There’s shit, everywhere.

I need liquor.  

This is not for the faint hearted and contains swearing.  You got an issue with that today? and I suggest you look the other fucking way.

Where was I? Oh yes, liquor.

Tequila preferably.  

It’s not even 10.00am and my kid is headed for the bath. 

My breakfast is currently Haribo strawberries and Diet Coke.

I can’t quite give enough kudos to military families, o&g families and all other flavours of single parent life households – this single parent shit is HARD.

ESPECIALLY when you’re sick.  

I’ve been sick for 3 days and counting.  I feel like something has died in my intestines and if the dehydration doesn’t kill me, the stomach cramps and spasms may.  It’s a relatively frequent occurrence for me – starting to think it’s my bodies reaction to stress or some shit.

Lewis has been a gem for the last few days, and aside from some granny and grandad help yesterday, I’ve soldiered through alone – granted he had, like, 8 hours of TV on Saturday when I couldn’t sit upright, let alone parent. 

Anyways, he’s been great – until this morning.  When I’m woken out of my “I was up at 5am glued to the loo with cramps and JUST got back to R.E.M. sleep” to 

“Mama, I have poop” 

“Ok son, I’ll be right there”

“Mama, its all over my legs, it’s everywhere mama”

Fuck.

“Ok, don’t move” 

“Ok, mama”

I go in, no glasses on, feeling like I was awakened by the fire alarm – you know, The “Who am I, where am I, who are you and why are you calling me mama?” feeling, and from the waist down he’s COVERED in poop, right down to between each, and EVERY fucking toe.  

I ask where his nappy and pj pants are and he points to behind the bed – they ain’t going anywhere, so I deal with the problem in front of me.  The walking turd. 

I ask him to lie down on his back so I can clean it and he’s chosen to not be able to comprehend English in this moment and lies on his side.  He knows I’m pissed so he’s also crying.  I clean him off with wipes – like, 15 of them – and for those of you who know me? Know I’m a one-wipe wizard.  Every time I think I’m done, he shows me more, faeces covered flesh.  When I’m finally done with this self replicating poop all over my child, I turn my attention to the nappy and pj pants.

Picking them up gingerly, careful not to spill out the conten- wait, where the fuck is the poop?

I open out the pull-up, and his pj pants, they’re clean.  I mean, his pull-up is wet, but there’s not a trace of poop in either.  I look around the room, and, even with no glasses on, I can tell that the scene of the crime isn’t visible.

“Lewis?”

“Yeah?”

“Where’s the poop?”

“Under there mama” he replies, pointing to his new favourite hiding spot, under his train table.

Fuck.

Cue my voice being raised.  PRAYING he’d misunderstood the question.  Lewis, WHERE IS THE POOP?

Same answer.

Fuck.  Cause I haven’t had enough SHIT over the last few days?!

The way the table is sitting, you cant see in to it, or get under it unless you move it (or, are three years old), so I pulled it out to get a better look, and, you guessed it, left a lovely long skid mark across my carpet.

Double fuck.

I get on my hands and knees, start crying myself and do a pick-up and surface clean of the toxic waste.  I look under the train table, clean the cause of the skid-mark and the visible crap, pour half a bottle of febreeze on it, say ‘fuck it’, pick up the still crying and upset toddler and take us both back to my bed for cuddles and to warm up – cause the poor kid is still pant-less.

He’s lucky he’s cute!

After a little bit, he’s playing with my snapchat, it’s dark and the flash-light comes on.  I notice he’s got poop around some of his fingernails and over his wrist.

Fuck it anyways.

Out we get from the bath.  Do a surface clean with disinfectant wipes.  Clip his fingers AND toe nails and head back to the crime scene – avec glasses – to see what other damage has been done under the mother fucking train table.

Here I find a once presumably steaming, now room-temp turd, that has infiltrated one of his Thomas toys – between two layers of plastic that don’t come apart.  I can’t get the kid to shit in any toilet on the planet, but he’s LITERALLY shitting through the eye of a fucking plastic needle.  If I was a greater human being? I COULD get the poop out, by scooping and gouging, and using cotton buds and all manner of disinfectant.  But? Being the lesser human being I am right now? I picked up the toy, and dumped it in the bin.

“Is my toy broken, mama?”

I’m not normally one to brazenly LIE to my child, but “Yes my love, it is” came forth from my lips.

Fuck this.

I run a bath, dump him in and scrub him til he’s pink.

He’s currently a happy boy, splashing in the bath.  He’s (hopefully) learned his lesson, but, as I’ve CONSTANTLY been informed this morning? “He’s only three, he doesn’t know any better” – in spite of the fact that he knows perfectly damn well that he was being naughty dropping a hot shit under his train table, and thought he was being a smart ass when he recited my rule of “No poop in the pants mama”, well, yes, I guess you didn’t shit in your pants darling, but you forgot my OTHER rule, “We ONLY poop in the toilet”.

And me?

I’m over here waiting for the two of us to get stricken by pink eye, wondering if I can carry an industrial carpet cleaner up three flights of stairs by myself while choraling a three-year-old and longingly eyeballing a chilled bottle of muscato for elevenses.

To the mother of the autistic child…

I saw you.

I didn’t realize he was your son, or I’d have come to you first. I couldn’t fathom the idea that perhaps he belonged to you, considering you sat intently watching as your five year old child, repeatedly assaulted my two and a half year old without intervening. But had I known? I’d have taken your damn head off your shoulders.

Let me rewind.

I’m sitting in Funky Monkeys, as usual – vaguely watching my kid happily playing by himself – as he’s prone to doing. I see an older boy go and shove him. Lewis looks at him with a confused look on his face and tries to pass again. The boy slaps him. Throws one of those swinging foam punch bags in his face and runs off laughing.

A few minutes pass, Lewis slides down the slide and tries to do a second pass. He’s shoved and smacked again, and having watched this child’s interactions with other children after the first altercation, I had my suspicions that this child was perhaps somewhere on the spectrum, but I wasn’t quite sure, while I’m aware of ASD, I’ve had no direct experience with it.  I bit my tongue, gave him the benefit of the doubt and, thus far, he’d just been a bit overly boisterous with Lewis, so I held my ground and just paid a little more attention to them both – my ‘vaguely watching’, instead became ‘must have a 20 on both of them at all times’.

Lewis then proceeds to actively try and avoid this child for a few minutes. He’s decided he’s had enough, and he wants to stay away. But the child pursues him. Relentlessly.

And then? He shoves Lewis, off a set of foam stairs, causing him to fall a couple feet and hit the deck, on his back/head. Lewis gets up, rubs his head and tries to climb back up. He’s only little and didn’t quite understand what was happening, another sharp shove later and Lewis is back on his back on the floor.

At this point I bound up from my seat, cross the floor of tables and chairs and approach the pair.  As I approach, I notice a lady intently watching them, shaking her head with a disapproving look in her face. We make eye contact. She gives me that “where’s that wee bully’s parents” look and I continue on my way. I get to Lewis, pick him up before this older kid had a chance to shove him a third time (he was winding up to do it), ask him if he’s ok, turn to the offending child and (calmly, though I’ve no idea how I kept my cool at this point) say “can you stop shoving him please? He’s only little”.

“Sore face mama, sore arm” Lewis tells me and it’s about now that the VERY SAME LADY I just made eye contact with, over this child’s behaviour comes over shouting at me, demanding to know what he’d done. What has he done? You’ve been WATCHING what he’s been doing.  I SAW YOU.  FFS! I watched you, watch them.

I tell her, calmly, (though being accosted like it was my child doing the shoving off steps really got my goat up). She snaps at me “he’s got autism, just tell me next time. This is why I don’t take him out to places like this” and tried grabbing at the child’s arm and shouting at him to apologize to Lewis.

I (still calmly, and quickly) tell her it’s ok, to leave the child (Jose) alone and not to shout at him – it wasn’t necessary.  But that things had just escalated to the point of my being concerned for Lewis’ safety and I had to say something.  I realise the sensitivity of having an autistic child, I’ve had friends in the past with autistic kids, I’m aware that a symptom of the disorder is that the child often does not understand personal space boundaries, but I’m even more aware that raising your voice, getting angry at them and physically pulling them out of a situation? Is NOT the best way to deal with the situation.
For the rest of their time in the play area, Lewis kept going over and trying to make friends with the little boy, and both of his parents.  That’s just who he is.  You take his toy? He’ll let you.  You push him and he falls and hurts his head? I teach him to forgive.  I don’t teach him to be angry and bear grudges.  I don’t teach him revenge.  I teach him love.  I teach him kindness.  I teach him patience.
My childminder has said that he’s ‘too soft’, that being around other boys will ‘toughen him up’ and that he ‘needs to harden up’, and for a moment? I *almost* conceded that perhaps, just, maybe, he *does* need to be a bit more tough.
Until today.  Today marks five days post-incident with this little boy with autism in the indoor play area, and I’m back in indoor play with Lewis.  I’m sat watching him push a little baby, less than half his age, around in one of those red and yellow cosy coupes.  Prior to the pushing around? He went over to the little boy – whom we don’t know, and said ‘hi baby’.  He crouched down to his level, got a little in to his personal space to say hi, and the little baby touched his face (and eventually started slapping him a little and pulling on his nose).  Lewis didn’t hit him back, he didn’t argue or get angry.  He simply said ‘mama, baby touch the face’ and the babies mum intervened to ask him to stop pawing at my kids face.
Tolerance.  Patience.  Forgiveness.  Love.
Stand up for yourself when you need to, but pick your battles, you can’t, nor should you, fight them all.
Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Keep perspective.
Let bygones, be bygones.
However cliched, or fortune cookie-esque that sounds, I think the world is sorely lacking in these qualities right now, and I find it a little sad that people think that a little boy with more gentle qualities than ‘storm in a teacup’, or a ‘have your toy snatched, snatch it back’ mentality, is a negative thing.
The way it should have been for Jose’s mother the other day.  SHE, who sat WATCHING her child, hurt my child, REPEATEDLY, should have intervened.  SHE was more educated and better equipped to handle and diffuse the situation that I am, and she just stood by and watched him hurt another child.
I don’t typically fight my child’s battles for him.  I often fight my instinct to ‘helicopter parent’ him.  If he falls, I don’t make a rushing scene to his aid, I ask him if he’s hurt, if he’s going to make it, and, as such, he only cries when he actually hurts himself.
Perhaps I didn’t deal with the situation the best by addressing the child directly, but you? You have been immersed in his daily life, you’re experienced living with a child with autism, he’s clearly had similar experiences prior, considering your ‘this is why we don’t take him places like this’ comment and I, my no experience self, handled the damn situation better than you did.
YOU, lady, should be ashamed of yourself.  And I imagine if tables were turned? If Lewis had returned even ONE of his smacks, or shoves? You’d have been down my throat like a bullet.
Newsflash? Just because your child has autism, does NOT mean you can stand idly by while he hurts another child.
Aaaaand there ends my angry mother rant.

No perfect people allowed! (The Bridge Fellowship MDO)

13240491_10156832052615411_2207768648830933834_nI’m ugly crying.

Y’all know ugly crying, right?

Red face, puffy eyes, complete with buckets of snot and enough Kleenex that makes you wish you’d bought shares in the company? Yeah, that’s me right now.

I’m inexplicably emotional right now – no, it’s not just cause I now have to have my multi-faceted toddler home with me full time again, but, I guess, it’s because it’s the end of an era.

12002877_10155970090180411_6231317509495296900_nThis time last year, Lewis was on a waiting list for a Mother’s day out program at The Bridge Fellowship, here in Sugar Land.  I had inner-battled back and forth on this one for a while, I suffered from, what I believe in the ‘biz’ they refer to as ‘mama guilt’.  As a stay at home mama (SAHM) I found it very hard to justify to myself, a ‘need’ to send my child away for nine hours a week.  It wasn’t overly expensive, don’t get me wrong – as MDO’s go in the area, The Bridge is certainly the most reasonable that I’ve found ($150 a month plus a quarterly supplies fee were the fees for 2015/16), but it was still an ‘unnecessary’ outgoing, considering I’m a SAHM, right?

Then a friend of mine sent me this email for Mother’s day – this isn’t it in it’s entirety, but you get the idea, and it got me *really* thinking.

A lot of articles online bash parenting today – especially mothers. We judge each other too much, who has time for all that Pinterest crap, here’s why you should feed your baby this way, cloth diapers FTW, never spank a child, don’t yell, stay away from GMO’s, organic food is best,  is your 4 year old really standing next to the hot stove OMG call cps…. Etc.  This has to be the hardest era to parent in yet.  And for the most part it’s focused on the moms.  You don’t really see “daddy” bashing articles or see dads whispering across the park and confronting each other in stores.  I don’t know if it’s because men just inherently aren’t used to being the focus of this stuff or if women are just more emotionally wired to be protective of the village, or they’re more judge mental and bitchy or what.  One things for certain though – being a mom today is f*cking hard.  Harder than I think any of our previous generations of mothers before us.  Not because of all the physical labor, but because as a society we make it hard on each other. 

As much as I dislike this holiday for the feelings of sadness that it brings up from my past, I also think it’s one of the most important holidays that we have for people like you and my other friends with kids.  Every one of you all parent very differently. Your kids all have different rules and lifestyles.  But you all very clearly love your kids and work to be the best parent you can be, regardless of what all those damn parenting articles say, garnering from your parents lessons (and either striving to be more like them or nothing like the, depending on what the case may be). And for that you should all be celebrated hugely. 
11921796_10155917686515411_17310299548217551_nI thought about why *I* wanted to put him in to ‘day care’, I mean, really thought about it.  It’s not like I was going to go drink margaritas, have mani-pedis and shop til I dropped every day (though, Lord knows, most days I’d totally love that!) it was more for every day things, doctors, dentists, chiropractors, OBGYN’s – unencumbered by a curious little boy who wants to touch everything, doesn’t want to hold hands crossing the road or car park, wants to hit every button in the elevator and who will stubbornly go off in whatever direction his little mind decides it wants to.
It was more grocery shopping without having to rationalise to a two year old, why mama doesn’t need 14 types of Goldfish crackers in the trolley.
It was more taking care of laundry without having ‘helping mama’ hands pull out clean, dry and folded laundry and run around the house while I was chasing him – cursing under my breath.
It was more about having grown-up conversation at least once a week, that didn’t involve telling a toddler to stop trying to climb out of his high chair, or to eat his vegetables – or no, he couldn’t have the sharp steak knife that the server left all too close to his mac and cheese covered little paws.
I thought about other friends children and quickly came to the realisation that socialisation – with other kids, other adults and some parent-free time, has overwhelmingly benefited many of my friends children and that it would be good for him to learn things like sharing toys, routine and being disciplined by someone who wasn’t Colin or I.
11951751_10155917686560411_2189568573678727582_nSo, I signed him up to The Bridge.  Two mornings a week.  Tuesday and Thursday, 9.30am – 2pm in a class of twelve children.  One Tuesday a month they have Chick Fil A days, one Thursday a month they have pizza days (where you pay $4 and they feed your little lunch), they have all kinds of parties (Rodeo, Easter, Christmas, End of year – for example), they do all kinds of crafting, they come home with Mothers day AND Father’s day gifts (even though Father’s day is after the term finishes), they had both the police and fire departments visit the school (he got his picture taken with the fire truck and police car) and they do various things from music class, playing with toys to learning.
Bear in mind, I hadn’t got very high expectations for the amount of learning he’d actually do, he was just shy of 18 months old, he went to his first day of school with a bald head (don’t ask – we had a pre-photoshoot haircut boo boo) a cast on his leg (again, don’t ask) and for the first couple of months he cried at drop off.  Some days, he even cried a lot, but the girls insisted that he calmed down shortly thereafter and settled in to his day.  The crying meant I couldn’t linger or chat to his teachers much, I handed him over and walked very quickly – the first few days, even fighting tears myself, and wondering what kind of awful parent I must be to leave my sobbing leg-cast toddler with strangers.
10448730_10155917686660411_197839715295224187_nBut, each drop-off got easier, and at each pick-up, our shy and quiet little Lewis was always a happy chappy.  Which made me happy – not only because I was actually accomplishing something (some days that may only have been grocery shopping in Target with a skinny hot chocolate), but also because he was enjoying himself.
12246753_10156149454300411_282857918153111900_nFeedback was always good, he’s a great eater, he’s a very calm, placid and happy baby and he’ll let any of the kids have what he’s playing with, with no retribution.  A little time passed.  I’m not sure quite at what point things started to reveal themselves, but I distinctly remember him asking, very nicely, one afternoon, for Elmo to be on TV.  I obliged, Sesame Street bought me some time to do SSA work for the afternoon and out of nowhere I hear, ‘Why mama’, I say ‘Why what bubba?’ and he says ‘Why’.
I look up at the screen and sure enough there’s the letter Y dancing across the screen.  I think I had some kind of episode, I started clapping and cheering that my smart little boy had identified the letter Y.  Over the coming months he came home showing off all kinds of wicked skills, he learned his numbers 1-10 (and even attempts beyond), he knows his colours (though he often gets yellow and green muddled up on the first pass, but gets pink, purple and orange just fine), he learned how to sing the alphabet (which is more phonetic noises with the occasional letter being thrown in at this point, cause he sings it way too fast, but we are working on our diction) and the other day he even told me about a triangle – I about fainted.
I can’t imagine two women handling eight ‘terrible two’ toddlers on the best of days, but actually educating them, teaching them things that he has clearly retained? It’s nothing short of a miracle, cause I can’t even get him to listen to me when I tell him to stop balancing on the back of the sofa, standing on one foot and holding a freshly sharpened pencil in his hand.
13239395_10156832064720411_2027101294490036828_nHe’s come on leaps and bounds in The Bridge MDO program, he’s become more confident and outgoing when it comes to other kids, his vocabulary and speech have exploded, turns out he’s quite the chatterbox (no idea where he gets THAT from, eh?) and going by his goodbye hugs to his teachers today, he’s pretty fond of them too.
13220810_10156825914310411_8152288480293823026_n

Bloom where you are planted.

250269_10150733801935411_2742472_nI’m struggling with words this morning, forgive me, please.  I’ve had a bit of a “creative spark” drought as of late, and I’ve not blogged in a little while.  But I got a phone call a couple weeks ago, that has changed my life forever, and it’s prompted my catharsis….

My dearest Cindy,

(I was very tempted to start this with ‘hey girlfriend’ but I resisted – kind of.)

Do you know how hard it is to explain to a two year old why you’re crying?

“Mama crying?”
“Yes Lewis, mama is crying.”
“Mama sad?”
“Yes bubba, mama is sad.”
He hasn’t learned the concept of “why?” quite yet, but the confusion on his face as to why his usually chipper mother has tears free-flowing down her face is clear.
I can’t quite break down into small enough words, or comprehensive terms for a two year old, so I just repeat, “mama’s sad, my love.  Mama’s gonna make it, but mama is sad” to try and reassure my concerned little man.
He reaches his wee arms up above his head, says “cuddle mama?” and rubs my tear stained cheeks when I pick him up.  “Wet, mama” he announces as he snuggles in to give me a hug.
318464_10150846251215411_703757683_nIt’s been over a week (more now that I’m actually finishing up this post) since you’ve gone and I don’t think I’m in any way more used to the idea that you’re no longer on the end of a text.  I tried to put some words together on the day that Tim called to tell me you had passed away, but words failed me – and we both know how unusual that is.  I think I needed those twenty four hours in Nawlins for your funeral, to be able to absorb, process, and string something coherent together, I’m just hoping that auto-correct is picking up typos through my tears.
A friend suggested that I write you a letter, I guess, this is my hybrid, both writing to you and sharing with everyone else just how wonderful a friend, but more so an amazing human being you were, because I couldn’t get myself together in time to put something in your casket with you.
45870_10152542173410411_310981353_nLet me rewind a little and tell everyone about my cherished friend…
Seven years ago, give or take, I was fresh out of college, I was dating Colin and his company offered him a transfer to Houston, ‘Let’s go!’ I enthusiastically exclaimed.  I’d always wanted to live in the US and this was a great opportunity for him, career wise, so off we went.

When I got here, I quickly realised though, that I hadn’t quite thought through the entire process of this expat malarkey, it wasn’t easy.  Culture shock (trust me, it happens even for people moving between states or provinces within the same country), not driving, not having kids or dogs to meet people at schools and dog parks, missing my family, my friends, birthdays, especially, being difficult.

Not long after I arrived, I joined the Spouses organisation – you know, the one that I tell you all about ALL. THE. TIME.  and I met, who I can only describe as this ginormous ball of positive energy, crammed inside a teenie tiny petite little frame.

I think this was the 1st (or maybe 2nd) time I ever met Cindy!

I think this was the 1st (or maybe 2nd) time I ever met Cindy!

Her name was Cindy, she was a bit older than me (think around my mums age), so not someone that you’d typically think of as falling under my ‘friend’ umbrella, but she quickly became a very dear friend to me.  I called her ‘mama Cindy’, her husband ‘daddy Tim’ and she took me under her wing.  She was sort of new to the Houston area (she’d been here before for a time) she was one of the first people I met in Houston and she was, without a doubt, one of the best.  Neither of us wanted to be here, she’d spent thirteen years in Denver, CO and that was home.  She loved having four real seasons, being close to her son Alex (I’ve heard so much about him that some days I wonder if he’s actually related to me somehow) and she hated Houston.  In spite of that?  She jumped in with both feet and wasn’t afraid of the splash.

Over the past seven years, our friendship has grown and I am nothing short of honoured to be able to say, that she’s been a large part of my inner circle, one of the original, old guard, ‘renegades’, who was truly up for anything.  Many’s a day have we cleared out cafes and restaurants by giggling obnoxiously loudly, we’ve eaten together (and for a little un she could surely put it away), we’ve laughed together, we’ve cried together, we’ve gossiped together and we’ve explored together.

She helped me picked my wedding dress, she was at my wedding, she helped both Col and I out after not one, but two surgeries, she co-hosted my baby shower, she never missed a sing-star party (or any kind of party) that I threw, she was always game for a good feed (and boy, could she put it away for someone so little) and she loved on Lewis and helped me out once he was born.  She was a true friend.

1010281_10152955364060411_1665002835_nWhen she got sick, almost ten months ago now, she was so full of hope, fire and determination that she couldn’t possibly succumb to this disease.  When she rang the exit bell at MD Anderson after her first round of radiation, she was so proud of herself, happy and excited about what was yet to come.  When the cancer came back? She took it in her stride, gloved up and said ‘Let’s do this’.  There has never been a single moment in the last nine months, where I didn’t think she would and could fight this – in spite of her prognosis, in spite of being stage 4, I figured that miracles happen, right? And if anyone was deserving of a miracle? It would be our Cindy, and she’d beat this thing.

You can imagine, then, how ill prepared I was for Tim’s phone call telling me that she was gone.

1484201_10153512435330411_1969890155_nSome days? I’m not wholly convinced that there’s a God, others? I’m not really sure he knows what he’s doing.  But if anyone needed convincing that God really does exist and indeed know what he’s doing, just look at Cindy’s story.  Tim mentioned it in his eulogy and brought us all to tears, he was right, things in Cindy’s life were definitely falling in to place, rather than falling to pieces, even though, in some ways it may have seemed like things were falling to pieces.

Her son Alex marrying Brittney when he did, her granddaughter Avery being born when she was – all big milestones that, had they happened at later stages of her life, she may not have been around to witness.  This extends to us too even, my friend Shelley wasn’t supposed to be transferred back to Houston when she was, instead, she got to see Cindy before she died, another friend and I are at the end of our seven year visas, had she died even six months down the line? We may not have been here to say goodbye.

The day before her funeral, I flew in to New Orleans with my sista-friend and Godmother to my son, Sheri.  We decided to go the day before, stay in a hotel in the ‘Quarter and pay homage to our girl Cindy in an amazing city.  We started with dinner and a hurricane at Pat O’Briens, a hand grenade at Tropical Isle, dancing and singing at a couple bars on bourbon street and finished up with a trashy hot dog in the street between pictures with minions and doing some guys advertising job for him.

IMG_6241The morning of her funeral, we met up with a couple of our friends who flew in early, we had breakfast, shed some tears as we walked through the French quarter, shopping a little for momentos and listening to a jazz band play ‘Amazing Grace’ (a song that the priest actually sang at the end of her funeral).

It was hard, but none of us fought our tears and I think a tradition was institutionalised.  In the future, when we lose one of our group (and I’m hoping it’ll be a long, long, time before that happens again), that’s where I’ll go, to honour, to drink and to say goodbye.

Miss Cindy’s visitation and funeral service was one of the hardest I’ve ever been to.  While it was beautiful and fitting, there were pictures of our fun-loving Cindy and beautiful smelling flowers at every turn, it was just hard.  I knew that with Tim doing the Eulogy, I didn’t stand a chance.  I was doomed to be a sobbing, ugly crying mess, before long, and I was right.  I was – and rightly so.

1511490_10153913529365411_953168089_nThe world is missing a very special person right now and I think many lives have been changed forever with her passing.  That said? Many lives have also been changed forever with her having been part of their lives – and I’m honoured to say, that I’m one of those people.  For a little’un, she’s left ginormous footprints on my heart and I’ll hold her memory dear forever – maybe some day we’ll all get together and tell little Miss Avery how ace (translation: cray cray) and full of love her grandma Cindy was.

397960_10151198854695411_185557443_nRest sweet, dear Cindy and I hope you’re dancing in heaven with the angels among the stars and we’ll all keep dancin’ down here, blooming where we are planted.

IMG_5605

I salute you!

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Yesterday, I spent some time in the family room at various points of the day.  In the cardiac unit, when a patient comes back to your pod from surgery, they ask everyone to clear out for a while, AJ had his arterial line put back in, so we had to leave then too, it’s just all a little different to how things were done in the University of Iowa hospital in Iowa City last week.

Anyways, back to the family room.

So, I’m sitting there, with my phone plugged in to the wall, sipping on a diet coke that some kind soul has donated to the family rooms of the cardiac unit, watching kids come in and out to raid the snack basket, or watching staff come in to re-fill the baskets, or place out new baskets, this time with toothbrushes and toothpaste donated for those families who need them, while waiting for their kids in surgery and just, waiting for the ‘ok’ to go back to the ward and sit with my beloved nephew, when it occurred to me that we were sat waiting, with another family who was waiting.

Though, they were waiting a different kind of wait.

There was a mum and dad, their two young sons, one set of grandparents, and who I assumed were two aunts or other close family members.  It was abundantly clear that their precious little one was in surgery, that they were all balanced on a knife-edge, waiting for a whisper of news about their baby.

The parents were called out first and they came back in to take their boys outside the room to tell them how the surgery went, before telling the rest of the family.  Which the aunts assumed meant that the news wasn’t good and started to cry.  My heart broke for them, the uncertainty, the fear, the pain – and this was before they even knew the outcome of the surgery.

The parents came back in and told the extended family that their little girl had made it through the surgery and by that point, everyone was crying and they were all on their phones giving out the good news to whoever else was waiting with baited breath.

Later that afternoon, I was sat in the same room, with a different family, in a similar situation.  The mother and father of a child in surgery, a set of grandparents and another family member or two that were there for moral support.  The nurse came in to update them mid-way through the procedure, ‘everything is going according to plan’, she said to the family, ‘I don’t see any drinks, are you all staying hydrated?’ she prodded with concern.

I left the family room before their surgery was finished.

Tomorrow?

That family will be us.

While we wait the four (+) hours for our little Anderson to have his first operation.

What I’m praying for most, second only to a successful surgery, is for strength for all of us, especially Amber and Aaron, who will be waiting – and I request that you do the same.

To any mum who has ever sat in the family room of a hospital, waiting, wondering, worrying about your child, who is in the hands of strangers (exceptionally well qualified strangers, but strangers all the same) y’all are freakin’ gladiators.

I salute you!

Don’t forget to give where you can:

https://www.gofundme.com/m43qcu5k

Lewis’ ‘Time Flies’ first birthday airplane party.

The theme for this blog post, guys and gals, is ‘OTT’.  No, no really.

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It’s no secret that I’m a Pinterest party person. I love event planning, hosting parties and crafting up a storm to make for an amazing party. Having helped my BFF out for the last five years on my nieces birthday parties, I felt confident that I could take doing one for Lewis by myself.

With the help of our photographer, we narrowed down a theme (I’ll probably use the runner up for next year!)  Airplanes.  She mentioned that she had happened upon a cute plane prop and could totally make an amazing set around that theme.  So we ran with it.

Invitations

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I had bought him a cute flight jacket at a local Just Between Friends consignment sale, wayyyyyy before he was born (Col thought it was cute) and after having gone to the Galveston Flight Museum (and Amazon), I grabbed some patches and send the whole thing down to my trusty seamstress, who turned out a FAB jacket for our lil guy.

His first birthday photo shoot was one of my faves, he was a lot more mobile than before, he was curious and yet hesitant to pick things up, so gave us unsure little looks, to make sure he could pick up the planes and letters around.

I ordered them (and the thank-you cards) from Tiny Prints (photo above was the one I used!), I had a coupon for a huge discount, but needed urgent shipping cause I stupidly left it too late.  Tip: schedule your pictures early, and order your invitations early.  BE EARLY! LOL!

Party bags

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I went with brown paper bag ‘suitcases’, in keeping with the travelling/flying theme.  I got the bags and brown card for accents in Michaels.  The vintage travel stickers, and the thank-you tags came from Amazon, and the pilots wings I got from eBay.

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Inside each bag, kids got a little aviator duck, a ‘grab bag’ from Target (either a Planes one, or a Minions one), mini bubbles, Disney Planes/Cars tummies, a foam glider, half a sheet of stickers (I couldn’t get a sheet each, Target was cleared!!) and some white chocolate covered pretzels.

Photo booth

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I’ve wanted one of these for ages, and this OTT first birthday party, was the perfect excuse 😉 I decided to go with a fabric back drop.  I ordered a photographers stand from EBay for $30, it came in a little fold away bag for easy storage, it’s easy to step up and take down (if I can do it anyone can) and it worked out being cheaper, or at least as cheap as making a plastic pipe one from piping from Lowe’s or Home Depot.

For the back ground itself, I wanted a sky-theme, I had grand plans of making a cardboard plane for Lewis and his friends to sit on, in front of it, so I bought two yards of four different colors of fabric, which Col and I tore into 2″ strips one night while watching NCIS.  The clouds are made from $1 clearance tulle Pompoms from Michaels and fish wire/clear thread.

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My props, aside from Lewis’ flight jacket, and a pilot hat from Amazon, were hand-held wooden props that I got from Michaels and painted one evening (glasses, mustaches, crowns, top hats) that were all $1-$1.50 each, but are so versatile that I can use them every year, regardless of the theme of the party!

I ran out of time (and thought I’d have more hands to help) so I ordered an inflatable red airplane from Amazon.

Décor

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Using my ‘old faithful’ cricut, I cut two different banners – out of regular, 12×12 card stock from Michaels.  In their ‘discount bins’, I got some matching twine and in their scrapbooking aisles, I picked up some coordinating clothes pegs, to make my lovely ‘Time Flies’ banner.  The intention was to have a plane pulling the banner, but it just didn’t get done.

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The other, was a Happy Birthday Lewis banner – pretty simple, but cute!

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I picked up 48 WWII foam gliders on Amazon for $8, I didn’t realize there was 48 when I bought them, but, after putting one in each party bag, I didn’t want to waste the leftovers, so decided to do a hall of gliders – stringing them up onto fish wire was pretty bad, considering the string is INVISIBLE, but I think the hall looked cute.

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Even now, weeks later, Lewis LOVES our hall of gliders.  Every morning we go downstairs and from the very top step, you’ll hear him exclaim ‘wow!’ They amaze him!

Cake

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I considered having a cake made by a local bakery, but, in a moment of stupidity, decided to do it myself.  I usually HATE boxed cakes, but, I haven’t find a white/vanilla cake recipe that I love better than the box (I will NEVER buy a chocolate box mix, for example) – if you have one, please feel free to share!

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I went with a five layer orange ombre cake, covered in a light ‘sky’ blue butter cream, buttercream clouds and topped with a Sesame street cake topper (from Amazon).  It was pretty tasty – if I do say so myself, but, unfortunately, most of our guests were seemingly health conscious, and I was left with well over half of the cake! (This totally wouldn’t have happened in my home country!!)

Food and drinks

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The ‘in-flight service’ savoury menu, was pretty simple.  I went with two crock pots of ‘mains’, I had BBQ pulled chicken in one, and meatballs and smokies in a BBQ-tomato sauce in the other.  I had burger buns, with cheese, onions and lettuce on the side.

The sides were a veggie plate, crisps from home, chips and salsa and caprese bites (mozzarella cheese, basil leaves and cherry tomatoes drizzled with balsamic vinegar – I should have made more of those, they went very well!).

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I even put together some cutlery/silverware packets, with Lewis Air labels that my BFF designed for me.

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IMG_4749The ‘in-flight beverage’ drinks table,  had some orange punch (Hawaiian punch and sprite zero), Koolaid drinks and small bottles of water (with personalized labels).

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Our dessert table, was fun! I had my sister pick up a bunch of kiddies sweets from home, my best friend baked some Airplane cookies, I dipped some Oreos and made propellers from M&M’s and Jelly Beans and had some jars of color coordinated M&M’s and Jelly beans.

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I’m very proud of this party, not least of all cause I did it myself, but also cause it came together very well.  I’ve already given thought to his next birthday party theme, and will be keeping my eye out for ‘stuff’ to stock pile for it! 😉

What was the theme for your little one’s first birthday party?

I woke up one morning, and my baby was suddenly a toddler!

Well, it happened.  I turned 30.

Whilst I was momentarily afraid to face the big 3.0, I quickly realized that I’m more terrified of Lewis turning one, than I am of me turning thirty.

I think it helps that I’m the younger one in our marriage, Col hits all the landmarks before I do.  That helps.

But, upon closer inspection, and reflection, I quickly saw, that actually, I’ve achieved a lot by the time I hit 30.  So, really, it ain’t all that bad.

Right??

Let’s recap: I graduated college (huge personal achievement), I met Col, moved to Houston, volunteered (for four and a half years so far), helping other expats here, got married, travelled to some amazing, bucket-list kinda places, and after a three year battle with infertility, we had Lewis.

It ain’t too shabby.
And, after reflecting a little on the last year, I’m slowly coming to realize that Lewis turning a year old, isn’t all that bad.  We tried for three years to conceive. I wanted him so very badly, and I spent my whole pregnancy afraid to go to the bathroom, in case disaster struck.
I wanted him so very badly.
When he was born, I bawled.  I couldn’t believe that he was ours and that we could really take him home.  I cried at the smallest thing.  He opened his eyes, I cried, he yawned, I cried, he grabbed Col’s finger and I cried.
He is simply amazing.
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I’ve definitely changed.  This year has changed me.
Motherhood is a juxtaposition.  Fo’ sho’!
I’m more relaxed (baby led weaning and mess), yet more highly strung (danger and injury to my precious cargo) than before.
I’m more calm (trying not to over react to every little bump or fever), yet more emotive (I seriously cry at everything!) than before.
I’m more patient (teaching him things), yet more impatient than before (saying no two hundred times to the same thing).
And I’ve learned.  A lot.
Let’s start with the boobs, if you’d told me, this time last year, that I’d have made it a full year Breastfeeding, I’d have laughed in your face.
FACT.
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This little “leech” stuck to my boob 24-7.  I’d finish one agonizing feed and it would be only a matter of minutes til the next one started (feed every three hours my ass!) The screaming agony of his latch (that no one could fix), that resulted in me crying at every feed for months on end, the bleary eyed night feeds, the leaking, the boob pads, the lansinoh, the panic attacks and stressing when he needed fed and we were out in public, the time spent in the car when I didn’t feel confident nursing in public, the double shirts (pull one up, pull one down), the teething, the fish hooking, the nose poking, the pumping, the pump and dumping (I had an MRI with contrast, and surgery with narcotics and couldn’t feed Lewis for two x twenty four hour periods) and feeling like Daisy the dairy cow.
Its all behind me, and I’m almost mournful that our journey is nearing its conclusion (he’s down to morning and night feeds and is self-weaning).  Almost.  It’ll be nice to have my boobs back to myself, for sure.  But, more so, the sheer pride of getting him to this milestone, when so much didn’t work right from the get-go, I’m thrilled.
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I can’t begin to tell you how your perspective changes when you have a child.  You watch something on TV and you cry. Nay, sob. Because it tugs at heart strings that you never knew existed.  Your whole being becomes about protecting and raising this beautiful slobbery, stinky butted kid, who just has to look at you and your insides turn to goo.
You perceive a whole new level of security and risk.  You’re like a member of the secret service, everywhere you go, checking, double checking and triple checking. Everything. Twice.
You become a multi-tasking genius.  No, really.  You’re keeping the kid on the changing table, who has suddenly morphed into Usain Bolt, while dealing with poop, potential projectile and spontaneous pee, hands that are fascinated with boy parts, changing and dressing him? It should be a bloody Olympic sport.  Fact.  And don’t get me started on people telling you to practice dressing a teddy bear!!
My advice? Practice dressing a 200lb Labrador, while he’s chasing a squirrel down a motorway.  That’ll learn ya!
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And the poop? THE POOP! It’s only poop! It’s only puke (he had reflux so bad that he had to sleep in a swing for six months)! It’s only squished up, two day old Mac and cheese in your hair.  Today, for example, Lewis had a blow out.  They are infrequent, but we needed to change his clothes and in the clean-up process, he kicked out his leg and got poop all over his foot, ankle, calf, knee and thigh, he stuck his hand in it and then grabbed my, already poop-tainted arm. It’s only poop.  Just keep telling yourself that.  It’s only poop!!!!!!!!!!
Showering is a novelty, going to the loo (especially solo) is a novelty and hobbies are a novelty.
But holy shit I’ve never known a love like it.  The love I have in my heart cannot be contained.
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This child can make me cry, just by looking at me.
He’s smart, he’s funny and he’s a sponge.  Watching the cogs turn in his head fascinates me.  When he figures something out, he’ll check to see whether we are watching, and if we aren’t, he’ll do it again.  One night he had started using his walker by himself, the walker was out of reach and dada hadn’t seen his new monkey truck yet, so he started walking around the living room pushing along the basket of laundry.  He’s currently using his daddy’s table as a walker, after having used the nappy bin.  Resourceful kid.
He’s inquisitive, likes exploring and figuring stuff out.  He likes testing boundaries to see just how much mama means the ‘no’ she’s just said three times.  His favorite toys are the unsuspecting ones, a spoon on the tiles, an empty egg carton or one of his plastic plates to bang against the bin.  We should have just returned all these toys people got him and bought eggs.
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He is FULL of love and he’s such a happy kid, he gives smiles generously, he gives kisses unprompted, he waves at, and makes friends with strangers, he loves his daddy (who can’t leave the room without a scream-fest when daddy gets home from work), he claps his hands when I sing, he loves to dance, and he’s just cut his sixth tooth.
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Being a parent has being the biggest blessing I could ever have hoped for, and it is multiplied exponentially, by the fact that we got blessed with such a shamazing little boy! <3
Happy birthday little one, I can’t wait to see what the next year has in store for our little family <3
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The Politics of Pregnancy

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“Getting through the first trimester, without completely losing it, wasn’t easy, but once I heard the heartbeat of my baby for the first time, everything made sense.”

(Please note: I found this blog post in the recesses of my drafts folder, and, even though Lewis is here and three and a half months old, I still feel that it has value, so I’m going to post it anyway!)

I’m exhausted.

And I’m not convinced that it’s all the fault of our little growing bubble.

I feel like I’m constantly battling and firefighting, since we got pregnant.  Don’t get me wrong – it’s not all bad (and I’ll get to that in another post) but it’s bloody tough.

I thought that once you became pregnant, it was ‘easier’.  Infertility is a minefield.  What they don’t tell you, is that pregnancy can be just as difficult emotionally.

Who to tell, when to tell, how to tell, how to tell those who may be sensitive, how to tell before the curse of social media spoils the surprise, WHO to tell before the curse of social media spoils the surprise.

Advice: Tell who you want, when you want and how you want.  Don’t be pressured or convinced to tell early or to tell someone you’d rather not tell, before you tell someone else.  Ultimately everyone should be happy about your wonderful news, even those you are ‘afraid’ to tell or sensitive to the news, even those who are also pregnant, people can be happy for more than one person at a time, don’t feel guilty, this is your time as much as it’s everyone else’s time.  You deserve your moment as much as everyone else does, whether it’s your first baby, your fourth baby, or whether you announce at seven weeks or twenty seven.  Enjoy it and bask in the love and happiness of your circle.

Don’t say this, shouldn’t say that, say this.

Don’t eat that, shouldn’t eat that, eat this.

Even my doctors – my Fertility specialist and my OBGYN – and they haven’t always both agreed on ‘pregnancy procedure’.

Many have advice, questions and many have had it worse and enjoy telling me how easy I have it – which, is fine, it may seem easy to you or compared to you, but this is my first time and, in truth, only some days it feels easy.

Advice: Pregnancy is vague, grey area and every single one is different.  Your pregnancy may be nothing like any one else that you know – this is perfectly fine.  Don’t freak.  I freaked in the beginning because I wasn’t sick, or nauseous, or, really, in any way displaying symptoms of pregnancy.  People say ‘sickness means a healthy baby’, so when you’re not sick, you freak the hell out.  Don’t.  It’s ok.  It’s actually pretty normal.  We tend only hear the war stories of pregnancy, rarely the ones that go smoothly and one of my friends said that people only say that to make you feel better when you’re hugging the toilet and barfing your guts up.

Many have advice on what they did when they were pregnant, what they heard or read that you should do during pregnancy.  Advice on names, feeding, advice on sleeping, advice on what books to read, what books not to read, advice on co-sleeping, attached parenting, home birth, water birth, home schooling, putting your kid in daycare and people are already placing bets on gender.

Advice: Don’t poke the bear.  Regardless of how open and flexible your friends may seem about their parenting styles, don’t engage, question, contradict or criticize.  No one takes it well and they will vehemently defend their choices to you – mothers are like elephants – they never forget.

By that same token, don’t let anyone tell you that your choices, or the choices you will try to make, are wrong, less-than, and even though their advice may be given with the best of intentions, it’s your pregnancy, your baby, your body, eat what you want, drink what you want (alcohol excluded obviously!), sleep when you want and don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for these things.

People seem surprised to learn that I plan on trying to breastfeed – which, in itself starts to open a can of worms, but when I go on to further open the can by adding that I’ll also be, at least in part, trying ‘cloth diapering’, oftentimes, the judgmental looks aren’t enough and people simply *have* to have their say about *our* choices, (which, by the way, have already been made) and proceed to tell me that they never had me down as a crunchy person.

Like they can somehow convince me it’s a bad idea, or that I’m naive to think it’s possible, ‘that’ll change once the baby is here’.

Some people, on the other hand, just need to see a modern cloth-diaper to actually understand that how they perceive cloth-diapering to be, is a thing of the past and that ‘reusable nappies’ these days, aren’t much different to the ‘real thing’.

In short, I’m cheap, if I can feed my kid myself and save money with cloth diapers so I can spend more money spoiling my kid rotten or showing him/her the world, then why wouldn’t I try these things?  I’m not judging anyone for not doing them, one choice doesn’t make you a ‘better’ mother than the other, I’m just making choices that will hopefully work for us, though blog posts like this, keep me grounded and remind me that it’s not easy, it’s a huge challenge, and it doesn’t work for everyone.

Plus – let’s all agree – they’re cute as hell!

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All of the advice is furthermore complicated by being pregnant at the same time as at least 6 other people I know.  One friend, is even due a few days ahead of me.  It takes a lot of my energy, praying that each and every one of us will have a safe and healthy pregnancy and give birth to a healthy, happy baby – who preferably sleeps through the night and is already toilet trained – but, we can’t always get what we want, eh?

Advice (as given to me yesterday by two very dear friends): quit worrying about other babies and other mommas, your priority right now is you, your hubby/other half and your little one.  Do what you gotta do to get your baby delivered in to the world healthy and to have a happy family.  This post, ‘My anti blog‘ about differences in pregnancy resonated with me, it’s funny how ultimately we are all doing the same thing, growing a little person, but our journey there can all be so hugely different.

Listen to all of the advice with respect (sometimes you’ll need to get your game face on) and thank them for their opinion.  Take from it what you need/want and leave the rest.  It doesn’t, as I was starting to feel, make you a bad mother if you do things differently to what people say, or to what other people do.  Find what works for you and be yourself.

Even your OB and nurses will often treat you like you’re on a conveyor belt, they deal with hundreds of people like you on a regular basis.  To them, it’s not really a huge deal that you’re pregnant.  You’ll even find that your friends will say your doctors are wrong in some cases!

People WILL want to touch your stomach (otherwise known as ‘stranger danger‘ over at The truth behind the glow).  It’s started already with friends, obviously, cause they know.  I’m dreading the time coming when strangers *know* and will approach without warning to rub my belly like i’m some kind of good-luck charm.  I don’t do strangers in my personal space.

As the saying goes, this is my first rodeo, I’m just doing what I can, when I can and how I can, during this hugely different time in our lives, to ensure we all get through to the other side!

I found this article, explains things a lot funnier that I ever could, it struck a few chords with me and made me giggle.

This blog post, ‘This wasn’t in the brocheure‘, is also a riot, I find it better to prepare myself with the forthcoming trauma of pregnancy, through humour – it helps me cope with the imminent doom 😉 LOL! Check it out.  I’ve found I enjoy reading blog posts over at ‘The truth behind the glow‘ not only is she funny, but educational, in a non-terrifying kinda way.

In short, there’s no right or wrong way to be pregnant, and, once your baby gets here, there’s no right or wrong way to be a parent – something they don’t tell you in books, or at the OB’s office.  Try to stay calm, take on board all of the advice you get, but only hold on to that which you want to – and, most importantly, go with your gut!

Pregnancy: Hospital preparedness (What to pack in your hospital bag!)

What to pack in your hospital bag is a pretty big decision.
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You’re about to go in to labor – you’re going to spend two to four days, at probably the worst (and, if you’re in the USA, most expensive) hotel of your life.  The bed will be uncomfortable, it’s going to be bright, loud, and you’ll probably sleep very little.  You’ll also likely be in a gown the whole time, there will probably be blood, pain, occasionally stitches, people will be taking blood, urine, blood pressure and pulse information, you and baby will both be monitored, you may have an IV, catheter, or any number of other possible medical treatments while you’re in there – and that’s all the ‘foreseen’ stuff.
My first piece of advice is to have your bag ready to go around week 35.  We packed our bags literally the night before we ended up being induced – dumb luck.  Pack it a little earlier, be prepared.  And – leave it RIGHT beside the front door – complete with a list of ‘additions’ that you have to grab on your way out – phone, charger, etc.  Ignore people who say you’re too early – you may well be, but better to be ready, just in case, than to be caught on the hop and have to panic-shove stuff in a bag!
Secondly – ask your hospital for a very specific list of the supplies they provide for you, this will help you ensure that you pack the things you’ll need, whilst not packing way too much crap to lug back and forth from the house to car, car to hospital and back again.
Thirdly – pack light.  Here’s a list of everything I packed – based on polling I conducted among my friends and family, below that, you’ll find a list of what I used from what I packed.
What I packed:
Clothes
‘Yoga pants’ (high belly) x2
Pair pjs (yoga pant style, loose top)
Cami ‘Shelf tanks’
10x old undies (that you don’t mind getting destroyed)
Regular bra
Wash bag for dirty clothes for parents
Wash bag for dirty baby clothes
Fleece (or jumper, hoody, zippy)
Large black towel x2 (don’t mind getting them destroyed)
Slipper socks w/grippies x1
Slippers x1
Flip flops
Electrics
Phone charger
Tablet and charger
Kindle and charger
Extension cord (we discovered on our stay in the hospital, the phone doesn’t reach the bed from the socket!)
Camera and charger (and memory card!)
Toiletries
Conditioner
Body wash
Razor
Deodorant
Toothbrush + toothpaste
Lip balm
Deep moisturizer
Hair brush
Hair ties
Always infinity pads (recommended by THREE different people)
Nursing pads
Lanolin +
Witch hazel wipes
Other
Snacks + hard candy
Pillow
Notebook (to log visitors/guests etc)
Waterproof pad (for use in the car!)
What we packed for hubby:
2-3 outfits (old/ok to get potentially destroyed, including shoes!)
PJ’s x2
Pillow
Toothbrush
Deodorant Phone charger
Tablet + charger
Button down shirt (for skin to skin, in case mum couldn’t!)
Pain killers (common for the men-folk to get a headache)
Snacks + drinks
What we packed for baby:
Car seat
Premie outfit (Just in case he came out a little small for NB)
Newborn outfit
Outfit to come home in
Blanket (for the trip home)
Sleeping gown x2
Boppy
Dummy/Pacifier
Burp cloths x2
What I actually used:
Toothbrush/paste
Body wash
Deodorant
Yoga pants
Lip balm
Electronics (chargers, extension cables)
Witch hazel pads, pads and Dermoplast spray (provided by hospital)
Col and baby used most of what they brought – Col could have done with a second sweater on-hand, as the first one got dirty quite quickly, my room was pretty cold and he refused to leave our sides to go the three miles home and get a clean one!
I spent most of my time in the ridiculous gown that the hospital gives you upon admission.  I figured with the amount of monitors, bands, tests, epidural and hopefully breast feeding, that I didn’t care that my arse was hanging out, or that I was mostly naked the entire time.  Easy access was the plan!
The hospital provided me with most things that I (and baby) needed, all my post-labor care products, nappies, swaddle sheets, t-shirts for baby etc.  They even gave me sample tubes of lanolin and a Medela pumping kit for their hospital grade pump, so we were set, and realistically didn’t want for anything.
One thing I didn’t bring with me, was a change of clothes for me to go home in.  I had my yoga pants, but no clean shirt, so I left in the shirt I arrived in – pack yourself something clean and fresh to wear.  Don’t forget this one!
There wasn’t anything else that I think I should have brought, could have brought, or feel like I was DYING, or stupid for not bringing.  In actual fact, were I to do it all over again? I’d pack a very, VERY small bag – instead of the rather large bag we lugged in and barely opened!
What was the one thing you couldn’t have lived without during your birthing hospital stay?  Did you over-pack? Did you under pack? Was your hospital a great provider of ‘things’? Or did you have to provide everything yourself?

Pregnancy and Fertility: Fertility whilst pregnant.

I feel that I’m sufficiently deep enough into my pregnancy to remark on the aspect of fertility, whilst being pregnant.  It’s not something I gave much thought to beforehand, (other than contemplating my own fertility while others were pregnant) however, although I am eight (six when I started this) months pregnant, I spend my life continually aware of how I got here, our fertility journey, how long it took for us to finally see those two little lines appear on the stick – especially since I am surrounded by those who either are TTC, or are not trying to conceive, but who have suffered unimaginable losses.

Not that I want to forget my long, hard and educative journey, I’ve seen way too many people get pregnant and forget those who are still trying, suffering, or those who will never conceive.  I’ve tried not to be that person.

What I mean is, that I guess when my fertility was ‘solved’ – even temporarily, (I.E. I conceived bubble), that I expected world-infertility to be cured too.  Not consciously I mean, not *really* as I know that’s a scientific impossibility, I guess I just lived in hope, hope that my friends would all find their fix, because if I, after three years, could conceive this wriggly little boy, then surely everyone else’s journeys should finish soon, right? RIGHT?

But one friend has had six miscarriages (mixed terms), one friend’s sister has just had her second round of IVF, one friend has just had back to back early-term miscarriages.  That’s a lot of loss, especially for people actively trying to conceive, who have tried for a long time, or who are suffering from unexplained infertility.

For me, I’d love to say the worst part of the journey was the monthly disappointments when ‘Aunt Flo’ came to visit, it’s really not.  It’s, the hope.

My cycles, have always been irregular sometimes 14 days, sometimes 38 days, but that one month, that ONE month where it spanned to almost 60 days? That month was my hope.

That month, I dared to dream.

And then the cramping started.  And then the bleeding.  The worst bleeding I’ve had in my entire history of being an ‘adult’ female.

I suspected that it was an early miscarriage.  I talked to Col about it, and, actually, I didn’t grieve all that much.  Perhaps cause I didn’t expect to get pregnant naturally? Perhaps because I didn’t take a test to see? Perhaps because I was so used to having such irregular periods? Perhaps because, at best, I was four weeks? Perhaps because I have faith that my body would only expel a pregnancy for a really, REALLY good reason?

I talked to the fertility specialist about it when he asked for my history at my first appointment, I didn’t get any bloods done to confirm, and, in reality, there’s not much you can do but ‘let it pass’, but he agreed that it was very likely a miscarriage.  Which, ironically in the fertility world, is apparently a ‘good sign’, as it means that your body *can* get pregnant.  Which, while this was positive news for us, I can imagine that hearing that when you *knew* you were pregnant, must feel like a slap in the face.  Especially with unexplained miscarriage.

While I don’t feel like my experience, ‘entitles’ me to be a voice on the subject, I wanted to mention that even if it wasn’t a miscarriage, and it was just a long cycle followed by the worst period of my life, those who suffer from infertility and who haven’t even had any miscarriages at all, have still experienced loss.

Some people feel loss every month when their period arrives, whether it’s the loss of a baby that never was or it’s the loss of a little hope each month.

Loss is loss.

Somehow, you pick yourself up off the dirt and move on to the next month.  You have to.  You have to hold on to the faith and hope that some day, you’ll have the two lines appear on that stick that you desperately clutch on to each month.

You don’t let it beat you.

You can’t let it beat you.

What I never felt during even my darkest infertility moments, that I unfortunately feel now that I’m pregnant, was a sense of competition.  People never really tried to one-up my infertility, or never did huge comparisons of our situations.  Yes, we were all trying to have babies, and yes, we perhaps compared the aftermath of a procedure or medication, but, since having become pregnant, it’s a whole new minefield.  An exhausting one at that.

I find myself being pregnant at the same time as a number of people we know and I have discovered that I often find it difficult to open a conversation with them about something I’m going through, as easily as I thought I would be able to.  If I mention something, they’ll come back with a ‘well I have this’, or a ‘well mine’s worse’, kind of thing.  I doubt it’s on purpose, perhaps they, too, are looking for someone to talk to about something they are going through, but sometimes, it feels like a competition.

I’ve said on numerous occasions that my pregnancy is, comparatively, pretty easy, people always have horror stories they want to tell.  I don’t.  The worst I’ve had to complain about is the overwhelming exhaustion and nausea from my first trimester – which, is perfectly normal.

But, thankfully, I haven’t had to spend my pregnancy close to a toilet or anything, but sometimes, something happens that freaks me out, or makes me smile, that I’d like to truly share with someone who didn’t have a ‘well I…’ or ‘well my baby did this’ in immediate return.

Pregnancy is an apparently competitive business – who knew?!

Not only that, but getting pregnant – just isn’t enough for some people!

I was talking to a friend about this last night, I had previously thought it was just a Northern Ireland thing – a small country, small community, everyone knowing everyone’s business.

But, the older I get, the more I realise that it’s just a *people* thing.

When you meet a boy (or man if you’re not 12), it’s almost an instantaneous bombarding of questions.

  • When are you getting engaged? Then you maybe get engaged (not because they asked obviously – just go with me on this!)
  • When are you getting married? Then you maybe get married.
  • When are you having children? Then you maybe get pregnant.
  • Oh, you’re pregnant, is it a boy or a girl? Then you maybe have a gender scan.
  • Do you have any names picked out?

It’s like a reflex, people can’t help themselves, it’s like they *need* to know – worse, it’s like they feel entitled to know.  As soon as friends find out I’m pregnant it’s ‘What are you having?’, when I answer with ‘boy’  (very proudly might I add, because for the first twenty weeks it’s been ‘no idea’ and I’ve felt such pressure to find out the gender – which, we were doing anyway, but I can see why people just ‘go with it’ and find out) invariably the very next question is, ‘What are you going to call him?’ – I’ve known I’m having a boy for exactly a week, and I’m supposed to have a name already? HA!

We were lucky to have agreed on one single solitary name picked out for a girl, boys we don’t even have a short list for! And what if we are those people who want to SEE our baby first before landing him with a name, huh?  What if, we already have names and want to keep them between us?  What if, this poor child ends up with the *only* name we’ve agreed on (the girls one!!!!!) what about that, eh?

I bet bubble will be no more than six months old, before the question, ‘When are you planning on having another?’ will be asked.

I’ve taken solace, instead, in sharing my ‘silly pregnancy things’ or fears with friends who have children, but who aren’t pregnant.  That, and reading on the interwebz – which is often counter productive and compounds my fears more-so than alleviate them, but it’s educational all the same.

I do, however, hold out hope for my friends, for those that are dealing with such loss, who continue to deal with such loss.  I admire them and their strength, I also haven’t forgotten how hard it is – to live with pregnancy around you at every turn.

For those of you who are dealing with miscarriage, infertility – explained or otherwise, or who have suffered loss in your past and who need some support or information on what to do next, contact Resolve.  A wonderful infertility charity, who do great things for those suffering from infertility.

Keep the faith.  Hope really isn’t all bad to hold on to, and you really must cling on to at least a little – and remember that whether by conventional, or unconventional means, you have a lot of options open to you, to have the family you’d like, one way or the other – though the path may not be easy!