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Archive for March, 2014

Mar 31 / Caro

Me and Mine – March 2014

This month’s photo was taken on our family holiday to Center Parcs, where we discovered the amazing invention that is the four-person swing seat!

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Obviously it’s fantastic if you are on your own with two children, since you can sit in the middle and swing them both evenly, rather than trying to alternately push two separate swings.

That was my first thought when saw it. And it hit me in the stomach like a sucker punch. Because it’s not a problem that I have, or am ever very likely to have. And it reminded me just how much has changed since last month.

I do love this photo, and Thomas certainly loved all of us swinging together, infecting even me with his giggles. I see this photo and think of all the fun we had whilst we were away. But when I look at it, I also can’t help but see the empty seat next to Ian.

It’s a bittersweet photo.

But it’s reality too.

dear beautiful
Mar 30 / Caro

Mother’s Day 2014

I don’t have particularly high expectations for Mother’s Day. I see people on social media sites getting upset that their children partners haven’t remembered, or put enough thought in or whatever, and I can’t help but think it’s only really their own expectations that have let them down. I realise that it is still a day where all the normal jobs of parenting need to get done.

In addition, I think Mothers’ Day should also be a day for celebrating ourselves. I’m so lucky that my son and my husband both show me how appreciated and loved I am much more often than not, but as mothers we also owe it to ourselves to have pride in what we do without waiting for external validation. Mother’s Day should be a day for enjoying motherhood, not necessarily just expecting to be waited on and pampered.

All of that said, I’ve done well this year.

It started with a relative lie in until quarter to seven (or quarter to eight in new time!). Ian went in to Thomas and I heard them chattering about the mail train and various other rail related stories (standard).

“What day is it today?” I heard Ian ask.

“Errr… MUMMY’S BIRTHDAY!” came the loud reply.

I couldn’t help but smile. Not quite, kiddo, but close enough. He has obviously grasped that birthday’s are special days where you buy things for people, and had connected the fact that he had bought flowers for me yesterday to reason that it must be my birthday!

In addition to flowers I got three cards, two of them handmade, along with a handmade keying from nursery. I also got breakfast in bed, which was lovely until Thomas joined me to “jump on Mummy Daddy’s bed!” and then demanded “Accident’s Happen” on YouTube (it’s a Thomas & Friends thing!) But a hot cup of tea in bed was wonderful nonetheless.

My main gift, however, was this:

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When we were at Center Parcs last week, I spent a much needed afternoon relaxing in the spa. During that time, Ian took Thomas to the pottery paintig studio, where he aparently picked thie “I heart Mum” mug out all by himself, and then decorated it, mostly by himself.

He paid particular attention to the inside:

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And was most insistent that Ian add a picture of a train:

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Which completely sums him up.

I absolutely love it, and all the thought and time that went in to it.

I know it is a gift I will treasure, probably forever, the sentimental old softie that I am!

I hope everyone had a very happy Mother’s Day!

Mar 29 / Caro

The Positives of an Only Child

Another of the more hurtful things someone has said to me recently is how full of negativity I’ve been lately.

“Do you honestly blame me?” I want to scream.

I feel as though I’m stumbling a bit in the wilderness, trying to navigate a new, unexpected path, without a map or compass. I’m well aware that “things could be an awful lot worse”, but I do think that I’m entitled to feel a little confused and a little sad. And, given that I have absolutely no idea exactly where I’m really heading right now, other than that it definitely isn’t where I wanted to go, I also think a bit of negativity is not unwarranted.

All of that said, I’m not entirely negative. Back before the surgical sperm retrieval in January, I’d forced myself to plan for the possibility that we wouldn’t get any sperm. In which case we would have been unable to even pursue IVF/ICSI. So I made a list of what we would spend the money earmarked for treatment on instead. It included a new kitchen. And a new, dedicated playroom for Thomas. Plus some longer term plans that at one point seemed quite enticing and had me jokingly questioning whether we should bother with IVF at all!

We’re in a different situation now. I don’t think I can justify a kitchen as a consolation prize, having actually already spent all that money. But I have begun a list of the positives associated with Thomas being an only child. And in the interests of bringing some positivity to the pages of my blog, I’m sharing it here.

  • The age gap no longer matters – it’s no secret that I’ve spent a lot of time obsessing about the age gap, but if you only have one child, there is no age gap! And so gone are all the worries about children at completely different stages and with very different needs at different times. Our lives can synch perfectly with the phases of Thomas’s life, and be driven by his needs at any given time.
  • More time – I’m well aware that you don’t have to split your love when a second child comes along. I’ve read enough times about how the love grows. But unfortunately the number of hours in a day doesn’t increase, no matter how many children you have, and there will inevitably need to be some division of how time is spent and some compromises all round. Thomas will only have to compete with Ian, and myself (you know, that famed “me time” thing. Yeah, I guess I’m likely to get a bit more of that!) for his share of my time.
  • More money – An extra child obviously brings extra costs. For starters we won’t need any more new baby stuff. Or a second car seat. I won’t have to take more maternity leave, with its associated pay drop. We also won’t be paying two simultaneous lots of nursery fees, and our nursery fee paying days will be over a lot sooner. Overall we’ll have more money to spend on the fun things, like holidays and days out, which in themselves will often be cheaper with one less person to pay for.
  • Flexibility for education – the above bullet point notwithstanding, we’ll have the choice to spend more on education should we so choose. We live between two good state primary schools – about a quarter to a third of a mile from each. But there is a very real chance we won’t get a place at either. In that case, we’d likely get a place at a school about 6 miles away and be expected to put 4 year old Thomas in a council-funded taxi to get there. No thank you! We also live close to a couple of good independent prep schools, and with only one child to fund, the 10K per yeaproblematic much more do-able. It’s good to know we have options.
  • More space – The second bedroom that has always been earmarked as a bedroom for a second child will now be extra living space in our home. The plan is to turn it in to a dedicated playroom (and later playroom-cum-study/homework area) for Thomas. (He currently shares spce in our front room and our study and guest room in the loft conversion.) Not only will that be fantastic for him, it will also mean our downstairs becomes a completely adult space again, and we will physically have more room without the toy clutter. Win-win!
  • We’ll reclaim some freedom sooner – I’m hesitatant to share this one in some ways, because it almost makes me sound as though I see kids as an inconvenience (although if you believe that, you’re obviously new here). If we had another child now, it would mean going back to the beginning. Night feeds and being unable to stay away overnight. Needing to lug a changing bag everywhere. Pushing a pushchair everywhere we go. And at the other end of the line, it’s would be an extra three years until school and exams are out of the way (and they move out….?!) Thomas suddenly seems so grown up lately, so it’s lovely to be able to do much more grow up activities with him and I’m enjoying moving forwards.
  • I’ll spend less of my parenting time acting as a referee – parents I know with two or more children say that they spend a lot of time refereeing disputes between their offspring, and breaking up petty squabbles. Not dealing with sibling rivalry means more focused, quality time with the one child. And similarly no need to worry about favouritism or treating everyone the same!

These are things I am trying to focus on as I adjust my expectations to our destined reality. I’m sure there may be more – if you can think of any, please share!

Oh, and of course, the biggest positive of all is the fact that we have this adorable little man in our lives!

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Mar 26 / Caro

One Summer Night That Proved to Me the Value of Life

I remember the feel of the air that summer day as if it were only this afternoon. Warm and humid – enough to edge the London Underground towards insufferable amongst the crowds, especially for someone with one leg in plaster. The effort of moving about on crutches was enough to make my clothes stick to me uncomfortably and my head spin ever so slightly. England were playing Portugal in the quarter finals of the World Cup and I was meeting friends to watch the game in a London pub.

I can tell you, even now, that England lost 3-1 on penalties, but I can’t recall any of the details of the match, nor of the conversations I had that evening. I know I felt unwell because I’d felt under the weather for weeks, frequently coming home from work and falling straight in to bed, sleeping right through until my alarm the next morning. Existing on a diet of cereal and painkillers for the ankle injury that had now been unresolved for 18 months. I’d really struggled to recover from surgery almost exactly a month before and a sick, dizzy feeling had become my constant companion. I’d already been readmitted to hospital once for a suspected wound infection, and had spent the month battling severe, intractable low blood sugars. Perhaps it was because I just felt too awful, but I hadn’t connected the dots together, or identified the red flags that, with hindsight, were staring me in the face. So I’d forced myself to go out that afternoon, afraid that I was becoming antisocial and missing out on seeing people who mattered to me.

As it turned out, I’m so glad that I made the effort.

It’s hard sometimes to pick out what I really remember against what people have told me. Where my true memory merges with the pieces coloured in by friends and the medical paperwork. But apparently I left early in the evening, saying I felt unwell. I declined offers to see me to the station, or even all the way home. I insisted that I was fine – just hot, uncomfortable and in need of sleep. I didn’t want to curtail anyone else’s fun.

Less than twenty minutes after leaving my friends, I was lying on a dirty London pavement in full cardiac arrest.

I was twenty-six years old.

When I think back to that evening, it’s hard to deny the existence of luck. I was in a busy place and my collapse was not only witnessed, but witnessed by people who knew what to do. I wasn’t dismissed as being drunk. I was in a public place that happened to be equipped with an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) which is really the only way the restart someone’s heart when it stops beating. Despite the hoards of people out watching the football, and the consequent level of high spirits and drunken antics, a paramedic was apparently on scene incredibly quickly.

The days that followed were a confused blur, and included me discharging myself from one hospital (before walking straight in to another) when a doctor, who was lacking considerably in bedside manner, voiced a suspicion that I was abusing narcotics. The reality was that I had a prescribed – and carefully controlled – pain management schedule for my ankle, which had nothing to do with my collapse. The cause of my arrest, although rare, was subsequently identified and treated.

When I think of how differently it could all have played out, I realise how lucky I am to be alive.

It’s not something that I like to think about much, though, for obvious reasons. And in the almost eight years that have passed since then, I have never written this openly or honestly about the events of that night. My reasons for not doing so are probably mainly down to a misguided notion of self-preservation. I think I believed it would be harder, and more negative, to think about than it has been. My reasons for actually sharing it now are complicated. In part it’s because I continually feel that I need to promote the value of accessible public AEDs and training in Basic Life Support (or bystander-CPR). Because those things really and truly make a difference. I’m living proof of it.

If you wouldn’t know what to do if someone collapsed on the pavement next to you, then please, go and learn.

But what really compelled me to share this now is the fact that it has repeatedly come to mind in the last couple of weeks as I struggle to come to terms with a different reality to the one that I’ve dreamed of. And to do so has been surprisingly positive and uplifting. In the most basic terms, when I remember what I’ve come through, it puts it all in to a bit of perspective.

I’m alive. Every day is a gift.

And for now, that is more than enough.

Mar 25 / Caro

It’s Not About the Money – It’s the Business of Selling Hope

It’s no secret that IVF is not cheap. With all the additional extras we needed, our final bill rang in at well over seven thousand pounds. I can think of a lot of things that can be done with seven thousand pounds from holidays and family fun to home improvements and investments. Things that would benefit all of us – Thomas included. For me, though, it’s a price absolutely worth paying for another child. But before we started, I thought that if our IVF cycle didn’t work, I’d not only be devastated by the biological failure, but also angry about the money we’d have wasted. It’s a lot of money to spend only to have nothing to show for it.

Now that it has come down to it, however, I can honestly say that the financial hit pales in to insignificance in comparison to the pain of the failure. To have been pregnant, and then lost our much wanted, obsessively longed for, second child: No amount of monetary loss can come close to that feeling.

I’ve honestly barely thought about the money.

It’s true that we’re fortunate to have been in the position to afford to spend that amount of money. I cannot imagine the heartache of couples who long to have a shot at parenthood and are held back only by a lack of funds. That seems like a particularly cruel twist of fate. And perhaps it would hit me harder if we’d had to re-mortgage our home, or take out expensive loans that we would be paying off for months or years. In fact, the only moment that the cost dragged me down was the day we paid it off in full – having chosen to use a credit card for the cash-back bonus. That day happened to be the same day I began to miscarry.

The feeling was fleeting, though, for I cannot regret the money that we spent. I can’t regret it because I know it gave us a shot at something. A chance at a chance. A hope.

Where would we be had we not spent the money? I would still be sitting here with an empty uterus and a longing in my heart. I would still want a child just as much and no amount of money in the bank could change that. No amount of enjoyment in a snazzy new kitchen, or an exotic foreign holiday, could substitute for the joy of becoming parents again. If we still had the money to spend on other things, the crucial difference would be the sense that we had not tried everything, and given it our very best shot.

It turns out that it wasn’t money for nothing. We paid to know that we’d done everything possible to achieve our dream.

And I’ve come to realise that fertility clinics are not really in the business of making expensive babies at all. They’re in the business of selling hope to people like us.

Mar 24 / Caro

{Living Arrows} 12/52 – Sliding

We spent last week on a much-needed and well-earned short break at Center Parcs (more on that coming up). As well as using the downtime to relax and reflect on the last few weeks, we had a lot of fun and took a lot of photos. A lot. I haven’t even looked through them all yet. And, of course, a huge proportion of those were pictures of Thomas. Which has made choosing a Living Arrows picture extremely difficult.

From the many that jumped out at me as I browsed through, I eventually selected this one. It may not be the most technically brilliant shot, or taken from the best angle, but it absolutely captures the open-mouthed look of pure joy that I see on my son’s face each and every day. I only have to look at the picture to be able to hear the squeal of laughter that accompanied this moment. I love the joy and excitement Thomas is able to find in each small moment. This picture will, hopefully, forever remind me of this stage of his developing personality.

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living arrows
Mar 23 / Caro

{Living Arrows} 10 and 11/52 – Catching Up!

Yes, I’m well behind on this project, given that the link for week 12 opens tomorrow, and the list for week 11 is already closed.

To be honest, I feel as though I’ve been chasing to catch up ever since I began. But I don’t want to let the fact that I’ve been late putting these pictures up spell the end of my participation. Since becoming a mother, I feel a little like my staying power – and the tenacity that enabled me to get all kinds of things done, and that I was well known for – has taken a bit of a hit. I wanted this year to be the year in which that changed again, for the better. I wanted to stick to the things I started and see them through. And on this one, it’s not simply about linking up, or the other people who are participating.  I’m motivated by ending the year with a collection of 52 photographs capturing all the developing personality quirks of my favourite little boy as he grows.

Quirks like his propensity for throwing spontaneous tea parties in a tent – and ensuring that his “friends” drink up their tea.

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And his total fascination with playing with stones. Which invariably becomes “slate from the quarry”. Watching his imagination take off like this, and take him to new places each day is simply awesome.

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living arrows
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