130 articles Articles posted in Parenting

When PTSD Rears its Ugly Head

Its a funny old thing, PTSD. Not ‘funny, haha’; believe me, in that respect it’s about as funny as a bad case of genital warts. No, its more funny in a sardonic, “well, isn’t that a mother-fucker?” kind of way. The thing with PTSD is that you can think you’re well and truly rid of it, you can think that you’ve managed to unwrap yourself from its icy, black grip, and then one day, you find yourself surrounded by dozens of unpaired socks, in a darkened room, thinking about all the things you need to do before you die.

After I had Sausage and it all went wrong, that was the first time the PTSD hit me. Everything that was written in stone, AKA: The Birth Plan, had gone completely and utterly tits up, leaving me (the perennial control freak) feeling utterly out of control. I had premonitions of death and destruction and it took me a long time to consider myself ‘back to normal’.

Who am I kidding? I don’t think you can ever be normal again after contemplating the mortality of your newborn child. Sausage’s birth changed both Husband and I indelibly.

However, I thought I’d got to a stage where I’d managed to get my head around everything, deal with it all, sort it into neat little piles and tidy it away into the sorting system inside my brain. Getting pregnant again, or being able to even contemplate having another child, was in no small part down to feeling like I’d finally shaken off the last of the trauma. But here I was, frantically pairing socks.

The house has been in dire need of a spring clean for ages and despite Husband offering on more than one occasion to pitch in and help, I’ve stubbornly refused to loosen my grip on the domestic side of our lives. Today, I plunged in and finally made some progress with the sorting and tidying, but while I was doing it, I felt those familiar thoughts creeping back in, hence the pile of socks. It occurred to me that if something were to happen – if the worst were to happen – while I’m having the baby, Husband might not be able to find a pair of socks for Sausage if they weren’t paired up properly.

Once those thoughts start creeping in, its very hard to stem the flow and before I knew it I was in full-on panic mode. My train of thought was something like this:

“Sausage likes having her hair in a French plait…I must teach Husband to do a French plait…I wonder if I can find a YouTube tutorial teaching him how to do it?…I need to write letters for Sausage to open on her 18th birthday and her wedding day…where did I put the manual for the new washing machine? Husband’s going to need that…what’s a living will? I wonder if I need to write one?…” And so on and so forth.

Last time, I spent the whole pregnancy convinced that the birth was going to go badly wrong, and ultimately it did. This time, I’ve been so consumed by all of the other things that have been going on that I’ve managed to keep it all at bay, but now I feel like I’m losing the battle against my own brain. I’ve got 5 weeks of this pregnancy left and I need to do my best to remain calm, not just for me but for the sake of the baby, and Husband and Sausage, but its not as simple as just knowing that I need to.

The shock of feeling that way again has almost doubled the effect. When you think you’ve got a handle on something like this, catching yourself having the same thoughts all over again is like being punched in the gut. That fucking pile of socks was my Everest and I needed to get it sorted, otherwise everything would go wrong. Its hard to explain how anxious a pile of odd socks can make you feel, but it was just a small part of all the things that I wouldn’t be here to do if my worst fears were confirmed.

The logical part of my brain knows that this birth will be totally different to the last. A planned c-section is a world away from the drama of an emergency procedure where mother and baby are in distress; so why can’t I get the logical part of my brain filter that information down to the bit that is convinced I’ll never make it out of that operating theatre?

I should have known this was creeping up on me – I’ve been an emotional wreck for the last few days and I’ve just put it down to hormones, but maybe its a bit more than that. I’d love to think that my new obsession with Sausage’s socks is just nesting, but it feels far more bleak than that. All I know is, I CANNOT allow myself to slide back to the place where I had to get off the bus 5 stops early because I was so convinced that it was going to crash.

I need to rebuild my outer shell and not let the blackness wrap itself around me again.

Learning to Tell the Time

When I was little, I was pretty capable when it came to most things. I had great verbal reasoning and could catch on to most concepts with minimal effort (if only it were so easy as an adult!) but the one thing that I remember struggling with was telling the time. I lived with my Grandparents when I was 5 and they had this little clock on top of their telly, a proper 1970′s marvel with an oblong-shaped face and no numbers, plus the classic orange second hand that all clocks seemed to have when I was a kid, and I remember spending what seemed like ages staring at that clock with my Grandad trying to explain 20-past and 10-to, to me.

My Nan used to do this thing, I don’t know if it’s just a Southern idiom, or a London thing specifically, but she didn’t say ‘twenty-five past’, she said ‘five and twenty past’ – I used to find it really funny as it reminded me of the nursery rhyme where they say “four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie”.

Anyway, the time has come where Sausage needs to learn to tell the time and the best way for her to do this is to wear a watch, so we’ve been shopping around, trying to find one which would be good for her. So far, our favourite comes from The Watch Hut:

The Watch Shop

This ICE watch looks like it’d be really sturdy, but it’s still very pretty and the numbers are bright and easy to read. Sausage will absolutely love it and it’s something that she won’t outgrow in a hurry. We love being able to teach Sausage new things, and watch her absorbing and using her new life-skills. Telling the time is one of those things that seems so simple and second-nature to an adult, but is actually really important to know, so we’re intent on providing her with the right tools to do it.

What do you think of our choice? What would you choose, if you were us?

If you need any help with teaching your kids to tell the time, there are some great resources below which are full of great tips and advice:

The Guardian

Kids Activities Blog

Here’s an Android App which is very useful

And one for iOS

Becoming a Mother #LifeisReborn

When I was pregnant with Sausage, I had a million doubts going through my mind. I was terrified that something would go wrong during labour and that I’d never get to meet her, or that I’d be a useless mother, unable to sense what she needed, when she needed it. When she was eventually born and had to go into NICU, it felt like the world had stopped spinning. Being unable to hold my baby until she was a week old was agonising and watching doctors and nurses doing all the things for her that I wanted to be able to, like feeding and bathing, gave me actual physical pain.

On the day that she was allowed to come home, she had to have a load of tests before we could take her, one of which was a blood test. I’m hugely squeamish and was about to leave the room so that the nurse could go about her business, but something stopped me. I looked at my baby and I knew that, regardless of how queasy the sight of blood made me, she needed me and that was more important than anything. I think that was the moment I realised I’d really become a mother. I held Sausage tightly while her blood was being taken and I knew that I’d never, ever let her go through anything painful or traumatic by herself. Ever.

Now that I’m pregnant again, I’ve no doubt that Sausage is going to be an amazing big sister, in fact she’s already an amazing big sister. She kisses and cuddles my tummy, she sings and talks to her little sister and even rubs stretch mark cream into my growing bump for me, which is even better when her baby sister is wriggling around and she can feel her moving. Husband and I have done our best to include her in every step of the pregnancy, taking her along to all of the scans and talking to her about what life will be like once the baby arrives. She’s already exceeded our expectations in terms of how wonderful she’s been and I cannot wait to see how my big girl takes to being a big sister.

My Husband became a parent even before I did. He was left standing in a hospital, ashen faced, while I got rushed into surgery, unsure of whether Sausage and I would be okay at the end of everything and I literally don’t think he’s stopped worrying about either of us since that moment. I was under anaesthetic and unaware of everything that had happened until the next day, while he was sent home with a grainy Polaroid of Sausage in her incubator and told to come back the next day. He’s an incredible Dad, someone I’m SO  proud to call the father to my children and I don’t think I’d be half the parent I am today without him on my team.

The folks at Johnson Baby have produced a gorgeous advert about what happens when a baby is born, which you can see here:

I think the advert well and truly hits the nail on the head and it’s reminded me of all of the wonderful (and worrying!) things that we’ve got to look forward to, when the three of us become four of us (and not forgetting Chuck!). I think I speak for all of us when I say that I cannot wait!

Johnsons Baby have sent me a hamper of products in exchange for this post

Should We LET Our Kids Win?

Should We Let Our Kids WinSausage is getting to an age where games have become more competitive – tea parties and dollies are becoming a thing of the past and SingStar and Kerplunk are far more her cup of tea. I have to say, she’s flippin’ awesome at SingStar; the kid has a serious set of pipes on her, to the point that we’re thinking about taking her for formal singing lessons, but our recent spate of boardgame playing has made me wonder – should we let her win more?

It’s got to be said, I’m a ridiculously competitive person. I relish winning a stupid amount and I’ve been known to compose victory songs and dances erm, gloat to a rather irritating degree. Husband is one of those people who’s annoyingly good at everything though, especially general knowledge, so I definitely married my match and I rarely beat him at things. The feeling is winning is intoxicating to me; perhaps its a sad reflection of my need for approval, I don’t know.

The thing is, Sausage is very bright and very capable, but she doesn’t win all the time because she’s usually playing against two adults. So, should we let her win at things? For me, someone else letting me win would be a truly hollow victory, but I’m a grown up. My worry is that she’ll become demoralised by losing too often and won’t want to take part in things any more. I remember how frustrating it was as a child when I’d play Trivial Pursuit against a load of adults and never win, but I also remember my Nan, bless her heart, deliberately throwing easy questions that I knew she’d know, because she didn’t want to beat me and feeling cross about her thinking I needed her help to win.

I also worry that if we do let her win things, she’ll never learn to win on her own steam. I may be a gloater, but if I win it’s because I’ve earned it and I feel proud of myself for doing so. But I also feel like a massive bitch when I beat her at things, like I should be being kinder to her.

I’m not a fan of the namby-pamby, ‘everyone wins’ crap that they seem to do at sports day and kids’ events nowadays. The fact of the matter is, the world is a competitive place and our kids will never be successful if we don’t teach them that dog-eat-dog attitude early on. Competition is healthy because as well as teaching them that they have to work and strive if they want to win, it also teaches them to manage disappointment effectively, to pick yourself up and dust yourself off if you aren’t successful. I don’t want my daughter to be part of a generation of kids who are so mollycoddled that they don’t even know how to assert themselves, but I also don’t want her to lose the will to try.

Tricky, isn’t it?!

So, tell me readers, what do you do? Should we be building their confidence by allowing them to win, or is that type of false-affirmation more damaging than losing? I’d love to know how you manage it.

Carry On Regardless (or: Life With a Newborn)

baby in cinemaI’m not going to lie; while I’m really excited about our imminent (yep, less than 8 weeks left now!) arrival, I’m also apprehensive about what it means for our lives. There are lots of things that we enjoy doing, as a family of three, that I’m concerned won’t be able to continue as a family of 4. For instance, we tend to take Sausage to the cinema quite regularly, especially if there’s a new kids film out, but I’m not sure how a newborn would fit into that scenario?

The cinema we go to is a small, independent theatre with fewer seats per screen and early morning showings (it’s also not as loud as a lot of cinemas seem to be, either), so in theory I’m hoping that I can wear the baby in a sling and try to time showings between feeds, that way if she gets fussy during a film, I can simply walk outside with her and try to settle her without disturbing other film-goers. I know some theatres do baby-friendly showings, but I don’t think there are any near us.

Sausage and I like to go swimming together occasionally too, and our pool has strict ratios of how many kids per adult there are. I’m hoping that Sausage will see taking her baby sister as a fun thing, not an interruption of Mummy/Sausage time, although obviously there’ll be times that Husband is able to take care of the baby whilst Sausage and I go for a dip.

I’m also getting pre-emptive guilt about taking Sausage to school and having the baby at home with me. I know I’m being irrational; Sausage had her time at home with us and was lucky enough to have both parents working from home during that time, so a LOT of quality was spent together during those years, but she still struggles on occasion with being left at school while her Dad and I are at home and I’m worried that knowing her sister will be here with us too will make her feel worse or isolate her somehow.

I know it’s totally normal to have all of these worries and, in a way, I’m glad I’m thinking about everything now so that I can be marginally more prepared if these situations arise. However, I most certainly don’t have any answers at this precise moment and it’s causing horrible anxiety levels ahead of my due date.

I’m pretty certain that Sausage is going to WOW us all and just be totally amazing about everything, in that way that she always is, showing her usual levels of patience and understanding. The age gap is both a blessing and a curse – Sausage is old enough to understand everything that’s going on and has been as involved as possible in the pregnancy, coming to scan appointments, helping me to rub cocoa butter into my bump and feeling her sister moving around. But she’s also old enough to feel pushed out when Mummy has to spend her time doing baby-related things, and that’s what’s worrying me.

So, do any of my readers have a 5 and a half year age gap (or more)? Is it possible to continue doing normal family activities with a newborn or am I going to have to compromise on certain things? And is there a good way to make sure Sausage and I don’t lose our special bond? All advice is muchly appreciated.

Pregnancy Hormones: Diary of an Unhinged Fatty

onedoesnotsimplyI’m almost 25 weeks gone now and the last few days have brought a new development in my pregnancy.

I’ve turned into an emotional wreck.

Okay, so anyone who knows me well enough will know that I’m not exactly the most…stable person at the best of times, but this is like some whole new level of emotional turbulence. Let me give you an example: yesterday, Husband and I were standing at the queue in Waitrose and there was a man, probably in his late seventies or early eighties, in front of us waiting to be served. The contents of his basket were a single serve apple crumble and a Radio Times. Upon seeing the loneliest collection of items ever, I proceeded to burst into tears in the middle of the supermarket. The thought of this poor old man, sitting alone with only the TV for company, eating his apple crumble made my heart hurt. I felt terrible for crying, though I’m pretty sure he didn’t see my woeful sobbing, but I just couldn’t help it.

It’s not just sadness that gets me, either. I’ve written before about how people’s lack of manners gets to me, especially when driving, but that seems to have escalated now too. I gave way to three people in a row the other day, two of whom failed to thank me, and I felt so cross about their ignorance that I could feel my pulse in my fingers. I sat in my car thinking (amongst plenty of words beginning with ‘f’ and ‘c’ that I won’t write here…) that I genuinely hoped every single one of those people tripped on their seatbelt on the way out of their cars and knocked their front teeth out. I was SEETHING.

As I said, I’m not exactly a measured person at the best of times – I’m a bit of a match-head (can I blame my ginger genes for that? They do say redheads are more fiery and my Dad is as red and fiery as they come!) and do tend to react before I properly absorb a situation, but it’s like that side of my personality had been amplified by a thousand times.  I keep thinking of that quote from Fight Club…”I am Jack’s raging bile duct”

I’m fairly sure it’s the pregnancy hormones doing it to me, and they aren’t going away any time soon – I’ve got 13 weeks left of being a human incubator, so I’m guessing there’s going to be plenty more tears and rage between now and the end of February.

If anyone has any tips with how I can ride this roller-coaster without losing my mind completely, I’d be really grateful for the advice. And do me a favour, don’t suggest “The Little Book of Calm”; my love of Black Books has rendered me terrified of tiny tomes.

“Before 24 Weeks”

I’ve blogged before about being pregnant with diabetes and one of the implications of this is that I need to travel to London to have a foetal cardiology scan, to check that the baby’s heart is developing properly. Various scheduling issues have come up, mostly to do with the fact that St. Thomas’ appointment plan means I have to be in London either at the crack of dawn or just before the afternoon rush hour, making travel tricky. We had an appointment planned for the Thursday in half term, but decided to postpone it as the idea of dragging Sausage to London during half term, on Halloween no less, then trying to get her home on the tube during work-kicking-out time just didn’t appeal, especially as she’s not a huge fan of stairs, having lived in a bungalow her whole life.

When I called St. Thomas’ to change the appointment the lady on the other end of the phone started to make the appointment she stopped and said “Oh, wait, how far gone are you? How far gone will you be on the 18th?”. We worked out that I’d be 23+6 on the day of the scan, but the lady at the end seemed unsatisfied with my answer. She said “We like to have these things done, you know, before 24 weeks”. At first, her subtext didn’t penetrate my thick skull, but after I put the phone down, it hit me like a ton of bricks.

“Before 24 weeks” was her way of telling me that I needed to have the scan done in time to be within the legal limit for abortion, should there me any major issues with the cardiac scan.

I was told about the scan weeks ago and until now, I’d viewed it as a bit of an embuggerance because of the London factor, not something that would be a deciding factor in whether the pregnancy should be allowed to continue. It had never occurred to me that this could be a life or death situation.

Husband and I are pragmatic enough to have had discussions in the past about ‘worst case scenario’ situations, agreeing that we wouldn’t feel right about bringing a child into the world if we knew they’d have a severe disability which would leave them ill or in pain for the rest of their lives. It would be selfish of us to put our sadness at losing a child above the quality of life of another human being and I strongly feel that it’s our responsibility as parents to bear the brunt of this decision.

Having said that, the thought of getting this far in a pregnancy and having to terminate made me feel sick with anxiety. We already knew that our child is a little girl, we’d discussed names and even bought her her first item of clothing. She’s a person to us, not just a blob on a screen and we were seriously struggling with the idea that we may have to end her life.

I’m a strong believer in choice, not just for women but for humans in general, and I believe strongly also in a woman’s right to abortion, so I’m not objecting to termination on any sort of moral level, but this is a life that we intentionally created, a life that we already love.

Last Saturday, we had a nice lazy morning, spent lounging around the house, and the three of us (plus Chuck) sat on the bed for about an hour, playing music to my bump, waiting to see what sounds the baby would react to. As it turns out, she’s a huge fan of Aretha Franklin and The Beach Boys, as well as her big sister’s voice, and Sausage felt her move for the first time. It was amazing but almost added to the anxiety and sadness that I was feeling ahead of my appointment.

Yesterday, I travelled to London to have the foetal cardiology scan done, and I’m delighted to say that, in the words of the consultant who scanned me, “the baby’s heart is perfect”. Today, I’m 24 weeks pregnant and I finally feel like I can start to enjoy the pregnancy, knowing that we’ve had all of the major tests completed and everything is hunky dory at this point, but it’s been a tough few weeks up until now. I don’t know what I would have done without my Husband, who’s been a rock during this time, soothing my anxiety and wiping my tears when I needed him to, as well as my group of EPIC online friends (they know who they are) who’ve provided me with support from all over the globe.

Today, at 24 weeks pregnant, I feel very blessed.

Life After Birth

One of the things that I’m preparing for already is recovering from my c-section, once the baby is born. Last time, I was in my early 20′s (young enough to bounce back with little effort!) and having Sausage in the neo-natal intensive care unit meant that I was backwards and forwards to the hospital and healing just kid of happened because it had to. I was so single minded about being there for Sausage that everything else took care of itself, something for which I’m really grateful.

This time, I’ll be almost 30 when the baby is born, I’m hoping to have a fairly ‘in-and-out’ hospital stay as my c-section will be planned and I’ll be home and caring for a baby (plus Sausage) in no time. Also, my SPD is worse this time around, as is my back pain, so my ‘changing mat on the floor’ method of dealing with Sausage’s nappies just won’t work! That’s why I’m going to be investing in one of these (from Childrens Bed Shop):

changing unit

As well as giving us some much-needed storage for the new babies’ things, the top is a changing unit,  which means I won’t need to bend too much when I’m changing her nappies. I can keep the top drawer stocked with nappies, wipes, cotton wool, Sudocrem and all the other things I’ll need for keeping her clean and dry, and it’ll save me scrabbling around trying to do it on the floor.

Changing units are also great for after the bath, and I’m a huge fan of baby massage, so I will definitely be using this to lay my new daughter on after her bath to give her some soothing rubs before bedtime. Sausage suffered terribly with constipation as a baby and baby massage is the only thing that helped, so it’s something I’m planning to do from the offset this time.

Once they both get older, we may even think about Steen children’s bunk beds, but that’s a long way in the future for now!

Do you have any tips for me on how I can manage with a baby, a five year old and a second c-section wound? I’d love to hear them!

A Step Towards Independence (Or: A Shift in Our Relationship)

alone-cute-girl-independent-little-reason-to-smile-Favim.com-327012

Being pregnant has been infinitely more pleasant this time around. People keep telling me how well I look and I have to check to see if they’re talking to someone else, so used am I to being ill, pallid and drawn when up the duff. I never thought I’d be the sort of person who would wear pregnancy well, so to look in the mirror and see my skin and hair looking so healthy, colour in my cheeks (but not too much; my rosacea is better than its ever been) and none of my extremities resembling those of the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters is a real treat.

However, pregnancy is already affecting both Sausage and I in other ways.

BP (Before Pregnancy), I loved nothing more than being able to pick my girl up and give her a cuddle. I can’t do that now – obviously, I shouldn’t be lifting heavy things, but my back and pelvis simply wouldn’t allow me to at the moment anyway. Sure, I can still snuggle with her on the sofa, or bend down for a hug, but it’s not the same.

In a similar vein, I’m no longer able to lift Sausage out of the shower anymore. Our shower is an over-the-bath one and BP, I’d wrap Sausage in a towel and lift her out. A recent trip to Ikea and one step-stool later, Sausage is now able to step in and out for herself and while I’m proud of her for being so willing to embrace independence, I feel sad that it’s something that she can no longer rely on me for.

We want Sausage to be fully involved with this pregnancy and everything else, which is one of the reasons that she’s attended all of my scans so far, and Husband and I have spent the last few months telling her all of the ways in which she’ll be able to help her little sister when she comes along, but I’ve become really conscious of the prospect of forcing her to grow up too much.

I’m also concerned that it will affect our relationship in a more general sense. She’s already started going to Husband for things that she’d normally come to me for (although, she’s very close to her Dad anyway and is lucky to have him working from home) and if I’m preoccupied with a baby, I can only see this getting worse. I cherish my relationship with Sausage, as any mother does, and the thought of it changing irreparably is a real concern.

All I know is, by the time the baby is born and I’ve recovered fully from my c-section, it will be almost a year since I’ve been able to pick her up and although I’m so happy about adding to our family, it does make me a little sad that I’ll have missed out on that interaction with her. I guess it’s normal to be having these thoughts and this is just one of many changes that are inevitable when you have more than one child, especially when there’s a five and a half year age gap, but I’m just so not ready for Sausage to no longer rely on me.

So, dear readers, any of your usual words of advice? As usual, it would be much appreciated.

Sausage the Super Nerd!

Commissioned Post

super nerdSince Sausage has been back at school, there’s no doubt that she’s 100% happier in her new class. The work seems to be engaging her on a whole new level, she’s powering through the reading books and I think is probably almost ready to move up to Level 5 of the Oxford Reading Tree, which shows that she’s made great progress since moving up to Level 4 at the end of the last school year. She had her first spellings test last week and got 10 out of 10, which made her Dad and I unbelievably proud! We love the fact that she’s achieving at such a high level and are very happy to welcome another nerd into the family, a label which her Dad and I have been given on more than one occasion!

Sausage seems to have a real thirst for knowledge – I’ve never known a kid to be so keen to do homework every night! Her school provides her with a subscription to EducationCity, which is a site that she can log on to, learn at her curriculum level and then complete tests on the subjects. The site monitors her individual progress and reports back to her teacher so that the school can see how she’s getting on. I think it’s a brilliant idea and anything which keeps her engaged in that way can only be positive.

However, Sausage is really lucky that not only does she have her own laptop, but we have a high-speed broadband connection at home. I can imagine that it would be really tricky for anyone who doesn’t have those resources and I feel really sorry for the kids who aren’t able to get involved with extra-curricular learning because their parents aren’t in a position to provide them with such things.

These days, we tend to view the internet as an ‘essential’, in the way that landlines were when I was a kid. Many of my generation didn’t get PCs until they were much older and having the internet at home usually meant dragging a phone cable across the house and waiting an eternity for dial-up. There’s no denying that the internet has made things a whole lot easier, as has the advancement of technology. Being a blogger and all-round information junkie, I’ve likened being without the internet to feeling like my arm has been cut off – it’s obviously a rather extreme analogy, but knowing that I can look up just about anything that I ever need to know is a great feeling.

It’s not just homework either – Sausage now has her own Nook, which means we can buy and download books from the ‘net. When I was a kid, if you wanted a book, you had to go to the shop and buy it, whereas now if Sausage has a hankering for a new Roald Dahl at bedtime, we can have in in our hands in under 5 minutes, all thanks to the internet.

So, what are your feelings towards kids and the internet? Do you think it benefits children and their education in the long term or do you keep your kids away from the world wide web and wish things were still like they were when you were little? I’d love to know.