Looking after me so I can be there for them

One of the things that I have realised over the last few weeks is that as much as I focus on keeping my mind healthy i’ve not been keeping my body healthy. I’ve used far too many excuses to cover the quantity of chocolate I can consume in an hour. I’ve had days of eating in secret, binging when I feel out of control and then hating the weight creeping up and the waistbands getting tighter. I knew that the only time I would ever actually make an effort to stop the bad habits was when I was ready and I wanted to do it for the right reasons.

It’s like any life change, you can only make them when you are fully in the right head space and fully motivated for the right reasons. In the last year I have seen people I have known many years, and very close to me in age, lose their battles against horrid illness. This has spurred me on to make sure that the time I have with the family is the best possible, and also to be the best mum and wife that I can be. To be this I have to take care of my body. So I have started a journey. It will not be a short one, it needs to be a life changing permanent journey.

I know from past experience that it will be a journey where I will deviate at times. I know it will be a journey where I struggle to put one foot in from of the other on some days. I know on other days I will be running down the road calling everyone to come and join me. It is a life journey. But I also know for me that this is also a faith journey. It’s me trusting God that He will be with me in the lows and celebrating in the highs.

In the last few weeks there have been some big waves rocking the boat that is “life” and instead of looking to God and my faith, I went to chocolate, slovenly behaviour and blaming others. I have to remember that there is a bigger plan and a bigger person that knows and cares and loves me. He loves me no matter what, but I know that I hold a responsibility to. And that responsibility starts with loving myself in a healthy way. I will be the best of me and my Heavenly Father is in that with me.

When a conversation bring huge relief

Today I had one of those conversations that brought with it a huge sense of relief and gratitude for the healthcare professional that we have been referred to. It was with a physiotherapist. These are one of the few services that our son is now under, and one of the services that had to be delayed due to Covid-19. However today we were able to have a video consultation and a chat and actually start putting in place some plans that will slowly help making small steps forward.

One of the things I have struggled with both my sons is the amount I have had to do as a parent to get them the support they need for their various needs. With my younger son, especially, it has felt like I am banging my head against a brick wall at times to get the help he needs. 3 months ago we finally got the piece of paper that said ‘yes, he was entitled to support’ and that he had additional needs compared to other children of his age. But since then, it has been frustrating as all services and support went on hold. Today was a big step forward in the next stage of his journey.

Having this help mentally for me was a big thing. Being affirmed that we as parents are doing the right things, and being told that our little boy does need ongoing support with his mobility is comforting. Rather than feeling like we stick out because our 3 and a half year old still needs to use a buggy and can’t walk far, it’s actually been explained why, and we know we will be using one for a while to come. But also that is totally ok. Being told that we can be referred to Occupational Therapy for a chair to help him sit at a table properly, rather than having to work around with seats that don’t work brilliantly for his needs, and understanding why he still needs a highchair of sorts stopped the feelings of failing, and actually we reassuring.

The other big statement made in the call was “his little achievements are big achievements, and he will do them in his time and that is totally ok.” Which for us, as parents, has always been how we see it, but to have a healthcare professional state this, actually made a huge difference. They acknowledged how I was feeling and celebrated small things and will continue to celebrate the small steps. So yes we will talk about him learning to sit on a swing, we will celebrate the day he can sit upright totally unaided, we will celebrate the day he can walk all day without a pushchair or carrier. Because although these might seems out of sync for a child his age, for him they are huge huge leaps at the time that is right for him, and to get there will take a lot of effort and deserve a lot of praise!

Frustrations and warmed by generosity

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I’m sure I’m not the only one for whom this image is a good depiction of when you are trying to just do a “normal” food shop at the moment. Not to stockpile or panic buy. Just to do a normal food shop.

For us, it hasn’t even been to do our main food shop – which is normally twice a month. This has just been as a result of trying to do a top-up shop and also to try and place my normal monthly online shop for delivery next week! As a result of stockpiling and panic buying, we have been struggling to purchase the bare essentials for our children to eat. What’s worse, is that these are mainly specialised foods – non-mainstream long-life milk, special flour, gluten-free bread. Free from chicken nuggets?! I know that there are others with allergies needing food, but we all shop normally and we always can buy what we need. For the shelves to be empty of these products it either means those with allergies are stockpiling, which from what I’ve seen in discussion groups is unlikely, or those without allergies are now buying the free-from products.

For us, this is not a case of we like to buy the more expensive, free-from options. These are the only foods we can buy without our young children getting really ill. And I know we are not the only ones who have been affected by this. There are friends around the country saying that they are struggling to buy the free-from products they or their children use.

But the flip side of this is we have seen a huge outpouring of love from friends and family as they try to help us source the food and milk we need. We have had deliveries just appear on our doorstep. Friends and family near and far stepping up to offer help. We are so grateful.

The other element we are having to face at the moment is a little boy who thrives on routine and his normality is having his “world” turned upside down. We all know these are for good reasons, but for children with various additional needs, these changes are causing huge problems. I know friends who are having to go into isolation with their children for 12 weeks as it’s for one of the family member’s best interests. I have several friends that this virus for them or a family member would likely be fatal. So we know these measures are necessary. However, for some of us, it is harder than others.

For us, this has meant we needed to set up a Lego play space for our little boy. As I have mentioned before, lego is the one activity that calms him and helps him focus. But with him sharing a bedroom with his 15-month-old sister, this is tricky. So for now, she will only go in their room for sleeping. We will keep her out of the room the rest of the time, as she is still frequently putting things in her mouth. This isn’t ideal, but we’re having to make things work.

I’m investigating online toddler group and activity sessions with songs etc so that we can watch to keep him engaging with others. Life is going to be a strict learning curve for sure.

I’m just asking that people moving forward stop and think about what they are doing, saying and sharing. Keep to the government facts. Stop and think, do you really need to keep an online shopping slot reserved every week for the next month? Do you have a neighbour that needs help? What can you do to make life easier for others?

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Meltdowns are the norm

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Meltdown is not a term I use lightly when it comes to describing my son’s behaviour at times. It used to be a term I would throw around until I experienced an hour and a half full-on meltdown where nothing could console my boy. His meltdowns generally come from a place of not understanding or being understood. He goes beyond frustration to a point where he can not regain control and we can’t “snap him out of it.”

The thing we have had to learn is that they are generally not coming from misbehaviour or stubbornness. They are when he hits a place of being unable to process.

But we are also having to decipher what is normal “threenager” behaviour, and what isn’t.

A 45-minute meltdown due to tiredness is not uncommon. But then a tantrum from a tired three-year-old is also not uncommon. I guess the less common part is the inability to distract them or help them regain control. A lot of the time it is about finding the right “thing” that works for them. We have discovered that Lego seems to be the great “thing.” It is the one activity that he will concentrate on for literally hours. Not the big duplo blocks – those are baby’s he says. But proper lego. It calms him in a way nothing else can.

Luckily we have a huge supply of the tiny, foot hurting, bricks from his older brother. However, currently, we are limited by the space we have available for where it is safe to be played with. Our daughter is still into putting things in her mouth, and our spare living room is full of boxes. When we move soon, one of the things we are doing is separating them into their own rooms. As well as enabling them to have their own sleep routines, this also means that our son can have the lego out and in a space that is his to retreat into.

The other hard thing that comes with his meltdowns is the physical lashing out. In one meltdown I can be pushed away, kicked, hit, screamed at. Toys or other objects can be launched out of an inability to control. It’s exhausting for him and for us.

But sadly there are limits to what we can do. Telling him off when he’s out of control doesn’t help. Getting angry at him or punishing him doesn’t help. All we can do is stop, make him safe, and try to understand the trigger to reduce the risk of it happening again.

We’re learning about his behaviours constantly. We’re understanding a little more some days, and others feeling like we are back to square one. And we know this is going to continue for potentially a long while.

As a parent, I know we like to use phrases like “my child is having a meltdown.” But I would ask of you, are you overusing a phrase that for another child it is key to differentiate between tantrum and meltdown? I’m not trying to belittle what you experience with your child. Tantrums really are hard enough. But can you stop and think about whether your terminology is fair and accurate?

Some days I just want to give up on this parenting thing. I am exhausted from having two children that function at an almost similar point developmentally. I don’t have the answers to people’s questions about what the future holds. But then I get the cuddle or the smile or the “thank you” that melts my heart and makes each struggle so worthwhile.

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Overtaking…

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Some days this parenting journey is tougher than others. Watching other children doing things you would expect your child to be doing is hard. But what I am finding harder at the moment is watching our 14 month old develop at a rate of knots, while seeing memory photos and videos of our 3 year old 2 years ago, and how there is a stark difference. Any health or development problems with a child are complex and challenging in their own ways. One isn’t worse or better than the other. And no parent deals with it better than the next. But each comes with its own challenges.

At times I feel I am grieving for my son for what he doesn’t have, but then I see how happy and content he is, and realise I need to keep focusing on the positives and celebrating him for who he is. He is the unique boy that he is. He brings us so much joy through his simple pleasures. His excitement that he can’t express when we understand what he is asking for. The celebration he makes of us when we get a shape in the right hole in the shape sorter! (Yes, we get clapped, and told ‘Well done you did it’!)

The hardest days are dealing with the frustrations that he can’t communicate. Often with his younger sister doing something he wanted to do but couldn’t, or her mastering something quicker than him. The tears and the tantrums can be explosive. They come totally from frustration from lack of ability to communicate, rather than bad behaviour.

Our frustrations end up coming from his lack of understanding of instructions, timings or consequences. Again most of the time not through bad behaviour, but from in inability to understand the concept of later, or afterwards.

All 3 of our children bring us total joy and complete frustration at different times – yes, even the 18 year old! But we know that it is a normal part of parenting. But parenting a child with developmental delays brings a different level of frustration at times because of what society expects them to be doing verses what they are capable of doing. I feel I have to justify why my 3 year old still has a dummy a nighttime. The simple answer is he is incapable currently of understanding that he doesn’t need one anymore. We can not prepare him like you can other children. I am constantly explaining that we are no where near toilet “training” as there is not currently the physical capability. Yes I know most children his age are getting there on the toilet training journey, but for him it’s not happening. But for all of this, it’s totally alright.

We might have the frustrations, the headaches of multiple appointments, the dramas of misunderstandings. But we also have the joy, the love, the cuddles, the laughter. The little boy who is so concerned every time his little sister is crying that he makes sure we know about it, even if we’re in the same room or even holding her!

Just remember when you see people and their children and it’s not what you would expect, the reason behind it is often far more complex.

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12 months gone in a flash

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12 months ago I entered hospital knowing within the next few days I was going to become a mummy again for the last time. I knew I was going to meet my little girl. But I also knew I could be looking at another long induction, I knew there were risks, I knew so much, but I also knew nothing. I knew nothing of this little girl that had been growing inside me for 38 weeks. I had struggled to bond with her during pregnancy as i’d felt minimal movement all the way through. I had hated the pregnancy. I wanted that part to be over. But I was also excited. I was excited to meet this little person.

In the end, she decided that she was going to make a quick arrival into the world. So quick the midwife didn’t have time to make any notes or observations! My daughter’s birth set the pace of the last 12 months.

Nicknamed “small but mighty” she fought every battle she came up against in those early weeks and months, and let the world know she was a fighter. She has ruled the roost at home and made it very clear who is the boss to her brothers!

The year has been one full of bittersweet moments for me. I have adored every moment as she has grown and developed from a tiny tiny baby, to a dinky toddler (and I can call her that as she’s now walking!) But i’ve also had this sadness knowing that I won’t have another baby going through these milestones again. I’ve been battling with this, as it seems so selfish. I know there are so many out there who would love just one child of their own, and I have 3. But I also know I had a desire to have 3. I know how much I love being a mum and how at times I feel I miss out on things because I am a working mum.

This year I have carried guilt at feeling like I’m wishing days away while I was looking forward to returning to work. Then feeling guilty for being at work. I’ve had days when I just want those moments to keep going and never stop. I’ve tried to capture them in words, pictures and in my heart. The time seems  like it has slipped past without me noticing.

In these 12 months I’ve also become the parent of an adult! And now when I look back I feel that there are many moments of my son’s life I have missed. I feel like there are memories I am already forgetting. It’s reminded me how time with my children is so precious whatever stage they are at. I want to value and hold each second and cherish it. But I also want all my children to reach their potential at every stage of their lives and fly high in whatever way that is.

Parenting 3 is something I resolutely vowed I would never do, but actually I think it’s working ok. I’m not always getting it right, and I am always feeling mum guilt over one or other of my children. People ask is 3 easier than 2, harder than 2? Honestly…..3 is different to 2. Some days it is easier, some days it is harder. But every day is a memory I hold on to.

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What is ok and what is not?

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One of the things I have found in the last few weeks and months is that my perceptions of what is ok and what isn’t are changing. Some of this is through psychotherapy, some of this is through experiences, some of this is through talking with friends.

I have seen things posted on line and shared in several places that are unhelpful and unhealthy. Images and quotes that have made me doubt myself, my opinions and my decisions. Things that have made me question those around me. There are 2 things I really need from those around me at the moment….consistency and loyalty.

When I say this, I don’t mean in a pompus, clique-y or sorority type way. But I mean in a way where I know who I can and can’t rely on. What is going to be stable in both mine and my families lives. What is going to be helping lay the foundations for who I am becoming.

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I’ve also seen things about who to rely on. And that online support is unhealthy, is unreal and is living in a fantasy world. For me, in reality, some of my friends that I know mainly in an online or digital capacity are some of my greatest support. Some of them I have met once, some of them I have met several times, and some of them I have never met, but they are their to support me, to encourage me and to help me achieve the best in who I am. They counsel me and help me process, in the same way that friends I see face to face do. In fact, some of those who are digital friends are the people I see frequently face to face. But that doesn’t mean that those who I have never met are worth any less.

With my depression and anxiety, friendships are hard to maintain. I know that they take a huge level of understanding from my friends and my support network. People need to know that I need to know who I can trust and when and where I can rely on them. If people let me down, then I will walk away as the energy that relationship takes from me needs to be invested in my family and other relationships.

What’s worse though, is that I know I am not the only person experiencing this. For many of my friends with a baby under 1, friends have become a rarity. People aren’t being bothered to take the time to invest in them now their priorities have changed.

New mums need the support the most. Whether it be a new mum for the first or the fifth time. Every new small person into a household mix takes their mum away from the “normality” that existed pre baby. But that doesn’t stop the mum from caring. It is then that she needs it more, but has it the least. So be a friend. Don’t stop caring cos one day you’ll try to care and it will be too late.

Depression Quotes and Sayings About Depression _ HealthyPlace

 

Realising some people don’t have a clue!

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One of the things I have had to do in recent weeks and months is learn that it is ok to put up barriers and set boundaries. This is actually healthy. I’m also learning how much I need to value and respect myself and my time. This has meant I also now know that my friends should be respecting and valuing me in the same way, and they should be placing a level of value on my time.

Sadly I have also realised that some people don’t do this. I know that all people are fallible. I know that we all make mistakes. I’m certainly not saying that I don’t make mistakes or upset people. But I have realised that trust and respect come hand in hand, and both have to be earned and maintained. Once it is tossed away, the damage can be irreparable.

My priorities have to be my faith, my family and myself. My self care includes making sure I surround myself with those who are building me up and not knocking me down. This doesn’t mean only surrounding myself with people in positive happy moods – in fact, I have been able to be a support to others while working through things for myself. And knowing I can be, really does help. But what it does mean is making sure that those who are in my life add value in one way or another.

For example, I have an amazing network of support that I have talked about before, thanks to a group of mums I met online who all gave birth at the same time as me. They are there pretty much 24/7. They know me so well and can build me up on my down days, celebrate with me on the good days, and make me laugh most days! The time I invest in them is so valuable to me and I know they are there.

But I have also learnt that some physical friendships are more one sided. I have learnt that my expectations of people and their commitment to time and relationship building can be different to the other person. And because of the loyal person I am, I have ignored this, but I didn’t realise the damage that this was doing. So I am now trying to be selfish in someways and say this isn’t healthy for me.

People say “talk it through with them” or “they may not know what they are doing”, and I totally understand that this is often true, but  the place I am in at the moment means I don’t have the energy for the confrontation or the emotional space for it.

I know this post could be seen as “controversial” or stirring the pot, but as ever my blog is honest and where I am at. I won’t be answering people who ask “Is it me?” in response to this, as actually that will show how little they have taken in.

Life is a cycle of seasons. And friendships can move in those seasons, and that is 100% ok.

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Making choices cos they are right for us all

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While we were on holiday my husband and I managed 2 date nights! It was fabulous having a slow dinner out, walking, talking and just spending time together. We made time to have conversations that went beyond what was for dinner, or how the children had been. We stopped and chatted about us, about what we wanted for ourselves and each other.

We discovered that we need to talk more, as there had been something we had both been thinking about, but not talking about because we thought that the other would object. Instead we both agreed. We chatted with our teenager, who also agreed, and so, as a family of 5 with 2 under 3, we are going to move!

Chatting it through with friends while we were away also helped. It helped us see if we were being rational or if we were in a holiday bubble. It also gave us space to make some calls and see where everything is at.

We need more space….mainly bedrooms, as we have discovered that the toddler and the baby can’t happily share. He can take a while to settle, but is then is a very deep sleeper. But while he’s settling he makes a racket! She is the opposite. Falls asleep very quickly, but is then quite a light sleeper. Having your big brother playing loudly round you is not conducive to a good sleep!

But it’s more than that. We need a home that works for us both now and in the future. We need a place we know we are planning on being our forever home (at least we really hope it will be!!) The ties to where we are now have gone, and we are free to go where we feel we should be.

How long will it take? We don’t know. Where will we be? Royston we hope.

But we are journeying this next adventure together and all our family will have fun!

End of another phase

This week marks another key point in my parenting journey. My maternity leave is coming to an end. I’m really not sure how i feel about it. Mixed emotions i think.

I adore my job. I’ve said this many times,and I’ll keep saying it. I love my job, the charity I work for, the work we do. It’s also what makes a huge difference to my mental health. But on the flip side,this means my daughter is growing older. She’s going to be going to a child minder. She’s now closer to a year than to birth. She’s been growing in the big wide world for almost as long as she was growing inside me.

I have loved my 9 months of being mummy and mum. I’ve loved watching my children grow. Watching my teenager flourish in his first year at college. Watching my toddler gain more independence. Watching my baby grow and learn.

Knowing i will not do this parenting journey again has made me even more aware of every milestone. Each new thing. Each change in appearance. Each ounce of weight gained. Every smile, every tear. I hate the thought of missing anything,but also know i need to step out of this safe bubble.

But this realisation has also been a bit overwhelming. It hit me hard, especially as it coincides with returning from a fabulous holiday this week, and a big change in weather. I’m trying to make sure I stop and refocus,but in reality at times that’s hard. So for now I’m focusing on things I can manage and control. Deep breaths and move a step forward.