Facing Fears

The pain I have been in and how useless it has made me feel these last couple of weeks came to a head on Friday night. When Kev arrived home at 6pm to bathe Squidge and put her to bed, I couldn’t speak, sinking into my sadness.

As Squidge requested that “Daddy read” her bedtime story, I ran a hot, hot bath hoping my muscles might relax. I climbed in and burst into tears.

I fell into an exhausted sleep at some point that evening but even then… the tears and the sadness didn’t stop. In truth, I think I cried for 18 hours straight.

I think I was grieving. Grieving for the mum I wasn’t capable of being, for the support and experiences my beautiful girl couldn’t have because of me.

Having no choice but to accept that I will always be sore. Maybe not quite this much, but always some. That the levels of pain will always have some level of control on what I am able to do. And that didn’t seem like much at all.

We had a wedding reception to go to. But I couldn’t face it. Told Kev I couldn’t face the crowds, the small talk, the exhaustion and feeling like an eternal party pooper.

And Kev was as understanding as he could possibly be and told me that was fine. Said Squidge should go to his parents as planned and I should take care of me. But I just cried harder, I felt lost. If I wasn’t going to go, then I wanted to spend the weekend giving my time and energy to our little girl because the pain had let me fail her.

But Kev was right when he said I had no energy left to give, that to try when I was running on empty would be to everyone’s detriment. And I felt awful. Because more choices were being taken from me, because I couldn’t be the mum I so want to be.

Feeling like that though, how on earth was I supposed to go and have a nice, relaxing day to myself? When, not only would I be letting my daughter down, but also friends who were expecting me to celebrate their most special day with them? The prospect felt hollow and oh so lonely. I knew that if I was left alone, the horrible grieving tears had no chance of stopping. I didn’t know who to reach out to, because who can understand all the facets of this life?

The lessons of my Cognitive Behavioural Therapy course were also ringing loudly in my ears.

Face. Your. Fears.

Avoidance only offers temporary relief.

So, I took baby steps. My breathing wasn’t quite regular even when I got in the car with Kev, London bound. I didn’t know at that point whether I could talk myself into going to the reception. But it didn’t matter. I didn’t have to be alone.

And I went. I went into a room in a dress that made me feel pretty, in shoes that didn’t make me wince (Calla are literal lifesavers… I never thought shoes could make me happy) and I enjoyed the small talk, I enjoyed seeing so many happy people in one room. There was always a glass of Prosecco in my hand and it took hours of propping up the bar before my feet started to ache. I tried desperately not to pay attention to the time, to not bring myself down by feeling like a let down.

As it was, I admitted defeat just before 10pm – a solid effort for me. Kev was equally triumphant on my behalf and came back to the hotel with me without a word of complaint. I was a warm and happy drunk and felt accomplished with it.

I’d listened to the CBT advice and accomplished something for me, faced my fear of social situations, feeling like I couldn’t fit in a roomful of energetic happy people.

And I went to bed and slept for a good long time.

Exactly what I needed. Well done me.

Facing up to the reality of stress

Months ago, I took myself to the GP and told her that I was overwhelmed and sad. She referred me to the Mental Health team who have in turn, given me the opportunity to attend some Stress Controll and Fulfilment classes.

I went to the very first session of the Stress Control Group yesterday. I was anxious about it all day, nerves writhing in my tummy. I couldn’t concentrate and got very little work done. So a stress course was essentially stressing me out, making me feel guilty for not applying myself to my paid work. Ironic isn’t it? But I walked to the venue, I walked through the door. Three people in the queue ahead of me asked to be directed to the same place, so I didn’t even need to feel daft and just walking into that room felt like such a big achievement. I was after all, there to help myself.

There were so many people in that room. It was amazing. You always think that you are the only one, when in fact, stress is as common as can be, causing so many related issues for us all, like constant physical pains. Who knew, right?

I felt quite panicky just being sat there and could feel myself losing my sense of “being in the room”, spiralling off into my own panic. I wanted to cry for all the struggling people they talked about in the case studies, I wanted to get up and run. It was hard to listen, though I laughed to myself when the course leader said exactly that – that concentration is always poor when we’re stressed and anxious. But she also kept saying that I was in the right place and it made me feel braver, safer.

I can’t pretend I listened well for the whole two hours because I know I didn’t. But some snippets really resonated with me.

We all have stress in our lives.

None of us can change what has gone before, so why waste emotional energy overthinking what you cannot change? What’s ridiculous is, I of course, know this, but hearing someone, a professional, say it out loud, the little monster that lives in my ear unclenched a little bit and stopped dead. Because it’s so true. You have to go on. And in spite of everything I have told myself I am not capable of, the one thing I know I am capable of is going on – nothing has killed me yet.

They told us that stress feeds itself on all your other stressors. So if you spend a long time feeling stressed and overwhelmed, chances are the thing that stressed you this week is not the thing that set off the stress of last week. You have to find ways of cutting the little monster off. And hopefully, that’s what these courses will enable me to do, to find happiness in the little things and to feel real pride for all my achievements.

And here’s my first one:

Our homework was to draw out our “vicious circle of stress” – all the things that stress us and how they manage to keep themselves going, so that we could try and work out ways of starving the stress. Now, I didn’t get that far, because honestly, my circle was far too busy to be a circle. A list of stressors came pouring out of me. And when I read it back, I realised that for years now, I have been dealing with a lot!

I haven’t necessarily dealt with these things well, these are things I am looking to learn, to help myself. But nevertheless, I am constantly dealing with a lot, even outside the standard “marriage, child, house” that it’s likely everyone else in that room was dealing with. I have pain, I have limitations, which in themselves need a lot of work on acceptance before the anger wins. I have uni, I have long-distance relationships to maintain and a lot of memories to process that have hindered my sense of independence and self-confidence.

And suddenly, I felt proud of myself for being able to carry on. I’m going to give myself less of a hard time. I never feel proud of myself. Me, myself & I have pretty much always struggled to get on, so honestly, this was a great start.

The mantra of the stress control course is something like “Face your fears. Be more active. Watch what you drink.”

Avoidance is a huge crutch of mine and the course already recognises that avoidance does work to control stress in the shor term. But avoiding your fears just builds them up into a more deep rooted problem longer-term and to be honest, I think therein lie a lot of my problems. They’ve gone unfaced for too long and have become a horrible, stubborn part of me that I hate, but that really has quite a grip on me.

So I’m trying to take the mantra to heart already, even without realising it.

The day before the course, I walked Squidge to playgroup. She needs constant bribing to get in the pram now because she’d rather walk, but we did OK.

She was patient, she listened (she even collected the Deep Heat lotion for me that morning when I was on the floor complaining that my “neck ow!” She handed me the container saying “Mummy medicine neck ow!” I was so blummin’ touched. She went into playgroup without a backward glance when previously she’s refused to go in without clinging to me. Well done Squidge, my big, brave, grown up girl.

Enjoying her soup before Wednesday’s playdate

I pottered round town, buying all the bits we needed and then I went back for me. She wolfed down some soup and went for a nap in preparation for a park playdate we had with a friend. But she wasn’t ready for me to wake her an hour later and howled like I was beating her whenever I made moves to get her dressed. She clung to me, sobbing, only comforted when I rocked her like I did when she was newborn. I felt awful, that my baby was so upset, that I couldn’t dress her, that we’d be late, what my friend would think.

As it was, we were only ten minutes late and my friend couldn’t have been kinder – and Squidge couldn’t have been more delightful, cooing over her baby boy and guzzling her babyccino like a pro.

Face your fears – I didn’t allow myself to cry off and let a friend down, or let myself feel terrible for doing so, like I didn’t deserve friends. I told myself (and Squidge!) that she was getting dressed because I knew we’d (both!) appreciate the experience much more when we were there.

Be more active – Two walking trips to town and back. Well done me!

Watch what you drink – I got a 12 bottle box of wine at cost price from work for Christmas, so I’m not gonna lie, I have been caning the rosé (which for a lightweight like me means 1x large glass, so only just topping my 14 units/week (maybe?) I’m probably not drinking to medical excess even now, but I know it’s still more than I really should. So yesterday, I had a small one.

See? Wins all round!

And today, I met up with another friend and her little girl at mine & Squidge’s favourite soft play and then they came up to play at the playground by our house for some outdoor time. They ran off to the basketball court together to run about and when they came back out, they were holding hands like the best of friends. My heart felt so huge with love in that second, I felt so happy.

Playing with her lovely friend on the “tee-taw” today – and absolutely not looking at Mummy’s camera!

The lovely mobile hairdresser came round too to check how I’d gotten on with the ponytail tuition and would you believe – I actually did it! Even with my weak hand, I got my hair up higher than I ever have before, so I have the skills there now. Just more practise and then I can learn a messy bun to go with my messy ponytail. (So relieved these are in fashion because these are what comes naturally to my wonky hands too!)

I am very proud of me. Because in these last 3 days, I have done a lot to benefit myself, which in the end can only mean the best of all things for Squidge. A little less avoidance from now on. Let’s see what the best of me looks like!

The Part-Time Part-Timer

This is the name I have gotten for myself at work. At first, it was playful banter. Don’t get me wrong, I work with a brilliant bunch of people and am fortunate enough to have the most supportive boss in the world, but recently, it has niggled more and more.

My life has always been in many parts. I can’t explain why I prefer to compartmentalise my “beings”, but I just find life easier to handle this way. And of course, my most important “being” without question is as a mummy.

So when I went back to work part-time in 2017, I smiled when the nickname arose. “I get to spend 2 days at home with my awesome baby girl, don’t hate me cos you ain’t me!” was pretty much my uber mature response.

When I was allowed to start working from home to ease my physical demands, I was in the office less, the nickname used more. Never with malice, this I know. Many people in my team are fulfilling much more complex roles than I am and all power to them. I work to live and I am not a career girl. I did not dream of climbing a big corporate ladder – I wanted to be a mum. So I am more than happy to muddle through on a part time job. I am fortunate enough to do so because my lovely husband is willing to shoulder more of the financial burden.

But it occurred to me, outside of my boss, who allows me to be very frank when I say how physically and emotionally exhausted I can get, no-one has actually asked what this new chapter of my life is like for me.

Not Social Services when I pleaded for help with my newborn, not the health visitor (who, by the way, still hasn’t called on us in the 18 months we’ve lived in this house, not even after our dash to A&E when Squidge decided to lick a washing tablet, but hey ho, just as well she’s fine eh?) I haven’t been asked about how my disability impacts my life since my days working in classrooms, when 10 year olds would inquisitively question what it was that made me walk funny.

No-one has asked me about this life in 4 long years.

And I suddenly feel that I want to tell them all, because they need to know.

They need to know that no matter where I am, I work all my hours (which, actually is 4 days worth, not 3.) I’m the first in and the last out. I’m not spending my days off on jollies, as much as I’d like to. Lunch dates are few and far between, because what I’m actually doing more often than not is catching up on sleep. Because I don’t sleep. Probably because my back was hurting from sitting in my office chair for nearly 11 hours, or because my leg muscles seized again and walking is too hard today.

I don’t just get to fill my days with trips to the park and evenings in the pub because there’s no work tomorrow. More often than not, I’m slumped half-dead on the sofa by 7:30. I daren’t make evening plans with a friend because I’ll inevitably cancel through exhaustion. (I last went out 6 months ago when I went to see Ed Sheeran. I gave myself almost a year’s notice, made myself nap for an hour that afternoon and still was exhausted by 10pm and Ed was nowhere near done!) I have very little hope of a social ife because I need to take care of me first. It’s so damn sad and yet, it remains all I get.

Work less hours then maybe? Well yes, but then how does the mortgage get paid? Do I not have the right to work and provide for my daughter? God forbid, I just become one of those “scroungers” on benefits. I detest that term by the way… do not judge it til you’ve lived it. And ironically, we’ve looked into it – I’m entitled to nothing from the state, despite the fact that I’ve paid in, or that I struggle to get through every day. And that would be fine were it based on any insight into my capabilities. But it’s not. It’s based on my husband’s income. Not even just my own. But his. And we’re too “rich” to ask for help, even though me having no income at all would probably put us on the breadline. It’s ludicrous, so work I must.

Give up on my degree maybe? I’ve thought about it, but this one thing is just for me. Something I work hard at, something I treasure, something I’m determined to show both myself and my daughter I can see through, that I am capable of anything. I’m determined to give myself better options for when the life I’m living now is no longer sustainable.

I’m giving this life my all and if you knew me well enough to ask, you’d realise that far too often, I’m left with very little to give.

And even on those kind of days, you’ll still see me at my desk. I’ll already have been there for hours by the time you come in at 9am. I’m not judging you, am I? I sincerely believe in work-life balance and think everyone should work to rule and get the Hell out by 5pm to go and live life, to be with your family. If you don’t agree, fine. Go get that promotion by next year if that’s what will make you happy.

But please, don’t call me a Part-Time Part-Timer. Yes, I work part-time hours at this job, but, my God, I am full-time everything else.

Becoming herself

In case you haven’t guessed by now, I am completely in love with my little girl. She is so many things to me; so many things that every other parent in the world would insist their precious ones were to them. But, somehow, I truly believe that Squidge means more.

She doesn’t yet know that she is the reason I get out of bed. She is the reason 6am starts with a head over the cot shouting “Hiya! Hiya! HIYA!” down the corridor is fine; even when all you wanted was to have the first wee of the day in peace. I love the structure and reassurance she brings into my world with her very existence. I know who I am with Squidgelet, what’s expected of me and I take pride in doing it all well.

Seriously, all of it. Getting her a cup of milk. Making sure she gets her 5 a day. Making sure she goes outside and sees our little corner of the world to call home. Making sure she smiles every day.

Although these things may seem simple, sometimes, they might as well be the hardest tasks in the world. Keeping house and raising happy healthy babies are jobs so many of us undertake. I often wonder how anyone could do it alone. Kev comes from a single parent family. I know he sees his mum as a beacon of integrity and accomplishment. The lady did good.

And of course, I’m lucky enough to have Kev. I’m equally lucky to be a part time working mummy, so I’m the one that gets to have days at home with her. And sometimes, those days can be lonely, because it feels like all the responsibility is mine. But also, sometimes, I look at my baby and realise, with a mixture of absolute pride and complete nostalgia, that she is a baby no more. I’ve been saying this – and believing it too – since she was about 6 months old. But it is so very true now. My baby can do so many things now.

  • She climbs up and down the stairs herself – or she’ll copy me and shuffle down on her bum
  • She’ll sweep the floors with a brush
  • She’ll put every nappy in the bin
  • She’ll lift her arms to help me dress her
  • She’ll take my hand and take me to her cupboard full of snacks and toiletries – normally for a biscuit, but she’ll go and collect her toothbrush at bedtime
  • She’ll take the washing in and out of the machine on demand for me
  • She’ll grab the milk out the fridge, flick the kettle on and put the tea bag in the cup
  • She will unfold her nappy for me, lying back on the changing mat.

She is so helpful, so capable.

And I am loving it. Because being her caregiver is getting easier and so much more enjoyable. She’s so engaging, scrambling up my lap to eat her toast at teatime, or bringing me her shoes because she’s ready to go out.

I am so enjoying the days I get at home with her now, especially with the nice weather when we can just pootle into town or go to the swings.

Because of her, I have developed a concept that helps me recognise how well we’re doing together.

#mummywins

Mummy won last week when for the first time, I took her to GymTots by myself. Gymnastics softplay, and when she’s a bit older she’ll be able to actually start gymnastics class. I’m so excited for her to start trying different things and finding the things that make her busy and happy. At Gymtots, she tears around on all the mats and play equipment. When she was smaller, I was so scared I wouldn’t be able to keep her safe. But she loved it, climbing up the slide over and over. Then we went to the shops.

Today, we did the same and I even managed a proper conversation with another grown up. That’s a big deal for me, I get so shy and stressed out. So not only did I manage to get Squidge out on time to attend a class, I walked us there and managed to be sociable! Major wins for me.

Yesterday, it was raining, so we got on the bus and went to the supermarket. I always deliberate try and leave a couple of things we need from the shop so that I have to get her out. Poor love got rained on a bit and by the time we were done it was lunchtime. And truthfully, I was dreading waiting for the bus home with poor Squidge getting hungrier and hungrier and more irate. All we had yesterday was time. And so, I made the decision to buy us lunch in the café.

That’s the first time I’ve ever felt brave enough for us both to eat out. It was a different situation when all she needed was a cuddle and a bottle. She needs constant supervision with her food now and I get so swept up in running round after her needs, I often forget my own (plus side of that is I’m grabbing lots of fruit on the go and have lost a few pounds!)

But she was brilliant and it was such a lovely time to spend with my poor drenched girl. I am so grateful to have this time with her, because it is so awesome to spend time with this little person. That’s what it is. Not just caring for her. But sitting across the table from her, letting her steal bites of my lunch and asking if it tastes nice, hearing her go “Mmmmm!”

I am having so much fun being Squidge’s mum. And I feel so proud of myself each time we get out of the house. Between us, we’re gettig this. And that’s why #mummywins

#mummywins

I try to do my best by this one every day. Every parent does. But sometimes, I am so physically wrecked I can’t lift her for the cuddles I so want to give her and sometimes she settles instead for gently stroking the bruises that appear everywhere from my falls. “Aww Mumma!”

And sometimes we have days where #mummywins

Today, she helped me put the washing on, she flicked the kettle on, got the milk out the fridge door and put a teabag in a cup for me.

She held up her feet while I changed her nappy, stretched out her arms slowly to help me dress her and went to get her shoes.

And so today, I felt brave. I took her to a gymnastics soft play down the road. All by myself. I’ve always been too scared to go alone… scared I’ll be in too much pain to chase her, unable to keep her safe.

But she clambered up the ladder of the slide before I could even ask if she needed help. Look at her 😍 She deserves every second.

I have such an independent, helpful understanding girl. I am so ridiculously proud of her and so happy when we can share days like today.

Today, Mummy wins.

Image may contain: 1 person, sitting, child and table

Image may contain: 1 person, sittingImage may contain: 1 person, child and indoor

I am not Super Mum – and I’m OK with that

I never thought I would be. I wanted the Instragrammable parenthood remember, all baby yoga and coffee dates. I haven’t given up on the coffee dates (caffeine keeps all us mums going, am I right?) but baby yoga can go shove itself.

We spend so much time berating ourselves for not being perfect, not doing enough. I was terrible for this even before Squidge came along and since? Well, I’m the world’s worst mother if left in conversation with myself.

Since I went back to work in August, I have worked 3 long days (8-5:30). It was my choice and I cherish being able to be at home with Squidge midweek, even if I don’t get the lie-ins I so desperately need.

Because it’s hard. So much harder than I realised. I am physically exhausted. There has always been an element of fatigue with CP, but when I was younger and had more energy, I could lie and pretend it didn’t exist. Kev has always encouraged me to rest and nap and I have always screwed my face up and protested “But I’m only twenty(something), I shouldn’t need to nap!”

How times have changed. I wake up each morning, normally to Squidge banging the side of her cot, or poking her head round to look me in the eye as she shouts “Mum-mum-mum-mum!” which roughly translates to “Well, are you getting up then? I’m hungry!” And as I drag myself out from under the duvet, I’m already craving sleep. I have to plan in naps if I dare want to go anywhere in the evenings. I can’t remember the last time I had the energy to keep plans, even though I keep making them.

Saturday night, I am planning to go watch Grease, my favourite ever film and musical, at an outdoor screening at Cardiff Castle with a local social group. I want to meet more people, take an interest in somebody else’s life! And, if I may so, £16 a ticket is a lot of money for something I can stream from my sofa. I’m fed up with wasting money!

I thought it was happening on Friday, so was trying to tell myself it was a good job I was working and would be local. But the 2 hours between finishing work and the start time? I’d be falling asleep, so I was literally ecstatic when I realised I’d got the date wrong. It’s on Saturday, which means I can nap in the afternoon! I miss having a social life so much and to be honest, if Grease won’t get me to do it, nothing will! I need some time to just be me.

But I can also no longer deny I’m going to need more and more time to take care of myself. Kev had the foresight to know this. The medical viewpoint of CP is that the neurological damage that results in CP does not worsen. But no-one ever told me the symptoms might get worse and my God! the fatigue!

He knew I cannot work forever. I never even considered it. I was just hoping that I’d be able to stay at home because I’m a mum, never because I’d actually need to. I take a lot of pride in the fact I can work, and am also very proud of the little financial independence I have managed to build. Of course, that’s lessened since I reduced my hours, but it doesn’t mean much compared to time at home watching Squidge grow. She’s not even 9 months yet and she wants to walk!

Kev is working very hard, so that I might be lucky enough to stop working completely by the time Squidge starts school. I’ll have hopefully finished my degree by then too. It feels a long time in terms of the tiredness I’ll endure and how my social life and sense of self might suffer before then, but I suppose both of those are down to me. I never thought I would need to be done with the workplace before I was even 35. It has dented my confidence a bit.

But hey ho, I get to be Mummy, the best job I’ve ever had, the thing that helped me realise what I was for, what my purpose truly is. And being a mummy is all about Squidge. Cuddles and smiles, making sure she grows up healthy and happy. It is not, so my wonderful husband has helped me realise, about keeping house, or hurting myself in the effort to do so. I am Squidge’s mum, not the cleaner.

Housecleaning-on-cleaning-free-stock-image-and-clip-art

And so – we hired a cleaner! An extravagance for some, but you know what? The relief I feel is amazing. I get to have and enjoy my lovely home, because we’ve taken steps to keep it lovely and enjoyable – and not at the expense of my back! I am so happy.

You have to look after you. In my case, Squidge only gets one mummy. I’m going to give her my all. The damn dishwasher can wait to be loaded. And I might even indulge in a nap.

Because I’m not Super Mum…. and I’m (finally!) OK with that.

The Madness of Maternity Leave

My daughter is my life. My love and admiration for her is irrevocable. I look at her every day and usually find myself with tears in my eyes because I am (still) so amazed that this beautiful little girl is part of me. The best part of me.

But none of these facts take away from the fact that maternity leave is one of the strangest life periods I have ever been through. I can’t quite work out if I love it or hate it.

I went on leave at 29 weeks pregnant because I ached and I was heavy and tired. It was the right time for me and I would do it again. My maternity leave kicked in officially 3 weeks later. I spent those 3 weeks in the steady routine of daytime telly (Homes Under the Hammer, Wanted Down Under, re-runs of the Bill & Birds of a Feather on Drama) and sitting in my nursing chair listening to audios of my uni textbooks, trying to get ahead ready for Squidge’s arrival. The routine of it, given that I was too heavy to go outside safely by myself by then, was comforting.

Then, suddenly (or not so suddenly if you’ve read about the birth) she was here. So were Kev and my in-laws, our little flat bursting at the seams. I told myself that as soon as I was recovered from the pain of the c-section, I was going to be a model mum. You know, lots of (expensive!) classes for Squidge’s development, lots of making new mummy friends.

Except, I honestly didn’t manage to get out the house with her until she was 2 months old and even then I was still twinging.

It  turned out that most of the classes were 2 bus journeys away, which is a nightmare to plan when you have a pram, or even worse when you need to be at this class for 10am.

Squidge is almost 5 months old now and pretty much every weekend I have been in tears to Kev about how I am failing our girl.

I have to give myself a day off every time I’ve taken her out in the pram, because getting the damn thing down off the wall takes it out of me. And I’m rubbish at staying indoors. The Internet teaches that you need to be living an Instagrammable existence to be able to call yourself a good mum.

There’s baby massage (tried it twice, Squidge didn’t give a damn) there’s baby sensory (I took her once, her grandparents another) and it was just too hard to spend my life down on the floor. It’s no fun when you’re calculating how to safely lift her off the floor when your hips ache this much. There is library rhymetime, but there’s no hope of being ready for anywhere by 10. We took her once when Kev had the day off. It was lovely, but hectic even then. It is however, the only one so far that hasn’t wanted to charge me £8-10 a session (baby yoga anyone?) It’s free, but I’ve been aware of it since she was born and still not seen fit to wake her up early to make it on time. You never wake a sleeping baby.

But Rhymetime and maybe some local church playgroups (still a bus ride away) are all I intend to hold myself accountable for from now on. I can stay at home and hover over the poor love singing songs. None of how this time is spent makes a damn bit of difference to Squidge at this age. All the groups are actually for the mothers. Of all the reasons she’ll criticise me as her mother when she gets older I don’t think “If only you’d taken me to baby yoga!” will be one of them.

These classes exist to make money and to give mums an excuse to get out of the house. And I make myself feel guilty for not doing the latter because I get bored and lonely, not because it hinders my baby. She still smiles every day. She sleeps every day and she feeds well.

I’m lucky that I get to spend every day looking at her beautiful face and I shall miss it so much when I have to go back to work in August (hopefully a part-timer though!) The guilt that I have to at all is starting to eat at me the closer it gets. I look back over my 7(!) months so far of maternity leave and feel so terrible that it hasn’t been leisurely walks in the park with other mums. That’s just not realistic, I’m not even a walking kind of person!

I even get pangs of jealousy when I see dads coming in with mums and babies for their jabs, wishing Kev could be with us. But if he was, then we wouldn’t be able to afford our home, never mind our daughter, and I want her to learn the importance of working for what you have. It’s only thanks to how hard poor Kev works (and the astronomical cost of childcare) that meant the option to go part time was even viable!

I only gave myself 2 goals for maternity leave.

  1. Pass my driving test
  2. Learn to swim

Both are still works in progress, but the most important thing is I’m doing them both. I even managed to swim breast-stroke in the pool when Kev and I went on holiday. So proud of myself.

The one thing that continues to niggle, much as it did before Squidge was even a second line on a pregnancy test is my lack of sociability. I don’t want this to be true for Squidge and honestly, the rounds of daytime TV on your own do get lonely. I desperately want to meet other mums.

But groups just don’t do it for me. I love meeting babies, but honestly, I don’t actually care how you feed or how well they sleep (mainly cos I don’t want to answer, I’m that mum everyone hates with the great baby that’s been sleeping through since 11 weeks and pretty much established her own routine too – sorry!)

I want to go drink coffee and eat cake and maybe, just maybe, leave baby at home and remember what’s it like to go out past 7pm and drink a glass of wine.

And I’ve been giving myself such a hard time about all my wasted “time”, probably because I haven’t met my new best friend who completely gets how bewildered I still feel about motherhood yet. But the truth of it is, although the flurry of visitors has died away, I have a lot of friends around.

They may not be as close distance wise as I would like, but it has been so lovely to reach out to so many people and make plans, whether it’s a lunch date next week (I’ve had 2 my entire leave, don’t buy into the idea that it’ll be lunch dates every other day, you’ll be too knackered for that however nice your friends are!) or a trip to the theatre (off to see Miss Saigon with one of my best friends in December, a merely 14 years after she recommended it!)

Another of my closest friends, who I met in Cardiff is coming to mine for our mutual friend’s 30th this weekend. They’ve both since moved away, but when we’re back together, it’s like nothing has changed. (Of course it has, two of us are mums now, but we can still put the world to rights over a glass of wine!) Just because they’ve moved, they haven’t disappeared out of my life.

Today, I think I think I’ve probably had reason to text more of my friends than I have spoken to, most likely, since Squidge was born. I might have quiet days (I’m the friend that’s really rubbish at returning messages, cos I wrote my reply in my head a week ago!) but what I do have is lots of plans.

And so, I’m telling myself now – no more guilt.

It doesn’t take expensive groups to meet people. If they are your thing and you have the energy to be up at 6am to be there for 10am (yes, really!) then good for you. But it’s not for me. And truthfully, I am getting a lot more out of my time off than I credit myself for. I’m making it work for me and that’s fine. Squidge knows no better and she wakes up every day with a smile, whether I bother to get dressed or not.

Squidge saw the health visitor today and she called her the “happiest baby she’s ever seen”. So smiley and secure in her bond with me. I couldn’t care if she says that to all the mums, it meant the world to me. It showed that classes honestly made bugger all difference and that even if I did just sit at home singing songs to her in front of Coronation Street, I am still managing to raise a sociable and happy girl. So it’s OK to do things my way.

I’ve actually taken to messaging local mums from the comfort of my sofa, through sites like Mummy Social & Mush.

 

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I can’t claim my social life has exploded, however much I wish it were true, simply because I just don’t have the energy for that and I need to be sensible and take care of myself day to day too. But it has resulted in a few coffee dates with mums and their lovely babies and that shows potential. The rest is up to me. And I’m hopeful, simply because there are ways out there to do this mummy’ing thing the way I need to do it.

So give yourselves a break mums. It might be hectic, it might be lonely, but it doesn’t last forever. So make it what you need it to be. I’m bettering myself and even if my maternity leave won’t be Instagrammable and I’ll never make it to baby yoga, it needn’t be lonely either.

Wish me luck.

I’ll let you know the second I make it to that 10am Rhymetime!