Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Who are you?

My dear husband takes a bit of a bashing on occasion in my blogs- I don't mean it.  In fact, quite sickeningly I adore him.  Writing is my outlet- I share in the hope that somebody may identify, or laugh, or cry- just to share.  He always supports this, even if he is not currently in good favour.

When Mr T and I got together some years ago, I was a very different person.  I didn't know who I was, in fact...  I had broken free of a very unhealthy relationship, but it had left me broken too.  It took some time to understand what a healthy relationship should and could be like- poor Mr T faced the fall-out but never wavered in his devotion to our future.

In the early days, I was very careful to watch the things I said.  I censored my thoughts and opinions to avoid any conflict.  I was careful to explain my every move and the thing that makes me most sad is that I apologised continuously.  Every little statement or request was followed by an apology.  Mr T despaired- why on earth was I sorry? Because it had been easier that way.  It took a lot of time and coaching from Mr T to let myself feel and think freely, to have and to voice an opinion.  I'm not stupid, please don't misunderstand.  I had simply lived in fear for so long that I had many bad habits and very little self confidence.  I hadn't quite realised how much resentment I had stored away until it began to surface.  In the rare event that Mr T and I disagreed my irrational anger would surface.  I began to react in a completely over the top manner, at every little dispute I was packing my bags and ready to go it alone.  The walls were up, my defence level high... but he never gave up.  He always talked me back down in a kind and gentle way, helped me to see that we were just having a normal, healthy disagreement.  That we could resolve issues respectfully.  I was so all or nothing it was a real roller coaster.  I didn't sleep easy for a long time and depression swallowed me up when I finally dealt with my feelings.  Through all of that and out the other side I can see clearly the damage that was done- but the scars can't hold me back, they make me stronger.

So what is a healthy relationship?  For me, it's feeling secure.  I'm safe and loved and free to be myself- whoever that may be.  I have learnt that it is ok have wants and needs, likes and dislikes.  It's ok to be selfish sometimes.  It's ok not to be strong sometimes.  It's ok to have friends and family- they can be completely separate from my marriage, I don't have to share my every little thought,  feeling and friendship- but at the same time, I can share them if I want to.  It's knowing that someone has your back, that someone wants to make you happy every bit as much as you want to make them happy.   It's being free to say what's on my mind, good or bad.   It's being understood and accepted.  It's being happy.

Mr T and I now have two beautiful Littles of our own.  I will raise my children to be happy with themselves, whoever they grow to be.  I will encourage and nurture their passions.  I will urge them to be bold and kind with their thoughts.  To accept their feelings.  To know what love should look and feel like.  I wish for them contentment with their own bodies and minds.  I long for them to be at peace with themselves.  With a father like Mr T, they stand every chance of having and being all of those things and I will always be grateful.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

One for the Daddies

Mr T and I are somewhat traditional in our roles, in that he goes to work to pay the bills and I raise the children and run the house.  By 'run the house' I mean I attempt to keep up with the chores and do a weekly online shop so that nobody starves... it pretty much works.  Now, I am truly grateful that I have the opportunity to be at home and raise my children.  I realise that we are in a fortunate position that we can manage and Mr T is a fantastic breadwinner, husband, father.  Sometimes, however, he commits the odd blunder that makes my blood boil.  Now, he is not insensitive or selfish, he just somewhat lacks judgement on occasion.  This post is to help out any Daddy's out there sharing a house with a stay at home Mumma- read carefully, it may just make life that little bit more harmonious!

When you get home at the end of the long working day, we appreciate that you have most likely had a busy and stressful day- but we are so relieved to see you!  That extra pair of hands to help at bedtime makes all the difference, especially if Mumma is outnumbered by Littles.  DO NOT come home, excite the children with your presence and proceed to run a bath unless this is followed by the sentence "There's a bath waiting for you darling, I'm doing bedtime tonight- off you go!".  You may stop to notice that she is wearing the same clothes as yesterday, her hair is embarrassingly greasy and she has fantasised about soaking in that tub in a similar fashion to the way you look at Taylor Swift in music videos- yes, we notice that.

When you're feeling a bit peckish but no meal has materialised, by all means, DO go ahead and rustle up a snack.  But be warned, DO NOT stuff your face without providing a similar snack for Mumma and the Littles because guess what?  There is no dinner on the table because she has been flat out keeping the kids alive dammit!  She is unlikely to be thinking, 'ah, it's been a tough day, I think we'll eat later tonight, say around midnight, so I can finish the laundry first. I mean, I'm not even hungry...'  She is more likely to have survived the day on toast crust and dribbly biscuit remnants cast aside by the Littles because there is no time for cooking!

Heading out for a beer with the lads? No problem.  Sometimes we relish the chance to take control of the remote and watch some truly mind-numbing atrocious entertainment on the box.  DO go ahead and make plans, just let us know in advance that you won't be around and we'll plan accordingly.  Hell, we'd do the same if we had an ounce of energy left!  However, DO NOT, on your way out send a text stating that you're really not feeling it and you'll be home in two hours tops.  This alters our plans and we might find ourselves thinking, 'ah well he wanted to see this film too, I'll wait.' or, 'he didn't eat before he left, maybe he'll want some pizza too, I'll just hang on for him to get in'.  If you're going out, stay out.  We both know that you will get the taste after the first pint, the Archbishop of Banterbury will arrive and you will soon forget that you weren't up for it after all.  Rather than texting and saying 'I'm having a laugh babe, home late after all' you make the situation so much worse by convincing yourself that you really will be coming home early and continue to text 'leaving after this pint'.  Remember that we are getting angrier with every pint you consume and it's all your own doing.  DO be honest gents, we appreciate it more than you would think!

The weekend arrives, no more work for two whole days- fantastic! Who doesn't love a weekend?  Nope, not us, Mummas love it when you're around to help with the Littles because- they are yours too!  That's right- DO get stuck in.  DO NOT ask what you should do or even worse, wait to be asked!  They belong to us both, you may have clocked off but just remember that I can't.

While we're on the subject of weekends, yes your alarm is switched off, good for you.  You will do well to remember that mine have no off switch.  They still wake with the sun rise and though you don't hear them, the word 'weekend' has no meaning to these creatures we adore so much.  DO NOT fall asleep on the couch during the day and snore loudly.  I know its your day off, but Mummas are not allowed this luxury.  You will do well to remember that sleep is currency now that you have Littles- and you my friend, are already heavily in debt.  If your Littles are of an age where they still require sustenance throughout the night, that debt is higher still.  DO volunteer to do your share of night feeds and chances are, we'll happily send you off for a nap to thank you for returning our sanity.

Obvious, right?  I'm just wondering how many Mummas are reading this and thinking 'yes! Why does he do that?!'  Daddas... we know you mean well, we also know that hints don't work so well so read it, re-read it and go run that lady a bubble bath because she will love you all the more for it!  Happy wife, happy life...

Thursday, 20 August 2015

A different perspective

I've asked the same question three times already.  You still haven't heard me, have you?  Again, louder, slower.  "What. Do. You. Want. To. Eat?" I've called your name, I finally have your attention, now listen, here is the question again.  "What... do... you... want... to... EAT?!"
Well you've heard me but all you've done is repeat my question back at me.  Why won't you just listen to me, just tell me what it is you want?  I know you hear me!

Just put your trousers on. It's really not that hard, you put one foot in at a time, stand up and we pull them up. That's it! You wore these last week, they fit fine, I really can't see the issue.  Why are you being so naughty today?  That's it, we're already late I can't wait for you anymore, you will wear these trousers! There, you see? They're on, what was the big deal?

Just put the trains in the box now, we're tidying up.  Why are you lining them up? Just put them in the box! Right here, this box.  Look, I'll show you. See? It's easy. Why are you screaming? It's time to tidy up! Stop SCREAMING! They're just trains! Why can't you just do as you're told?!

Here's your dinner. Eat it now, please.  Eat your dinner.  You ate it the other day, I know you like it. It's going to go cold.  Will you just eat something? You've barely eaten all day, why aren't you hungry? Forget it, I'll take it away. Why do I even bother cooking for you? You never bother eating it anyway!  Why are you crying now?

It's bedtime, into bed now, time for sleep.  Please just sleep.  I've had a long day, I'm very tired and I just want to switch off.  Please, keep still, lay down and just sleep.  I've read you a story.  I'm not reading it again, just go to sleep! Enough is enough.  GO to sleep NOW!  Stop screaming and SLEEP!!! I CAN'T KEEP DOING THIS!

I've just noticed my name.  I was in my safe place where everything is calm.  I turn to look at you and you seem angry, but I don't know why. You're asking me something, you want an answer.  I'm just learning your language, it's just beginning to make sense.  I can make out the words now... " what... do... you... want... to... eat..." I don't know the answer to that.  Did I say that out loud? I'm making you even angrier now... I think I'll go back to my safe place.

You're asking me to put those trousers on but I feel anxious about it.  The material makes my legs feel funny.  I wore those last week, I remember how it feels, it's not nice.  They make my legs itchy and I can't concentrate and it just gets worse.  I can't shut it out. No! I'm not ready! Don't make me put those on yet! I need time to feel ready! They don't feel right! I can't concentrate, they don't feel nice! Help!

I like my things in the right order.  I can relax when everything is where it should be.  You seem to like watching your programmes on the television, they make you happy.  Lining my trains up makes me happy, I forget the things that are troubling me.  You're moving them! Why are you moving them? No! Okay, okay! I'll do it when I'm ready! Wait- I need time, please!  If I can just keep these two with me, I can cope with the others going away.  Please, no! Don't take them all! I don't mean to be naughty, please understand! I'm really trying but I'm panicking! It's all too fast! Help me!

You've made me my dinner.  I like it, but it's quite hot.  I'm a bit hot from running around so I think I'll wait for it to cool down.  Last time I ate something hot it made my mouth hurt but I didn't have the words to tell you. I haven't eaten much today because my tummy has been hurting but I don't have the words to tell you that either.  I'd like to eat this, but when it's not too hot.  You're angry again.  I'm not sure why.  I do want my dinner, I just can't eat it yet.  I just need some time. You've taken it away! I wanted to eat it, I really did.

It's bedtime.  I'm very tired and would like to go to sleep now, but I have a lot bouncing around in my head.  It's very noisy in my mind, I've been learning so much today.  All the new words and sounds and smells are all shouting at me at once, I can't filter it out.  You've read me a story and now those words are in my head too.  Maybe if you just read it again I can focus on your words and drown out the rest. Please, I've had a very long day, please just let me rock and bounce until I settle down. You're angry at me again.  I've upset you somehow but I don't know what I've done this time.  I'm so tired it's hard to think.  It's too loud, I need to drown it all out. Please!  I CAN'T KEEP DOING THIS!

Sometimes, I lose my temper.  I shout.  I rush and I throw things in a flash of rage.  The results are devastating and I am reminded just how fragile our relationship is.  It's built on trust and I have to protect that.  It's all about a different perspective- this is where the extra patience comes from.  When I'm tired and stressed and impatient I have to remind myself that, if that's how I'm feeling, what might he be feeling?  Why are we rushing, what does it matter if we're late?  Does it matter if we get some place on time, or does it matter if he can make himself understood or face his demons and conquer a fear?  Does it matter if he eats what I want him to eat or does it matter that he just eats?  I remind myself that his mind just works a little differently and I think about what might make things that little bit easier for him.  That's how we get by.  Sometimes that's all it takes. 

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Tough day for a small boy

Sometimes you'll hear me say "Tough day for a small boy".  There will be days where I will excuse us from all planned activities because Crazy is having a 'bad day'.  Some meet this with confusion and wonder or even openly ask me, "but surely he'll be better if you just bring him out? Go anyway, it'll be a good distraction!".  In the past I have buckled and tried to persevere with our plans only to be met with disaster.  It always ends as a hard day all round and no fun for anybody, so if you hear this from me in future, please don't be offended when I don't bow to your persuasions.  I know you mean well and you're disappointed but trust me when I say we're not up to it today.

Many of you will have seen Crazy on his good days, when we're out and about and joining in.  He doesn't look Autistic? What should that look like?  Before we did some research I had written it off as a potential diagnosis because, yes, he can look you in the eye.  These days he can even ask you to play with him.  If you're highly honoured you may even get a cuddle!  A brief, but wonderful cuddle- I live for these moments.  I had fallen for all of the myths surrounding Autism because my boy was sociable and he was communicating and he could look at me and understand me.  Things, however, are not always as they seem.

So what does a bad day look like for us?  Let's start with waking up.  It usually starts with tears and 'oh dears' right from the start.  From the minute he opens his eyes we can tell how he's going to be.  If he is accompanied downstairs by 'Froggy and plug' his comforters (a musical frog and his dummy for those wondering) he is feeling anxious.  If he gets out of bed at all that is.  Sometimes he can't face it.  He will hide and cry and not want to be talked to or touched or looked at and that is painful to see in such a young man.  Assuming he makes it downstairs, he will refuse food.  Almost all food, almost all day.  Contrary to popular belief, he doesn't appear to notice hunger and would in fact starve himself.  After some research, we don't seem to be alone here.  Autism and food issues appear to go hand in hand and it is very worrying.  He will park himself under his 'heavy cushion', with his tablet and zone out.  I do not know if he hears me, chooses to ignore me or just doesn't understand me.  On a good day I can say, "We're going to get into Mummy's car now and go to the park to feed the ducks!" and he will understand.  On a bad day, if he responds at all it is only if I break it down, "Mummy's car now, go to park".  The most likely response is "No car. No park" and more tears.  On bad days he barely looks in my direction, never mind making eye contact.  He exists in an alternate world, tentatively joined to this one and on these days I worry that he may break free and become lost.  Lost in the repetitive movements, sounds and motions.  Lost in the ease of solitude.  I never stop trying to bring him back, for every hour he spends doing what makes him happy all by himself, the next will be spent trying to interact in any way I can catch his attention.  If we do make it out, his anxiety increases.  He is uncomfortable in his car seat restraints and fights every step of the way.  If we walk, you'd be forgiven for thinking the touch of my palm on his burns like fire.  He cannot hold my hand without falling to the ground as if in pain.  He doesn't understand the dangers of the world and he runs, as fast as his legs will carry him, wherever we are.  The pushchair poses the same uncomfortable harness, as do reins.  Going anywhere is dangerous on these days.  Every option is met with frustration and upset, even things he would ordinarily enjoy, such as cold water fountains on a hot day, are just too much for him to stand.  He becomes terrified of every day occurrences and pushing forward just prolongs agony for him.  If he speaks, he is a robot.  The words are often simple, delayed and jumbled and he will often be stuck on repeat.  You may find him alone, muttering to himself "we go now and... we go now and... we go now and..." and you will never know the mystery of what he is trying to convey.  If you interrupt he is embarrassed, I've come to know now that when this is happening he isn't aware that he is speaking out loud.  I can only imagine the confusion and chaos in his mind if this is his inner monologue.  He sometimes approaches me for something and if I do not understand his first attempt he can become frustrated.  Lately, he sometimes lashes out, a pinch, a head-butt.  Whilst I always discipline violence I can't help but feel for him.  I doubt I would have the self control to manage the feelings he is having to manage and at such a young age.  But he must.  He must learn, because he deserves the very best chance at 'normality'.  On these days he goes to bed early, exhausted and usually still unable to sleep.  Bedtime stories are unwelcome, bath time is yet another upset.  He remains in bed, talking, shouting, crying.  Trial and error has taught us he is best left alone until he drifts off, any intervention just prolongs the inevitable. 

I am truly thankful that these bad days are few and far between lately.  The good days far outweigh the bad and we live those days to the full.  I try and make sure he doesn't miss out on life and the joys it can bring but we are now accepting of the limits on tougher days.  If we retreat and do what we need to do to get through these days, we are likely to awake to a better one tomorrow.  If we just accept it, to go with it rather than fight it, I feel more confident in helping him through the tougher times and whilst its hard to tell, I feel like he has more trust in me too.

So to those of you who have just accepted this and not questioned me further, I thank you.  You have no idea of the burden of guilt I feel when I let people down and just hearing you say 'that's ok, it's no problem' is a weight off of my shoulders.  To those that have pushed in the past, I get it.  I probably would've and may have in the past- and I hope this goes some way to explaining just what a tough day can be like for us.  We do want to see you and we will make it up to you, as soon as he's ready- please be patient, don't give up on us just yet!  I promise we're trying... because the good days are too bloody brilliant not to.  That funny, bright, loving boy comes back out to play and I see who he really is behind the storm clouds.  Here's to the sunny days, illuminating the dark times

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

8 Signs that you're a seasoned parent

8 Signs that you’re a seasoned parent

When that first little bundle of joy appears in your life, everything gets a whole lot harder. You query your every decision and google every little sniffle. You read every baby routine book in preparation for the day they go longer than half an hour between feeds. You buy clothes in the first three sizes- just in case- and stockpile nappies like they’re being discontinued. There are no such things as hot meals, sick days, nights off and the simplest of activities requires military precision planning. You eventually fall into a new routine, albeit a clumsy and bumbling one. By the time your second, third or more make an appearance, you’ve got this parenting thing down! You are ready to ‘adult’.  Here are a few tell-tale moves that set you apart from the newbies:

  1. Danger changing- removing the soiled nappy and then performing the clean up before placing a fresh nappy or suitable changing mat underneath that butt. If you get away with this in the middle of the night without disaster you score extra ‘badass’ parenting points.
  2. The scroll ‘n feed- gazing lovingly into your baby’s beautiful big eyes as they feed… for a few seconds before sliding that gaze right beside those perfect pudgy cheeks at your phone already sneakily placed in the hand of the supporting arm. Scroll away Mamma, your newsfeed awaits…
  3. The sink bath- why drag the baby bath out or fill the tub when you can just shift those dishes and give baby a rinse? Half fill with suds, pop ‘em in, a quick wipe down with the cloth- all the while ensuring that soft little noggin steers clear of the stainless steel- job done. Bonus points for rinsing the dishes at the same time- that’s right, we’re multitasking.
  4. The roll down- poonami strikes, it happens. Before you’ve even released a popper you know that mess reaches up to her neck, front and back. You know that envelope necked vest was designed for exactly this reason, you roll it down, wipe away the tar as you go et voila! No more poopy hair or face for baby, you can even finish up with a sink bath if you’re feeling diligent!
  5. The sleep feed- now only a true pro can perfect this manoeuvre. This requires the ability to feed the baby without even truly waking. You wake hours later to find an empty bottle/breast and contented baby with absolutely no memory of the occurrence- when you can achieve this step, you are what is known as ‘old school’.
  6. The prop ‘n play- remember the hours you spent hunched on the floor helping your precious first born  turn the pages of those squidgy books? Stacking cups while those crazy waving arms knock them down again to their delight? Now feeding support cushions are your friend.  One behind, one in front, dangle a toy from your toe as you enjoy that coffee. Bring on the caffeine- they may tag team at night but they will not defeat us!
  7. The distraction- even better than the prop ‘n play, buying you an extra twenty precious minutes if you set it up right. Use the older sibling to occupy the baby. Set firstborn up with a noisy, repetitive task (I find a motorized train set to work best) and simply point the new addition at them. Occasionally remark upon how happy they are making the baby and what a good brother/sister they are- job’s a good’un. Now, who drank my coffee? Where’s the kettle at?
  8. The hint- now this one has to be done in the right company.  Remember how you couldn’t stand to be parted from that teeny tiny in your arms? Now look around- you’re outnumbered, sister!  Need a break? Spend some time with a relative or close friend that you trust (we’re desperate here- remember you’re not choosing godparents, just blagging yourself an hour off, don’t be too choosy!) and sigh- a lot. Reminisce about the times you used to nip to the shops with nothing but your purse, the hair salon, nail parlour- anything that didn’t involve your little darlings. Do not, I repeat, do not ask directly for a sitter. This may result in awkward refusal and even if they do accept- a time limit. Sigh some more. Make eye contact for just long enough that it’s almost creepy and there you have a volunteer. That’s right, this person is offering to give up their time to watch your little critters while you take 5. Only don’t take 5… take longer- much longer and don’t feel bad, they offered!
    If you can master all of these steps, you’ll find yourself with some free time, a caffeine buzz and maybe, just maybe, the notion that these Littles aren’t so bad after all.  You’ll remember the cute sniffly noises while they nap.  That brand new baby smell.  The first smile, the first laugh! But don’t get too carried away. After all, that’s probably the reason you’re a seasoned pro and not a newbie anymore- aint nobody got the time or energy to be pregnant again!

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Spectrum mysteries

Each day I try to understand the reasoning behind,

The quirky ways that you behave, what happens in your mind?

I long to know just how you feel and what you want and need,

What it means to always move, to jump and run at speed


What makes you walk on tippy-toes and draws you near to wheels?

Why won’t you eat or try new foods, why are you stressed by meals?

How does a cushion comfort you in your times of distress?

Why are cuddles shunned in fear, your preference a strong ‘press’?


Why do you echo things I say, why is answering so hard?

Your sentences so jumbled, each word a broken shard

Do you feel anger with your speech, do you even care

If you have thoughts and feelings that you may not ever share?


But when I am not wondering, I’m watching you in awe,

You see, dear boy, my precious son, I couldn’t love you more!

I marvel at your interests, your memory, the ease

At which you do the things you love, you master skills with ease


You shine so bright with happiness, your company a joy

You love to play with others and you’ll gladly share a toy

Your baby sister loves you, you share a special bond

I see how much you love her too, of these times I’m most fond


So when you have your troubled days and things just don’t feel right,

Although I may not understand I’ll help you fight each fight,

To get you through the hard times, to help you have your say

We’ll keep trying together, son, to help you on your way


Your future is a bright one, of that I’m very sure

You’ve so much love to give that you can overlook a flaw

Your perspective is so innocent, the world’s a better place

You’ll learn to know the feelings that are hidden in a face


It’s quite okay if you don’t want to look me in the eye

I know that when the time is right you’ll have the strength to try

You may not notice hunger, or pain or danger near

But that’s why I am here for you, to teach you this, my dear


Keep being who you’re being, don’t ever lose your way

There’s one thing so important that I really have to say,

I’m proud of you – because, not in spite- of everything you are

My firstborn and my son you are my brightly shining star

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Mind your own!

I see you looking. I see you nudging your friend and directing her attention towards us too.  I heard you mutter as you walked past.  I saw you take a picture with your phone- I'm no stranger to a sly snap of an amusing situation.  But what business is it of yours?

If my child may look too old to be in a pushchair- to you, anyway.  If my child seems too old to have a dummy- to you.  If my child is spoilt for having an iPad to play on whilst I nip around the shop- in your opinion.  If he's being naughty and having a tantrum because he can't get his own way- that's what you see.  You're laughing, staring, judging.  You know what matters to me?  What my children need.

If my child is in a pushchair it's because it's the safest option, because he runs.  He doesn't know the dangers of the roads or strangers, he doesn't understand.  He finds a dummy comforting in stressful situations and many, many situations are distressing for my son.  He is learning a great deal from the iPad- it can teach him at his own pace in a way that he understands- did you know that he knows the alphabet?  He recognises every letter and the phonetic sound it makes and can spell out simple words.  He can count up to ten and back down again and his memory is phenomenal and a great deal of this he learnt from this tablet.  It distracts him from the things that cause him anxiety when we need to leave the comfort of our home.  If he's having a tantrum and being naughty you can bet that I will be putting a stop to it no matter who is looking.  But if he is having a 'meltdown' he is not in control, he is not being naughty and he does not need to be punished.  He needs to be helped, comforted, he needs to be removed from whatever is causing him to feel so distressed and you are amused by this.

Why? Because my son is different.  He is not neurotypical.  My child is not the same as your child.  No two children are alike.  No two parents are alike!  I don't care how you raise your children so long as they're safe and loved.  You want to feed them organic? Good for you.  You want to feed them chicken nuggets every day?  That's your call.  You want to get your child out of a pushchair and throw away his dummies by the age of one?  That's up to you.  It's not my business and I am not judging you.

I am not defending my parenting.  I don't owe anybody any sort of explanation.  So why am I sharing this information?  Because I am hoping to make you think.  Next time you think something is funny and you're about to nudge your mate or snap a pic or roll your eyes and mutter... do you know all the facts?  Do you think, just maybe, there is something more to what you see?  How would you feel if someone were doing it to you and most importantly- what is it to you?  Why is it any of your business?  Maybe you could just avert your attention back to you and your own and put it to good use.  I'm not judging you- I'm too busy doing the best for my family.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

A whole new world

As I sit and write this blog, from the corner of my eye I can see Crazy.  He is sitting on the other couch, with his best pal 'Froggy' (a cuddly night light type toy) pressed against one ear playing music, leaning on the tablet speaker which is currently blaring out merry 'Thomas and Friends' tunes at full volume, his little head sandwiched in the middle of this overwhelming cacophony.  I have tried removing one or the other.  I have tried turning down the tablet.  I have tried physically comforting Crazy.  All of these actions are met with screams akin to those of pain.  I can do nothing but wait until he is ready to come back to me.  He has retreated into his own world to calm himself and I can only assume the noise levels are to drown out everything else.

I can understand this.  On a bad day I love nothing more than a drive in the car, my favourite tunes blaring, singing at the top of my voice.  After a particularly tough week, you can guarantee if a gig with my band follows at the weekend my vocals will be at full effect.  Singing, somehow, takes it all away and I throw myself into it to forget.  Being in the moment, singing that song, blocks everything else out.  Maybe that's just his way of doing the same.

What has caused our fun loving, happy boy to be in such distress?  A bus.  Well, actually, the bus was the final straw.  A build up to the bus.  Let me explain...

Since Crazy was tiny we have suspected that all is not entirely 'right' with our precious boy.  He is a happy, healthy boy and for that I am truly grateful, but some of his behaviours are somewhat quirky.  I love this about him, I love his uniqueness, but I worry.  I worry that if he is too different, too quirky that he may be rejected.  As Crazy has grown, some things have improved, but some are worse.  His speech is delayed- but hey, loads of two year olds don't talk yet.  There are other things, but you don't need a list.  I mention his speech because recently he has suddenly started talking.  He has decided it's time to fill the voids left in our conversation- maybe he is just sick of me babbling on at him.  He fills these voids by repeating whatever he hears.  Usually just the last syllable of words.  For example "Shall we go in Mummy's car to Nanny's house?" will come back at me as "Me, car, Nee, housh".  Other things he will mimic precisely.  He rarely speaks spontaneously and if he does its for a need. A need for more juice usually.  I have mentioned my concerns about Ollie's behaviours to others only to be met by assurances that he is fine, he is just taking his time, he is just energetic.  He is all of those things, but all of those things and more.  We finally mentioned our concerns to our GP only to be referred to a specialist in ASD for review.

His review was this week.  I was filled with anxiety, as I'm sure was Mr T.  Crazy took it all in his stride, coping amazingly with this new place and new people and seemingly quite happy to have some interesting new toys to play with.  The doctor was so very patient with Crazy and with us and our questions.  The end result of this review was a positive one.  We are now quite sure Crazy is autistic, a plan being put in place to find out exactly where he may need extra help and to rule out any medical issues which could be affecting his behaviour.  To hear a doctor say "I have little doubt that your son is autistic, a team of people will work with you for an exact diagnosis and put the correct help in place over the next 18 months" left me with mixed feelings.  Relief to have my suspicions confirmed after all this time.  Fear for Crazy's future.  Frustration that I hadn't spoken up to the right people sooner.  Anger at the injustice that this precious boy may have a tougher time in life than he deserves.  Pride- just in Crazy himself, exactly as he is.

So what has changed? Nothing really.  Except maybe the way I see things.  Is he being difficult? Maybe, but maybe for reasons I don't yet understand.  I can tell when my son is being naughty and there are appropriate consequences.  I will not allow my son to coast on an excuse for life.  In that aspect nothing will change.  But I'm learning to be a little more considerate of how things may affect him.  We already knew he needed a lot of preparation for any change to his usual routine, but now we acknowledge that more than ever and endeavour to take the time to really let him understand what we're saying to him, to make sure there aren't any surprises where possible.

So what happened today? Too much too soon.  My error in judgement.  I expected him to cope with a situation he just wasn't ready for.  We began by dropping Pip to her Aunties house for a day of snuggles whilst I accompanied Crazy on his preschool trip scheduled for today.  This is out of the norm and he became anxious instantly, calling "where are you?" and searching the car for her.  We then took a different route to preschool which meant, although I told him where we were going, he didn't register it as the journey to school.  He wasn't prepared.  Then when we arrived at the school to find parents waiting around to wave off their children, fluorescent bibs on all the children (which Crazy was even more distressed about having to wear) and then walked to a huge bus to carry us all off to a day at the farm it all became to much for Crazy.  My funny, lively, bright-eyed boy was reduced to a wailing wreck.  His sweet nature contorted into a frenzy of panic and lashing out to protect himself the only way he knew how.  All of that could be overwhelming for any two year old. but to think that he may be processing things in an entirely different way to any I understand makes me feel terrible for even trying.  I sat beside my car on the floor, restraining this boy who's every instinct is telling him to run but there is nowhere safe.  I hold him tight through the punches and kicks.  He is saying "out" amongst his screams.  He wants to be free that badly he has found the word- but I can't listen.  I tell him over and over that it's ok, that's he's safe that he doesn't have to go anywhere.  I hold him as tight as I can without hurting him, I hold his head tight against my chest and he stops.  He calms, the screams stop.  We sit for what feels like an eternity until I feel I can safely get him into the car.  As soon as I release pressure he gets in a state again but I have to get him home, to safety, to a place he can calm himself down.  I fight him into the car and a screams all the way home.

Why did I try?  I don't want him to miss out.  I won't let us be housebound and watch the world go by.  We'll start smaller.  Piece by piece we'll put together these two worlds for our dear boy.  I will learn his world as he learns ours, much like any child.

In the time it has taken me to write this, Crazy has calmed somewhat.  Froggy is now silent. The tablet is still loud but no longer pressed to his head.  Best of all, he has come back to me, he is sitting beside me, almost close enough to touch- but that's not my call.  It's his when he's ready for it.  When he is ready I will be holding his hand and taking him out to face the world again.  Its a whole new one for both of us.  All of us, as a family.

Kindly published by 'Spectrum Kid', for more information about ASD and related conditions please visit: http://spectrumkid.com/

Monday, 25 May 2015

In sickness and in health

Pip is poorly.  It is heart-breaking to see this tiny (if chunky) little lady so uncomfortable and being able to do little about it.  She has had a cold for around a month now- more likely one virus after another- and seems unable to quite shake it off. 

You're singing Taylor Swift in your head aren't you... well you probably are now.

The latest sniffles have turned into a cough, accompanied by a wheezy chest resulting in a very over tired baby.  Come to think of it- a very over tired Family T!  When the littles are poorly its all hands on deck.  It just so happens to be a bank holiday and so Mr T is around.  We actually had plans to escape to the Big Smoke together tomorrow (this never happens) to see a band with some friends.  This band holds great meaning to me and brings many fond memories of the beginnings of our relationship- it's fair to say I'm a little bit gutted to be missing out.  That said, even if I were to go, I would not enjoy the show and would be very much on edge until back by Pip's side.  What's more important than the wellbeing of family?

There are times when illness strikes in the middle of the working week.  The worst kind has to be the dreaded sickness bugs.  Noro and Rota viruses are just plain evil!  When such a... *ahem* storm goes down I am always more than a little resentful of Mr T as he leaves the house for work.  I can't help but wallow in this self pity as I maintain my position on vomit-watch, bucket at the ready, wavering at my own peril.  I think back to times before children, times of sleep, a busy social calendar and my own income to spend freely.  Then I'm hit by a pang of guilt as Crazy nuzzles under my arm for comfort, or a sad cry emerges from Pip, unable to tell me the cause of her distress.  Times have changed, I'm no longer just me, nor am I now just Mrs T- I am Mumma T.  I am the glue that holds my family together and actually, I wouldn't change it for the world.  So, I won't get to see a band play- there will be other times.  I will get to see my children through their sadness and pain and back to good health and their cheeky antics once more and that means more than anything.

Whilst I may still accidentally elbow a snoring Mr T in the face as I get up to see to poorly Pip for the tenth time that night, I will only do it gently because actually, when daylight breaks and I can't take much more, there he is.  He's putting the kitchen back together after I have ransacked the cupboards for the elusive bottle of calpol in my sleep deprived state at 2am.  He's handing me a toasted sandwich when I realise that noise I've just noticed is my rumbling tum, too distracted by the littles to realise I haven't eated yet.  He's lining up the sterilised bottles ready to go as I realise I've just used the last one and hadn't had enough sleep to allow for any forethought.  He's amusing Crazy whilst I tend to poorly Pip.  Even on work days, as he walks through the door he's running the bath for the stinkiest child, bringing home dinner, hiding the toys behind the curtain- or tidying up, whatever- so I don't have to do it.  He's there too, we're a team.

I didn't realise when I said my vows that in sickness and in health applied to so many people.  Ourselves, each other, family, friends.  What I also hadn't realised is that it comes back to you from those very same people.  I'm not alone.  It sometimes feels like it at 2am when the baby is screaming, the calpol is hiding and the whole world is sleeping except me- but I am not alone.

Pip is better than yesterday and I am hopeful that tomorrow she will be better still.  Crazy is... well the clue's in the name.  He's bounding about, putting to use his newly found language skills.  His very loud story has something to do with trains and ducks.  I think.  When Mr T heads out tomorrow night I won't be feeling envious, he needs a break too.  I'll be looking forward to a soak in the bath (Pip allowing) and an early night (yes, I'm joking, there's no such thing!) and being happy in the knowledge that I will be turfing Mr T out of bed for the early shift the following morning because- hey, you can't have it all.  You already agreed to it Mr T, there are witnesses to be called upon!

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Wanna play?

"Can I play?" *shrug* "Yeah!"

BFFs, done.  When you're small it's easy to make friends.  Share your toys.  Show an interest in somebody else's toys.  Smile at somebody, give them a little wave.  Chase somebody.  "You're it!" and run away- sorted!

Try those things as an adult- I dare you!

Making friends gets a bit harder as you get older.  I have some lovely ones.  Ones from way back and some new ones too- I still get lonely.  I love my time with Crazy and Pip but I'll be honest, I find the conversation somewhat lacking.  By the time Mr T makes it home at the end of a long working day we catch up on the children's antics, his day, discuss what's for dinner (we never know and if I don't prepare something by the time we're ready for bed it will be a microwave meal for poor neglected Mr T and a packet of crisps for me.  I'm not even sorry- judge away!) there's precious little time or energy for anything more.  Sometimes Mr T will try.  He will ask what I think of whatever has been in the news that day, or my opinion on an article he has sent me, or what would I like to do at the weekend but I'll be honest- unless you're asking me to name an engine from 'Thomas and Friends' the answer is usually 'I don't know'.  That's my specialist subject for Mastermind alright, I could give Crazy a run for his money and that boy knows his trains!  So inevitably we drag ourselves upstairs to bed, ready to begin another day before the lack of sleep drives us out of our tiny minds.  Some of my friends are at home like me, with young children.  Some for other reasons.  Some are working, with or without children.  Rarely do our schedules match up that we find ourselves bored and/or lonely at the same time.  When that happens to me, I usually head out to the park.  Crazy is happy to oblige and occasionally even Pip will happily go along with this plan and have a well timed snooze.

So there we are at the park, Crazy completing his twentieth circuit- climb, slide, run, repeat.  Pip happily tucked up asleep in her buggy.  Other children playing happily in little groups, parents gathered in cliques, watching over their charges- or not, which really riles me but I digress.  I spot another Mum.  Her son looks about the same age as Crazy and I can hear a crying baby.  The baby sounds very young, the sound is very similar to Pip's cry and I feel the tension as she tries to divide her time and attention between the two.  I want to call out, "I know! I know how hard it is! You're doing so well! Don't feel bad, babies cry!" but of course I don't.  That would be weird.  As I follow Crazy around the park, wishing I'd made a bit more of an effort, chosen a nicer top, at least washed my hair, we find ourselves side by side next to the climbing frame.  Our boys are jostling for first turn on the slide as we both chastise them and tell them to wait their turn.  We share a moment- we have similar parenting styles! Hoorah- what a relief.  Maybe we could be friends.  I'm feeling brave, I strike up a conversation...

"How old are your two?"

*facepalm* I've just asked the equivalent of the dating line 'Do you come here often?', now I seem needy.  However, she politely replies and confirms my suspicion that our children are of similar ages.

"Do you come here often?"

Oh no.  Oh I said it.  I must absolutely reek of desperation.  But wait- I'm saved! Her son approaches a very angry cat which makes a grab for his sleeve and she rushes to the rescue!  I've never been so pleased to see an animal attack- apart from my obvious concern for the small boy, I'm not a monster!  I watch helplessly as she chases the boy, who chases the cat, who chases a duck. Her baby cries.  In her haste to rescue her son she left her baby right beside me- her tiny, round face turning scarlet as she searches for her escapee dummy.  Do I plug her back in?  Do I try and soothe the baby and risk being looked at as a child snatcher?  Do I ignore the screaming baby? I think about what I would want.  My precious first born- don't you dare, nobody touches my child!  My second?  Please- please make it stop.  Cuddle her, feed her, bounce her just please make the crying stop for a minute, my son needs me and I can't stand the guilt of either of them being upset!  I go for it- I plug her dummy back in, sing her a merry little tune and bounce the buggy along with Pip's while watching Crazy revelling in the glee to have sole custody of the slide.

She returns, enthusiastically reminding her son just how fun the slide is compared to a silly old, grumpy cat.  She looks over panicked, remembering the baby (I've forgotten too in the past- just for a moment, when she's quiet- it's so rare an occurrence) and she smiles, a smile of relief if ever I've seen one.  The baby is snoozing, just like Pip.  She returns for her buggy and thanks me- good call.  We did it!  We helped, we reached out and helped.

Our sons part ways, we both glance in each other's directions.  It's clear we both want to talk more but our fast moving males have other ideas.  Pip stirs, it's time for us to leave.  As we're leaving the park I take one last glance over my shoulder, toward the other Mum.  She is waving, I feel happy.

Maybe next time I'll ask for a phone number- I'd better think up some better pick up lines first though.  That or start travelling with a very angry cat in case the need for future distraction arises.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Behind closed doors

I always try to find the humour in situations, particularly when writing my blog.  I'll warn you now that I'm struggling to see the funny side of this one- feel free to just resume the fun next time if this makes for uncomfortable reading- I promise not to be offended!

Today, an app showed me some pictures of a time long ago.  A night out with friends- my best friend's hen do, in fact.  I was surprised to find that the feelings associated with these pictures were very much bittersweet.  There I was having a great night out, with the very best company for an unbelievably joyous occasion- but there it is, the fear in my eyes.  Despite some serious levels of inebriation I can remember those photos being taken.  I can remember because I knew the problems they would cause when I returned to reality.  I knew what would follow when I left the safety of my friends and returned 'home'.

I know now that 'home' is sanctuary.  Home is my absolutely favourite place to be- with Mr T and the small people, its where I belong.  The time we're discussing here is before the time of Mr T.  It feels very much as though I'm looking in on someone else's life.  I was trapped in a very unhealthy relationship, I just couldn't see it.

I can remember the day I received the phone call from my bestie.  "I'm getting marriiiiiiiiiiiiieeeed!!" followed by much squealing and excitement. 

"Will you be my bridesmaid?" "Of course!!! EEEEEEeeeeeekkk!", grins all round.  Then I hung up and turned around to an icy stare.  My (then) boyfriend (and I hate that term but he was very much just a boy and in no way my 'partner' so its all I've got to work with!) was not so elated.  The conversation went something along the lines of

"So are you even going to ask me if it's ok?  You're going to stand up in a room and be leered at in a tight dress and I'm supposed to be alright with that?"
"Wait, what?  I'll be wearing a nice bridesmaids dress and it will be a room full of family and friends that I've known forever, not a nightclub!"
"Oh, so you're laughing at me now?  You know how I get, I can't believe you'd do this to me, its like you don't even care.  I feel sick at the thought of you all done up like that being looked at and what about me? Where will I be, just sitting there by myself? Cheers! I can see how much I mean to you..."

And that was just the start.  That was before things got really bad.  When I think of an abusive relationship I think of bruises and broken bones.  Let me tell you- this relationship caused me so much harm, but very little of it could be seen on the surface.  I always used to think 'how and why do these people stay in such an awful relationship? Why don't they just walk away?', but now I know.  In the beginning it was little things, a snappy comment about something I was wearing or assuming I was flirting with other men but swiftly followed by an apology and then an explanation as to how past girlfriends had always let him down and nobody had ever been faithful or stuck by him.  I wanted to be different, I wanted to heal those wounds and be the one that he could trust- so I tried harder.  I made an effort not to talk to other men alone and to dress a bit more conservatively so I didn't cause him undue worry.  He was everyone's friend, a real nice guy so nobody ever suspected a thing.  The thing with closed doors is, you never really know what's happening behind them.  By the time things got serious it felt too late.  I couldn't leave him after saying I loved him and be like all the others, he needed me.  He didn't mean the things he was saying, he was just afraid of losing me.  When friends and family tried to raise their concerns I grew defensive- he had told me they wouldn't understand and would try to tell me to leave him and he was right,  nobody understood.

Whilst he never openly hit me, I felt tortured nevertheless.  Little digs about my weight and how my clothes were all too tight.  Knock after knock to my already fragile self confidence.  He would keep me awake night after night with endless questions about whether or not I was going to let him down like the others, questioning me over and over about my day and conversations I'd had and people I'd seen, trying to catch me out and if I dared try to sleep anyway I was most definitely hiding something and lying and he would speak of harming himself.  So I stayed awake and reassured him, hour after hour, day after day.  I became run down and very ill but that just served to keep me indoors and away from everybody else and his hold over me grew more and more intense.  There are so many things I could tell you but I still don't believe you would understand unless you too have experienced an unhealthy relationship.  I truly believe that you cannot help or persuade someone to leave a relationship like this until they are ready, until they can see it for what it is.  But you can be there, waiting for when that time comes.

What made me get out?  I'm sad to say I actually decided to move in with this man, further isolated and away from the safety of my family.  When things finally got physical and I came to harm, however minor- I could see where it was headed.  I could see what lay ahead and I knew I couldn't be that person.  At its very worst, I sat alone in a kitchen after the worst 'outburst' yet, believing I'd had a very narrow escape.  I contemplated hurting myself to make it all stop and what a wake up call.  I thought about my family, my parents- what would they think and feel if they could see me at this minute?  I'd long since cut all ties with my friends and wasn't even 'allowed' to use the internet or my own mobile, but my parents would be ashamed of who I had become and that hurt more than any pain he could ever inflict.  That was my turning point, that was the moment he lost power and I could see what was really going on.  I stopped cowering from threats and even provoked an outburst at inopportune moments, where he couldn't manipulate me the way he had.  I could finally see the emotional blackmail for what it was and the change was dramatic.  I'll admit I was scared to tell him it was over- but he knew.  He knew he had lost control of me and didn't even put up a fight.

It was at this point I sent out an apology to all of my friends for being so rubbish and hoped that some would come back.  I soon found that the real ones, they hadn't actually gone anywhere- they were just waiting, where they had always been, with open arms.  This is the point where Mr T entered my life as so much more than just a friend and helped me rebuild myself- but with a difference.  He helped me be who I was supposed to be, who I am, not who he wanted me to be- but that's a whole blog in its own right! 

My dearest friends, my L's, welcomed me back into the circle without a second thought.  The good times really were good again and we managed to make up for a lot of lost time.  They never judged me or punished me for being so crap, they just picked me up.  I'm sad to say I let my dearest friend down on her wedding day all those years ago and I wasn't a bridesmaid and I'm so very sorry.  I was there, in the room, wishing them all the happiness in the world but I will always be sorry that I didn't figure things out sooner and be there for the people who deserved me.  I hope this goes some way to explaining all those times when I let people down without much explanation- but I'm here now and I can promise that I always will be, all the more stronger- whenever you need me.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Mum's the word

What makes a person a 'Mum'?  For me, it's about selflessly putting another person's needs before your own.  It's about loving someone with your whole heart and doing anything possible to make them safe and happy.  It's about listening more than talking, guiding rather than pushing, providing and not wanting. It's eating chocolate in secret because you don't want to share it... come on now, we all do it!

My Mum has always put us first.  I'm the middle of three girls (poor Dad!).  That's a lot of hormonal tantrums in one house, right there.  We have never gone without.  My parents have always worked hard for us- far too many hours than they should ever have had to and often more than one job at a time.  Despite all the pressures of life, my Mum has remained a role model to us.  She is a strong, capable lady.  She always has time for someone in need and will always go out of her way to help a friend.  She is smart and funny and brave.  When I was young, I knew I wanted to grow up to be like my Mummy.  The funny thing is, now I have children of my own I have become my mother at times.  I can't help it- her voice just falls out of my mouth unannounced- "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all!" woah... when did that happen?  To be honest, it started about when the goblins came into my life courtesy of Mr T.  The words and phrases were just in there, rattling around my noggin awaiting a small person in need of guidance.  I'd say, Mum, that's a job well done. The lessons in life you have taught me remain ingrained.  Your shared wisdom, just like your love, is etched into us forever.  You did great Mum, we will never be able to thank you enough.

I'm now in my thirties- a 'proper' grown up.  I have children of my own.  When my son, Crazy, was born I realised a capacity for love that I hadn't thought possible.  Little over two years on and my daughter, Pip-squeak, is proving that love is limitless.  Whilst I may have to share my time and attention there is more than enough love to go around.  It's the sort of love that enables you to wipe stinky little bottoms, pick gross boogers obstructing tiny nostrils and catch sick in your bare hands- that, ladies and gents, is parenthood.  It's wanting the last piece of cake but giving it to your toddler and watching him decide he doesn't like it after all and mushing it into the carpet.   It's cooking  three different dinners for three different tastes because it's worth it for full tummies.  It's needing desperately to sleep but watching her for just a minute longer because- well, look at her... she's incredible.  It's just wanting half an hours peace to watch a programme and zone out without being pestered, but instead listening to a teenager waffling on because hey- he has ventured from the darkness of his room to make human contact, so whilst it sounds like pointless drivel there is something important hidden in there, something that he's sharing with me.  It's so many things that I thought I was too selfish to ever do until my children came along and changed me for the better.  It's more rewarding than you can imagine or I can describe.  Its a tiny hand holding yours.  It's your child becoming a person in their own right and making decisions with confidence.  It's a card with just a few words from a sullen teen that speak volumes.  It's a happy heart and a happy home.

I will always be grateful to Mr T, the wonderful man that has given me wonderful, beautiful children.  I will always be grateful to my parents for showing me what it means to be a good parent.  To my friends and family for their ongoing support during the tough times.  I'm also lucky enough to have married into an amazing, caring family and my support team just keeps growing.  I hope to make you all proud.

Happy Mother's Day to all- if you're lucky enough to be able, give your Mum a big squeeze and tell her how much you love her.  If today is a difficult day and you can't be with yours, think of the good times and know- even from my limited experience as a mother- that she would want you to be happy and she will be proud of the person you are if you are just being true to yourself.

Mum- I love you, I will always need you and when things get tough I ask myself what you would do.  Thank you for everything you have sacrificed for me (I'm guessing sleep more that anything, right?).  Each passing day, now that I too am a mother, shows me just how much you love me.  I hope you can be as proud of me as I am of you xx

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Then there were 4

My good intentions of regular blogging throughout pregnancy fell by the wayside when the demands of Crazy and lack of sleep took their toll- sorry about that.  But here we are, Baby Pipsqueak is 17 days old already, time flies when *you're having fun!

*every day morphs into the next and there is no such thing as sleep

So let me begin by telling you that I absolutely love my daughter.  She is a real beauty (if I do say so myself) and I feel truly blessed to have Pip and Crazy in my life.  Mr T gave me these beautiful creatures and has been my hero during paternity leave helping with such a huge adjustment.  Super-Daddy to the rescue.  When we brought Pip home from the hospital that same day she was born, Crazy was in bed so they met the following morning.  He greeted her with a 10 second tantrum, took himself away to his room to have a good old chat to his pal 'Froggy', returned downstairs to give Pip a sloppy kiss and to bestow upon her his favourite 'Thomas and Friends' book (bestowed it right into her eye socket, bless him).  Cute.  That was it then, job done.  There's another person in the family, there she is- right there.  This is us then, a new family unit.  Crazy had taken it in his stride, on with the game of trains at hand.  What about me? Why am I struggling and why can't I say so?

Pip was overdue. 8 long days.  There are more hours in an overdue day than an average one- ask any post due date fed up Mumma.  I was induced on the Saturday, by Sunday morning we were rushing back to the hospital to have a baby.  It all happened pretty quickly.  So quickly, in fact, that there wasn't time for the epidural I so desperately needed.  Crazy arrived early, but the labour was slow and steady and I felt calm and in control.  Pip was arriving, ready or not- I was very much not ready, despite the extra days cooking her.  Whilst I don't want to scare off any potential baby-makers or even more so, those already cooking a fresh one- I need to be honest, so now might be a good time to skip the rest of this paragraph.  I have never known pain like it.  I did not feel in control and I did not feel like the professionals delivering my baby were in control.  There was an air of panic as Pip's heart rate couldn't be traced and they tried and failed to fit a trace to her fragile little head.  The anaesthetist had left in tears because she couldn't help me and I was in distress.  Poor Mr T was helpless and his face told me so.  Nobody would talk to me or answer my questions and I was angry.  Boy was I angry.  I had requested an epidural in plenty of time, yet here we were.  I know hospitals are very busy places and needs must be prioritised- but there and then I felt cheated.  At it's worst, I begged Mr T to tell Crazy every day how much I loved him as the panic and pain made me feel like I might not make it through.  I begged the midwives to put me under and cut her out- right now, I can't take another minute- please, somebody help me.  My pleas were ignored and the panic rose.  Somehow, thankfully, we made it through and baby Pip was born healthy- if very grey- and a decent 8lb 9oz.  I waited for the exhilaration I felt with Crazy.  It didn't happen.  I felt relief.  Relief that she was ok.  Relief that Mr T could relax.  Relief that I wouldn't have to do that ever again.  I did feel love for little Pip as she snuggled in, wondering what on earth had happened and where she was.  But I felt angry.  I felt empty.  But I said and did all the right things- the first feed, skin to skin, told everybody how wonderfully ecstatic I am.  Hey- I did it with gas and air! Way to go me!  I could just stare at her forever! That's how I wanted to feel and should have felt. 

Now don't get me wrong- I'm so thankful for my children.  I have a son and a daughter, they are both perfect and I am beyond lucky.  I had read about how a second baby is different to the first.  I always like to read up and be prepared- but I wasn't prepared.  I was underwhelmed.  I felt unimportant.  Like the trauma I had been through didn't really happen or at least didn't really matter.  I didn't feel that urgent sense of 'I must hold my baby and never put her down' and when other people held her I didn't think 'I need her back!'.  Instead I thought- she's happier there.  You're doing a better job than me, you keep her.  I was happy to pass her around because it was better for her.

I breastfed for the first four days.  This kid was insatiable.  I didn't sleep for more than an hour at a time, day or night and as much as Mr T was around to help- and help he did- he couldn't do the feeds for me.  Crazy still demanded from his Mumma- and I was grateful for that.  I could make him happy at least.  Except I didn't have the time because I couldn't put Pip down.  She was always hungry and her shrill scream cut through my soul.  Urgent neediness, not soon, now- you're failing me.  I wasn't enjoying feeds like I did with Crazy, when I had all the time in the world to gaze at him and imagine our future together as a family.  Now there was no time- no time for Crazy's bedtime story, bathtime, snuggles- all my favourite things.  No time for Pip, to bond, to learn her noises, her smell.  No time for Mr T, despite all his efforts I just didn't have the time or patience to even thank him properly.  What I did have was guilt and lots of it.  Guilt for all those things, all those feelings- or lack of.  In desperation we tried Pip with a bottle of formula and she slept for three long hours.  The decision was made, she was happier and I was happier.  She finally had a full tummy and was content.  We could put her down and she didn't scream.  I felt relieved that the pain would stop and I could rest.  Which brought more guilt.

These days things are getting better, but there are still moments.  I find myself in tears, both children demanding at the same time.  This morning I opened up to a friend.  A friendship that is based on absolute honesty, no matter how brutal.  I said "I don't feel like I should".  Her reply- "I didn't either".  I felt better.  Just like that, I felt hopeful.  We chatted, she identified with a lot of what I had to say and I wasn't alone.  Why wasn't this stuff in the books?  The real grit? Not the glossy stuff.  Already when she won't settle I can now think- it's not my fault.  My children are different people, already they need different things from me.  My relationship will be different with both of them and that's ok.  It's ok that I didn't enjoy breastfeeding this time- I'm also raising another little person at the same time.  It's ok that I didn't feel overwhelmed with joy and high on adrenalin when she arrived- I had been through an immeasurable amount of pain and I had already experienced birth before, of course it was never going to be the same.  That doesn't mean I'm not attached to my daughter as I should be.  It doesn't mean I'm doing it wrong- its just different.  When I see her snuggling her Daddy, content and quiet, or snoozing in her Aunty's arms without a whimper I don't need to feel like I'm failing.  I need to feel happy that she is happy.  I need to use that time to steal back the moments I miss with Crazy.  There are times when she is content in my arms but I'm so wracked with guilt that I don't recognise them.  All I'm guilty of is guilt itself and I'm going to make a conscious effort to stop.

I hope my honesty can help somebody that might find themselves in my position,  Or maybe somebody who once was but is still harbouring that guilt.  To see it from another perspective is so easy- to say 'but you're doing great!' doesn't always help if you really don't feel like you're doing great.  Sometimes you need to hear- I struggled too and that's ok.

Apologies for the heavy stuff- on a brighter note, Crazy has just gone for a nap and Pip is currently snoozing in her hammock so I shall take this opportunity to close my eyes.  I won't say nap, because Pip has a sixth sense for my napping and knows it's time to 'Squeak' once again to keep me busy.  She so hates to see me bored, this one... Maybe if I learn to sleep with one eye open I can fool her!  Or maybe I shall just resume with the chores.  The bottles won't sterilise themselves and I kid myself that the steam is good for my skin whilst I hastily make up bottles so hot to handle that I probably have no fingerprints left whilst simultaneously load the washing machine with one foot, precariously balanced on the other in haze of sleep deprivation.  Multitasking- I've got that shizzle down.