The Age of Internet Parenting

I picked up my phone recently and had a great chat in my ‘November 2014 Babies’ WhatsApp group, and for about the billionth time thought how grateful I was that I had met these amazing women online.

It’s a place I can go to vent, chat, discuss, ponder, laugh and have general craic in, with women who just completely understand eachother. We’re lucky because we all consider ourselves and eachother completely normal – there isn’t the usual ‘one’ that ruins it for the rest of us! And I can honestly say I’d have had a much harder time figuring out motherhood if it wasn’t for these girls who I now call genuine friends. Some of us are on our second babies together, some on their third, and it’s great because some of us get to regularly meet in real life too while we share another maternity leave together. Of course we don’t just chat solely about the glory of wiping snot and puke all day, these girls are genuine friends. We have shared personal stories, personal challenges, celebrated with and supported eachother through plenty of life changes over the last three years.

I think though, my favourite thing about this group is that there is absolutely NO judgement. No pressure, no feeling of ‘ I think you’re doing this wrong’ that I have come across in other online groups. And it got me thinking.

I am raising my children in an era of Internet Parenting. Sure, there are great benefits. I have an infinite pool of experience and knowledge all with a few taps through the screen of my phone. Obviously I was raised (relatively recently given my amazing youthful looks) in a pre Internet time. Who did my Mam have to ask ‘what do I do’ type questions to? A much smaller circle of people and even then it was most likely at the end of a landline phone or worse, hand written letters! No instant answers for her.

But there are also downsides to this, something I’m realising more and more. The more we congregate online to discuss and figure out the hurdles of raising mini humans, the more pressure and comparison comes with it. You see endless groups for any aspect of parenting from groups based on how you feed your baby, how you wean your six month old onto solids, to the safest way to transport these little people in your car. You see babies achieving milestones at different times to your own and immediately compare. You become informed of ‘best practise’ and ‘healthiest ways’ and ‘you should ONLY do this’ and you find you haven’t, couldn’t, or can’t do things that way and instantly feel like you’re doing it wrong – like you are failing.

I don’t mean to suggest that for the most part, it is people telling you you’re doing it wrong. Most of the time people are simply telling their own experience. But for me, I find I can sometimes question myself based on that person’s advice or experience.

‘Comparison is the thief of joy’ – I can’t remember who said that – ( Google informs me it was Theodore Roosevelt) and it’s true. It made me realise that I sometimes don’t have enough confidence in myself or sometimes in my decisions and I doubt myself. I see how other women seem to manage the various hurdles and if I’m not doing it the same way, I sometimes assume I’m doing it wrong.

Although as I type this I realise that was much more the case at the very start when both boys were born. Everything is so confusing then. I thought I’d escape it this time after I had Alex, that I would know what I was doing but he was such a different baby that I still felt new to it all. When you have a baby not only are you learning as you go, but you’re getting to know your new little bundle – what they like and what they don’t like. Learning their different cries is sort of like learning a language. And you can pick your own child’s cry out of 20 babies crying at once. So why this self doubt? Surely I’m not the only one who feels like this?

And so I wonder, to what extent is it natural as a new mother to doubt and question yourself, or how much of that is influenced by Internet Parenting? Everywhere you look there are blogs about parenting. Why do we feel the need to write it down, unlike our parents before us? To help other people if it’s a topic you’re particularly good at? Are you a baby genius who knows the best way to do all things baby? But even if you are, this in itself doesn’t make any sense because I could preach til the cows come home about the latest parenting skill I’ve acquired but unless you ARE me with MY child, chances are it wouldn’t work the same way for you anyway.

Is it harder now than it was for my mother for example? I think it must be a bit of both. The endless knowledge I have instant access to would be sorely missed if I didn’t have it (so long as it is researched properly and you don’t take it as gospel from just anyone!) – but I really do think a big downside is the negative impact it could have on your mental health. Constantly seeing how everyone else is doing it differently, or how they seem to do it so easily or perfectly. I for one certainly put myself through a lot of guilt and feeling of failure around the time both boys were born based on expectations I had placed on myself from reading  of other people’s opinions and experiences on certain aspects of parenting.

But maybe that’s just me. So why do I blog about it? I think it’s like a form of therapy – I find it so therapeutic just writing things down, especially about the challenging aspects of IVF and parenting. Sometimes it’s for posterity – the experiences are so precious it’s a nice way for me to keep a sort of memory collection.  And mainly I just really enjoy doing it. Maybe I do have it harder than my mother and her mother did – although I think not – but then again I guess we’ll never know.  The age of Internet Parenting is here, maybe it’s just one more storm we need to try and navigate! In the meantime, I’ll be doing my best trying not to put myself down and making comparisons, and start believing that maybe I’m doing just fine on my own after all.

 

Now I Can S P E L L

There are many ways in which I’ve changed since producing and giving birth to two Bumps. Let me count the ways.

Hilariously – I used to think I was ‘tired’. Tired! If I got woken up at 8am on a Saturday by a neighbour’s barking dog it would almost bring a tear to my eye. How on earth would I last til bedtime?? Now? 8am is considered a glorious lie in sent from the Gods. Tired also applied to strenuous things like just getting up and going to work five days a week. Now I have to do that, plus prevent a toddler and a baby from flinging themselves off of things and poking sharp things into their eyes. Cooking them healthy dinners and cleaning up various bodily fluids! Tired!

And if I thought one baby was tiring – well of course it is – I wonder what on earth I did with all my free time when I had just one mini dictator to parent on my last maternity leave. This time around, it’s as good as a mult-tasking assault course of making lunches and dinners, cleaning stuff  and wiping things. Entertainment for a toddler and entertainment of another sort for the baby. Naptimes are the holy grail times of the day – and if you strike absolute mult-tasking parenting gold of simultaneous naptimes..well is there anything better?! Surely someone will arrive at any moment with my name engraved on a shiny trophy for achieving the ultimate daily aim. A whole hour or even more to yourself! It would almost make you delirious. Time you should probably spend washing your hair or putting away the clothes. Usually I’m just so grateful for it I spend most of the time basking in the glory of the peace and quiet and lying on the couch drinking coffee while the mountains of washing stack up and laugh at me from their various piles of messiness.

And another thing. I now find myself spelling words in my mind, or even worse, spelling them out loud to people long past the age of that requirement. Would you like some M-I-L-K in that tea? How about a B-I-S-C-U-I-T? Excuse me, can you point me in the direction of the W-I-N-E please? Because Toddler is some sort of child prodigy genius (yes I’m biased) and can pre-empt when I’m about to speak of things that he’s not supposed to have, now I have to go round spelling stuff.  He also has some form of supersonic hearing so if I even begin to tear at the wrapper of something I might want to secretly inhale when he’s not looking, he suddenly apparates beside me out of nowhere with his little hand sticking out for his share of it. And also, I’ve noticed, he must have random psychic abilities too. Let’s say I rustled the wrapper of a packet of lettuce, and rustled the packet of a bag of chocolate buttons… HE KNOWS.

 

Did you know that things can smell sticky? No, neither did I. But they do. I could walk into a room now and smell the sticky thing from ten paces. How do they get sticky in the first place? Well, apart from the obvious sticky hands mauling them all the time, honestly, the rest of the time it’s a complete mystery. I don’t even let myself wonder what the stickiness even is, it’s just one of life’s great mysteries along with where the other socks go and why the nappy will always, always, land shit-side-down.

And we’re moving into the WHY? Section of Toddlerhood. But why? Why? Ok, why? And your own sarcasm can come back to bite you on the arse and make the Why game ten times worse.

‘Why do I have a willy?’

Cos you’re a boy.

‘Where your willy go’?

Out for a walk.

Why?

‘I was only messing, Willies can’t walk’

Why?

And so it goes. It’s best to exit the murky waters of Willies and Other Things Like Them as quickly as possible with inquisitive two year olds, or next thing you know they’ll be asking random strangers in Aldi ‘You have willy?’ True Story.

Next up –  not giving a crap about the actual state of you. I’m not just talking about the lack of effort you put into doing your hair or makeup – previously something that would usually done every day regardless. No, this is another level altogether. Last month I had actually gone a whole day unknowingly sporting a sticker of a fish on my forehead. Down to the shops and everything. I’m not sure I even cared all that much when I noticed it either and casually peeled it off as if it was meant to be there all along.

There are other nice changes too. The things they come out with can melt you in seconds, and make you cry with laughter. Watching him chase a wasp around the kitchen because he wanted to know if it wanted to have a ‘go’ on his scooter and telling it ‘aww you’re so cute’ because he hears me saying it to his little brother all day long. The huge satisfaction and warm fuzziness that comes when you can see them working things out. ‘I DO IT!’ is a familiar phrase to anyone with a toddler I’m sure. When you spend ages trying to teach them manners over and over and then one day they do it completely unprompted! To see his imagination develop. He’ll often grab his Bullseye stuffed toy and shout ‘BULLSEYE TO THE RESCUE!’ before trying to rescue an imaginary disaster from taking place.

But maybe the biggest change is how I seem to be just morphing into my parents, doing things I swore I’d never do. Things like dressing them in matching outfits How I detested that as a kid! Of course I realise now that management has the right to change the rules at any time, and so I shall!

Ever since Rian was born, each stage he’s gone through and now each stage Alex is going through, I keep thinking is better than the last. It just gets more and more fun – more challenging too of course, but every day I wake up and I think, I just can’t wait to see what new things they do today and what new ways they’ll change me too.

The 2-Year-Old Survivor Guide, by Jen

Like many brave war heroes before me, I know that entering a war zone or battle requires much strategic planning and preparation. It’s every woman for herself, there can be only one winner. Make sure it’s you.

Yes, I’m talking about parenting a two year old. Oh, he might seem harmless, sitting there with his cute little button nose and big blue eyes gazing up at you saying ‘I uvv you Mama, huggie!’ BUT DON’T BE FOOLED! These creatures are deceptive little feckers. They rope you in and make you remember all the cute adorable things you love about them, and make you wonder how you made something so precious in the first place and just as all your stupid mushy related hormones are making you melt in a puddle of maternal pride and joy, they scream in your face and wipe their snot all over your clothes. You’ve been Toddlered.

No sir, they must not be underestimated.

People don’t give two-year-olds enough credit. They are highly intelligent and strategic. They can play you off against your Second In Command (Yes Gavin, I have appointed myself as Chief. Or whatever the head army person is called.) You must be on guard at all times.

Lets start with the basics. First tactic is Distraction. This is key – they’ll fire whinge after whinge, demand after demand. Be vigilant and stay focused! You must deploy the Distraction tactic at once. I suggest you point out an aeroplane flying overhead, doesn’t matter if there is one or not, they love aeroplanes and helicopters and pretty much anything in the sky. This should buy you enough time to think of a new topic or activity for them to do. This also works well if they’re on the verge of a tantrum – it is your responsibility, Soldier, to recognise the signs in your own toddlers. Sticks! They love sticks – find a stick, preferably near a puddle, their day is made, and you will have averted disaster. Sticks and puddles can save you.

Bribery. This is one of your best weapons. But use it wisely –  they’ll know when you’re bluffing. You need to be prepared to follow this one through. For example, ‘For the love of God stop that!! If you stop that we can go to the Playground later’.

Now unless you’re willing to go to that playground and move endlessly from Swings! Slides! Swings! Round-bout!  and socialise with other mini dictators, withhold the bribe. Basically you’ll never know peace again otherwise. They have memories like Elephants and that’s all there is to it. But beware with Bribery. It could put you on a slippery slope to Expectation. Bribery must only be used in extreme cases, or really you’re not doing yourself any favours, and even worse, they’ll essentially have taken away some of your best armour!

Choose Your Battles. This is a war, it consists of many many battles. Some you’ll win, some you’ll lose, but choose them wisely. Measure up the pros and cons. So what if he wants to paint his head green. Let him do it if it keeps him quiet and you get a chance to feed child number 2 in peace. But if he wants to skip his nap? Hell no, this one is yours! You will not deprive me of that hour of peace! Even offer help. Here’s a paintbrush for your other hand – why not throw a bit of yellow in for good measure. But overall, I suggest you make sure you’re winning more of the battles than you lose. Apart from anything else, I just don’t like losing anyway.

Reverse Psychology. This one takes a bit of practice. It’s all about outwitting and outlasting. You want them to eat the dinner you’ve just slaved over – BUT DO NOT LET THEM KNOW THIS. Approach it casually. Oh hey! I’m just going to leave this dinner over here. Talk a bit to yourself about how nice the dinner is. Child 2 comes in quite handy here – ask him does he want some. He can’t talk yet, so naturally you pretend  he will of course want some. Mr Potato Head LOVES this dinner. But hey if you don’t want it, no problem. They’ll look at you suspiciously, yes they’re probably onto you, but curiosity and fear of missing out usually – not always! – but usually wins out. Mission complete.

Patience. This is the hardest one. You’ll need A LOT of it. You’ll think you have none, you’ll feel the pressure…but hang on in there! You can do this! They are TWO! You are.. well there’s no need to get into specifics here, but you’re a lot older than two. You’ve a lifetime of wisdom to work from. They, on the other hand, think they can put their hands over their eyes and turn completely invisible to the human eye for God sake. Now I’m not going to pretend that I have this one mastered either. I lose the plot like the best of them.. but I still try and that’s the main thing, ok?! It’s a bit like doing that horrific plank move at the gym. At first you can only manage .2 of a second. But before you know it, after say 5 years or so, you can hold it for a good 10 seconds!! Oh, ok maybe that’s just me. Normal people get it a lot sooner than that, but you get my point.  Patience is the same, it comes with practise and for me it’s an ongoing project. But I didn’t get where I am today with no patience, so take heart!

And remember Solider – we’re all in this together at the end of the day! We are all chiefs  (or whatever the correct term is!) of our own little army – all fighting the same battles, and winning and losing the same ones in the process. But at the end of a long day, when those little arms are around your neck and those mushy hormones are rushing back in…..well let them. Why else do we do this after all?!

 

This Jen’s Survival Guide. Fight the good fight. Learn it. Print it. Stick it on your fridge. Most of all, STAY STRONG!

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A Day in Our Life

I published my last post a few weeks ago now, and it got a lovely response! I have to say it is one of my favourite posts. I also got a lot of compliments about the photos in it, and I just adore them, so I figured why not post a post about them too and how they came about!

A few months ago, an opportunity arose to do some writing for a friend of mine, and in return, he offered to document our family in a ‘day in the life’ style photography shoot. Naturally, I jumped at the chance. I have 7,953 photos on my phone (I just checked) and about 99% of them feature one or both of the babies. Of that, I’d say maybe 10 have me in them where I didn’t take the photo myself in an effort to prove that I did exist in photographic form when they’re older and looking back at their own childhood photos. Let’s just say photography is not one of Gavin’s fortes! I don’t think it even dawns on him half the time to take a photo of something like Alex eating his first spoonful of food, or take a little video of Rian singing ‘You’ve Got a Friend In Me’. And that’s ok, but I’m just the opposite!

I adore photos. Some might think I overdo it – well ok I probably do. My Instagram account probably proves that. Some people might say, ‘You should live in the moment more’. I do live in the moment, and I love the moments so much that I don’t want to ever forget a single one. The time just goes so very fast – Alex is over 6 months already! He’s closer to 7 months actually. Every single day he is different, as is Rian. And what’s more, this time I have at home with them is fast running out so yes, I take a lot of photos. But I’m rarely actually in any of them.

So when this opportunity came up, as I said, I jumped at it. It wasn’t going to be a fancy, get my hair done especially type of thing. It was going to be a snapshot of just one normal day, no special occasion, no fancy outfit. Barely even any makeup (the tired circles under my eyes don’t necessarily need to be preserved in photos forever). Just me with my husband and our sons, doing our thing.

Why? Because aren’t they the best kind of days? Yes, sometimes there’s shouting, and crying, and really really bad nappies, and tantrums. And every day there’s fun and laughter, cuteness and absolute joy. And that’s our life right now! It will never be like this, the way they are now, ever again. And I love it. I was so thrilled to think that for a change I would be on the other side of the camera, when they held my hand, or hugged me, or I gave them a swing, I’d have a photo to capture that moment and treasure it. I didn’t care too much whether my hair looked perfect, whether my skin looked red or blotchy…this is how I am now, and most importantly, this is who I am to the boys. The last time I was going to a wedding I got my hair and makeup done – oh god that was so nice! – but when Rian saw me he actually squinted his eyes, put his face close to mine and tried to touch my eyes and said ‘Mama, what’s that on eye?’….!! So clearly, the makeup-ed me is not one he’s too familiar with at all.

So we settled on a day, and Johannes arrived early on a Sunday morning. We chose a Sunday, to do our normal Sunday routine which consists of nothing out of the ordinary. Within minutes he was taking pictures. At first it’s a bit strange having someone take photos of you doing normal every day stuff. But after a few minutes – no offence Johan! – I kind of forgot he was there. I had wondered what Rian would make of it, but you’d swear it was the most normal thing in the world for him to have his personal photographer document his every move!

We usually try to do something as a family on a Sunday, as it’s usually the only day of the week that the four of us can spend the day together without work or other commitments getting in the way. So we chose to go to the Japanese Gardens and National Stud in Kildare, which is not far from where we live. When we got home, it was naptime, so we read about Gruffalos and foxes and rabbits hopping to the moon and back as two-year-olds insist on doing before a snooze. Later on, we did some baking and played with some playdoh. We bathed the kids. Then we got changed into our pj’s and snuggled on the couch under a blanket and watched some Toy Story for the 4578th time. All normal things. But the thing that surprised both Gavin and I, on a normal Sunday we don’t really pay too much attention to those things, we’re just busy doing them. But because Johannes was there, it sort of made us focus on why he was there, it made us really live in the moment and appreciate it all the more. Even the non glamorous nappy times! It made us realise the other aspect of nappy times. The funny conversations that take place on the changing table. The cute little kissable baby toes. All the little normal things that make up our normal day, but full of magical moments which we now have recorded to look back on forever.

Huge huge thank you to our friend and seriously talented Johannes for the opportunity! I’ve a feeling we’ll be back for more during another chapter of our parenting adventures.

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This Too Shall Pass

I remember during one particularly tough phase of Rian’s first few months when he had colic, someone said to me ‘This too shall pass’ – and of course it does. I see it quite often in parenting groups; someone will ask for advice on dealing with some tricky new hurdle and usually all we can say is, hang in there, it’s just a phase, this too shall pass!

But do we ever stop to remember that the good things too shall pass? The little stages we love, their little quirks, the new thing they’ve discovered they can do…they change so fast because life is busy passing and we’re constantly just trying to catch up with ourselves. All of the little things they do that may seem inconsequential at the time, you might not even notice them. But I’ve only been a parent now for two years and already I want it to slow down. I want to remember all the little things about them that make me cry with laughter, or cry with frustration.  The things that make my heart want to jump out of my chest with pride and love. All of it.

Recently I was asked by a friend of mine to help put into words a way to describe his new venture in photography – a documentary style ‘day in the life’. While doing it, it made me focus on my own life with my two boys. And it made me realise I seem to be in a constant state of waiting for things to pass. Waiting for Rian’s colic to pass, waiting for his tantrum to calm, waiting for Alex to settle for the night so I might get a few hours sleep myself. I don’t mean to sound like I don’t enjoy all this – of course I do. But I realised that I hardly ever stop to actually look around me, to appreciate fully and more often just what it is we have been given. Especially since there was a time when we thought we’d never have any of this at all when we were told we’d need IVF. It’s always thinking of what job needs to get done next, what dinner needs to be cooked, what day the next round of vaccinations need to be given, the next time one is due a feed and one is due a dinner.

So I decided to stop and look, and started writing. When they’re all grown up, what will I want to remember?

How things feel. The softness of Alex’s little baby cheek, like a soft downy feather. The little grip of his whole hand clutching my thumb. Those little razorblade fingernails that seem to grow at a rate of knots and terrify me in trying to get them cut! The feel of Rian’s little arms wrapped around my neck giving me a ‘huggy’,  the drool that falls on my chest when he falls asleep cuddled into me. His little curls against my face when we snuggle in under the blanket to read a book, and the sticky little hands that chase me hysterically when they’re covered in the residue of his favourite snack of grapes and yoghurt.

 

 

How things sound. The gentle little sucky noise of Alex’s soother as he drifts off for a snooze. The sound of Rian singing at 6am about Gruffalos and trains and having adventures with Woody and Buzz. ‘To finnty…and bond!’ ‘There’s a sake in a b-oot!’ The sound Rian makes when I know he’s working up to a tantrum, and the swift noise I make in an effort to distract him from getting there! The sound of his little feet hopping out of bed when he’s supposed to be asleep and pattering across the hall. And best of all, the sound of Alex’s gurgly little giggles and warbly chats, and the beautiful sound of Rian’s belly laugh, so hard that tears run down his red little cheeks.

How things smell. The gorgeous new baby smell that still just about lingers from Alex. The milky drooly smell that comes from him after a feed. I could breathe that in all day. The lovely smell from Rian’s baby shampoo, and the smell of his bubble bath that he loves splashing around in. That unmistakable whiff that you knew was inevitable when he wolfed in all that fruit for lunch… ok ok maybe this isn’t something I’ll miss too much of when it’s over! And yet somehow, yes, I think I will because it’s part and parcel of who they are now, and I know it won’t always be this way.

One of Rian’s favourite things in life at the moment is Toy Story, and in particular, the third one. At the end of the movie Andy is heading off to college and is getting ready to leave. His mother walks into his empty room, all packed up, and gets emotional. She hugs him and says, ‘I just wish I could be with you always.’

And that’s my wish too, so much! It’s hard now to imagine them both old enough to be going to college, and I’m sure in some ways I’ll be only too delighted to get two smelly teenagers out of my hair, but obviously the day will come when they’ll be old enough to not need me anymore. Well, I hope they’ll always need me in some ways! Hopefully if I do this job right, they’ll want to keep me in their lives just as much as I’ll want them in mine.

 

 

I want to be able to look back, and still feel all those things, and the things still yet to come. To remember how things are, how they were, and how they will be. To be ever thankful that we were given the chance we thought we’d never have, to be their parents, and cherish them always, because as I’ve realised to be true, This Too Shall Pass.

 

*Huge thank you to Johannes for the amazing, and much treasured photographs of our little family; a day in our life.

 

Yesterday We Shouted

Yesterday was a tough day at the office. Toddlers are not easy people to understand, or reason with, because they  possess practically none of either thing. And yet I find myself arguing and trying to reason with one almost every day.

And not just any toddler, my toddler. He’s the image of his dad but he’s a mirror of me in lots of ways. Good ways yes, but like me he’s also stubborn, headstrong, and likes getting his own way. (Although when people accuse me of always wanting my own way I always wonder, who doesn’t?!) Every day I find myself trying to outwit a two year old, and feeling delighted with myself whenever I manage it. But yesterday I was not winning. And I resorted to shouting.

What did it achieve? Tears from him, followed closely by tears of frustration and guilt from me. I don’t want to be a shouty mother – so how can I preach at him every day not to shout if it’s what I resort to myself?

And so it was a day of watching the clock and waiting for Gavin to arrive home to save my sanity.  Even Alex – normally the most calm, smiley, happiest baby I’ve ever met – was having a bad day and wouldn’t accept being anywhere other than in my arms. Normally I love that and I’m happy to oblige in his pudgy cuddles, but yesterday wasn’t a normal day. And so it was a day of frustration, trying to catch up with myself, trying to calm a crying baby while trying to reason with a shouting toddler. And I cracked, and I shouted at him.

Sometimes I feel like, because we did IVF, that sometimes it’s as if I’m not entitled to complain about things. I had two pregnancies that I didn’t really enjoy, there was a lot of sickness and vomiting for months on end, and with Alex I had to have weekly blood transfusions to try and prevent a rare condition Rian had when he was born. It was tough. And yet I felt a huge guilt for  not enjoying them because of what we had to do to get there. And now I’m so grateful and so proud to be a mother of two, and sometimes I feel like I shouldn’t talk too much about how hard it sometimes is, because after all I should be on my knees every day, thankful for the fact we have two beautiful boys after the threat of never having any. Against the odds, we have two boys.

But some days I shout. And cry. Some days Gavin and I argue over the most ridiculous things – some days I don’t even remember what it is we’re bickering over. At one stage we argued over which of us got to have more sleep the night before! Some days I feel such ridiculous resentment that he can get up, swan into the shower and have a leisurely relaxing stand under the lovely hot water, when I have to wait for an opportunity when someone else is here before I can do the same. Whether or not my hair gets washed depends on how long someone else can watch the boys. He gets to go about his normal life; develop his career, make decisions over interesting things, have a lunch break, have a coffee that won’t go cold because someone threw up everywhere and by the time you finished cleaning it, the coffee was cold and you just aren’t bothered in making another one.

Sometimes I just miss me. Getting dressed properly – not just putting on something that looks like crap because at least when you get covered in baby puke and someone else’s dinner it doesn’t matter. Taking time to do something with my hair instead of just tying it up so it won’t get eaten and pulled. Being asked an opinion on something other than what episode of Thomas the Tank Engine we should watch.

Oh ok, enough of the poor me. Believe me, I know only too well just how lucky we are, how lucky I am to be feeling sorry for myself some days.  Given the choice, I don’t want to be back at work yet. I feel so lucky that I have this time with them both, I’m glad I’m the one that gets to stay at home with them. Given the choice, Gavin would happily stay with them and let me have a long shower or bath, he’s not a bit selfish, not one little bit. But I still can’t help it, some days, I just wish I could be the old me again, even just for a while!

I’ve no doubt, if Gavin was to write a similar article from his perspective, he would write about how he wishes he could have the cuddles and smiles and the gurgly chats from Alex. He’d wish he could listen to Rian’s hilarious stories each day and watch him change and grow, learning new words and new things, doing something every single day to make him laugh. It’s amazing being their mother.

I know how lucky I am, really I do. But some days, I guess there’ll be shouting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Year to the Day

Today marks one year to the day that we found out that our third frozen embryo transfer had worked, that I was officially pregnant. That our Alex existed!

Anyone who has undergone fertility treatment will know the torture of that two week wait between the embryo being transferred and doing the test to find out if it has worked. I’ve done it three times now, that’s six weeks of pure hell. Six weeks of fear and dread, excitement and hope, then back to fear and dread again. All felt in the space of just one minute, every minute for two whole weeks.

And then the test result. Suddenly, you realise after having gone through two whole weeks of waiting, you can barely stand to wait the two minutes it takes for the test to show the result. You’re dying to know, and scared to death of knowing all at once. But there it was, in two pink lines! A positive. We could hardly believe our luck. To have success at this for a second time! Unbelievable. We joked we’d have to call the bump Patrick or Patricia for the day that was in it.

Looking at him now, smiling a gummy, drooly smile up at me from his little chair, it’s hard to believe that it’s only been one year. How much life can change in such a short space of time! To think that this day last year, I didn’t know Alex would be Alex. When you’re pregnant for the first time, you imagine what your child might look like. A mini me or a mini Gavin. A mini Gavin with red hair? Or a mini me with no hair?? Will he have my eyes, and Gavin’s smile? It’s fun to imagine.  And when you’re pregnant for a second time, you again imagine what your child might look like, but this time I just imagined another version of Rian.

But I could already tell Alex was going to be a different personality. It’s funny, after your baby is born and  you get to know them, learn their little personalities and traits, you realise that you’ve always known them, they’ve been themselves since before they were even born.

That might sound a bit ridiculous, but looking back at Rian’s pregnancy, he was the same as he is now. He stuck to his own rules; midwives advised I should feel at least 10 kicks a day. Not Rian. That child did things his own way! He didn’t like being woken up during his scans, and he doesn’t like being woken up now. He gets a new lease of life in the evenings, and he almost always only kicked my belly at that time too.

And looking back again on Alex’s pregnancy, I realise again that I’ve always known him even before we officially met. He’s a softer, gentler sort of person. The rare times he cries, it’s almost apologetic. His pregnancy was different too, much calmer in his movements and kicks.

Being someone’s mother forces you to ‘contemplate’ things a lot. A very serious sounding word which conjures up images of Oscar Wilde type people writing beautiful words about dewy grass and the passing sands of time and all that sort of thing. But it’s true! I find myself contemplating quite a lot, thank you!  What sort of men will Rian and Alex become? It’s something I take very seriously – we’re responsible for them, for their childhood and for their future. I really want to do my best to make sure that they become the best people they can be.

And I’m reminded yet again of how much Rian & Alex are actually teaching me about myself. It’s mad really – you think you are there to teach them everything so it’s a big surprise when they start teaching you a few lessons in return.

They’re essentially like little mirrors, reflecting yourself back at you. You find out things about yourself that you simply just didn’t realise. Some are good – seeing Rian hug and cuddle people, and especially Alex, being so gentle and kind. Already knowing his Pleases and Thank Yous. Some, not so good – watching Rian stand at the door and shout ‘Oh Jesus!’ when he dropped his bag on his foot I thought……oh crap.  That sounds a bit like me. I’ll often hear him shout ‘OH CHRIST’! followed by his quick little temper, like little fireworks popping, over and gone in a flash. I can’t imagine who he’s copying with that one…! I think it just makes you look closely at the sort of person you are.

How different our lives are now! When I think of that day when we were told we’d only be able to conceive through IVF, from there to here, it’s more than we ever thought possible. Yet here we are now, a family of four – a year ago, to the day.