For the last couple of years, Mother’s Day has been hard, really hard. Especially last year, when my pregnancy hormones were surging through me & all my grief seemed even more consuming than ever. My own wonderful, beautiful Mum passed away almost three years ago & not a day goes by without me thinking about her & wishing we could chat one last time. I take much comfort in my many happy memories of her, but get more upset about all the things that she’s missed: specifically Benjamin & being his Granny, which I know she would have been over the moon about. I also know she would have been the best grandmother & I often tell him about the things she used to do or say. This year, I was determined that things would be different…this year I wasn’t going to be quite as sad; yes I still miss her more than words can say, but mainly I wanted to be thankful: thankful for being lucky enough to have had such a fantastic Mum & having such a close relationship with her, but also truly thankful that I got to celebrate being a ‘proper’ Mumma for the very first time myself, something that I’d almost given up hope on becoming. I still think it’s incredible that in my Mum’s last letter to me, (when she knew that her health was seriously deteriorating) she wrote that she knew I would be a Mumma. I just thought it was her usual optimistic self; telling me that ‘things would be okay’ as she did regularly, but maybe, deep down, in her fast-approaching ‘end of life wisdom’, she really did know? Benjamin sometimes looks just above my head & giggles or smiles: I’ve convinced myself that it’s Mum playing ‘Peek A Boo’ with him, & ask him if it’s Granny. Sometimes his bedroom smells so strongly of her in the mornings, that I’m sure she’s been watching over him while he sleeps. It certainly gives me some comfort.
So as I look at my gorgeous cards & exquisite infinity orchid & Emma Bridgewater ‘Mummy mug’, I am incredibly thankful to be Benjamin’s Mumma (he knows me so well already it seems!) His cheeky smile & laugh completely lift my mood if I’m feeling down & I have to pinch myself that this precious tiny human is mine & I couldn’t be happier about it. It’s been a great Mother’s Day…we had tea & cake at Poole Park, visited Tim’s Mum & Grandad & Benjamin charmed them both. I even got a surprise camellia plant from Grandad, as he knows I love them so much. Yes, I’ve had moments of sadness as I remembered my Mum, but I’ve tried to stay more positive this year.
I hope you have all had a fab Mother’s Day too, filled with happy times & good memories.
So twice last week, two of the lovely ladies I’ve been working with recently were surprised to hear that I’m turning 40 in just under six months. I was shocked that they were shocked to be honest; maybe it was my hormonal breakout that fooled them or maybe they were just being kind. It certainly made my day, as since going back to work, I’ve certainly felt my age more than ever (it’s only been two weeks!) & it’s made me think about all that geriatric mummahood actually entails for me.
I guess it made me realise that older, doesn’t necessarily mean wiser. Well certainly not in my experience. I’m not naturally maternal & I know I never have been. Even as an early years teacher, I loved my job, adored the children, but was more ‘Mary Poppins’ than ‘Molly Wealsey’ about things – but certainly not, “practically perfect in every way” that’s for sure! It gave me a great insight into how I wanted to parent: I’ve been lucky to have known some absolutely inspirational Mummas in my career & this, combined with my own parents’ methods & reading the fantastic “French Children Don’t Throw Food” by Pamela Druckerman (www.pameladruckerman.com) have shaped my ‘style’ so to speak. We’re strict with Benjamin already; he’s beginning to learn his boundaries & he knows if he’s over-stepped them. This may sound harsh for an eight month old, but both Tim & I are firm believers in setting ground rules early on, then loosening up a little later. We’ve both found it successful with Tim’s other two children (for all involved) to do it this way, rather than allowing a ‘free for all’ to start with, then trying to rein things in later when it’s all gone a bit wahey! It’s harder than I thought it would be, but I keep having to tell myself that I’m not Benjamin’s friend, not just yet. For now at least, I’m just one of his guides & mentors in this crazy thing called ‘life’. What a responsibility!
For me, the lows of being ‘an older Mumma’ have to be the extreme tiredness, the complete achiness & the occasional overwhelming feelings of frustration. I’m sure this is no different from other Mummas, of all ages, but at times I’ve felt like my age has exacerbated these negatives. Looking back, I don’t think I fell into the complete depths of Post-Natal Depression, but on some days, back in the beginning, I was definitely paddling in the shallows. My emotions consumed me: I was angry with myself that I felt ‘trapped’ in this new role of motherhood; something that I had wanted so badly, for so long. I hated the fact this beautiful tiny human, that I had, in part created, was dependent upon me for everything. Literally everything. And part of me wanted to run far far away. I’d had 38 years of just thinking of myself, I was (& probably still am but to a lesser extent) a selfish person to a certain degree. I like my own time, company & space & always have. It’s taken a lot for me to write this, it’s not something I’ve really vocalised, let alone typed. I’m lucky in that I had Tim to talk to, to shout at even. He listened to me vent & talked some sense back into me. Thank goodness. But I can see how easy it would be to slip into the vicious cycle of depression. I found: http://www.mind.org.uk to be a fantastic source of information. My other main ‘low’ has been the intense physical pain. For the first three months, I felt brittle, like an old porcelain teacup. Every movement was agony & some days I was genuinely terrified that I would ‘shatter’. Then I developed ‘de Quervain’s tenosynovitis’ aka tendonitis of the wrist. My age, my gender & my recent motherhood were all contributing factors apparently. Joy. So after seeing two doctors, a physiotherapist, being given exercises & a sexy black splint that I’m meant to wear 24/7, but found that I’m allergic to, so can only bear wearing it at night time (along with my fluffly socks & dressing gown) Tim’s a lucky man! Haha! I feel that things are getting better. I don’t have to think about how to pick the boy up & everyday tasks are getting easier again thankfully. Thank you NHS. I could go on with other ailments: breakouts, hair issues (various!), dry skin etc. etc. but I’ll leave it here for now!
The highs of my late motherhood on the other hand, are that I know how I want to parent, as I explained earlier. I have high expectations of Benjamin. I am confident to correct him in public, if necessary. My patience for his learning is high, although my tolerance for his whinging is incredibly low(!) On particularly bad days I have to walk away, then come back a few minutes later: ready to start again. Most importantly though, I appreciate the ‘now.’ As clichéd as it sounds, I guess I’m more aware of ‘the moment’ than ever before. I’ve always been aware of poignant ‘now’ markers in my life, scenes/moments that I’m drawn back to time & again. Things that I knew were significant, but I was unaware as to why at the time. I spend a lot of my working life listening to people reminisce about their interesting lives & I genuinely love it. I’ve always been fascinated by people; hearing about their memories of loved ones & the special times they’ve shared, holidays, laughter & their ambitions. Sometimes, these wonderful people can’t remember what they ate for lunch, but can remember the most intricate detail of years gone by: of fleeting moments when they fell in love, or when their children were growing up & homes they’ve lived in. I’ve decided that ‘mindfulness’ is not really a new trend, people have always been aware of the ‘now’ but not really realised its significance: it’s equally important to remember those ‘now moments’. It’s proved in our older age, as these are the things that we hold onto. Essentially they get us through life: they help us to cope.
We’ve had a great few days; it started on Friday when Benjamin & I went on a ‘Spring Hunt’ – looking for signs of new life & longer, warmer days. And although the boy slept for most of it, I rediscovered my mojo for snapping things on my iPhone that caught my eye, mainly flowers & landscapes. Saturday & Sunday were spent with some of our fabulous friends & it was great to entertain & make dinner for everyone. It was lovely to be just us again & this was highlighted to me. We were even allowed to enjoy our bed until 7am on Sunday. What a treat! Time with Benjamin continues to be precious & I cherish the subtleties of his weekly developments. Nothing makes us happier than hearing the boy properly belly laugh & giggle when I pretend to “eat him up” at the end of the day or Tim tickles him. It’s truly heart-warming & the troubles of the day just melt away for both of us.
For the first time since giving birth, this weekend has shown me how to reconnect with just ‘being me’ & combining this with being a Mumma. I can do both. The ‘highest of highs’ for me though, is that I actually can’t wait to reminisce upon my own family memories: all whilst not forgetting to be mindful of being ‘in the moment’ of course!
Thank you for reading. I’d love to hear the highs & lows of your Mummahood…
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.
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.