The Battle for Baby #2

I mentioned earlier that I have been suffering with anxiety and feeling overwhelmed by the sheer number of elements in my life.

Last week, like a kick in the chest, I suddenly was able to give these anxieties their unspeakable name.

“I’m not sure we should have another baby.”

Now, permit me to be clear…. Being Squidge’s mum has shown me what my purpose is in life. I was terrified to become a mum, so scared of failing my baby, but I loved her from the first second I put my hand on my belly on the way home to tell Kev I was expecting. She is mine, she is the light in my life.

I want nothing more than to go through the experience again. I feel as though I know more what to expect now, and I want to appreciate the miracle that pregnancy is, I want to take the time to appreciate the amazing things that my body, normally wrecked and ruined, can do.

But….

Parenting is hard. It is so very hard. I am so tired, scrabbling to find the energy for other aspects of my life that I cannot let give yet.

Work being the first example.

I honestly believed I would work forever, just as everyone else my age is condemned to do these days. If I needed money, I needed to work, simple as. But it took Kev looking me dead in the face and saying: “You realise you can’t do this for much longer, don’t you?” to realise how damn tired I was. And he’s right. It’s not worth giving up the quality of the rest of my life to be able to bring in a wage. People survive every day.

And so, we mutually agreed that I should phase my working hours out. I like working. It gives me a sense of normality and of self worth. It wouldn’t do anyone much good for me just to quit working outright. And who knows, we might strike a beneficial balance along the way.

I am very lucky that I now have a very understanding boss, who, in his own words “lives in the real world” and always tells me to take care of myself and that I must “tell me how it needs to be, you don’t need me to tell you you come first.” He knows how hard I find the second point because I so desperately don’t want my condition to affect my productivity at work. But he hasn’t seen a decrease and so refuses to dictate to me. I really like that and I really enjoy working for him.

He already knows that it won’t be forever, but he too is determined to help me find that balance. He also knows I envision another maternity leave in my future at the company.

But can it really happen? Childcare alone prices me out of being able to work and enjoy the miracle of 2 children. Kev’s income currently is diminished by the amount we would need to survive as a one income family and my God, I already watch every penny I spend.

And so, I put the question of income to the wisdom of the internet, trying to bring our expenditures down. I explained about my condition and the need to stop working no matter what happens, and the want we so have for another baby.

I mention to the internet how I have aspirations to do my masters after my degree. Someone asks: “Why, if you can’t work?”

And I bristle, feel myself get defensive. “Why not?” I fire back. “How else can I invest in my self worth if I’ll be at home through no fault of my own with no job and no much wanted baby to care for, because it’s for the best?” I tell this lady about my aspiration to become a play therapist and that is most likely to be sessional work rather than a 9-5, which will suit my physical health better.

She replies: “If you’re adding to your skills, your financial worries won’t last forever. Good luck.”

BAM! She’s right. I’ve never realised it before. I have always been determined to see through my degree and the masters to show Squidge that no matter how long the road to get there, dreams are obtainable. I never even thought about the fact that if I keep going, I’m not simply crashing out of having any uses, or contributions to make. I’m simply taking my time to get there. Such a simple and powerful concept, but one I’ve never allowed myself to realise.

I have spoken to Kev about all of this. I was apprehensive when I asked to sit down, so fear ful that I will make him sad, squashing another of his dreams. I already negotiated Kev down from 3 children for my physical limitations, and we were set on 2. Having to let that dream go would break my heart. To break his would be a million times worse, like I’m punishing him for loving me.

But he said he was proud of me for being able to come to him in a measured way and lay out my worries. I didn’t feel very measured. I sobbed out my guilt and stress. I so, so want another baby. Not until Squidge is at school, operating a little more independently in her own little world, but I want to do this again.

And maybe we won’t, says Kev, but how can we know that now? Why am I allowing myself to get so overwhelmed by guilt I don’t even know yet that I have cause to feel?

And he’s right too. If we don’t, then, as heart breaking as it is, it’s for the best – and there are so many children out in the world we could help in one way or another. If we do, then it will take a lot of planning, and there can be no baby before we’re ready and happy with the plan in place.

So there is money to save, care to take of myself and time to take. Because it will be hard, but thanks to the lady on the internet who made me remember that those tough times have a time limit. They cannot, and they will not go on forever. It could well be 2 or 3 years before I give up work completely. By then, my BA will be in hand, Squidge will be at school. And if I choose to pursue my masters, we might be in for 5 hard years. And that won’t be fun. But at least it has a number, like the sadness and anxiety has a name.

That is so much better than the unknown. I need to remember that.

The Twos are Terrible

Squidge is 21 months now. She is much more physical and opinionated, oh the Terrible Twos have arrived. I cannot begin to articulate how much harder being her caregiver is. There was the planking incident when I tried to get her back in her car seat at the supermarket, the throwing her weight down as I carried her upstairs for the nap she wouldn’t admit she needed. She cries every night now when we leave her in the cot.

I ache constantly. I’m sleeping terribly. I’m so horribly anxious that Squidge’s every upset is my fault, that I’m failing her. I went to the doctors today and said as much. She was very calm and kind, told me that I will always be Squidge’s normality and I shouldn’t give myself such a hard time. But how can I not when I was seconds away from cancelling the damn appointment in the first place, because I didn’t think I’d have time to dress Squidge, get her in the pram and get to the Doctors without being late. I couldn’t stand to be late, because then what would people say about me?

I know logically, the answer is nothing. No-one really cares about other people as much as we imagine they do. But everything, everything is overwhelming for me right now. I know this because I sat at my desk this week and could feel myself drifting away. It was like I was trapped behind glass, watching my world happen around me in slow motion. I had no grounding in the world and I am pertrified of losing the control I have on my own life.

I am really struggling with the changes I have no choice but to make if I want to keep any semblance of a life going. Kev & I have agreed that come my first review next year, I am going to decrease my hours. I’ve had the discussion with my boss, who is so accepting and easy-going about it all, even when I essentially said: “I’ll have to quit in a few years anyway, but please let me do it slowly.” He lets me work from home so I can sleep in, he doesn’t blink if I finish early because of pain or because I’m still nervous about driving in heavy traffic. I’m very lucky. Because I don’t want to give up work. I take pride in the fact I can have my own money.

But it was Kev who made me see I’d have to sooner rather than later, that it wasn’t worth giving up my life over.

So there’s work. That’s going. Although I plan to swap it out for a Master’s course, so maybe it won’t be so bad, I’ll still have something that is mine.

I don’t take care of my own home. We hire a cleaner once a week and my mother in law insists on doing our ironing because I’m too terrified of my tremors around a hot iron to dare.

My in-laws were away last week and my God, it was so, so hard without them. Support networks are invaluable people. I was in tears every day, Squidge was asking for them and trying to make them cups of tea in the kitchen. I started to wonder, could this really be my life if I were a stay at home mum? And it seems that both Kev & I agree, no, it couldn’t. These are the reasons I so absolutely need Squidge to be that much older before we plan the next one, and we so want the next one.

People seem to think they’re being funny or helpful by telling me it’s best to have your children close together. It’s not best for me, but no-one wants to hear that bit, do they?

I’ve decided that Squidge will go to playgroup on one of my days off so that I can have time to myself, for a bath or a massage to sort out my muscles when the pain gets too much.

She’ll enjoy it too, more children to get to know… even better that it’s local and she might grow up with these kids. So why do I allow myself to feel so terrible about it when there’s no downside?

The in-laws came home and the next night, they had Squidge overnight and Kev & I went out for dinner to celebrate our 3rd wedding anniversary. I had a bath and preened, had my dress all ready. And then I went for an afternoon nap before our 6:30pm dinner, because this is just how I have to do things now if I’m ever going to be able to see the night through.

Today, there are not enough spoons

I was recently introduced to the Spoon Theory. It was a way for someone to explain how they lived their life with a chronic illness.

Essentially, every day, you wake up with a certain number of “spoons” to get through the day. How you choose, or how you are able to attribute them to all the activities you have no choice but to do, starting with getting out of bed, will affect the spoons you are left with. Any overspend will spill over into your next day and your next day, with less and less spoons.

Read about spoon theory more in depth here

Yesterday, I actually went out-out. I went with a friend to see Ed Sheeran in concert. I’ve been to enough gigs to know that 11pm is a standard finish time. I’ve been struggling with my condition and my depleting energy levels for long enough to know that 11pm is a hard task for me. I made myself go for a nap at the same time as Squidge yesterday afternoon, napping like a rockstar (I managed an hour) to try and claim back enough spoons for the evening.

Even though I really enjoyed myself, I was still yawning by 10pm. Didn’t manage to get home til gone midnight. I can never fall asleep immediately either, so I didn’t get to sleep til 1am.

I already made the smart decision to swap my working days this week so that I didn’t have to concentrate at a desk for 10 hours after I was bound to already be knackered. But I still find it daft I have to constantly give considerations like that, such is the life of a “spoonie”.

It transpired that Squidge would be home with me today. And bless her, I was anticipating the normal 6am wake up call. We actually both slept in til 7:30am, which is very respectable for a certain little miss.

I had the best of intentions today. Small goals. I just wanted to get dressed and go outside. But simply put, I don’t have enough spoons. I’ve cheated my poor girl by putting her back to bed for an afternoon nap when in fact, she brought me her shoes, signalling she wanted to go out too. So I feel like I have let her down today.

Today, I’ve left her nappy off as she’s run around. So essentailly, she’s wee’d on the floor 3 times, in my lap 3 times, poo’ed on the rug. Seriously, that kind of clean up really takes some spoons.

I have to mention that at least one wee and poo has made it into the potty today and I am so immensely proud of her. But my God, what a day. I need a seriously long shower (can’t even do that if she is napping as the shower room is right next to her bedroom and bless her, with the heat, she’s gone off to sleep anyway!) just to feel clean again.

It’s not much fun waiting for the stores to reset themselves day by day. Sometimes now, which I never used to do before, I literally hit the proverbial wall and just have to say that I’m “done with the day” and bugger off to bed at 7pm because I can’t be doing with it anymore.

And honestly, today, I’m all out of spoons. I’m disappointed. But it’s just another day. I have to hope, for Squidge’s sake, that tomorrow I’ll have more spoons left over and be able to give her more.

#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

What are you doing to Mummy?

I know that when most people imagine this question being posed by a toddler, it’s normally something mortifying like they caught you having sex. But not this time.

You see, one of the biggest battles of being a disabled mummy is the maintenance of my poor, sore tired body. Kev has to go through my prescribed physio programme often to relieve the horrid tightness in my hamstrings. And today is the first time Squidge SAW him do it.

We thought she’d just clamber off the bed and amuse herself by emptying her Daddy’s sock drawer. But she watched him intently as he extended one of my legs to the ceiling, looking up with confusion, not needing the words for us to know what she was asking:

“What are you doing to Mummy?”

Physio is at best uncomfortable, more likely painful.

As soon as I let my first “Ow!” slip, Squidge snapped her head back round to Kev and she didn’t stay quiet this time:

“AH!” = “Daddy…. Mummy said that hurt!”

And as the “Ow’s” kept coming, Immy had her hands on my tummy, still looking between us both.

Kev took it to heart. “She thinks I’m hurting you Jo, tell her I’m not.”

I tried to. “Don’t worry baby. Daddy’s helping Mummy’s legs feel better.”

But the look of concern never left her little face. And with my next wince of pain, she pulled herself up and pushed Kev away, once again shouting “AH!”

For someone as yet nonverbal, neither of us could mistake the tone. “NO DADDY!”

Kev is horrified that she thinks he hurts me. But I am so proud. She showed so much love and care in her attention and actions. She of course is too young to understand Kev’s intent. But she understood my pain and she tried to take it away. My beautiful, loving girl.

It really settled me because I really do think she’ll have the capacity and indeed the compassion to one day understand what makes me different from all the other mummies.

I looked round and thought “I love my life”

Kev tells me that for all the trials and tribulations that exist for me being a mummy, I must try hard to share the good days with the world as well as the bad.

Yesterday was one of the best days I can remember since Squidge became herself, as opposed to “the baby”. Don’t get me wrong, she is still “the baby”, despite how big and independent she’s getting… did I mention she’s walking now? So proud.

Anyway…. yesterday….

We woke up at about 8:30. There’s a local group of mums that I got put in touch with via Mush and the power of Whatsapp (in my own life, I avoid Whatsapp, too lazy to keep up with so many forms of social media) that make a habit of meeting at the soft play centre 5 minutes down the road. I’m really trying to make an effort with that. What’s nice is, there’s no prescribed time to show up, so I didn’t need to feel panicked. I got Squidge her breakfast bottle (trying to wean her off formula in time for her 1st birthday in…. *gulp* 5 weeks!), changed her bum and got her dressed. She let me put her coat on, rather than the creaming/wrestling match we’d endured the day before. I took the pram outside and when I turned round, she’d walked from the living room to the doorway, ready to let me lift her in. She smiled as I inanely talked her through Five Little Ducks on the way. We were there just after 10am. Sucess.

She loves being up om her feet, but isn’t 100% with her balance yet so wouldn’t let go of me for a good 5 minutes, just this little hand clinging to the top edge of my top. But she discovered a walker a lot like the one Nanny and Granddad got her and was perfectly happy with that til she spotted the Kit Kat Mummy had the nerve to buy herself for breakfast.

Terrible breakfast choice, I know. Discovered that I have low iron levels at the moment, culminating from the nutrients you sacrifice to grow a Squidge in the first place, the heavier periods I have now. So there’ big iron tablets at home with my name on for 3 months, but at least I know why I’ve been feeling so damned tired. Dark chocolate apparantly is a good treat if you’re low on iron, so there’s my rationale. But Squidge walked all the way over to wedge herself in my lap, so how could I refuse her? We’ll say nothing of me accidentally knocking my unopened can of Pepsi onto her head as I tried to extract her under the table(!) It’s amazing what stolen chocolate cures!

I tried to sneak a picture of her playing for her dad but by then she was on to me and instead decided to show interest in nothing but the fridge! That’s our Squidge.

And she soon let me know when she was ready to go home…. coming over and flopping her head into my lap, thumb tucked in to her mouth. She melted my heart I swear. Took her home and she slept without fuss for 2 hours. So I did the dishwasher, put some washing on, did some life admin. Made her lunch. Normal, calm, peaceful.

She woke up 2 hours later, just babbling happily to herself. I love going to get her from a nap. I always sing a little song as I go up the stairs so she knows I’m coming:

“There is a Mummy

A-coming up the stairs

Where is Immy?

Is she there?”

I never usually get past the second line before this beautiful little face peeks out from the cot, leaning round the wall to grin as she watches me.

There she is!

And she launched happily into my arms, babbling something that sounded a lot like “Up!” (Genius baby!)

She has a little ritual of stopping by the upstairs bathroom. It used to be so she come smile at the reflections. “Baba-baba!” “Mum-mum-mum!”

Now it’s so she can lean over to try and reach the light switch. But she likes it nonetheless and I’m happy to indulge the silliness we share.

I still struggle carrying her downstairs, more so the bigger she gets. But we have a new game, Squidge and me. I sit down, with her on my lap, and we slide down together. I’m getting carpet burns on my bum with every stair, but I don’t care. Because she laughs. I’ve spent longer than is fair given her age worrying how she’ll feel about having a disabled mummy. But when I told Kev the story of my happy day last night he said: “Jo, you are everything she knows. She won’t know all mums don’t do this.” It made me smile, like we were meant, Squidge and me.

I spent about an hour trying to feed her her cheese wrap bit by bit while we listened to nursery rhymes on Spotify. She ate most of it happily from the floor. Didn’t bother me one bit, her immune system will be miles better than mine. She smiled, wiggling her bum and juming up and down to nursery rhymes. And I just looked at her happy little face and I was totally in love with her, so at peace with my life. And that’s been no mean feat since I started on this adulting lark.

In that moment, I was very aware that I am fortunate enough to have everything I need in the world. A happy safe home from my loving (under appreciated) husband and a beautiful, happy, healthy, loving, funny, clever daughter. I made a silent promise not to let any of these things go under appreciated in future. I will always laugh when Immy decides to eat her toes whilst I’m feeding her tea, or as it transpired, to eat her tea off her toe and then offer them to me in turn.

I will always make time to smile when she nudge her juice cup into my mouth when she’s had a sip. What a lovely girl.

And I will always make sure to marvel at the fact that my gorgeous girl is exactly that. Mine.

When I finished telling Kev about my lovely day, he told me how happy it made him when I had good days.

My reply?

“I am so in love. Thank you for my baby, baby.”

At last.

I love my life.

Why failure is fine with me

I failed my driving test today. With a smile on my face.

I parked perfectly at the test centre. 10 minutes later, the examiner asks me to do it again. He’s perfectly lovely, even trying to help me as much as his position allows and I still park across two bays. I think I failed then and there, so I just carried on. Just to see how I could drive.

It was kind of liberating, the assumption that I had already failed. I could just do my best. And thankfully, all my failures were where I already had identified problems. So whilst I failed, I was happy about how it had gone. I haven’t been well the last few days and had started talking myself out of taking the test at all. I’m so glad I didn’t, because I’ve been able to show myself I’m not nearly as bad as I thought.

And always, in the back of my mind, is Squidge. I knew I had to try for her. Aside from anything I can teach my daughter, I want to teach her how important it is to try. My failure today shows me what there is left to do. It has shown me what I am capable of, even with nerves.

I will never mind what it is that Squidge grows to find hard. But the hardest lesson I’ve had to learn is that you have to try. Nothing can change if you don’t try and sometimes, change is amazing. The sense of accomplishment is the best.

So little one, promise Mummy that you will always try. I will always be right there to guide you. But always try.

The things you will discover about yourself will amaze you. Just like you amaze me.