in a blanket of bright white snow. This afternoon was totally what Christmas is all about for me: time together. Despite it being nothing particularly ‘exciting’ I refuse to ever take days like today for granted. I know how blessed I am to be here, to have a lovely family, a nice warm house and love between us. We are so incredibly lucky.

Anyway, enough about my family; let’s move on and find out all about the Cuckoo Mama’s! I am so thrilled that the lovely Cuckoo Mama wanted to be involved with the #ThisMum series and I am so grateful that she has written a fantastic guest blog, allowing us an access all areas pass to an average day in her life. Carolyn, the lovely lady behind the Cuckoo Mama blog, is mum to a two year old boy called Sam. Sam sounds like a lot of fun, and Carolyn’s love for Sam totally pours out through her writing. It sounds like Carolyn has a fantastic routine in place which offers Sam so much. They manage to cram in so much fun in one day! Life sounds busy but I admire Carolyn so much as it sounds like she’s got a fantastic routine that ensures Sam gets plenty of fresh air, time out of the house, time to socialise and play with other children and lots of fun time with Mum and Dad too. As I read her post, I found myself thinking about the limited time I have with my Little Miss through the working week. I pick her up from nursery around half past four and she’s grumpy and tired from being at nursery all day, she doesn’t really want to play, she cries during her bath because she’s so tired and she’s really unsettled all the way to bedtime – which is around half six. I don’t feel like there is any scope for ‘quality time’ with her Monday through to Friday which really weighs heavy on me. I sneak away from work early from time to time in a bid to secure a couple of extra hours with her when she’s actually got the energy to enjoy some time together but these occasions are few and far between due to work commitments. I really admire and envy the time Carolyn has with Sam. I am absolutely sure that as with anything with motherhood, it isn’t easy sometimes and I bet it can be tiring but what a happy little boy Sam must be to have so much fun with his Mummy! Read all about it here:

I’m Caro, mama to Sam, who turned two in September. I’m a full time, stay at home, mum and opted to do so due to the incredibly long time it took us to get Sam, plus Southern Rail’s ongoing industrial action, which meant a return to my commuter trains was set to be incredibly unpredictable and, with no local family to help out, wasn’t really going to work.

 

So how does my typical day go?

 

Life in the Cuckoo household tends to be busy, relaxed and altogether a little bit bonkers! We usually rise around 7.30am and start the day with a spot of milk in bed and a few books. It’s then in to the shower for a quick rinse with a toddler banging on the door wanting me to hurry up, get downstairs and play with Thomas and Percy! Well, who am I to argue with that?

 

As my husband is now home based, we’re really fortunate that most days we get to breakfast together. For us this is a real luxury as we spent years commuting, in to London, and were slightly like passing ships some weeks. We did worry we might get sick of the sight of each other, us both being at home, but that hasn’t happened yet – luckily he travels a fair bit too!

 

We start the day, come rain or shine, with a pup walk! Pepper pup is also two and we, somewhat crazily, welcomed her in to our family just a couple of months before Sam joined us. They are best friends and I can’t imagine one without the other! Sam is very gentle and loving towards Pepper and she is very patient with him; she’ll even push his trains around the track with her nose when he needs an extra playmate! Sam loves being outdoors and wearing his wellies so he, mostly, never complains at our morning walk, although, as he is now two, tantrums can come out of nowhere!

 

Once we’ve walked Miss P, Sam and I usually rush around trying to get ready to head out to a play group or play date or other activity. I’m aware that, as Sam doesn’t go to a nursery, it’s good for him to socialise with lots of other children and I’ve found some truly lovely play groups and wonderful mums and dads. We’re currently trying to learn how to share, I’ll let you know how that one goes!

 

We then head back home for a spot of lunch and Sam goes down for his nap. I’d love to say, that during the couple of hours he sleeps, I use this time to be Super Wife; blitzing the house, preparing meals and, in the words of the Fat Controller, being a Really Useful Mama… Whilst this sometimes does happen, I usually use naps for blogging, catching up on admin and, I’m really ashamed to say this, but the last few weeks have been used for catching up on Vampire Diaries season 8, please don’t judge! Nap times are also great as I get to pee on my own! I can’t tell you how nice it is to “go” in peace, without a toddler pulling the chain mid way through, or having a melt down because I used some toilet roll – yes that actually happened!

 

When Sam wakes, it’s snack time and then we’re off out to walk Pepper again. We’ll sometimes take her to the park so that she can be exercised and Sam can play, although trying to keep eyes on the pair of them as they run off in different directions can be interesting! It is lovely raising dog and child together but rainy days can feel tough. There are a lot of additional clothes and towelling down, to take care of, but on the plus side; there are mud and puddles! Things Sam loves stomping through and, strangely, Pepper not so much!

 

Once we’re back from our second walk it’s then in to the whole tea time and bed time routine. We have dinner around 5.30pm and then head upstairs at 6.15pm for a spot of “bed tunnel”. Bed tunnel is an incredibly sophisticated game involving getting as many toys, as possible, under our duvet, a Sam, a daddy, when he’s home, and a mama in there too, so that we can sing songs, crawl around making animal noises and generally make a huge mess of the bed! It’s amazing what we find in there when we actually go to bed ourselves; Thomas the Tank Engine was under my pillow last night!

 

It’s then time for a shower and a spot of quiet, naked play (for Sam, not us!) whilst he has his bedtime milk and stories. Sam’s just started to take an interest in the potty and so likes to sit on it and have a wee before getting in to his jim jams for bed.

 

Lights out is around 7.30pm, allowing enough time for mama and daddy to enjoy a glass of wine and catch up on some, more sophisticated, tv than my lunch time viewing! There’s then another Pepper walk, which my husband does, before we hit the hay ourselves and get ready to do it all again the next day!

All the best!

Caro x

Told you you’d love it!! What a fab post; mahoosive thanks to Carolyn from the Cuckoo Mama for guest blogging as part of the #ThisMum series. Go grab a cup of Tea (or something stronger if it’s been ‘one of those days’ – I can recommend gin (and lots of it) for those sorts of days, by the way) and visit Carolyn’s blog – you are going to love it. It’s a blog filled with posts and stories from the very front line of parenting, told beautifully by Carolyn. I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for her blog because, like us, she too has experienced the challenges of infertility and so a lot of her posts resonate with me for that reason. It’s a blog definitely worth looking up if you haven’t already; you can find it here.

Keep you eyes peeled for Tuesday evening’s #ThisMum post; another blog post that promises absolute brilliance! On Tuesday my lovely pal Amy from The Rolling Baby will be sharing a day in her life with us, I can’t wait!!!

Massive thanks, Carolyn 🙂