A week in the life of #ThisMum

In the first of a series of posts from a diverse groups of Mums from around the world, I am very privileged to introduce you to the fabulous Cath from The Anxious Mama blog. I’m sure we have all experienced those days where nothing seems to go your way and life throws at you something that you weren’t expecting. Poor Cath had a week like that last week so she has kindly written a post about the challenges she faced last week and how she balanced the needs of her child, husband and work.

#THISMUM – by the Anxious Mama. 

Hello lovely readers and welcome.

My name is Cath. I live in Cornwall with my Husband Ryan, our nearly 2-year-old son Harry and our beloved black rescue cat Wilson. I’m the writer of the Anxiety, Motherhood and Lifestyle Blog – ‘Breathe’, a blog that talks openly about my struggles, not only as a Mum but with anxiety too. I try not to keep my blog too ‘doomy and gloomy’, though. I prefer to turn my experiences into something positive, so I also share my very own coping strategies too, alongside other light-hearted stories that hopefully most parents can relate to.

Please find my blog here: https://theanxiousmama.blog/

I am absolutely delighted to be writing a post for the #THISMUM series, where I’ll be taking you on a journey through my week in the life of a Mum. This fantastic idea was created by Mamma B, the author of ’The Baby and Boardroom’ blog, to encourage Mums around the World to share their different stories and daily routines – and I can guarantee not one of our stories will be the same! This is a great opportunity to showcase both our differences and similarities as Mothers, but to also gain an insight into our lives as individuals too, including our various passions, interests and jobs.

Mamma B is an inspiring, working Mum who runs a joint recruitment business with her Husband. She writes an honest account of what it’s like to balance a busy work life, alongside an equally busy home-life with her teenage son and one-year-old daughter.

Make sure you follow her blog here: https://babyandtheboardroom.com/

Here is my very own take of ‘a week in the life of a Mum’…

Ok, to be totally honest, no day or night is the same in the Saltern household. So, it’s pretty much a ‘let’s just take it as it comes’ routine. That may sound a little blasé on the routine front, but you’ll understand what I mean as I continue to explain. Here is a small background on our family-life…

My Husband is a postman and works 40 hours, 5 days a week. It’s a physical and tiring job but he enjoys it. Prior to the days of Harry, Ry was a Deputy Manager for a company who cared for adults with autism. He had a huge passion for his work, but the hours were extremely long and tiring…14-hour shifts aren’t fun for anyone! So, he changed his job shortly after Harry was born. The job change has not only been great for Ry, but Harry and I have benefitted hugely too! We are lucky to spend every evening together as a family, allowing us free time to play and enjoy our evening meals together. Ry and I also work as a team to tackle the bath & bedtime routine, which usually involves lots of singing, plenty of book reading and some very silly games.

My work life, on the other hand, is a little complicated as I work for two different companies and also for myself. One place of work is a private Hospital where I have worked for a number of years. I am currently a member of their bank staff which is great as it can be really flexible around Harry.

The second job is for a local country store, which is only a quick 10-minute drive from home. I have worked here since Harry was 9 months old as a member of their online team, and I am fortunate enough to be able to work for them both at home and in-store.

Once Harry has gone to bed, I tend to use my evenings and any other free-time to focus on my freelance work and any writing for my personal blog. My Freelance work usually involves writing blogs for companies who may need their products and services explaining more clearly. I have only just started this up within the last year but already have regular clients each month and I absolutely love it.

So although I have three jobs in total, each job is extremely flexible and easy to work around my own lifestyle, allowing myself plenty of time to enjoy being ‘Mum’ too. I feel really blessed to be in such a positive position but it’s only recently fallen into place this way.

Shortly after having Harry, I suffered terribly from anxiety, alongside various issues with my health too. I have a condition where different joints in my body flare up due to infections and any other stresses to my body. I breastfed on demand too, which was such an incredible experience – but it felt like I was literally having the life sucked out of me. It was a really tough time; therefore it took a while to develop a good routine with Harry. For about 17 months, his sleeping habits were torturous. There was no pattern and each night differed. Some nights he’d wake every 90 mins and others he’d be wide awake from 12am-2/3am. I honestly thought I’d never sleep again! But, things have improved massively. The sleeping can still vary each night but it’s so much better than it was. It’s such a relief to know we’ve overcome those hurdles and that we are finally living what we see as a ‘normal’ family life.

The ‘kind of’ routine…

Wednesday’s are now my Hospital working day, which is lovely for Harry as he gets to spend this set day each week with my Mum. I then tend to work my other shifts around Ryan’s schedule, which is whenever he has a day off in the week. However, his shifts differ and he doesn’t usually get his rota until the week before the next working week (I know, it’s a little complicated, right?) Therefore, I usually don’t know what other day/’s I’ll be working until I know Ryan’s schedule. Hence the blasé weekly routine…

I do however try to keep Thursdays free because I like to take Harry to a local stay and play group in the morning. I also try my hardest to avoid working Sundays because that’s our only ‘family day’. Although sometimes this day has to be sacrificed when extra funds are required!

On my other days off with Harry, we are usually either visiting family, meeting up with friends for play dates or heading out for lovely, long walks. It’s not all fun and games though, as I usually have to balance those days out with a few dreaded household chores too…Oh, the joy!

When it all went wrong:

Now that I’ve given you a basic idea of what a normal week is like in the Saltern household, I thought it was only right to share with you a recent traumatic experience of when a weekly routine completely goes to pot. In this next chapter, I describe what it was like trying to balance Mum-life, Work-life and Wife-Life – all at the same time whilst dealing with my own struggles, too. It was just one of those weeks where everything happens all at once and one I won’t be forgetting in a hurry. So here goes…

Monday:

Monday wasn’t a great start to the week if I’m totally honest. We’d had a terrible night’s sleep due to a certain little sleep thief. Plus, I was in a lot of pain due to an infection in my toe from an ingrown toe-nail (the bane of my life) and as a result, my joints decided to flare up.

I’d been to the Dr’s the previous week before where I was prescribed a new type of anti-inflammatory for my joints, and a course of antibiotics for my toe…but the healing progress was slow and I was really struggling with the pain. Therefore, our Monday morning consisted of PJs, cuddles, cheerio’s and Fireman Sam. Unfortunately, Ry had to leave for work fairly early though, so he was feeling pretty exhausted – bless him.

Whilst Harry napped over lunch-time, I managed to catch up on some much-needed washing and cleaning, whilst also getting up to date on any TV shows I’d missed. My iPad pretty much follows me around from room to room when I’m on a housework mission; meaning I can catch up on shows like ‘Made in Chelsea’ guilty free…please don’t judge ok?

Once the little man was up and had eaten his lunch, I decided to take him to my parents for a change of scenery. We spent some time with my Mum and took Pip, their gorgeous dog out for a lovely walk along the river. I love lazy days at home but I always feel guilty when Harry is inside for too long, so I always make it my aim to ensure he gets at least some kind of fresh air throughout the day. It took my mind off my own personal complaints too!

We then arrived back home to a very exhausted Daddy and the rest of the evening involved reading books, playing with toys, eating dinner, watching In The Night Garden and then the usual bath/bed routine. Once Harry was in bed, I then spent the rest of the evening getting ready for my training day at the Hospital the following day. Meanwhile, Ryan relaxed in his little ‘man corner’, whilst playing FIFA and catching up on FaceTime with one of his best pals. Then it was up to bed, lights out and time for some much-needed sleep!

Tuesday:

More like Traumatic Tuesday…

Tuesday morning was a very early start for us all. Harry was wide awake from 5am, which is quite the norm nowadays. However, unfortunately for Ry, he’d been awake most of the night with a terrible sore throat and was feeling pretty rotten.

I got ready for work as normal and as the morning progressed, I noticed Ry was going downhill more and more. I took a quick look at his throat before I left and noticed how large and inflamed his right tonsil was, so I knew he desperately needed to see a Dr. Therefore, during my park & ride bus journey to work, I decided to phone Mum to see if she could help at all. She was more than happy to have Harry whilst Ry went to the Drs. So, I left it in her hands and I went to work as normal…

It was only my second day back at the Hospital since Harry was born but it was going really well. I was really enjoying settling back in and catching up with some familiar faces. During my tea-break, however, I was in the cafeteria drinking my cup of tea when one of the chefs popped their head around the door and asked me if I was Cath. ‘Yes’, I said with a suspicious look. ‘Your Mum’s on the phone’, she replied…

That’s when my heart sank, ‘something’s not right’, I thought!

I put the phone to my ear. ‘Hello’.

‘Harrys had a little fall, Cath. I’m so sorry. I sent Ry home to rest after he’d visited the Dr’s because he’s really unwell and I told him I’d look after Harry for a bit. Shortly after Ry left, Harry tripped. He slipped on a book and flew straight into the corner of the TV cabinet. He’s hit his head. He’s ok but it’s been bleeding quite a bit and we just want to get him checked over. I’ve had to call Ry back and we’re now on our way to minor injuries. Ry’s got tonsillitis and has been given some antibiotics by the Dr. He’s currently driving but he’s feeling really unwell’.

My heart was pounding and my hands were shaking. I tried my best to reassure my Mum as she sounded so distressed on the phone. I told her to stop apologising though, as incidents like this can happen at any time and in any place. It was nobody’s fault.

I gathered myself together and explained to my both my manager and colleagues what had happened. Fortunately, they were very understanding and agreed with my decision that I needed to go.

I quickly left work and darted straight for the park and ride bus-stop, where I was instantly met by a bus…thank goodness. The journey felt like a lifetime but once we finally reached the park and ride car park, I flew off the bus and ran straight towards my car where I then started my drive to the Minor Injuries Department.

On arrival, I was greeted by a rather poorly looking Ryan outside. He looked terrible. His eyes were puffy, his skin was pale, he was shivering and could barely walk. As we swapped car keys, he told me he was going to sit in the car for a little while, but he would only drive home if he felt up to it. I was worried to leave him because in all the 11 years we’ve been together, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him look so ill.

I quickly walked into the Hospital, where I found Mum walking with Harry up and down the corridor. Poor Harry was sporting an impressive gash on his forehead, whilst also covered in quite a lot of his own blood. Although, thankfully he was in good spirits. He reached out and gave me a large cuddle and shortly after that, we were called in to see the Nurse.

The Nurse was so lovely. She was very kind and extremely patient with Harry, but equally very supportive towards me. She glued Harry’s head quickly and gave me some excellent aftercare advice regarding his wound. I explained to her about Ry’s condition too, so she told me to go and get him from the car as she would like to see him. But when Mum went to look for him, the car had gone and he’d obviously driven home. I was so worried!

Luckily he got home fine and spent the rest of the day in bed. Harry and I also lay low for the rest of the day, whilst also regularly checking up on Daddy. It was a long and tiring day for us all.

‘Surely tomorrow will be a better day’, I thought…

 

Wednesday: 

Poor Ryan literally spent the whole of Wednesday in bed with a nasty fever and a terrible sore throat. He actually didn’t move all day apart from the times when he needed to empty his bladder, or when he needed a drink. He could barely talk and didn’t eat one thing all day either. He pretty much just slept or stared at the ceiling for the entire duration of the day.

Harry and I, however, had to try and continue the day as normal as we were running very low on our kitchen cupboard and fridge essentials. Therefore we went to Tesco in the morning to do a food shop and we also bought some supplies home for Daddy to try and make him feel better.

Later that morning, Harry and I met up with my Mum and took Pip for another river walk. I was desperate to get us both some much-needed fresh air, but it also allowed Ry some peace and quiet to recover at home. I hated leaving him but I regularly did my best to check up on him and make sure he was ok throughout the day.

Fortunately, Ry’s Mum offered to come and help us in the afternoon as I needed to get to the Hospital for an appointment regarding my toe. My appointment went ok but I do need to have an operation quite soon, which will require an initial few days of foot elevation, and a few weeks off work to recover. This is going to be quite difficult to organise and will require some careful planning….

By the time I’d gotten home, it was pretty late and still no sign of Ry – he was still in bed resting. Thankfully Ry’s Mum had fed Harry his dinner, so I just quickly grabbed something for myself and then I began the commencement of Harry’s evening routine.

Once Harry was in bed, I checked on Ry, tidied up downstairs and then finally relaxed on the sofa with a cup of tea. I then spent the rest of the evening focusing on my freelance blog work, whilst also demolishing a whole large bar of galaxy chocolate (it was very much needed!) Then it was time for bed myself…

Thursday:

You’d think things would be improving by now, wouldn’t you?

Surely?

….So, Thursday was a very similar day to Wednesday really. Ry’s condition was very much the same, if not worse and he’d barely slept due to agonising throat pain and constant feverish episodes throughout the night.

The morning consisted of a few household chores, keeping Harry amused and regular checks on Ry. Although by lunchtime I’d had enough of seeing Ry so poorly, so I booked him an emergency appointment at the GP’s for the afternoon. Thankfully Mum offered to have Harry again whilst I took Ry to the Drs, so I gathered his bits and dropped him over to my Mums.

However, shortly after arriving at my parent’s house, Harry excitedly ran up to Pip the dog who was currently lying on the sofa. As Harry approached Pip, Pip lifted his paw to protect himself and within seconds his paw caught what was Harry’s ‘neatly glued head’. Suddenly Harry started screaming. Yep, you guessed it…the wound had reopened and blood had started to pour out.

‘Are you actually kidding me?’ I called out.

An overwhelming feeling suddenly came over me and tears started to roll down my cheeks. What do I do now? I thought. Suddenly I felt incredibly torn between my little boy and my Husband. I knew Harry needed to get to the Hospital, but I also knew Ryan needed to make his appointment which was due in the next 40 minutes. I decided to ring Ry’s Mum for help and explained I needed someone to take Ry to his appointment as I was just about to leave with my Mum to take Harry to minor injuries. Both of Ry’s parents literally hopped straight into their car and headed straight for Ry, thank goodness!

The Hospital staff were great once again and very efficient with their service. Harry’s wound didn’t require any glue this time but did need a little clean-up and some steri-strips. After his treatment, we headed straight home and went back to Ry who’d been given some more antibiotics to try. The Dr had told him that if he was no better by lunchtime tomorrow, he needed to come back and be seen.

It was gone 5pm by the time we’d got home, so it was then time for dinner, followed by our usual bed/bath routine, a quick chill and then bed-time for us all.

Friday:

Poor Ry wasn’t feeling any better. He couldn’t talk and his throat was causing him an awful lot of pain, he really was struggling. I had another look at his throat and noticed that it was looking much worse, so it was important he was seen again by the Dr.

Mum very kindly offered to come and sit with Harry whilst I took Ry back to the Drs. The GP was surprised that the antibiotics weren’t working and that his condition was getting worse, so she phoned our local hospital for advice. The ENT specialist said he’d like to see Ry, so we were told to come in and head straight to A&E.

We very quickly nipped home to update my Mum, and to pack an overnight bag for Ry. Ry’s Mum very kindly came straight over and offered to take Ry to the Hospital herself. Once again I felt very torn between my boys, as I felt I should be at the Hospital with my Husband. However, Ry told me he was fine and he’d rather that I was at home with Harry.

As the afternoon drew on, Ry was admitted onto a ward and given an IV drip, steroids and some more antibiotics. My Mum offered to come and sit with Harry in the evening whilst my Dad dropped me off to visit Ry in Hospital. Poor Ry was lying in his bed looking absolutely exhausted, whilst also rocking’ the colour grey. It was so sad to see him lying there so poorly, but the steroids and the IV drip had already started to make him feel a little brighter.

I stayed with him until the end of visiting time and then got a lift home with my Dad. Once I was home I continued with Harry’s bath and bed routine, and then luckily managed to get him settled fairly quickly.

It wasn’t until Harry fell asleep that I suddenly started to feel a little lonely. It had been such a hard week. I was exhausted and I was so worried about Ry. I needed to talk to someone so I spoke to a few of our friends; my best friend Millie and our other best friends Chris and Carla. After having a good chat (and also a good cry) I then felt so much better. I was then able to finally relax for the rest of the evening and get a good night’s sleep.

On Saturday, Ry thankfully came out of Hospital. He still wasn’t feeling his usual self and had a long way to recover, but he looked more like ‘Ryan’, again. The rest of the weekend involved a lot of rest for us all. It had been such a dreadful, long week that we just needed a few chilled days at home to try and recuperate. 

Things are getting there now. Harry’s head has healed nicely and Ry is certainly on the mend. My toe infection has settled and my joint pain seems to be easing. Our past week has mainly consisted of catching up with work, as we both lost a lot of work during that awful week.

I honestly don’t know how I would have coped that week without the help of our family and friends. We are so incredibly lucky to have such a supportive network around us.

Unfortunately, everyone will experience a bad week at some point in their life…this was just ours. However, sometimes you just need to put your positive pants on, take a deep breath and count your lucky stars that it was ‘just a bad week’. I sometimes have to remind myself that there are millions of people around the World experiencing far worse than what I’ve just been through. So, yes – you’re allowed to cry, you’re allowed to say ‘poor me’ and you’re allowed to feel sorry for yourself, but just remember ‘it was just a bad week, not a bad life and whilst it may be tough…so are you!’ 

 

 

4 Time Saving Beauty Products for Busy Mums!

Now I don’t know about you, but on the days I actually find the time to apply a full face of make up, it is usually a case of only applying products that can be applied with one (very shakey) hand because I am usually holding a baby on my hip with the other. My Little Miss is going through a very clingy phase (please please let it be a phase!) at the moment so she almost always wants to be with me when I’m getting ready and she’s pretty impatient, hence the need to apply a face of make up in nought point three seconds whilst she wails like a banshee beside me.

There’s a few products I’ve been using recently that have been saving me valuable time on a morning so I thought I’d share them for anyone who, like me, has limited time for this sort of thing.

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  1. STYL’s Siligel Blender

I’d been using a blending sponge for a long time, particularly to apply foundation and to blend when contouring. It doesn’t take hours to wash the sponge through but when you’ve got a screaming baby throwing the wobbler to end all wobblers, it can feel like an eternity. So, when I saw that a Siligel blender had been brought out to rival the blending sponge, I was interested to try it. The main benefit with this is that it is much easier to clean as it doesn’t absorb the product, a quick run under the tap and it is cleaned of all product. Another benefit of using this style of blender is that because it doesn’t absorb the product, you use much less of it. My products are lasting much longer than usual with this blender, which is a significant advantage in itself. It did take me a while to get the technique right with this blender as it applies very differently to that of a sponge blender but once you get the hang of it, it’s fab.

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  1. Pixi by Petra Eyebrow Gel

I need to ‘fess up. I don’t have the time I used to have to make sure my eyebrows are suitably tamed. In fact, I got my fringe cut back in once I’d had my baby girl to hide the bloody things! But this product definitely helps keep them looking neat and tidy. It’s not an expensive product but it is a very effective product. I’ve tried eyebrow gels that have felt heavy and claggy but this is a light and airy gel that does its job well. You only need apply a little bit of this gel to keep your eyebrows looking tidy and it keeps them that way all day. The applicator is a handy brush so you can actually brush through your eyebrows as you apply the gel making it even easier to get the neat and tidy look you are looking for. It is quick, it is easy and it works – what is there not to love?

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  1. Bellapierre Banana Powder

If I could climb up on to the roof of my little semi detached house and scream from the rooftop about this product, I would. I absolutely LOVE it. I have gone from never using any sort of setting powder to using this banana powder every single day without fail. I have read that there are many different ways you can use this sort of product but I’ll tell you how I use it. The silky powder is a light yellow colour so it is a really good product to use to lighten and highlight. I use my usual cream concealer under my eyes, then I apply this powder generously underneath my eyes, dipping my sponge in to the powder and blotting it on top of the creamy concealer and then I leave it for a good few minutes whilst I do my eye make up. I also apply it down the centre of my nose and I apply a small amount across the bow of my lips. The idea is that you apply the powder generously and just leave it sitting there for a few minutes whilst it ‘bakes’. I then use a fan brush to remove the excess powder and ensure it is all blended in properly. I have never received more compliments about my make up than since I started using this powder. It is a product that saves time and saves product because it sets the make up in place for hours. It ‘bakes’ the products and ensures that they are fixed in place effectively. I used to have to re apply my concealer and highlighter half way through the day before I discovered this product but now I can forget about my make up knowing it will last all day.

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  1. NYX Matte Finish Setting Spray

I LOVE the matte look. I always wear matte lipsticks for that very reason, I just love the finish you get with matte products. This spray is very effective. Once I finish my make up, I hold the bottle a few centimetres away from my face and spray a couple of times, ensuring the product is evenly applied all over my face. Once I’ve done that, I never give my make up another second thought for the whole day. It is the perfect partner to the Banana Powder because the powder sets the make up in those key highlighted areas and the spray ensures the rest of the face is completely set too. This was not an expensive product and using it right, it lasts a considerable amount of time; it is fantastic value for money and it yields the kind of results you would expect from a much more high end product. It even sets my lip colour. I usually have to reapply my lip colour a couple of times throughout the day but if this spray is properly applied in that area, I have found that the lip colour lasts a lot longer too.

Dear Perfect Parent,

Dear Perfect Parent,

I see you. But you already knew that; you wanted me to see you.

I see your posts on Facebook, Instagram and the like. Whether it be the perfectly poised photographs you post or the self indulgent status updates you put out there, they always leave me drawing comparisons. I try not to. I tell myself I’m a good mum, secure in the knowledge that my children are clothed, fed, clean, loved and happy, but sometimes your life appears to be so dramatically different to mine that I can’t help but compare.

Sometimes the comparison is even laughable. I read your ‘Yay! I’m back in to my size 8 jeans three weeks after giving birth!’ post whilst sitting in my maternity leggings almost a year after my baby was born. I saw the selfie you took in a nightclub mirror looking all glamorous with a full face of flawless make up, holding a pretty looking cocktail whilst I nursed a cup of tea in my frumpy pyjamas watching a boxset at home with the day’s mascara smudged across my eyes.

I see your ‘she’s only 7 weeks old and she’s sleeping through!’ posts too by the way. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for supporting ‘mummy wins’ as, let’s face it, we all know that parenting is a tough gig but when I’ve had all of about twenty minutes kip in three weeks, I don’t feel much like celebrating with you. On that subject, where do you find the energy to go out on a night time? I’m in my PJs by 4pm. I don’t blame you, though. You should have a social life. I’m glad you do. It’s just my eldest is almost 15 and I haven’t actually regained my social life yet. So it just makes me wonder where I’m going wrong.

Then there’s the mummy video’s. You know the one’s – the video clips of your child playing the violin on one foot whilst reciting the alphabet backwards. In French. You certainly make smart babies. If they carry on like this, one day they might run the country. I can’t even begin to imagine how many posts would be dedicated to announcing that on your social media if that happened.

And then there’s the photographs. Gah. The photographs. The ones where your kitchen looks absolutely immaculate bar some carefully placed icing sugar sprinkles across a home made cherry pie sitting proudly on a hand carved wooden chopping board or some jars of home made jams with hand written labels and gingham checked cloth lids. Your kitchen looks like something from the Bake Off tent whilst mine more resembles ‘the morning after the night before at Glastonbury’ type look. And the fact that you have your shit together enough to make homemade jam impresses me on a whole new level. My kids are lucky if they get offered a spoonful of Hartley’s for their toast. Not a single gingham cloth lid in sight.

The truth is that I admire you. I admire that you are doing such a sterling job of raising your family whilst keeping an immaculate home and I admire that you have a baby who sleeps through, an exciting social life, the energy to make home made jam and the time to document and video every one of your child’s talents. And so you should. That’s totally your prerogative.

But on the days where I am feeling really pushed. Pushed for time, energy, lust for life or whatever else, seeing someone making such an amazing go of being a Mum can only serve as a stark reminder of what I could be doing better.

So when I see the photograph of your family sitting around a pretty looking camp fire at the beach roasting meat on the barbeque to go with a side salad made up of organic vegetables you’ve grown yourselves at home, I compare it to what I’m seeing; my children, most likely sitting at my very chaotically laid dinner table, stretching their necks to see what’s going on on the television ,whilst they eat their very average pasta and cheese.

BUT (and it’s a big ‘but’) does that mean I love them any less than you love your children? Absolutely not. That’s one thing that is simply not up for debate. But it is part of my genetic make-up to be hard on myself, be self critical and continuously feel guilt at not being a good enough mum.

I do think that a lot of that guilt comes from being a working mum. By the time work is over and the nursery pick up has been done, it’s very usually a case of throwing whatever is quick and easy in to a pan for tea whilst running a bath for the baby whilst helping the big’un with his homework whilst trying to reply to five and a half work emails (and usually whilst pouring a sizeable G&T) all at the same time. It gets too much some times. In fact, it gets too much a lot of the time. And yet in the same vein it never feels enough. It doesn’t matter what I do, I always feel that my children deserve better than what I can give them.

So when I see your photographs or your posts on social media sometimes they serve as a reminder of the mum I would love to be one day. But one thing is certain: I may not have an immaculate house all the time, and I might not grow my own organic vegetables in the back garden and a year on I might not be back in to my pre-pregnancy clothes (there’s no ‘might’ about it actually, I’m definitely not.) but one thing is for absolute sure: my children know they are loved. They are loved to the ends of the earth and beyond and I’m sure if they were asked they’d say their mummy does her best by them. And that’s enough for me.

I have no doubt I’ll hear from you soon (via your chosen social media outlet),

Keep going Supermum! You’re doing an awesome job.

 

Mamma_B x

How many minutes a day do you dedicate to yourself?

What does ‘me time’ look like when you are a mum?

Being a mum of a boy who was hurtling through his teens saw me regain a huge amount of time that I could dedicate to myself so when I fell pregnant (incidentally I hate that saying – who ‘falls’ pregnant? Like, woops, I tripped over your foot. Bam! I’m expecting!’) I knew that going back to nappies, night feeds and colic was going to have an impact on the amount of time I found for myself.

In fact, for the first few months of my daughter’s life, ‘me time’ wasn’t even on the radar. At no point did I have time for me; at no point did I make time for me. But actually, at no point did I even register that I was having no time for me. That was the scary bit. Once my husband was back at work after paternity leave, there were many days where I didn’t even find the time to get changed out of my PJs or take a shower. He’d come home from work around 5pm and find me in exactly the same way he left me eight hours previous – hair not brushed, not showered, not changed. I would think ‘how do people do this? How do people have a baby and still manage to shower, get dressed, have a hot cup of coffee, chat to friends?’ I felt like I was failing at life.

Of course the reality was that whilst I was sat there in a zombie like state, my baby girl had been bathed, massaged and dressed immaculately. She had milk in her belly, clean nappies on, she’d been cuddled, winded, rocked, shushed, read to, sang to and played with – she had had my undivided attention all day long (and all night long most of the time too!) so I’d clearly had the time to do all those things; I had simply chosen to dedicate that time to my baby rather than myself. I thought that made me a good mum.

I think she was around the five month mark when I started to feel more than just the ‘I’m tired from the sleepless nights’ type of tiredness. Little Miss was having a rough time with reoccurring chest infections so sleep was at an all time low and I was constantly in a state of panic, checking her temperature, watching her breathe for any signs of struggle. I was not only physically exhausted but exhausted in every meaning of the word. I felt drained. I remember sitting in her nursery for hours, holding her upright on my chest so that she could get some sleep without coughing. I sat there for as long as I possibly could, ensuring she was in a deep sleep, before trying to put her back down in her cot again. I crept up to the cot and gently laid her down, as if she was fine glass. I held my breath and said a prayer internally that she would remain asleep so I could get to bed.

And she did. Until I laid my head on my pillow and closed my eyes and then the coughing started, and then the crying resumed. I sat up and felt so emotionally fragile. I cried. I was so desperately in need of some sleep. But not only that, I was desperately in need of time for me. I felt drained, physically, emotionally and in all other ways. This was more than just tiredness; I felt like I had lost myself almost.

I felt guilty for thinking about ‘me’ when I was so blessed to have a beautiful baby daughter that needed me but in five months I hadn’t left her side once. I hadn’t met a friend for coffee as adults, I hadn’t spent any child free time with my husband, I hadn’t so much as had half an hour to read a trashy magazine or a book. This wasn’t for the lack of offers either, whilst we don’t have a massive family network, we have family members that had offered to look after her, but I had not wanted to leave her. I don’t know whether this was because she had had such a traumatic start to life or whether I’d have felt the same regardless, I don’t know. I had waited so long for my beautiful baby girl, spending time away from her just hadn’t occurred to me.

It was only during a chat with my Reiki Healer about how rubbish I was feeling that I fully realised that I had really done myself an injustice in not ensuring that I had time for me. She asked me ‘what do you do for you?’ and I couldn’t answer. I had a small baby, I thought. I don’t have time for me. She asked me to identify one thing I had done out of sheer enjoyment just for me in the last week and I couldn’t answer it. I hadn’t read, I hadn’t written, I hadn’t sat in the garden and enjoyed the peace and quiet, I hadn’t met a friend – nothing. She told me (in friendly but no uncertain terms) that it was absolutely essential that I find time for me in every single day. I almost laughed. Time for me? Every single day?! That was going to be impossible. She maintained that it was essential for my wellbeing though. She told me to start by reserving one ten minute period for me every single day. It was acknowledged that we all need more than ten minutes of ‘me time’ a day but we needed to be realistic here or it just was never going to work.

I thought about what I could do in ten minutes. I could (probably) drink a small coffee (whilst hot maybe!), I could read for ten minutes, I could meditate or listen to some music, I could pamper myself or you know what? I could just lie down in a dark room and drink in the peace. Ten minutes isn’t long but when you have deprived yourself of any time for you for several months, you’ll take it with open arms and you’ll run with it. Fast.

I scheduled these ten minute periods. I mentally popped them in the diary for when my husband got in from work and could take over on baby duty, or for when I got Little Miss down for one of her naps. Instead of opting to get the bottles cleaned and sterilised or hoovering or being in a rush to do something practical like changing the beds, I took that time and thought ‘this is for me.’

Happiness is created through our enjoyment of things. I enjoyed my baby so much but there needed to be an acknowledgement that I had a right to enjoy something for me too. The Reiki Healer was right, once I started to dedicate time for me, doing something I enjoy, even if for just ten minutes, I felt happier. I felt more balanced. I felt stronger. This had a hugely positive impact on my ability to be an upbeat all-singing-and-dancing mum too.

Those ten minutes each day may not be much but they are a nod to the fact that us mums are people in our own right. We shouldn’t need to accept that every minute of our day should be dedicated to doing things for others. It’s Ok for us to be selfish some times and say ‘this is what I’m doing for me,’ not for the husband, for the dog, for the kids, the mother-in-law or the neighbour down the road – for us. For me. In fact, that isn’t selfish at all. It’s doing what is right for us. What is healthy for us.

When that Reiki Healer asked me what I did for me, I was confused. The fact that I found that question so confusing is exactly what was so very wrong. In my head somewhere, I subconsciously believed that as mums, our whole lives should be dedicated to our little people. And for all we love our little people and for all they make our world go round, it is not good for our health, our state of mind or emotional wellbeing to neglect ourselves in the process.

Ask yourself the question, what have you done for you today? If you can’t answer it, I hear you. You are probably just as exhausted as I was. You may be thinking it’s not possible to have ‘me time’ and be a mummy but please, give it a try. Reserve ten minutes out of your day tomorrow and find something to do that you enjoy, do something that makes you happy. See the difference it makes to how you feel.

I know that having time for me makes me a better mum. I’m more patient, I’m more energised, more balanced and I’m happier.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this! Have you found the right balance?

My Dad died and I feel nothing.

My Dad died and I don’t feel anything.

I had another post planned entirely for this week but as is the way, life hurled at me an unexpected curveball and so I’m dealing with that first.

I was enjoying some lovely quality time with my brood at the weekend when I received a message from my Aunt telling me that my father had died. He had drank a litre of whiskey and taken a stonking dose of Fentanyl so there is absolutely no doubt that he intended on dying. Nobody could have survived what he had put in to his system.

It’s been two years since I spoke to him and even then, those conversations only took place in light of my Nana, his mother, passing away. You see, for as long as I can remember he has drank and prioritized his drinking over my sister and I. I remember being aware of it even as a kid; I would get up on a morning and he would be sat with a mug watching morning television, you’d be forgiven for thinking he was sipping his morning coffee. Only I knew better than that. I’d found the bottle bank hidden underneath his clothes in his wardrobe and I’d smelt it on him. He could have pickled me with one breath of the intoxicated air he breathed out. He’s made poor decisions throughout his life and many of those poor decisions impacted on his daughters yet there was never any remorse or apology. He had every outside agency and support service provider involved with him and he was given plenty of opportunities to turn his life around but he continually chose not to. I had given him chance after chance after chance to change and re-build our relationship and each time he bitterly let me down.

He was a compulsive liar, too. I’m not sure whether it was the drink responsible for these lies or whether he really was, inherently, a person that simply could not speak the truth. In adolescence and beyond, this was ok because I knew not to trust what he said, but as a child, it was devastating. I remember when Disneyland Paris (or Euro Disney as it was then) first opened. My sister and I were desperate to go and during our scheduled contact with our dad, he promised us he would take us. He said he’d booked the tickets and he informed our mum, who was estranged from him, when he would pick us up to take us. We were so excited. We counted down the sleeps to the day of our flight across to Paris. The day finally came and we were left sitting on our suitcases at the front door waiting for him. We waited. And waited. And waited. He never showed up. He had never booked the trip. It had all been an elaborate lie. I’m not sure what his motive was to lie about something like that. He could have easily have said to us something none committal like ‘I’ll take you one day in the future’ or ‘It’s too expensive to go there, let’s think of somewhere else you’d like to go’ or he could, of course, have said absolutely nothing on the subject. Instead, he promised us we were going and continued with the elaborate lie as we counted down the days to our long awaited holiday.

This may not sound like a big deal, but as kids we were devastated. We had told our school friends we were going. Hell, we had told anyone who would listen that we were going. I vividly remember sitting on those suitcases waiting to be collected and with every half hour that passed, I was more and more submerged in disappointment. I thought it was bad enough back then but as a parent now, I really can’t understand why anyone would want to get a child’s hopes up for something special knowing all the time that those hopes won’t turn in to a reality. My heart physically breaks if I mentally trade places with my children and think of them sitting on those suitcases waiting to go on holiday, so excited and on cloud nine. I don’t understand why he did it.

To remove all doubt that something maybe ‘came up’ outside of my father’s control, he continued to lie about everything and anything. In fact, just a couple of years later he surprised me with front row tickets for me and a friend to see my favourite boy band in Wembley. I stupidly hadn’t learnt my lesson and allowed myself (and my friend) to get excited. Everyone at school was jealous. They didn’t have tickets and we did. Only, we didn’t. Obviously. The front row tickets at Wembley didn’t exist. They never did. He had never booked them.

The lies went on and on. They ranged from promised quality time together that was never pulled off, to day trips, holidays – gifts at Christmas – the lot. He lied about EVERYTHING.

It must have been the biggest relief for my Mum when I finally became old enough to realise that he knowingly lied to us time and time again. I can’t imagine what she went through whilst watching her two children be let down time and time again. Once old enough, I eventually voted with my feet and decided not to see him anymore. My sister continued to have some contact but I think that was only the case because she was younger than me and hadn’t quite worked it out for herself yet.

Years passed and second, third and fourth chances were given but all of those chances were shortlived as he continued to consistently demonstrate that he had not changed one bit. The final straw was when I took my little boy to visit him. My boy had just learnt to sit up unaided; he was wobbly but so pleased with himself. I remember him sitting on the floor in the living room, playing with his toys. It was early morning and breakfast TV was on the television. My father staggered in with his “morning coffee” and slurred a good morning to us. As he passed my boy he staggered and tripped over him. He wasn’t hurt, but he got a shock and was upset and crying and that was enough for me. It suddenly dawned on me that I was allowing history to repeat itself by allowing him contact with my child. I was no longer willing to have my child in that environment and I certainly didn’t want my son to build a relationship with a man who had shown me nothing but disappointment after disappointment all my life.

If there was ever any question about whether he’d changed over the years, it was confirmed when I regained contact with my Aunt and cousins from my father’s side of the family via Facebook. I hadn’t been in contact with them for years because when my relationship broke down with my father, he led me to believe that nobody from his family wanted any contact with me. I was pleasantly surprised when my cousin sent me a message asking me how I was. Straight off the bat I sensed a sympathetic tone to the message and I couldn’t make sense of what I was reading. It was referring to something that had happened to me that I had no knowledge of. It was like she’d sent the message to the wrong person. I sent a confused message back to her asking for clarity and it turned out that my father had told his side of the family that I had got sick and that I’d been told that I only had three months to live. This was, of course, just another elaborate lie of his to gain attention of some sort from them.

I felt sick. As a parent I can’t even imagine where you would need to be in your head to lie that your child is terminally ill when absolutely nothing of the sort is going on. I never saw my father after that. We had a few strained telephone conversations, usually when there was some family news to deliver, but that was it. I never got an apology. On the one occasion I felt brave enough to challenge him about what he had said about me, he couldn’t have cared less that he had upset me. He certainly didn’t apologise. He didn’t even explain why he had said those things.

I last spoke to him two years ago. He had got my landline telephone number and he continued to call me on a number of occasions. I don’t know whether this was a weak attempt at building bridges but those bridges were irreparable as far as I was concerned. I actually pulled the landline out to avoid the calls and having to listen to the numerous voicemails – and it remains pulled out to this day.

So when I read that he had died I didn’t know what to feel. My body reacted in a way I didn’t expect. I couldn’t stop shaking and although I fought the tears with every ounce of my strength (because I absolutely refused to cry over the man), I did cry. I’m not sure why. I felt suffocated with confusion. Maybe it was the shock, I don’t know. I focused on the practical matters of letting my sister, and then my mum, know, but the more we spoke about it, the more upset I was getting, and the more upset I was getting, the more angry I was getting at myself for being upset over him. What was it I was feeling and, more importantly, why was I feeling that?!

It’s a weird one. When you lose someone you love, you respond in exactly the way you would expect to respond. You cry. You’re devastated. You’re lost. You grieve. But when you lose someone that you are supposed to love and cherish, but you are estranged from, there is no protocol. There is no ‘natural way’ to respond. There is no right way to react. My body was feeling one thing, my heart another, and my brain something else entirely.

My Aunt had passed on the details of my father’s Support Worker, who, incidentally, had been the person to find him after he had overdosed. She was a lovely lady who very patiently explained everything that had happened to him since I last spoke to him two years ago. Some of the things she told me were very unexpected, some of the things she told me were very sad and some of the things she reported that he said about my sister and I took me by surprise. I ended up a wet mess on the phone but still feeling utterly confused about how I felt about it all.

I cried so much that night that I could barely open my eyes by the time I went to bed. It was only when I talked at length about it with my husband that I was able to recognise what it was I was feeling. I wasn’t grieving for him, the man that drank 24/7 and lied in the most cruel way. I wasn’t grieving for the father he was; I was grieving for the father he wasn’t.

I was devastated. But not in the way people may think. I was devastated that my father had died and due to his poor decisions and poor behavior, his death meant very little to me. I felt nothing. I felt numb. Like someone had told me about the death of a man I never knew. I was sad that someone had died. I was sad that someone had felt so low that they had resorted to suicide. I was sad that someone died without any family around them. But that’s as far as my feelings go.

Two days on and the dust is settling;  I haven’t cried today. My tummy does a bit of a flop when I think about it but that is it. I am sad that he wasn’t the Dad I wanted or needed him to be. I am sad that because of what he did, I am not utterly heartbroken and bereft by his loss. I won’t allow the ‘what if’s’ to creep in. The ‘what if we had got things back on track?’ ‘what if I had forgiven him?’ ‘What if I hadn’t pulled that landline out?’ thoughts have no place in my head. I’m not going there. I refuse to feel guilt. He had the capacity to change his life around. He had the capacity to buy in to the support services around him. He had the capacity to apologise. He didn’t. That was his decision and it was those decisions that led him down the dark path that resulted in his death.

Although ‘ashamed’ is a strong word, I do feel almost ashamed that I share the genetic make up of a man who valued life so little that he thought it was easier to throw his life away rather than work with the support he had around him to improve his life. I am sorry that he could see no light at the end of the tunnel and I can appreciate that that must have been an extremely lonely and painful time. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, regardless of what they had done.

For all I feel nothing, I’m sure that, when I least expect it, the numbness will wear off and I will feel something. I’m not sure what that something will be. For all I had no relationship with him, I’m sure a part of this will remain with me for the rest of my life. Even if it just serves as a reminder to hold my family close, make the right decisions, be honest and be the best parent I can possibly be to my children.

Going away with your baby soon? Read these top tips to avoid a whole load of stress!

In the last three weeks we have been away twice with our brood in tow. Each time just for a few nights in this country, either to see family, or to just get away and spend time as a family somewhere a bit different. We go on our proper holibobs in a couple of weeks so it was a bit of a test run if you like. Boy did it test us, at times. Here’s my top tips for taking a baby away:

 

  • Plan your packing and only take what you need.

From someone who literally packs a suitcase of baby stuff just to nip to Asda for some bread, I struggled with this. We were travelling by train for one of our trips away so it was essential that we travelled as light as possible as we had the pram and travel cot to carry also. I over packed ridiculously, packing an outfit for every sort of weather you can imagine. Not sure why I thought my little miss would need a summer romper in Birmingham during the British summer time, but I packed it anyway. I also packed ‘dressy’ outfits for her in case we went out for dinner on a night time (It had totally escaped my mind that you can’t really do ‘posh dinners’ on a night time with a baby.) It turned out that instead, we ate at Nandos in the middle of the afternoon, each of us shovelling in our food as quickly as possible whilst the other entertained the baby. No dressy outfits were required. Not one.

We bought some sterilising tablets that you use with cold water and these were a godsend and allowed us to sterilise her bottles and dummies in the bathroom sink at the hotel – much easier than trailing the steriliser with you.

We packed items that were really not needed such as calpol, in case her teething got bad, pouches of food in case she didn’t eat what was on offer at the hotel/restaurant, a hundred and one nappies just in case we had unexpected nappy explosions and enough packets of baby wipes to sink a small ship. What we had totally lost sight of was the fact that we were staying within the UK and that there were a wide range of shops close to where we were staying. We could have gone and bought food pouches, extra nappies, calpol or wipes if we’d needed them. We really shouldn’t have trekked them all the way there on the off chance we’d need them – because, as it happened, we didn’t.

 

  • Do some research on where you are going and the facilities on offer where you are staying.

This is something we didn’t do. I wish we had, in particular, researched the facilities available at our hotel before booking. They were only little things but things like not having a bath in the bathroom and only having a shower, made things tricky as our Little Miss is used to having a bath every night as part of her routine. It was hard for her as it was, to be in an unfamiliar environment so not having a bath made it difficult for her to wind down for bed on a night.

We also failed to take our gro anywhere black out blind with us (which was a monumental sized error, by the way) and as the hotel curtains were not the best, our Little Miss was waking a lot earlier and as we were all staying in one room, she then awoke the teen (who, incidentally, does not do ‘tired’ very well) and it made for very long days.

Researching things like the times the restaurant is open on an evening or if there are restaurants near the hotel that open quite early would also be very useful and would avoid you being left in a situation like we were with a hungry baby whilst trying to find somewhere we could all go to eat together.

 

  • Relax the routine.

I’m a huge advocate for routines with a baby. I think they are so important. But, trying to maintain that routine when you are miles away from home, in an unfamiliar place, will only result in massive stress. I spent a good couple of days stressing over nap times, meal times, bed times and in hindsight I wish I hadn’t. I worried that if I relaxed the routine while we were away, our Little Miss, who is an absolute creature of habit, would never get back into the swing of things again when we got home. I couldn’t have been more wrong. As soon as I relaxed the routine a little, I was able to enjoy it better and so was she. Yes she stayed up later some nights and yes some days she didn’t nap until tea time (which would usually put the fear of God in me) but going with the flow allowed us all to spend some relaxed time together as a family without constant clock watching and that was really important not only for us and Little Miss, but more importantly for our big Lad too. And, as it happens, as soon as we got home, she relaxed back into her usual routine absolutely perfectly.

 

  • A baby crying is not the end of the world.

Both on the train and when in the hotel, there were times where Little Miss was screaming and crying and I felt really aware of the strangers around me. I worried that we were bothering them, keeping them awake, disturbing whatever it is they were doing. My husband, on the other hand, couldn’t care less. He firmly believes that we should never have to apologise on behalf of our crying baby because, let’s face it, we have all been there and done it at some stage or another (even if we can’t remember it!). The further the trip went on, the more I realised that if Little Miss cried, she cried. Yes I would attempt to console her, distract her, offer her cheese puffs and rusks, give her whatever ridiculous objects we had to hand to play with such as random water bottles and car keys, and give her cuddles, but I soon realised that sometimes babies just cry. And when you’ve used every trick you can think of to distract them, there’s very little you can do to stop them crying. It’s just as simple as that. As much as I was very sorry for any discomfort the crying may have caused fellow passengers or hotel guests, it really wasn’t the worst thing to happen in the world and it was only ever temporary. It shouldn’t be a massive deal.

The more stressed I was getting about the situation, the more upset Little Miss was getting and the worse the situation felt. I have definitely learned that I need to relax more and roll with the punches. Of course, I remain sorry if my baby’s crying does cause any distress to complete strangers but, there needs to be a realisation that babies cry. That’s what they do. Sometimes it’s crap to listen to but she’s just a baby, it’s not her fault. And it’s not mine either. Us parents do our best but we can’t raise a brood of muted children just to ensure that strangers around us have a peaceful day.

 

  • Be Realistic.

This final tip is a biggie. When you plan your trip, don’t romanticise it. Don’t allow yourself to envision yourself lounging around the hotel spa sipping on Mojitos or having lazy lie ins on a morning with breakfast delivered to your room so you can remain in your hotel dressing gown whilst watching morning TV. Whilst, yes, you’re going away for a few days, you have to be realistic about what to expect when going away with a baby/children. It’s not going to be a romantic rose-petals-on-the-bed and double-rain-shower type of trip. Those days may return (if you have a very kind babysitter!) but it certainly isn’t going to be like that with a baby.

Yes your trip will be stressful -even chaotic I suspect – but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad thing. Our trip was totally full on (and to be honest, I could have slept for a week when we got back and still would have been exhausted) but I honestly would not have had it any other way. It was wonderful to relax the routine, go with the flow, visit new places, do new things and experience all of those things as a family of 4 with our Big Lad and Little Miss.

 

I’ll admit I am a little apprehensive about taking our Little Miss on an eight hour flight for our holiday in a couple of weeks but I am so, so, very excited to spend more quality time as a family. Even if it is sure to be total chaos most of the time.

 

 

 

 

I’m Late. Again.

So, here’s the thing. I am late for everything. Like, EVERYTHING. So it will be of no great surprise to those who know me well that this blog post is late. It was Birth Trauma Awareness week last week and this little ditty was in the diary to be written to coincide with it. So, basically, now this post has absolutely no common relevance whatsoever. But I’m going to write it anyway. Because, if nothing else, I think it might be quite therapeutic. For me, that is. Not you.

I’ve had the pleasure (and absolute privilege) of bringing two beautiful babies in to the world but neither births were easy. In fact, they were pretty traumatic. My memory of both is really quite limited. I wonder whether that was the drugs pumped into me or whether it is some sort of self defence move my brain has pulled.

What came out of both births is that I do not take for granted that I now have two healthy children. Yes, it would have been nice to have a romantic water birth surrounded by scented candles and whale music whilst being held lovingly by my husband but the reality is it all went a bit Pete Tong. It was crap. But, you know what? I’ve got two healthy and strong children. As much as it was traumatic and I felt the effects of it for a while afterwards, I am now able to move forward and look upon the births as a difficult journey that we had to embark on to get my babies here. A bit like a turbulent  long haul flight to get to some idyllic tropical island: the journey was hell but it did its job, I’m now relaxing on golden sands with a frozen Margarita and all was worth it.

I’m not going to attempt to re tell both births in this post. I think recalling them both may result in me becoming a fragile, wet mess. So, let’s talk about my little lass. Chosen purely because it was the least traumatic (and the most recent so my memory is a bit sharper!).

The whole pregnancy with Little Miss was difficult. Whilst I floated on air for several months after finding out I was finally pregnant, it wasn’t an easy ride by any means. I didn’t expect one mind so I was kind of prepared. I had severe morning-noon-and-night sickness until around 18 weeks and at around six months I became really itchy. I itched literally from the highest point of my scalp to the sole of my feet. It was worse at night and it literally drove me insane. I would never have even clicked that it was linked to the pregnancy had I not read an article in my local paper the week before about a lady who sadly lost her baby due Obstetric Cholestasis. If I hadn’t read that article, I am not convinced I would have ever even mentioned the itching to my midwife. Maybe I am completely lacking in intelligence and common sense but in my mind, I wouldn’t have even connected itchy skin to something more sinister surrounding the pregnancy. My heart breaks for the poor family featured in the paper and I only wish I knew who they were to thank them for sharing their story as it most definitely saved my baby. It just shows how critical it is to raise awareness of these things.

So I mentioned it to my midwife or sent me for a blood test. It came back straight away that there was an issue with my liver and I was sent up to the maternity department at the hospital. We were met by a consultant who explained I had Obstetric Cholestasis. He was really patient and thorough but it was a lot of information to take in. We were already considered a high risk pregnancy due to the sheer concoction of drugs I was on to manage the pain of my chronic disease so this was just another risk to worry about. He told us that our baby would need delivered early as the longer the pregnancy goes on, the higher the risk of still birth. He advised that 1 in 200 women with OC go on to have a still born baby. 1 in 200 may not sound scary but when you’re sitting there, nursing your bump as your baby kicks and moves inside of you, so full of life, the even remote mention of your baby being stillborn is about as scary as it gets. A C-section was booked in at 36 weeks and they organised a care plan, I was to visit the hospital every week to have blood tests, to monitor the baby’s heart rate and movements and I was given medication to try and reduce the levels of bile in the blood. I was also prescribed this amazing menthol cream (which I literally bathed in for the next two months!) which was great for reducing the itching. It still itched like hell but I got a couple of minutes of relief at least when the cream was applied.

We were already aware that our baby was going to be born dependent on morphine due to my medication and that was scary enough so when these risks were factored in too, it was a really anxious time. Every week we’d trek up to the hospital in the city and I would have bloods taken and whilst waiting for them to return from the lab, the midwives would hook me up on a monitor machine which measured the baby’s heart rate and recorded the movements I felt by a button I had to press. Most weeks I was kept on the monitor for longer than standard because either she wasn’t moving a lot, or she was sleepy, or her heart rate dropped. It felt like those appointments went on forever. In fact, we headed in to the city today and took the same road we always took for the hospital and I instantly felt that sick, anxious twisting-of-the-stomach feeling that I felt every single time I went up there. I always expected the worse. I’m not sure whether that was a self preservation tactic or what, I was just constantly paranoid that something was going to be wrong with my baby. My precious baby.

We got all the way up to 35 weeks and I was due to have my final monitoring appointment before the section that was literally scheduled for days later. That’s when things didn’t start going to plan. The midwife kept coming back to the monitor and looking at the scan on the paper it was printing out. I could see from her face that something wasn’t quite right. You know when you get sent in to a little side room closely followed by a suited up consultant that things aren’t going to plan. They told me they weren’t happy with baby’s heart rate. I kept dipping and wasn’t recovering as quickly as it should. They said that, ever so matter of factly, they needed to deliver the baby that day via an emergency section. Cue an onslaught of ‘my hospital bag, it isn’t here! What about the big lad? We haven’t organised childcare for him! I’ve not eaten yet! I’ve not shaved my legs yet’ ya-da ya-da ya-da. It turned out that my hubby could actually throw things together in a plastic bag, arrange childcare, prepare eldest child for the premature arrival of his sibling and get back to the hospital in time for the section (even if he did bring a hat aged 6-9 months for the baby to wear upon her birth…). My legs remained hairy but the surgeon didn’t seem too arsed. Either that or I was too blotto to notice. Whatever. I’m sure he didn’t go on his break in the staff room and say ‘You should’ve seen the baby I’ve just delivered, her mum had the hairiest legs I’ve ever seen!’ to his fellow surgeon mates whilst they dunked their digestives in their tea. Or maybe he did. Frankly, I no longer care.

So, my hubby was gowned up and they took me in to theatre. I remember it being so brightly lit and not at all like the theatres you see on the TV. There was a radio playing and the staff were joking about how bad the Healthcare Assistant’s singing was. The Anaesthetist struggled to get the spinal block due to my spinal condition. She had told me that it may have been necessary to have a general if she couldn’t get the spinal in. I pleaded with her to keep trying. I desperately didn’t want to miss the delivery of my little girl. She worked like an absolute trooped getting that spinal block and she made it happen. I will forever be grateful for that.

I had a great medical team surrounding me, with a Baby Doctor on call ready to give our baby girl help if she needed it. It turns out she was an absolute trooper too. She was delivered ever so perfectly, with Daddy catching the moment she was pulled from me on camera (we’re saving that one til she brings her first boyfriend home). Every last ounce of her 6lb 12 weight was absolute perfection. You wouldn’t even know that she was born early, or born dependant on morphine.

But as I was obliviously coo-ing over the beautiful baby girl that was tucked inside my hospital gown, being held tightly against my chest, the rest of the surgery was not going to plan. The nurses did their best to reassure me when the machines started making extra beeping noises and they called the Registrar to come down, I knew there was something wrong. It was written all over the atmosphere in the room. It had gone from a jubilant, celebratory ‘Yay! It’s a baby girl!’ atmosphere to a everyone-looking-scary-worried atmosphere.

The Registrar came down and spoke very quietly with the Surgeon then came and explained that I was suffering Uterine Atony, my uterus had failed to contract after the delivery and it was causing quite a lot of blood loss. She was very upbeat, attempted to distract me with small talk whilst keeping one eye firmly on the developing surgery at the bottom of the table. It took the surgeon, what felt like, an eternity to get things under control. I did nothing but look at the faces of the medical staff, the way you look to air crew staff when you’re on a bumpy flight to see if they look worried, because if they look worried, well then it’s time to worry that the plane may be in trouble.

I tried to focus on my baby girl, my husband – anything other than the beeping of those bloody machines. The more I nestled my beautiful baby in to my chest, the more I worried that I wasn’t going to get out of that theatre alive to enjoy her. I felt cold and my hands were trembling as I tried to hold my baby close to me.

What felt like an eternity later, the Registrar finally looked at me, relieved and told me that I had lost quite a bit of blood but that the situation was under control and that I was now being stitched up ready to go in to recovery. The machines stopped beeping, the jovial atmosphere resumed with the Healthcare Assistant continuing with his rubbish singing and the room literally breathed a sigh of relief.

It turned out that our little baby girl wasn’t out of the woods unfortunately. We had a wonderful first 12 -18 hours with her before the drug withdrawal symptoms started taking hold and sge got sicker and sicker. I have promised myself I will write about our experience as parents of a baby with a drug dependency one day but I don’t feel quite ready to do it yet so I will come back to that another day.

One thing I must say on the subject of both her dependency and the birth is that I am so grateful for the incredible medical team we had looking after us both. Not once did we feel that we weren’t in safe hands. They were nothing short of outstanding. I know sometimes the NHS gets a bashing, and if I’m being honest, I have had my own frustrations with them in the past, but we could not fault the care given to either of us during our stay in Maternity.

Phew! I got through it! Apologies for its total lack of relevance due to my poor time keeping but posting anyway in the hope that one day it may raise awareness in the same way that newspaper article did for me. I owe the family in that article the world and then some.

5 things I wish I’d known about raising a teenager.

I’m by no means an expert on raising teenagers. I still make quite considerable sized boo-boos on a daily basis but I’m learning. These are just a few things I’ve discovered (mostly by accident) that I wish I’d been told about earlier….

 

  1. Pick your battles wisely. Your teen will go head to head with you on various topics multiple times a day. These battles can range anywhere from the daily moans and groans of ‘I want to stay out later’ ‘I don’t want to go to school’ and ‘I wouldn’t be seen dead wearing THAT.’ to the more rebellious, challenging battles that would test the patience of a saint. In the dark underworld of teen parenting, the smallest of things can trigger the biggest of battles. I’ve found the hard way that unless you want to spend every waking minute in a to-do with your teen, you need to be selective in the battles you entertain and the ones you let go as sometimes it just isn’t worth it. If your teen is anything like mine, they have the stamina of a cheetah on steroids when it comes to arguing so it would be physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting to try and keep up with them. Let certain things go – ask yourself ‘is it worth it?’ and if the answer is ‘no’, let it go. Rise above it. It feels unnatural at first to turn the other cheek when your child is saying or doing something you don’t agree with; after all, you’ve spent thirteen odd years teaching them to respect you, listen to you and do as you say. Believe me though, some things just aren’t worth it. Maintaining a positive atmosphere at home and within the family, for me anyway, has always been more important, particularly when you have younger siblings around. Door slamming and ranting and raving doesn’t make for a very harmonious house!

 

  1. Loosen your hold of their reins. I don’t say this lightly because this is something that I continue to struggle with. Parenting is about keeping your child safe, supervising them, being there with them to ensure their safety so it’s only natural that as they grow up, as parents we find it difficult to let them go. But this is an essential part of growing up that all teens need to go through. They need to be given the space to experience independence in the real world and the freedom to go out there and make mistakes, learn lessons and develop valuable life skills. If you don’t allow them that freedom, the chances are that, they will rebel against you and take that freedom against your consent and then it is done in an uncontrolled way. Nobody gets given an instruction manual for raising teens so when it comes to making decisions about at what stage or age to give your teen that freedom, you need to do what feels right for you and your child. Build that freedom gradually, nobody expects you to allow your child to walk the streets for three days. Start with allowing them out for an hour or two and build it up gradually, adding in new dimensions like allowing them to travel by public transport, allowing them to visit places like the cinema independently. I have an arrangement with my teen that he texts me whenever he arrives or leaves a new place so that if I ever needed to track his movements, I could. For example he visits his friends via a short train journey so he texts me when he reaches the train station, again when he is on the train, again when he gets off the train and again when he meets his friends. Some may think this is a little OTT (and maybe it is!) but this is the strategy I needed to use in order for me to feel reassured that he was as safe as I could possibly make him when out on his own.

 

  1. You need to let them be them. When raising a younger child, as a parent you have control over almost every aspect of their life: which school they go to, the friendships you encourage through invitations to play-dates, what they wear, the media they are exposed to and the hobbies they enjoy. As they get older, we have to relinquish that control a little bit at a time so that they can find themselves, further develop who they are as a person, their likes, their dislikes, their opinions and their interests. Sometimes, as a parent, this can feel like a bad thing. You feel like you are losing that control. Suddenly you are faced with your son or daughter who may be developing their own point of view, disagreeing with the belief system you have raised them with, taking on character traits that you don’t recognise. It’s difficult. But necessary. And, you know, once you go with it, it brings a whole new dimension to your family, and moreover, to your relationship with your teen. I love that my son and I have opposing views on some subjects, it makes for stimulating conversation and we have some very healthy debates over the dinner table!

 

  1. When they say they hate you, they don’t actually hate you. There are a whole range of sayings you can regularly hear from my teen when things don’t go his way. These range from the old ‘You’ve ruined my life’ chestnut to ‘You don’t get it’ ‘You know nothing’ ‘I hate you’. These sayings are usually accompanied by thunderous footsteps up the stairs and an almighty door slam. After a couple of years of it, I have developed a thicker skin but I found it hard not to take it personally in the beginning. The one thing to remember throughout any spat with your teen is that it is temporary. Your teen will calm down. They will come back downstairs with their tail between their legs (usually when they are hungry) and they will apologise (be prepared for this to be a non-verbal apology as saying the word ‘sorry’ seems to be a bit of a challenge for teenagers in my experience!). When my teen’s sorry he usually creeps in with those big doughy eyes, gives me a cuddle and a kiss on the cheek and then resumes usual service with a ‘what’s for tea?’ type question. Go easy on them. Hormones do make them go a bit crazy. They are a child trying to find their place in an adult world. It can be tough on them too sometimes.

 

  1. You need to involve them in everything you do as a family. As much as your teen enjoys spending fifteen hours a day on their games console competing against a middle aged man in a string vest suffering a midlife crisis on another continent, it is good for them to get out and enjoy family life. They may protest, they may put up a fight. They may well roll their eyes at the thought of a family picnic in the park but I guarantee that once you get them away from their games console / youtube videos / snapchat, they will enjoy it. Even though they are becoming more and more independent at the speed of light, they still need to feel that they have a place within the family. They may not volunteer to go on family days out but with a little gentle persuasion, they will come, offering you opportunities to make more memories as a family. As you slowly start to recognise that your teen is rapidly growing into an adult, it is those precious memories that you will treasure.

Know the true meaning of unconditional love: an open letter to my children.

‘Know the true meaning of unconditional love: An open letter to my children’

 This piece was inspired by a tragic incident that took place recently involving a family I know. I won’t go in to it any further because it’s not my story to tell, but it has served as a poignant reminder that mental health knows no bounds. It takes prisoners of all ages and comes with an invisibility which can lead to it being unidentified for a long time.

Dear my Big Lad, and my Baby Girl,

You, my big lad, are growing up so fast. You will be fifteen in less than six months. I know you are smart (much smarter than I’ll ever be!) and I know you are switched on and might think you have it all figured out. I know you will think ‘I know this already’ but please read on, it’s important to your old mum.

And to you, my baby girl, you are at the very beginning of you long and exciting life. You don’t know much about life yet, and that’s Ok. Take your time. The world is a funny place, you will find your place in it, there’s no hurry. Your daddy and I will be here to help you find your way. But before all that, I need you to know this one thing, so listen up. I don’t expect everything to make sense to you right now as you are so small, but I promise one day soon it will all make perfect sense so read carefully.

I know that there will come a day when you will get fed up of the way I go on. I tell you I love you every time you leave the room, even if you are just going to the toilet and coming back in a few minutes. I sign off every text message with ‘I love you’ and hundreds of lines of kisses. I love to cuddle you at random times, like in the middle of a crammed shopping centres. I pretend to like the same TV as you so that we can sit and cuddle up and make our way through box sets together. I know that you know that but let’s not say it out loud. It would spoil the fun.

If I could physically wrap you both up in cotton wool and bubble wrap and never let you out of my sight, I would. I have had to work really hard to relax a little. I tell you for why; since the day you were born, you were and remain the most precious and treasured thing I have in my life. Both of you. You are my greatest achievement. You are my world, my life.

I know that the cotton wool and bubble wrap approach doesn’t go down very well. And I get that. You want to grow up, you want to do things your way, you want to be free. I continue to work hard at allowing you both that freedom. Big lad, you are growing up so fast that I know I have to ease off, I have to let go a little. I have to let go a lot. You will soon be making your way in the big wide world without me, so now more than ever, I need you to know the way I feel.

A mother’s love is something you can’t understand at your age. Since the day you were both placed in my arms, it has been my job to envelope you in love and keep you safe. It was and is the responsibility of your Daddy and I to raise you to be good people with kind hearts. That’s some job. That is some responsibility. But my goodness are you two making us proud.

Big lad, you will know that I tell you that you make me proud every single day. You will respond, as you always do, with ‘what have I done to make you proud today? I haven’t done anything special’, without knowing that you need do nothing ‘special’ as you put it, to make proud. You make me proud by just being you. I swell with pride every time I look at you.

There are moments, special moments, where I feel like my heart could literally burst with pride for you both. Sometimes it’s an overwhelming feeling. There are times I simply cannot believe that you came from me. You are both so beautiful. Together with your Daddy, I am unbelievably proud of who you are and what you have achieved in your life so far.

As much as I don’t want to even contemplate it, there will come a time (and it isn’t in the too distant future for you, big lad) where you have to fled the nest to be yourself, to work out who you are as an adult, to find your place and make your mark on the world. My heart plummets at the thought of you not being there when I wake up on a morning or not being able to give you a hug at some point in the day, but I know you are bound for incredible things and that excites me. I know that the both of you, whatever you grow up to do, will make the world a better place. The world is so much richer for having you both here and I can’t wait (well, I can wait but you know what I mean!) to see what you both achieve.

 

But as you are growing up – and beyond that, when you are adults – please remember one thing. I love you unconditionally. Big lad, I know that you will understand what the word ‘unconditional’ means but I want you to understand what it means in the context of a mother’s love. Because, that is unconditional on a whole new level.

 

There is nothing you could ever do that will change the love I feel for you. Please know that regardless of who you grow up to be, the company you keep, the things you do or don’t do, where you go or what you believe, I love you. Absolutely unconditionally.

 

I can’t promise to always agree with your opinion; I can’t promise to always approve of your decisions or your actions. But I can promise that we will love you regardless. We have raised you the only way we know how and I sincerely hope that the life you have had with us will give you a solid foundation upon which to build your own moral compass, your own belief system, your own way of living. But please know that if there should be a bump in the road and you make a mistake, know that you are loved unconditionally. Don’t ever be afraid to say ‘I’ve screwed up’. Don’t ever be deterred from returning home to us after you’ve made a mistake or you’ve done something that you know we wouldn’t approve of. We all do it at some point in our lives. Hell, I’ve made my own mistakes. I’ve made multiple mistakes. It’s all part and parcel of the tapestry of life.

 

Sometimes life goes pear shaped. We make a series of bad decisions and suddenly life has taken a turn for the worse. Don’t ever feel that it is too late to start over. It is never too late. Come to us and we will listen. We will not judge. We will put an arm around your shoulder and we will support you. We will help to rebuild your life and start again.

 

Likewise don’t ever feel like you have no where to go. Don’t ever believe that you can’t come home because we will be disappointed / disapprove / disagree – we will never turn you away and we will never feel those things. You always have a place with us. Always. So regardless of how old you are, your personal circumstances or what has gone on in your life, please understand that there is always a road that leads home. That road will never be closed off. This is our guarantee to you that we will always be here for you.

 

And if you EVER think that we would be better off without you, please know that there is no truth in that statement. Your mind is not thinking clearly and is not speaking any truth. Do not listen to it. There could never ever be a world where we would consider ourselves better off without you. So should you ever find yourself having these thoughts (and I pray that you don’t) remember this letter. Let your mind trigger a memory of what I have spoken about today. I love you. I always will. Forever. And unconditional.

Children Need To Be Told They Amazing

My response to Karren Brady’s recent article in The Sun. Find it here

I think the word ‘amazing’ gets used a little bit too much these days. And don’t even get me started on that whole ‘sha-mazing’ thing. Boy was that annoying. But when it comes to my children, I’m very happy to tell them they’re amazing. Incredible. Awesome. Beautiful. Wonderful. Precious. They are all of those things and more.

So, when I came across Karren Brady’s article in The Sun this week and I read the title ‘Parents need to stop telling their kids they’re amazing’, I was naturally intrigued. She went on to argue that if we don’t stop telling our children they are amazing ‘they’ll struggle to cope in the real world.’ Uh-Oh, I could’ve thought. I’ve really dropped my kids in the brown stuff. I’ve ruined their lives. I’ve accidentally removed any chance they had of being able to cope in the real world. I’ve failed them. They are doomed. I am the worst parent ever.

I could have thought that. I didn’t. But I could have. Instead I fiercely rejected every point that the article made.

Basically, in a nut shell, Karren Brady believes that we are over praising our children. She thinks that this results in them struggling in the world of work as they get older because they expect ‘continuous praise and instant success’. She goes on to say that one of the key issues she encounters during her work with young people is their ‘raging sense of entitlement’. They, basically, expect the world on a platter because they’ve been told that is exactly what they can have.

I tell my children they are amazing every single day (although, I change up the vocabulary from day to day to keep it interesting). That is because that every single day they do, or say, something that makes me proud. That might be something as little as putting their dirty washing in the right place (although, I must admit, that doesn’t happen very often!) or being kind, understanding, tolerant. My children are pretty amazing. (It’s now even irritating me at how many times I’m using that word!). Sod that. They are incredibly awesome. Without fail, they make me proud to be their mum. Every. Single. Day. Why shouldn’t I tell them that? And if I do continue to do this, is Karren Brady to be believed? Is it really going to hamper their chances of coping with the real world if I do?

I don’t think so.

I used to teach at secondary level a number of years ago. The number of children I met with low self esteem and low self confidence was astounding. It was the type of low self esteem that was as limiting as a ten foot brick wall surrounding them. They couldn’t escape it. They could not break through that wall. For some children it revolved around their appearance. For others it was about their academic ability, or their ability to make friends and ‘be popular’. They felt that they were at floor level and everybody else was up in the stars. That sort of mindset has a long term effect. Karren Brady is concerned about young people turning up for work with an expectation that they will be successful, or an expectation that they will be promoted quickly or believe that one day they’ll be running the place. I would be more concerned about the young people who wouldn’t even have the confidence to turn up for the job interview. Or apply for a job in the first place.

Being a young person isn’t easy. It’s far harder when you don’t feel comfortable in your own skin and you lack the confidence to be yourself. I’ve been doing a lot of reading recently on the power of affirmations and it is no different to what millions of parents are doing every single day in telling their children that they are amazing. If you tell someone something for long enough, they will start to believe it themselves. Tell your children they are beautiful, they are clever, they are going to change the world, often enough and they too will believe it. From that place will grow confidence and self esteem. From that will grow ambition, drive and pride. How can that be a bad thing?

Karren Brady also explores the theory that working parents over praise their children because they feel guilty about not being around more for them. She’s right about the guilt thing – every single time I leave my baby at nursery on a morning I feel guilt. Every time my son asks to do something fun during the school holidays and I have to go to work instead, I feel guilt. But that’s not why I tell them they are amazing. I tell them they are amazing because they are exactly that: amazing.

Karren goes on to say that children who grow up being praised all the time will at some point enter the real world and realise the ‘unpaletable truth’ that praise has to be earned and that you have to work hard to become the best at anything. There is a huge presumption here that because we praise our children, we are not instilling a strong work ethic in them and that’s wrong. I believe that the bigger we build our children up, the bigger they will dream to achieve. If we tell our children they are capable of conquering the world, they will dream about conquering the world. That gives them ambition, drive and determination. As long as we promote a strong work ethic and continue that conversation by reminding them that whilst they are capable of conquering the world, they have to work very hard to do so, they will not expect success to fall at their feet overnight.

Karren closes her article with a suggestion that our over-praised children can’t grow up and even begin to consider working in a business because they won’t even have the capacity to ‘connect with real human beings’. This still puzzles me. I think that one of our biggest jobs as parents is to make our children aware of their capabilities. We should be making them feel like they could rule the world standing on one foot with a blindfold on. We need to reinforce the need to aim high. Dream big. We need to tell them ‘you are good enough’ , ‘you can achieve anything you want’ ‘You are who you are and we are so proud of you’. As long as we use our praise as a tool to drive our children forward, a tool to encourage them to dream big, a tool to reinforce a strong work ethic, then those children will aim high. They will dare to dream big and they will do their very best to achieve those dreams. But without that self belief they won’t get off the starting blocks. We need to believe in them so they can believe in themselves. And we do that by telling them how incredibly amazing they are.