Anger · Life · Parenting · Personal

Yoda was wrong.

I have been sitting here for the last hour, trying to write a post about Sausage and how she came into the world. And I think I have realised, that after two and quarter years, I’m still not ready to do it.

The words are flowing out of me readily, but somehow, it feels as if no words can ever do justice to how awful a situation it was. It’s taken a really long time for Husband and I to feel even vaguely normal, but writing about it has made me realise that I am still so angry. I’m angry with the Doctors who were supposed to be there, and weren’t. I’m angry with the crappy bureaucratic system which dictates the way our medical system works. But mostly I’m still angry with myself for ever walking out of that hospital and leaving Sausage there.

After a couple of days, I was allowed to go home, but Sausage still needed to be cared for in the NICU unit. The doctors told me that home was the best place for me, so I left. Grudgingly.

I can tell you, from the bottom of my heart, that nothing can prepare you for the pain of going home and leaving your newborn baby in the hospital. Antenatal classes prepare you for a lot of things, but they never tell you that there is a possibility that you may go home empty-handed, even if it is just for a while.

Sausage was in the NICU for 8 days and made an incredible recovery. To this day, I am in total awe of her strength, her resilience, her sheer force of will. She inspires me in so many ways. It’s because of her that I am now studying for a degree, hoping that I can educate myself enough that I may pass on the knowledge I have to others, so that they never have to feel the way we did when it all went wrong. I’m studying for a BSc in Psychology, and I aim to use that, and my own experiences, to help other families who’ve been traumatised by a bad birth, and hope beyond everything that I can turn around the trauma we felt and make something positive out of it.

And so I would like, here and now, to call Yoda out on his assertion that anger leads to the Dark Side. Because, if you take that anger and build on it, don’t smother it and expect it to die on its own, it can turn to into something positive, something that brings help and hope to others. For Sausage’s sake, that it what I plan to do with mine.

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Christmas · Life · Opinion · Parenting · Personal

Stuck in my ways?

If you’ve read my blog before, you’ll know that Husband has some sleep issues which mean that often, he is awake while the rest of the household is asleep. We’re both avid users of StumbleUpon, which means that I often wake up with a dozen emails from him, little things that he’s read that he thinks I’ll find interesting. And I love it, it’s one of my favourite things as I know that he’s been thinking of me, plus it gives us lots to talk about and debate upon. He’ll send me things which are so random, so totally me that it gives me a warm feeling to think that he really gets me, you know?

Until yesterday.

I woke up to a bunch of Stumbles, one of which was a suggestion for the Christmas tree we should buy this year. He’d sent me a link to a page from the B&Q website, where they were selling a *urgh* fibre-optic tree. I mean, really? Who wants a Christmas tree with no fairy lights, and light literally shooting out of the ends of the branches?! And then he explained, very reasonably and rationally that a fibre-optic tree is a far more sensible option as it means we don’t have to have wires tangled around the tree, it’ll save time, we don’t have to have the saga of finding out which dead bulb is causing the whole chain to die, it’ll be easier to store, not to mention the fact that Sausage has a fibre optic lamp, which she is absolutely obsessed with, ergo she’ll probably adore a giant fibre-optic tree!

And you know what? He’s totally right, it’s the best option all round. But why is it that I still feel sad that we won’t have the same awkward, difficult to put together, mess of a tree that we do every year? I think it stems from when I was younger and staying with my grandparents. I think I’ve mentioned my maternal grandparents before, whom I love dearly, but who don’t like each other very much. Well, when I was a kid, I’d remember them arguing, every bloody year, my Nan asking my Grandad when he was going to get the Christmas decorations out of the loft, and my Grandad moaning and saying he’d get round to it. Every year, without fail, this would start in early December and usually go on up to Christmas Eve, when the nagging would get too much and my Grandad would get off of his arse and get the decorations.

They’d let me put the decorations up, assembling their minute and ancient artificial tree (seriously, it’s like 2 ft tall and they’ve had it my whole life) and hanging the baubles, some of which were older than my Mum. And once it was all done, this peace, this sense of calm would finally descend on the whole house, my Nan glad that she’d got her way and my Grandad content that the nagging would let up, for at least a while (I’m not making my Nan out to be a bad guy here, she really does have to poke my Grandad with a stick, just to get him to move). It was like the spirit of Christmas had done its work, and we could start to feel festive.

I think the process of putting the tree together, stringing the lights around it, adorning it with tinsel has become a reminder of that time, and I suppose I go through it, waiting for the feeling at the end. But my Husband has made me realise, I don’t need this to put me in the Christmas spirit. I have an amazing Daughter who, this year, will be looking at the tree with the light shooting out of its branches and her face, and the thought of how happy it will make her, is all the Christmas spirit I could ever wish for.

So here’s to change, a step away from the negative and towards a Merrier Christmas.

Life · Parenting

Big shoes.

In the last 838 days, I have discovered that I am expected to fill some pretty big shoes. 838 is the exact amount of days since Sausage was born, and in that time I have fulfilled more roles than I could ever have begun to imagine. Here are but a few:

1. Personal artist

You know how you imagine rich people like P-Diddy to have really random people on their staff, just sitting around, waiting to, you know, carve an ice-sculpture on a whim? Or perm his nose hair, should he so desire? Husband and I (mainly Husband) would be employed by Sausage as personal artists. Her latest craze is charging at us with a piece of paper and proclaiming “Mummy, YOU DRAW A PONY/DJ LANCE/NARWHAL!” and one is expected to produce a high quality rendering of which ever object has been conjured up by her boundless imagination. And it’s mainly Husbands job as I am SHIT at drawing. Here is a drawing I did of Milly from ‘Team Umizoomi’…and then what she really looks like. See. (Go ahead, click on it, make it bigger, you’ll see it in all its shitty glory. I think there is also dried gravy on the page…)

2. Personal Chef

This is one area in which I struggle. Don’t get me wrong, I have a decent repertoire of dishes which I make really well and I can turn my hand to most recipes, but it’s the imagination that I lack. On a day-to-day basis, I’ll ask Sausage what she wants for breakfast/lunch/dinner and invariably, her answer will be…wait for it…sausage. So I have to come up with inventive ways to make her think she’s getting what she wants, whilst making sure she gets an actual balanced meal. Husband is much better at this than I, which is partly why he does our weekly shop (the other reason is that I would just buy £100 worth of chocolate, crisps and sweets and no sensible stuff, like, you know, toilet paper, soap and real food)

3. Troubadour

Another thing which Sausage enjoys is singing and dancing. By which I mean she says “Mummy, you sing a song about CATS!”, and I have to come up with a song about cats, on the spot, sing it and probably do a dance, all in the space of about ten seconds, when she usually says “No, Mummy, you sing a song about SPIDERS!”, when I repeat the process all over again, only with a new muse.

4. Impressionist

One of Sausages favourite ways to pass the time lately has been to turn her Father and I into her own personal soundboards and exercise our repertoire of animal noises to its fullest. In the past month, I have Googled and YouTubed what noises are made by giraffes (which, by the way, is none after adolescence, they are generally silent in adulthood), perfected the difference between a tiger and a lion, and learned the many different noises made by cats. It doesn’t stop there though. Say, for instance, Sausage wants to hear a lion noise…she isn’t satisfied with hearing one version of each animal…she wants to hear the Mummy lion, the Daddy lion, the Baby lion and a ‘Darling’ lion, which we’ve so far ascertained to be a really camp version of the original noise.

5. Triage Nurse

On a fairly regular basis throughout the day, Sausage will approach Husband or I, usually with finger or toe outstretched, and insist that it’s broken and that she needs to be taken immediately to the doctors. This is usually remedied by a magic kiss from one or other of us, but only after she’s satisfied that we’ve given her ‘injury’ a thorough inspection. On one particularly challenging occasion, she insisted that she’d hurt her ‘hobo’, which led to around half an hour of investigation into what a ‘hobo’ was. We had money on elbow, as it sounds kind of similar, but it transpired to be the back of her wrist.

Husband and I perform each of these tasks with relish and gusto, but it really does go to show what an array of new skills you hone when you have a little one to please. In fact, I’m thinking of updating my CV to include some of them. I think the upturn in my ability to think on my feet and please a tough audience makes me at least 50% more employable in the real world!

Anyone else have any new skills, since becoming a parent?

Life · Opinion · Parenting

Can we praise our kids too much?

From the moment that Sausage was born, I’ve told her every day that she’s the most beautiful, intelligent, amazing, special, funny little girl in the whole universe. I tell her about a hundred times a day that I love her and that she’s my favourite human in the whole world (don’t worry, Husband and I have an understanding that Sausage is favourite to both of us, but he and I come a very close second!).

Speaking of Husband, he’s always told me to lay off a little bit on the barrage of compliments, that my constant ego massage will cause her to become conceited. I always disagreed, stating that it does a child good to hear positive things every day. But recently, I’ve begun to wonder (shock, horror!) if Husband was right. Just yesterday, I changed Sausage into her pyjamas, only for her to do a twirl and proclaim “Mummy, I look gorgeous!” (Actually, she says george-us, but I kinda like it that way!). Her little declaration, whilst totally adorable, got me thinking. Is it wrong for her to say these things?

As social beings, and mostly as British citizens, we’re generally taught that humility is best. We don’t like to talk about our achievements or our talents, feeling that self promotion is brash, or makes us seem egotistical. But maybe we should adopt a bit of the American way and treat ourselves to a little more fanfare. There’s no doubt that insecurity has become the blight of the masses, it’s extremely rare to find a person without a complex about something, be it an internal or external ‘flaw’. But what’s best, hiding your light under a bushel, or shouting your best qualities from the rooftops? Is there a middle ground?

I think we can safely say that Sausage wouldn’t be walking around, calling herself george-us if she hadn’t heard me calling her it since the day she arrived in our lives. And I do agree with Husband that once she reaches school age, such confidence could see her ostracized by her peers. But isn’t that sad, that being confident can mark you out as being different, being somehow wrong? I thought that the point of evolution, the basis of the human race was survival of the strongest, and doesn’t confidence make us strong? But maybe it’s about the amount of confidence we have, and how we project it.

As far as I’m concerned, Sausage is the most beautiful, intelligent and amazing human being, and as her mother I reserve the right to remain true to that belief. I think that she can go anywhere, do anything, as long as she believes in herself, and that the basis of that belief comes from the confidence that we, as her parents, will give her. So, do we teach her to be confident in herself, but not to let on to others about her self-belief? Is it inevitable, in this world, that self-doubt will sneak in anyway, and undermine all of that? I certainly hope not, but I don’t know if my method of over-praise is the way to combat it, either.

I also don’t know if the English way is best. Surely if we’re so used to hiding our talents, employing that typical self-deprecating demeanour that we’ve all become so used to, we might miss out on opportunities because we don’t want to put ourselves out there, for fear of appearing too arrogant.

All I know is, I will be here for Sausage, her own personal cheer squad, telling her to be all she can be, extolling her virtues, just in case she doesn’t know how to give herself the praise she deserves.

Opinion · Parenting

Square Eyes.

Have you ever noticed how television is one of those parenting taboos, a subject on which most of us have an opinion? Well in our house, we’re pro-TV, which feels a little bit like I’m telling you all a dirty little secret, given the way parents are divided on the issue. However, it wasn’t always this way.

When I was pregnant, we were adamant that television would have no part in our child’s life. We thought that it would suck any intelligence and individuality out of our child and turn her into a cartoon-obsessed automaton. Then we discovered Baby Einstein and everything changed. In case you aren’t familiar, Baby Einstein is a branch of Disney, suitable for babies from newborn, and incorporate classical music with bright colours and shapes, and also begin a gentle education in artwork, poetry and classic literature. This sounded exactly like the sort of thing that we wanted to expose our child to, so we got them and she loved them. Actually, we were amazed at how well these seemingly simple videos could hold the attention of a baby.

Then came Sausage’s first christmas, and the introduction of In the Night Garden. We’d never heard of this show, made by the same people who made Teletubbies, until one of my aunts bought her an Iggle Piggle toy, and the floodgates opened. But, in introducing Sausage to this show, my aunt unwittingly (or maybe she was well aware of how great the programme is) helped to improve our little girls language skills, teach her the first songs she ever sang by herself, as well as providing hours and hours of joy and laughter. How can that be bad?

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t advocate television in every way. We’re picky with which shows Sausage watches, we don’t allow it to be on all day, every day, and we try to avoid too many adverts by V+ing a lot of the programmes she likes, or buying her the DVDs, to remove the advertising element at all (the merchandise companies must’ve seen us coming, eh?). I also think that some parents try to use the TV as a baby sitter, and though it can be a handy distraction at times, we definitely don’t let it raise Sausage for us.

We did consider banning the telly at one point, after we noticed that Sausage would take four times as long to respond if we called her and the TV set was on, or she would come up for a cuddle but watch over our shoulders. But, to be honest, we talked it over, and the benefits outweighed the negatives, we just adjusted the length of time that we allowed the TV to be on for, which seemed to help.

I think the key is balance. Yes, we let our daughter watch telly. But we also read with her, play games with her (she’s really into hide and seek and den-building at the moment!), take her to Caterpillar Music and the soft play centre, along with a multitude of other activities. Which means that if she wants to watch half an hour of Peppa Pig when she eats her lunch, I have no objections. In fact, I encourage it. She’s one of the only two-year-olds I know who can recite the alphabet, name the colours of the rainbow and make just about any animal noise you can think of!

Oh, and if I may be so bold as to make a recommendation? Anyone who has a child under the age of ten should let their kids watch Octonauts. I have learned more about sea creatures since watching that show than I did whilst watching the whole series of Blue Planet on DVD!