To Alex, who is T W O!

{Part 1 of 2}

Over the last four, and last two years, these boys have brought so much happiness to us, the sheer joy they bring each and every day is beyond words. To hear them say the word ‘Mama’ and know it’s me they’re addressing is just the best sound in the world. I am so lucky.

So to celebrate them, and their birthdays, I’ve written each of them a post of their own. Also, as they change so fast and little things they do and like now will be gone in no time, I wrote it to help me remember years from now what they were like at two and four!

First up is our beautiful little Alex…Happy Birthday munchkin!

Friday, October 28, 2016

We all thought you were going to be a girl. People kept telling me, they could ‘feel’ it. That they could tell by looking at you as Bump – it was high/low/in the middle, so all those things meant you were going to be a girl apparently. We started to believe it, so much so we arrived to the hospital on the day you were scheduled to be born ( slightly early at 37 weeks – a story for another day), with two names on our shortlist, and neither of them meant for a baby boy.

Hospital bound to meet Alex!

At the Coombe hospital on the morning of the 28th of October, in the little room we waited in before the surgeon was ready for us, I was sitting in the hospital gown with your Dad. He picked up a paper to read and I looked down at you in Bump form, and put my hands on either side. I thought about how this was probably the last time I’d get to have a minute with you like this, before we met you in the flesh. When it was just you and me. Your pregnancy was different to Rian’s – already I could see some differences between you both. I watched my bump move as you moved around, maybe you knew it was time to wake up and that we were about to meet you soon. I closed my eyes and felt you move in my belly, and focused on it and tried to tell you how much you were loved already, and that hopefully the birth would all go well and I’d be able to hold you soon. I made a point of remembering the sounds around me, and the smells; an important moment in  my life was about to happen, a defining moment. My baby was about to be born, and my body was about to be my own again. Somewhere in those few minutes I decided that you’d be named Alex, I must have known you already that you weren’t going to be the girl everyone else was expecting. Alex Moran was a beautiful, good strong name I decided. I said it to your Dad – he liked it a lot but wondered if Sean or Ollie might be better suited. We decided we’d think about it in a while, you’d probably be a girl anyway.

Less than an hour later, the surgeon held you up and we saw you for the first time. Such a tiny little thing, so amazingly beautiful! You were ours. Your Dad leaned in and said, ‘he looks like an Alex’. There you were.

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Alex Peter Moran, born at 11.44am

Two years on, and the only things that haven’t changed about you are the beautiful little dimple in the corner of your cheek and the way your face beams when you smile. For six full months you just slept, and fed, and cuddled and slept again. We thought we had struck it lucky with a sleeping baby – but then just as we were almost smug about how easy  you were, at six months you woke up and that was the end of the quiet little Alex! Suddenly, we met the mischievous you – a twinkle appeared in your eye and your spirit of adventure arrived with a bang. You were fiercely independent, wanting to always catch up with your big brother Rian. No high chair for Alex, no help with being fed. You demanded to sit on a chair at the kitchen table; you were so small you couldn’t see over the top, all we saw were pudgy little hands feeling around for the food to shove into pudgy drooly little cheeks! No more cot for Alex, as soon as you saw Rian climbing into the top bunk of your new beds, that was the end of that. You launched yourself into your bottom bunk, looking so tiny in the big mass of your first duvet!

And now you’re turning two, and it’s as if we always had you. But who is our Alex, this amazing little person in our lives, who only two years ago, was yet to be known?

Your first word was ‘Cheers!’ except it sounds more like ‘sheeershh’ as you clink your sippy cup with our glass at dinner, delighted with yourself. One of the first thing you learned to do was a fist pump – cutesy baby waves are not your style!

You chase your brother around to tickle/torture/blow raspberries on his belly, before falling around laughing with the cheekiest little laugh like you know you’re up to no good. Sometimes you chase him around just to hug him too – already you two are a team.

Rian showed you one day how to take off your own nappy, which you particularly love doing at 6am on a Sunday morning before making us run after you to catch you before you need to ‘go’ all over something. You carry two toy cows around with you sometimes, although most of the time they stand quietly on the shelf beside your bed, just keeping a quiet eye on you! But you seem happier when they’re there so we won’t argue. Woody is your favourite toy.  Sometimes when you’re asleep you accidentally pull on the string and we hear ‘WHERE’S MY TRUSTY STEED BULLSEYE?!’ bellowing from your bedroom in the middle of the night, almost giving us heart failure. That’s always fun! Doug is your best friend to snuggle into at night, a pink turtle with big eyes that once belonged to your Auntie Linda.

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Doug the turtle, Woody and a Cow – Alex’s bedtime friends

Your favourite song for ages was ‘You’re Welcome’ from Moana, always prompting  you to have a little dance around the kitchen whenever you heard it. Then you loved ‘Remember Me’ from Coco, and every so often when I sing it to you at night time, you sing along before tucking Doug under your arm and rolling over, blond wispy curls sticking up at various angles only highlighted by the chink of light coming into your room from the landing, before drifting off to sleep.

You’re a little man with a big appetite! You love broccoli- long may that last! – and sometimes when you’re having your dinner you store food in your big pudgy cheeks like a beaver, and munch away on it long after the meal has ended. So far we haven’t really discovered any food you don’t like. Just like your Daddy!

Your favourite books are What the Ladybird Heard and The Baby Monster which has a purple fluffy toy attached that you hug and kiss as the story progresses! You’re extremely cute.

Hearing you giggle from the teepee in your bedroom with your hands over your eyes as you think we can’t see you is the funniest thing! It’s your favourite game, and I think it might be mine too.

Alex we can’t wait to see what the next year will bring, to see all the things you’ll learn and all the things you’ll teach us too. You make us happier than we ever thought possible – we love you!

Alex with his favourites

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The Chair

The Chair arrived before either of you did. I remember the day we picked it out, the day we went to do the Baby Shopping – the same day we had our 20 week scan with you, Rian, and found out to our immense relief that you were growing perfectly. We left the hospital clutching the miraculous scan picture of you, something we never thought we’d ever be able to hold at one time, and arrived at the baby shop almost giddy with disbelief that the seemingly  un-achievable,  impossible dream of parenthood was actually happening for us. Little did we know it would actually happen twice for us. Our frozen twins.

I sat in The Chair, at first just to get a bit of a rest while we waited for a shop assistant to become available. It’s tiring work growing a baby. Of course, the minute I sat in it, I was able to imagine hours of gently rocking you to sleep, and feeding you in it when the rest of the world was fast alseep.

‘We’ll take it.’

As soon as it arrived it became a little spot of peace and calm in the corner of your room. I used to sit there, with you in Bump form, and wonder what you might look like and who you might be. Would  you have hair and would you look like me? A boy or a girl? Tall like your Daddy? Wondering of what adventures lay ahead.

I sat in The Chair as I watched your Dad put together your cot. Laying out all the pieces on one side and the toolbox on the other. I read from the instructions with what bit goes where, with one hand on The Bump and felt you kick in agreement when we figured it out.

And one after the other, you both arrived. From the start, The Chair was where we sat, you and I, you and your Dad. Gently rocking away the sobs and cries from colic. Gently rocking, persuading sleepy little eyes to close and nod off. And gently rocking while we stared at your miraculous, perfect little faces and wondered, what do babies dream about? Breathing in the beautiful soft, sleepy, milky baby smell and wondering, how did you get here? Just how on earth did we get so lucky, twice?

How many nights have we sat in that chair together? Sometimes it felt like endless hours. Please go to sleep…please don’t cry…. please, please just sleep, even just for a little while! Some nights felt never ending, some weeks felt like decades. Sitting rocking in that chair, trying to figure you out. Wishing the teeth would hurry up and come, rocking, shushing, patting your back gently. Wondering would we ever see sleep again?  Feeling like surely  you were the only person awake in the whole world at that time, willing sleep to come.

Thinking about the early baby days and hours rocking in The Chair, and how they changed into less and less hours there. I imagine it like a video collage in time-lapse mode in my mind of us all moving in super fast motion in and out of the room, up and down from The Chair, the time whizzing by yet slowly passing at the same time. The video in my mind shows each of you starting off tiny, slowly growing bigger. Sitting in that chair at the start, resting on my shoulder with your head nestled into my neck and your tiny little legs only long enough to reach my chest. Whizz on a bit and your legs stretch all the way to my lap. Whizz on some more and your face still nuzzles into my neck, your little arms wrapped around me, but you’re almost sitting sideways now as there is nowhere else for your legs to go. You’ve grown so quickly.

I wonder now, the sleepless nights long enough ago now,  exactly why did I wish away those endless nights? All those beautiful baby snuggles, rocking together in the chair as I stared at your eyelashes and wondered at how they were so long. The two perfect little button noses, and those drooly little mouths twisting in various ways depending on what little dream you were having and what amount of wind you had in your pudgy little bellies after a feed. I could close my eyes right now and draw each little face perfectly, I have memorised them so well, all those hours of sitting and rocking in The Chair.

And only in the last week, for the first time in almost 4 years,  a change arrived. The Chair was made redundant, nobody needing to be rocked gently in order to fall asleep for the night. I sat on the other side of the room and looked at The Chair, and realised: I’ll never need to sit there again. I remember reading something a couple of  years ago about not realising when the last time you do something, is the last time you’ll do it. I didn’t know that my last time rocking a baby to sleep in The Chair would be the last time I did it. What would I have done differently?

I probably would have stayed there all night.

I’m that mother who feels a bit emotional packing away the baby clothes that don’t fit anymore, holding them up and wondering how either of you ever fit into them in the first place. Were you really that small? But there’s something different about saying goodbye to The Chair. It’s more of a permanent goodbye. It’s saying goodbye to an era, not just to a small section of time where you used to fit into a particular babygrow. It’s saying goodbye to a section of my life, a section that was longed for so hard. A section of our lives that we wondered if we’d ever get to experience, and we did. And it just whizzed by so fast.

The Chair was there for it all, from before we even met you both. It rocked us through the rocky parts of becoming new parents, and rocked us calmly through the most peaceful parts too.

I know when it’s not sitting in the corner anymore, that space will remind me that I no longer have two little babies, but will remind me of you both, our two amazing little boys.

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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.

 

10,000 Kisses

When Rian was born, we got loads of practical and thoughtful gifts for him. One of the gifts we got was a memory box – well actually we got two beautiful ones – and I love them.

However, there are some things you can’t put into the memory boxes or the baby books.

I’m one of those people who likes to record life as it goes along. This started at a young age with what is known as The Suitcase. It’s an old fashioned vintagey cardboard type suitcase that my parents used to own. When I was about 12 I started keeping my ‘stuff’ in it, all the important things I wanted to keep and cherish. I still have my suitcase, much to the amusement of my Dad – and it’s a long time since I looked in there but always amusing to see the things that mattered so much to my 12 year old self. But I also have cards from each of my grandmothers, letters my Dad had written to me when he was at sea… things to cherish.
So it came as no surprise that when the biggest thing to ever happen to me came along that I would want to keep a record of things. But the things I can’t put into the memory boxes or put onto my phone are perhaps the most precious of all. When I think of my time on leave with Rian I think of those things you can’t put into a box – the sweet smell of him, the feel of him snuggled into me, the sound of his baby snores when the only place I could get him to nap was on my shoulder. The first time I heard him laugh his beautiful big belly laugh. His little fists grabbing onto my finger, his little hands rubbing my cheek when I fed him his bottle.
Of course I do also remember the seemingly endless crying for hours when he had colic, the sheer exhaustion like I’ve never known it before, the explosive nappies… it’s not all sweetness and light let me tell you!
But you forget those things, at least they’re not at the forefront of my mind when I think about him. Every morning I used to go in to pick him up for the day. We’d wake up properly together and we’d look out the window and see the trees and the sky and the birds and have a grand old chat. I’d ask him for a kiss, then I’d give him one… but one day I asked for a kiss and he leaned over and planted his little face on mine and gave me one himself! It was amazing and one of the best things ever, that little moment. That memory is something I wish I could pull out of my head and turn into a tangible thing so I could put it in The Suitcase and carry it forever.

Now that I’m back at work those things seem even more precious. When I was on leave there were days that used to feel sort of never ending… I would sometimes be waiting at the window by 6pm waiting to see Gavin’s car come around the corner just so I could have half an hour to myself. And not even so that I could lie down and watch tv or read a book, it would be a precious half an hour so that I could do essential things like wash my hair! But the good days far outweighed the bad. I was very lucky to be able to take extended leave so I was two weeks short of a full year at home with him. And it was worth every penny.

The work guilts. At first it was almost fun being back – the novelty of having a lunch break! Having a coffee and getting to finish it whenever I wanted. But that novelty soon wore off. We are so lucky to have Rian with amazing childcare so that’s not a worry at all. But that fear of missing out… what if he walks and I don’t see it? What if he says a new word? What if he forgets that I’m his Mam?? Yes I know the last one seems a bit over the top but in fairness to him, he spends 12 hours a day with someone else and he’s only awake for about 14 hours a day. I question constantly is this the right thing? This precious time which I know now goes by so fast, he changes so fast. I keep telling myself that I’m doing it for him, to be able to give him our best. But it does feel like a huge price to pay.

The nice thing is how much more precious the weekends are now. Those sleepy nap times which even now at almost 15 months, he will still only take in someone’s arms. I love them. I know that some day it will be the last time he will sleep in my arms and I savour it, the snuggles and the kisses. 10,000 per nap I reckon. At least. And not one I can put in The Suitcase.