No more baby days 

I’m on the sofa this morning, after dropping my biggest girl at nursery. The smallest one is fast asleep on me after a rough night of wide awake snuggles and sore teeth. I’m suddenly overwhelmed by how big and clever and grown up the two of them are now. And it hurts. 
I don’t have a baby anymore. The days of having two under two are long behind me, and Iris is very nearly three. She starts nursery class at a school this September, with a tiny school uniform and everything. She’s excited. I’m excited too, because I know she’s going to have such a fabulous time, but I’m also sad and a tiny bit terrified. Astrid is 16 months old now, and like a tiny wrecking ball. She is sturdy and speedy, and charges through life at 100 miles per hour. She climbs and runs and has no fear of hurting herself. I can’t leave her alone in a room for even a minute. Not even if I can’t see a single hazard. She will find one. It’s not unusual to catch her dancing on tables or scaling window sills. 
They are not babies. 
The first year after Astrid was born I went to bed every single night feeling like I’d been hit by a bus. Seriously. While they pleasantly surprised me often and it wasn’t always as hard as I’d imagined, it was exhausting. Iris needed constant interactions at the time, too young yet to create games and play alone while I fed Astrid. Little one was a screamer, and a complete mystery to me a lot of the time. I didn’t instinctively know what she was crying for like I had with Iris. I had PND (I can see now in hindsight) and was having a huge identity crisis when I should have been focussing on my babies. 
I really feel like it’s over now. The hard bit. Obviously I know there are many many many hard bits to come. I’m not daft. But I can’t imagine it being that consistently hard again for such a long period of time. I can’t imagine slipping back into the black cloud I lived in for a long time either. I’ve been making sure I look after myself too, and I plan to keep it up. 
Besides some health issues (for another day) life is really very good at the moment, but I can’t help but feel some sadness at the baby days being behind us.

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Astrid is One!

Astrid’s birthday was almost a month ago now. I’ve been writing this a little bit here and there for weeks! It’s so hard to find time to sit and write these days.  

It’s so weird that a whole year has gone by since my second beautiful little darling daughter arrived in the world. Last year was such a difficult year for me, and so I feel like I didn’t give her the first year of life that she deserves. I fully intend to make up for that this year. 

She’s a funny little creature. Mostly she’s an incredible bubbly little bundle of joy, with a big cheeky grin and an infectious laugh. She loves music, and sings in babble at the top of her lungs while swaying from side to side. When she hears music she dances, and even if there’s no music she usually starts dancing on demand. 

When she’s unhappy, she lets you know too. With an ear piercing scream followed by wailing that sometimes seems endless. She’s mostly been a bit of a mystery to me. With Iris I always seemed to just know why she was crying even if I couldn’t actually make her stop. Most of the time with Astrid I have no idea whatsoever. I don’t know if she’s a more complicated baby or if it’s because I’ve not been myself for most of her babyhood. When she was really tiny she often became completely inconsolable in public, and I couldn’t handle the judgemental stares of strangers or the stress of trying to get us all home with her shouting. It happens far less often now, but it still happens. 

Her first word was ‘cat’ and I wasn’t surprised. She loves the cats. Margot isn’t interested in human affection at all and avoids her, but Galahad loves a snuggle and she loves nothing more than stroking him and laughing at him (and tugging his fur a little bit). He seems to know how she feels about him and he likes to hang around her. She also says ‘hiya’ regularly and loudly. When she spots a big sister, or when people walk into a room. Lots of objects have become toy phones, which she holds around the back of her head (nowhere near her ear!) and shouts HIYA at. ‘Dada’ is said in context, mostly called out when he leaves the room and she’s not sure why or where he has gone. Most recently she’s started saying ‘yeah’ when you ask her a question. She seems to sense the tone of a question even if she has no idea what you asked. 

She’s crawling at high speed, and there’s no escaping her now! She follows me all around the downstairs and the days of being unable to go to the loo in peace are back. She also climbs, and it’s often really scary. I don’t want to be right behind her undermining her all the time, because climbing is clearly her thing and she’s good at it, but it terrifies me! I have to secretly cringe in fear from a bit further away. Rearranging furniture to stop her from climbing anywhere really dangerous takes up a lot of my day. I think walking is a little way off, which I’m a bit relieved about. She took her first steps on the afternoon of her birthday, and the odd step since, but doesn’t seem particularly bothered. She does let go and stand unaided for a long time quite often, and she whizzes around at high speed pushing a sit on ladybird that she can’t sit on because her feet don’t reach the floor. She’s my last baby, and I’m happy that she’s in no rush to stop being a baby! 

Her sleep is fantastic compare to Iris as a baby. Compared to Iris now actually! She mostly sleeps all through the night, unless she’s got a cough or something or she’s disturbed by Iris being noisy. To the parents out there with babies who never sleep, please don’t think I’m boasting. I’m not. I haven’t done any sleep training or tried to make her sleep through. It’s just who she is. I can’t say I’m not relieved, but I do know your pain at the lack of sleep. Iris never slept as a baby and is still rubbish at 2 and a half. Unfortunately Astrid is an early bird and I am not. When she pokes me awake at 5am I am not amused. 

Day time naps are down to two, usually around 10 and 2 but currently less predictable, which I think may mean they are about to change. If she’s up early (she usually is!) she’ll sleep at 9am and on a day when Iris goes to nursery in the morning there’s no noise to disturb her, meaning that sometimes she gives me a full two hours to get some housework done without her ‘help’. 

Astrid eats like she’s got a bottomless stomach. Iris was the same but I think Astrid’s appetite is even bigger. She will literally eat all day if there’s food available. I have to be careful that she doesn’t, because when she overeats she gets tummy ache and trapped wind which really upsets her. Thankfully she will eat all of the healthy stuff. Apart from bananas, which she won’t even consider eating, I’ve not found another thing she doesn’t like. Over Christmas she even enjoyed a pickled onion or three. 

Astrid loves being outdoors, especially now she can crawl. I’ve let her down a bit by not being outdoors enough lately, but I plan to rectify it. I’ve invested in waterproof trousers for her, and have no problem at all with her crawling around in the mud and wet grass. I was so looking forward to the crawling stage so she wouldn’t have to be restricted to the sling or pushchair while we were out, but I haven’t made the most of it at all. 

She has just two teeth, the bottom front ones. The same two Iris had when she turned one. It seems I make slow teethers. It doesn’t hold her back from eating crunchy foods, and they came through without too much of a struggle. I’m half expecting her to get a whole bunch more all at once now, like Iris did. Her hair is getting long now, and hangs in her eyes. I can’t decide if I should trim her fringe or keep trying to sweep it to one side until it tucks behind her ear. She will not tolerate a clip for more than a few minutes! I was expecting another bald baby like Iris, who has only really grown hair since turning two. I’m amazed at how blonde Astrid is too! 

She’s a much bigger baby, and is wearing clothes that Iris was wearing this time last year at 18 months. Unlike my long limbed Iris, she’s sturdy and more compact. She was weighed when she had her vaccinations recently, and weighs 20lb. That’s her first weigh in since she was tiny and probably her last for a long while. I’ve never really understood the point in constantly weighing babies unless you have concerns about them. She’s energetic and eating well and growing. 

I really hoped we’d still be breastfeeding, but yet again we didn’t make it to the first birthday. It went exactly the same way it did with Iris, only I couldn’t blame it on pregnancy this time. She just lost interest. She was down to one feed in the evening at around 10 months, and then gradually lost interest in that feed too. Her last feed was a few days before her birthday, and I had no idea it was going to be her last feed. I offered several more times but she just didn’t care. I’m gutted but also relieved. I have so many friends who would happily wean their older children off the breast but can’t without a battle and upsetting the child. At least I won’t have to go through that. I think feeding older children is amazing, but I’m not sure I could handle it. Once they start wriggling I start feeling uncomfortable. It feels like an invasion of my personal space when they start trying to put their big toe up your nose during a feed. Astrid also liked to attempt to pick a mole off my neck while feeding which was painful, and she’d get cross and cry if I tried to get her to stop. She scratched too, and hit me several times. Our no-boob cuddles are much nicer. She’s a very snugly girl and loves a cuddle! 

I hope that being in my dark cloud for the whole of her first year hasn’t affected our bond forever. She seems pretty attached to me, which is a good sign. I will forever feel awful that I’ve been here physically but not really in spirit for her months as a baby. 

She’s a joy. She really is. Her big round squishy face makes me so happy, especially when she gives me one of her big beaming smiles and shows me her dimples and her two teeth. She’s lots of fun and already has a great sense of humour. I can’t imagine life without her. I barely even remember what it was like to just have Iris. 

I’m determined that this next year will be a much much better one, and so far it’s going well. 

Happy first birthday Beanie. We love you.  

Fun with magic water beads 

Before Christmas I saw a Pinterest post about these magic water bead thingys and ordered a bag on eBay. They only cost a couple of quid, but took weeks to come. I had every intention of them being a stocking filler for Iris, but put them away and completely forgot about them. 

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from them, and kind of thought they might be a bit rubbish. Especially as they cost next to nothing. 

I was wrong. I put them in a bowl of water, following the instructions, and was surprised to find a couple of hours later that they had increased from the size of pin heads to the size of marbles and they had absorbed all of the water. I topped it up, and by the next morning they were even bigger! With a crawling baby sister, Iris doesn’t get much chance to play with sensory stuff. Astrid just eats it. The only safe place for things like play dough is the kitchen table, and during the week that’s where Trevor often works. I planned to wait until Astrid napped, but Iris was impatient and so I put a towel down and popped her in the bath. Iris loves these kinds of sensory activities, but I have no imagination to think them up since having her and being sleep deprived for so long. The water beads kept her busy for ages, pouring them from one container to another, sorting them into colours, and trying to squish them hard enough to make them pop (not easy!). They’re really firm and rubbery. If you really squash them (or stand on them!) they do burst and have a kind of jelly consistency inside. I have absolutely no idea what they’re made of or how they work, but I love them! I am glad I put her in the bathtub though, as there was quite a lot of mess! I don’t know if they’ll be good for another play, as they seem to be getting softer and mushier, but I’ve put them in a big glass jug on my kitchen windowsill. Until Iris wants to play again, they’ll be turning the sunshine into rainbows in my kitchen. 

New Years resolutions

Photo credit: Jen and Martin at Barefoot Images


Last year I tried to dance around this by saying they were not really resolutions. That probably isn’t the reason I couldn’t stick to a single one, but I do think that making them more concrete plans might help. This year, I’m calling them what they are, I’m writing them down, and I’m going to come back to them and reflect often. They’re big, most of them. Big things. Life changing things. I can’t do them all at once, but do them all I will. At least I hope I will. 

  1. Make peace with my body and change my relationship with food. I really need to stop eating my feelings. It doesn’t actually help with the feelings. I need to listen to my body and eat what makes me feel good (it’s not chocolate!). I need to stop looking in the mirror and hating what I see. I need to look at my body as the incredible thing that made two whole humans, and start treating it with the respect it deserves. 
  2. Self care is a biggy. It’s related to the first resolution, but by this I mean other things I (don’t) do that help me to feel more like me. Exercise, taking care of my hair, putting on make up when I feel like it and not feeling guilty about wasting make up on a face like mine, not weighing myself, being outdoors, enjoying myself at events instead of just trying to avoid cameras, making time for knitting and reading and other things that soothe me, being present with my kids and not miles away in social media land, taking a break from the Internet regularly, hanging out with friends, trying new things. That’s not the whole list but you get the point. 
  3. Tidying up. I’ve made a massive start on the house full of stuff that we live in. So much of our unwanted junk has been recycled or donated and it has felt so good. The reason I have battled so hard to keep our house clean and tidy but failed is because there’s just way too much stuff. Nothing has a home. All the storage is full and overflowing. It has to change. Christmas has undone much of my work, but as soon as Trev is back at work and the kids are back at school I’ll be diving in head first and getting it done. Starting with the Christmas decorations that are suffocating me! 
  4. I’m quitting shopping. Yes, I know that sounds a bit silly. How can I quit shopping? I don’t mean completely. What’s the point in decluttering when we bring in more than we take out? I can’t stop my family from buying things, but I can stop myself. No clothes. I don’t need them. I’m not getting any bigger (see 1) and I have clothes in the size I am now down to the size I was before babies. I’m not buying any more. I don’t need to pick up things like lip balm or make up. Tidying up has shown me that I have tons of the stuff, I just can’t ever find it because it’s not all stored in one place. I’ll buy food (the healthy kind) and essentials, and the occasional thing that really sparks joy (like the cat astronaught bedding I’ve got my eye on in the Asda sale). I’m just going to avoid shops. Wandering around shops is no longer a thing I do to fill time. There are lots of other places, parks and libraries and museums. 
  5. Save some money. Number 4 should help. I should be able to get to the end of the month and not be completely broke and have to turn down invitations or stay home because I don’t have the cash for bus fare.

It’s just 5 things but they aren’t small things, and each one will affect my life greatly. I’m finally starting to come out the other side of the medication withdrawal, and now I’m ready to do whatever it takes to live without it and be happy. I need more happy. 

Happy new year! 

2016

I actually wrote this post a few weeks ago, with the intention to finish it over the Christmas holidays, but when I came back to it tonight I found that it just didn’t say what I wanted it to say. It didn’t sum up the year at all. 

I thought for a while that no year would be bigger (I said bigger, not better) than 2014. That was the year I became a mother. In some respects, that’s still true. I can’t become a mother again. Becoming a mother is the single most exciting thing I’ve ever done and I can’t imagine ever topping that. I became a mum of two this year though, and a mum of two under two. I assumed wrongly that the blissful bubble I lived in after Iris’s birth would be replicated after Astrid arrived. It couldn’t have been more different. I’ve felt slightly traumatised by the birth of Iris. The doctors, the procedures, the room full of people staring at my private parts, the epidural, the forceps, the hospital stay for an infection. It’s all stayed with me. The birth of Astrid was completely different. I refused point blank to go back to the same hospital, and chose to give birth on a midwife led unit somewhere else. A midwife asked me if I had a back up plan in case the unit was full, and I told her that if she wanted me to go back to the hospital she’d have to drag me kicking and screaming. Thankfully it all worked out. Astrid arrived after a day and a night of labour, half of which was at home and half was in a pool in a private room with a midwife poking her head around the door every so often. Just me and Trevor, singing songs by The Smiths and holding each other. She was born in the morning and we went home the same day. I felt healed by the experience and hopeful for a few weeks of newborn bliss. This is my favourite picture ever. Just after arriving home with brand new Astrid, the first time these sisters ever met. The look of wonder on Iris’s face. How gently she’s touching her. Watching the bond between them grow and develop has been the highlight of a very tough year. They belong together. I’m dreading the days when they have real fights and stop talking to each other. I just want them to always love each other the way they do now. The bliss never came and life after her birth was really hard. It wasn’t them. Of course there were moments when I had both of them upset and couldn’t split myself, and it was hard. But mostly I was surprised by having two under two. It wasn’t that bad. It wasn’t as hard as I’d anticipated. Despite that, I was seriously down. I can look back now and see that it probably wasn’t just a normal bit of baby blues. The black dog had come along and clouded everything. My migraines returned, and I went back on medication for both. A combination of Sertraline and Amitryptaline helped me so much, but I couldn’t take good care of myself. I was too anxious and stressed out. I ate my feelings, which didn’t make me feel better. I turned 31 in February, and I reflected on how I spent my birthday (doing housework and feeling like crap) and was scared it summed up who I had become, so I vowed to take better care of myself, to look after myself better. I didn’t though. I just couldn’t find the energy or the motivation. I didn’t like myself. I didn’t feel like I was worth the effort. Instead I just carried on in a fog and gained a ridiculous amount of weight. I kept trying to convince myself that writing stuff down and blogging was making me feel better, that it gave me a release and helped me to deal with things. While that was sometimes true, it wasn’t most of the time. The New Years resolutions I’d had for making my blog more of a thing just put more pressure on my already tired brain. Most of my blog posts contained the words ‘sorry for the silence, please stick with me while I attempt to get better at this’. I gave up on my photo round up posts that were like a diary of my life. I just couldn’t keep up. I tried again to fix my bad eating habits. I’m vegetarian, dairy makes me feel crappy, and the thought of eating eggs repulses me. I tried hard to fix my diet and only eat things that make me feel good. I even mastered vegan pancakes! It didn’t last. I turned to chocolate to make me feel better at the end of the day. It didn’t work but I couldn’t give it up. Breastfeeding was a big part of the year, as well as severe sleep deprivation. I was proud of my ability to walk around and be alive on so little sleep for so many months on end. It was so daft, because my skin was grey, my bones ached, my hair was falling out and I felt so so awful. Breastfeeding was easier second time around though, and we’re still going now. We spent more time with my family this year, and that made such a difference to me. I love seeing Iris run around with my sister’s kids. They’re so close now, and are always hugging and kissing each other. They’ve come over the bridge for sleepovers here a few times and they’ve been wonderful. I’m hoping for lots more of that in 2017! The hardest part of being in Wales is being away from people that I love, both friends and family. I’ve been here for over 2 and a half years. It’s still a constant battle. There’s nowhere to run. I have great friends here now, but it’s not the same as running off to your mum’s when life gets a bit overwhelming. Spring bought us a bit of a heatwave and being outside more was soothing. I had already gained so much weight since new year that I had no clothes that fit me. I bought some from charity shops but quickly outgrew those too. It got me down so much, but being outside on our new decking with my little ones brought me joy and that helped. The warm weather wasn’t consistent, but we kept up with the outdoors fun anyway. I didn’t write a single word on my blog in April, and I can’t even remember why. I probably just couldn’t. I couldn’t face it. I hate to write negative posts but I’ve struggled to find positives for much of this year. This leads to me feeling guilty because the news is full of hate and pain and suffering, and I had nothing solid to blame my depression on. Life was good. I have it good. It doesn’t work that way though. If only it did. Trevor decided to try to cuddle a prairie dog and it bit him. I’m including it because it was one of the funniest things that happened all year. Plus it serves him right. Who tries to cuddle a prairie dog?? If I was going to master getting my life back on track, I had to get the hang of getting around with two very small children. As you can see, I’d already mastered the art of the selfie that hides the weight gain and exhaustion. I did briefly get better at travelling around with them, and we did a few days out on public transport and visits to people we miss. Sometimes it was a huge success, and other times it was so stressful it put me off and I hid us all away for a while again. We went to Barry Island on an average spring day only to find that it was still winter at the seafront. It was so freezing, and I was glad of my tendency to overpack the changing bag for once. We made sand castles and played hook a duck while trying to shelter from the blistering wind. Iris’s unexplainable obsession with chickens and ducks kept growing, and I still have no real idea where it started or what she sees in them. A neighbour keeps them, and we visit them often. Iris even sings to them sometimes. It’s not escaped me that there’s barely a mention of Astrid in this post so far. The truth is that I don’t remember quite a bit of her first few months. I was a mess, and she was one of those babies that screams and screams for a reason it’s impossible to work out. I couldn’t console her no matter what I did, and in trying to I often had to ignore Iris. It was so hard. The lowest moment of the year was the day some police community support officers helped me home on the bus because they found me crying and Astrid screaming while Iris slept in the pushchair. I couldn’t juggle it all. I just couldn’t get us out of the public eye and back home by myself. I felt so judged and so ridiculous, but I can see now that people were kind to me. We did run away to my mum’s occasionally despite the distance, and those times were so good. Sometimes I just need to get away from Wales and away from our life. I feel so bad because as much as I insist it’s not about Trevor and our life here (and it really isn’t) it must be so hard for him to live with somebody like me and then to worry about us when I take us all off for a break. I know if the tables were turned I’d feel abandoned and like I’d done something wrong, so I do appreciate that it’s got to be hard for him. In another attempt to fix my terrible eating habits I bought a spiraliser, and for a while we ate a lot of vegetables. Green spaghetti was Iris’s favourite. It didn’t last that long though. Like every other thing I tried to do for my own health this year, it failed at the first hurdle. There was a lot of rain. Thankfully Iris quite likes it and I’m a fan of it too if we’re dressed appropriately! We jumped in a lot of puddles and didn’t let it keep us indoors. A friend of ours set up an exercise class where you could take your little ones along. Iris enjoyed it, but Astrid kept crying and wouldn’t settle so I found I was barely joining in. When I could take part, I had a great time and remembered how good exercise felt. I even lost a bit of weight. The class didn’t carry on because the instructor was expecting another baby, and I didn’t find another form of exercise to replace it. I tried (and still do!) to keep active by walking the dog. Actually we barely walk at all, because Iris goes so slowly and stops to admire every stick. Astrid often starts to cry and Iris asks to be carried, and I give up. It’s just too exhausting and I’m all out of motivation and energy. We got some tiny baby caterpillars and looked after them until they made the transformation into beautiful butterflies, and then we let them go in local woodland. It was magical, and made me feel incredibly emotional! They were landing on us and hanging around, and when they did fly away Iris was calling out goodbye to them. It’s definitely an experience I want to repeat every year! We hung out at the local lido as often as we could, because we’re very lucky to have such a wonderful facility on our doorstep. Iris discovered that she can swim by herself if she wears armbands and I’ve never seen her prouder. I’ve never felt prouder either. She turned TWO! My tiny little baby was a two year old. We celebrated with a picnic in the park on a quite chilly day, followed by fun in the (very cold) splash park and then a day trip to Cardiff Bay with my mum. I couldn’t believe how much she’d changed from 18 months to two, in the six months since Astrid had arrived. She was such a little person already, with her own ways and preferences.I went blonde in an attempt to like what I see in the mirror. It actually worked! I really liked it. The upkeep was two much in my busy life though, so the roots kept growing too long and I just couldn’t keep up. But for a while, I really enjoyed having super frosty blonde hair. We had a lovely family photo shoot in a strawberry field with local photographer Donna of Sweet Whimsy Photography. I love the results and they are pictures I will truly treasure forever. I had to really battle with myself to share the ones of me though, and could hardly bear to look at them myself. I don’t recognise this person I see in pictures and in the mirror. It isn’t the me I know, and I can’t find a better way to explain it than that. I guess it’s an identity crisis of sorts, and I’m very much still having it now. We did a fair bit of camping this year, which suits me just fine. I love it. It’s so freeing and soothing. Even when it pours with rain there’s just something about that sound on the tent. Even if it does keep us all awake. Our first trip was with all of Iris’s friends from breastfeeding support group and their parents who have become our friends. It made me realise that the support network I have here in Wales now is just incredible. I miss my Bristol friends and I always will, but this bunch are wonderful and have kept me going through so much. We managed to pitch our tents in a big circle around the children’s play area, and we just chilled and watched the kids play for a couple of days. Astrid started eating solid food, and we went down the baby led route again. It’s worked so well for us both times, and I’m so glad I’ve never had to mash food or make up puréed veg. It also means I could sit and eat my own dinner with two hands. I didn’t realise it was possible, but Astrid actually eats even better than Iris did. Iris is beginning to get a little fussy now, but as a baby she ate everything and anything in huge quantities. Astrid is exactly the same. I hoped thinking about meals for a small baby would help me sort out my own eating habits but that didn’t happen. The last few weeks of summer were pretty great. We managed another camping trip, this time with Trevor’s brother and his family who we don’t get to see often, as well as a few lovely day trips. The weather was fantastic, and I briefly felt like my old self for a while. I felt like I might have got a grip of things and it felt good. The sunshine was working for me. In August we went to a wedding reception in Bristol, which we decided not to take Iris to. It was kind of a big deal for her, her first sleepover at Nanny’s without me there to put her to bed. She’d stayed overnight with my mum at our house once before (while I was giving birth to Astrid) but I’d never left her at my mum’s. She wasn’t bothered and had a great time. Astrid came along and mostly ate food and slept in the sling. In mid August Iris declared “no more nappies!” and decided she needed big girl pants. We rolled with it despite the awful timing  (the week before our holiday!) and I’m glad I trusted her and followed her lead. She’s had her fair share of accidents but hasn’t looked back. She’s so proud of using the toilet by herself and quickly moved on from the potty. The summer ended, as it has for three years now, with our long camping trip to Beddgelert in North Wales. Having a potty training toddler along for the ride was interesting but it all worked out and we had another fantastic break away. It’s one of the highlights of my year every year now and I look forward to it all year long. This year my sister gave birth to my new baby niece Effie while we were away and I found it quite upsetting to not be nearby for her. The mobile phone signal is so bad in Snowdonia that we could barely keep in touch, and I couldn’t wait to meet her. The week after our holiday, Iris started at nursery. It was a big decision for me, and I wasn’t sure it was right for a while. I don’t have a job, or any real need of childcare, but Iris is a really sociable girl who doesn’t cope with whole days at home or without the company of other children. The pressure of making sure her days were full was something I could do with easing up slightly. She loved it from the very beginning, and on her first morning when we told her we’d leave and come back in a little while she barely looked up from the sandpit and just said ‘bye then’. She had a lot of accidents there to start with as she was nervous about asking to go the loo, but she got the hang of it in the end. She’s been coming home singing in Welsh (it’s a bilingual nursery) and talking about her new friends and her teachers. Astrid quite often naps while she’s there and it’s given me two mornings a week to do housework or just sit still if that’s what I need to do. One of our guinea pigs, Captain Fuzzywuzzy, had died suddenly before our holiday but although we knew Batpig was lonely we put off getting him a new friend so that we could be around to supervise the introductions. It went really well and baby Robin has settled in nicely. He’s more nervous and jumpy than Batpig so we’re working on getting him used to us. The arrival of autumn was welcomed by me. It had been very hot for a while and I was struggling with it. Iris discovered conkers and our days were filled with finding the best trees to collect them from. It was a great game to combine with Pokemon Go, and we spent a lot of time outdoors. Astrid learnt to crawl, and it made our outdoor adventures more fun. She was less frustrated. She could join in! We had a day out with my sister and her family in Bristol, which was wonderful. However, I realised that I didn’t want to be there. I’m not the Bristol version of me anymore. I was scared of bumping into people because I don’t want them to see me like this. I don’t t even want to see myself like this. I’m so tired and worn down. Even my old river city couldn’t pick me up. Astrid wore a lion costume for an animal themed workshop on the park, and I’m basically just including this picture because it makes me happy. I sold our gorgeous Cosatto tandem pushchair because Astrid hated being in the back, and bought a second hand double off-road three wheeler. It’s great for in the woods and the park, and Astrid is so much happier in it. Scenes like this one make it my best purchase of the year. For the third time this year we combined a train trip to Techniquest in Cardiff Bay with a boat ride to Bute Park, but this time we took Trevor and the big girls. We’ve become so attached to Techniquest that we’re getting annual passes next year! Hooray for science! It rained a lot, so we bought some waterproof trousers and rolled around in muddy puddles. Well, the kids did. I just watched and enjoyed seeing their joy. In October we carved pumpkins and Iris had a wonderful Halloween evening answering the door and handing out sweets. Her nursery had a Halloween disco, and although she refused to wear the witch costume I had bought for her, Iris had a wonderful evening. Astrid loved it too. We went to the big firework display in our local park for bonfire night. Astrid stared at them and we couldn’t make out how she felt about the experience. Iris kept trying to climb a nearby tree and I was too scared of losing her in the dark to enjoy the display. Our good friends Jen and Martin at Barefoot Images did a Christmas photo shoot for us. After not even being able to look at the pictures of myself from our last photo shoot, I decided this would be just the four kids. This is an outtake but is actually my favourite shot. It sums up their relationship so well. There’s a constant battle for the limelight, and they seem to be constantly trying to outdo each other in terms of cuteness. It didn’t get used on our Christmas card, but it might just make it onto the wall in the hallway! The beginning of November was a scary time. Iris had been ill with what I thought was a nasty cold for a few days, when she started wheezing and became difficult to wake up. She ended up being rushed to hospital with suspected pneumonia. She likes ambulances and fire engines so she’d probably have enjoyed the ride if she’d been aware of what was going on. She ended up on oxygen, nebulisers and inhalers and stayed in for two nights. Thankfully it was a chest infection and not pneumonia. The experience affected her deeply. She wouldn’t talk about it for a few weeks, and she relapsed with using the toilet, started crying when we took her to nursery, and completely lost her appetite. She didn’t even want to play, and would just lie under a blanket on the sofa. It took a good month to get our usual Iris back. In December, I’ve discovered Marie Kondo and began a serious declutter. I didn’t realise that the mountains of junk all over my house were affecting my mental health and holding me back. Sending bags and bags of stuff to charity shops and to recycling has been life changing, which sounds cheesy and a bit daft but it’s true. It inspired me to look at other areas of my life too, and to figure out what sparks joy and get rid of what doesn’t. It’s just the beginning of a big adventure that I’m hoping will dominate 2017 and help me to get my whole life back on track. Yes, I’m aware that it’s just a book and I sound a bit silly. I’ve become an empty shell. An unhappy one. An overweight one. I have a lot to change but figuring out what’s good and embracing that might just work better than anything else I’ve tried, most of which involved seeing the negative and being angry about it. Iris was in her first Christmas show as a star, and actually wanted to wear a costume which was a shock. It was mostly Christmas songs sung in Welsh so I had no idea what was going on, but Iris was very proud of her performance. It was so cute it brought me to tears!We went to Puxton Park with my mum and my sister’s family for the fourth year in a row. It’s become our little tradition, and we’ve gone from having three kids between us to having seven in that time! I can’t believe Christmas has come around again so quickly. It’s been another lovely one this year, and the first one where Iris had understood it. Astrid was old enough to enjoy it too. We’ve all eaten too much and lazed around. I’ve been weaning myself off the medication I’ve been taking all year, so I’ve been feeling a little poorly and very very anxious. I’m completely overwhelmed with it all today and it’s made me feel quite ill. I want to enjoy the last few days of the festive season but it’s all a bit much and I’m looking forward to getting back to normal. There’s so much tidying up to do. The house is trashed and it’s making me sweaty and netvous. I don’t seem to be able to just enjoy anything anymore! Despite currently feeling quite bleak and exhausted, I’m determined that next year is going to be different. I’m going to feel better and take better care of myself, which will mean I can take better care of my family too. It’s all going to change. Wish me luck!! Happy new year!
 

Being Mum 

It’s 2am and I can’t sleep. This is a regular thing for me, always has been. Even before kids. My brain whirs and clicks and I just can’t relax. In a past life I spent these hours reading books, watching films, baking or out dancing in a club. Tonight I’m cleaning out the fridge. Times have changed. 

It’s hard to put my finger on what’s keeping me up. It’s not just one thing. It never is. 

Years ago, during a period of suffering very badly with anxiety, I did a course on mindfulness. It was a freebie, put on by some charity. My GP recommended it. It was bloody brilliant actually. I learnt lots of coping strategies, and that although I can’t control my thoughts I can control how I feel about them. It sounds so simple, but I was bogged down so badly that it felt like a huge revelation. 

One thing that they told me that stayed with me was the full glass theory. That’s probably not its real name but it’s what I’ve called it. The little things aren’t so bad. One their own they can’t do much to bring me down. But I’ve only got so much room in my glass for water. Put too much in and it’ll overflow. 

I’m overflowing. 

Although I always kind of thought I’d be a parent one day, this isn’t quite the circumstances I imagined. Don’t get me wrong. I know I’m lucky. I know I’ve got everything most people dream of. I am grateful, honestly I am. 

I just pictured it differently. I think we probably all do that. 

Wales was never on my radar. There’s nothing wrong with Wales. I love it here now, and think of it as home in the way Bristol used to be. If everything fell apart and my family broke up now (oh how I hope that never happens) I would probably still stay around here. I miss my few close friends and of course my family so very much. But I’ve worked so so bloody hard on life here that I couldn’t just quit. 

My two closest friends hooked up, got married, and had a baby before I met Trevor. I remember thinking that if I had a kid, we’d raise our kids together. They’d be close, like cousins. Of course they are still my closest friends and the people I love most dearly, and their kids are ace too, but I don’t live nearby and our kids are best buddies like I dreamed. My sister’s kids aren’t around my kids all the time like I pictured either. It isn’t what I hoped for, but it is ok. 

It’s been almost 3 years since I made the move across the bridge now, and I’m still not over it. It’s still hard. At the best of times, parenting can be completely isolating. I can be quite socially awkward, and if I don’t click with new people pretty quickly I tend to feel anxious and then avoid them. It’s so hard trying hard to make conversation, and I think how hard I’m trying shows on my face. I come across as a bit weird then, and possibly a bit rude too. I can’t help it. 

Despite that, I’ve chucked myself right into valleys life and have an excellent supportive network of other mum friends that have been life saving. I mean that quite literally. They may not keep me alive, but they are essential in me maintinaing any kind of life outside of our home. 

I imagined myself as a working mother. I thought I’d maybe go part time at the nursery I worked at, and take my kids with me on work days. I couldn’t see myself as a stay at home mum at all. I am so rubbish at the whole maintaining a house thing. I’d be better off earning some cash and employing a cleaner. There’s not really any jobs here though, and definitely not ones where I could take my kids to work. I’d never earn enough working with children to afford childcare for both of my little ones. I’d work simply to hand the money over to a nursery or childminder and that seems so illogical. I’d do it for a great job, but not for just a job. 

So I am a stay at home mum and, although I never doubted that it was hard for a second, it’s much much harder than I thought. It’s constant. It’s a 24 hours a day thing. Obviously it’d still be 24 hours a day if I had a paid job too,  but spending 24 hours a day constantly with my children exhausts me. I literally can’t do anything without them. If I try to do housework at least one of them will cling to my ankle and cry until I stop. If I want to go out we go to the child friendly places because they are always with me. If I go to the loo they watch, if I take a shower they cry. I love them dearly but they are like little cheese graters, just grating away at my very being. 

I’m not too ashamed to admit that I don’t always enjoy every minute. 

I am only a human being after all. And a human being in near constant pain too. I still can’t get to the bottom of my aches and pains, and my doctor isn’t interested. I should move surgeries or get a second opinion but the very idea of it fills moth dread and makes me feel tired. I’m exhausted. So painfully run down and exhausted. The medications that work for me are starting to lose their power. I should up my dosage but they are making me gain weight so rapidly, and the weight gain is making me unhappy. I’d love to stop taking them all together, but the fear of migraines returning and having panic attacks in public makes me doubt that idea. 

The guilt is a horrendous. I feel guilty every single day for almost every single thing I do. I can’t do a thing without worrying endlessly about how it’ll affect my kids, Trevor, my step kids. To make up for it I work hard on trying to make life all fun and games, but I just don’t seem to be able to win. I thought we were having a ball as a family, but apparently everybody was annoyed that we don’t relax around the house enough. So I try to make the house nicer for us to be in, and that causes fights too. I just don’t understand what I’m supposed to do. 

In a few short weeks Astrid turns one. I don’t have a tiny baby anymore. My days of being a parent to two under two are long gone, and I’m running out of excuses not to sort my life out. 

I feel so pathetic. 

Writing all of this down makes it feel even sillier, but it also gets it out. I can’t talk. I can’t talk to anybody. The people surrounding me don’t understand, and the people who do understand have their own things to worry about. I can’t offload without feeling guilty, so the writing is essential. I don’t worry that nobody reads it. It doesn’t matter. 

I know I’m not alone in feeling this way. I know it’s all quite normal stuff really. It helps to know that I’m not a weirdo, even though I regularly feel like one. 

I’m so many ways, for so many people, 2016 has been awful. I’m trying to have hope for 2017 but it’s so hard to imagine it being all sunshine and rainbows. I’d settle for less guilt and more sleep. 

Embracing Christmas in November 

Around this time last year I wrote this old post about Christmas in November. It’s grumpy. I’m my defence I was very very very pregnant. 

Actually, I still agree with some of it. I hate that it’s just a big push to get us to spend more and more money. Toy adverts are the worst! And don’t even get me started on Black Friday. Bleaugh! 

I do feel quite differently this year though. Maybe because I’m not pregnant and uncomfortable, but also because Iris is really getting into to. For the first time, she’s old enough to have an understanding of it all. We’ve not talked much about presents, but she’s been chatting about Christmas trees and sparkly lights and Santa for a couple of weeks now. She’s even got a part in her nursery show. She’s going to be a star! 

Astrid will turn one just after Christmas, so she’s not a teeny baby anymore either. She obviously has no idea what Christmas is, but she’s definitely old enough to really enjoy it. She’s much more sociable than Iris was as a baby, and loves being surrounded by people. I’m a bit scared she’s going to pull the Christmas tree over, but I think Christmas with her around is going to be a lot of fun! 

I’m not even slightly miffed by the two houses in our street that already have decorations up, and I’ve already bought some presents! I might even let the kids put the tree up early! This picture is from last Christmas, and that is water in Iris’s glass!