With Fathers Day this weekend, my blog feed is bursting with posts about the men in our lives, our own Dads and the Fathers to our children. It goes without saying that I have the most incredible Dad, and I cannot fault my husband for his role as Daddy to our youngest three. I am filled with nothing but pride and admiration for, not only that but, the role in which he plays as Step Dad to our eldest.
When my ex husband and I divorced and I found myself single again at 28, I can remember thinking just how hard it would be to ever meet someone as, not only a divorcee but, as a single Mother. As I took the tentative steps into the world of dating, I soon realised that those who initially appeared interested would run a mile when I mentioned that I had a six year old son. And that was tough.
Dating as a Mother was a whole new ball game, looking for a man who not only had the potential to be a good boyfriend but who also had the potential to be a good role model to my son. And as I soon realised, those kind of men were few and far between. So when Gaz came along, he was, rightly or wrongly, not the first man that I introduced to my son, but he was the only man that I allowed the opportunity to get to know him, to forge a bond, develop a relationship and, ultimately, allow him into his heart.
And I have always thought that it can’t have been easy back then, to date a woman who comes with all of that baggage. It must have been hard to sacrifice romantic dates for the latest Disney movie at the cinema, a night at family bowling or Toby Carvery on a weekend. It must have been tough to spend his evenings being forced to talk about WWE wrestling in great length, to play non-stop Mario Kart on the Wii, to eat fish fingers, chips and beans and perch on opposite ends of the sofa with a six year old firmly wedged between us. In those early days when we couldn’t keep our hands off each other, when we wanted to spend our weekends in bed, watching TV, ordering take out, a blissful blur of snogging and sleep, it can’t have been easy to be woken at 7am, to be slam dunked during breakfast, battled with light sabres and blow up Hulk gloves and pelted repeatedly in the head with Nerf bullets.
And yet to my amazement, for Gaz, it was easy. The relationship between the two of them happened so organically, bonding over football, a mutual love of John Cena, Transformers and the moves of Michael Jackson. And almost before my very eyes, I watched as the same man who was falling in love with me, fell head over heels in love with my son.
I can still remember the first time that Lewis slotted his little hand into Gaz’s, when he first offered him a kiss goodbye, a cuddle goodnight, and asked if Gaz could tuck him up into bed instead of me. I can still remember how I would leave the room and come back to find them kneeling on the floor, heads together, building a make shift wrestling ring, re-creating scenes from the latest Transformers movie, discussing the pros and cons of Optimus Prime versus Bumblebee. I can still remember the sound of them laughing together, the way that Lewis would say, “Nothing Mummy!” when I asked what they were up to, the way in which he looked at Gaz with nothing but utter admiration. And for me, that sealed the deal. Within three months of our first date, with Lewis’s permission, Gaz moved in. And when he proposed just three months later, it wasn’t just me who was over the moon, it was Lewis too.
And as much as Gaz has always made it look easy, there are times when I feel, deep down, that being a Step-Parent is hard work, that more often than not, they do get the short straw. For a man who has helped raise my child for the last six years, it must be incredibly hard at times to take a step back and accept that, although you may look at this child and love them like your own, the reality is, they’re not. Because the truth is, Lewis is very lucky in that he does have a Dad, one who loves him very much and who has an equal input into his upbringing, his choices, his life. And it takes a very special person to accept that fact.
I remember the first time that there was a “Dads v Sons” football match one Sunday up at the club, and despite the fact that Gaz spent most weekends kicking a ball around the park with Lew, he and I both knew that Lewis would walk straight past him and ask his Dad to play. And he would have to swallow his pride and watch from the sidelines while his, and my, heart broke a little. Every parents evening, despite being the one who sits down to help Lewis do his homework each week, Gaz stays at home whilst my ex husband and I sit there together, reaping the praise that is lavished upon us, feeling like the proudest parents on earth, and he must simply make do with me relaying it back to him later that night.
Despite a mutual love of Manchester United, when Lewis pleaded with Gaz to take him to his first match, Gaz had told him no, that he would have to wait, knowing that it was important to respect the fact that the occasion of a boys first football match belonged with his Dad. And I loved him for that, for sacrificing the things that meant so much to him, for never over-stepping the mark, never trying to take the place of his Dad. And it will be the same as he grows up, when he goes out for his first driving lesson in the car, doing handbreak turns in Tesco car park, the same when he goes for his first pint in the pub on his 18th birthday or the honour of sitting besides him at the top table on his wedding day. Because all of those honours do belong to his Dad, and there aren’t many men in this world who would not only stand back and accept that, but would actively support it, encourage it, and, most importantly, respect it.
I think that one of the things that I love the most about Gaz is that he has genuinely never treated Lewis any different from the other three, something which, I hold my hands up and admit, I did worry about in those early days. Never once has he made Lewis feel any less like his son, nor differentiated between a child who he witnessed come into the world, who he held in his arms at just a few seconds old, a mirror image just exuding his DNA, and a child who, at six years old, peeped out from behind the back of the kitchen door, waggled his John Cena wrestling figure and asked him if he like chicken nuggets.
And I know that perhaps there will be times when, in the not too distant future, fuelled by teenage angst and rampant hormones, Lewis will turn around to Gaz following the slamming of doors and the screeching down the stairs, and he will tell him, “You can’t tell me what to do! You’re not my Dad!!”. And I can only imagine how that will feel, how much it will hurt to have that thrown back in his face. I can’t imagine how difficult it will be, taking that from a child who you taught to swim, to play pool, enjoyed countless days out, Summer holidays, introduced to a whole world of opportunities.
A child who you sat up with late at night, just watching him sleep when he was poorly, cleaned up his sick, stripped off his bedding, rang home repeatedly to check how he was throughout the day. A child who stood beside you as Best Man on your wedding day, who you watched with utter pride and admiration as he gave his speech, posed for photos beside you in his matching suit, shared a moment that you will both treasure forever.
A child for whom you stayed up late every Christmas Eve wrapping his presents, who you watched blow out every candle on every birthday cake over the years, who you cheered on from the sidelines of every football match, come rain or shine. A child who you snuggled up with to watch a DVD on the couch, carried up to bed, kissed goodnight, and told him, every single day, how very much that you loved him.
But then I also know that, fast forward another ten years, the day will come when, during one too many drinks over Christmas dinner or whilst dancing wildly at his sisters wedding, Lewis will take Gaz in his arms, in the most macho of hugs, and he will tell him, “Thank you!”. He may pat him on the back, no doubt several inches taller and broader than he has ever been, and say the words that will make up for every bit of drama, every teenage angst, every moment when Gaz has had to take a back seat, and tell him,
“You have been such an amazing Dad to me.”
We are all so lucky to have our Dads in our lives and yet none quite as lucky as those of us who have, not just one but, two.
From the day that Eva was born and placed into my arms, opened her eyes and stole my heart, I knew that we were on borrowed time. When we took her home from the hospital, the proudest parents in all the world, through those crazy baby days, those long nights feeding and winding, those moments when she called me Mama and took her first steps, I could hear the distant sound of a ticking clock. Tick tock, tick tock, the constant reminder that time would pass us by so fast.
Through her first Christmas, her first birthday, our first holiday together, it was always there, like an irritating itch that I couldn’t quite scratch, a niggling feeling in the pit of my stomach. Tick tock, tick tock, the dreaded reality that the weeks were fast turning to months, the months turning to years.
As two turned to three, and three turned to four, the ticking noise became louder and louder, and where previously I had tried to push it away, to banish it to the back of my mind, tell myself that it wasn’t really happening, now it consumed me.
Tick tock tick tock, tick tock…
And finally, last month, I had to face it head on, thrown right in at the deep end, with the dreaded “Primary School Induction Evening.”
And I cannot stress to you enough just how emotional this has made me. In my mind, however deluded, my baby girl was just born. It took all of my strength to hand her over for just two mornings a week at nursery and there was nearly a full on melt down when she began her fifteen hours at pre-school. But now, the idea of waving goodbye to her for five days a week, makes me want to wrap my arms around her and never let go. The thought of watching her disappear behind a closed door, knowing that for six hours of every day she will be just a few metres away down the road, but not with me, not with us, kills me.
I’m sure that many of you are reading this thinking, For Gods sake woman, get a grip! And perhaps I could well do with a good shake, someone to remind me that she is four, that she is ready to learn, ready to find her feet and no doubt flourish within the support of a classroom environment. But then not everyone will understand when I tell them that Eva is special, as all babies undoubtedly are, but to us she is the baby that we genuinely never believed that we would have, the baby whom we fought so hard for, whom we wished and hoped for and, four years later, still pinch ourselves that she is really ours to keep. She was the first baby sister for Lewis, the first to prove to us that miracles do happen, that after all those years and everything we went through, we were sent the most beautiful of rainbows to heal our hearts.
And in that way, starting Primary school is a minefield of fear, anguish and upset. As we looked around the school during the Induction Evening, I could see Gaz doing a quick risk assessment of every classroom, commenting on the steepness of the steps, the low level of the gates, imagining in his head the possibility of our little girl tripping, falling, escaping…and I knew that it wasn’t just me who was worried, it was him too.
And her teacher seems lovely, she really does, but then she too has no idea how special our daughter is. It took all of my self restraint not to grab her, to take her by the hand and tell her please don’t assume that Eva is just another child in your class, please take care of her, know that she is so precious, that we waited for such a long time to have her. I wanted to tell her that Eva needs constant reassurance, that she often feels over-whelmed in large groups, in new environments, with new people. I wanted to tell her how Eva needs direction, a warm hug, a hand in hers, she needs praise and encouragement and an opportunity to let her imagination run wild. I wanted to tell her that Eva still struggles to say her ‘R’s, that she sometimes writes her letters back to front, that she can be shy and scared and worried, and there are days when all she really wants is her Mummy. But instead I just stood there, my jaw clenched, every muscle in my body tense, imagining her there in the classroom, choosing a reading book, counting blocks, painting me a picture. And, as I blinked back my tears and swallowed the lump rising in my throat, I headed back home to my daughter and promised myself that I would make the most of every single day from now until September.
But it’s still there, the whole time, that sound, the constant ticking of that clock, tick tock, tick tock. And I want to put my hands over my ears, to sing “La, la, la!” in a child like manner, to stamp my feet and stick out my tongue and say, “I’m not listening!”, “I cant hear you”, “I’m not ready…..”.
But in actual fact, today as she tried on her new uniform, I realised that I couldn’t deny it any longer. As I stood there looking at her little face, so proud and excited and unafraid, I realised just how fast these next few weeks will fly, how in no time at all I shall be sobbing on my doorstep, a wreck of a mother, tears and snot and complete devastation that my baby girl is all grown up.
At the same time, I know that we have been through this before. I experienced the upset of Lewis’s first day at primary school, a day so traumatic that, having cried so much on the drive home, I smashed my car straight into a brick wall. Just last year I experienced Lewis’s last day of Primary, his first day of Secondary, days which I had dreaded for months beforehand, that I had been sure would completely destroy me. And yet I survived them, I adapted, I realised that actually it is an amazing thing to see my child grow, to watch them experience new things, reach new milestones and discover their independence.
And I also know that it will always be far easier to see her growing healthy and strong, to watch her running down that school path with her brand new little book bag, her red ribbons streaming out from behind her braids, her face flushed with excitement and anticipation, than to have never experienced it at all.
I am so, so sad to think that she is at this age already, that she is spreading her wings and leaving me behind, but it hurts that little bit less when I remind myself just how very lucky we are, how very blessed we have been, how utterly wonderful life is to have the most beautiful little rainbow of all.
June is SANDS awareness month, a charity that, as you well know, is close to my heart. There is so much that I could tell you about this charity, about how they work tirelessly to raise awareness of stillbirth and neonatal death, how they offer support to bereaved parents and how, most importantly, they campaign to ensure that the stillbirth rate, which currently lies at 100 babies each week, is lowered. I could tell you that donating to this charity could make a big difference to the lives of others, to a parent missing their child, to a baby, clinging on to life. I could ask you to donate, just a small amount, and yet I know if you are anything like me you will be inundated with these requests, from friends running marathons, charity bike rides, jumping out of planes and a whole variety of sponsored events. And so I suppose that all I can tell you is this.
To those of you with children, or those who care to imagine, just for a moment think back to your pregnancy, about the joy that you experienced when you saw those two blue lines appear on a test, the fearful excitement that your whole life was about to change. Remember how it felt when your baby kicked in your stomach, when you saw their little face on each scan, lovingly chose a name, began to imagine what your child would be like. Think about those days leading up to the birth, how you had already forged such a bond with your baby, how your whole life was set to centre solely around them. Remember how you had decorated the nursery, how the Moses basket lay next to your bed, how the babies clothes, nappies, toys filled your cupboards, your drawers, the baby lotion sat waiting in the bathroom. Think about your labour, how excruciating that pain was and how in those moments when you felt like giving up, you didn’t because the thought of your baby spurred you on, made you push even harder, because you knew that in the end it would all be worth it. Remember that moment when your baby was placed on your chest, how they opened their eyes, let out the most precious of cries, and how you knew right there and then that you would die for this child, that you could never imagine a life without them in it. Remember the day that you took them home, the proudest parents in the whole world, how you burst with pride with every stranger who cooed over your baby in their pram, how you lay awake each night simply watching them breathe, pinching yourself that this little one was really yours, how you had a whole lifetime waiting ahead of you.
And it was amazing wasn’t it? The best feeling in the whole world.
And at the same time imagine that, during those last few weeks of pregnancy, you lay in a sterile hospital room whilst a doctor placed a sympathetic arm on your shoulder and told you, “I’m sorry, your baby has died”. Imagine having to go through a gruelling, 35 hour labour, absolutely terrified, fighting against the urge to push, knowing that at the end of it all you would live your worst nightmare. Imagine the silence as your baby was placed on your chest, knowing that they would never open their eyes, that in just a short while their body would grow cold, that you would have to prepare to say your goodbyes. Imagine trying to fit an entire lifetime into just twenty four hours, to make as many memories as you possibly could, holding on to your little one and trying to memorise every single detail, the curve of their nose, the softness of their skin. Imagine leaving the hospital empty handed, the silent drive home, returning to your freshly painted nursery, to drawers filled with clothes that will never be worn, to a pram that will never see the light of day. Imagine laying in bed, looking at the empty cradle, and feeling that your heart was shattered into a thousand pieces, that you would actually die with the pain. Imagine seeing your child for the very last time in a funeral home, sobbing at the state of their body, at the haunted expression on their face. Imagine knowing that, as you left, you would never see them again, that the following day you would stand beside your husband as he held your baby in a tiny white casket, watch as it was lowered into the ground and covered with a mound of earth. Imagine having to face the world, to go about your daily life, and see pregnant women everywhere, cradling their bumps, holding their healthy babies, your breasts still engorged, your arms physically aching to hold your own.
Imagine that. And I can promise you that however heartbreaking it may be to even consider, for us parents, the reality is a million times worse.
Because there is nothing, absolutely nothing that I can think of, that could compare to the loss of a child. There is nothing more physically or mentally enduring than having to wake up each morning, to take a breath, to put one foot in front of the other, and try to work out a way to survive. I have been asked repeatedly over the last decade, “How did you survive it?” and my reply is always the same, “I’m really not sure that I did. ” Whilst I may have survived it with my life intact, as sadly there are some who do not, those first months, even those first few years, were simply an existence, a reluctant passing of time, a limbo like state of not knowing whether to live or die. And there are so many things that did not survive our loss, my marriage being one of them. It may shock you to learn that following the loss of a child, 80% of marriages end in divorce, and whilst I am loathe to become a statistic, slowly but surely I did watch my marriage crumble.
There are so many parts of me that did not survive the loss of our son either, deep voids left inside of me that neither time nor hope will heal. To say goodbye to our child, when we had only just met, destroyed me as a person, destroyed my faith, my hope, my beliefs. To hold my baby in my arms and know that this was it, their whole life right there in that moment, that kind of thing is impossible to get over.
And whilst at first everybody flocked round to offer their support, slowly but surely they went back to their normal lives, oblivious to the fact that I could never do that, that my world had changed irreversibly. And it was during those days, the times when I felt so desperately alone, that I turned to SANDS and they offered me a lifeline.
Simply to have someone tell me, “It’s okay to feel that way.”, to reassure me, “That’s completely normal.” was all that I needed to hear. A channel to vent my anger and utter devastation, an opportunity to talk about my son without feeling judged or with the knowledge that I was making others feeling uncomfortable. And it saved me, in the darkest of times when I genuinely believed that I would never get through it, the support and the care that the SANDS team showed me absolutely contributed to the fact that I got through it and am still here to tell the tale.
And a decade has passed, and perhaps for some the pain is less, but for me, every year that passes is simply another reminder of all that we lost. I can’t look at my children together without knowing that one is missing. I can’t hear a newborn cry without the memory that my son did not. I can’t look into my children’s eyes without wondering what colour Josephs would have been. I can’t be the person that I was, because she exists only in a time before Joseph, in a time that feels like a whole world away from here.
SANDS is absolutely a charity close to my heart, but it is also a charity close to the hearts of many. Those who have lost a child, a grandchild, a niece, a nephew, a friends baby who they would have loved with all of their hearts. And although I am hosting the SANDS Summer Soiree, which you can read about here, for those who can’t attend I have also created a Just Giving page, here, where you can donate, even the smallest amount in Josephs memory, your own childs memory, a missing family member or simply with gratitude that you never had the need for this charity in your lives at all.
I’m turning orange for SANDS, I hope that you will join me.
May has always been my favourite month of the year, even more so now that we celebrate Megan’s birthday on the 23rd, our wedding anniversary on the 25th and Harrys birthday on the 27th. We also seem to enjoy the best of the weather in May, balancing out a very exhausting and expensive month with some beautiful sunny days making memories for our family.
This month the children’s birthdays have passed in a blur of presents and balloons, a flurry of wrapping paper and the squeals of two very excited, and admittedly very spoilt, children. This was the first year that Megan really understood her birthday, proudly wearing her “I am 3!” badge and telling just about anyone who would listen, “I am three! I am a big girl!” And although Harry very much enjoyed his presents, his little face when he saw the Twirlywoo Big Red Boat was priceless, he was still quite oblivious to the reasons behind it!
At the weekend we had a joint party for the two of them, following weeks of deliberating whether to throw one here at home or hire a soft play centre. At the thought of a rabble of two and three year olds trampling across my lovely new carpets, we hired a local soft play centre and it was lovely to see how excited Megan was to have a party, to interact with her little friends and enjoy her time in the limelight. Again, Harry was completely oblivious!!
Inbetween the birthdays, Gaz and I celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary where we exchanged thoughtful gifts based on the traditional wedding gifts as we have done each year. Or at least one of us did. Fruit and flowers? I had bought Gaz an apple tree, the perfect combination of fruit and flowers, that we can plant in the garden and watch grow over the years. He bought me…….a banana!! On the plus side, he did take me out for a child free lunch and some quality time together, which was much needed and much appreciated!
On top of all of that, we have been undergoing some home renovations, replacing our existing polycarbonate conservatory roof with a custom built solid roof. It was a lot of upheaval, trying to keep three little ones out of there was near impossible, but we are so pleased with it and would recommend it to anyone!
We are also in the process of converting our garage, something we have been putting off due to the mammoth task of having to empty it first!! There is always such a knock on effect with home renovations, what starts out as one room soon escalates to another. With the conversion of the garage we needed to demolish our own shed and built a new larger shed, which subsequently destroyed our back lawn which now needs re-turfing. As the garage becomes the new playroom, the existing playroom shall become my office, with the existing office becoming Lewis’s bedroom and his room becoming Harrys. So what started out as one room has escalated to four rooms needing to be dealt with, decorated and furnished. Right now, with our house looking like a walk in jumble sale, I am constantly reminding myself that it will all be worth it. I shall keep you posted!
May has also brought a really exciting project my way in that, not only have I started work on a fictional novel, but I have also just written my very first children’s book! It is definitely more at the “watch this space” stage at this moment, and I can’t share too many details with you at present, but we are hoping to have it out in print in time for Christmas and of course you will be the first to hear all about it!
May has been such a lovely month for us as a family, not just the birthdays and the celebrations, but just those ordinary moments that we have shared together as a family. We have had some lovely days out at the seaside, at various parks and sunny days just spent in the garden. The children have loved being outside, running around in just their underwear, squealing with delight during water fights, eating ice creams and enjoying the sunshine.
I have watched the children’s relationships grow from strength to strength in the way that they play together, the way that they communicate and look out for each other. It has, as always, been lovely to watch and I am so enjoying this stage, looking forward to the Summer months and seeing my little doves grow together.
May has given us so many lovely memories to look back on, lots of new and exciting opportunities and so much to look forward to. I can honestly say that I have never felt more optimistic about the future for such a long time and, when I look at these beautiful little faces and all that this month has brought us, it comes as no real surprise to say that I have never been happier.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
I have an invisible illness, one which should I have chosen not to share with you, to look at me, you would never have guessed. Perhaps to the eagle eye, you would pick up on the way that I flinch when I pick up the children in a certain way, the way that I stand, with my hand kneading away at the base of my spine, or the pained look on my face when I am experiencing an excruciating headache. You may think that I seem distant, that I am repeating myself or that my words are a little jumbled, but unless you knew, unless you know, you would never think that for as far back as I can remember, I have lived with the chronic illness, Fibromyalgia.
According to Google, Fibromyalgia is
“a rheumatic condition characterized by muscular or musculoskeletal pain with stiffness and localized tenderness at specific points on the body.”
My symtoms started as a young child, when aches and pains would wake me in the middle of the night and I would complain of strange sensations in my body, ailments which I had wrongly assumed were normal. By my teens I began the first of many visits to the doctor, continuously complaining about wide spread pain, to be told that it was most likely growing pains and would improve with age.
By my early twenties I was experiencing massive flare ups, times where I was so exhausted that I could barely climb out of bed, days where I would take pain killers back to back just to ease the constant pain throughout my body. Eventually my doctor agreed that this needed investigating, and through an extensive process of elimination, spanning across several years, the end diagnosis was indeed that of Fibromyalgia.
As a young adult I struggled massively with my diagnosis, having heard nothing previously about this condition and knowing no-one who suffered. It was very difficult to accept that I had a condition that not only impacted on my daily life then, but would impact on my future. The prospect of living my whole life feeling that way was very daunting.
I think that the hardest part for me, and still is to some degree, was the fact that Fibromyalgia, along with the majority of chronic illnesses, are so widely misunderstood. To look at me, I look well. I have become very clever at hiding my pain, putting on a brave face and laughing and joking as though I don’t have a care in the world. When asked, “How are you doing?”, I will always reply, “Great! Couldn’t be better!” rather than admitting that I am struggling, rather than telling the truth.
And the truth is this. Some days I am in so much pain that just the feel of my clothes against my skin is unbearable. Lifting the children brings tears to my eyes, kneeling down on the floor and playing with them will mean that the following day, I am unable to walk. I don’t sleep, not at all some nights, and in stops and starts on others. I experience aches, pains, as we all do, but also stabbing, shooting pains, across the whole of my body, crippling headaches, agonising pain in my joints, my jaw, through to the backs of my eyes. I experience digestive issues, acid reflux, stomach pains and cramps which can hit at any time. I’ve had pins and needles in all four limbs for two years straight, numbness in my face, vision distubances, chest pain. I’ve lost count of the number of times I have been in hospital this last few years, the number of specialists I have seen, the number of times I have sat in my doctors surgery and cried.
I take heavy medication, twenty two tablets each day, to simply be able to function as a parent, as a wife, as a human being. With the medication comes the side effects, the grogginess, the confusion, the racing heart, dry mouth, itching skin. And yet each day I push myself to keep moving, to power through the pain so that my childrens lives are affected as little as possible, so that I can try my hardest to be the parent that they need me to be.
And I won’t lie to you, it is hard, indescribably hard infact, particularly as a mother of four children, three of whom are still so young. I alternate between the part of me that needs to fight back and not allow this condition to win, and the part of me that admits defeat, that is desperate for someone to see how much I am struggling and offer a hand. I find it very difficut to ask for help, I am hugely stubborn by nature, and allowing the Fibro to win feels very much like I am failing. I would rather exert myself to the point where I am lay in bed, sobbing in pain, rather than give in and admit defeat. But even then, there are times, particularly over these last two years when I was then diagnosed with ME (chronic fatigue syndrome) on top, when I haven’t had a choice, where Fibromyalgia has stolen so much of my life and ultimately, I have been too unwell to fight back.
And I hear quite often people saying, “Oh I know someone with Fibromyalgia!” or infact claim to have it themselves, and they throw it around in the same way that you would claim to have a headache, or a few aches and pains. The truth is, a large number of people claiming to have Fibromyalgia in this country, have no official diagnosis. They have never seen a specialist or endured the long, exhausting process of elimination. It has simply been something that their doctor may have thrown out there, an option to consider, an avenue to explore at a later date, a last bid attempt to label symptoms for which they cannot find a root cause. There are people who scoff when I tell them that I also have ME, that despite months of investigations, MRIs and specialists, they say, “ME? Never heard of it!”. “Chronic fatigue? Aren’t we all a little tired? And those people are the ones who make this even more difficult for us, those people are the ones that make others so ignorant to the severity of this condition.
I’m not writing this for sympathy, although I am sure many of you will sympathise emphatically, I am writing it because it is so important to be aware that just because somebody doesn’t look sick, doesn’t mean that they are not. We have had to become fantastic actors, compulsive liars, experts at smiling and gritting our teeth. I have hidden the severity of Fibro from so many people, not through deliberate deception, but simply because sometimes we are even trying to fool ourselves.
Fibromyalgia can be a debilitating, excruciating, exhausting and life changing condition. It can be different from one day to the next, one person to the next, and there is no way of knowing when the next attack will happen. It’s simply a case of trying to figure out our individual triggers. For me, cold, wet weather always coincides with a flare, as does being tired, over exerting myself, through times of stress and anxiety. A simple cold will floor me for weeks, a gentle bump or bang can trigger a flare that will escalate for months. And then there are days where I will experience a flare from absolutely nowhere, in the depths of a blazing hot summer, on a holiday when I am rested and relaxed, at a time when I am feeling okay, when I have dared to take my eye off the ball and I wake up one morning and wham, back to reality.
Today, on Fibromyalgia Awareness day, I want to tell you this. Just because I am capable of going about my daily life today does not mean that I am capable of the same tomorrow. When you see me laughing and smiling please don’t assume that I am “better”, just know that I am doing the best I can at that present time. When I cancel plans last minute, please don’t call me a let down, or stop asking me out in the future, just know that right then, in that moment, I am in too much pain to join you. When I am enjoying a day out with my family, spending time with the children, don’t assume that I am no longer in pain, just know that the next day, when I lie in bed hurting, it will be worth it for every moment of hearing their laughter. When I smile and tell you that I’m doing well, that I feel great, know that I have probably been awake half the night, that I am probably popping pain killers left, right and centre. When you see me out walking with the buggy, swinging the kids around in the park, remember that you wouldn’t ever see me on a bad day, those are the days when we don’t even leave the house. When you tell me that it could be worse, that your Mother, your Grandma, your neighbour is fighting a much more serious illness, please know that I am sorry about that, that I sympathise whole heartedly, but that for me, right here and now, it is hard to imagine a time when I could feel worse, when my degree of pain could be greater.
When you tell me that I seem well, that there doesn’t look to be anything wrong with me, remember that just because you cannot see it, does not mean that I do not suffer.
Somebody asked me this last week, a fellow blogger during a questions and answer post. And put on the spot, in the spur of the moment, I couldn’t even think of how to put it into words. There are too many to even contemplate, too many things, too many moments, too many emotions. And I thought about my answer afterwards, about all of the things that I could have said, that I should have said, had I stopped to think it through.
I would have said that motherhood means waiting. It’s the agonising wait, praying for those two, elusive, faint lines to appear on a pregnancy test, after all of those months of disappointment. It’s the indescribable feeling of pure joy, and terror, at how, in nine months from now, your whole life is about to change. It’s the huge sigh of relief when you hear the heart beat for the first time, when you see that grainy imagine on a scan and allow yourself to imagine what he or she will be like, what your life will be like with them in it. It’s about making choices, about names, birth plans, pain relief, feeding methods. It’s the feeling of panic when you realise that after nine long months, you’re actually in labour, that the agonising ordeal of giving birth is finally here. It’s puffing on the gas and air as though your life depends on it, pushing away your partners hands when he insists on rubbing your back, resisting the urge to throttle him for putting you in this predicament in the first place, screaming at the midwife, “I can’t do this!”, “Give me an epidural!!”, when you feel like giving up. And then there they are, all tiny and pink, all new and perfect, laying on your chest, and it’s all about that moment, when you take their little hand in yours and you know, without a shadow of a doubt, that they were worth it all, that you will never love anyone so strongly, so fiercely, as you do right there and then.
Motherhood is about surprise. It’s the moment when you take them home and realise that you might as well throw the baby manual out of the window, that your baby has individual wants and needs and the only person who can figure that out is you. It’s about a baby, who screams and cries, and somehow you must find a way to differentiate between a hungry cry, a tired cry, a dirty nappy cry, a cry simply for the sake of crying. It’s the shock of those nappies, more nappies than you could have ever imagined, the explosive diarrhea, right up to their neck, poo under your fingernails, streams of wee hitting you full pelt in the face. It’s about the vomit, full on projectile vomit, on every clean item of clothing you will ever wear, on your beautiful carpets, your walls, your once pristine car. It’s about feeding, two, three, four, five in the morning, when you look, and feel, like a zombie, rocking their basket back and forth, with your foot outstretched from the covers, praying to God that they will sleep, even just for ten minutes.
Motherhood is about pride. The first time that they roll, sit, crawl, take their first wobbly steps towards your open arms. It’s the moment when they utter their first word, when they shout for you, Mama, when they give you the biggest, drooliest, open mouthed kiss and you don’t even flinch. It’s the laughter, the giggles, the look on their beautiful little face when their eyes light up at the sound of your voice, when no matter how tired you are, how stressed out you feel, you know that you are the most important person in their whole life, that they depend on you, whole heartedly. It’s the moment when you catch a glimpse of them from a distance, the way that their hair falls in soft curls against their neck, the flush of their cheeks, the twinkle in their eye, the way in which their beauty takes your breath away, when you ask yourself for the thousandth time, how did I ever create something as so very beautiful as you?
Motherhood is about worry. It’s the nights spent sleeping on their bedroom floor when they’re poorly, lying awake just to check that they are still breathing, sitting bolt upright with every cough, every sneeze, every whimper. It’s the nights where you drive like a maniac to the emergency doctor, spiking a temperature you just can’t bring down, the days sat by their bedside on a busy children’s ward, watching their little chest rise and fall. It’s wiping snotty noses, bloody knees, kissing bumps and bruises better, stroking their little faces, administering calpol, antibiotics, wishing you could just switch places and take their pain away.
Motherhood is about patience. It’s biting your tongue when they stumble over finding the right words, when they take an hour just to eat a few mouthfuls, insisting on using their own knife and fork, however messy that may be. It’s silently counting to ten when it takes them forever to put on their shoes, button up their coats, reminding yourself that it’s not the end of the world to be late, for the fourth time running that week. It’s giving in and watching Cbeebies, even when the sight of Mr Tumble makes you want to gouge your own eyes out, when you fail to see the attraction of watching Daddy Pig and his big fat tummy for the nineteenth time that day. It’s watching Frozen on repeat, humouring them by singing your part during the Anna and Elsa duet, it’s playing Hungry Hippos for the five millionth time since Christmas, and still always letting them win. It’s stepping on Lego, drinking pretend cups of tea, blowing out candles on a make believe birthday cake whilst opening a Mega Blocks mash up, wrapped in a tea towel.
Motherhood is about letting go. It’s taking them to their first day at pre-school, to primary school, waving them goodbye and feeling as though your heart may break. It’s the silent tears as you walk away, the desperate sobs on the drive home, the harsh realisation that your baby is growing up, that time is passing by so fast. It’s being half an hour early to pick them up that night, craning through the window to catch a glimpse of your baby, praying that they will have been okay. It’s that feeling of relief when they rush into your arms at the end of the day, smelling of play-dough and raspberry rock buns, telling you how much they have missed you, presenting you with a splodgy, soggy, wet, painting and placing their little hand in yours.
Motherhood is about love. The kind of love that is unexplainable, unconditional, immeasurable. It’s the cuddles, the kisses, the moments that make your heart beat out of your chest. It’s a hand made Mothers Day Card, a wilted bunch of daisies in a grubby hand, a tired little face kissing you goodnight, the moments when they turn to you and tell you, “Mummy, I will love you forever!”.
Motherhood is about being a Mummy, a carer, a cleaner, a chef. It’s being a nurse, a teacher, a referee, a taxi driver. It’s being the Tooth Fairy, Father Christmas, the Easter Bunny, a hundred different roles, a thousand different things. It’s juggling all of your balls in the air at the same time, tearing yourself in two, making sacrifices, doubting your abilities, your strength, your sanity. It’s the laughter, the cries, the relentless screams, the moments when you look at yourself and wonder, when did I turn into my own Mother? It’s a lifetime of moments, a million different emotions and the biggest, craziest, wildest rollercoaster that you will ever be a part of.
But it’s this, all of this, that makes Motherhood the most amazing, rewarding, unique experience that it is. To use one of my favourite quotes of all time, “Nobody said it would be easy, they just promised it would be worth it.”
And if you are wondering what my answer was, when asked “What does Motherhood mean to you?, I had simply replied, “Everything.”
One year ago today I decided to seize the day and get back to doing something that I love – writing. It was a giant leap of faith to put myself back out there and share, not only my family with you all, but my heart and soul too.
It’s not often that I feel a sense of pride in myself, other than in that of being a Mummy, but I am very proud of all that I have achieved this year. It took a great deal of time, and Googling, to fathom how to even start a blog, let alone find the time to update it and learn the different ways to get my blog out there. I have just about managed to get my head around the likes of Twitter and Instagram, manoeuvre my way through Word Press, laid the groundwork for going Self Hosted, and get to grips with the many, many link-ups available to us bloggers! I have learned to trust my instinct in what I share, in the photos of my children and the details of our lives together. I have taken on board every compliment, and every criticism, and I have, I hope, stayed true to myself in what I write, what I share, and ultimately, what I believe in.
I never wanted to be the kind of blogger who painted a picture of the perfect life. I think that there are many of those types of bloggers out there, and I love and enjoy their blogs equally, but for me, I knew that should I share my blog, it would have to be warts and all. And I’ve faced some negativity over that, albeit in the minority, those who feel that I should not have shared my experiences of mental illness, or my battle with anorexia, nor the deep dark secrets that they feel were not made for public reading. I think, rather sadly, that there are many people who would be happy to sweep those kind of things under the carpet and ignore the harsh realities of life, but, for me, my attitude has always been this; life is tough, but there are so many wonderful moments amongst such sadness should we take the time to look.
I know that there are occassions when my blog does not make for a pleasant read. There are times when I write about my memories of Joseph, our experience of losing a much wanted son, the way in which his death has impacted on our life as a family, even now, ten years later. I know that there are moments when it must be impossible to read about these things without feeling moved in some way, without bringing you to tears as you cradle your pregnant belly or hold a healthy child in your arms. I know that it must evoke thoughts, emotions, a reality that you would rather not face, and for that I am truly grateful for the fact that you continue to read. Even when it’s upsetting, when it’s scary, when it’s so desperately sad to even begin to imagine, you honour Joseph’s memory and you read on. Time and time again I am moved by the support I have been shown, by the way in which so many of you have allowed my son into your hearts. I am certain that he would be very proud of himself, I know I am.
Amongst all of that, it has been an absolute delight to share my little doves with you all. I have adored sharing my memories of Harry as he grows, through from his first birthday to the way in which he has blossomed into a cheeky, adventurous and funny little boy. I have been grateful of the opportunity to share the adventures of our beautiful, sweet Meggy, to have your feedback on the difficulties we have faced with her behaviour, to welcome the shared experience of a child who, let’s face it, has tested my very limits. I have loved sharing our tales of Eva, the way in which she is finding her feet, how she has flourished at pre-school, grown in confidence and undeniably, in beauty. And I have been so thankful to share my stories of Lewis, to tell you just how very proud I am of my boy, the most handsome and kind young man we could have hoped for.
This year has seen so many changes within our family. Lewis starting high school, Eva at pre-school and Meggy at nursery. We have enjoyed two very different holidays, from our disastrous week down in Dorset to our adventures up in Cumbria. We have shared birthdays, Christmas’s, anniversaries, days out and days in. There have been some amazing times, some terrible times, days where I have loved every minute of parenting and others where I have wanted to pack a bag and leave. I have struggled massively with on-going health issues this year, spent far too much time in and out of hospital, still searching for a diagnosis, let alone a cure. I have been up and down and back again, we have laughed, cried, torn out our hair and spent many, many hours counting down to bedtime. But from the ordinary to the extraordinary, what a year it has been. And I am so glad that in years to come, we will have all of this to look back on.
I feel as though this is turning into an Oscars acceptance speech some what, but I do want to thank you for supporting me this last year. I have received such wonderful feedback from other bloggers, have been over the moon to feature in countless blogs, to write for so many blogs and parenting magazines that I love and admire, and given the opportunity to take my writing to the next level. I have been shocked, and completely flattered, to receive, not just one but, several nominations for the two major blogging awards this year, the MADs and the BIBs. I still can’t believe that anybody took the time to nominate me, so thank you.
And to all of you who read this, who take the time to comment, to message me, even to stop me on the street and tell me, “I love your blog!”, that, right there, makes me feel as though I have achieved something to be proud of. I love being a Mummy, I hope that comes across in my blog, but I also love that for just a short time each day, even just ten minutes of an evening, I can just be me, doing what I love, sharing the highs and lows of life as a thirty something dealing with life, love and loss. So from the bottom of my heart, thank you.
Happy Bloggiversary to me! Here’s to the next twelve months!!
From the moment that Megan was born and joined a fifteen month old Eva, their roles as Big sister and Little Sister were very much set in stone. Both of them accepted these roles, and conformed to them in a way that saw Eva very much “The Boss” of the two and Megan, a compliant, adoring little sister. As time has passed I have found it interesting to see how the roles have evolved, and now, as Megan approaches her third birthday and with Eva just four, it feels that in many ways, the roles have completely reversed.
With the closure of Megan’s nursery last week, she has now joined Eva at the pre-school where they are both attending for fifteen hours each week. The girls were super excited to be at the same nursery with Eva promising to look after Megan, introduce her to all of her friends, and show her all of the exciting things that they could do there. “I hope that the teachers know which one is me and which one is Meggy!” Eva worried, “Make sure that you tell them before we go in!”. And I smiled to myself, amused at how the two of them see each other, a mirror image, completely unaware of their differences both in appearance and in nature.
So on Monday when I collected them from their first day back, I was surprised by how subdued Eva was on the walk home, so very different from the excited squeals when I had dropped them there that morning. “What’s wrong, baby?” I asked her, as she snuggled up on my knee that night, “Did something happen at nursery?”
“Meggy wouldn’t play with me,” Eva whimpered, her eyes brimming with tears, “She only wanted to play with Lucy.”
On hearing her name Megan dragged her eyes away from ‘In the night garden’ and glanced over at us, “Eva, I play with Lucy!” she said, a serious look on her face, “Lucy is my best friend!”
At that point Eva threw back her head and cried, clinging to me as she sobbed dramatically against my chest. And I felt a lump rise in my throat, torn between feeling so proud of Megan and the way in which she was finally forging friendships, gaining her independence and developing her much needed social skills, but at the same time my heart was breaking for Eva, who sat there whimpering, feeling as though she was losing her little sister, that her Meggy was no longer her best friend.
Because Megan was always very much the one who needed Eva, who fought for her affection and idolised her as they grew. Megan really struggled with so many aspects of life, with new places, new people, and her fear of just about everything. She had learned to draw strength from Eva, to use Eva as her voice when she chose not to speak, to hide behind her, to ride on the wave of her successes and follow suite with her own choices. And yet somehow, in the blink of an eye, she has changed unrecognisably, finally gaining her confidence and with that her independence. No longer are they simply Eva and Meggy, they have both developed and grown, been given the opportunity to make their own friends, and ultimately discovered a life that does not always necessarily involve each other.
And for Eva, although she has made some lovely friendships of her own, she really struggles with the fact that Megan no longer depends on her in the same way. Far more jealous by nature, I think that Eva quite enjoyed having Megan rely so heavily on her and thrived under the title of ‘Big Sister’, and all that came with it. Every morning she took great pride in preparing Megan’s cereal, in carefully pouring her milk, fetching her spoon, all the while telling her, “I’ll do this Megan, I’m the big sister!”. And yet now, I notice more and more the way in which Megan wants to do those things for herself, how she pushes Eva away when she tries to help her, unaware of the dejected look on her sisters face. I see how Eva now fights for Megans affection, seeking her out for a kiss or a cuddle, the constant need for reassurance that she is still Meggy’s favourite, that their bond as sisters is still just as strong as it once was.
There was a time when Megan would have done just about anything for Eva. She would give up her toys, the prime spot on the couch, share her biscuit, her chocolate bar, anything to win her affection. These days Megan is no pushover, she no longer gives in to Eva’s constant demands or panders to her every need. She will push Eva away when she wants to be left alone, scream at her to stop talking when she wants some peace and quiet, and will think nothing of giving her whack if she tries to get her own way. And it’s difficult at times to watch them argue and fight, but equally I think that it’s important to let them battle it out between themselves, to allow them to try to find a happy medium, to negotiate a relationship that sees them more as equals rather than the Big Sister and Little Sister.
Because Megan is no longer the timid, frightened little sister that she once was. Soon to be three, she is opinonated, fiery and out right bad tempered at times. There are days when she tires of Evas hugs and kisses, when she doesn’t want to play the games that Eva chooses, nor do what Eva tells her. And Eva struggles to understand why their roles have now changed, why Megan is suddenly standing up to her, why all of a sudden she has the confidence to do her own thing, to leave her side and pave her own way, even if that means leaving her behind.
And yet on Monday, when Eva sat, still crying noisily, on my knee, it did not surprise me when Meggy looked over at Eva and her face crumpled with surprise, “What’s wrong Eva?” she asked, coming over to sit beside her sister.
“You didn’t play with me!” Eva spat out, resentfully, refusing to meet her sisters eyes.
“Eva, dry your eyes,” Megan told her, “You’re still my big sister, okay?”. And, as Eva allowed Megan to throw her arms around her and squeeze her tight, I blinked back the tears in my eyes, the innocence of my beautiful girls bringing a lump to my throat.
“Are we still best friends?” Eva asked, her lip quivering as she awaited the response.
“Yes Eva, forever and ever and ever!” Megan assured her, and I brushed away my own tears as the girls planted kisses on each others cheeks, their heads together, their bodies interlocked and they settled down to watch the television, safe in the knowledge that their friendship was still as strong as ever.
For there are going to be times like this as they grow, so many that I am sure I will lose count, when Eva starts primary school, goes to high school, to college, to university, and leaves her sister behind. There will be times when one, or both, will make new friends who they would rather spend their time with, when they discover boyfriends and no longer have time for their sister. When they move away, when they marry, when they have families of their own to look after, there is so much more ahead of them than ‘just’ each other.
And I will always continue to encourage my girls to be their own person, to have their own friendship, their own personalities and interests. I will encourage them to be just Eva, and just Megan, to be sisters that are equal, that come together as well as apart. But I will continue to support their bond as sisters, building the foundations for the most beautiful of friendships, and I am confident that regardless of how many friends come in and out of their life, there will never be a friend quite like a sister. Eva and Meggy, besties forever.