Goodbye maternity leave – it’s been a blast…

Starting maternity leave back in September 2013, I felt like I had all the time in the world ahead of me. But 9 months later and faced with the prospect of returning to work in five weeks, I find myself feeling a little sad at the impending loss of my stay-at-home-mummy time. It’s been an emotional and physical roller-coaster, so here’s the highlights of my time off and what I’ve learnt and accomplished:

 

  1. Keeping two small children alive. Simultaneously. My greatest triumph to date. Seriously never thought this would be possible and had many sleepless nights when pregnant, wondering how on earth you manage a toddler and a newborn. But Reuben still has all his limbs in tact after over-zealous cuddles from big brother, and Zach has blossomed into a proud and protective older sibling, taking much joy from being able to tell his younger brother “you can’t do that yet, you’re just a baby.”
  2. My first solo trip to the park with both kids – sounds incidental but I felt like I’d climbed a mountain. Regardless of the fact that it took me an hour to leave the house and get into the car, I wanted to high-five every mother in the park in celebration of my parental achievement. Except there were no other mothers there. And it was raining. And cold. And we left shortly after arriving.
  3. I’m a multi-tasking genius…come back to me when you can feed a baby whilst pretending to be a baddie fighting Spider-Man, during which time you’re on hold to the electricity company and picking up husband’s socks off the floor with your toes. Then we’ll talk. 
  4. Weeing alone just doesn’t feel right anymore – I can’t remember the last time I went to the loo without an audience. Prepare yourself work colleagues, things are gonna change.
  5. Over-sharing (see point 4) – after two children, apparently I have no boundaries anymore. 
  6. My life is governed by naps – the baby’s naps, Zach’s nap, my lack of naps…who knew managing sleep could be so tiring. The irony.
  7. Leggings have become my uniform. It’s like walking round in an acceptable form of pyjamas. I’m not proud, but they’ve been as much a part of my maternity leave as my own children. And at times, much less stressful. My faithful old friends…how I shall miss thee when I return to the world of work, fitted trousers and heels. 
  8. The joy of having a sibling – as an only-child myself (and no, I’m not spoilt or bad at sharing – now go and buy me a pony), I’ve never known what it’s like to have that kind of bond with someone else. But when I see my boys laughing together, with a look of absolute love and adoration on their little faces, it makes my selfish, spoilt, only-child heart swell with love and pride.
  9. In the last four weeks I’ve remembered I have a body – one that does more than grow extremely large babies. Hubby and I have been on the caveman diet (no processed foods, refined sugars, only eat food in their natural state, blah, blah) and I’ve lost almost all of my remaining baby weight. But ‘the pouch” still remains (mummies – you know what I’m talking about). So whilst I have rediscovered the joy of (almost) fitting into nice clothes again, I now have to face the harsh reality that I need to do A LOT of exercise on my abs (or lack of) to stop the wobbly bits wobbling. Ugh. Oh to be 20 and elasticated once more.
  10. I’m turning into my mother – it happens to the best of us and I often find myself using her phrases, pulling similar facial expressions or wondering what she would do in a given situation. And of this last point, I couldn’t be more proud. I hope she would be too.
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Not prepped for preschool…

Last week Zach and I faced a new chapter in his little life – preschool! I’d prepped him for this for a few weeks, telling him how exciting it will be going to big-boy nursery, how he’d make new friends and even bought him a new big-boy preschool bag to mark the occasion.

What I forgot to do was prep myself – for the trauma of having to leave my little man sobbing at the door, begging me not to go, big fat tears running down his beautiful face. It was heartbreaking and goes against every motherly instinct you have, to just walk away.

I know it would prolong the agony if I stayed with him and I know he’ll be ok eventually blah, blah, blah; but in the heat of the moment, I felt like I was abandoning my baby when he was scared and vulnerable – and it made me sob all the way home. It also made me break my no-chocolate-in-the-week rule. Hey, at least I didn’t crack open the wine.

I know all mothers have been through this and he’s been with a childminder since he was 9 months old, so it’s not like I’ve never left him…but this one knocked me for six. I remember my mum telling me how I sobbed every day for 6 months when I had to go to play school, so maybe my inner 3 year old is reliving the trauma. Only now do I truly understand how she felt having to leave me. Maybe it’s some hideous mother’s rite of passage we all have to go through?!

So off we go again to preschool tomorrow morning – I’m already steeling myself for the tears, practising my fake-happy face and my everything-is-going-to-be-ok tone of voice. I’m sure in six months I’ll look back at this and wonder what all the fuss was about, as he merrily skips through the doors and waves me goodbye. But in the meantime, I’ll just make sure I have a pack of tissues in the car and enough emergency chocolate to hand.

photo-18

 

Life without you.

On 24th November 2012, my world changed forever when my beautiful, brave mummy passed away. She fought a gallant battle on and off for three years. She was diagnosed with a third reoccurrence in October and 6 short weeks later, she was gone.

When you’re faced with a terminal diagnosis, it’s an odd feeling. Mum looked pretty well and apart from the pain, which was being managed, she was relatively ok. But there’s always the big, white elephant in the room. She was an amazing woman – she never once complained or despaired. I never heard her ask “why me?” and she told me that whilst it  wasn’t what she would have chosen, she had accepted it and wasn’t scared.

I think I half-mourned for mum somewhat during those 6 weeks, which made me feel guilty as she was still very much alive. Knowing someone is dying is like standing at the edge of the sea and knowing that a huge tidal wave is coming your way. You don’t know when or where, but you know that it will be overwhelming and devastating in equal measures, and you are powerless to stop it.

Mum passed after a very quick and relatively painless five days of rapid decline. My initial feelings were relief for her – she was a very proud lady and hated the thought of being ill and unable to do things for herself. I was able to tell her all the things that I had wanted to say when she was alive, but didn’t feel as though I could – like saying them out loud was an admission that she was going; that I was giving up on her. I had wondered for weeks what this moment would be like and when it came, it was calm and gentle and she looked peaceful. She looked like my mummy.

In the weeks since she’s passed, life has continued, as life does, but my life will never be quite the same again. I carry the pain of missing her around with me everyday, sometimes it’s ok and other times I feel totally bereft. Zach is just amazing and keeps me smiling – I told him that Nana now lives in the sky, so he points and waves upwards every now and then, and his latest addition to this ritual is to say “Nana, sky, slippers” – which probably isn’t too far from the truth.

My overwhelming sadness is that my son won’t know his Nana as he gets older. I know she’s watching down on him – on all of us – but I’m devastated that he won’t know the wonderful, funny, caring, loving woman that she was. Of course I’ll tell him about her and her funny little ways – like the fact that she pronounced “potato” with a ‘b’ (imagine my shock at 4 years old finding out that it wasn’t ‘botato’ after all). But knowing that he won’t properly remember her makes my heart hurt.

I know time will make the aching feel less raw, and I’m equally aware that it’s still early days. Life goes on, whether we want it to or not. As much as you want the world to stop because she’s not here anymore, the days pass and some are not too bad and others are weighed down with missing her.

I find myself wondering what kind of mother I’ll be without her – we spoke everyday and although we lived an hour and a half apart, she knew everything about Zach, my life, what I was doing and I always sought her advice. I hope she’s proud of the way I’m raising my son and I like to think she’s looking after us and guiding us.

So mum, all I can say is that I miss you – I miss speaking to you everyday, I miss being able to tell you that Zach is finally sleeping through the night, that he tried banana the other day without pulling that “you’ve-just-poisoned-me” face. I miss hearing your voice, I miss seeing “mum” flash up up on my phone when it rings, I miss you opening the front door when I go home to visit dad. I miss having my mum here.

I’m so grateful that I got to have you as my mummy for 32 years and that part of you will live on in Zach. I love you, I miss you, sleep tight x

why did no one tell me?!

Back in April 2011, as a first-time mummy-to-be on the brink of giving birth, I had done what most expectant mothers do: I’d read the books, practiced putting a nappy on a teddy (maybe that was just me..?), recited to my husband how often we should feed/bath/burp the baby, prepared for breast and bottle feeding (just in case), tried to practice swaddling the cat (didn’t go down too well) and made sure I washed all the baby clothes on a delicate cycle (non-bio, of course). I worried about how I’d know if a dummy was properly sterilised, what if the bath water was too hot, and I can’t even tell you how many hours I wasted on worrying about how many blankets to wraps him in at night time.

The one thing I hadn’t accounted for was sleep training. There was me feeling victorious that I’d survived the first few weeks/months, adapted to functioning on broken sleep, managed to successfully keep my baby boy alive and not overheated him with too many blankets at night. I then hear that I’m supposed teach him to self-soothe and be able to fall asleep by himself at bedtime…this was a shock to the system – why did no one tell me?!

Zach resisted the whole fall-asleep-by-myself thing from around 6 months (even with a good bedtime routine in place). An angel during the day and a monster at bedtime. Ok, that’s a little unfair, but let’s say he was very ‘spirited’ in his attempts not to happily go down in his cot alone. I spent hours researching, reading, scanning sleep forums, speaking to health visitors; all in the hope of finding a method that suited us both. I understood the science, I just needed to put it into action.

Over the last year, I’ve tried letting him cry it out (stalemate – he has the determination of a warrior); sitting on his floor while he settles (he thinks this is a game); playing baby white noise in the room (he gives me a look of “play it all you want lady, I’m not dropping off anytime soon”) and continually going in and out of the room to re-settle him, repeating my mantra of “night-night, sleepy time”. We’ve had tears (his and mine), cuddles, infectious giggles, cot acrobatics, silent-ninja-creeping-out-of-the-room style manouvres and everything else in between.

So 18 months on, a new house, his first big-boy bedroom and a whole host of amazing developmental changes in-between, we’re still battling bedtime (oh and night-wakings I might add, but that’s another post). On the rare occasion he has gone down without a fuss, I think “wow – is this what life could be like?” But even after a 2 hour battle to get him to sleep, I wouldn’t swap him for the world. I know that when he’s 13, won’t get out of bed and just grunts at me, I’ll miss these precious early years, bedtime battles and all. I’m informed on good authority that there is light at the end of the tunnel and friends assure me that I’m not alone, but for now, this is just how it is.  And I think I’ve made my peace with that.

When he wakes in the morning and flashes me that special smile, somehow the angst of the night before is all but a distant memory – gift that only a child possesses. I’m sure sleeping from 7pm – 7am is overrated anyway…