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My blog has moved to www.muminthesouth.co.uk

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

The day that you went missing

Dear four,

Today you went missing for a while. We were at the field by the park. I was taking too much on as usual, serving teas and coffees whilst also looking after your little sisters.

You were being so sweet. You helped me set up the table and wash the mugs. You lay out the blankets and helped make the sun tent. You really wanted to go on to the park, but I could not take you. You sat and waited so patiently.

Then one of your pre-school friends turned up with his mum. You were so excited. He wanted to go to the park and his mum said "I'll take her for you, no worries. She can come with me." I felt so relieved. You were getting to go and have fun and I only had the other two to keep an eye on.

A short time later another friend turned up, her daughter keen to see you too. "She is in the park" I said, watching her walk past the tennis courts towards what I thought was you in the park on the swing.

Turns out that was another little girl in the park, not you.

At first I could not believe it. I ran to the park to check myself. You were not there.

The mum and friend who had taken you to the park were not there either. The rational part of me knew you were with them, but where?

You were not in the loos or the car park. You were not by the horses. You were not up the lane. You were not anywhere.

The whole atmosphere in the park became uneasy. Your sisters started to cry.
Your friends leapt on scooters to hunt for you. Their mums stood, hand-to-mouth, and looked aghast. Horrified and yet relieved it was not their baby missing.

I started to panic. The park swam round me as I tried to be rational and calm.

I did not have the mum's number. No one seemed to have her number.

I phoned your daddy and told him I could not find you.... Your daddy sounded like he was being sawn in half.

Just then, people started shouting and pointing.

You'd appeared.

You had been in the little wood at the back of the field with your friend and his mum. Your pink vest sparkled in the sun and you were skipping.

Me, your sisters, and all your friends ran towards you.

You looked so surprised at your welcome party. So happy. So innocent.

I held you to me so hard you squeaked. (Did I ever tell you I love your squeak?)

Around me, the park came back into focus. Swings started swinging, birds started twittering. Balls started bouncing. Life moved on...

You are asleep now, worn out from your exciting day. But I can't switch off. The memory of what the world feels like without you is still too real in my mind.

I keep going in your room to look at you. I've kissed your knees and the space between your fingers.
I've whispered sorry into the folds of your nightie. I've thanked all the stars in the sky.
I've made your favourite drink in your favourite sippy cup. I've laid out your favourite dress to wear tomorrow.

I still don't feel I've done enough.

Seeing your pink vest appear out the trees today was almost as beautiful as the first time I saw you in my arms.

Next time you want to go to the park, we'll go hand in hand.

I promise I won't let go.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

My mummy tummy hell

I am a mum of three. Three big babies, born within three and a half years of one another.
Some may say I deserved what I got.
This is what I got...

This is me. This is who I am. This is the mummy secret I carry round, hidden in big pants and long vests and baggy jumpers, even in sunny weather. Especially in sunny weather.

I'd love to tell you I am proud of my body for producing my healthy babies, that my scars remind me what a good house my tummy made.
I wish I could say I am far too busy enjoying being a mum to care about trivial things, such as my appearance.

But it would not be true.
I hate my tummy. I hide it from people at the gym when I get changed. I hide it from my husband by sleeping in his baggy t-shirts. I hide it from my children in over-bubbly baths.
But I can't hide it from me.
The only thing I hate more than my tummy is myself, for hating my tummy. I wish I were a bigger person. I wish I were a less vain person. I wish I were a better role model to my children.

How is my loathing of my appearance affecting them? I try to hide it, but my tummy is the wrinkly grey elephant in the room (literally).
I want my daughters to love themselves. But I can't lead by example.
The doctor has assured me I did nothing wrong. Genetics and hormones are to blame. My husband says he does not care. More of me to love.
But I don't love me, and as long as my tummy looks like it does in the above picture. I don't think I ever will.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Bedtime blues

I don't know about you, but by about 7pm (ish - I'm not that strict) I just want my children to be asleep. I love them dearly, can't imagine life without them, all that jazz, but they get up at 5.15am.

Everyday. Without fail.

Yes we have tried later bedtimes, blackout-blinds, no drinks before bed, more drinks before bed. We've tried clocks with rabbit ears, reward charts, CD players, night lights. They still get up at 5.15am, and they still take hours and hours to get to sleep at night.

By 7pm I've been with them for almost 14 hours. It's a long time to be in anyone's company - let alone three small, demanding children.

By about 3.30pm I start to flag, and by 6.30pm I've had it. I cut their requests off with loud shouty "NO's" before they have even got to the end of their (long dithery) sentences.

I don't want to read Peppa Pig, play dressing up, sculpt things out of moonsand or push them on the swing in the garden.

I don't want to pull any more wipes from Nine month's mouth, beg Two to keep her nappy on, serve Four cups of tea and generally play hostess/HR manager/cleaner any longer.

I just want to lie in a dark room, on my own, in silence, and tell myself kind thoughts. I might even pat myself.

This is "full time" parenting to the MAX! and almost impossible to do well or with any enthusiasm on no sleep.

Admittedly, we are toss at the cry-it-out technique. We don't do it. The main reason for this is because if one starts crying and we don't get to them PDQ (pretty damn quick), then they wake up the others, and they start crying as well. Then I cry, and swear, and throw things.

So we become a tag team, and dutifully sit with each of them, Four, Two and Nine months, until they are asleep. It takes about four hours in total.

We never have an evening. When they are all finally down for the night, we are too nervous of waking them up to put the TV on, and too shattered to watch it anyway.
We just sit in the half dark - our faces perfect replica's of Munch's Scream.

It does not stop there either, they wake up during the night as well. Two is the worst. She wakes screaming and we have exactly ten seconds to get our befuddled limbs into action and hot foot it into her room before she wakes up nine months. I help the husband get there by pushing him out of bed. He gets me back by putting Nine months in bed next to me to pull my hair and bite my nose when she wakes at 5.15am.

And so this is our life. Yes, this is the life we picked, Yes we are very very very lucky, we have three healthy happy children. Yes I know these days will pass. Apparently I'll even miss them (ha ha ha).

Maybe, once I've finished catching up on all the lack of sleep.

Post holiday blues

I am the kind of person who has to have something to look forward to. A goal, a target, an aim, a focus. For the last six months, that focus was our Centreparks holiday...

I had visions of all the fresh air making the children sleep in longer.
The cycling bringing a chance to chat with the husband about life's banalities, while the children pointed out birds and interesting leaves from their (light) trailers attached to the back.

I imagined no routine or structure to the days. I did not know what "flying by the seat of my pants meant" but I wanted to give it a whirl.

I still don't know, because it never happened.

This is what happens when you go on holiday with three small children...

You spend a long time packing, then unpacking, because you still need some of the items you have packed, because you pack too soon to get packing out the way.

You have an argument with your husband about how much you have packed. He starts unpacking most of it. You tell him you will no longer be going on holiday.

The row means you set off late. Then you had have to go back again anyway because Two has not got any shoes on. (You point out this is because the husband was in too much of a hurry to set off and therefore rushed you. The second row makes you even later, and also kills the holiday mood somewhat.)

You stop at every single service station between your home and your holiday destination because someone always wants a wee but never at the same time as anyone else.

You arrive hot, bothered and ready for bed. Everyone else wants to go and explore and therefore you are a killjoy if you do not join in.

Your children start demanding to go swimming/cycling/pottery painting/face painting/to the playground. You just want a cup of tea, but can't have one because there are none in the cabin and the husband unpacked the emergency ones you planned to bring from home.

You have a long, protracted, painful time trying to get the over excited children down to sleep in unfamiliar territory.

You yourself have a long, protracted, painful time trying to get to sleep in unfamiliar territory. You may even ask the husband to check outside for wolves. (Unlikely yes, but with Longleat Safari Park so nearby, not entirely impossible).

And so follows a week of :

Swimming, where not all your children will like the wave machine.

Your swimsuit will be pulled down at least five times a day by a panicking child or unfunny husband.

You too may well panic in the rapids and cling on to someone who is not your husband. You may not even notice until you spot your husband, some feet away, looking at you quizzically.

You will stand in long queues for waterslides wishing you had found time to wax your bikini line and apply fake tan (NB: Too late to fake tan now. The husband unpacked it)

You will lose your children and panic. The lifeguard will tell you off for running.
You will skid to a stop and fall over. The children, like penguins distinguishing their mother's cry, will recognise your loud swearing as you stub your toe and come running back.
The lifeguard will tell them off too. Your husband will swear at the lifeguard.

There will be a lot of tears on your holiday.

You will have many pine cones of various sizes in your pocket at any one time.

You will spend a long time pulling your (wriggly) children along in (heavy) trailers attached to your bike up steep hills. If this does not sound exhausting, trust me, it is. Especially after three hours of swimming and with a stubbed toe.
Your husband, meanwhile, will think he is Mark Cavendish, keep cutting you up and trying to race you. When he wins he will pull his t shirt over his head and cheer.

If you are a hayfever sufferer you will spend the entire holiday with weeping eyes. Regulars in the Village Starbucks may mutter things like "Look, that miserable cow is here again. Some people don't deserve a nice holiday."

You yourself will start to people-watch and make unfair observations about your fellow holiday makers. Your deductions will mostly be based on how clean their Phil and Teds is,what change bag they have and how short they wear their trousers.

You will begin to go to the same places at the same time each day. Just like at home.

Unlike at home, the kitchen in your cabin will not be stocked with any utensils you need to cook with. This is a ploy by Centreparks to make you eat out in the overpriced restaurants all the time. You had thought of this and so packed kitchen utensils, but the husband will have unpacked them.

Your children will eat a lot of cereal and yoghurts. So will you.

Your children will argue and cry alot, just like at home.

You will start looking forward to bedtime by 3.30pm, just like at home.

You will spend lots of time shaking your mobile high in the air out of windows to get reception. It won't work.

Your husband, missing his iphone and bossing people about at work, will try to boss you about instead. Directives will include:
"Why are your bothering doing that?/bringing that/putting that on the kids. They don't need that/want that/like that"

This will annoy you and cause many rows based round "Him doing his own job and letting you do yours."

You will increasingly be told to "Cheer up, you're on holiday" by your husband, and the staff of Starbucks.

You will begin to count down the sleeps till you go home, then remember that before you go home you will have to pack all the stuff again. (You won't be able to fit it back in the suitcase anyway as it will be full of pine cones that the children can't bear to part with.)

It will rain lots and you will miss the all-in-one rainsuits and emergency ponchos you had planned to bring, before the husband unpacked them.

On the way out the forest, you will suddenly become overwhelmed with sadness that the holiday is over, and start badgering the husband to rebook for next year...

So you have something to look forward to.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Should I try hypnobirthing?

Ok, so when I was pregnant with my first baby, my friend lent me a copy of her hynobirthing CD  Effective Birth Preparation

At the time I was mourning the circuit classes I’d had to give up in pregnancy , and found the whole idea of hypnosis a bit “jingly jangly”

I listened to the CD anyway, but never seemed to hear past the first sentence without falling asleep.

(Note: This alone may be invaluable for helping  with insomnia towards the end of pregnancy -- as your body “prepares you” for your baby’s night time habits).

I thought all my Boxercise classes had made me tough. I thought pain was for wimps. I thought I was going to sail through labour.


I fell at the first hurdle. The pain I thought I was bigger than, was bigger than me. I shouted at it, it laughed back in my face.

I hid under the bed and begged for an epidural, something I had vowed I would never ever do.

I don’t regret that epidural, because it was what I needed at the time. I was scared and I was exhausted.  I’d lost control.

I do regret having an epidural the second time I gave birth however.

Because I was induced, and because an epidural was on offer, I took it. I did not need it. I was not as scared or under-prepared. I was actually doing just fine. It was a mistake.

So when I fell pregnant for the third time I resolved to have the birth I’d always wanted. The one where I told the pain who was the boss. The one that made me feel all “I am woman, hear me roar”

I’d done a lot of running to get back into shape after my two previous pregnancies, and in doing so had already worked on breathing control. It had helped me get past “the runner’s wall

I wondered if it would help me in labour.
Inspired, I ordered another copy of the Effective Birth Preperation CD.  I even read the brochure this time. I did not just fall asleep.

(Ok, sometimes I did, but not all the time.)

The CD suggests breathing in a beautiful glow, and breathing out the pain. I liked the simplicity of the idea. It taught how long to breathe in for, how long to hold for, and how long to let go for.

I listened to the CD most nights for the last five weeks of my pregnancy, and practised the techniques.

I finally went into labour a week late, having had a sweep from a nurse on induction ward.

I went from no signs of labour to full on established labour in five minutes. No sooner had they sent the husband home, than they were calling him again and telling him to hurry up.

As the pain ramped up, the technique I’d practised kicked in.

I breathed in a yellow glow as the contraction built up. As it peaked I held my breath. As it went I breathed out the pain…

And it worked.

I gave birth with no pain relief, not even a sip of water.

I gave birth with no medical intervention.  No one even touched me. The midwife said later it was one of the most controlled labours she had ever seen.

My husband was open mouthed with awe. Was this the same wife who had told him to get her a beeping epidural or she’d snap his beeping fingers off not three years before?

By focusing on my breathing, I remained calm. By remaining calm my body could focus on doing what it needed to do. 

Giving birth to my third daughter was the single most empowering experience of my life. 

It’s changed me forever.  It’s made me realise I am stronger than I thought.

I now run longer, because I know I am capable of it. I realise I am capable of anything.

I am amazing.

And so is hynobirthing

(For getting you off to sleep if nothing else ….)