For Harry, on your second birthday

Haribo,

Today you are two and, although I am still very much in denial, no longer a baby at all.

Your birthday has, and perhaps always will, hit me the hardest, knowing that all of your firsts will also be our last, that every stage we say goodbye to will be the last I experience as a Mummy. You remind me so much of Lewis in that way, not only in your appearance and your demeanour, but in the emotions you instil in me. You take me back to a time when I was certain that all of his firsts would be our last, those bittersweet moments when I watched him grow, so scared that I would never again be lucky enough to ever have another baby in my arms. It was different with Eva and Megan, there was always something to keep me from crumbling into a broody, snotty mess each year, the promise of another newborn, the excitement of all of those firsts to come. But with you, the very last one year old, it suddenly feels so very final.

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It seems like no time at all, and at the same time it feels like forever, since I first held you in my arms. You were so small, so poorly, so very precious, and I was so scared to let myself believe that you would be ours to keep. And yet finally the day came where we took you home, and rather than wish away the sleepless nights and dirty nappies, I promised myself to savour every single moment of those baby days, to keep you a baby for as long as possible. And I was so grateful that you took the longest out of all of your siblings to sit, to crawl, to walk. I am still so grateful that you have kept your baby face, that you still love to snuggle up against my chest, to hold out your arms to me and ask, “Cuddle?”. I still squeeze you into your little white babygros, still put you down each night in your cot, still allow you your bottle, and to heck with those who judge. I’m still not quite ready to let you grow, not just yet, not completely.

I’ve always been very honest about the fact that you were never a part of our plans. Megan was very much supposed to be the baby of the family and yet fate stepped in and twelve months, four days and two minutes later, along you came and turned our lives upside down all over again! And I have to admit, although I was over the moon to finally have another little boy, I was so scared of what it would be like, of whether it would hurt too much to watch you grow, so like your brothers, a constant reminder of all that we had lost. It was only after you were born, and in the two years we have known and loved you, that I realised how much I needed you, not to replace your big brother, but to give a little piece of him back to me, to see glimpses of him in you from time to time, to remind me that life goes on, that there is still so much to be thankful for and to look forward to.

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And as with all great blessings, you have been an absolute delight. From day one you have been the easiest baby, the most chilled out toddler and now, as you hit the terrible twos, you do so with such a mischievous twinkle in your eye that it is very hard not to laugh, to not want to scoop you up in my arms and tickle you, right in that super ticklish spot in the crease of your thigh, and watch as you throw back your head and laugh, the most beautiful sound I have ever heard.

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This year as Eva started pre-school and Megan increased her hours at nursery, we have, for the first time, had some time together just the two of us, and it has been lovely to share those days with you. Although you would happily sit and watch Twirlywoos on repeat or play Saga Mini games on the Ipad all day long, you also love to play in the garden, to sit on my knee and cuddle and admittedly, should I leave the room, to wreak havoc on the house. If you aren’t emptying cereal all over the floor, you are in and out of the fridge opening yoghurts, spilling milk, eating butter with your bare hands. If you aren’t clambering up and down the stairs you are teetering dangerously on the edge of the sofa, launching yourself off head first, shouting, “Ready, steady, go!” as you lie there, crumpled on the floor, and with a rub of your head off you go again, no awareness of danger or even pain!


Unlike your siblings, who have never really had a special toy, you have become surgically attached to your “Baa”, a grubby looking sheep who never leaves your side, who you take to bed, out in the car, to the supermarket, holding him by his ear and talking to him in whatever gibberish language it is that the two of you speak.


And you are so funny, even when you’re not trying to be, you have us in stitches with your little routines and the things you say. You are obsessed with princess dresses, with glitter and sparkles and dressing up. When the girls put on their clothes each morning you look at your boring old boy clothes, launch them at me with complete distain and you shout, “Me!! Dress!!”, while rummaging in the toy box for your princess crown and fairy wand.

You are equally obsessed with your willy, as I think all little boys your age are. You constantly remove your nappy, just to check it’s still there, and just the other day you told me, “Look!! Elephant!!” while holding on to your ‘trunk’ and making elephant noises as you paraded up and down. That’s one to remember on your eighteenth birthday for sure.

At the same time you can be massively hard work, and just like your sisters, extremely grumpy when you want to be! Some of your first words were, “No!”, “Get off!”, “Go away!”, “Stop it!”, and you have an uncanny ability to answer every single question with, “NOT!!”. When people come to the house, or a stranger tries to speak to you in your pram, you simply squeeze your eyes shut, as tightly as possible, curl into a tiny ball to make yourself ‘invisible’ for so long that, nine times out of ten, you end up falling asleep!


You are the most jealous out of the four of you, very protective of “Mine Mummy” and should I hold a friends baby or pay attention to another child, you appear by my side in a flash, crying to be picked up, clawing your way up my legs for prime position in my arms, nuzzling against my cheek to remind me that you are my baby.

And you are so clever, just yesterday you counted to twelve unaided, your vocabularly is amazing, not that anyone would know as you rarely speak in public places, and I know when I look into your eyes that you are taking it all in, that you know so much more than we give you credit for. You are sweet and kind and handsome, and you adore your big brother, your sisters, and most of all Oscar.


I have loved every moment of watching you grow, seeing you change from a baby into a little boy, witnessing your personality emerge in abundance. I have loved those moments just the two of us, the days with all six of us, the memories we have shared together, good and bad, the moments that make us a family. I can’t imagine what our lives would have been like without you in it, how painful it would have been to live my entire life knowing that Lewis never got his little brother, how desperately sad I would have felt to never hold a little blue bundle in my arms again. You have given me so much, given all of us so much, and on the days when things are hard it is your little face that makes me smile, it is seeing you there between your sisters, like two little book ends, or watching you and Lewis cheek to cheek, like a miniature mirror image. Those are the moments that make me happier than I ever thought possible.

I say this to you all of the time, but I truly believe that you are Heaven sent. You have healed my heart in a way that words can’t describe and completed our family in the most perfect way. I am so excited to see what the next year has in store, how life will be with a 2, 3, 4 and 12 year old and I know, when it comes to you four, that although it might not be easy, it will always be worth it.

Happy 2nd birthday Harrison Joseph, our little Haribo, the very last little Dove. xxxxx

 

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For Meggy, on your third birthday

To my Meggy,

Today you are three, and I can’t quite believe that we are both still here, still surviving this year together. Although we knew from day one that you have always been different, this year, you took the terrible twos to a whole new level!! And I hope that when you are old enough to read this back, that perhaps as a Mummy yourself, knowing just the every day struggles that we Mums face, you will appreciate that it has taken blood, sweat and tears to make it to your third birthday, to make it, even if just a little way, across to the other side.

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From day one you have been our biggest challenge. Even as a newborn you were not the easy, happy baby that your brother had been. As you grew, we quickly realised that nor would you be the compliant, loving little girl that Eva had been, and nor should you be, but you were much happier to smack, kick or scream at us, pretty much twenty four seven.

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But two, WOW, that was a whole new level of crazy. At your two year check I raised our concerns to the health visitor, who looked at you, sat there with your angelic blonde hair and your big blue eyes, like butter wouldn’t melt, and she told me that all children push the boundaries, that we just needed to lay down the law, stick to a routine, battle through this “phase”. And as she left, and you launched yourself at me for the tenth time that day, I felt as though you knew exactly what you were doing and that actually, you really didn’t like me very much at all.

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I used to ring up Daddy on his lunch break, fighting back the tears because you had hit me, scratched me, bitten me. And he would say, “Babe, she’s TWO!” as though that was the answer, as though he had no idea of just how freakishly strong you were, or perhaps just how very weak I was!! Either way, you lashed out with such unabridled anger and hate that I found it very hard to know what to do with you, how to parent a child that seemed to be so pent up with anger and frustration.

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By the Summer I had given in and taken you to the doctors, sat there in tears, sobbing as I told her that your behaviour was out of control, that I had tried everything, that I had finally reached the end of my tether. And you had sat there, again in complete silence, looking so completely innocent that had it not been for the many hours of footage on my phone of you headbutting the floor and flailing on the carpet, I’m sure the doctor would have deemed me a liar right there and then. So she referred you to CAHMS, said that in her opinion you displayed autistic tendencies, that perhaps it was something we should consider, read up on, try to get our heads around.

And I had read up on it, spent hours late at night reading as much as I possibly could, talking to friends, crying into my pillow, wondering at what point would we get the help that we needed, at what point would you start acting, and I hate myself for ever thinking this, normal.

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Because it didn’t seem normal to hit and kick and punch us repeatedly, it didn’t seem normal that you would scream and shout and sob hysterically for eight hours straight without stopping. It didn’t seem normal that for as much as you showed that you loved me, you showed your dislike for me in equal measures. And it’s very hard for me to write this down, and I know that when you grow you will understand this, there were times when I felt, although I loved you with all of my heart, I wasn’t sure that I liked you very much either.

I have no idea how we got through the hazy months of Summer, how we dealt with the fact that CAHMS wrote to us and explained that they wouldn’t see you until you were four. I don’t know how we survived the countless times that you were whisked to hospital suffering with yet another dose of tonsillitis, how we sat through endless nights where you screamed and cried with anger, pain and frustration. I have no idea how we found a way through those days when you raged, from morning until night, when you showed me up in public or ruined yet another day out with your incessant crying.

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And then in September, having exhausted all of our parenting abilities, we decided to start you at nursery, and I dreaded that first day. Knowing how you hated new places, new people, new things, it was with a reluctant pre-meditated acceptance that I took you there, having already explained the situation, already laid the groundwork that you would hate it, that you would cry inconsolably, that you would be un-cooperative and hard to handle. So it was with the greatest surprise when you walked in there, let go of my hand and sat straight down to play with a dinosaur. I had stood there, feeling like a complete and utter fraud, backing out of the door as quietly as possible incase you noticed and began to scream. And as I crept through the door, I heard you shout, “Bye Mummy!!”, and completely gob smacked, I cried the whole way home.

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By Christmas you were a different child. I didn’t even recognise you anymore as the angry, violent, frustrated little girl you had been. As we increased your hours, only to a couple of mornings each week, you gained your confidence, your independence, you found something that was just for YOU, something that you had been needing and perhaps, something that I hadn’t been able to give you. And it was very hard for me to think about that, to wonder why you behaved the way you did for me, and yet a completely different child for the ladies at nursery. It fuelled my paranoia that you simply didn’t like me very much after all, that perhaps you blamed me for being ousted as the baby of the family so soon, that you felt angry at having to fight for my attention, that perhaps deep down you knew that, although I had every intention of making your first birthday cake, knowing I was due to be induced with your brother the next day, I had nipped to Tesco and bought one. Not even a character one, just a rubbishy old sponge cake. A metaphor for your whole life, the un-official “middle child”.

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And I am so sorry that this year has been so difficult and so sorry that it took us so long to find our feet, to find a way to make eachother happy, to work eachother out. I’m so sorry for all of the times I have shouted at you, told you that you are a naughty girl or felt resentful towards you. You’re not a naughty girl, not at all, I’m sorry that I let you down.

I really thought that I would be glad to see the back of the terrible twos, to embrace your threenage self, to remain optimistic that this is the year that you will FINALLY stop screaming, but actually, I feel really emotional about it. Because despite all of this, two was an amazing year. Two was the year that you fell in love with all things Frozen, when you convinced yourself, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you were infact Anna, that Eva was Elsa, and together you could move mountains. Two was the year that you discovered a love of You Tube, of maths tutorials, the un-boxing of toys and opening of  Kinder Eggs. It was the year that we holidayed in the south, where we felt the sand between our toes, ate ice creams on the beach and ferried you back and forth to A&E in a turn of events that could only ever happen to you. It was the year that you discovered lipstick and nail varnish, where you developed a penchant for pretty dresses and Rapunzel like hair, where you reminded us every single day of how beautiful you are, how sweet you can be, how lucky we are to have you. Two was the year you started at Little Nursery, made friendships of your own, where you learned to count, learned to paint, where you blossomed before our very eyes.

Two was the year that you stepped up to your role as big sister to Harry, where you grew even closer to Eva and you idolised Lewis in a way that has never faltered. Two was the year you discovered Knock Knock jokes, your singing voice, an imagination so vivid that at times you lost all sense of reality. It was the year you watched The Lion King, every day, on repeat, as often as we would let you, the year you set your heart on a Baby Annabelle, when you squealed with delight on Christmas morning, held her in your arms and told her, “I will love you forever!”. It was the year you discovered dress up, a love of swings, of stickers, bubbles and chocolate ice cream. Two was the year where you swapped your nappies for “big girl knickers”, your cot for your bunk beds, your chubby little baby face for that of a little girl, and a stunning little one at that. It was the year you gained your independence, your confidence, your intuitiveness, the year that you would lay your head against mine and it felt as though you could read every thought in my head.

Two was the year when I realised that it’s okay not to be normal, that it doesn’t matter if you are different and in fact, all of those things that make you stand out are all of the things that make you Megan. Two was the year when I realised that we are both so much stronger than we ever knew, where I learned to let go of all of my worries and frustrations and simply love you, every little quirk, every bit of crazy, every single part of you, my little wildcat, Meggy.

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Because now you are three. And admittedly, you are still hard work, I think that’s just in your nature, and I cant lie, you do still scream, a lot, but you are funny, witty, smart and articulate. You are free spirited, fiercely independent, imaginative, dramatic and a whole series of contradictions. You are loving, more so than any of your siblings, and you tell me time and time again each day, “I love you Mummy, you’re my best friend.” And I believe you, I really do. Because most of the time, you are an absolute delight to be around, when you aren’t going schitzo over somebody looking at you the wrong way or losing the plot because Eva said, “the”, you are the most wonderful little girl in the whole world. There is nobody who meets you who doesn’t love you, everyone tells me, “I know you shouldn’t have favourites but  Meggy is mine!”. And I get it, even though I don’t get what it is, I get why people love you, why you endear yourself to just about everyone.

You have been the biggest challenge I have ever faced, and I accept that there is so much more to come. You have pushed me to my limit, and beyond, you have tested my patience, my sanity, my will to live, but I wouldn’t change you, not one bit of you, and I am so very proud of you, always.

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Happy 3rd birthday Meggy Moo.

Love you all the stars in the sky.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

 

 

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For Lewis on your 12th birthday

Dear Lewis,

I can’t quite believe that I am writing this, that you are now twelve and growing up so fast. These past twelve years have been such a rollercoaster for the two of us, so many highs and lows and yet you, my darling boy, have been the best thing to ever happen to us.

When I found out that I was pregnant with you, aged 23, so soon after losing our first baby, I was so nervous that the same would happen again. Despite having early scans and constant reassurance, those first twelve weeks felt like a lifetime. At the twelve week scan when we were told that you were growing strong and healthy, we finally allowed ourselves to relax. We were so wonderfully naïve back then and your pregnancy was the only one that I truly enjoyed.

At our twenty week scan we were told that you were a little boy and it was no surprise to me, I had known since day one. We immediately knew that your name would be Lewis and gave you the middle name Robert after your Dad, your Grandad and the generations before him.

I used to spend my days reading pregnancy magazines, going for a daily swim, eating turkey sandwiches stuffed with salt and vinegar crisps, wishing away the days until you would be here. We enjoyed countless shopping trips, relished in buying you the most gorgeous little outfits, preparing your room and imagining what you would be like. I loved those days, the anticipation, the expectation, the unknown adventure of what lay ahead.

Three days before your due date, on Friday the 16th April 2004, when I woke with niggling stomach pains I wasn’t sure whether to be alarmed or not. By lunch time, as I lay in the bath, the hot water easing the cramps, I asked myself if this could be it, that you might just be on your way. And by mid afternoon I was certain that you were coming, and we made our way to the hospital, giddy with excitement that the next time we returned home we would be a family of three.

You were in such a rush to arrive, the only time in your life that you have ever been in a hurry, and came screaming into the world at 16.06 weighing 6lb 5.5oz. And you were completely and utterly perfect. I will never forget the moment that they lifted you onto my chest and I looked into your eyes and knew that I would love you forever.

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When you were just a few days old your Dad and I took you to the supermarket, keen to show you off and stock up on some more little outfits for you, and we beamed with pride as others admired you down every aisle we turned. As we were leaving an old woman approached us, admired you and stroked your little face, and she looked at us with an eery smile and she told us, “This little boy is special. He has a gift and will achieve great things. Mark my words!”. And we had smiled nervously until we had got into the car and there we mocked her, repeating her words in witch like voices as though we had been casting a magic spell, laughing ourselves stupid at the hilarity of it all. Little did we know how right she would be.

Because you are special, and not just in the way that all children are to their parents. You are special in ways that I could never put into words, in ways that are impossible to express, or even pinpoint exactly what it is that makes you so special. Throughout my battle with post natal depression, it was you who saved me, pulled me back from the brink every time with your soulful brown eyes and the way that you would nuzzle into my chest and remind me that you needed me, that I had to get better for you. Through our heart ache over losing Joseph it was you who kept me alive, who gave me a reason to live, a glimmer of hope that we would find a way to be happy amongst so much sadness. With every baby we lost, every battle we fought, there was always you, holding my hand, stroking my cheek, showering me with kisses, telling me that you loved me and always with that look in your eyes that told me, “Keep going”, “You can do this!”. And you pulled me through, time and time again.

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When you were just four years old and your Dad and I split, it was just me and you and our lives were very different. And again, you were a pillar of strength to me through that time and you grew up very quickly. It was such a difficult time for both of us and yet during those days we made so many memories together just you and I. We enjoyed days out, holidays away, trips to the beach, out to eat, hours playing power rangers and transformers and watching WWE on repeat And I loved that time with you, however sad it was at times, and our relationship changed in a way that made us closer than I could ever have imagined. We were a team, you and I, “Me and you against the world!”, we used to say.

So when Gaz came along it was difficult for you at first, you needed constant reassurance that he wasn’t going to take your place or that I would love you any less. And yet in no time at all you allowed Gaz into your life, and ultimately into your heart. And the two of you were, and still are, so alike, and the bond you share is so special. I always say that it wasn’t Eva who made Gaz a Daddy, it was you.

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With the arrival of a baby sister you were ecstatic, the proudest big brother that ever there was. You had waited for such a long time and yet here she was, and ours to keep. And I loved you even more for how much you loved her, the two of you became my whole world.

On our wedding day you stood beside Gaz at the end of the aisle and as I walked down there it was your eyes that I met first, the look of pure love and happiness on your face, the understanding that we were to become a family again, that finally we had found our happy ever after. Your reading at the wedding stole the show and I have never been as proud of you as I was right there and then, watching my baby boy on one of the happiest days of my life.

With the arrival of Megan and Harry you took it all in your stride. You adored your siblings and the only ever sadness was that you didn’t have Joseph here to share that with you. I feel your loss every single day, along with my own, and I wish more than anything that you had him here to grow up with. He would have loved you so much I’m sure, and you would have been the best of friends I have no doubt.

And yet here we are, and being eleven has been a difficult year for you, leaving primary school and starting high school, so many adjustments, new friendships and changes for us all. It was very hard for me too, to allow you the freedom to grow, to find a way to suppress my own worries and fears, and yet we found a way to adjust and in the same way that you have done your whole life, you sailed through the transition as though it was no big deal at all.

And now you are twelve and I still can’t believe where the years have gone. We have survived the worst of times and lived through the best of times. You have endured the loss of your brother, of family members and life as you know it. You have lived through a divorce, three marriages, four different homes, four schools, four new siblings, and I have no doubt that all of that has made you the person you are today. I know you hate me making a fuss, apparently its “not cool” but I am so, so very proud of you Lewis. You are so handsome, on the inside and out. You are funny, you are kind, smart, intuitive and a whole host of adjectives too many to mention. You have made my life so wonderful, through all of the heart ache there was always you. I am so honoured to be your Mum, so proud to watch you grow and so happy that you came into our lives.

 

 Happy 12th birthday Lewis, to the most special little boy who first made me a mummy. xxx

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For Eva, on your fourth birthday

Dear Eva,

Today you are four and although I say the same with each passing year, I have no idea where the last four years have gone! You have changed so much from our tiny newborn baby into such a beautiful little girl, in just the blink of an eye. It is so hard to imagine a life without you in it and yet I still remember a time when I never dared imagine that we would ever be so lucky to have you.

After losing your big brother Joseph, and the many babies that followed, we never imagined that a pregnancy would last the duration or that even if it did, there would be a life at the end of it. You were the first baby that we began to inject Clexane every day in the hope that it might keep you safe, never knowing if it would, or did, make a difference. And with each scan, of which there were many, we were told that you were growing strong, that you appeared healthy and that there was no reason whatsoever why you wouldn’t survive.

But still, I refused to buy a single Babygro (which is so unlike Mummy as you know how much I love shopping!), I wouldn’t let Daddy decorate the nursery or even let myself believe that you would be ours to keep. I was so scared, even when I felt those little flutters in my tummy that turned into huge, walloping kicks, I was simply holding my breath waiting for the day that they stopped. I was so terrified, every hour of every day, as I knew how much it would hurt to have to say Goodbye again.

And yet at thirty five weeks, following a massive bleed, I was rushed in for induction and it all began to feel very real. Laying there, strapped to machines and monitors, your little heart rate shooting up and down, I couldn’t help but think about the last time that I was there, by some cruel twist of fate in the same ward, and the same room, being induced with your brother. And physically, you were my hardest labour, you really weren’t for being born unlike your siblings! I should have known then just how stubborn you would become, and how you will only ever do anything in your own time.

So at 7.45pm on the 23rd February, just as Manchester United was about to kick off, a fact which your big brother has never let me forget, it was one of the most amazing moments of my entire life when you arrived into the world, 48cm long and weighing 5lb 4oz. You were absolutely beautiful with a shock of blonde hair, perfect in every way, and best of all, screaming at the top of your lungs. And I loved you in a heartbeat, as they placed you on my chest and I looked down into your perfect little face, I have never in all my life experienced a feeling like that of meeting my first little rainbow.

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There are moments in life that you never forget, so many moments that it becomes impossible to choose just one, and yet I think if I was forced to choose just one which made me happier than I had ever imagined, it was the moment that your big brother met you for the very first time. Just twenty minutes old, he burst into that hospital room, aged eight, ready to meet his sibling for the very first time and just thinking about it now, the tears are streaming down my face. There are no words which will ever describe that feeling, so much more momentous for all that we had been through, and he loved you so much. From the word go, you stole his heart and four years later you have never given it back.

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It took a long time for me to allow myself to believe that you were ours to keep. Walking out of that hospital with you felt like a dream, hearing your perfect lttle snores as you lay beside me had me pinching myself over and over, and having you in my arms just twelve weeks later when I married your Daddy I couldn’t believe we had ever been so lucky. I was floating on air for months after your arrival, I still am.

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You were such an adorable baby, not only beautiful, which you undoubtedly were, but just such a contented, laid back little girl and you made being a Mummy so easy. Everywhere we went people would comment on your huge blue eyes and your blonde hair, and I was the proudest Mummy in all the world, I always will  be.

By fifteen months you were a big sister to Megan, and from day one you thrived in your role, exerting your authority whenever possible. Just weeks after your second birthday you were big sister to Harry and suddenly had a whole tribe of siblings to boss about, Lewis included! You had us all wrapped around your little finger, and you knew it!!

You are so funny, clever, quick witted, sarcastic and have a wicked sense of humour, you get that from your Mummy. You are stubborn, the mastermind behind all things naughty, demanding, fiercely independent and can throw the mother of all tantrums if you don’t get your own way. But at the same time you are so loving, so caring and protective towards your siblings. You shower us with affection, will tell me ten times a day that I am your best friend in all the world, snuggle into me and say, “Love you Mama”, and you know full well that Mummy can’t resist your little face when you do that and will usually follow it up with a request for a biscuit!

We have had a whirlwind of fun over the last four years. Weddings, babies, birthdays, holidays, so many memories made together. And I love spending time with you, sometimes just the two of us sneaking off together so you can tell me all of your secrets, play Princesses or read books about magical far away lands. You will always be my biggest girl and yet you are very much still my baby, forever and ever.

Last night as I tucked you into bed, I told you, with tears in my eyes, that I cannot believe what a big girl you have grown into, how four years ago you were still just a tiny baby in my tummy and that time has passed so very quickly. And you clung to me, your cheek against mine and you said, “But all of the weeks have just gone and gone and gone, and then I will be big? Can we just go back and do it all again?”. And I almost sobbed at your innocence, at the sad fact that you will never again be three, that the years are flying by and one day, in years not so far from now, you will no longer be our little girl.

And just as I was about to have a full on break down, unable to cope with the inevitable emotions that birthdays bring, you looked at me and said, “Its better out of your tummy anyway Mummy. It was full of bones and blood in there and I was getting very bloody!”. And I swallowed back the lump in my throat and I laughed, silly, hysterical laughs into the warmth of your neck and tucked you up for the very last time as my three year old little girl.

You are so precious to me Eva Sienna, my first little rainbow, the one who taught me to never give up on my dreams, to always have faith and proved to me that there is such a thing as our happy ever after.

Happy fourth birthday, I love you all of the stars in the sky. xxxxxxxxx

 

 

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For Joseph, on a regular Wedneday without you.

It goes without saying that I think of you every single day. There are days when I think of you and smile, days when I think of you and feel grateful for the short time that we had, and days like today when I think of you and feel an aching pain in the centre of my chest.

And it isn’t because we are commemorating another anniversary, or a special occasion where I particularly feel your loss. Nor is it because the dusky scent of Autumn has taken me back to those wonderful days when you kicked inside my tummy, or a song on the radio provoked a memory in me so strong that it feels like we have gone back in time. But simply because it is just a regular Wednesday, an average September evening, just a moment in time when the beat of my heart whispers your name.

Joseph, Joseph.

For some days are just harder than others. For no apparent reason, no triggers, no special event or occasion. Just simply because of the fact that you are not here.

Today I sat in the park and I watched a little boy, older than you shall ever be, and he reminded me of you. I watched as he toddled around the swings, the slide, reaching his arms out to his Mama and giving her the biggest, most beaming of smiles. I gazed at him as his huge, soulful brown eyes took in the world around him, blinking in amazement at the bright colours, the characters, the wonders of life. I marvelled at the curl of his hair, the flush of colour in his chubby little cheeks and the sound of his laughter on the wind. And I could not take my eyes off him as he interacted with his siblings, as they ran circles around him, cried squeals of delight and showered him with kisses of adoration. And silent tears poured down my cheeks.

And sat there, taking in the scene, watching the little boy who looked exactly as I imagine you would have done at that age, it was impossible for me not to think of you as you would have been then, as you would have been now. I played the familiar game in my head, the morbid curiosity of asking myself, what would you be like now? How tall would you be? How different would our lives have been?

I remembered you, every inch of your being, every hair on your head, every perfect little piece of what made you special. And I missed you, I miss you, and all that you should have been.

And as the evening sun began to set and I stood to leave, I watched the little boy run over to his Mama, his arms outstretched and calling her name, and I scooped him up in my arms and planted kisses on his soft, warm neck. I held him tight in my arms and I thanked you, from the bottom of my heart, for sending him to us.

Your baby brother, Harrison Joseph. Our little piece of Heaven.

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For Lewis, on your first day of high school.

To my darling boy on your first day of High School,

It doesn’t feel like two minutes ago that I was dropping you off for your very first day of Primary School. You were so small, your little hand firmly in mine, all fresh and new and raring to go. You kissed me goodbye with such self-assurance and strolled into a classroom full of strangers without a second look back. And I was so proud of you, I always have been.

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And now you are eleven and not quite so little. You have grown into the most handsome, kind-hearted and loving young man, wise beyond your years, fiercely independent and hugely talented. And tomorrow, you shall face the start of a whole new adventure ahead.

I know that you are scared. I know that the school seems huge in comparison to the last, that the teachers seem frightening and the number of pupils is overwhelming. I know that you’re worried, wondering how will you ever navigate your way around those endless corridors and classrooms. I know that you’re panicking, thinking that the work will be too hard, that you won’t be able to cope with the endless mounds of homework each night. I understand all of that, but know this. You are a brave, confident and independent young man. You have a voice, make sure that you use it.

Make friends. With everyone. Remember that you are all in the same position, everyone is looking around for a friendly face and a smile. Be that person who reaches out to the boy stood on his own, to the child standing on the sidelines, too nervous to join in. Be wise with your friendship choices, remember that these are the friendships that may last you a lifetime. In many years from now, these may be the boys who are stood beside you, best man at your wedding, godfather to your children. Be sensible, remember right from wrong, be your own person, stay true to yourself and the values we have instilled in you.

Work hard. Remind yourself that although the teachers may seem scary, they are human beings just like the rest of us. They are mums and dads with children at home just like you. Remember that they simply have a job to do, targets to reach, pressures and worries of their own to deal with. Be kind to them, let them see you for the bright, intelligent, kind boy that you are. Excel wherever possible, show them how you can shine in a class full of children. Be the reason that they come to work each morning, remind them that teaching is the most rewarding job of all time.

Behave yourself. High school will bring you a whole new set of rules, of stricter regimes and punishments. Familiarise yourself with all of them and know that they are there for a reason. Remember your manners, respect your elders and accept that although there will be times when you feel that life is unfair, biting your tongue will always keep you out of trouble.

Talk to me. Tell me about your day, about your friends and your worries. Let me in, remember that I have been exactly where you are now and can help you through any worry and any problem. Trust me, remember that I will keep your secrets, do my best to protect you and fight your corner whenever needed. Tell me when you’re scared, when you’re nervous, when you’re happy. Let me be there for you, always.

Believe in yourself. Join new clubs, push yourself to try new things, discover something that makes you happy and try your hardest to be the best that you can be. Throw yourself into school life whole heartedly, take advantage of everything offered to you, embrace every experience and every opportunity. Tell yourself that there is nothing on this planet that you cannot achieve. When the work load feels overwhelming or the task too hard, remind yourself that you can do anything at all that you set your mind to.

Enjoy yourself. I promise you that this will be the best time of your life. My parents told me the same, many moons ago, and I used to sneer and look at them in disbelief. Algebra? Hockey in the rain? Scientific equations? How can that possibly be the best time of my life? But it is, I promise you. Never again will you have this time, use it to your benefit and enjoy it. Every single moment.

In twenty years from now, when you are almost as old as I, and you look back on your time at school, I hope that you will tell me that I was right. That these were the best days of your life. I hope that you will have sailed through life with a solid education behind you, into a job that you love and which rewards you each and every day. I hope that you have a close group of friends to reminisce about your school days with, fond memories of holidays, experiences and occasions you have shared.

Because tomorrow, right here and now, is the start of this amazing journey. And although I cannot walk beside you and hold your hand as I did all those years ago, know that I am right here, championing you on from the sidelines. Your biggest fan, your constant ally, your best friend.

Be brave. Be confident. Be kind.

Be yourself.

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For Joseph on your 9th birthday ❤️

Joseph,

Today you would be nine years old and it is hard to believe how that time has passed so quickly.

Nine years ago our world came crashing down on us as we heard the news that you had died.

Nine years ago I lay in that hospital bed, enduring a thirty hour induction, feeling more terrified than I have ever thought possible.

Nine years ago, at 3.44pm you came silently into the world and changed our lives forever.

Nine years ago I held all 5lb of you in my arms, marvelled at all 48 centimetres of you, your mop of black hair, your ruby red lips and your perfect fingers and toes.

Nine years ago I kissed your beautiful face, held you close and told you that I would love and miss you forever.

Nine years ago we closed the door for the very last time and said the most heartbreaking of goodbyes.

Nine years. 108 months, 468 weeks, 3276 long days without you.

And I wont ever be able to put into words just how much it hurts to live a life without you. Everyone was so quick to tell me that, “Time is a healer” and, “It gets easier with time” and I refute that whole heartedly. It hurts today just as much as it did nine years ago, the pain has never lessened or become easier to bear. I have just got better at learning to live with it.

In some ways it is even harder to deal with in time. Initially, people are very eager to offer you their sympathies, to be a shoulder to cry on and remember you as the weeks pass. But as the weeks turn to months and the years pass by, life returns to normal for all of those around me and yet my world has been irreversibly changed.

My grief is ever changing with each passing year. The intial all-consuming grief eventually faded to a constant, burning pain in my heart. There are days when it hurts a little less, and days when it hurts with every fibre of my being. There are times when we think of you with smiles on our faces, and others when I wonder if the tears will ever stop.

And grief is such a lonely emotion. It’s entirely personal, there is no right or wrong way to grieve, no two mourners feeling the exact same emotions. I know many friends who have suffered a loss, who live each day mourning the loss of their mum, their dad, a partner or friend. And yet stillbirth is such an inexplicable type of loss, it is the loss of a future just as many losses are, but it is also the loss of a past that we never had the chance to share with you.

Other than the nine months that we shared, as you kicked and squirmed inside of me, I have no other memories of you aside the day that you were born. I have no tales to tell of moments that we spent together outside of those hospital walls, no funny anecdotes to relay of fun times that we have shared. I have no photographs of you laughing, smiling, growing older through the years, just a few grainy images that very few want to see.

I have just that one day. Those same twenty four hours that I have clung on to for these last nine years, desperately trying to remember every precious second that we shared.

That is all I have of you.

We have your box, a bittersweet memory of your entire life packed up into just one cardboard box. Some days I find myself looking through it, reading the hundreds of sympathy cards which we received, sobbing as I re-live those raw, early days. I hold your blanket to my face and desperately hope to breathe in your scent, to try to remember the smell of your hair, something tangible that I can hold on to. I look at the clothes that you never got to wear, the toys that you never got to hold, the baby book with its empty pages and I feel cheated. I still feel that life is so terribly unfair.

Because in place of those memories I simply have questions. Every single day I ask myself, what would you have been like?

Would that gorgeous black hair of yours have turned blonde like your siblings? Would your eyes have been brown like mine and Lews, or blue like your Dads? Would you have grown long and lean or another miniature sumo-baby like your big brother had been?

And as you grew older, what kind of character would you have been? Would you be sporty like Lewis? Dramatic like Eva? Mischievous like Megan? Chilled out like Harry? Or something else entirely?

And perhaps my biggest heartache is wondering, what would your relationship have been like with Lewis? Your big brother, who expectantly awaited your arrival and feels your loss every single day. He talks about you often, asks me to tell him about the day that you were born, what you were like, remind him of how life would have been had you lived. He tells me about all of the things that you would do, FIFA tournaments, bike rides, camping in the garden, kicking the football about on the front. I see the way that he looks at the girls and the bond that they share and its there in his eyes, in the look on his face….

I wish that Joseph was here.

And I wonder whether you know how loved and missed you have been all of these years? Whether you understand that although we have had to move on and add to our family, there shall forever be a Joseph shaped hole in our lives.

And so today we shall celebrate your ninth birthday, sadly not with presents and a party nor a birthday cake and candles. But we shall visit you as we always do, bring you flowers, tie a balloon to your headstone and wish you a happy birthday up there in the stars. And we shall cry, of course we will, but we shall smile and remember that saying hello to you was not the worst day of our lives.

Saying goodbye to you was.

Happy 9th Birthday Joseph Allan, love and miss you all of the stars in the sky. xxx

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For Harry, on your first birthday.

Haribo, today you are one and the last ever little Dove to celebrate a first birthday. You have no idea what day it is, no clue what all of these cards and presents are for, and no way of knowing that my heart is breaking just a little that you are growing up so fast.

You, my beautiful little boy, were never part of our plans. After Megan’s arrival, and the subsequent weeks of hell that followed, we decided that our family was most definitely DONE. And although in my heart I didn’t feel complete, I attributed that to missing Joseph and so we agreed. No more babies. And that was that.

After weeks of discussions, research and horror stories, Gaz decided that the snip was not for him and told me, “Go back on the pill. It’s just as effective”. And so I did.

In the Autumn of 2014, after a recommendation by my best friend, I went to see a psychic. I was, and still am, hugely sceptical about things like that but curiosity got the better of me and I wanted to see what she had to say. So it was a huge shock when she told me that I was pregnant, with a little boy, and that Joseph had sent him for me. I sat there, covered in goosebumps, thinking it couldn’t possibly be true.

But imagine if it was??

And so it turns out that actually, the pill isn’t 100% effective after all and that when something is meant to be it will defy all of the odds and find a way. And when I found out that I was most definitely pregnant and that you were indeed a little boy, after the shock and the panic had subsided, I was absolutely positive that Joseph had sent you for us and that excited and terrified me in equal measures.

I was SO scared of losing you. More so as this seemed like such a miracle, a last bid baby who had taken fate into his own hands. It was months before we told anyone and even then just those closest to us, and eventually we realised that we would have to tell Lewis.

“What’s the one thing you have always wanted?” I asked him one night as he came home from school.

“An X-box one??” he instantly replied.

“Nooo,”I said, “Something you have always asked for?”

“Are we going to Disneyland??” he exclaimed, his little face lighting up with excitement.

“NO!” I told him, beginning to get frustrated. This was not going quite as I had imagined. “Think about it, you have your sisters……”

“Oh”, he said, clearly not as excited as he was about Disneyland, “A brother??”

We nodded, big smiles on our faces, waiting for it to sink in.

Five minutes later.

“Are you pregnant AGAIN?!!!”

And as the weeks went by and it slowly began to sink in we tried to prepare the children for your arrival while inside I remained an emotional wreck. Every time I imagined holding a blue bundle in my arms I would be in floods of tears. When I tried to imagine your little face, so like your big brothers, I would be in hysterics.

Your pregnancy was tough. Mentally and physically. I spent my days in hospital on the day unit, strapped to a monitor watching your heart rate rise and fall, having scans and seeing consultants and counting down the days until you would be strong enough to be born healthy and well. Twice I landed myself in A&E, firstly with a torn oesophagus from gastroenteritis and my blood thinned from the clexane, and secondly with a broken coccyx after I fell the entire height of the stairs holding Megan in my arms. I spent the last few weeks lay on the couch, hobbling round on crutches and panicking that all of these things were a sign that you were not meant to be.

And then, just four days after your big sisters first birthday, on the 27th of May at 3.45am, you were finally here. Our Harrison Joseph. And just like your namesake you had a full head of dark hair and you were so beautiful and so utterly perfect.

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Your birth was traumatic and when you were finally returned to my arms it was only for a few hours before you developed breathing difficulties and you were rushed away to neo natal. The next time that we saw you, you were in ICU wired up to breathing apparatus, tubes and wires and my heart broke in two.

Leaving the hospital without you was so hard, more so as I remembered how eight years earlier I had done exactly the same thing. Every day I would make the drive up there at the crack of dawn to be with you, to sit and watch you through the glass of your incubator with just my finger poking through to stroke your tiny little arms and legs. Every time a machine beeped or an alarm rang I felt like my heart would jump out of my chest and I silently prayed, to a God I didn’t even believe in, that this would all be okay.

The day you came off your CPAP was such a major step forward. Going to the hospital that day and seeing your beautiful little face without that awful mask was just the boost we needed and as you grew stronger every day I realised that with your very own guardian angel by your side you would be just fine. And two weeks later you made it home. Safe and well.

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And from day one you have been the most chilled out and relaxed little boy and an absolute dream to have. You never cried unless you were hungry or needed a nappy change and when you were tired you would simply put your thumb in your mouth and go straight to sleep without a moments fuss.

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You laughed, gurgled and smiled and yet mainly just in private, afterall, you ARE a Dove baby, and you slotted into the chaos that is our lives just perfectly.

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And for the first nine months, I’ll be honest, you didn’t really DO a lot at all. You didn’t sit, crawl or walk and infact, there were occasions when I used to joke that you were the most boring baby of all time. And then all of a sudden, in the space of two weeks, you sat, crawled and pulled yourself up as if over night you decided that you’d had enough of sitting around looking gormless, and the world was your oyster! And today, on your first birthday, you took your first steps and looked so utterly ecstatic to be standing by yourself that you fell down in disbelief. It wont be long until you are off and as much as we joked at you just lying there, I am so glad that you stayed a baby for so long.

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So here we are, a year later, and there are still days when I have to pinch myself that you are really ours to keep. When I find myself saying, “My sons” or signing a card and adding your name at the bottom, it still feels like a dream. The girls idolise you in a way that I never really imagined that they would, and Lewis, although he denies it, loves how we tell him how alike you are and how you will grow up to be just as handsome as he is.

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And you healed my heart, in a way that I never even knew was possible. The little boy I have been longing to hold, the baby brother for Lewis, Joseph, Eva and Megan that I never even dared imagine that they would have, and that little piece of our jigsaw that I never even realised was missing. And you are so like your brothers, just as I knew that you would be, but yet when I look at you I can see all four of your brothers and sisters staring back at me.

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I’m so glad that you were the last little Dove, that your big brother knew that your mummy wasn’t done yet and that we needed another little boy to love. When people comment on your angelic appearance or tell me that you have a look in your eyes like you have been here before, I tell them that they are absolutely right. You are truly Heaven sent. And if I didn’t believe in miracles before, then you, Harrison Joseph, are living proof of them.

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Happy 1st birthday Harry – the very last one year old – Dove.

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For Meggy, on your second birthday.

Dear Meggy,

Today you are two. No longer a baby, or even a toddler, you’re a proper little girl and although I can’t quite believe where that time has gone, I can’t remember a life without you.

When I discovered that I was pregnant, completely by surprise when your big sister was just six months old, far from feeling panicked, I was over the moon. We always knew that we wanted another baby and although it was much sooner than planned, I was so excited to imagine the two of you growing up together, just fifteen months between you.

I was convinced that you would be a boy and yet at sixteen weeks we were told that you were a little girl and I was so excited that Eva would have a little sister, something which I had longed for my whole life. I allowed myself, just for a moment, to imagine the two of you in matching outfits, blonde pigtails and big blue eyes.

Everybody expected me to relax during my pregnancy with you, they told me, “You know now that it will all be okay!” and yet I was torn between believing that and worrying that we had tempted fate by having another baby. Every scan I would hold my breath waiting for bad news, every time your movements changed or your heart beat dipped during twice weekly monitoring, I was convinced that we would never be so lucky to have another healthy baby.

And at thirty five weeks pregnant, when your heart rate continued to dip, the decision was made to induce me early, just as had happened with your big sister. After sending your Daddy home and telling us, “It will take hours yet, there’s no way she will be born today!”, I had rang your Daddy in a mad panic and at 3.42am, just minutes after he arrived back at the hospital you had been born. You shot into the world, screaming and crying, arms and legs flailing and from day one you were our little drama queen.

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You spent ten long days in neo natal refusing to eat, through pure stubbornness I’m sure, and I sat beside you day and night just watching your little chest rise and fall. You were so tiny, 5lb 7, but so perfect. You barely made a whimper that whole time and yet from the minute we took you home you screamed and cried for 24 hours a day.

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At first we put it down to “just being a baby” but within a couple of weeks you were back in hospital, on ward eight, where we would spend the next twelve months on and off. You saw every doctor that the hospital had to offer and had every test that there was available. We were sent to Alder Hey where you were prodded and poked, scanned and x rayed and tried on so many different drugs. I spent night after night on a little camp bed beside you as you screamed and cried and I wished that I could make you better. We were told so many contradicting things, literally worried ourselves sick and the more time that passed the more we realised that nobody had a clue what to do with you. And then eventually, by the time your first birthday came around, we finally realised what had been wrong with you.

You, my darling child, are simply a psychopath. But the most loveable psychopath we have ever known.

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You never “just cried”. You would scream, shake, thrash and sweat. You were never “just ill”. You would end up in A&E, surrounded by doctors scratching their heads and declaring you a medical mystery. You didn’t just have a little tantrum, you would headbutt the floor, slap yourself repeatedly, kick the walls, punch us in the face and there were times when I would question whether you even liked us at all? But then you would be so loving, so sorry, full of kisses and cuddles and as you got older you would tell us “It’s alright, Meggy make it better” and kiss the bruise that you had caused just two seconds earlier.

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But amongst all of those tears you have the most beautiful of smiles and, in those hellish early days, those few seconds a day when you beamed at us were enough to keep us going. And I’ll be honest, those rare, fleeting moments of loveliness probably just about saved my sanity, because if truth be told, I have never known anything as hard as those first few months where you literally DID NOT STOP SCREAMING.

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And I worried about you so much, more so when Harry came along and at 12 months old you were suddenly the big sister. I felt incredibly guilty that you were demoted from baby of the family so quickly and yet you adapted to your role so well. Our big, brutish Megatron who destroyed everything in her pathway, was suddenly the most gentle, loving and protective big sister and I was so proud of you. The day you came to the hospital to meet your baby brother was so special. Seeing you there with your chubby little hands reaching out for him, instinctively knowing to be gentle, it made my heart burst inside my chest.

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And now you are two. And you are hilarious. I only have to look at you and I laugh! The expressions on your face, the crazy things that you do, knowing full well that you are being silly, have us in stitches. You love to sing, to dance, to perform and yet only ever in private, in public you scowl and you furrow your funny little face and woe betide anyone who looks in your direction!

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You are an amazing sister to the others. You love your big brother Lewis so much. Every morning you wave him off to school at the front door and you are the first to hug him when he comes home. You call him “Dewis” and I dread the day that you can say your “L’s” and lose the funny little words that you say.

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The bond you share with Eva is so precious, I hope that you never lose that closeness or forget that your sister is your best friend in all the world. When you’re not pulling her hair, slapping her in the face or screaming at her, the two of you couldn’t be closer.

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And your Harry, who finds you the most hilarious of us all. You are so patient with him, so protective and will stroke his head with a gentleness that I never imagined you would possess. You have never resented him for taking your place as “the baby”, never once shown any jealousy or treated him with anything but love and kindness. I’m sure that will all change!

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And everyone loves Meggy, how could they not? Even when you are being naughty, which is probably most of the time, it’s impossible to be mad at you. You look at us with your scowly little frown face and a cheeky smirk creeps in and I defy anyone to stay angry.

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You have the ability to re-charge your batteries from just a two minute sleep, going from exhausted to super-hyper in seconds and God forbid we actually let you have a nap, you WILL be awake until midnight bouncing off the walls, jumping on the couch, performing an array of animal noise impressions and singing Frozen on repeat.

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We often joke that you are like Jekyll and Hyde. Each morning when you wake up we brace ourselves for what kind of day it is going to be. There are days when you still scream from start to finish, when nothing we say or do can make you happy or distract you from thrashing around the floor in full on rage mode. And then there are days when you wake up singing, chatting to your teddies, greet us with hugs and kisses and spend the day laughing and smiling. You are such a character and as different as your personalities might be, we love them both unconditionally. Everyone always comments on how angelic you look and we laugh and tell them, “If only you knew…!”

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We have made so many lovely memories together this last two years and I am so excited to see what this coming year has in store. I’m sure there will be hard times, and God help us if the terrible twos kick in, but there’s never a dull moment with you, that’s for sure. You make a bad day good again, just by pulling a funny face, performing one of your many routines or by climbing up onto my knee and cuddling me. You give the best hugs, complete with a back pat. And your hugs really do make everything better.

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You’ve given us grey hairs, lines and sleepless nights. You’ve made me question every single one of my parenting skills and discover patience that I never knew existed. You’ve taught me that every child is different, that doctors don’t always know best and that trusting your gut instinct is the best advice any mum can take on board.

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You are funny, exhausting, loving, stubborn, clever and so very beautiful. You make us smile, cry, bang our heads against the walls and laugh so much our sides hurt. And we wouldn’t change you for all the world.

Our crazy little NutMeg.

Our funny, brutish Megatron.

Our beautiful, lovable Meggy.

Happy 2nd birthday Megan Alicia.

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