Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Sit still, just smile

One of the strangest things I found since having children is that I haven't always done things the way I would have imagined I would have.   If you'd told me 5 years ago what my life would look like now I would have struggled to believe it.

My kids are showing me that my life is fluid, I need to change plans even when I don't really want to, and there's a desperate need to just chill out and not panic.

DON'T PANIC.

DON'T COMPARE YOUR CHILDREN WITH OTHER CHILDREN.

DON'T SWALLOW TOO MUCH ADVICE FROM PARENTING BOOKS - YOUR BABIES AREN'T ROBOTS.

And one just for me: (DON'T USE A TAPE MEASURE AS YOU'RE SURE TO FIND YOUR LOVELY 27 INCH WAIST HAS NOW WIDENED TO A SICKENING 29.5 INCHES.)  I really could cry.

In short, motherhood changes everything: from our finances, our bust-waist-hip measurements, to our social interactions.   

And all the while our lovely little cherubs are undergoing dozens of changes of their own on a daily, weekly, monthly basis.   We need them, and they need us, but it sure is hard slog.

Before I had kids I assumed our lives as a couple would sail on romantically as it had up until that point.   I assumed my social life would flow wonderfully and there would be several trusted babysitters at every turn.   I assumed that I'd just be happy to get up and go....    I wasn't able to listen to anyone telling me that wouldn't be the case, and I assumed that their experience was wrong and my fore-planning was correct.   I was naive, and I nod inwardly when talking now to pregnant people or people with very young children.   They are naive too, but time will tell and they'll learn as they grow.

One of my favourite tutors during my days as a Social Work student used to say, "You didn't know what you didn't know because you didn't know it."   Sounds a bit nonsense, and I guess it is, but to me it rings true.

Another one of my beloved tutors used to advise, "There's no way out of this situation, only through it."   I've held on to that during hard times in pregnancy, labour and when the kids (or husband!) are playing me up.

Oftentimes at my darkest I've found myself seething, cursing the thran behaviour of my children.   Why won't they just do what I want them to do?   Why don't know that I'm trying my best?  Why do they love pushing buttons I didn't even know I had?

But it isn't really them being thran, rather that they are young children and that's just what their role is.   To come out of my vagina and into our home and mess up the two in the process.    By their very age, inexperience and innocence they are hard work.   Not yet rational beings in any sense that we as parents are.    In fact, I've heard it remarked that toddlers are like belligerent drunks and that's about right.   Cute, adorable but just a few steps away from causing themselves an injury.

Anyone who has looked into my eyes in the past 2 years (or read this blog) will know that Lydia isn't a fan of sleep, so I spend my life slugging coffee and trying to ignore my ruddy complexion caused by exhaustion.   

Other news is that she doesn't talk yet.   By this stage Adam was a great talker, could buy and sell you and narrated his every thought and move.   Lydia?   No, not so much.   She has about 30 noises that are sort-of words - animal noises, expressions and suchlike.   Her favourite phrase is "ah oh, all gone" when something she's eating, drinking, playing with is finished.    But she can't make some sounds, and calls her dad, "ya-ya" because she can't (or maybe refuses to) say a "d" sound.   
Of course, this is causing me stress and worry and I'm comparing and judging her as lacking in this skill.   I wonder what others are thinking about her and about me, and how that reflects on my abilities.   
But to take a step back and be reasonable is something I can do at times, and I realise that although she isn't as verbose as her brother was at this stage, she's still in the 'normal' range of development, as she isn't yet 2 years old.   Thanks God for that, and we'll see what happens next.

My current biggest worry about my son is that he's shy and not the life and soul of a group.   He isn't keen to take part in clubs, or to try new social settings if he doesn't know the other kids and adults attending.   At my most irrational I panic that he's on the autistic spectrum (aren't we all?) and worry that he'll never survive starting Primary School.   When I have a word with myself I realise that he's inherited his dad's shyness and slight awkwardness in social gatherings.   Not a bad thing really, and something I found quite endearing when I first met Andrew.

My children are not your children.   They are not the children in textbooks.   In fact, they aren't even each other.   

Born in the same house, to the same parents, but so very different.   

If a researcher wrote a book about 29 year old white females from NI I doubt I'd tick every box of what is usual, expected or achieved.   

Time and pace is a good thing and I need to allow for nature's rhythms.   Because I'm at home all the time with the kids I've seen every development, all the milestones, all the bad bits too.   I've seen their teeth emerge and grow like stalagmites, and I know them much better than the well-meaning man or woman giving advice in the queue in Tesco, or over the story table in the library.

They aren't dolls, but unique humans with personality traits that are bound to clash with ours, sometimes on an hourly basis.   

But we love them, and protect them, and teach them the good things we know, shielding them as best we can from the rotten parts of life.

They are growing, developing into themselves and bringing us with them every step of the way.

*

Bit of a spooky coincidence happened during the writing of this post: I'd been writing it a few lines at a time while waiting for Adam to settle to sleep this evening.   He'd called for my attention, told me he was thirsty.   Brought him a drink and while drinking it he looked at me, and said, "I just heard Lydia learning how to talk.   I heard her learning how to say "daddy"."   At this time Lydia was asleep (Praise God!) and Adam doesn't know a thing about my blog.   Strange!   I'd love for Lydia to wake up tomorrow able to call Andrew "daddy", it really would be great for him to hear.



   

Friday, May 30, 2014

Good girl gone home to Heaven

Maya Angelou1928 - 2014
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.
(Still I Rise, 1978)

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Head in hands

They say that pride comes before a fall, and now I believe them.

Whoever "they" are, they are smart and loud.

I think about memories of me patting myself on the back when a baby-staged Adam did X, Y or Z, or how as a toddler he just was willing to be moulded to my plans.   I want to slap my own hand, stupid stupid me.   I used to congratulate myself on how well I was doing.   How wonderful a child Adam was because of my tender, loving caring skills.   Maybe a bit, in part of that.   But probably overall it was his personality that made his infant stage so easy.

I sucked at most things growing up.   Was never very smart, was never very pretty, was never anything approaching sporty.   I floated around giving half-hearted attempts at most things but never got very far and was happy to just stay in the middle.

Then motherhood came so easy to me.    Easy conception, easy pregnancy, easy labour, easy breastfeeding experience etc etc etc.    How wonderful Tracie was.    Like a goddess, like a machine, like a wonderful example of femininity.    I glowed and was so happy.   I was so full of pride and smart ass ideas.   I looked around me at all the stupid mothers - those who failed where I was a champion, I thought I knew so much.

Now I know so much more, and I have fallen so far.

I remember at 5 weeks pregnant with Lydia an an optimistically smug comment of mine, and it has really bitten me since.   I knew I was pregnant but hadn't told anyone else.   In conversation with a relative about babies I said, "Oh I'd like 100 of them!"

A week later I was crippled with vomiting and a month later I was in hospital rigged up to drips and anti-sickness injections.   From then it was just a snowballing tumbling down into despair.   That baby was Lydia, now 21 months old, and still (not) sleeping like a newborn.   In fact, 2 of my best friends have had babies in the past month and both these babies sleep better than Lydia does right now.

During the day she's a delight and so much fun, but a gremlin at night and I am struggling to breathe thinking about how long this might last.   I feel like I've failed because she isn't ticking all the boxes that Adam ticked and I'm tortured with sleep deprivation.

I haven't seen a Health Visitor since December 2012 and am tempted to ring them in desperation.   But to what end?   What line will they trot out that I haven't already tried?   I've always found them pointless and basically just a gateway service to General Medicine, Dieticians, Social Services etc.  

I have tried speaking to my GP about this, but he's vague too.    Shoved anti-depressants at me, but what's the use in that?  

I'm afraid that I don't know where to turn, and that maybe there isn't anyone who can help.  

I'm back-peddling on so many of my values.    Have gone out and got myself a job just so I could find a way out of the house.    Lydia now goes to a childminder 1 day a week and 3 other days throughout the month.    I need a break from her, and this is a great thing.    Bang goes my previous idea that childcare for pre-verbal children = a very bad thing.    Truth is, I'm still conflicted on that point, but at the end of my rope so much that I just did it.  

It's all such a mess.   But day to day I look same as I ever did - kids are taken out and about and I'm a good mum.   But there are definite cracks in me and I'm not sure how to heal them over.

I really do have my head in my hands, and feel lost.   I have hope that things will improve, but struggling to maintain a sunny disposition.   Surely I'm not the only one, surely there must be some sort of refuge we can get out heads straight?!   I want to find it, or set it up myself for the future.

Just need to take it one step at a time, each day, each stage.   Just need to breathe.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Wait a minute, Miss

Lydia is a live wire.   A bit of a 24 hour party person.   A law unto herself.

She was born at 4:44am on a nice Wednesday morning.   She was born with her eyes open and has barely closed them since.

I have several friends with babies who sleep nearly constantly.   A gentle stroll in the pram will result in blissful deep sleep for many hours.  

Babies who sleep right through the night, or who drift back off peacefully after a feed.

Babies who can sleep anywhere and for whom time is quite fluid.

Lydia laughs in their faces and laughs in ours too.   She has plans, big plans, and they don't involve sleep.   We don't know what her plans are, and doubtful if she does either, but either way: sleep is not part of it and never has been.

The Diva and Bigger Diva, Feb 2014
From birth she didn't nap.   I tried all the tricks I had up my sleeve which successfully resulted in 3 hour daily naps for Adam.   She resisted, we fought, and she won.   Oh how I used to smirk to myself, pat myself on the back and think I was such a great mum for how well Adam slept.   I thought I had this whole motherhood thing sussed.   I repent now.

Adam used to be set in his cot when sleepy, with a bit of a gentle rub of his back and his lullaby teddy he'd be fast asleep and I'd sit downstairs watching a DVD, cleaning or having a nap myself.

Napping in a cot was not on Lydia's agenda, no matter how hard I tried she just cried harder.   Cried till she vomited so I just waved my white flag and stopped.

I didn't own a pram until she was nearly 6 months old, and even if I did there was no way she'd sleep with a gentle stroll and my 2.5 year old wouldn't have been able to walk the 50 miles needed to get her to drop off.  

50 miles?  Yep, that's about right.   As it got into winter I took to driving to get her to sleep.   Often it took around 30 minutes of driving to even get her to close her eyes, then I'd park the car in the driveway and be able to watch her from the house.   Lifting her out of the car and up into her room was a no-hope idea.   Sometimes even turning off the engine, unclicking my seatbelt and opening my door was enough for her eyes to ping open.  

So after a year of driving while entertaining a 3 year old Adam, he started nursery and I had a bit more peace with the napping plan.   She napped after a drive while he was at nursery and woke in time for me to pick him up in the afternoon.   Bliss... Or it was until it started to mess with her bedtime sleep and just wasn't working anymore.

By about 15 months of age any daytime sleep would result in partying till around 10pm.  Totally overtired, but totally hyper.    Reminded me a bit of someone on ecstasy.    I'd tell her to lie down and close her eyes and she'd stand up with her eyes closed la la la-ing with a teddy bear on her head.    Then she'd pass out asleep around the time that I go to bed.   A nice evening that didn't make for.

So at 16 months the daytime nap stopped.   It didn't bother her in the least during the day, she just kept soldiering on and I started to suspect she might actually be a robot.  

Once the daytime nap stopped I saved a fortune on diesel which was nice.   Also no daytime nap meant an earlier bedtime of 6pm for Lydia which gave me time with Adam in the evening before his bedtime (7:30pm) and with Andrew when he got home from work.    Incidentally he doesn't return from work until after Lydia's new bedtime, which isn't great, but tough luck.

6pm she falls alseep like a dream and for a while she was sleeping 6pm until nearly 8am and I was over the moon.   Didn't last longer than a few weeks but it was lovely.  

Now most nights are a bit like a twisted version of Cinderella at the ball.   Lydia sleeps great from 6pm until midnight (when I'm just starting to have a deep sleep) and then she wakes up to party, sometimes for up to 3 hours, and then she'll fall back asleep until 6:30am.  

Now she's in a bed she is mobile and can move.   Often she creeps out of her room and appears beside my bed, almost at eye level and says "Hiya Mummy!"  Cute, but spooky too.

Musical beds is still the order of the night in our house.   Often she only wants to sleep in with me once she's wakened during the night, or maybe with her daddy in the big bed.   Most nights one of us adults is to be found with about 12 inches of our legs hanging out the end of her toddler-bed.    But it's sleep so we'll take it.

Not a great sleeper, but lots of fun.   Never any chances to catch up on sleep during the day with two active kids around, and no chances of overnight babysitting.   Would pay good money for that, seriously.

But in reality we'll just wait and hope she grows out of it after the next growth spurt.   Surely it must be coming and surely it can't be long.


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Warm Son

I have too many thoughts to record.  

Too many worries about how they will be perceived, or misunderstood.

Too many distractions with real life and daily living.

But I think about posting often.   

*

The whole family is excited about an upcoming visit home my brother is making from his army base.   We can't wait to hear his stories, and update him on the slow-changing lives we have.   

A friend told me that the first home visit her son made from the army was like welcoming home a stranger.   She said she met him at the gates and wondered who the tall, strong man was.   He'd matured so much from his experiences, albeit brief, and she had to 're-learn' him all over again.   She said that happened each time she saw him, especially as the visits home became less frequent.

I'm scared of that.   I do love my brother, but I moved out of home when he was barely a teenager, so in my head he's still 12 years old and kicking a football in the front garden.    Him working, having a girlfriend and driving always made me tic a bit, and I had to remind myself that he was an adult just like me.

But now he's gone so far away and his experiences are so vastly different from mine I'm scared that he'll be unrecognisable when we meet again.   I think I'm being paranoid, as any texts or letters we've had have been good.

I'm not sure what I'm worried about really: him or myself.   Partly I feel like I need him to stay as I remember him so it doesn't challenge my own view of myself.    I'm the oldest, I'm the bossy one, I'm the smart one.    

Anyway, it doesn't make much odds.    The home visit will be nice, the kids will be delighted and it will be a short, sharp glimpse back into what used to be his reality.   

Watch this video.   Watch this video.  LISTEN TO THIS SONG.   I have always loved the band Bush.   Gavin Rossdale is a particularly lovely piece of eye-candy, and I've thought so for half my life.   Admittedly the video is a bit meh, doesn't really match the song or maybe I just don't understand the art.   Who knows?   Either way, it is a classic song.   

Thursday, February 20, 2014

I Hold Photographic Memories

I've had plenty of people leave me in my lifetime.   On the other hand, I've also turned on my heel and left many others behind too.   

That's the way life goes, eh?   No one really stays still for long.   We're all seemingly here for a good time, not a long time.   So I've learnt to not get too comfortable with the presence of anyone, because I never know when that security will be insecure.

People are fluid in their thinking and the world is so wide.   Northern Ireland is so small, and our parochial 'us' and 'them' outlook isn't much of a worldview at all.    I understand why people would want to leave.  Sometimes anyway.   Love, work, the promise of grass being greener - all good reasons to seek new adventures.

But please don't ask me to leave here.   Too many roots and not strong enough wings.   Happily I can burn bridges with those with displease me, I can live with less friends quite happily.   I've never needed a 200 strong posse of people I barely know.   I've never been sucked in by that part of the social media bug.

I'm happy to have allies in other countries.   Good to visit, good to follow maps, good to learn about.   But sometimes people go where I can't visit and where information cannot be followed.   Going away to the army, going away to a life of mannish secrets that sound too loud for me.   

I've never been close to my extended family.   I don't believe blood is thick.   But sometimes it is... and I could make a joke here about the thick blood of my siblings, but I won't.... Ha!   Anyway, we're going to be down in number come next week and I'm sad.   I will miss my brother, and I'm stung when visiting the family we do have and I see them cry for him while he's still stood in front of him.  

He might not return.   Or if he does he might be held up as a war hero.   Who knows, I don't know, and neither does he.    Suffice to say that worst thing about being left behind will come into play - he will be different and so will life lived here.   We'll all be different and the kids will be totally leaping up their milestones and won't remember someone they once loved so much.    Each time will be a re-introduction and I hate that.   

I could cry about it now.   But then I feel selfish, so don't bother.   Also, if I think about the army too much I could cry about lots more than the fact my brother has gone off to join.   Abuses, guns, terror.   

I haven't asked him how he feels about leaving us all behind.   He's following his dream and for that I'm proud.   I don't think he feels selfish and I don't blame him for that.

But then who is selfish: the one leaving (possibly never to return), or the one left behind crying about being left?   I don't know, although I've been both in my time.   

Sometimes a person 'leaving' another by cutting contact can be much more of an abandonment despite geographical location being close.    Sometimes a friendly face waiting at the airport in a faraway foreign place can feel so comforting and a small glimpse of home.  

We'll offer him home when he returns and hope beyond hope that he does return each time.


Monday, January 13, 2014

Like a ray of light

So, it's a new year.

2013 went quite well, all things considered.   Once I squint my eyes and ignore the haze of my low mood, I can see that actually God moved a lot and I grew a lot.


  • Andrew's application to Ministry is coming along nicely.   
  • I'm developing some friendships with like-minded lovely people.
  • Adam is doing well at nursery and will be starting Primary School in 2014.   
  • Lydia isn't a baby anymore, but a funny feisty little girl.
  • I can see more opportunities coming my way with regards to potential work, and with things I do on a voluntary basis.

Overall I'm positive about the start of this new year.   The end of 2013 passed in a mix of Doctor's appointments about my mood, and in several visits to and from family and friends to celebrate Christmas/ New Year.

A week before Christmas I had a farcical consultation with my usually-lovely GP about my low mood.   He laughed, joked and dismissed me outright.   My initial feeling of worthlessness morphed into irritation then anger.  So on New Year's Eve I had another  appointment and told him that actually I was serious and wanted things to change.

As per the medical model he threw pills at me.   Two months worth, nonetheless, and off I was sent.   I took one of the pills that night and spent 24 hours vomiting, shaking, sweating, in tears.   A reaction to the meds that I probably didn't need.

Irony is: my low mood was caused by a bit of a fear I developed after having 8 months of hyperemesis, and from feeling trapped being in the house so much being a housewife.   And the 'cure' was a pill that made me vomit, and had me bedridden for a day.  Ha, ha, ha.

So the pills are now in the bin, and I've spoken to the GP on the phone and told him off for putting a scud on me.   I'm due to see him tomorrow, will have the kids with me, as Andrew is working, so I'm curious to see what he says.

What I'm going to say is to advise him to save the NHS some £ and keep the pills in the pharmacy.  I don't want them, I just want an out.   

But I think God's given me an out....

Andrew's course means we're going to be tight for household income, so the solution seems to be me working part-time and balancing it with Andrew's uni hours.   He gets more time with the kids, and I get to engage my brain outside the house.   

My pride about being a stay-at-home mum has taken a bit of a bash, but I'm coming round to the idea of sharing the load with Andrew and not claiming that I am the one who should/could do it all regarding house tasks and childcare.   (It's one in the eye for the patriarchy and a small "hurrah!" for equality.)

So we're moving on, into a new year, into a bit of a new era.

Bring it on!