Motherhood Made Me


Before I fell pregnant, I thought it was something that would only ever happen to ‘other’ people. I’d notice the grand gestured announcements on Facebook and feel as though it was never going to be my turn.
In truth, I have to admit that for a long time, I didn’t know whether I ever wanted it to be. A part of me would feel pathetically sad each month when my period arrived and yet, another part of me would rejoice and think ‘thank god, I can continue as I am’. I was a mixture of desperate to fall pregnant and desperate to remain the same.

I’d been in no rush until my periods started having a mind of their own. I’d go two weeks over my cycle and the wonder would start to kick in. ‘I must be pregnant’ I’d think. Then the show would come and I’d be left questioning why my periods were so out of tune.

 

After several blood tests, it was confirmed that my body wasn’t producing the right amount of hormones. Some months, my fertility was suddenly jeopardised and my ability to join Motherhood was threatened. Having the choice of whether I wanted children, had allowed me to take it for granted but the moment I was told I may not be able to, I instinctively knew I HAD to become a Mother.

 

In a bid to drown out my sorrow, I made myself as busy as possible. I distanced myself from my Husband so I didn’t have to admit that I might be a bigger failure than he even realised; so I didn’t have to admit that I wanted children more than we’d really discussed.

The issues surrounding my periods had almost tricked me too many times into believing this was the time I was pregnant. I started taking contraception again as a means of feeling as though I had some control over what was happening. Through packet breaks, I’d wait anxiously to see if my period arrived.

Mostly, it didn’t.

 
I was 9 weeks into the first trimester when I first realised I was pregnant. My Gran had warned me that I would know intuitively when I fell…I didn’t have a clue!

Days before I took the test, I’d ventured up coast with some of my closest friends. We’d joked over how I’d gained weight despite dieting strictly and upping my gym routine. Worryingly, it wasn’t just my stomach that was showing – I could no longer get a pair of knickers to fit comfortably (I later learnt that this was due to my pelvis widening to give way for childbirth). I’d made us stop a million times to pee and felt bizarrely nauseous every time I sipped soda water.

 
But it wasn’t until I nearly passed out at my Auntie’s funeral that I realised something was a miss.

 
I’d began to resent purchasing pregnancy tests – the singular pink line was just an insult to me and my failing body. This time, I felt blasé about it all. Suspecting the result would reinforce my inability to conceive, I headed off into a local supermarket toilet. I mean, why get sentimental about it all? The test was most likely going to end up in the sanitary bin along with my pride and hope.

 
Also, I was incredibly hungover and just wanted the whole scenario to be over as soon as possible.
What can I say? I froze with fear when the second pink line manifested right in front of my eyes. Instantly, I vomited (which could have been the effects of the shock or the hangover).

 
I felt sick because I knew I hadn’t been looking after myself like a pregnant woman should. I’d drank far too much, restricted my calorie intake and overworked my body in hope of shifting those piling pounds before my holiday (which was only two days away).

 
I felt sick because my ideal moment had taken place in a skanky cubicle toilet with no-one close to share in my joy and fear.

 
I felt sick because the surge of maternal instinct was powerful and intense. I could not lose my child, ever. The need to protect was overwhelming and immense.
That doubt over whether I’d ever wanted children vanished instantaneously. I’d never wanted anything more in all my life!

Becoming a Mother made me. It wasn’t until my Son arrived that I realised, I was lost beforehand. I’d struggled with who I was, with what I wanted out of life, with what I’d tolerate.


Motherhood made life clear. I wanted love and affection but not from those who didn’t deserve it. I wanted for me what I wanted for my children. I wanted happiness, fulfilment, joy and laughter.

I wanted meaning!

 
Motherhood made me value my worth. It suddenly became obvious to me how I needed to be treated…by others but mostly by myself. I found myself admiring my body and appreciating it in ways I’d never been able to before. My swollen postpartum stomach was worn with pride. My newly carved (and much wider) hips were beautiful and miraculous. I understood that if I put myself down, I’d only encourage my children to view their own flaws as negative or unattractive. I couldn’t entertain the thought that my own behaviour could be responsible for inflicting their own self-loathing in the future. Instead, I knew that I must instil confidence in them through displaying my own confidence outwardly.
I realised that I only needed the love of myself and my children. Anything above this was and is a bonus.

From the moment that second pink line appeared, I had changed. Changed in ways which made me whole and better.

 
Being a Mother has made me more patient, more tolerable, more kind and empathetic. It’s made me more confident, more assured, more certain and assertive.
It’s shown me how to be the best possible version of me and for that, I’ll always be grateful.
Grateful for the two amazing gifts I was granted.

I Hurt because I Don’t Know How to Fix Things


Ever since you arrived, I’ve had conflicting emotions between you and your Brother. I’m desperate to preserve his childhood, I watch him grow so swiftly that I want to pin him down and clutch on to his baby demeanour for as long as I physically can.
You, on the other hand, I’ve pressurised to grow.
Knowing you’ll be my last child, a part of me has passionately savoured the lengthy wait between each development. You’ve been my baby forever and I need you to know how much I’ve appreciated that. But still, I will you to grow.
The hardest part of your disability for me is the ‘not knowing’. We knew from birth that your brain bleed would leave permanent damage – it wasn’t until you turned 17 months that we learnt the extent of the trauma. 17 months of anxiety and doubt. I thought that once we had confirmation of the cause of your slow progress, I’d magnificently feel better but now knowing you have cerebral palsy leaves us with a new extent of uncertainty. 


There’s every real chance that we’ll never see you walk unaided, never watch you dance your 1st dance at your wedding, your Father may never be able to walk you down the aisle. This kills me! Especially because we’ll never know you won’t do this until you don’t. 
There’s a million moments each day which take me by surprise – I can look out the window at our neighbouring children chasing butterflies, with that wild tenacity young children have, and feel paralysed with dread that I may never be watching you join them. I can load up social media and see videos of children much younger than you climb slides or take their first step and feel sick to the pit of my gut that I may never share those moments for you. After all, it’s not for me that I want these opportunities – it’s very much for you.


You’re growing more mature now, you’ve started to realise you can’t join in. I see the frustration in your eyes, feel your heart ache with every glistening tear which rolls down your cheek. I spot the desperation in your mind to fit in, I watch you idolise other children, admiring their movements and itchy to copy. It’s that same will and desire which makes me feel more at ease.
You’re too determined to give in. You’re too strong to not conquer your hardships. 
More than ever, I’ve seen you transform recently. Our latest holiday was almost a catalyst for your growth – you decided to join the world of toddlerhood. Each night, the music would begin and your legs would spontaneously thrash out shapes, not too dissimilar to dance moves. Your arms would join in and your smile would radiate the space around you. Your laughter was infectious, captivating. You squealed until we took you to the dance floor, broke down if we tried to remove you from the fun. 


It was both mesmerising and incredibly hard in equal measures. Mesmerising because I’ve wished you to grow for so long that I almost couldn’t believe I was watching you do it! Hard because you harboured so much frustration and resentment at the lack of your own ability. Each night began with your untamed laughter but ended with your violent cries. 
This is why I will you to grow. 
As your Mother, I’ll always want you to succeed in everything your heart desires. I can’t handle listening to you scream because you want to run with your Brother. I can’t handle trying to settle you because you want to dance independently. Each head-but, each bite is confirmation as to how much you’re hurting. You thrash outwardly to make us identify with your pain. The thing is Dolly, I already feel it just as strongly as you do.
I hurt so much. I hurt because I don’t know how to fix things, don’t know how to get you to where you want to be.


All I can do is cuddle you, let you air your frustration and encourage you to succeed…even if this means picking you up after every single fail.
I’m proud to see you toddle, so grateful for the progress I see you make. You’re no longer my baby and I promise I won’t treat you as one, I won’t hold you back in ways that may be harmful to your development.
Together, we’ll do this. Together, we’ll make sure you have your moments…but if, somehow, we can’t – please remember that I’ll never ever give up on you. I’ve said before that I’ll carry you forever. If there ever comes a time I can’t carry you any longer, I’ll do whatever it takes to make sure you still succeed in everything your heart desires. I’ll push you, I’ll guide you, I’ll always support you.

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.

  

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 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