Allergy fun…..when all the best plans…

This weekend we had the total privilege of witnessing the marriage of one of my longest standing friends. It was an amazing weekend, but that kind of event for us always comes with a few stresses.

Our friends were amazing in their catering planning for the weekend, providing lots of food for me to eat with my allergies, and lots for my eldest son too. We had agreed in advance we would provide the food for the toddler, as we know it is hard to cater for all his allergies.

So with all the best laid plans, there also comes for me a level of anxiety as to the what-ifs that can happen. And we survived the first 24 hours without a hiccup. But with 21 other people around, who are aware to a point, there is always going to be a degree of risk. With a mobile toddler though, you at times need eyes in the back of your head!

We don’t know what, or when, our little guy picked up something he shouldn’t  have, but somehow he ate something he was severely allergic to. An unhappy, itchy baby was bad enough, but the sickness that followed was on another level. I was so grateful for the help of new, but wonderful friends, who jumped up to help so we could sort out a very unhappy little boy.  As ever what amazed me was once his system had rid itself of the allergen, and he was cleaned up, out little boy was back to his happy, chatty self! He tucked in to more, safe, food, and merrily chatted away to people.

We will never know what he ate, if it was a known allergen, or a new one, and that makes it tricky, but what I am learning is that we can only do so much. There will always be a time when there can be errors and slip ups. We try to minimise the risk as much as we can, but we also want our little boy to enjoy life and have as many similar experiences as other children as he can. But we will also spend time raising awareness with others about the dangers of allergies.

No, he currently doesn’t have an epi pen – as currently all his known allergies are non-IGE. But that doesn’t mean one day his allergies won’t become IGE and result in anaphylaxis. It also doesn’t mean that even a small bit is ok. Too many times we have heard people say, “well a small bit can’t hurt can it?” The answer is yes, a small bit can do a huge amount of damage to his gut. As an example, testing mackerel – just a teaspoon of it – resulted in 4 weeks of his tummy being unable to hold any food!

Things are not going to be easy for a potentially long while. I will permanently be grateful to our child minder, who provides him with a safe environment which he adores. To friends who help us have safe play experiences. People who will have him to stay and even provide him with food, which is not always the cheapest or most straight forward option.

Living with allergies and living with a child with allergies isn’t easy, but it is what it is. What I am learning on this journey, is that I need to stop letting people make me feel like it is an inconvenience,but it is ok to be honest and say it is a problem.

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When you just want to make it all better

Some of the toughest days as a parent are the ones when you can’t take away the pain that is making your child hurt. Whatever age, your gut instinct is to protect them and to stop pain.

For nearly 3 weeks we’ve had to deal with the aftermath of the worst allergic reaction with our toddler since they realised he couldn’t have cow’s milk. The biggest problem this time has been that it totally unbalanced his gut. So we’ve had a very unhappy little boy. All because of a few mouthfuls of a new food item – mackerel!!

It has been so hard. You can’t explain easily to a 16 month old that they are going to feel sore. You can only hold them, and at times feel pretty useless that you can do no more than provide cuddles. Encouraging him to eat, when he knows food is linked to some of the pain he’s going through, is tough. But knowing that he needs to eat to have the energy to get better makes it harder. You do all the right things – staple foods, probiotics, water, cuddles, sleep – but it doesn’t make it instantly better.

And then you have the debate and juggle, do we leave him and go to work as normal, or do we stay at home. I know we are blessed with a fabulous childminder who provides him with the most loving environment, and my in-laws who adore him too. But it doesn’t make the choice easier or stop you, as a parent, worrying when he’s not with you.

For me it is one of the juggles I will always struggle with. In fact I struggle with it with both of my boys.  Do I send the older one to school or not? It’s always a balancing act. I don’t think it gets easier in some ways as it is different decisions with different impacts, but you still always want to get it right and to keep you child free from harm.

So there will be days when I can’t take the pain away, but as I mum I will always provide the cuddles.

Finding time for me

I’ve just spent a wonderful week with my husband and toddler in Dorset, but I’ve come home exhausted! I have felt like I need a other break to recover from this holiday, which seems so ungrateful. I realised 15 minutes after walking back through our front door what had gone wrong…. in 7 days away I hadn’t had 15 minutes totally to myself.

I have spent the week making sure my husband and son were happy. I planned in spending time with dear friends, who we don’t get to see very often, and I wouldn’t take back a second of that time. The week was a good break, and I don’t want to come across as ungrateful. But it has made me reflect on where I find time for me and how I find time to recharge my batteries. It has also made me realise I need to find a way to tell those closest to me that I need time and space to myself without them feeling rejected or unloved. If I don’t then I become grumpy, short tempered, agitated, and then I want to retreat further and further in to myself.

At home, I work for a fabulous organisation, I spend 16+ hours a week working at home in my own space. Yes I have video calls etc with colleagues, but I also get head space while I am working. (I know that might sound like a contradiction, having my own head space while working, but I get time where I am not having to engage directly with others and although I am generating outputs (often lots of outputs!!) I am also no having to energise others. I can only liken this to a rechargable battery. When in a torch, for example, when it is turned on it is being drained of power. When it is off, it is static-not draining but not recharging. When the battery is placed back on the charger it is gaining power again so that it can make the torch shine brighter and for longer.

A few years ago realising I was an outgoing introvert was a big turning point, and since then I have kept trying to carve out space for me. Be it half an hour in bed on my own each evening with a book, or making the most of the nap times in the day since having a baby. Taking that time for me has become crucial. I had forgotten how when on holiday routine changes, and there are others with expectations. I also had expectations, and we’d never discussed them.

I know before we go away for much longer in the summer we need to have the conversations about how each of our needs are met. I know I am more complicated at times to read, but since having a baby and now a toddler, I know I need to carve out that space for me even more than ever. Parenting is still very much a journey, possibly even more so the second time round! But this time I think I am learning more and more about myself!

The look of peace

Today I had one of those treasured special moments, that after 14 months is already becoming less of an occurrence. In fact this was the first time it had happened in a few weeks. My little boy curled up in my lap and fell asleep. I loved just watching the look of peace wash over his face as he dropped into a deeper sleep. It seemed a long way from the little boy who 30 minutes earlier had been emptying the bookcase at a rate of knots to find his favourite lift-the-flap book!

It was so calming to watch too. For a few moments i just treasured the peace. The calm. The quiet. Not times that regularly occur with our delightful, lively little boy. It surprised me at how much I had missed those snuggly moments of a newborn sleeping on me.

The flip side to this is actually I cherish the moments that he is asleep in his cot. It took several weeks of perseverance and feeling like it was never going to happen before we got him sleeping in the cot, and then longer till he would fall asleep in the cot. I knew we needed that to happen, for my sanity and for our life as a couple and our time with our older son. Looking back, now, I know some of it we bred ourselves. It came from a place of love, of exhaustion, and of wanting to protect our fragile tiny baby, who had had so many challenges put in his way, that we didn’t want to add another. A sleeping baby means I can have an hour (or 2 if i’m lucky) where I can have some me time, catch up on work, do some housework. It means I can recharge my batteries for the next stage of the day.

I find the constant need to be entertained draining. I adore my sons, but I am so very aware about how much space and time I need for me. These days it often means going to be before 9.30pm, just so I can curl up with my book for more than a page before I fall asleep. I know my time for knitting will return in time, and that I also wouldn’t change where I am in life for a moment. My writing is my space to express, and to be me. So here you go. Peace!

Small steps

Life is made up of small pleasures. Happiness is made up of those tiny successes. The big ones come too infrequently. And if you don’t collect all these tiny successes, the big ones don’t really mean anything.

This is so true in where I am at in my parenting journey at the moment. With both of my boys.
With my eldest we are celebrating the small successes being made as we approach GCSEs, and ticking off little milestones as we work towards the big milestone. I say we, because this really is a family effort. He might do the studying and the writing of the exams, but we are doing this together. Our plans are structured to support him and encourage him through each stage.
At the end of this stage we will be moving on to the next big stage. Some big steps have happened…..college interview, course place offer….and acceptance, mock exams done, big coursework assessments done. All steps that need to be completed, and all that need to be embraced and celebrated in different ways.
With my youngest we’ve been celebrating some of the small successes that are helping him to achieve the normal milestones, that all parents celebrate. After finally getting a physio assessment, we’ve got shoes. Earlier than normally recommended, and against everything I’d been told, but essential in the first steps to help sort his feet and legs. Currently his feet – mainly one but the other is also a problem – turn inwards and under. This has affected his ability to walk. His mind was very definitely willing, but his body didn’t follow.
In the 5 days since having his new boots, his confidence in balance, standing, and walking with a walker or furniture or our fingers has leaped ahead. The look of determination on his face as he takes each step is amazing to see. The smiles and laughs as he reaches his destination quicker each time are fabulous to capture. I want to shout and scream with excitement and let everyone know about each small step, as it is such an achievement. I know some of this is normal for any parent, and so I hold back too.
What I am remembering is that at any age achievements need to be celebrated for each child. Each child is unique and they will achieve at the age and pace that is right for them. Yes there are times that help is needed because something isn’t working properly etc, but that is also ok and good. I am a proud mum, and I’m not sorry for that. I am my boys biggest champion in the world, and I always will be.
child-is-like-a-butterfly

Parenting guilt

One thing I’ve realised the second time around is the amount of guilt I carry as a parent. It isn’t across 1 specific area, in fact it’s across all areas and with both boys!! I feel guilty that I need to work. Not for the money so much, but for me, for my sanity! I then feel guilty that I am enjoying my work and my time away from being mum. I even don’t have a problem with doing extra hours, until I feel guilty that I’m not at home being mum.

I feel guilty that my husband has been so amazing at getting up in the night, as we have discovered that not getting enough sleep is causing me to have more migraines. I feel guilty if I go out in the evening and then the baby decides that is the evening to not sleep, so my husband gets no peace.

But I also feel guilty when I am at home spending time with the baby. I feel bad because all it seems I am doing is playing. I’m having fun…..exhausting fun, but fun. I feel guilty that the baby takes the attention away from the teenager, and guilty that the teenager takes the attention away from the baby.

I know, as I’ve said before, that I am an anxious parent. I know because of this I constantly seek affirmation and reassurance that I’m doing the right thing. I am the kind of person that thinks if I have inadvertently offended someone they will hold on to it and hold it against me for weeks. Or if i’ve forgotten something it will be catastrophic and I won’t be able to move on. I know all this about myself and know it affects my guilt too.

I think I also know there is no perfect work life balance. I will spending life knowing i’m not always getting it right. I just need to learn to accept that I am a normal person, who will make mistakes.  My boys love me, I know that. I just have to relax and accept that I can only be the best I can be, and that that is enough

“There will be so many times you feel like you’ve failed.  But in the eyes, heart, and mind of your child you are a super mom.” ~Stephanie Precourt, Listen to your Mother

Goodbye to Facebook

So this might seem like an extreme post, and it might seem odd that I am sharing this on Facebook, but I wanted to share my thoughts and how I have got to this place, and not just disappear.

Over the Christmas period I chose to remove myself from Facebook. It was starting to take up too much of my life, and I was getting to tied up in a virtual world and was starting to feel judged and assessed by that world. In this period I can honestly say I haven’t really missed it. What I have felt is a freedom from the perception of what the world thinks of who I should or shouldn’t be. Of what I should or shouldn’t share, and of what kind of person I want to be.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some groups I am part of that have been a great support to me, and I may choose to continue to interact with them at different points. But what  I have realised is that I don’t need to share parts of my life on Facebook for value and worth. I, like many, will only post the parts of life which I want the world to see. But that isn’t healthy or constructive. It has meant that I am not being true to myself.

The other thing I have noticed, is that many people think that what you post on social media is you life, and that by reading your posts, they don’t need to interact with you on a personal level. Friendships are becoming warped. People think they are your friend because of what they see online. I’ve learnt that my true friends are those who are around me at the times when life gets tough. That doesn’t mean they all live 5 minutes away….in fact some of our closest friends live many many miles away. But they are the ones who take time to get in touch, and check that all is ok.

Also when I was pregnant, we made a decision that  we did not want our baby growing up thinking that a presence all over social media was the norm, or what was expected of him. We wanted him to decide his own privacy boundaries and to choose what of his life he wants to share. We also have made a decision for him not to expect to watch TV or spend his life in front of screens. In fact, the only programmes he watches regularly (by this I mean a couple of times a week) are Fireman Sam and Thomas the Tank Engine. Watching him grow through his creative play and his imagination is so rewarding…..live TV at home!

Note: This isn’t us judging anyone else, it is just how we have chosen to raise our son.

So I have decided in light of all of this to take a permanent step away from Facebook. Yes I  will still use other social media channels at times. I will still have an account as I need it for work. I will still visit the site (yes the site, not the app) occasionally. But I won’t be on here day in day out. I won’t be aware of notifications, as my phone won’t beep or stick an icon in the corner.I will still blog from time to time, which will be shared. I can still be contacted on Messenger, and all manner of old fashioned means of communications! Just don’t expect me to hear your latest news on FB or expect to hear what I am up to, as it won’t be happening. Do keep in touch……I love receiving letters in the post!! (An emails work well too!)