My 100,000 Miles to Geriatric Mummahood

Last week, my car’s mileage reached 100,000 miles & I realised that I’ve actually driven all of them, but three. I bought my car brand new & I loved it then & still do now. I also realised that this milestone (& my car itself) represents my long journey to motherhood rather well. I bought my trusty Suzuki Swift eleven years ago, I was 28, almost 29. I was newly married to my first husband. If truth be told, we’d never really spoken about having children; it wasn’t on my agenda during my 20s: I was busy teaching other people’s children & I was more than happy with that arrangement. That was until one month in 2008 I missed my period. I was terrified, but part of me was excited at the thought of being a Mumma. I duly bought a pregnancy test (the first of many over the years) & waited what seemed like forever, for just one pesky line to appear. It was negative & I felt sad. It was at that precise moment, whilst sat sobbing on the loo; that I knew I wanted & thought I was ready for a baby, but didn’t realise I’d have to wait ten more years: get diagnosed with PCOS, go through a divorce, marry my soulmate, lose over three stone in weight & suffer a fair bit of heartbreak in between before I got to hold my bundle of joy.

I met Tim back in 2003 & I was instantly attracted to him. There was something about him that I was drawn to: he was (& still is) fun, techie(!), driven, successful & passionate in his career. He always inspired me with so many things & we talked for hours & continue to now – providing we can both stay awake long enough (ahh, the joys of late parenthood hey!) But the time we met was not the right one. We had our own partners & families & so I put it out of my mind that we would ever be together. To cut a very long story short; after a lot of courage to vocalise our thoughts we discovered that neither of us were happy in our current lives. We met up to talk about things, knew we were attracted to each other & wanted to be together & the rest, as they say, is history. I’m secretly hoping that Tim wanted to be with me all along too, but I’ll never know for certain! We’ve been together ever since. Who would have thought that a chance meeting all those years ago would lead to this? Our paths would never have crossed & I think it proves that if you’re meant to be with someone, then the universe has a way of making things happen & at exactly the right time. It hasn’t all been straightforward by any means, but we firmly believe that you shouldn’t stay in a situation that makes you unhappy. Yes, it’s selfish, but life is painfully too short. My favourite film quote (from ‘Steel Magnolias’) is, “I would rather have 30 minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special” & it’s so true. We had no idea how our relationship would go; whether we could even live together, but we were prepared to take the chance & I don’t regret a single day. Tim might though?!

Tim knew from the beginning of our relationship that I wanted a child. He already had two of his own, so this was a big thing for both of us in different ways. I knew my fertility was dwindling so we tried quite soon into our relationship & during 2014 – the year we got married, we thought our prayers had been answered. I had been having a lot of pain in my side for a few days & after a lot of paracetamol not having any effect & not being able to sleep for a couple of nights because of the agony, we went to A&E. It was like something out of a film. They did all my stats & then asked for a urine sample. I waited ages in a cubicle worrying what they might find, then a Doctor came in to tell me that I was ‘strongly’ pregnant & the pain could just be muscular as my body adapted. I was in absolute shock & over the moon all at the same time, but unfortunately, I was already bleeding heavily & miscarried a couple of days later. I was distraught, although had a little hope that we might conceive again soon as the Doctor said I was at my most fertile. We were pregnant within the next month & ecstatic, but terrified. I bled again, so we went to a private clinic for a scan. The sonographer said everything looked fine & it was a healthy pregnancy. Unfortunately a week later I miscarried; literally at the hospital during my first scan. The sonographer couldn’t find the foetus because of all the blood. Looking back, I don’t know how I got through this dark time if truth be told. My heart was literally broken into a million pieces, I could feel it. Then, in 2016 I lost my wonderful Mum & couldn’t cope with anything in that whole year. I had no focus, no goals, I was just trying to get through one day at a time. It wasn’t until 2017, when I’d pretty much given up all hope that I’d ever be a Mumma, that Tim suggested one rainy October morning that he thought I should take a pregnancy test. We had just received a letter from the fertility clinic & ready to try other alternatives, again. I remember we sat on the landing together, waiting for the result. After a few minutes, the annoyingly familiar single control line appeared, a few more minutes & I gingerly looked again. Nothing. I was absolutely distraught, as I felt this was our last chance. I was just about to throw it in the bin when I glanced again, just to be sure. When I did, I saw the faintest of lines in the test window! Could this actually be real? I immediately showed Tim & he thought there was something there too. We quickly went to the supermarket to get some digital tests & there it was on the LCD screen: I was 2-3 weeks pregnant. But this was just the start of my journey. Despite my terror in the early days & my almost PTSD terror at each scan appointment, I had a fairly straight forward pregnancy. This changed towards the end as my darling boy was measuring quite large (well Tim is 6’1”!) & they had to keep an extra eye on me. Then I developed pre-eclampsia, so couldn’t have the water birth I so dearly wanted. I also have a negative blood group & Benjamin’s is positive, so had to have injections & more obs. But, in the grand scheme of things all went well. I think I held things together, until the ‘final push’ when I lost it a bit. I remember thinking afterwards, “I’ve done it, I’ve actually done it, but now what do I do?!” I still have these thoughts now! Every stage of having a baby brings its own magic & wonder & I genuinely love it. I look forward to Benjamin’s next milestone, I cherish it. I do get sad sometimes that I won’t be having any more babies, but I honestly don’t think my body could do it again. And Tim keeps telling me that he is only meant to have three children in this lifetime! So I count my blessings daily: my very special little boy that I was never sure I could have.

So, going back to my blog title, I guess my little car has been a constant companion; through my marriages, house move: it literally drove me out of my old life & into my new one, my miscarriages, many road trips, a few different jobs, lots of trips with friends & family (some of whom are sadly no longer with us), throughout my pregnancy, transporting Benjamin, through my maternity leave & into a completely new career. And now here I am, a nearly forty year old Mumma of a 1 year old, still with the same car! I don’t think I could have ever believed or even imagined all that would happen in the decade to come; as I drove off the forecourt on that June Saturday morning back in 2008. We spend such a lot of time in our cars, that they become part of us. I have so many happy thoughts & memories that come flooding back to me whilst driving. It’s my bubble, my safe-haven, my thinking space & I’m not ready to part with it just yet, unless of course I’m offered a Mercedes SLK & then I might reconsider?..

NB. This has been a difficult post to write, I’ve not talked about this as openly as I have now & I apologise if there’s too much information. I hope that by writing about my experiences, it may help someone in some way; offering hope to never give up on your dreams; they just might take a little longer than you’d originally planned.

Thank you if you’re still reading!

The milestone…

My boys 💙

Yay, we survived the 10 month check!

I know, I’ve been very quiet on my blog recently. I haven’t given up with it, I’ve just been busy, preoccupied with life so to speak. Easter was wonderful: the boy & I were able to spend some really great (& much-needed) quality time together. And although I was exhausted for the most part, as I’d changed my rota to work in the evenings, I loved the time that we shared during the day. We reconnected, re-bonded even & it was just what we both needed…

The week before the Easter hols, I bumped into one of my elderly neighbours, whom I hadn’t seen for a long time. She saw Benjamin & asked whether I’d gone back to work yet. When I explained that I had & of our (in our eyes) successful childcare arrangements, she laughed as she exclaimed, “oh, so you’re a part time Mum then!” It’s amazing how this short sentence could change my whole perspective on everything. It seemed so negative. I felt awful, physically sick even. I’d never thought of my mummahood in that way; I’d only seen the positives, in that Benjamin gets more social interaction opportunities with other children than I could provide, he learns from different adults & he still gets to spend quality time with Tim & me. And I get to pay the household bills, joy! My neighbour went on to explain how her own daughter home-school’s & wouldn’t dream of leaving her child with anyone, but by that time, I’d zoned-out: contemplating my perceived ‘failings’ as a mother – in her eyes at least. It really got to me, probably more than it should have & made me even more determined to make the best of our Easter ‘break’ together, which we did.

So any way, back to the blog title! Today was the day that one of the local Health Visitors came to our home to do Benjamin’s 10-month assessment. I’d been dreading it if truth be known. We have no worries about his development at all, but knew he couldn’t do some of the things on the checklist & I didn’t want him to ‘fail’ – as no parent does. I was completely honest in my answers, which I think is important: in my previous teaching career, I’d experienced so many parents in complete denial about their children’s capabilities or lack of them, that I wanted his questionnaire to be a true reflection of him at this moment in time. Basically, he has only recently started to stand up unaided; with me during the Easter holidays in fact. He balances beautifully & keeps his whole foot flat. He can’t however, pick things up from standing, nor walk along holding onto furniture, or lower himself gracefully onto the floor (more falling like a sack of spuds!) Yes, he ‘talks’ a lot (to everything & everyone), he has amazing fine motor skills – picking up the tiniest crumb off the floor in a fab pincer grip, & he’ll even rhythmically blow raspberries onto his arm if the mood takes him: which it did of course, whilst the Health Visitor was explaining the dangers of the home. Who knew that ovens could burn, or that hot drinks could scald(?!) Benjamin was just vocalising his Mumma’s exasperated thoughts, I’m sure. Any way, she wasn’t worried about him in any of the other development areas at all. He is happy (unless hungry), healthy, sociable & the fact that he points to things frequently is very advanced for his age & a key language milestone: https://www.adam-mila.com/milestones/language-development/pointing/ I was a proud Mumma as I’ve always said he’s a talker rather than a walker, a bit like me! So she’s going to ‘phone me in a month to see what progress he’s made & go from there. I’m sure he’ll be cruising along (at his consistent 91st centile for height!) by that point, & in my ‘part-time mummahood’ I’ll be working on different strategies to get him walking more. Probably with one of Daddy’s unorthodox methods of using the glass biscuit jar, or the television remote that we gave him: in a true ‘carrot & stick’ approach. Well, the boy needs an incentive & what better than appeal to his two loves: food & technology. He really is a true mix of both of us it seems!

I suppose I need to thank my neighbour really, as her flippant comment made me stop & think. Yes, I guess I’ve come to terms with the fact that I might be a ‘part time’ Mumma during the week (although Tim doesn’t agree with this) but I make sure that I’m properly ‘Mummaing’ when we’re together. I think being a ‘full time Mummy’ is almost a luxury these days, which makes me sad really. I would love to stay at home with him all day, but alas the mortgage needs to be paid! So while he may not have ticked all the gross motor skill tasks on the feared ‘checklist,’ he is however, excelling in communication, language, fine motor skills & social interaction. In our eyes, this is far more important at this stage: provided he’s not still commando crawling when he’s 16 that is! So despite my recent doubting, I guess this means I can’t be all that bad at this whole Mumma thing after all; part time or otherwise. Well maybe. Thank you for reading.

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We did it!
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“I love to point Mumma!”

So we’ve survived our first week. Just…

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Our happy, smiley boy 🙂

Wow, I don’t think I’ve felt quite this tired since Benjamin came out of hospital! Just one of the many joys of being a creaky geriatric Mumma I guess. We’ve both been waking up at 5am on the dot. Every. Single. Day. Benjamin starts his day with a large bowel movement, which I can usually hear resonating through the baby monitor & then, almost disgusted with himself, protests about it. Loudly. Tim continues to be oblivious to the boy’s grumblings & sleeps on for a good hour longer. So unfair! Mumma is surviving on vast amounts of caffeine & determination in equal measure. We also discovered this week that the Green House is unable function for 24 hours even without a kettle. After our numerous attempts to fix our trusty six & a half year old Kenwood, Tim was forced to buy a new one, for his own sanity/safety. Well there are only so many times you can wait to boil a saucepan of water for a cuppa.

Our ‘routine’ (I say this term loosely), after the initial first day teething problems, seems to work quite well: I run around like a blue bottomed fly getting myself & Jamin organised for the day, all while Tim leisurely breakfasts & showers in his usual way; only changed slightly as he now has an excitable car-share buddy on his journey to work. Where as I get a decidedly non-chatty, weary commuter on our way home. I think I messaged Tim most days, to check Benjamin was happy when he was dropped off. Every time he’s been absolutely fine: happy, smiling & apparently charming his lovely child minders by fluttering his ridiculously long eyelashes & giving them one of his dazzling smiles. I’m sure this will be the source of many a headache for me in the future *sighs* I’m also sure that if I dropped him off, he’d be completely different, as he was during his settling in sessions; giving me the face of a child who should be fronting the latest NSPCC campaign & breaking my heart in the process. We’re so lucky in that Sara (our wonderful childminder) understands my angst & sends us photographs & messages to reassure me. To be honest, it’s got me through the day.

My darling boy has changed in so many ways. He seems much older, after just one week of being apart. I always remember one of the mums at swimming saying, “they just get interesting as you go back to work!” And it’s true. And although I’m sad that I’m not with him all the time to see these milestones, I feel that I appreciate & notice them more somehow. Part of me also wonders whether these achievements (see below, except for the tooth!) would even have happened if he were still just with me. My theory is that humans are characteristically sociable creatures: we imitate those around us & ultimately want to please others, so the more people you’re with, the more you naturally develop. Well that’s what I’m telling myself, so I feel a little happier about things.

Benjamin’s milestones this week…

  • He can now wave & practices his new move to the other Mummies when leaving Sara’s. Such a smoothie already it seems!
  • His first tooth is coming through at last! * Y A Y *
  • He can reliably sit up for longer…tummy time is so last month Mumma!
  • He has the appetite of a small horse & is now eating three meals a day!
  • We’ve nicknamed him ‘Bamm Bamm’ (from the Flintstones) because he seems to like to whack everything with his favourite plaything: a wooden spoon! Let’s hope he’ll be a drummer?! Well maybe.
  • He’s happier & more sociable if that’s even possible.
  • His cheeky personality is really coming out & I think he’ll be a windup merchant just like his father!
  • I’m becoming a feeder. Rice cakes & Ella’s Kitchen Tomato & Basil Melty Sticks give about 5 minutes (at least) of peace while Mumma sorts out dinner.

Let’s hope next week is just as good…

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Photos sent from Benjamin’s Childminder Sara

 

You’re Twistin’ My Melon Man…

This was the blog that I wanted to post on Tuesday, but things got a little crazy in the Greenhouse, so here we are, a little later than planned…

I want to talk about last Monday, when for the first time since our initial visit back in August, our wonderful osteopath Mark signed Benjamin off; satisfied for us not to return, unless we were still overly concerned ourselves & really wanted to cross his palm with the best part of £40.00 again, for half an hour of his incredibly precious time. He thinks he could do a little more: if we wanted Benjamin to be completely fine-tuned, but for the most part, he was happy & that makes us happy.

In a nutshell (excuse the pun), Benjamin has a ‘wonky bonce’ as Tim so eloquently puts it, or plagiocephaly if you want to be really technical. Basically he has a slightly flat spot on his right side, all because he suffered with torticollis (or ‘twisted neck’) since birth. The abrupt nature of his arrival (right at the end) was a little overwhelming for Benjamin (including his Mumma!) So much so, that he kind of froze in shock because he’d been evicted so forcefully, but very necessarily! After much research, aka late-night Googling, I’ve found that both conditions are becoming increasingly more common in babies. Plagiocephaly in particular since the Back To Sleep Campaign started in 1994. It is obviously desperately important to ensure that babies are safe while they sleep & I am 100% in favour of any advice I can get regarding best sleeping positions. However, no information about these conditions is made available to expectant parents. I wish we’d been told about torticollis/plagiocephaly in Antenatal classes. Learning how to breastfeed is well & good, but it shouldn’t be the main focus. Things like: signs to look out for regarding head movement & shaping, when to worry, things to try in the first instance & even contact details of amazing professionals like ‘our’ Mark should also be included. We were recommended to Mark by one of my amazing Mummy Friends, yep, I’ve used that expression, the one I really hate. This was after I was hitting my own head repeatedly against a brick wall with the Health Visitors, who weren’t taking my concerns about Benjamin’s lack of neck movement seriously. In my experience, they have been next to useless with all of my concerns. Being told, “it’s normal, just put all your baby’s toys on the left side so he’s forced to move his neck, or turn him the opposite end of his cot” multiple times doesn’t treat the problem itself. The poor boy was literally ‘locked’ into this position, so all of these suggestions were of no use at all. As far as Benjamin was concerned, only half the world existed & he literally couldn’t investigate to find the other half: because his neck forced him to always look to his right.

Tim & I arrived at a fairly modest private residence in Dorchester in late August last year, not entirely sure what to expect. My friend had said, he’ll just talk to you & Benjamin & you won’t even realise he’s doing anything. And that’s exactly how it went. Every visit. Yes, he examined him, he held him in fairly standard treatment positions, but what he was actually doing was invisible to the untrained eye. He is such an interesting man, with a mass of curly grey hair, earrings & an incredibly dry sense of humour, which I appreciate. Benjamin was absolutely intrigued by him from the start. Although you’re never quite sure if he is joking or not; for example, in one of our sessions, he flew Benjamin around the room steadily supporting his tummy & back, they were both chatting away to each other as always. I was convinced that I’d witnessed some really technical pediatric osteopathic move & intrigued, I asked what treatment he was doing. He just laughed & said, “well you’ve got to keep it fun with children, can’t be serious all the time!” Of course. Silly me. As the weeks & months went by, everyone could see a massive change in Benjamin & he now has a completely full range of neck movement. It’s amazing to see, especially considering how bad it was to begin with. His head will never be perfectly symmetrical though, but then whose is? As hard as it is to acknowledge that your child has flaws, I’ve decided that he’s perfectly imperfect & that’s more than good enough for us. We won’t send him back just yet. He’ll just have to have a long mane of hair instead. We enquired about the recently celebrity-famed ‘helmets’, but the poor boy would have to wear it for 23 hours straight a day, they are quite restrictive, designed purely for changing aesthetics & with a starting price of £2k, we decided that he can be beautifully & naturally unique.

The best advice that he gave me was to keep Benjamin on the floor. Lots of tummy time, as much as possible in fact & let him work things out for himself. He explained that this is how all babies learn best: plenty of opportunities to explore for themselves & time to get frustrated, all without too much adult interaction or distraction & he is right. I’ve loved & continue to love watching Benjamin figure things out in his head: how to move objects, how to move towards objects & learning about pressure points, all in preparation for crawling (which isn’t far off!) Sometimes I can literally see the boy thinking. It’s magical.

With this in the back of my mind, I’ve always tried hard to keep tummy time fun & varied: to hold his attention longer than 30 seconds. This week we’ve been looking at different kinds of lids on a tray. Even though I washed each of them to within an inch of their lives, he still seems to be instinctively drawn towards the alcoholic ones! Hmmm, I can’t think where he gets that from? I also changed his sensory light bulbs from their festive contents to lots of random Playmobil accessories, colourful rainbow beads & Lego bricks. See the photographs below.

I will always maintain that osteopathy is 50% science & 50% witchcraft, but it works & that’s all we wanted & hoped for. We’ve given Benjamin the best possible start, all from chance conversation with a good friend. I’ll happily give out Mark’s contact details, just leave a comment below or drop me an email. I honestly can’t recommend him enough.

Thank you for reading.

 

All Change Please…

So the next important milestone that I needed to embrace was Benjamin’s transition from his crib at the end of our bed, into the Big Boy’s Cot Bed in his OWN room. I’ve been putting it off for a few weeks now; he had a poorly tummy, then it was Christmas, the bedroom needed sorting out, the list goes on. Looking back, it was probably more my own reservations, or should I say excuses, that it hadn’t happened until Saturday. The poor boy looked like some inadequately caged animal; barely able to move, with limbs sticking out the sides of his crib: things were getting ridiculous. It made me wonder why I was feeling sad about it all (especially with his obvious need for an upgrade) & then realised that it marks then end of a comparatively short, but hugely significant chapter of Benjamin’s & my life. In the early days, I barely slept, even when he did; I needed to hear him breathing, moving, crying: just to ensure that this was all-real, that this truly wonderful miracle had actually happened (despite the very real pain I was still experiencing, in places I didn’t think possible!) & that I could keep this tiny vulnerable human alive. As weeks went by, I was able to relax a little more: I subconsciously heard the rhythmic sound of his breathing, the 2am thumb sucking or sleep talking, the occasional whimper of a bad dream; all without being fully awake. I liked the idea of being able to see him when I wanted to: if I got up in the middle of the night for a wee (on most nights!) or while I applied my moisturiser before going to sleep. Now I’m only going to be able to hear him, & whilst I’m typing this, a lump is forming again in my throat. We toyed with the idea of getting a video monitor, but we decided that it would just be another time-sink; we would both literally be glued to it, which would be no good for any of us.

It amazes me how two people can look at a situation in two very different ways. There I was feeling a bit sad & anxious about the night ahead, while Tim on the other hand was super excited; telling me all the things we can do, now that our little snuffling voyeur had been evicted; some of which I can’t type on here *blushes* although disappointingly, top of his list seems to be: being able to stretch his long legs out over the end of the bed once again (a problem that I will NEVER have at 5ft nothing!), closely followed by simply reading a book with the light on! Seriously. Oh how being parents has changed us!

The morning after the night before…

I’m pleased to say that it all went rather well. Yes, he did his usual ‘chat’ at 2am, but as always this soon passed & he quickly resumed his slumbers without me having to ‘shoosh’ him; as I sometimes find my semi-conscious self doing. I was still able to hear the dulcet tone of his breathing, which reassured me somewhat. Thankfully I didn’t need to be a Nappy Ninja & when he woke up at 6:33am (we’ll work on that for a Sunday morning!) he seemed happy & content as always. He was clearly enjoying the extra space by star-fishing upside down right in the middle of the cot, just like his Daddy does in bed!

He had a great day at his friend Albert’s christening; charming the ladies, burping his way through The Lord’s Prayer (I don’t think the Vicar heard, fortunately) then sleeping through the entire party afterwards, so didn’t actually get to play with his little mate in the end. Standard day really.

As I caught myself glancing at his empty crib before I went to bed last night, I guess I realised that I need to embrace change more positively (both in Benjamin’s life & my own), embrace the next milestone & enjoy the moment, although this is often easier to recognise after the moment has passed. Time has gone so very fast already & I know it’s never going to slow down. So onwards & upwards, there’s no going back: we’re selling his crib, so it’s permanent, well he can’t be in with us still when he’s 16 for goodness sake.

His weaning is going so much better these days & pretty much all is well in Benjamin’s world, even if his Mumma is finding it a little bit emotional. But she’s working on that, I promise.