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Posts tagged ‘family’

Sep 12 / Caro

Freewheeling

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I absolutely love this picture. Despite the fact that you cannot clearly see that it is Thomas – that you might not even know it if I hadn’t told you – it sums up so much about him. In fact, to me, it depicts exactly what childhood – if not life itself -should be all about: freedom, fun and absolutely no worries. I can’t help but smile when I look at it.

It came about in the midst of a glorious Sunday cycle ride across the Kent countryside. We’re so fortunate to live in the heart of the so-called ‘Garden of England’, and we try to make the most of it. After a damp and drizzly Saturday, Sunday dawned with such gloriously blue sky that it was calling us to get outside (and preferably to a pub garden if at all possible!) Thomas had plenty of energy to burn, despite a busy first week at school (more on that soon) and so we elected to tackle the Cycle Network Route 12, which runs from Tonbridge to Penshurst and is mostly off road.

The slightly adapted route we planned came in at six miles with a 47m gain. Which doesn’t sound like much for an adult riding an off road bike with 21 gears. It’s a quick Sunday stroll. But when you’re only four, have a 14 inch bike that you’ve only been riding since May, it’s a bigger challenge. Although Thomas has easily tackled three miles before, I honestly expected us to make it half way and then have to hitch him up to the trail-gator (that we’ve never actually used!) and turn around for home.

That didn’t happen.

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We cycled on. We took a detour to avoid a narrow-ish fast-ish road section and got mildly lost in the Leigh flood storage area, turning a blind eye to a few “No cycles” signs and chucking the bikes over at least one gate (sssssh!). We had to give Thomas a push up some of the hills. And we we took it in turns to walk with him up the long, slow climb towards Penshurst – worth it for the views and then for the downhill that brings you in to the back of Penshurst Place stately home and the promise of a good pub and a rest.

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And Thomas did not complain once. He found the grassy section hard going and the hills that were too big for his little legs and lack of gears a nuisance. But he was loving it. We even felt confident enough to try him along the road and he was an absolute star keeping his front wheel right behind Daddy’s and his back wheel just inside my front wheel, and looking and listening for traffic like a pro, tucking himself in without a moments hesitation as cars passed us. I can’t say I ever imagined allowing my four year old to ride a bike on the road (I even prefer to avoid riding on roads myself), but Thomas surprises me in new ways every day.

It may not be the “done” thing to talk about how great your child is, but a combination of Thomas’s effort, enthusiasm and the entire accomplishment of cycling so far so well just made me so proud of him.

We were justly rewarded with a fabulous pub, delicious grub, ice cream and two pints for the grown ups.

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Then, of course, we had to do it all again in reverse.

But watching Thomas free wheel down that long hill that he’d slogged so hard to climb was pure poetry in motion.

And looking at our bikes chucked together in the hedge will never get old. It just says “family” to me.

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Jul 28 / Caro

Just Like…. Riding a Bike!

Thomas has always loved bikes. Toddling around the local playground when he could only just walk it was always older children’s bikes that he was interested in. And sure enough, the scooter he was given was rejected pretty much as soon as he was too big to ride on the attached seat, because it no longer resembled a bike.
So we bought him a balance bike the summer he was two.
It was probably slightly too big for him, a child who was long down in the lowest part of the growth charts. So it took him a short while to get the hang of it, me running along behind, holding on to help him learn to balance (whilst simultaneously wrecking my back – ahh, parenthood!). And then he was away. Picking up his feet and gliding along, reaching speeds that made him challenge to keep up with. And “riding my bike” has been an obsession ever since.
Last winter he began asking for a pedal bike. By now, the seat of his balance bike was at its top height, and picking up his feet to glide was more of a necessity than a choice. And I could see he was ready to at least try.
His fourth birthday would have been a good opportunity. But the trouble with a winter birthday is that it comes along with big puddles, slippery leaves and so much mud. Not to mention short days a deep darkness. Hardly the ideal conditions for learning to ride a bike and consolidating that skill. If Thomas and I both hadn’t been so keen to avoid stabilisers and the potential loss of that vital balance skill, we might have done it. But I wanted to wait.
Winter and Spring were punctuated with reminders that he really, really wanted a “big boy bike” and to learn to pedal properly. He was adamant that riding a bike was something he was going to do “before I start school”. So eventually we promised that when we got back from Florida, we’d choose him a bike and he could start to learn.
We kept our promise. The weekend after our return saw us mooching around a few local bike shops, checking him against frame sizes to ensure we were picking the right one. We were very firm that we needed to look around first and we wouldn’t be buying a bike that day. Surprisingly he took that pretty well.
We learned quite a lot about bikes that day. About how the majority of girls bikes are pink or princess themed, and the majority of boy’s bikes are superhero themed. We learned that wheel sizes vary on the same sized frame, and that not all handlebars and brakes are equal. But in the course of our search, we came across the next model up from his balance bike. It has the same shape and styling, just a frame size larger and with pedal and two brakes. Back home, online, all the reviews suggested kids found the transition from the same balance bike to this one pretty seamless. And better still it was on offer.
Despite saying we’d not be buying a bike that day, what Thomas didn’t know is that by that evening it was ordered. We selected the free build service and arranged to pick it up that Friday. By good fortune I finished work early and had time to swing by the shop and stow it safely in the boot of the car, only having to remember not to let Thomas put his school bag in the boot when I picked him up.
The next day dawned overcast and showery and my heart sank. But by lunchtime the sun was out in full force, and operation ride a bike was go.
We asked Thomas if he wanted to go to the park. As we left the house, I told him that I needed something from the boot of the car. I only wish I’d had a camera ready as I opened it. “A bike, a bike, my pedal bike!” The boy was literally jumping for joy.
Despite his enthusiasm, we got off to a slow start. We encouraged him to use it like a balance bike and get the feel for it, but he seemed frustrated by that suggestion because it was a pedal bike and he wanted to do it properly. We worked our way slowly across the park with me first supporting the handlebars as he pedalled, and then just the saddle from behind. As we tried to assure him that he needed to maintain speed, Ian and I have never uttered the words “pedal, pedal, pedal” so many times in a single day. Thomas’s response over and over was to make sure that I wasn’t going to unexpectedly let go. I kept sneaking my hands off for moments at a time, and I was confident he could do it. He just wasn’t confident himself.
In the end, it was a train that made him ride.
We reached the section of the park where an underpass crosses the train tracks to enter the woods. It’s Thomas’s favourite place, because he can sit and watch the trains to and from London that pass with efficient frequency. As he heard the tell tale rumble of an approaching service he looked up and gave the familiar refrain of “A train, a train” and within moments he was away, feet up on the pedals and flying.
It took a good fifteen seconds before he remembered to shout “don’t let go Mummy”.
And I was trying hard not to cry as I shouted back that I’d never been holding on in the first place.
He stopped and looked over his shoulder before giving me a massive grin and declaring “I can do it. I can really do it.”
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Watching him fly along the path away from me made me think of all the ways he flying away from me as he grows in size, in independence, in maturity and in skill. But that cheeky grin and the pride on his face reminded me that he’ll always be my baby.
That was nearly two months ago, and he hasn’t stopped since. He’s so proud of his skill, telling everybody about his new bike and how much he loves riding. He made me share it on his school’s online learning journal and couldn’t wait to call his grandparents to share the exciting news.
The only downside for me is that there is absolutely no keeping up with him on foot. But it does mean that my own bike is getting regular outings too, and suddenly a whole host of destinations are within much easier reach without needing to take the car.
Learning to ride a bike is one of those milestones that we all remember. I still remember my little Raleigh “Bullet” and my own dad running along behind me until I’d mastered it. And family cycle rides around the park are one of those activities that I’ve been looking forward to since that second pink line appeared.
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Magical moments indeed.
Jul 18 / Caro

Baby Lust No More?

Shortly after our third IVF attempt and failure, I wrote this, about how hard it was to surrender hope when I still wanted another baby so badly. At the time, I couldn’t imagine ever not wanting it so fiercely that it hurt from the moment I woke up to the moment I fell asleep.

It turns out that perhaps there is truth in the old adage that time heals. A bit, at least.

I’ve come to realise in the last few weeks that maybe, just maybe, that fierce devotion to the dream of another child has shifted. It’s in no small part due to all the other crap that has taken my focus away in the last 12 months. But I think that is just the thing that has masked this change in perspective as it happened, and allowed it to creep up on me.

It’s more that I’ve come to accept that I cannot ever have my dream. That ship has sailed. Even if I did miraculously conceive another child, I can never have the “three under five” sort of family dynamic that I once longed for.

And more than that, it would alter our lives so much to go back to having a newborn now. Contemplating that sort of change in our lives is very different to the longing to have been able to have had another baby almost four years ago when we started trying.

The thing is, we’re reaching a stage where our lives are really moving on, for want of a better descriptor. Thomas starts school in September, and though it may win me a bad mother award, I’m quite excited by the prospect of having 9 to 3 free, two days per week. Sure, I’ll miss that time with Thomas, but his school is awesome and I know he’ll be enjoying it. Having some time to get my hair cut during the day, go for a swim, do household tasks without the hindrance of a small child’s “help”, sort out seemingly endless rounds of doctors appointments so I don’t have to drag Thomas to them… The list of things I’m looking forward to goes on. These are things I’ve never had much opportunity for before, as prior to having Thomas, like so many women, I was working full time, 5 or 6 day weeks. You can forgive me for looking forward to it, no? Having a younger child, of course, would delay this point by a while longer. Had I had my last baby last year as I hoped, I’d have three or four more years to wait. If I fell pregnant now, it would be at least another five.

And we’re starting to reclaim more of our own interests too. This weekend we – all three of us – rode our bikes together across the parks and along local cycle lanes to a pub with a garden. We sat in the sunshine and Ian and I had a cheeky pint and some good conversation that didn’t revolve around parenting. Thomas was quite happy drinking apple juice through a straw, searching for the biggest sticks he could find and making friends with the dogs lying in the sun. It was exactly the kind of thing we’d have been doing on a sunny Saturday afternoon if we didn’t have kids. Again, it may win me a bad mother award, but doing things which we want to do as well as things which are more centred around our child is, to my mind, essential for balance. Far from being selfish, I think all parents need to have the opportunity to fulfill some of their own desires and interests as part of rounded family life. But that is only possible as kids get that bit older, and more able to understand the importance of anyone but themselves and make their own enjoyment out of varied situations.

Thomas is now happy to do so many things that we would do without a child to consider, and stuff that is harder with a swarm of kids. Sure, we can’t take him to 18 rated films at the cinema, or to some of the more adult theatre we enjoy, nor is he an equal with whom we can discuss everything. But we’re really beginning to enjoy being a family without it all having to be kid-centric – lovely and fun as those sorts of activities are, and grateful as I am to have the opportunity to do them because I have child with who to do them.

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Last month, I was sure that I’d ovulated. It doesn’t happen very often, but so many years of focusing on your fertility help you to tune in to the signs. And then, no period arrived. Not strange in itself – they often fail to show. But the fact that I was sure I’d ovulated made me just wonder if it were possible. It was a fleeting thought, that I tried to quickly suppress. But with it came a host of confusing emotions. I suddenly questioned exactly how I’d feel if I were, indeed pregnant.

Ecstatic, of course I would. Years of longing for a second pink line that never appeared means it would an irrepressible instinct.

But.

But.

I’m not sure that now is the right time. I think all the times that could have been the right time have passed.

I wasn’t pregnant. Obviously.

But the experience has allowed me to realise that I may just be ready to let go of the thought that it will ever happen. I think I’m at peace with that now. It will always hurt, but I know that it would still hurt just as much that we weren’t able to have a baby back when we were first trying, even if we had another baby now. Managing to separate out the unrealised dream from the bare fact of infertility is a massive leap.

It comes down to this: We wanted a baby. We couldn’t have one. I’ll never really – truly – get over that.

But I’m ready to say that I don’t really want another baby now, anymore.

This is my family.

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 (Okay, okay… minus the mice!)
Jul 23 / Caro

“I’d Love Another, But We Can’t Have Any More”

It’s turned out to be a bit of a conversation stopper, that.

Yet, somehow, despite the fact that it seems to drag infertility front and centre, I’ve found myself saying it more and more recently. Because, of course, it’s not uttering that statement that brings our infertility to the fore, it’s the never ending barrage of questions about whether, or when, we’re going to have another child, or even why we haven’t got on and done it already.

And every time someone asks that question, it reminds me of what I long for, but cannot have, and it breaks my heart just a little bit more.

Those questions won’t stop any time soon though. I know that now. For as long as I’m doing nursery runs, and preschool birthday parties with other mums of about my age, for as long as I’m of an age where I should, at least in theory, be well pre-menopausal, and for as long as I work with the well-meaning public who like to make “small talk”, people are going to keep asking me about our plans for more children.

I’ve had to find a way to deal with that which doesn’t involve suspiciously frequent trips to the loo and a good supply of waterproof mascara.

And honesty, as they say, is the best policy. It turns out that being honest about it is nothing like as hard as either going through the infertility experience, or putting up a pretence of all being well every time the subject is raised.

In fact, funnily enough, it’s actually helped. Just by bringing infertility out in to the open I feel better. Acknowledging it rather than hiding it means it’s no longer a dirty little secret that no one can possibly comprehend because they simply don’t know. And it allows me to raise it, and then move on, rather than all those questions leaving a simmering hurt and upset that eventually boils over.

It’s not my intention to make people feel uncomfortable or awkward, even though I recognise my words often do that. I see the look of panic flash across their eyes as what I’ve said sinks in and they flail to find something appropriate to say in return. (For the record “I’m sorry” or “That must be really tough” would be fine. Asking if we’ve tried IVF or considered adoption is like asking a dental hygienist if they know how to floss. And it’s a bit rude, not to mention inconsiderate. So yeah… Just. Stop.) But if I can make people think, then that has to be a good thing. If people can start to realise that these seemingly innocent questions can crush like a ton of bricks then that is great. If they can see that not everyone has the privilege of “choosing” the size of their family and that having an “only child” isn’t necessarily something that we wanted, nevermind it being selfish or lazy or all the other things people assume, then it will make me feel better. If I can make people realise that having one child is no guarantee of more to follow, then it’s worth a few seconds of squirming. In fact, if I can open people’s eyes to the fact that a family with only one child is a perfectly valid family, whether it was by choice or not, then we’d really be moving forwards.

But most of all, I’d like to hope that it will make people stop and think in future. And next time they meet a woman of child-bearing age, whether she already has children or not, they don’t pry in to her personal circumstances. Because really, the question of how many children you want, or are planning, to have, is not dinner table conversation.

It”s deeply personal. It can be a tough subject for so many people for a huge variety of reasons. And if I have to lob a few infertility grenades into conversations to get people to see that…well, so be it.

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Jul 15 / Caro

A Trip to Legoland

We all have aspirations for our children. To be healthy, happy and fulfilled are the usual suspects that head the list. But we can all admit to having a few other secret wishes for our offspring, even if we can acknowledge their lesser importance. Like hoping that they, too, will love the little plastic bricks that click together to create whatever your imagination can dream!

Fortunately for these Lego-loving parents (we own a very impressive collection of Lego from both of our own childhoods, but a not insignificant amount acquired once adulthood was reached too – I bought Ian a Lego Death Star for his thirtieth birthday some five years ago, and it now takes pride of place on a high shelf in the (Thomas’s) playroom) Thomas is following in our footsteps. It began as surely every Lego collection does with a massive pile of Duplo and has now progressed through to Lego Juniors models. Whilst he can’t quite follow the instructions to build a specific model without help, his ability to locate and fit together pieces is growing day by day. And a whole year later Thomas still talks about, amongst other things, the Lego Discovery Centre in Berlin.

With our first family trip to Florida planned for the early part of next year, we wanted to do some gentle introduction to the idea of theme parks before the Magic Kingdom blows his mind. So given the passion for Lego, and the fact that Legoland is designed for and aimed at children from two to twelve years of age, it seemed like an obvious choice for our first proper family theme park visit. And last week presented the day of choice, with my (also Lego-mad) brother on a flying visit from the West Coast of the US. So we set off around the M25 for a day of fun.

And it didn’t disappoint.

Thomas was captivated from the moment we entered. The Hill Train helped with that, of course as the train obsession remains as strong as ever. “There is Lego everywhere” Thomas declared with glee. Within moments he’d spotted The Aero Nomad balloon carousel, and any concerns about a fit of timidity in the face of rides were immediately quashed. We subsequently ducked inside to avoid a short rain shower and discovered the Scarab Bouncers, which elicited a continuous fit of giggles from start to stop, and even the darkness of the Laser Raiders ride was no match for our little man. (Sadly my brother was a match for me, roundly beating me in the shoot out competition. I may have stuck my bottom lip out in a recreation of our childhood.) The Train ride around the park was another must for Thomas too.

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We headed inside for lunch as the sky took on an ominous blackish hue. We managed to secure window seats overlooking the pirate show and catch some of the stunts whilst avoiding an absolutely torrential – and I mean skin soaking – downpour. We may have lingered over lunch a little longer than was strictly necessary….

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The afternoon brought plenty more adventures from a Submarine ride to rediscover Atlantis, driving a Duplo train and flying a Duplo Helicopter. “It went up and up and up “ shouted Thomas afterwards, jumping up and down. “And then it went round and round and round” he added, spinning on the spot for effect!

Thomas also wanted to have a go at driving a car in the Mini Driving School, which is a smaller version of the bigger attraction, and aimed specifically at 3-5 year olds. And it was whilst standing in the queue here that we had a moment-in-a-million real life blogger spot! As it began to drip with rain again, I asked my brother to pass over Thomas’s rain coat. As I edged slightly back down to queue to grab it I recognised first the child a couple of people behind us, and then her mummy as Carie from Space for the Butterflies. It was one of those moments where I’m glad that I had no time to think, or to be shy or nervous and simply said that I’d just recognised her! I can be very shy about meeting people “in real life”, but I’m so glad that there wasn’t time for nerves to get the better of me! It was so lovely to put a real person to the blogger and have a quick chat as we waited and watched.

Thomas and Kitty were in the same driving group (fortunately no accidents, because if my son had run her daughter off the road, that may have been embarrassing). As with everything, Thomas was overwhelmingly enthusiastic. When the staff told his group that it was their turn, he literally jumped up and down saying “Hooray, it’s finally our turn!”

And watching him drive that car was one of those moments that makes you smile and feel a bit tearful all at once. Because he tried so hard. And to begin with he had a couple of crashes in the curb and has to be put back on track. But then, all of a sudden, something clicked and he got the hand go steering to go exactly where he wanted to go. Of course, it was all over far too quickly, but once again he hasn’t stopped talking about it. (He thinks he’s a better driver than me now. Ahem.)

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As the afternoon wore on, we headed over to the Knight’s Kingdom area for Thomas’s first real roller coaster experience. Bold as he may be, Thomas can sometimes be reluctant to try new things, but fortunately this wasn’t one that phased him. In fact, he loved it so much that he wanted to go straight back on! (We sent Grandpa on for this one!)

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We finished up the day in the Miniland section of the park. This was absolute heaven for Thomas who spent over an hour following the trains around and working out where they all ran. I definitely forsee a Lego train set in our future. In fact, when we went in to the shop at the very end of the day, he gravitated straight towards one said with a pleading look in his eye. Not just yet, kiddo. Maybe when you’re a bit older!

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There is so much that we didn’t get to do. The park is absolutely vast, and the opening hours of 10-5 relatively short (although to be fair, Thomas was flagging by the time we left at past 5 o’clock anyway). You could easily spend the day just looking at Miniland and the other Lego exhibits and building in the Imagination Centre without even looking at any rides. We missed out the Splash Safari and Drench Towers entirely as well as a couple of other whole areas of the park. No matter, of course. It’s just all the more reason to go back!

If you are wondering about a trip to Legoland with your own preschooler, I can highly recommend it. The park is truly designed for children of this age. The height restriction for the majority of rides that have one is just 90cm (even my very short three year old is well over this) and many have no restrictions at all, so long as you accompany your child. The rides are all designed with young children in mind. There is nothing too thrilling or scary (with the possible exception of the new Riding Adventure, which also has the tallest height restriction at 1.2m) The only drawback if you have only one child is that all going on the rides together can feel bit awkward, as one of you obviously has to sit on your own, but I probably think about things like this more than average, because I’m vary aware of that empty seat and how very much I’d like it to be occupied!

And of course there is plenty that isn’t a traditional “ride”. There is lots of Lego to build with and a couple of large play areas. You can pan for gold. You ride the submarine which takes you through an aquarium filled with real fish to spot, or wander the park finding Lego animals.

It is big, though. We no longer own a buggy, so Thomas was walking the whole day. He did get tired, and so did catch a couple of lifts of shoulders, and the lack of buggy meant we didn’t have anywhere to put bags, so was instrumental in our decision to buy lunch rather than take it with us. I would recommend taking a pushchair if you have one, even if you don’t usually use it much. And there is plenty of space for picnicking if you choose to do so.

I will leave the final words of the day to Thomas. This was his face when we told him we had to go home.

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And when we asked what his favourite bit of the day had been, he responded emphatically “All of it!”

Jun 28 / Caro

Preschool Sport’s Day and “Missing Out” as a Parent

Last Friday was Thomas’s first Preschool Sport’s Day.

And I couldn’t go. Because I had to work.

Yeah, it made me a bit sad when I had to tell Thomas that no, I couldn’t be there to watch him and his friends.

I’m not in a position to moan really. I’ve read lots and lots of pieces about working parents and the balances and compromises they often must strike. Unlike a lot of families out there, we had a great deal of choice about what to do once Thomas was born. I could have given up work altogether if I had wanted. Equally Ian had the option to become a stay-at-home dad. We could have shared working and childcare (and did, for a while) and I could have gone back for any amount of time right up to full time without having to worry about child care fees crippling us or eating away the entirety of my wage. We are in this situation partly because of hard work, but, yes, we’re also extremely lucky.

So going back to work was very definitely a choice for me, and one that I’m currently entirely happy with. Sure, sometimes I moan about work, but that’s because like anything with responsibility for people, it can be extremely stressful. And at the moment anything at the sharp end of the NHS is definitely at least a bit taxing. But for the most part I love my job, and I really like the mix we’ve managed to achieve in our lives.

But on Friday, not being able to be there for an event that Thomas was very excited about was still a little bit heartbreaking. Friday is the only day of the week that I work in that particular practice. Having already taking three Fridays off in the last seven, I just couldn’t justify another one – on the grounds of needing to fulfill my targets for the business as whole and also out of duty to the patients who I don’t want to keep waiting for weeks on end for an opportunity to get an appointment with me.

And it’s that – the tearing of family responsibility against professional responsibility – that will always be hard. I know I’m far from alone. It’s hard for everyone – men and women, parents or not – because we almost all have additional responsibilities or priorities outside of the professional environment. Sadly there just aren’t enough hours, even with the greatest flexibility in working arrangements, to be able to do it all, all of the time. It’s always a compromise, no matter what.

The upside to this story is that Ian is lucky to have a reasonable amount of flexibility in his work. He’s part of a relatively small team and they recognise the importance of family life, so things like leaving early to do the nursery pick up when I have to work late are not a problem. He was able to work from home for the day and slip out for a couple of hours to be there, to Thomas’s immense pleasure. My heart hurts just a little bit thinking about Thomas being the only child there without a family member to cheer him on.

Of course, once again, I know that we are lucky. For some families there are no choices, and no flexibility. Missing out becomes not something they fear, but something that actually happens, and their child becomes that one.

At least I got to see the photos (of which I will only share a few here, in the interests of not sharing pictures of other children) and hear the first hand account of Thomas setting off to run his own race across the field, and how he “won” the potato-and-spoon race with liberal interpretation of the rules that involved holding the potato on the spoon! You’ve got to love preschoolers!

And there will be a next time. Hopefully next time I won’t have to miss out.

 

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Mar 31 / Caro

“I Want a Brother” and Other Things That Make Me Immeasurably Sad

I see a lot of blog posts about positivity. About happiness. About the simple things that bring joy.

This is not one of those posts.

It may not be “the done thing” to make a list of negatives, and there may not be a linky for “top sad moments of the week”, but this place is my honest outlet. The place to share and offload how I’m really feeling, downs and all.

And this week had a real downer.

Last Wednesday, amongst recurring tantrums that I wasn’t doing exactly what Thomas wanted (despite his lack of communication on what that was) as we played together, and outbursts of anger that he wasn’t capable – or at least thought he wasn’t capable – of doing certain things that he wanted came a mega strop at me. It was provoked by my momentary unavailability to be a train, or whatever the game of the moment was. I was trying to prep for dinner, hang a load of wet laundry and answer a couple of important – as in “must-be-done-before-5pm-type – emails simultaneously. All I’d asked of Thomas, after a day spent in London together, and then playing together for a couple of hours, was that he play on his own for a bit.

If there is one thing that my son is not great at, it’s playing on his own. He’s a people person and always wants a playmate.

So when I asked him again to give me five minutes he hurled a real cracker at me:

“I want a brother. Then I’ll always have someone to play with me.”

It’s fair to say, I finished up in bits. I know that’s he’s not capable of intentionally trying to wound with words and that he couldn’t possibly comprehend their power. But my goodness, it fucking hurt.

Leaving the obvious aside for a moment, it was a sock in the gut because it was the preschooler equivalent of “I hate you.” In that one small sentence, he was telling me that I wasn’t good enough because I don’t play with him enough. He wanted someone other than me, who would be a better playmate.

It doesn’t matter that the rational part of my brain knows that this isn’t true – I spend huge amounts of time immersed in his games, down on the floor, building train tracks, acting out the fat controller, playing snap or snakes and ladders. We play with Playdoh and paints. We cook together and stick stickers together. It’s a simple fact of life that, sadly, I also have other things that must be done and I cannot be one hundred percent available to Thomas one hundred percent of the time.

But that’s not how Thomas perceives it, and no matter how silly, it still hurts.

But of course, it’s worse than that. Because I would dearly have loved to give Thomas a sibling. If you read regularly, you cannot fail to know that.

I know that that too is not as simple as it sounds. Even if we had fallen pregnant the first month of trying, that child would be almost two and so only really now beginning to be capable of participating in Thomas’s games. And that is assuming that they even wanted to. Having another child could have raised a whole lot of different issues, with Thomas constantly screaming that they were ruining his games, or taking his toys. With me unable to leave them together for fear of them falling out or hurting one another. Having another child is no guarantee that they’ll be friends or playmates. I know that.

But once again, it’s Thomas’s perception that counts. He’s suddenly decided that a sibling would equal a permanent play mate, and for a child who always wants to be with others, that’s huge.

And of course, it’s the one thing that I can’t do.

I would give everything I own to make it happen. But I can’t. And this, the first time of Thomas openly articulating a request for a sibling, stung me to my very core.

Somehow this moment opened the floodgates and turned my sensitivity meter to high, because for the next twenty four hours, everything seemed to hurt. I’m getting pretty good at suppressing the sadness associated with our infertility, and avoiding the things that trigger it, Thomas’s comment was like picking at a scab, and then I just couldn’t leave it alone.

Amongst other things, I took myself on to Facebook. I don’t really use Facebook anymore, and there’s an obvious reason why not: It seems that EVERYONE has either just had a baby, or is pregnant. Scrolling through all the pictures in my newsfeed made me realise just how many people who hadn’t even had their first child when we started trying for a second now have their second child too. Which in turn made me realise that from the point that we started to try for Thomas, to the point that we started to try again having already had him was a shorter period of time that we’ve now been attempting to have another baby. I don’t know why that upset me specifically, but it did. Possibly because it made me realise just how much of my life this has taken up.

Then elsewhere online, there seemed to be a lot of baby talk and rather than turn a blind eye and move on to something else, I kept reading. I saw conversations unfolding where people talked almost carelessly of how and when they will have another child. They talked about how long they are leaving it to start trying because it needs to fit in with their plans, or they have a dream about how it will all fit together.

When I see stuff like this I feel like butting in and telling them to just get the hell on with it, because it turns out that you can’t truly plan these things. Fertility has no regard for your dreams. I want to cringe at their naivety that it can all be so easy just because they’ve done it once before.

But then, once I was that naive. I did it too.

And the honest truth is that, for the very vast majority of people, their plans and dreams will come to fruition.

Just for us, they didn’t.

How I wish for those carefree moments of assumption back.

How I wish it were all different.

How I wish I could give Thomas the sibling he asked for.

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