A Mother’s Guide to a Good Bribe

“I’ll let you watch Finding Nemo for the 3rd time today if you eat your tea”

Bribery – a bargaining tool, a godsend or a self-inflicting torture device. No matter what age your child is, undoubtedly at some point, bribery will be your only gameplan.
Over the past two years, bribery has featured heavily in my mothering techniques. At times, I’ve immediately regretted this decision. At others, I’ve been incredibly grateful for such winning little tricks.

As awesome as a bribe may be, there’s a definite dark side. A bribe can be a gamble – it’ll either pay off dividends or cause you so much more hassle in the long run.

With that in mind, here’s five tips to the good bribe.

1) Be Consistent

With most toddlers, consistency is paramount…when it comes to discipline, rewards and bribery! Your toddler will suss out pretty quickly whether it’s worth taking the bait. If he or she feels as though your bribes are flakey, they’ll be less likely to see the advantage of taking it. Never offer a bribe which you have no intention of honouring. Remember the boy who cried wolf? Well, when the wolf arrived no-one took him seriously and this is exactly what will happen. The one time you need your child to accept a bribe, they’ll be thinking ‘yeah right, you said that last time and I’m still waiting for a month’s supply of Milky Bar’. 

Not my finest bribe “Finish your tea and I’ll let you have a chocolate pot”

This brings me nicely to my next point.

2). Don’t make unrealistic bribes

A bribe is a delicious little gift to help you through your day with more ease…or silence. It’s main purpose is to aid you not hinder you. If you offer unrealistic bribes, you may be at risk of making more work for yourself. For instance, don’t offer a bribe which will cost you money, time or patience. Be resourceful! If you suggest to your child that you’ll take them to the park for a run around, this could be a lovely concept but have you time today to fulfil this? Were you intending on taking them already or did you have other plans that you’ll now need to change? If so, you haven’t won…you’ve definitely lost the battle however sweet the victory felt when the bait was bitten. 

“We’ll take you to Beamish if you put your shoes on real quick” score – we were going anyway
 
3). Choose your bribes wisely

A packet of crisps may not be part of a stable diet but without doubt, they are adored by toddlers all over the world. Personally, I’d rather offer crisps as a bribe over chocolate or cake. In saying that, some crisps are not worth the bother. Take a Cheesy Wotsit, the golden puffs of wheat can be a delicious treat but the residue they leave behind will stain everything in their path. A pombear will fulfil the brief without half the mess. Fruit can be an even better offering (especially if you’re luckier to have one of those delightful souls who enjoy it) but once again, choose fruits which are self efficient and easy to prepare. 

The banana – little mess, cheap and full of goodness

4). Time your bribes 

Picture this, it’s a Saturday morning. You’ve been up since 5 am and just want five minutes peace and quiet. It feels like the ideal time to thrash out the promise of a Disney film. You’ll be able to recuperate and even enjoy a warm cup of tea…but are you desperate? Dropping the bribe too soon could be detrimental in the  long run. Wait until you’re completely flagging, that way, it will feel ever more sweet. Mainly, my bribes are timed with deadlines ‘if you get in your car seat, I’ll put the nursery rhymes on for you’ is one I use religiously when in a rush to get out of the house. Bribes have saved my not-so-little behind on several occasions when tardiness isn’t an option.

“One chocolate but then you have to go straight to bed”

My last piece of advice is:

5). Don’t rely heavily on bribery.

Yes, bribery done well is an absolute art form but overusing it can devalue the impact. Utilise bribery in a way which asserts your power and control over your child. Relying too heavily on bribes will reveal a weakness to your toddler and let’s face it, toddlers are like a pack of wolves, they sniff out weakness and use it to their own seedy advantage. They’ll become expectant of a bribe and will eventually learn to play you at your own game. We are all owned by our children – bribery is our one chance to have the upper hand.


I can’t promise that following these tips will transform your journey but I’m pretty sure they’ll help conquer bribery to a tremendous degree.

Enjoy and bribe well xx


Like my blogs? You’ll also find me on Facebook at ARTventurers Durham

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You’re Ready

  

  
Okay Dolly, here it is; I’m sorry but I’m putting and end to my ‘no rush’ policy. I warned you a while back that it wasn’t working for me any longer. Well,  I can now see that it’s no longer working for you either.

I have to admit, you’re not a baby any longer. You’re not my delicate, tiny, premature baby any more – you’re my ferocious, determined, joyful toddler! 

Somewhere within the past two months, you’ve flourished. Somewhere within the past two months, you’ve decided that you’re ready.

I wish I could take the credit. I’d love nothing more that to say ‘yes, she finally listened to my pleas’ but I can’t deny, your inner-strength definitely had something to do with it.

You see, two months ago, we were told you had cerebral palsy. One dismal afternoon, we headed to an appointment with a bone specialist. You’d been diagnosed with spastic hips and we’d been informed that you’d most likely require hip surgery. In comparison to the heart surgery you’ll undoubtedly require, this seemed nothing. I headed out that morning excited for answers, giddy about having a plan to move you forward. 

It didn’t go to plan.

The specialist examined you within minutes. His hasty approach made me feel even more relaxed – I believed it must have been simple. Eventually, I felt as though something had transitioned smoothly. I sat confidently awaiting his diagnosis, convinced he’d agree that you could be fixed so easily.

I should have known, noting is ever as easy as it seems.

‘Siena’s problems aren’t physical, they’re neurological’ he brazenly uttered. To him, this revelation wasn’t anything new. It didn’t appear daunting or unusual. To me, it instilled fear right into the core of my being. It paralysed me momentarily. I wanted to vomit.

I don’t know why my reaction was so strong; we’d known that there was undoubtedly going to be some backlash from the bleed on your brain at birth. However, for seventeen months, it had been so easy to convince ourselves that these would be minimal. 

  
Especially at the start! You’d met most milestones easily within your adjusted timescale. Doctors had been pleased with your development, we’d marvelled at your tenacity and prevailance. Other than your size, you competed with your friends. You were eager to be a part of the game.

At nine months, we registered that your physical developments were slowing. You couldn’t roll, couldn’t sit, couldn’t maintain neck muscles for a prelonged period of time. ‘She’ll do it when she’s ready’ we’d repeated – half convincing others, half convincing ourselves. However, internally I knew something wasn’t right. At your nine month check up, I insisted on physio. Luckily, your paediatrician took little persuading. He sensed it too, he recognised you needed help.

At seventeen months, physio seemed to have changed nothing. For eight months, I tried to maintain my patient stance of not rushing you. There’d been fear of hurting you, fear of pushing you too far. Nonetheless, I’d remained desperate for you to flourish.

The diagnosis of cerebral palsy had seemed so daunting to me initially. I didn’t know what it would entail, what barriers you’d have to overcome. The notion of stepping outside of our comfort zone knocked me. I had only just adjusted to all of the other challenges you’d thrown our way.

  
Naturally, your paediatrician had wanted to explore this further. Our last meeting resulted in many more medical appointments – weekly intense physio, hydrotherapy, portage, speech therapy, an eye exam, a kidney ultrasound and scan and an MRI to be precise (hopefully, the MRI will confirm the true diagnosis of your neurological ailments). To say this was overwhelming would be dressing it down.

But, it was exactly what we needed…a plan to rush you! 

I think you sensed it, I think you understood that this was your warning to step up your gain.

  
These past two months, you’ve uncoiled. Like a young bud in the springtime, you’ve opened your petals and revealed your true beauty and strength. It has been  miraculous. 

Within two weeks of your appointment, whilst celebrating your friend’s first Birthday, you chose to sit unaided. It was as if you looked at your fellow peers and finally decided, you wanted to join the party.

Almost two months on and the transition has been impeccable. Tonight, you sat upright in the bath for the whole entirety. You held your hands out and splashed your brother playfully, you sang to the tune of ‘twinkle twinkle’. 

Your speech is developing so quickly, in a way which is no longer mimicking your brother but in a way which is meaningful. You tell us when you’re hungry, when you want juice, a dummy or bed.

I can see you pushing yourself to limits you’d once found incomprehensible and I couldn’t be more ready to push you more.

You’re nineteen months old already. Nineteen months old and still sleeping in our room. Nineteen months old and I can’t seem to part with you being by my side. Although it pains me to admit that this can’t last forever, I know that I’m reaching the point of letting you blossom.  You’ve shown a desire to be more independent and I know that this is something I must encourage, not hinder.

So, be warned Dolly, I’m relinquishing my control. Now that I know you’re ready to push yourself, that ‘no rush policy’ is limited in its existence.

I no longer worry about what your future holds. Whether your developmental issues are cerabral palsy or some other condition of your premature birth, I know we can succeed together. You’ve the power to overcome any obstacle, the passion to thrive.

I’m so proud of the charismatic, charming but boisterous little girl you’re turning into.

I can see now, you’re ready.

  

Remind Me

I know I’ve said this before but I really can’t reiterate how true it is.
Our life is bloody hard!

 
Between us both working full time jobs in stressful roles; a two year old well and truly in the grasp of ‘terrible-twohood’; a premature daughter who loves to keep our anxiety levels up and the most erratic border collie to have ever existed…it’s mental.

We struggle to find time for the ‘mundane’.So, finding time for the ‘exciting’ just doesn’t stand a chance. Most nights, we manage to spend the grand total of twenty minutes in each other’s company before you fall asleep on the settee and, well, most of that is also usually dominated with me working from my phone.
It’s not a case of no longer loving each other. It’s a case that we just sometimes forget to show it. It’s too easy at 9pm on a Thursday night to slog at separate ends of the room, tranced by the hindsight of a hard day and a manic evening. It’s too easy to sit numbly in front of the TV avoiding eye contact for fear of small talk that you no longer have the energy to pursue. It’s too easy to climb into bed an hour later and immediately adopt your fail safe sleeping position without a good night kiss. It’s too easy to let life pass us by. 

  
Our relationship has become that of a ‘working’ one. Our exchanges are predominantly business negotiations (who is cleaning whist the other one cooks? Which one of us will bath the babies whilst the other one irons?). The times we talk through the day are mainly opportunities to swap notes – Siena has needed her inhaler, Tristan had eaten well. The question of how one’s day is going never enters the equation. I’m not blaming you here, we’re both equally as guilty. 

  
Nevertheless, sometimes it hurts.

Being the oversensitive soul you’ve become to resent me for, I can’t help but take some things personally. It’s easy for me to convince myself that you no longer love me. That you no longer care about my dreams and ambitions, thoughts or emotions. It’s far too easy for me to believe that our relationship has lost its passion.
But this weekend has reminded me it hasn’t. 

We very rarely treat ourselves to some adult alone time. Our weekends are centred around finding a means of entertaining two toddlers. We no longer laugh together, no longer focus just on us.  

  
But this weekend has been exactly that! We escaped for not one, two nights! An entire weekend in each other’s company. No excuses to ignore each other. No excuses to avoid intimacy.
I’m not saying we spent the weekend locked in a loving embrace. No, we’re more than past that honeymoon stage. I mean, it was cluttered with small tender moments which reminded me that you love me.

The moments you instinctively held my hand as we strolled through market stalls, the moments you offered me your jacket because you noticed I was cold…those moments meant so much. Tiny and insignificant they may be but warming and reassuring they are, also.

Most importantly, we’ve laughed together. Your laughter was always something I loved about you so intensely. When we met, you were incredibly light-hearted. You found laughter in every situation. Recently, it’s a noise I often forget you’re capable of making. I don’t think that it’s because you’re unhappy, I just think it’s because you’re too suppressed by your hectic routine. And that’s fine.

I’m not asking that we promptly plan to change our ways. I’m not even suggesting that we need to. Our lives are busy and incredibly hard but we’re not failing. We are dedicated to our children, still dedicated to each other. Our business negotiations are working for us at the minute and as our children grow, I’m sure life will become easier.

No doubt, there’ll come a time when we can unguiltily centre nights/weekends on each other without fear of abandoning our brood. However, until that time arrives, I am asking…can we have more weekends like this one? Can we take time to hold hands when our hands are free for each other? Can we make a date to laugh with each other again soon?

Can we remind each other of how awesome our relationship really is?

  

I Could No Longer See You

  
You scared me today; scared me more than I’ve felt since the day your sister arrived nine weeks prem. You scared me intensely, deeply, painfully.
You made me recognise every Mother’s worst nightmare, presented me with how it would feel to go on living life without you.
You wandered off…in a crowd…where I could no longer see you.

  
It happened so quickly, my eyes left you for a brief moment to attend to your sister. There were four adults amongst the party, I stupidly assumed someone else would be watching you. As it happens, they weren’t. We weren’t. 
“Where’s Tristan?” I asked, trying not to jump to conclusions. In the end, the conclusion was drawn that you were no longer in sight.
I can honestly say, in that moment, my heart stopped. There was no longer time to hide my panic, there was no time to figure which direction you’d wandered into. 
Instinctively, I ran. I ran and I screamed and I screamed and my heart pounded and I fought back the tears. 
I bellowed from the very pit of my stomach. I chanted rhythmically “Tristan, Tristan” but you didn’t answer.

 
A few moments felt like a lifetime. I found myself in the centre of a freeze-frame, only I was moving. I looked around at the passers by whom appeared to be standing still in time. ‘Why aren’t they helping? Why hasn’t anyone seen you?’ I thought, angrily. 
My mind was cluttered with images I didn’t want to see, thoughts I’d do anything to avoid. Had you been taken? Had someone had the chance to snatch you? You’re insanely beautiful (and not even from a biased view), I can imagine that would make you a prime target. Had you fallen? We were standing on a walkway beside a penguin enclosure, had you tried to climb in?
Either way, I was imagining the worst possible thoughts. Was I going to find you injured or worse? Was I never going to find you? My heart hurt with such vivid and intense pain. A TV programme popped into my head – a man had been at a Football match with his son, he’d left go of his hand for a second to chant at a goal. The boy had wandered off, was never found. I pictured poor Madeline McCann and how her parents must have felt (if innocent) upon discovering her abduction. I thought of James Bulger and how easily he’d been led astray. This could have been our future, this very easily could have been our reality.
Thankfully, it wasn’t.
By the time I’d raced back to my starting point, you were snuggled tightly into the chest of your Grandad. His face was that of relief, delight. He’d found you chasing after two small boys. They were racing and you’d been eager to join in.
I was so mad at you. I was so mad at myself! But I couldn’t show it or express it. I wanted to grab you, wrap my arms tightly around you and never let you go. I wanted to kiss you repeatedly and feel your warm breath on my ear as I cuddled you. I wanted to cry. I wanted to cry with joy and gratification but also for all the Mothers who had found them self in such a harrowing situation. 

  
I felt shit. Utterly shit.
I’m your Mother, I should have never let you out of my sight, regardless of who else I was with. I need to have tighter control of you, I need you to learn that you can’t follow strangers.
One thing’s for sure, I can NEVER feel that way again. So I’m sorry Son, that sheer desire for freedom you have, it’s not working for me. From now on, you’re never leaving my side.

  

Heartbreaker, You’ve Got the Best of Me.

  
You broke my heart today; you made it ache. I wish I could say that this was an isolated occasion but you break it more the older you become. 
You’re only two – how can I blame you for such anguish and pain? How can I say you’re the cause of such hurt?

I know that two is typically an age of change and unrest. You’re developing quicker than your mind can handle. You’re advancing so fast but this leaves you conflicted and confused. 
You WANT to be able to do things. You somehow seem to think you know best – it’s suddenly became about ‘your way’ or no-one else’s. You can’t handle us telling you otherwise. You despise the concept of control. I can no longer expect you to sit in a highchair, the gate on your door represents entrapment and boundaries. Boundaries you’re eager to explore. 
I had naively thought that the whole ‘body launching’ off the floor was just a Media depiction created for comedy value. As it happens, that stage is very much real…and not funny in the slightest. Today, you’ve thrown yourself towards every surface you’ve encountered – including the floor of a particularly busy restaurant. You’ve left me twitching with anger, raw with embarrassment. 
You’ve climbed out of your car seat and launched yourself towards the base of the car, legs pointing towards the ceiling.
You’ve even attempted body-diving straight from the bath!
It was this last occasion which caused my heart to break. I can’t even tell you why you were crying. Most frustratingly, neither can you yet. It started as we made the ascent towards the bathroom. We bypassed the lounge and subsequently, your beloved Dinosaur Adventure. This, I assume, can be the only catalyst which kickstarted such violent tantrum-ing. You howled immediately. So much so, it was unbearable trying to remove your clothing.
Thinking the gentle lull of the bath water would soothe you, I manically tried to get you into the tub. I was convinced that as soon as the menthol bubbles caressed you, you’d fall silent. Instead, you fell face first!

  
Luckily, I was at hand to catch you but the impact caused you to bite down on your tongue. As blood smothered your face, you smothered into mine in a bid to find comfort. You no longer craved the floor but the tender embrace of my arms. I was there for you.
There to wipe away the blood, sweat and tears. There to clean up your face and kiss better your ouchies. There to reassure you that you were safe and unscathed. 
As you settled, I nursed you in my arms. Cradled you like I once had at three in the morning. I blew on your skin and whispered lullabies in your ear. As soon as I recognised you were calm and controlled, I carried you to bed.
But you didn’t want to be alone.You needed me to stay. 

  
I guiltily scampered from the room, denyingly believing you’d settle quite soon. As I bolted downstairs, I held my breath – desperate to escape the blackmail of your cry. “Leave him” your Dad barked, “he needs to cry it out” he insisted…but this is something I’m incapable of! 
Listening to the panic in your cry, I understood how much you needed me. How could I leave you pleading my name? How could I teach you that I wouldn’t be there in your most vulnerable moments?
As I entered your room, your eyes told me your pain. You were no longer a two year old but that newborn boy who was so scared of the world. I climbed in beside you and you wrapped your arms so tightly around me, petrified I’d leave again. 
I’m not going anywhere baby. I’m never going anywhere! 
Your usual desire to be free makes me worry about our future. I know there’ll come a day when you embark on your own adventure, when you’ll cast me aside for a wife or a partner. It won’t be me that you need to settle you forever. Someone else will be responsible for kissing your ouchies goodbye. That breaks my heart!
So, as I lie beside you right now, heart-broken from your tantrum, I admit that my heart aches for my little boy. I know that I’ll always be your Mother but I have to admit that mine will be the first heart you’ll ever truly break.
All I can do, is promise I’ll never break yours in return. 
When you’re older and someone dares attempt to break your heart, just remember that my arms will always be there to carry you. My neck will always be poised for you to hang from, my heart will always be filled with enough love to last you a lifetime.  

  

Ready, Steady…Eat

  
I’ve never shied away from admitting that my approach to Motherhood pre-baby was to believe everything I saw on TV. I entered Motherhood fully accepting that the Disney version was EXACTLY how it would be. 
Obviously, now I know that I’d set myself up for a harder fall.
My understanding of babies was that all they loved to do was eat, sleep and poo…and even though that wasn’t really far off the truth, I had no idea of real-life issues such as: day and night confusion, reflux, colic and constipation. Ignorantly, I expected my son to arrive in this world as a natural faeces-passing, milk guzzling sleep addict. He was none of the above!
I’ve spoken about his sleep habits before but what I haven’t mentioned is that the only way I knew to get him to sleep was with milk; detrimental as this sometimes was. 

  
Like many first time Mothers, I’d believed that breastfeeding was the only way forward. In truth, I struggled much more than I’d ever thought possible. Having suffered badly with jaundice, Tristan had been given formula much to my dismay. I hadn’t had time to research, I only knew the name of one brand! Desperately, I clung to breastfeeding with much stealth but my milk supply just was no longer enough to satisfy his newly-stretched full stomach. He’d take to my nipple but he’d instantly fall asleep. After two weeks, Tristan had lost so much body weight that the decision was made for me by the midwife – I had to swap fully to formula.
This wasn’t easy; not just because of my desire to breastfeed but because Tristan didn’t seem to like formula any more than my milk. Well, I mean, he both loved it and hated it all at the same time.
Tristan struggled to digest formula. I knew babies should posset after a feed but I didn’t know how much was normal or acceptable…so I plodded on thinking his sickness was just what happened. After most bottles, he’d vomit even up to three hour after. Sometimes this would be projectile, sometimes it would be trickle after trickle. Each time, he’d scream in pain. It was a vicious circle, he’d demand a bottle, he’d crave the soothing silky liquid then he’d cry in agony.
I recall one time, he’d cried all morning. He wanted feeding but I just didn’t know if I was doing right by giving him a bottle and inflicting more pain. Obviously, I fed him and the crying stopped…for minutes. Needing a break from the constant screech, I put him in his Moses basket and left the room. How long was I gone? Maybe minutes, maybe even only seconds but I needed it. I needed to walk away, count to ten, let the tears roll and collect my sanity. When I re-entered the room, his delicate little face was covered in a thick white substance. It was in his eyes, his eyebrows, his nose, his ears. He’d been sick and I hadn’t seen it. He could have choked and I wouldn’t have been there, I was mortified at myself! It was the last straw, I knew I needed professional help.
The Dr. Prescribed Tristan infant Gaviscon – apparently, he had reflux. He also told me to swap to ‘comfort’ milk. I did both and was so relieved that the sickness stopped almost immediately. Problem solved? If only!
The change to Tristan’s diet caused constipation. We swapped crying through reflux for crying through this instead. Equally, both were as soul-destroying as the other. Throw colic into the mix and you can imagine, life wasn’t the dream we’d been expecting. 
We put all our hopes into believing that weaning early would be the answer. So, at 4 months, we ventured into the world of ‘baby food’. It wasn’t what we’d been expecting – Tristan’s constipation became worse and he flatly refused to drink water. We were, once again, at a stage of desperation. Quitting almost as quickly as we’d started, we decided that we’d have to wait for another two months. Nerves grew worse as we approached 6 months, knowing we’d have to wean again. Would it work? I couldn’t handle seeing my baby in so much pain again.
Thankfully, He was ready! 

  
I’d love to tell you that this was the answer to our prayers but Tristan’s relationship with food has never been one I’m proud of. It’s always made me feel like a failure. I’ve spent too many nights begging him to eat, I’ve even had a few moments I’m not proud of myself. I’ve shouted, I’ve cried, I’ve forcefully held the spoon to his lips. All of which have made me feel so horrid that I’ve even lost my own appetite. I’ve tried everything, all the techniques that would usually work. The ‘you feed me and I’ll feed you’ was definitely the worst! 
There was a time that I blamed Tristan’s attitude to food on the anguish he felt when his sister arrived prematurely and poorly. It’s taken me a long time to admit that his issues were there long before his sister was born. 
As he grows older, his desire for food comes in phases. He’ll have weeks were he’s hungry, where I can feed him everything from Avacado to Zuccini (see what I did there, A-Z?). Then, there’s times when he’ll only eat sausage. As he grows older, I’m learning to feel less guilt. He’ll eat when he’s ready…

  
At the moment, he’ll only eat if I chant ‘ready, steady…Eat’. Who am I to argue with that?

  

Just F**king Sleep

Just Fucking Sleep…

  

If there’s one thing I learnt very quickly as a new Mam, it was that babies repel sleep. 
It’s just something I physically can’t bring my self to understand. Sleep is awesome. Sleep is incredible! It’s the difference between feeling grand and feeling like utter shit. It’s warm and cosy, comforting and seductive. Sleep wraps you up, cradles you and reassures you that life will be fine…so long as you bag 7 undisturbed blissful hours.

7 undisturbed blissful hours? Holy crap, I can’t remember it. Sleep and me, well we broke up two years ago. 

It’s been the hardest break-up I’ve ever endured. With most splits, time heals wounds and repairs scars but not this time, the longer we’re apart, the shittier I feel. 

It all started the day my son was born (well there’s my first lie, it probably started about 7 weeks before he was born). He entered this world allergic to sleep and let’s face it, after 15 hours of straight unintoxicated labour, I needed sleep. Our 1st night together was unbearable, he cried so much that the midwives made the decision to give us a side room ‘I think we’ll give the other new Mothers a rest’ they said. A rest? A fucking rest? What about me? 

  
It didn’t take me long to figure out that my needs really didn’t matter. I didn’t have a doll to look after, I had an actual human being…and this one hadn’t yet learnt the value of sleep.

In fact, Tristan despised sleep to begin. Our first six weeks consisted of blasting Beyonce’s ‘Drunk In Love’ on repeat until he’d settle (at least I can thank him for my extraordinary karaoke rendition). As soon as the track would end, he’d stir and wake. Our Health Visitor told us that it was likely he had his day and night confused but this just wasn’t the case. Tristan would be awake for at least 17 hours straight each day. It was hell! I bet you’ve heard that age-old tip of ‘sleep when the baby is sleeping’? It was everyone’s top tip of the day every time I moaned about being tired but how can one manage that when one’s sprog never fucking sleeps?! I had no chance.

  
I’d love to say that this phase didn’t last forever and well, I suppose it didn’t. At 8 weeks, he eventually decided that he’d attempt to sleep at night. So, having actually managed at least 4 solid hours in a row, my Husband and I celebrated in a very ‘Husband and Wife’ kind of way…and accidentally conceived our Daughter. 

Sleep was my only immediate concern. I didn’t know if I’d ever be ready to part with its soft, inviting embrace again. ‘Please let us get a sleeper’ I prayed. 

  
When Siena was unexpectedly born at 31 weeks, sleep became less of a priority. Once I was released from Hospital, Siena was still in NICU. I effectively had 5 weeks to try and catch up on sleep before she came home but I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t settle knowing a nurse was doing my duty for me. So, I set my alarm (for those times I did manage to stop fretting) and expressed every four hours. She came home sleep trained. She’d only wake every four hours for a feed then she’d slump straight back into blissful slumber, she was a dream. 

Just as I thought my love affair with sleep was about to be rekindled, teething came along and boshed all over my bloody good mood! Here I was again, pacing the floor for three hours in the middle of the night cursing my daughter to ‘just fucking sleep’. To make matters worse, her stirring would wake her Brother – just as I’d manage to settle one, the other would rear their head in a tantrum-y fashion. 

My only saving grace was ‘nap time’. If I was lucky, they’d each have at least an hour throughout the course of the day. If I was luckier, this would happen simultaneously. Yes, an opportunity to crawl into bed and hide underneath the duvet! Sometimes, it was my only chance of survival.

  
There were times, amongst the chaos, I’d wonder if I’d ever sleep peacefully again.

Now, at two-year-old, my son is actually amazing. He takes himself to bed at 7pm and very rarely stirs until 6am. His naps are lessening though – he’s a mix between wanting to nap anywhere/everywhere or refusing to sleep even though he’s ridiculously tired. My Daughter, is still a different story. 

She’s become a snuggler! This means, she’ll settle so long as she’s in my arms. Yes, I managed to untrained my sleep trained baby. How do you actually manage to do that? It has to be a colossal failure on my behalf. 

Oh well, I guess I’ll be chanting ‘just fucking sleep’ for a little while longer. 

Zzzzzzzzzzzzz

  

Just You and I

  

Do you remember the time when I was all yours? When you were all mine and the world was all ours?
Do you remember the days we’d spend completely together? Nothing could dampen our spirits, not even the weather? 
Do you remember the nights you’d sleep in my arms? No anxieties ahead of us, no need for alarms?
Do you remember the days we’d spend in the park? Out in the country until it became dark? 
Do you remember the sound of my soft lullaby? I’d sing to you every time you started to cry?
Do you remember the long savoured afternoon cuddles? Or the times we’d venture outside to go splashing in puddles?
Do you remember the moments you’d look in my eyes? It still makes me feel like I’ve won the best prize.
Do you remember the way you’d smile as you saw me? It was amazing to know that I’d made you happy?
Do you remember the times I cried out of joy? You were all that I’d dreamed of, my perfect boy.
So,
Do you remember the time when I was all yours? When you were all mine and the world was all ours?
I remember it clearly, I could never forget. You made me a Mother, something I’ll never regret.
I remember so vividly, those times, you and I. You still make me proud as life passes us by.
Your cuddles I cherish, your kisses are divine. I love you like crazy and I’m in awe that you’re mine!

  
Love you baby, your Mama xx

Lessons as a Preemie Parent

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I’ve never hidden the emotional turmoil I’ve faced as a parent in general. I’ve certainly never tried to sugarcoat the hardships I’ve experienced. Parenting is stressful. It’s hard and sometimes demoralising – yet so wonderfully fulfilling!

There’s no rehearsal, no education given, no ‘dummy run’ there to prepare you for the massive shift your life will take once your baby arrives. It’s a ‘learn on the job’ kind of role.

Life as a parent has taught me so much about myself but life as a ‘Preemie Parent’ has taught me so much more than I ever thought possible.

I’m quite certain no healthy pregnant couple ever fully comprehend what going into early labour feels like until they experience it. Labour is dramatic to begin; early labour is a theatrical performance. Only, no-one is acting. The fear is real!

At 30+6 days pregnant, I’d felt prepared for life with a tiny baby again. My son was only 9 months old, I’d just came out of the hard stage but with the remembrance of what little tricks had helped. It was going to be a breeze.

The following day, I was threw into a new position. One I knew nothing at all about – I entered the world of ‘Preemie Parenting’. The lessons I learnt within this role were harder, more challenging but also massively humbling.

So what exactly did I learn?

I’ve learnt that I am stronger than I think. Physical strength is not something you’d associate me with. I am disgustingly weak. As for mental strength, well it had never really been tested. I’d always thought I’d be useless, I’m quite emotional and can’t hide what I’m feeling in the slightest. Yet, as I peered into the isolette at the tiny baby which lay before me, I coped. I continued to cope – day by day, little by little, I listened to what the doctors had to say and I coped. The night my daughter couldn’t be stabilised, I coped. The 20 mile drive South behind my daughter as she was blue-lighted to intensive care, I coped even though there was every real chance she wouldn’t survive. Through the brain bleed, pneumothorax, heart murmur, hole in heart and many returns to the Children’s Ward, I’ve coped. I’ve coped because the strength I need is only half of what my daughter requires and she doesn’t just cope, she thrives. Premature babies have boundless strength – look no further than Tyson Fury (for all I don’t believe in his ideology, his strength is undeniable).

I’ve learnt that I should listen to good advice before dismissing it. At the time when I was focusing my entire energy on getting through each day, I didn’t have the capacity to listen to people’s advice. I was capable of recognising that the words they spoke were meant to comfort me but I didn’t have the time to ingest how important they would become. My daughter required my full attention, I didn’t want to become distracted by listening about ‘the bloke at the top of the road who was born weighing 2lb and is now 6 foot tall’. I didn’t want to know that ‘small things came in good packages’ or that she’d ‘do things in her own time’. A year on, stories of Preemies’ survivals make me beam with pride. I know that small things can be powerful and I’ve learnt first hand that there’s no rushing my daughter. The words of others often flood back to my memory whenever I start to panic. They’re often what keep me calm. If I had to do it all again, I’d take some of that good advice on board sooner.

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I’ve learnt that Siena’s NICU journey didn’t end with ‘Home Time’. Like all ‘Preemie Parents’, we were desperate to take Siena home. Naively, I thought that would be the end of our journey. I imagined that once we took her home, she’d magnificently transform into an ‘average’ child. Of course, I was wrong. For a long time, the hospital appointments, health checks and weigh-ins became routine but premature babies will never be ‘average’. They’re super heroes staring in their very own comic book. Siena has a story to tell, more chapters to write. So many of these have already featured antagonistic viruses, ailments, infections and occurring issues all linked back to her very first battle. Some have caused worry and upset, some have required time whilst others have required hospitalisation, medication, operation…all have required strength. Siena’s next chapter will be heart surgery. Once again, I find myself reminded that her journey as a Preemie isn’t quite yet over. I’ve watched my baby fight so many times already but I also know she can handle it. After all, she’s made with Preemie Power.

I’ve learnt that I’ve no desire to compete with other parents. Parenting will always be viewed as a competition for some. There’ll always be that one golden opportunity to gloat or rub salt in another Mother’s wounds when their weakness is revealed. Being a ‘Preemie Parent’ could mean you’re relegated straight to bottom league of the milestone tables, guaranteed last place in the race…but who really decides or cares? I realised early that there was no point in competing with mothers of full term babies (or any Mother to be frank) because we’re already winners. My Daughter has kicked Death’s ugly behind, I’m pretty sure that’d be defined as winning! She may develop slower that most babies. She’s at a stage where mini-milestones are regularly met but she cannot quite grasp those harder more physically demanding ones. Truthfully, there was a time that I’d let this upset me. Like all parents, I’m desperate to watch her grow and develop but I’m also thrilled with what she’s already capable of doing – breathing on her own. Maybe because I still remember the days when she wasn’t capable of doing this. Maybe because I remember the fear that she’d never breathe on her own. If it takes Siena 3 years to walk then so be it! The most important thing is that she will walk one day, who cares when it happens?

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I’ve learnt never to take my children for granted. I remember shortly after Tristan was born, feeling desperate for some sort of outlet. He wasn’t an easy baby. He cried hysterically for hours upon end. He demanded feeding every hour or two yet couldn’t tolerate his milk which left him pained and unsatisfied. There were times at 3am that I could have packed a bag, left the house and checked into a mental asylum. I moaned about the night feeds and the constant request for my attention. Then, early labour taught me how it would feel to lose a child. The fear moved the very core of me. Siena could have died. Knowing and realising the full extent of the pain that would cause, I transferred those emotions to Tristan. I realised that every day was important, every feed could be the last. Not because I’d lose him but because every Mother loses a baby eventually – they gain a child, a teen, an adult in replace – but those baby days cannot be regained once lost. From that moment on, I savoured the nights Tristan still needed my affection. I cherished every 2am snuggle with my Daughter. I grew to shed the negative approach I’d adopted. Life became easier, more enjoyable.

I’ve learnt a whole new level of love. The love we have for our children is unrelenting. Every parent sees their children as the most beautiful creations to bless this Earth. Before Siena, I didn’t realise how shallow I actually was. I’d seen pictures of premature babies, their minuscule bodies cluttered with wires and paper-thin skin provoked no reaction. The first glance at Siena and I saw how much beauty could be found. She was simply divine. There’s times I’ve found myself justifying her appearance though and this saddens me. “She’s so small because she was 9 weeks Prem” have became familiar utterances to strangers. I’ve listened to people tell me that she’d “grow into her looks” but to me, her prematurity makes her ever more beautiful.

Lastly, I’ve learnt that miracles do exist. Coming from a strong religious family,
I’ve always believed in God but I’ve also wondered whether that was more through habit or being told that I should. He was the first person I turned to in Siena’s hour of need. Throughout her NICU journey, God gave me hope. The bottle of holy water which was used to bless her isolette sat proudly on her shelf. The bible given to her by the hospital reverent was used multiple times when reading her stories. The reverent himself visited Siena throughout her stay. All of these gave me comfort. Believing allowed me to visualise Siena coming home. It gave me hope that she’d live a normal life, showed me that miracles do exist.

I’m lucky to live with one every day.

Being a ‘Preemie Parent’ is, without doubt, harder than I could have ever imagined. The lows are so intensely lower but the highs are also so intensely higher. Some days I feel angry , some days I feel blessed. Most days I feel privileged and proud.

Siena’s journey as a Preemie isn’t yet over and neither is mine as a ‘Preemie Parent’. We’ve plenty more chapters to write.

Here’s to our happy ending…

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Not Feeling Like ‘Me’ is the Hardest Part

It’s not often I say this but it’s something I’ve thought for a while. Something I’ve been feeling for a little over a year.
Being a parent can be isolating.
I recall a conversation I shared with two friends shortly after I found out I was pregnant. ‘Please don’t become one of those women who talks about their babies 24/7’ they pleaded. In truth, it was something that I was already worrying about. It resulted in us designing a key word ‘popcorn’ in which they could use to warn me that my baby craic was tiring. 
No one WANTS to be one of those ‘women’ before having a child. However, I can honestly admit that now, I don’t know how to be anything but.
It’s life-altering, having kids. 
There’s a shift. Having children is a catalyst. The chemical reaction which takes place cannot be reversed. Once you become a parent, you always will be – no matter what happens – or how old your children grow to be. 
Life before children becomes hard to remember. The person you once were lurks deep below the surface of your being. Occasionally, the beast stirs. A memory will pop to mind, an invite will land your way, a picture will appear on TimeHop! 
Usually, I feel well adjusted to my new life but tonight, I’m feeling isolated.

  
It’s a Saturday evening and I’m longing for the days when I’d spontaneously decide to get up off the sofa at 10pm, change into something a little less comfy and meet up with whoever was out. I didn’t have anyone else to worry about or put 1st in my life. I never fully appreciated how special that was. I always took it for granted and now I miss it.
I’ve spent most of tonight searching for Summer Holidays. The bleak weather outside has stirred a desire to head to warmer shores. Only, the realisation of how different my holidays will be from now is impacting on my mind. I’ll no longer get to sunbathe or read a book. I won’t get away without worrying about burning skin. The many chic ‘adult only’ hotels are just another reminder of how isolating parenting can be.

  
In between sieving out the overpriced or unsuitable places to stay, I’ve flicked endlessly over social media. The images of friends out socialising, dancing and drinking are just another reminder of how different my life is now. 
Even if I’d had the ‘go-ahead’ from my husband ( I hadn’t), I wouldn’t know what to wear.

Having children has changed me physically more than I’d expected it to. I’m a stone heavier than I once was, my bum sticks out and I can feel flab jingle on my arms when I move. I’ve got to plan outfits to ‘flatter’ my new features. Aside from that, I’ve aged considerably. I no longer feel like the twenty-something little fireball that would dance on tables, pose ridiculously. 

  
 Not feeling like ‘me’ is the hardest part. 
Sometimes I feel so far detached from the version of ‘me’ I used to be. This is intensified by realising that it’s the ‘fun’ parts that seem to have vanished.
I feel useless as a friend. I’ve got so much going on in my daily life that I often forget to ask about others. Or, given the chance to vent about the 17 tantrums I’ve encountered over the course of the day (and yes, these could stem from any one of my children or my husband) I end up focusing on me. Then there’s the fact that being my friend no longer consists of boozy nights drowning shots. More than likely, it consists of following me round errands as I start conversations but forget to finish them. Oh right, and I’ll stop fifty times throughout to sing or pull funny faces at my daughter in a bid to stop her crying. 

  
Who would want to be my friend? I can’t promise that I can be a good one any more. In fact, I’ve proven more often than not recently that if it’s a good time you’re after, I’m obviously pretty shitty. 
Tomorrow, when I’m woken by the sounds of tiny voices giggling and calling for their ‘mama’, I’ll probably feel different.
Tomorrow, as my son climbs into the small hole formed by my crossed legs and wraps his arms around me, as he puckers his lips and kisses mine, I know I’ll feel different. 

  
But tonight, well tonight I feel isolated.