Sunday, 28 December 2014

Getting my life back?

Another mum seemed surprised that I am still breast-feeding my baby. "Don't you want to get your life back?" she exclaimed. Her comment set me thinking:

As a first-time mum I spent a lot of time fretting about 'getting my life back' (it seemed to be what you are *supposed* to do after having a baby) but I came to realise that I didn't decide to have children so that life would stay the same; I wanted to become a parent, which meant choosing to put my family ahead of my own personal interests, including my career.

I enjoyed my first year on maternity leave. Yes, I struggled with sleepless nights, felt frustrated trying to work out why my daughter was crying, and obsessed over her self-soothing technique and daytime naps; and yes, I was ready to return to work at the end of it; but, on the whole, I look back on it as one of the best years of my life. Now, I am on another year's maternity leave and I'm enjoying myself even more than I did first time around. I don't miss work, I plan to get back to my singing hobby after Christmas, and I've made new friends and picked up new interests since my elder daughter started school.

Breastfeeding prevents me from doing very few of the things I want to and switching to formula feeding wouldn't open new doors for me or expand my horizons. Yes, other people could do a feed for me but, given that I'm my children's primary carer with my husband working full-time and our parents living 200 miles away, this wouldn't help much. I have had a couple of evenings out since she was born and I just fit errands, visits and appointments around feeds and naps as best I can. I don't feel particularly comfortable breastfeeding in public but I do it sometimes. If I carry on breastfeeding until my daughter is one year old, I will have made a few personal sacrifices but not enough for me to regret not trying her on a bottle.

My life is about my children. Together with my husband, they are the most important thing in my world. Rather than think about getting my old life back, I'm building a new life centred around my family.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Needles and pins

You sit on my knee with a smile for everybody. I hold you tightly. I watch as your face crumples and turns red. Your smile vanishes, your eyes fill with tears and you cry.

I feel your pain and want to make it go away.

I cuddle you and give you some milk to make it better. I shush you and stroke your hair. I tell you that I love you and I wait for the sobbing and whimpering to subside.

Then you look at me and smile again and I know I have done the right thing because the alternative is not worth thinking about.

I lost your brother to a disease with no treatment, no vaccine, no cure. I couldn't bear for that to happen to you or your sister. So, I take you for your immunisations and I listen to you cry and I am careful with your legs until the bruises have gone.

Because I love you so much.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

All that glitters...

My elder daughter is a magpie! She likes to collect shiny things and often brings sparkly, glittery objects home from school. Usually, they are worthless - pieces of shiny paper or foil in pretty shapes and colours. Sometimes, they are hair slides she has picked up from the classroom floor or in the playground. Often, I discover them in the washing machine after I've laundered her school uniform.

Last week, it was something more valuable: glass fish, ornaments, buttons and glass pebbles from the classroom play-tray. I could tell by the weight of her cardigan that she had brought home (a lot of) something she shouldn't.

When I challenged her, she said she wanted to keep them. I asked if the teacher knew she had brought them home. No. I asked if the teacher would have given her permission to bring them home. No. I said we'd have to return them to school. My daughter was upset. She wanted to keep them.

For half a second, I thought about letting her. Then, I found my resolve and my morals and stuck to my word. I explained about stealing. I told her that taking something without asking and/or taking something that you know you shouldn't is stealing and that stealing is naughty. I also told her that if everyone just took things they liked from school, there wouldn't be any fun things left there to play and learn with.

We gathered up the stolen items and took them back to school. She showed the bag of booty to her teacher, who gave a frown and shook her head. The teacher told her to take them inside and put them back in the play-tray.

Quietly, the teacher told me that all of the children take things home. Especially the shiny objects. They are told not to, though, so I know I did the right thing in making my daughter return the ones she took. It is an important lesson to learn - thou shalt not steal.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Birthday message

Dear Monty,

By rights, we should be celebrating your second birthday today. This should be a day of presents, cake and laughter and the sort of candles you blow out whilst making a wish.

What would you wish for if you were here?

What would I wish for on your behalf?

I spent your present money on gifts for an unknown child. A child who is less fortunate than others. A child who may not have parents or siblings. A child who may not be loved.

You are loved by your family, even if you cannot feel it. Your sisters would love to have their middle brother to play with.

I wish that we were wishing you a happy birthday today and singing you the birthday song. I wish that we were opening presents and eating cake and blowing out candles. I wish that you were here.


Wednesday, 10 December 2014

It's a family affair

Ever since our new baby cam along in August, my elder daughter has been fascinated by the concept of kinship and family.

When we brought her sister home from the hospital, she asked me "Mummy, do we get to keep the baby?"
I said "Yes."
"But we didn't get to keep baby Monty." she said "He died but he can still be in our family. I wish he hadn't died - I would have liked to have kept him, too."

She is very keen to understand what being a family is all about, as if we weren't a proper family before. "A family has a mummy and a daddy, a big brother or sister and a little brother or sister." she told me on the way to school this week. "We have a family because I am the big sister."

She has also asked why she doesn't have a big sister and finds it hard to comprehend that it's because she is our first baby!