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!

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

10 Things That Saved Me As a First Time Parent

I’ve mentioned before that I never expected parenting to be easy but I did approach it with visions of fairy tales and Disney experiences. There was such an array of things I didn’t have a clue about. It was only after my firstborn arrived, I realised just how clueless I was about parenting.

I was 28 when my son arrived. At that age, I expected to be somewhat an expert in the ‘living’ malarkey. After all, I was a baby once myself. And, having the best memory of anyone I’ve ever met (my earliest memories date back to around 16 months old), I can vividly remember what worked for me. My game plan was to do it exactly as my parents had done. Then I welcomed Tristan into the world and all I knew flew straight out the window.

The realisation that I knew nothing hit me seconds after Tristan was born. In fact, I’ll admit that it occurred as soon as he was handed to me. My initial feelings were to hand him back ‘can you look after him?’ I uttered to a Midwife, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing’. It was true, I was completely lost. The first night of his life, I never woke naturally once to his cry. I remember dying of embarrassment as the midwife rocked my shoulder and declared ‘he’s crying for his Mammy’. Great use I was!

It didn’t stop there either, my useless followed me home. Admittedly, the first time I left the house with him on my own, I forgot his milk. His milk! I mean, this was basic, I really should have known. Now I know that this was unforgivable (he’s 20 months now and I still shudder as I recall the look on my cousin’s face as I confessed to what I had done), but in my defence, there’s so much stuff that no one tells you. So much stuff which is meant to be natural.

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So, on that note, I’ll tell you what lessons I learn quickly as a new parent. Before I start, I know that all babies are different and what worked for mine won’t necessarily work for others but I bet there’s something in here which can be of use:

1: Dummies aren’t always evil!

Before Tristan was born, I was indifferent on the matter. Truth be told, I hadn’t considered them only because I didn’t realise a baby could have one from birth. I thought they were for older kids (holds head in shame). I don’t know whether I would have ever clicked on had it not been for a Midwife’s advice when Tristan was two days old. Tristan was born at 37 weeks, before his arrival, my husband had booked to travel to Wembley. I’d pleaded with him not to go. Instinctively, I knew my son was coming early. ‘You’ll miss the birth’ I uttered. He didn’t listen but luckily for him, Tristan came two days before he was meant to leave. Tristan’s severe jaundice saw him rendered to a BillyBed for his first 72 hours. Unable to cuddle him and comfort him, he squealed excessively. The only thing that would comfort him was sucking on his Father’s knuckle. So, for 16 hours straight, Dale stood perched over his cot with his finger in Tristan’s mouth. As Wembley drew nearer, the anxiety grew. How were we going to cope without ‘Golden Finger’? Then, like god answering our prayers, a midwife chirped ‘for crying out loud, buy this boy a dummy’. A dummy? It was that simple! We’ve really never looked back. I get that they’re not for every baby but some of you will have suckers and those suckers may need a dummy!

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2: White Noise Helps Babies Focus

This is another thing I would have never known before having a child. Babies are lulled by the sound of the womb. They constantly hear the sound of their Mother’s heart beating as well as the swishing and swooshing of water.

When Tristan was first born, he despised sleep. In fact, I could actually see the fear in his eyes as nighttime crept in. He was, quite simply, petrified. Doing as most Mothers will do, I took to the Internet for answers. In one of the chat rooms, I became acquainted with the notion of ‘white noise’. Thinking that I might as well give it a go (we had nothing else to lose – the only previous sound to comfort Tristan was Beyoncé. We listened to ‘Drunk In Love’ that many times on loop that my karaoke version is easily perfected), I downloaded an App. The sound of the womb was heavy and constant but I witnessed the calm wash over Tristan as he recognised a familiar sound. Soon, it became part of our nightly routine. When we first brought our Daughter home from NICU, we knew more than ever that white noise would be our saviour. At 5 weeks old, she had become accustomed to the bleeps and bangs of a busy hospital ward. Silence was going to be new…and scary! If any of you have poor sleepers, this could be the trick you’re after.

3: Dream Feeds are Magnificent

It didn’t matter how long my children had been settled for or how long it had been since their last feed, they always received a bottle (or breast) at 11pm at night. This guaranteed us at least 4 hours steady sleep. A human can function on 4 hours, 4 hours seems divine. I always offered my babies more than their usual bottle and it never failed us. Once again, I can’t promise that this will work for your baby but, if you’re in need of sleep and haven’t yet tried this tactic, it may work.

4: Swaddle Pods are Easier Than Blankets

I’d heard the risk of swaddling a baby, I knew the statistics proved that it could result in cot death. I worried endlessly about this but my son just wouldn’t settle if his arms and legs were free. The amount of times I peered over his cot to find his blanket completely covering his face worried me more so. I studied how to Swaddle properly on YouTube but I never felt confident. So, I took to Mamas and Papas determined for a solution. They presented me with a ‘Swaddle Pod’ it was made out of Lycra and was as easy as fastening a zip. It also reassured me that the product had been medically tested and the light material was designed to help regulate babies’ body temperatures. I was sold! The product looked cruel and many family members expressed their thoughts that we shouldn’t use it but we did what we thought was best for our child and I stand by that decision. Tristan needed his arms and legs restricting, he became too easily overstimulated. The Swaddle pod lasted until he was 5 months old, it definitely made our lives easier.

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5: Apnea Monitors Aren’t Worth It (Unless Your Baby Suffers From Apnea)

The anxiety over cot death was so strong when Tristan was first born that even when he’d sleep, I wouldn’t. Eventually, I bought an Apnea Mat to put my mind at rest. If he stopped breathing, the alarm would sound and I’d get to him before it became fatal. That’s how it was sold to me. Nowhere on the box did it say that the alarm would also sound every time he rolled off it. The fear and drama every time the mat sounded never went away. The first time it happened, I was sleeping soundly. Instinctively, I heard the beeping and rose instantly. I grabbed Tristan and squeezed him so tight I could have actually hurt him. Once it was established that it was a false alarm, I lay paralysed clinching to my son. It took 45 minutes for my Husband to convince me that everything was fine and to let go of Tristan. Even then, the hysterics didn’t stop for hours later. Needless to say, the panic and dread had all been for nothing. Unless advised by a Dr, this product can breed unnecessary pain.

6: Colic is Real and Painful to All Involved

My son had the worst colic I’ve ever know. He’d cry for hours upon end and I felt as though every time it happened, people would deem ‘he’s got colic’. I honestly grew sick of hearing it. So, if only to prove them wrong, I bought some Infacol. It was like heavenly syrup sent to save us. He burped, he trumped, he cried less, he smiled! At long last, he smiled! Gripe water, Infacol and baby gaviscon all became part of our feeding ritual. At first, I felt like a failure relying on such products to settle my son but the look of satisfaction and relief on his face soon made my guilt subside. Hot baths also worked a treat.

7: Sometimes It’s Best to Wait Until 6 Months To Wean (Sometimes its Not)

Tristan’s guts were immature as a result of his slightly early arrival. I was desperate to wean him early but every time we tried, he was crippled with constipation. Eventually, I gave up and waited until he was 6 months old. When we did wean, he took to food naturally and initially enjoyed it. However, I sometimes look at his negative attitude towards food and wonder whether this was instigated by us weaning him too young. I know of others who have successfully weaned even before 4 months but look at your child and read their signs. They’ll tell you when they’re ready.

8: Time is The Only Healer For Teething

Amber bracelets, Anbesol, Teething Gels, Calpol, Ice Pops, Teething Rings…will all only offer a short term fix. Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can really do to help your child until that first tooth cuts. In that, I don’t mean leave your baby to suffer. Those short term fixes are definitely worth it but if you’re looking for the miracle cure, you’re going to be severely disappointed.

9: Routine is Key

I don’t believe a newborn baby is ready for a routine, they need you as and when they most desire but from 6 weeks, an established routine can go a long way. It doesn’t matter which way you do things or what time you start but having such a pattern is definitely worth it. Sometimes, babies will tell you when they’re ready for this or when something needs changing but giving babies boundaries can definitely be useful.

10: What is Best For You is Best For Your Baby

As soon as a baby is born, every parent crawls out of the woodwork to offer guidance and advice (this entire blog is exactly that). However, you are the one who knows your baby inside out. Yes, take some advice on board, be open minded and willing to try techniques that are tried and tested by others but trust your instincts when something isn’t working. There was advice offered to me that I immediately turned my nose up at, there were lessons I learnt that I should have listened sooner. However, for every 10 pieces of advice offered to me, I could guarantee that there’d be something that just wasn’t right for me or my children. Don’t be afraid to take advice on board, it doesn’t make you a failure but also, listen to yourself. After all, you know best.

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I’m Just Waiting For You to Need Me

You had a nightmare last night. Woke up screaming at 2am. For a while, you were inconsolable, obviously still affected by the images haunting your dreams.

I thought you’d want your Daddy so I sent him to calm you. You always want your Daddy.

This time was different, it was my name you chanted when you saw him enter your room. Daddy wouldn’t do, you needed your Mother’s touch.

I scooped you up and you instantly wrapped your arms around my neck, allowed your legs to coil around my waist and nuzzled your head into my neck.

I held you as you sobbed loudly and erratically. I rocked you and reassured you that everything would be alright. I took you to my bed and held your body until you were completely soothed. Then, I lay with you until you fell back to sleep.

The feeling was bittersweet.

Partly, I felt saddened by your distress. It broke my heart to see you hurting, to watch you cry with fear in your eyes. Yet, partly I felt happy.

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For so long, I’ve worried about our bond. It’s never me you crave, never me you look for. Since Siena was born, I worry that you’ve learnt to take comfort in others first. I’ve anxiously wondered whether you became accustomed to my negligence, if you learnt to turn to others when Mammy couldn’t be there for you.

I never want you to feel that way. That, in itself, breaks my heart more that anything else ever could. I’ll always be there for you and I’ll always love you unconditionally.

When Siena was born, her prematurity and illness meant her needs were momentarily greater than yours. I tried my very best to make sure you didn’t notice. But I guess you did.

Before she arrived, we were so close. I was your comforter, your entertainer, your best friend. I was yours. You loved me and I knew it, I felt it in those delicate moments we shared. Your cottage pie kisses were gentle and tender. Your cuddles were long and generous.

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Now, I wonder whether you feel differently about me.

It’s no longer me you cry for. It’s no longer me you turn to for comfort or for fun. I sense the disappointment when it’s me you get and not your Dad.

I don’t know how to fix the distance between us. I look at other women with their sons and cry that our bond isn’t the same. I love you insanely and want you to be aware of that.

It breaks my heart when you push me away, when you cry because your Daddy has left and you’re stuck with me. When I ask you for a kiss and you turn your head, when I try to cuddle you but you kick away.

I wonder if you’re angry with me, if you feel as though your love wasn’t enough? It was baby. It would have always been enough. Your love could move mountains. Your love taught me what love actually was.

Once Siena arrived, I made special effort to still do things together. Your Art class was meant to be an opportunity for us to still do fun things together, our Monday’s were also Mother and Son fun days. Then I returned to work and the gulf between us intensified.

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So, tonight, as you cried, I selfishly took comfort in your neediness. You cried for me and that meant the world.

As you grow, I hope our bond does too. I want you to know that I’ll always be the person there for you first. I’ll listen to your problems, wipe away your tears and always care about your hopes and dreams. I’ll hold your hand through hardships and celebrations. I’ll kiss your scraped knees and mend your hurts. I’ll always be ready to comfort you.

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I’m just waiting for you to need me.

The Twinkle Diaries