Chim, chimineeee…..

Practically Perfect in Every Way???

Practically Perfect in Every Way!

The days are getting distinctively darker and gloomier and the nights are drawing in. The children have gone back to school and even the toddler groups have started up. There’s no denying it any longer. Autumn is well and truly here.

And that’s fab! Don’t get me wrong, I love the sunshine, particularly the kind this past summer delivered. But my favourite season has to be Autumn (and December which is technically winter but hey, I’m among friends). It’s so full of purpose and there seems to be an unending list of things to do. Which I love. The fact that my birthday and Christmas also fall in this time probably helps 😉

One of my favourite things to do when it’s dark and miserable outside, is to curl up on the sofa and watch a film. But these times are not suitable for any old film and towards Christmas they will likely come from my small but quality collection of Christmas movies (Muppet’s Christmas Carol anyone?). But until then, I am a sucker for a feel good Disney movie. I’ve been trying to introduce the boy to Disney films pretty much since he was born. I even bought him some which have male protagonists, (Jungle Book and Monsters Inc) to temper my more female Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast. But recently I decided it was time he was introduced to the world of Disney outside pure animation and showed him Mary Poppins.

I love Mary Poppins. I can remember the first time I ever saw it (Christmas Day, 1983) and its been a fixture in my life ever since; recorded off the telly, on the telly or (now in the 21st Century) on Netflix. I’ve been watching it practically all my life and I know all the lyrics to all the songs. I’ve been singing “Stay Awake” to soothe Oscar since he was born and now as soon as I start to sing it, he puts his head on my shoulder. I thought I knew this film.

Until I watched it the other day, with Oscar, through a mother’s eyes. I saw something in it I’d never noticed before and I’m still having trouble articulating what I saw so bare with me.

What I saw, for the first time, was not magic. What I saw, was a person, who comes into the lives of the children and provides them with the opportunity and ability to go on magical adventures using their own imagination. There was no Merry Go Round, there was no tea party on the ceiling. Rather an adult who enabled children to explore their own minds (I also saw a mother who, when she couldn’t find anyone else to look after the children when they had run away from the bank, was happy to leave them in the care of a stranger, a chimney sweep she’d never met, but that’s by the by). For the first time I saw a message to me as an adult; be the conduit through which children can explore and use their imaginations.

Was that message always there? Did I miss it before, because I had no children? Am I reading absolutely too much in to what is actually just a quaint story? Possibly. I mean, like I say I thought I knew this film upside down and back to front. Or do you take from films and books and media what I you need/want to? Probably.

But it’s made me think. Not just about the film itself and what the hell I was seeing from the first time, but about my role in Oscar’s development. When he was tiny it was all about the physical, helping him roll, crawl, walk, eat, keeping him physically safe. But now, I think, I need to turn our attention to the more internal aspects of his development. I’m not talking about ABC, 123 (although we do sing these every day!) I mean I think I need to concentrate on being that conduit, allowing him to develop that imagination. I look at his toys and I think it’s time to move away from those hand eye co-ordination, flashy light, musical thingamajigs and bring out the blocks and the hand size cars and things that make him play.

Being responsible for his physical well being suddenly seems like a doddle. Now I am responsible for encouraging something I have no control over. I can’t see what he’s imagining. I just have to go with him for the ride.

It’s funny. I always wanted to be Jane. She had such pretty dresses and got to dance on the rooftops of London. I never got to be her. But now, I get to be my own Mary Poppins. And that my friends is supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!

Yeah, this is mine…

I’m not a closed book kind of person. Most of my friends would agree (I hope) that I’m fairly open with them. I think I’m happy to share most things (although I sometimes find it hard, we know that!) However I have been overwhelmed with the ease at which I have been able to share my birth story. Oscar’s birth was a deeply personal and intimate experience in my life and yet I have been completely open about it, often with completely strangers, offering up information I would never have dreamt of sharing before I had him. And do you know why? It’s because everybody does it! As mothers, we seem to wear our birth stories like badges of honour. And what’s wrong with that?

So if you’ve heard this already I’m sorry – but here it comes again!

My pregnancy was pretty text book really. I didn’t have morning sickness, although I did spend a few weeks feels nauseous ALL BLOODY DAY! Morning my arse! Anyway that cleared up at 10 weeks, and everything else was pretty standard.

I was under a consultant from day one, partly due to my high BMI, partly due to my epilepsy, so was monitored fairly closely. I never had any problems and the gestational diabetes and larger than average baby everyone kept predicting, never materialised. Take that obstetric generalisations!

It was at a routine midwife appointment at 35 weeks, that they noticed that my blood pressure, which had been falling throughout my pregnancy had suddenly shot up. This lead to a week in hospital and much worry about suspected pre-eclampsia and whether this baby would make full term. An NCT friend had been diagnosed with severe pre-eclampsia the week before and had to have her baby delivered by emergency C-Section at 35 weeks, so I knew all too well how serious this situation could be.

I could write a whole post about this experience, but as this a birth story, I’ll leave that for another day. Suffice to say that after a week of trying, the hospital managed to stabilise my BP with drugs. I practically cheered as we left, with my tiny baby still safely tucked away.

I went home and started maternity leave. I tided, I hoovered the ceilings, I slept on the sofa. I had a week of peaceful time and I loved it.

At the end of that week I had a routine appointment with my consultant, the wonderful and no nonsense Lesley Roberts at RSCH. She took my BP, looked up at me, and said “I’m sorry Lisa, you can’t go home today”. I burst into tears. I was taken back up to the same ward I’d just escaped, given more meds and resolved to try and get this sorted. When they checked me they said I was no where near ready to give birth, so wouldn’t attempt an induction. However, my BP would just not play ball and kept rising, spiking in the middle of the night when I was asleep of all things!

I felt so frustrated. This baby was 38 weeks gestation, plenty cooked enough and here I was taking more and more drugs that seemed to do nothing. Eventually, a canny midwife saw just how frustrated I was and took me aside. Quietly, she told me that if an induction was really what I wanted, then the next time I saw the doctor I was to cry. Simple as that. So, I did as she said and do you know, it only bloody worked! It seemed getting emotional worked where being rational had failed. I was given a pessary to start things off.

I wont bore you with the next two days, as very little happened. I got some twinges, like very mild contractions, that then stopped. On day three they decided that if they could break my water I’d be able to start a proper Scyntocinon induction. Only, they didn’t tell me this is what they were doing. I thought it was odd that they gave me a gas and air pipe for an examination. Ahh then I knew why! This wasn’t an examination! It was the most painful thing I have ever experienced. They were right, he was still really high up and to reach him felt like I was being ripped apart. I went into a zone, where I felt like I put myself on a shelf and could only hear every third word being said. It was awful and amazing all at the same time. Then I heard her say ‘no’ she couldn’t do it, so I took myself of the shelf. Then she said ‘oh hang on’ and I felt a whoosh as my waters broke. Finally we were getting this party started.

I was hooked up to the drip and given an epidural, as induced labour can come on very hard and very fast. Although not in my case. I was there for 24 hours and he moved a centimetre. Seriously! I knew it was looking dodgy when the midwife suggested at 3 in the morning that it was best not to eat any more. I think we could all see the writing on the wall. The induction I’d cried for had failed. It would be a C section now. I was a tiny bit gutted as I really wanted to go through the whole process we’d talked about at such length in my NCT group, but actually I just wanted this baby with me and my BP to settle down. Our safety was more important than any beautiful ideal image at that moment and I have never regretted that.

At 9am on 2nd April (yeah I know – I think Oscar hung on for fear of being born on April Fools Day!) it was declared that an emergency section was needed and I was in theatre within 20 minutes. I remember the table I was lying on was at an angle so I felt like I was going to fall off. I remember the anaesthetist running ice down my shoulder to see if the spinal block had kicked in yet. I remember Adele and Otis Reading coming on the radio. I remember feeling like I was being jumped up and down on but feeling no pain (which was weird in the extreme). I remember hearing him cry before I felt them lift him fully clear of me. I remember crying and crying and crying with relief. That he was here, that he was strong and that I’d managed to do it. This body I had so much hatred for had kept him safe.

They weighed him and gave him to me, but I couldn’t see his face so had to give him to Ben, so I could take a proper look. He was just so beautiful.

Then they took him away for tests and I started to feel sick. I managed to shout out in time and the quick thinking anaesthetist whacked some anti-emetic in my line. I felt better, but my mouth was unbelievably dry. I was given ice to suck. And then I started to pass in and out of consciousness. I was told after I was in surgery for two hours. I thought I’d been in there less than half that.

Next thing I knew we were back in the delivery suit and beyond happy. All the worry was gone, he was here and he was really strong. Much smaller than anyone had expected at 6lb 6oz, but perfect. 10/10 on both APGAR tests and cute as a button. Although I do recall thinking – blimey hasn’t he got enormous thumbs! He still has today, along with his huge feet!

And that’s my birth story. Obviously I could go on and on. About my time in hospital after the birth, about how my BP practically dropped over night, about the trouble we had with feeding. But I think I’ll leave it there. For now.

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Me & Him

Diary of an Imperfect Mum

Money, money, money…

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So we had a baby back in 2012 (Oscar, he’s 17 months and awesome!). We’d be married nearly 4 years and together for nearly 14 and he was totally planned. But what I didn’t plan for, rather naively, was the financial impact this baby would have on our lives. I’m not talking about the cost of nappies or putting him through University (although holy crap how do we do that!??!). I’m talking about something much more fundamental and that was my capacity to earn.

I absolutely expected to go back to work. I didn’t loooooove my job, but I liked it enough, it was in a sector I wanted to be in and I was doing OK (having been promoted twice in a year). I fully expected to go back once my year of maternity leave was finished. The organisation had a generous maternity package and I saved enough to cover me through the three months at the end of my leave which would be unpaid. I was OK.

However when we started to look into childcare in the local area I was horrified to find out just how expensive it was. I wasn’t on great money (slightly under the national average), but it wasn’t bad. However all of this would be swallowed by childcare fees. When I added to that travelling costs and taxes I found that, even if I went back full-time, I would be paying out more than I earnt per month, without even contributing to the household costs in any way. I was horrified.

We looked at the numbers and realised we could afford for me not to work, but we couldn’t afford for me to continue working in my current role. I knew I should feel grateful. So many people said they wished they were in my position (at least to my face). But for me the thought of giving up any form of financial independence left me feeling slightly nauseous! I just didn’t see it coming and with all the fuss this government makes about “getting people back into work”, how could this even be the case? I was and still am baffled!

So these were the circumstances I found myself in and the circumstances that I have now had to accept. Don’t get me wrong I have days when I absolutely love not having to leave Oscar and days where I feel I’m doing a real bang up job. But there are also days I feel completely isolated and guilty and lacking in any kind of control. I have had my own source of income, one way or another since I was 13 years old. Moving away from that and living a very different life has been harder than I ever anticipated.

But people to do it all the time, some for many years. They seem happy enough. Are they? Maybe I should ask them how they do it and whether they ever felt the same kind of shame I do not contributing and if not how come? Seriously. I’d love to know how to live this life, without feeling guilty all the time.

Or as I said in another post, maybe I just need to look harder for another job. One that pays enough to make it worthwhile, even if it’s only just worthwhile.

I’m not running down what I’m doing. I’m proud of the care I’m able to give my son. A friend said to me the other day “you’re very brave to do this, I don’t think I could do it!”. I don’t feel particularly brave, but it was nice of her to say. I just have to figure out how to move forward in a way that’s best for all of us. And I guess that’s really the biggest change I’ve had to make.

School holidays suck

Bored?

When I was a child the school holidays, particularly the six week summer holidays, were my favourite times in the whole world. I remember playing with friends, riding my bike, making perfume out of rose petals and water (really gross!) and attending week long play schemes. And there in lies the clue. I’m remembering the holidays of an older child. I don’t remember those from when I was a littley and no one told me just how disruptive and stressful these could be!

During term time, Oscar and I have a kind of a schedule, much as those children who go to school.

  • Mondays, we decide on the day
  • Tuesdays is Noah’s Ark Toddler group followed by coffee with a friend
  • Wednesday is library or sometimes a trip into Godalming
  • Thursdays is Hammer Toddler Group followed sometimes by lunch with a friend
  • Fridays is my NCT group meet up
  • Saturday is swimming lessons

Its pretty samey, but I need this routine as much as the boy does. I like to know we have something planned for most days. It motivates me to get out of the house. Its important for both of our sanity’s.

However, in the holidays, and particularly in the summer holidays everything stops. All the toddler groups grind to a halt and the library’s activities for pre schoolers cease. I looked into it and most other local pre-school classes/courses (such as baby gym, music, sensory, play etc) also stop. Their hiatus leaves me with no more routine and a baby I can’t explain this to.

Don’t get me wrong, I know why this is. Some toddler groups are run in schools, which need to close their buildings in the summer. Some groups are run by women who have their own older children who need looking after. As an aside, neither of these apply to our groups.

I see many places running classes, courses, schemes and workshops over the summer and these are wonderful, if pricey. I remember going to some myself as a child. But not one of those I’ve seen does anything for under 5’s let alone under 2’s. It would appear that the assumption is that younger children/babies do not need entertaining in the holidays in the way older children do. I can’t think why this might be the case, or is that just my toddler?

OK, so this is the case and we the parents of little children just have to suck it up and get on with it. Right, so we find new places to takes them, different things to do. We find the money to cover the expense and we go. And wherever we go is heaving with older children, as quite rightly their parents have had the same idea. But this can makes these trips incredibly stressful. Anything physical, such as a park you would happily let your toddler roam around, suddenly becomes dangerous with long legs and big bodies fly around with gleeful abandon. As it should be of course. But I’d like to see you explain to a firebrand of a 16 month old that actually he can’t go in that park or as happened in the playpark in RHS Gardens Wisley on Monday that he had to go back in the buggy and be taken away for fear he’d be brained! He was livid with me but what could I do?

Whenever I bring this up my husband tells me to “be the miracle”, In other words, “do something about it”. Or “if your’re not going to do anything about it then shut up”! So I try to not bitch about it and find other things to do. I’d find it hard to do anything about it at the moment, as I have Oscar to look after. Maybe I’ll wait til he’s older. Oh wait then he’ll be off school and I’ll have to look after him. Oh hang on……… 😉

Believe me I do understand the situation. The only people affected by this are parents of young children, who either have little ones to look after or who work. And those who work often have their little ones in day care and probably don’t notice as much, as day care runs all year. Why wouldn’t it? You pay enough for the privilege. Maybe I need to think more seriously about going back to work. That’d shut me up!

Maybe it’s just where I live. My friend in the US says this simply doesn’t happen where she lives. What’s it like in your neck of the woods? How did/do you cope with toddlers in the summer hols? I’d be interested to hear.

The best use of an hour I’ve ever found

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Oscar, 4 days old

I met up with a friend today, who has a little boy the same age as Oscar. She’s just had her second baby and this was their first outing out with the NCT girls. It was fantastic to see her and great to see how well they’re all doing. It was also marvelous to get a tiny baby cuddle with the new addition to the gang, baby Mia. She was a teeny tiny baby at birth and is still relatively small now. I held her on my chest and shh shh shh’d her to sleep when she woke. It made me remember just how tiny Oscar was and how much I loved him napping during the day in my arms or on my chest.

I remember fretting, as all new mothers are want to do, that I shouldn’t be holding him to sleep, and wasn’t it a terrible waste of time, just sitting there, when I could be doing more productive things. I remember I aired these thoughts on FB and among the replies, a friend with older children told me just to carrying on, because as soon as he could move, I’d never sit still again! I owe more to that friend than I can explain. I followed her advice and cuddled and cuddled my son in the early months. Which was lucky, as he rolled at 16 weeks and could crawl by 6 months, (unusually early in both instances). And sitting around cuddling fast became a distant memory.

Holding baby Mia made me realise just how much has changed in the past year. My tiny baby (above) is now a strapping young boy, teetering on the edge of toddlerhood. His early months were so full of fear and stress and indecision, that those memories I have of sitting for an hour or more just holding him are particularly precious to me. It’s advice I’d give to any new mother.

It still doesn’t make me want to do it again though. But that’s a post for another day.