Won’t You Walk With Me?

The day the Doctor confirmed you had Cerebral Palsy will always be etched in my mind – I felt calm sat in the chair staring at your MRI results. Cerebral Palsy, at least, I thought we could conquer. I had been worried for so long and had speculated so many other possibilities, the outcome felt positive and not as alien or unbeknown as some of the other potentials. I felt reassured by the Doctor’s words and although the truth was that you may never walk, everything was still possible!

In that moment, sat in the Doctor’s room, I had clung to every minute positive. Tinted overlays had glazed over my eyes, protecting me from every uncertainty.

It wasn’t until the morning after that the seriousness of your condition cascaded over me like a thick hue of darkness. Every ‘what if’, every supposition impacted upon me greatly. The notion that I may never see you walk down the aisle as a beauteous bride or walk hand-in-hand on shopping sprees galore floored me. I realised that when you were born, even through the turmoil, I’d taken for granted that I’d still have all the little things.

I’m not sure any Mother could deny the pang of excitement they experience when they learn they’re having a girl (don’t hold this part against me, I celebrated finding out I was having a boy with just as much enthusiasm but the experiences are different). Instantly, I saw us…at the family celebrations killing it on the dance floor, I saw us sharing many a cinema trip, shopping trip, meal and cocktail. I saw myself at your ballet classes cheering you on from the side, I saw myself at sports day taking pride in your athleticism (something I undoubtedly, had been denied). Never in any of my dreams had I seen you in a wheelchair, never in my wildest thoughts had I pictured you incapable of that independence I already knew you craved.

I look back now at my former self crying over these ideologies with a strong sense of sickening. How dare I be so judgemental! How dare I write your life off as though you’d accomplish less or succeed less. If only I’d known back then that all this meant was that you had more to achieve, more successes for me to witness and more hope for me to feel than I could have ever imagined.

You were – and are – after all, still my beautiful strong, determined Daughter. Please don’t think that my tears were ever for me. I cried for you! I cried that you’d never get to experience the joy of running down a bank, letting your legs tumble in the moment and the wind carry you forward. I cried that you’d never play ‘tig’ on the yard with your friends or chase the boys you fancied with daisies in your hair and love in your arms. I cried for your first dance, I cried that you’d never stand on your Daddy’s shoes as he twirled you round the living room in glee.

I cried that you’d never know life as I’d known it.

And as you grew and your disability became more prevalent, I cried for you more. I cried for the times I consoled you at soft play when the boys and girls couldn’t understand that you couldn’t keep up and left you on your own. I cried for the times you looked at the other children and asked me why you were different. I cried for the unintentionally cruel comments ‘why is she just crawling?’ and ‘put her down, it’s not healthy to smother a child her age, you shouldn’t still be carrying her’. I cried for the Birthdays you woke up convinced that a year older would have granted you the ability to walk! Oh, I cried for those moments the most.

Though the tears sound mostly through sadness, please know that there was many a tear shed through joy. I remember the day you learnt to army crawl along the floor to retrieve your toys and the time you crawled out from the row at ballet to claim your certificate. I remember the day you took 5 steps unaided between myself and my best friend whilst we were at the Baby Gym. I remember the time you entered your nativity on your KAYE Walker and made it all the way to the stage!

Every step, every milestone seemed so much more magical and baby girl, you are still firing them at me today!

I marvel at your progress, at your tenacity and resilience. I’m thankful for the first lockdown when we focused so much on your physio. I’m grateful for Heel and Toe Charity, for all the support they’ve given you!

2020 may have been a monstrous year – but not for you! Whilst most people fought their demons, you struck back in force! You went from cruising furniture to walking without it. You turned corners unaided, stood up from kneeling down.

You walked and walked and walked and walked your little socks off.

Whilst the whole world cheered Captain Tom (we did too), I had my own hero dominating my living room…and on your sixth Birthday, you woke up smiling at never having to ask the question ‘will I be able to walk?’. You turned every single doubt I’d ever thought, upside down. You took the can I’d been storing them in, opened the lid and let them trickle to the floor. Then, you stood up, walked forward and trampled on every single one of them!

I have never been so proud!

And it hasn’t just been the walking, it’s been the dancing too! Your feet know rhythm more than your mind can keep up but it doesn’t matter. You’ve nailed your signature moves and they couldn’t be any better!

I can’t wait for the shopping sprees, for the late night parties and the scandals we’ll get up to. I can’t wait for the sports days and the Paralympics when I’m there cheering you on from the sides at a far greater level than sports day could have ever been! I can’t wait for the moments we are gifted together…

And we’ll walk them hand in hand!

How Do I Teach ‘Responsibility’?

A wise (Spider) man once said ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ and he wasn’t wrong. Responsibility is something that we just can’t shy away from…no matter how much we may want to. At 34, I already long for the days when I could be ‘Mothered’ but truth is, I’ve hit an age where I need to be the responsible adult.

Responsibility is a huge concept though, am I right? Going for the trusty analogy of an onion here – there’s layers upon layers of ‘responsibility’ that we need to peel back – and let the self indulgent tears roll as we do what needs to be done. There’s personal responsibility, social, moral, collective, financial and professional responsibility (just to name a few).

Now, putting it into action, I feel like I’m half way there. I don’t litter, I pay my bills on time, I apologise when I’m in the wrong and I try to do the morally good thing where ever and whenever I can! Being responsible seems to be something I just accepted as I matured…but in light of recent events, I do wonder how much of that was ingrained in me from such a young age? My parents, for example, where always responsible!

So it has dawned on me…I need to teach it as much as I preach it!

After all, ensuring my children blossom into fully responsible adults has got to be my responsibility – mine, the other adults who surround them and society – I hope.

It feels harder than I first thought.

Initially, I believed that the best method was simply just to model it. If my children saw me acting responsibly, they’d pick up on the habits and know to start acting that way too?

So why am I struggling?

I still agree that modelling is vital but I have to admit, I was a little naive to believe it was that straightforward.

I can tell my children to apologise when they’re wrong, I can explain the reasons why they have been told off. I can try to show them that their actions have consequences (and I’m not just taking about confiscating the Nintendo Switch – I’m talking about the consequences on others) but what does it matter if the world we live in contradicts me at every chance?

My children have an excuse for everything and I cannot abide it! I refuse to live in a world where excuses are at the ready. My son made my Daughter cry the other day, he pointed at her scar (she’s the proud owner of a stitched-up heart) and said it was ugly. His excuse? His friend had made him fall over in a game of ‘tig’ and since he was now ugly, it was alright to call my Daughter the same.

No! I’m not tolerating it. My children are the most beautiful living beings on earth (how dare they use the word ‘ugly’ so frivolously) but if my own shortdoing is to blame for their lack of understanding – I’ll be accepting full responsibility for it.

This brings me to my next point – I was so shocked and appalled to hear my son be so cruel. I thought I had taught him better than than! But it seems society isn’t backing me on this one! These days, we are too loose with our lips, too quick to judge and far too superficial to appreciate the depth of someone!

Like everyone this week, I’m truly moved by the passing of Caroline Flack. The sheer fact she felt the need to end her life because of the cruelty of others has hurt me to the core. Where were we teaching responsibility to others when we commented/judged/believed what the Media was stating?

I live in fear that my children will grow up only knowing their worth and value in Instagram likes or shares. I live in fear that they will be faced with heartache and suffering at the end of a Smartphone. I live in fear that they will choose to act cowardly or maliciously, inflicting the same scrolling pain on some vulnerable person.

I live in fear that I will fail in my responsibilities and not teach my children to be kind and loving, to act honourably and with integrity.

So how do I do it? How do I ensure they blossom into the fully responsible adults I talked about at the start?

Please, advise me the best you can!

The Battle of a Working Mam

Too many times, I read post after post covering the heated topic of working-mam vs stay-at-home-mam and it always appears to be the ‘chicken or the egg’ scenario. It doesn’t matter who goes first, the dialogue always involves one parent saying how hard life is having to work full time whereas the other side will chime that staying at home is a justified job-choice and carries its own set of woes.

As a Mother who has experienced both sides, I can confirm that neither side has greener grass…both sides have shades of green and awful patches of brown where the grass has shrivelled and died. It just happens that these appear in different places and the cause of such neglect/unkemptness just have very different causes.

As a stay-at-home-mam, my days were very trying. I battled two babies simultaneously and most days felt as though they were winning. I worried whether my activities were educational/beneficial enough. I worried endlessly about the money I was spending and not earning. I yearned for adult conversation and the chance to rediscover a piece of me I felt I’d lost along the way. I felt guilty for feeling tired, guilty that I wasn’t doing enough and guilty that I had given up on something that had once meant everything to me…my career!

Eventually, my bank balance and my sanity hinted that it was time to go back to work. I told my Husband (at the time) that I couldn’t ever go back full time but could just about manage a 3 day week – long enough to feel like I was using my intellectual functions again but short enough to know my children’s needs still seemed priority. As it happens (and I’m a great believer in this), fate had other plans and I was plunged back into full time employment with immediate effect.

The role I had secured was only ever meant to be short-lived, I acquired a cushty little teaching job from September-December when I was then meant to be replaced by someone more suitable for the role of Head of Department. It felt long enough to line my ever-declining bank account yet short enough to see it through.

It took me one full week to rediscover my love for Education. Seven little days to decide I wanted to get my career back on track and just over a month to secure my first promotion.

Growing up, I’d always been ambitious. I wanted the best for myself and knew I had the strength to go out and get it…then Motherhood came knocking somewhat unexpectedly and abruptly changed my outlook. For the first time, my want/needs seemed significantly inferior. Yet, here I was, rediscovering the fire within me.

This is when the other side of my journey started. The green grass I’d suddenly acquired proved to be just as metaphorically seasonal. My passion dies and withers, grows and flourishes all at once!

Most days, my guilt is replaced by how little I feature in my children’s life. I don’t do the school run, I’m never there to gossip idly with other Mums waiting for the release of our spawn. I don’t know the names of my children’s friends or how much they ate at dinner. I’m forever forgetting about ‘Number Day’, ‘Dress up as a Pirate Day’ or any other gimmick that is going. I forget to RSVP to Birthday invites and constantly live in fear that I’ll be exposed as a terrible Mam!

I’m tired when I get home from work and sometimes don’t have the energy for back-to-back marathons of children’s stories. Showers are easier than baths and if I can get my children down before eight, I rejoice in the silence and adult-time…then the guilt kicks in all over againand I once again, feel rubbish for rushing.

I constantly feel as though I’m missing out on my children growing up.

Don’t get me wrong – their homework is always done, their teeth are always cleaned and there’s always a kiss and a cuddle awaiting before bed…but I can’t help feel as though they’ll realise how absent I am or wonder why other Mams are present when I am missing.

I know that we could go down the route of arguing that I’m ‘teaching my children the value of hard work’ but honestly, I thought I modelled that just as clearly when I wasn’t at work – it was just entirely different.

To summarise, I’ve reached the conclusion that no-matter-what, parenthood is hard. It carries worry and guilt, sacrifice and compromise and the most unimaginable doubt.

Yet, it brings with it, the sweetest sensation and the loveliest feeling. It’s joy and happiness, affection and rapture all rolled into one (or multiple) balls of flesh.

It’s utterly fantastic!

So, I guess I just have to accept that no matter how I choose to spend my days, I’ll always feel like I’m not doing enough and that I could be better but so long as my children are smiling and I show them I care, it has to be enough! It has to be enough!

Your Heart is Broken No More

It feels surreal now…to eventually write this. It’s a moment I wasn’t sure would ever come (one I both prayed for but wished away in such a range of conflicting emotions). Finally, I can tell you baby that your heart is mended.

From the first day you were born, there’s not a person I know who hasn’t marvelled at your strength – It’s exuberant, boundless and completely astounding. Being premature, you had a battle on your hands from your first breath, even the first intake of oxygen was an arduous task.

Most babies enter the world and immediately fall into that blissful newborn period of restful dreams and milky euphoria. Your story wasn’t so easy – your first five weeks were cluttered with conquers (some minute, some scary, all absolutely triumphant). Whereas most babies only have to prove their desire to feed…you proved your strength on a daily (even sometimes hourly) basis. You soon earned the title of our Warrior Princess – something you still earn even today…Mostly today.

I think it’s only fair to say that your fighting spirit has served you incredibly well. Over the course of the past three years, you’ve faced more testing moments than most people may face in a lifetime. From pneumonia, asthma, possible chronic lung disease, cerebral palsy and hip dysplasia…you’ve tackled each ailment with tenacity and a persistence I never knew was possible. The bravery and courage you display most days leaves me in absolute awe.

Most children your age may not have faced the inside of a hospital from the day they were discharged after birth…and if they have, it would mostly be a trip to the A&E department following bumps and scrapes achieved through many adventures (I say this as I picture the time we brought Tristan following a bang to his head whilst playing too energetically with his friends). You, oh the other hand, are well acquainted with the accustomed beeps and drones of a hospital ward.

I once wrote that I was ready for you to let me forget the familiar surroundings of the hospital but it appears, you just haven’t been ready.

Today, we find ourselves here again. Although today, you fight your greatest battle…

At 9am this morning, myself and your Daddy accompanied you to theatre. You laid heavy on my chest, dazed from the pre-meds you’d been administered moments before. I held you close and sang to you as the anaesthetist gave you the routine dosage needed for open heart surgery. Once you were soundly asleep, I placed your tiny frame on the operating bed and bade you sweet dreams. I kissed your head, cried as I left you in the trustful hands of your surgeon.

Walking away from you, right there in that moment, was single-handedly the hardest moment in my life. I’ve never felt so terrified, so vulnerable, so lacking in control.

I pictured you lying there, oblivious to the miracle being performed on you. So small, so precious, so exposed. We all knew that your ASD would need closure but it felt as though we’d talked about it for so long that it would always just be there, that the waiting would never end.

Now, I lie beside you in PICU marvelling once again at the strength you display. You’re tired, still sleepy from the anaesthetic. Your body looks frail, open to suffering. You need me more right now that I think you may have ever needed me.

A few hours ago, your nurse ordered that I left. She told me that I’d be no good to you tomorrow if my own exhaustion was unbearable. I listened to her advice, thought she must know best. Leaving you sleeping felt just as painful as it did this morning. In my mind, I knew you’d want me, knew you’d need to sense my presence. When you were in intensive care after birth, the nurses swore you could feel my presence. Apparently, your saturation levels were always highest when I sat by your side. I had this in mind as I walked nervously away from you…

It came as no surprise as the sound of the phone echoed through our silent bedroom. As quickly as I heard it, I knew what the voice would say – you were awake and crying out for me, you didn’t understand why I wasn’t there…after all, every time you’re in Hospital – I never leave your side. I came as quickly as I could baby girl and now I’m here, I’m certainly not leaving again!

As I sit beside you, I don’t just marvel at your strength but at how beautiful you look in this instance. You are, without doubt, incredible!

And I’m so relieved that I can now tell you that your heart is mended. I once promised you I’d fix it and I stayed true to that promise…your heart is broken no more.

Love you so much

Your Mamma xxx

The Hardest Part

I’m sat here watching you savour the tiny chocolate found behind today’s Calendar door. You marvelled at the surprise of it all, shouted with excitement at the shape of Santa’s face etched into the piece. The twinkling of the Christmas tree glares proudly behind you, casting illusions of Yuletide bliss.

In that instance, I’m taken back three years ago – your first Christmas and your Sister’s too. Christmas time hasn’t always been easy for us. I remember that first year, endlessly forging forced memories for your sake – trying our hardest to cover our Hearts breaking on the inside, wanting you to experience the magic of it all. Needless to say, we failed! It was hard for us to escape the trauma of having a newly born premature baby fighting in NICU whilst we celebrated the season. Even at nine months old, you sensed the pain we were all feeling, I’d even say you were feeling it too.

For the past few years, we’ve tried to compensate for the memories you missed out on and so far, I think we’ve done a marvellous job of that! But there’s something about this year which has us all thinking about the hardships of three years ago, maybe it’s your ages or maybe it’s because a Hospital visit never seems too far away these days.

When your sister arrived nine weeks early, we always knew there’d be long term repercussions. What we didn’t consider was the ways in which you’d also suffer. This, for me, is the hardest part.

During your sister’s first year, it was easy to pretend your role of ‘Brother’ was solely that. You’d play with her, entertain her, snatch her toys when you thought we weren’t looking and stare at her with both joy and jealousy. It was all as normal as we’d expect. The times your sister ended up in Hospital, we kept your routine as structured as we could and sensed your adaptability to the situation. In truth, you were mainly oblivious to what was happening.

Now, it’s harder to hide the truth from you.

Not yet four and I already know how burdened you are by it all. I see it in your face, hear it in your cries. Siena’s disability and illness impacts us all, as a family unit. It impacts you in ways you shouldn’t be expected to deal with at your age. It’s unavoidable, inescapable and completely necessary. But sad.

Daily, I see your role of ‘Brother’ extend far more than usual. You’re carer, protector, Teacher and Tolerator. I see you with her when you think we aren’t paying attention, I listen to the advice you give her, how you will her to progress. I watch you struggle to keep your calm when you’re amidst the centre of her frustrations. I watch you handle your own temper when she claws you, bites you and throws her fists in angry temper. I want you to know how amazing you are, how your patience keeps both Mammy and Daddy going as we try to deal with this new awkward phase appropriately.

I also see the other side, the side where you’re fed up of coming second, of your needs been pushed to second best. And that, for me, is the hardest part. I hear the pain in your tears, I feel the injustice of it all and I’m sorry.

All you ever seem to fight for is equality and I don’t know how to give you it.

Today, before the opening of the Calendar, we ventured to Beamish. You cried all the way because you wanted the same treatment as your sister. You demanded we carried you the entire thoroughfare, tears streamed uncontrollably each time we tried to put you down. Some may have looked at you, an overgrown child demanding the comfort of your parents’ arms, and thought you were highly coddled. How could they know that this is your best effort to feel equal to your sister? How could they know you see Siena being carried as confirmation that we love her more, that we show her more affection? It is, of course, so untrue! But I’m struggling to teach this notion to someone so young and incapable of understanding. I’m desperately trying to make sure you feel your worth, that you can differentiate between us helping Siena, not loving her more.

The jealousy you face, you increasingly demonstrate, is fuelled by circumstances far out of our control. Circumstances I wish so badly I could change – for us all. If only you realised how privileged you are, how lucky you are not to need us the way Siena may always need.

There are times when Siena’s needs are so demanding, you’re forced to take a second seat. We’ve expected too much of you, asked you to understand why our arms are preoccupied. There are moments I see it in your face, you feel lonely, you feel like we’ve no time for you. That, for me, is the hardest part! I remember those nine months (as minuscule as that sounds) when my arms and heart belonged entirely to you. Trust me baby, there will always be time in my heart for you. There will always be space in my arms as well. You are never second loved, second best.

It’s not always about the jealousy though, it’s the worry that hurts me the most.

Siena’s health puts a strain on us all. You’ve developed your own fear of becoming poorly, you despise the idea of needing a Doctor or nurse. You’ve seen your Sister admitted too many times to count, held her hand as Doctors administer her meds.

You’ve cried! Each time she’s admitted, I feel your fear. It must be so daunting to see her so poorly and not understand what is wrong. The last time she was in hospital, we were in Center Parcs , we left you with family whilst myself and your Dad accompanied her. I doubt I’ll ever shake the pain in your voice as you insisted you were coming. I watched the tears flow violently from your cheeks and knew how much you were hurting. It kills me that you suffer so much when she’s ill – it kills me that I’ve no idea how to subside your fears effectively.

All I can do baby, is tell you how much we love you – and thank you for being the most amazing little boy. You didn’t ask for any of this and neither did we but we’re here, living life the best way we know how.

I just hope you know how proud we are!

We love you more thank you’ll ever know!

Unforgettable, That’s What You Are

To our wonderful Grandad,

It’s hard to believe I’m writing this for you and that you’re not here to hear it. After all, I think in your Grandchildren’s eyes – you’ll always be invincible.

In truth, I didn’t know how to approach this. It was hard trying to narrow down the memories we shared or the ways in which you made us proud. There are so many moments, so many admirable qualities to note.

When I was a young girl, I was simply awed by you. Through my eyes, you were just mesmerising. I’d watch you as you read your paper, calculating bets at lightning speed, hoping one day I’d understand mental arithmetic as brilliantly as you. I’d watch your hands work meticulously as you tended to your tomato plants, the same hands you’d use to pull out our teeth without ever making us flinch. Your touch was magic, soft and nurturing – and always warm. I remember the way my small hand fit like a jigsaw into yours, feeling protected as we walked.

I remember traipsing behind you, following your every footstep as we accompanied you on your duty early in the morning. My Brother always in front, following by your side. I’d feel envious of your bond as though he were your apprentice – your only Grandson and one who treasured you so much. You’d tell us we were searching for buried treasure – the three-year-old me clung to your every word. As we walked, I’d study your face eager to see it change with every gem you discovered. Your garden and the school grounds were always such a special place for us. I remember lazy Summer days eating ice-cream in the grass watching you plant flowers, or winter days building snow-men as big as we could.

I also remember our family walks along country roads, visits to Gibside or along the river in Durham where the Salmon jump. We’d collect acorns, leaves, cuttings of plants and conquers. You’d talk to us about the flowers, making us feel and smell them. You’d pick berries and mushrooms, wild garlic, mint and lavender. You’d tell us about the plans you had for them – where you’d plant the cuttings in your garden and how they’d bloom; about the jams you intended my Gran to make (whether or not she did, I can’t remember – I suspect she told you where to stick them somewhere differently when we were out of earshot. She was always good at reigning you in and well, what can I say other than at times, you certainly needed it).

You were always a tall-tale-teller and we all loved nothing better than listening in depth to one of your anecdotes. They were funny and humorous, scary and thrilling. Often, they were romantic! But always, they were interesting. I must have heard most of your stories a million times before – enough to recite about the time you saw a ghost walking to the phone booth or the poltergeist you chased by yelling ‘get out of my house’. Even still, each time you told them I’d listen so intently as if it were the first time. You’ll never know how much I crave that right now, that I’d do anything to hear your tall tales again.

I’ve always been amazed by how you could hold a room…and you did! You always fell Centre of attention, making people laugh at your stories, riddles and poems. Charismatic until the last minute – I saw how you had the nurses at your care home eating out of the palm of your hand! You had the ability to make friends wherever you went – which at times was surprising because of how tactless and honest you could be.

You told it as things were, never dressed anything up to be anything different. You were stubborn and insistent that things went your way but deep down, you always knew Gran was the boss and you behaved yourself impeccably once she’d cast her stern look in your direction. Your personality was huge – as huge as your heart! Through all the muttering and groans (mostly aimed at daytime TV), you were full of joy and laughter. You loved to socialise and I can still see your face now singing to karaoke at one of my Nana’s notorious New Years Eve parties. The biggest smile and a handsome one at that! The same smile you graced us with in the days before your passing.

And you were – so handsome! My Gran was one lucky lady but actually you were the lucky one and you knew it. She idolised you as you did her. I still won’t forget the time she broke her arm and had to stay in hospital. You made her a packed lunch and wrote her a love note every night! I remember hearing that and knowing I’d base my every relationship thereafter on that. You could be a gentleman when necessary (in spite of your potty mouth) and so incredibly loving. Watching you sing to her on your Golden Anniversary was another moment that just left us floored by pride for you both.

There’s no easy way to summarise the millions of ways that we loved you and I know I speak for us all when I say that we were truly blessed having such a personable Grandfather to look up to.

You’ve taught us so many life lessons that we’ll always be grateful for. Thank you Grandad – love you always, your Grandchildren.

The Trouble With Two Is…

To say I live my life in the fast lane would be an understatement; I’m never settled. In fact, the whole concept of settled makes me whince. There’s something about ‘settled’ which makes me feel uncomfortable – almost as though if I ever stopped, I’d probably never start again!

This ridiculous trait can be handy – always being on the go means I never have time to feel bored, to dwell or wallow. Even when my body is still, my mind makes up for the lack of physical action. 

I’m alright with this! I mean, it’s just the way I was wired…to work hard, to get stuff done. My Husband doesn’t share my love of the fast life. He wants to take things slow, spend time relaxing. It’s just as well really, he manages to bring me to a halt, calm me down when I’m at risk of taking off. He levels the pace, helps me deal with the collateral my flighty life can cause. 

My need to be speedy about things has become a running joke in our household. In one respect, I’m incredibly laid back (mainly about the things I should apply some urgency to) but I’m also manic, unable to sit still. Put it this way – I don’t waste time!

This was also apparent in the way I chose to have my children. Most couples still spend many a married year planning to have children, they prioritise saving, getting their affairs in order (this one I kind of did right!)When they’re blessed with their firstborn, they spend time as a unit. United by the love of their offspring.

Me? I dove straight into having another!

There’s awkwardly 9 months and 3 days between my Son and Daughter and I’m yet to tell anyone this without flooring them with disbelief. It appears to be rather socially unacceptable to have such a small age gap between the two – I mean, they were born within the same year. It’s an alien concept to most to have children so close together. As mentioned previously, most parents wish to savour time with their first.

I get that! In truth, having two so closely wasn’t how I planned to do things. It is, however, completely in-fitting with the way in which I run my life. That quick pace, inablitly to slow down! If I’d chosen how my life would pan out, I’d wish for at least two years between siblings – an acceptable timescale! That wasn’t how life was meant to be though, not my life! That would be too leisurely for my liking. 

Having two so close in age is testing! This currently seems so intensified as we have a Daughter in the midst of the ‘Terrible Twos’ and a Son sulking into the ‘Terrifying Threes’! Between tantrums and taunts, we have sulks and sobs…we have anger and aggression, frustration and fury. There are days I just can’t wait to be over, for my children to sleep so I can slop in a heap. 

On that note, we do little sleeping these days. We seem to have a system at the moment not too dissimilar to that loveable fairground game where you hit one frog with the hammer only for another to jump up. As we settle Tristan, Siena stirs…we settle Siena, Tristan returns! It’s like a battle to see who can sleep deprive us the most (my Son is currently winning).  It’s tiring and waring…and emotionally draining! 

Having two so close together means we’ve been through the stage where both children were unable to communicate their emotions effectively, where they were both unable to comprehend their feelings or deal with them in any sort of reasoned way. 

We had two to carry, to rock to sleep! 

At the time, I remember feeling so desperate for my children to grow, to reach a point where life seemed easier, less of a hassle. Right now, I look back and mourn the moments I didn’t grasp!

Having two so close together means I missed out on all that savouring with my first. Most of Tristan’s first year was spent suffering with horrific morning sickness which lasted until the day I gave birth prematurely to my Daughter at 31 weeks. The latter part of his first year was spent in hospitals visiting his sister, in strange beds sleeping not in the arms of his Mother. I missed out! 

That’s why I get it – wanting to take your time. There are moments I feel so incredibly sad for Tristan, as though I deprived him of the love and affection all nine month old children rightfully deserve. His time was divided, his attention and affection divided. 

Then, there are moments like this morning whilst I lay in bed watching my two children play so heartily with each other on our landing. Tristan took the lead, showing his younger sister what needed to be done. She was transfixed, happy to oblige…loving the bond the two clearly feel together. 

In plain, I wouldn’t change my life in an instant. The challenges and the tests are all just in their gameplan, the grand scheme will see brighter days for us as our two grow together…so beautifully. The tantrums and taunts, sobs and sulks all seem so worth it when I see how happy they can be together, how happy they will be once they learn to manage their emotions more maturely. 

So for now, I’ll overdose on strong coffee, sugary drinks and focus on getting through one terrible and terrifying day at a time…and let my manic approach to life lend many distractions. 

Can’t I Just Pee in Peace?

Let me just start by telling you everything you want to hear…everything Media has taught me I should be saying.

I love being a Mother! 

There – I’ve said it! And for the most, it’s true…so, if by change you doubt this come the end of this blog, please remember to return to this bit here where my positivity glares obviously and bluntly.

I do love being a Mother – nothing quite compares to the feeling of being in the presence of your children, feeling their love, their unconditional, unjudgemental, eternal love. 

But I can’t deny it any longer…man, it’s hard! 

Whilst my children were babies, I think I sufficiently managed to put my head down and plough through the tough parts (albeit done with a lot of crying on my behalf). I envisaged by the time they were they age they are now…I’d have some peace restored. Can you believe how incredibly naive and ignorant I was? 

It feels like I’ll never know peace again! 

Picture silence, long lie-ins on Sunday mornings, summer days relaxing in the garden…late nights, friends dates, dining out at 10pm because you were hungry (and obviously unrestricted by social ideologies of perfect bedtime routines)! 

I can’t remember the last time I even dared be out of the house after 6pm with children in tow, the aftermath of a broken, spontaneous jolt from routine has bitten us once too many times. Then there’s the judgemental glares of childfree onlookers to contend with! 

I recall one evening when our son was maybe 4 months old; we’d met with friends during the day but still being out at 6.30pm, we decided to head to the closest Indian Restaurant. Tristan was still at the stage of sleeping most of the day. He cared very little about where he guzzled his bottle or closed his eyes so taking him with us seemed natural and unproblematic – yet I remember leaving said restaurant an hour later enraged to the point where my hands itched. The couple sat beside us thought it was completely out of order having a young child out so late (7pm by this point) and felt the need to tell us so. Since then, I’ve dared very little to take my toddlers out passed their ‘apparent’ bedtime. 

This results in me being ‘housebound’ most evenings from 6pm. Although my Husband would undoubtedly grant me leave on social occasions, my role of Mother means most nights I just crack on and carry out my duties…no questions asked. Preparing tea, running baths, reading stories, locating lost dummies, scaring away imaginary wolves…have all become part of my own routine, part of my life. It seems like a long time ago I arrived home after work and decided to do something I actually wanted/enjoyed. 

To add insult to injury, I’ve been ‘Mother’ for so long now that I actually believe my own Husband has forgotten I’m real underneath it all! He seems to have the opinion that I stroll around on my days off doing things I WANT! That’s right pet, my idea of fun at 30 definitely entails crawling through miniature tunnels, playing on swings, jumping in puddles and rolling down hills. Yep, in my time off, I’d apparently choose soft play, toddler groups, playparks and farms. He’s obviously forgotten my love of shopping, sipping champagne in the sun and trips to the cinema (not to watch Peppa Pig). 

I remember a time when I once enjoyed my own company! I mean, who else looks after you quite like YOU? Reading a book, just sitting in silence contemplating the world, making plans…I could do it forever! These days, I rarely get to pee in peace! From morning until noon…I have either one or two little humans attached to my side. Even when they’re sleeping, the dog seems to take their place, squeezing in his ‘Mam’ time undisturbed by mini terrors! 

Don’t get me wrong – I want to reiterate what I said to begin, I love being a Mother…but for crying out loud, can’t I just at least pee in peace? 

Look How Far You’ve Come

Looking at you now, it’s hard to recall the delicate start to life you had. You’re, quite obviously, no longer the tiny premature baby I once watched struggle for breath…no longer the fragile little doll you once were. 

Looking at you now, it’s so clear just how far you’ve come!

You’re relatively tall for your age, you don’t look out of place amongst your peers. You’re still slender (you’ve always struggled to gain weight) but it no longer highlights your previous battles. I look at those beautiful long legs and immediately acknowledge the cause of envy they’ll become. Your slight and toned appearance will undoubtedly serve you well amongst those awkward and harrowing  teenage years. It will become one less burden for you, one less aspect of pressure.

Your gorgeous golden hair is perfectly bobbed…and thick! Like your Mother, it will always be one of your most treasured features. It makes you look older, more mature than you are.

Looking at you now, you’re most definitely a toddler!

That statement is definitely not limited to your visual attributes – you’re also incredibly intelligent for your age.

Last week, your Health Visitor (the same one who is still concerned for Tristan’s development) came to complete your two year check. She was left completely awed by how far you’ve come. Since birth, doctors have given us a period of grace to meet milestones, to compensate for the nine weeks of development you missed out on in my womb. There’s been less pressure to meet milestones in the same timescales as your peers, less pressure to perform at the same rate of full term babies. Yet, at only a day after two years from your due date, she arrived – clip board in hand – eager to complete her lengthy questionnaire.

When Tristan turned two, the sole purpose of the questionnaire was to check gross motor skills…could he climb, could he jump? I felt instantly saddened when I heard it was your turn, afterall, why did we have to endure telling her all over again that you couldn’t do any of the physical things on her list, that you could barely manage the physical milestones of a nine month old? However, this time, your emotional awareness was also to be measured. Doesn’t that sound utterly crazy? That a two year old would be checked for skills some adults can’t master. 

You left her amazed! She couldn’t digest how excellently you scored. 

Thankfully (and to my delight) she left out the questions about what you were physically able to do…but we still took pleasure in demonstrating what new skills you’d been working on. Instead, she focused on your mental astuteness. This proved, much as we’d thought, that you are a very bright and capable little girl. 

In particular, she just couldn’t believe your ability to communicate so effectively. At just two, your Brother struggled to formulate sentences. His bank of key words was limited and lacking in impressiveness. You, on the other hand, can already formulate full conversations. You can ask questions, listen with focus and respond with appropriateness. You can talk in depth about what’s on your mind, tell us exactly how you feel and why. 

I love this about you!

Our undisturbed conversations are fast becoming one of my favourite things in life. They make me think about our future, the bond we’ll have, the relationship we’ll share for life. I can’t wait for the discussions we’ll have over boys, your dreams, your hopes and wants, thoughts and feelings. It makes me so excited to know that we’ll always be able to communicate with one another, we’ll always understand one another as well.

Your creativity also astounds people. At only two years and two months, you can throw yourself whole-heartedly into imaginative play. You use your imagination in ways which reassure me you’ll always be able to use your mind creatively. You love to pretend, take on the persona as a Mother to your dollies with such ease and enthusiasm. You also interact with your Brother, take on roles as different animals, make each other laugh with so much joy. 

Your sense of creativity makes me so proud! When your journey through education begins, you’ll be able to draw upon these skills to help you achieve. I only hope that this is something we can nurture and grow as you do.

It’s also fair to say that you’re incredibly charismatic. You’ve an easiness to your character which makes you such a delight to be around. You’re forever able to make people laugh with your cute but quirky individuality. Although younger, your sense of leadership is also clear. You seem to have set a precident that your Brother is always trying to achieve. He looks at you to show him how to perform, craves the attention you so naturally acquire. He follows you, copies your every move in a bid to share your limelight. He’s charismatic in other ways, it’s not as natural to him to be so mischievous and cheeky. 

So, looking at you now, it’s only right that we note just how far you’ve come. 

Some days, I look back at your journey, to the uncertainty of your beginning. I recall the conversations we had with consultants, the x-ray which revealed you’d been left with a level of brain damage. I recall those early days at home, the worry over missed milestones…the arguments I had to have just to get your Doctor’s to listen to my warranted concerns. 

I think about the moments I felt saddened by the lack of progress you once showed…the fear that you’d never get to where you are now. I remember every time I cried over videos I saw of younger children doing things you should have already been able to achieve. The pain in my heart that I’d never get to share those moments on your behalf – knowing how shallow this made me – knowing that I shouldn’t care. I was pained not for me but for you! I wanted you to do everything others could, for you to feel equal to everyone. 

I look back at those moments and thank god for how far you’ve come!

Eventually, at the age of two, I can see that you won’t let anything hold you back (okay, so we still have your confidence to contend with but we’ll conquer that). 

Tonight, as I sat reading to your unsettled Brother, you managed to climb out of your bed…you crawled into your Brother’s room in a bid to ensure you weren’t missing out. I know how hard that must have been for you, how much your hips and limbs will have ached yet you persevered…

That determination, that strong sense of will, are what is completely admirable about you! 

All I can say Dolly is that you inspire me! I hope you’re as proud of yourself as I am, I’m floored by your achievements.

Just look at how far you’ve come! 

Love you lots
Mama (p.s: crapping myself until we get you a baby gate 😂)

Dolly, Don’t Worry


Growing up, I’m inclined to admit that I significantly lacked confidence. I spent most of my teen years completely unsure of who I was or who I wanted to be. I never appreciated my own worth or knew how to value traits others admired.

Since I’m being honest here, I can only really say that adulthood taught me to cherish myself in a way which others wouldn’t. Truthfully, it was Motherhood which taught me to like the person I was, to feel happy with what I had to offer. It upsets me now to think that I spent so much of my youth doubting myself, wishing I was different.

I’m telling you this now because I worry that I see the same in you. If there’s one mistake of mine I hope you learn from, please value yourself now whilst it matters the most!

From the day you were born, you’ve earned the title ‘strong’. Undeniably, no-one could ever doubt the strength you’ve shown, the strength you’ve needed to survive. I worry now that this has placed a level of pressure on you which makes you feel compelled to contend with. It’s almost as though you feel aware of the need to showcase your strength at all times, even at times when vulnerability would be completely expected or necessary. I wonder whether this level of pressure is forcing you to evaluate your own worth. You’re too young to be socially aware of how others expect you to act…It breaks my heart to think you already feel burdened by this at such a young age.

You’re nothing like your Brother – he’s cocky with his abilities, ready to showcase all to whomever will watch him. He craves the attention, loves to be a part of the limelight. You’re almost polar opposites! Quiet and meek, you’ve a modest demeanour quick  to hide your talents. Your Brother’s tendency to seek attention has made it easy for you to take a step back.


I never realised before that children your age were capable of feeling self conscious but this is something I wholly recognise in yourself.

Your self conscious approach is most noticeable in those rare moments when all eyes are solely on you. I see you turn inwardly, recoil in embarrassment and fear. It makes me wonder whether your progress is hindered more by an emotional barrier rather than a physical one. It makes me feel incredibly sad that you lack the confidence to be proud of what you’ve achieved.

Those moments that you freeze are always the moments I feel most proud of you…proud of you for trying…proud of you for wanting. Having cerebral palsy means that there will be undoubtable moments where your brain won’t communicate effectively with your limbs. When I see you try, it shows me that your brain is working far better than we were told to prepare for.

In your short life, you’ve had more challenges than some. You’ve worked hard to meet milestones that others take for granted. Each milestone you’ve met has made me admire and respect you in ways I wish you truly knew. You don’t know ‘easy’ yet you make no fuss over what others would deem ‘hard’. There was a time when doctors were quick to call you lazy (admittedly, there were times I even used this as an excuse for your lack of physical agility). I hate that I’ve done this! Have I caused you to doubt yourself? Made you feel insecure about what you haven’t yet achieved? Have I ever made you feel anything less than miraculous?

I need you to know just how very little your disability matters to me. You’re my Daughter, my gorgeous, precious, courageous, special miracle and I will adore you eternally. I’ll adore you for the strong, intelligent, beautiful being that you already are!


Whether you can run, walk, cycle, ballet dance or fly…I’ll love you with that deep gracious love only a Mother could show. I’ll love you enough to make sure you’re always aware of your worth. I need you to know just how grateful and appreciative I am to have been blessed with you.


Recently, you’ve began making progress so quickly and eagerly. This, in turn, is where your self doubt has been exposed. The first time you attempted to crawl, we watched you drag your legs in a desperate attempt to locate a chocolate. Unable to contain our excitement, we cheered aggressively. I don’t know whether it was our raucous applauds or the realisation that you were doing something momentous which made you stop. Your face wore every inch of your embarrassment and fear. You felt it, that pressure to perform and it scared you immensely. I wish you understood that our cheers amounted from pride and love. They were meant to encourage, to show you that we believe in you and admire you so much.

If this had been an isolated moment, I may have been inclined to dismiss it but you’ve shown the same sense of embarrassment and self-awareness on more than one occasion. In spite of owning a multitude of walking aids, you’ve never shown an interest to walk independently. That was, until, you received a wooden doll’s pram for Christmas. Instinctively, you craved the ability to walk your Dolly. Your caring and Motherly instinct definitely conquered…you wanted to nurture him, Mother him in similar ways you’d seen others do. You wanted to push him to the Doctor’s!

Both your Nana and I couldn’t retain our awe as we watched you take each step without the need to hold our hands. There you were, walking independently. I couldn’t help it – I cried deeply and emotionally. I was moved completely by your strength and determination. My cries were affirmation of my love and pride, they came from a place of happiness and hope.  Of course, my over-dramatic reaction caused you to fret. Self-consciousness devoured you and you were left, once again, feeling overwhelmed by your achievements. I’m sorry if my silly reaction made you doubt yourself, I’m sorry that I ruined it for you – made your play feel tainted by pressure.

Days later, as I tried to encourage you to try again, you told me that you felt scared.

Darling girl, please never feel scared, promise me you won’t let fear hold you back.

Myself, your Father, your Grandparents and Brother…We’re always behind you – both literally and metaphorically! we’re there, supporting you, waiting to catch you, dust you down and watch you try again. You’ve the strongest network of support around you. In whatever you do, we’ll be by your side. This won’t end with your childhood – it will extend throughout your adult life.


When you’re older and you crave independence, we’ll give you the space to show us what you’re made of. We’ll watch from afar and encourage you to grow freely but I want you to know that we’ll always be there!

What I’m trying to say Dolly, is, you may not yet know your own worth but we do! We do and we couldn’t be more inspired by you.

Together – we’ve got this! So please Dolly, don’t worry!