A shoulder to cry on

My son

Some time after the toddler was born, I made a promise to him- and to myself- that I would do everything I could with the time I had left to make it all up to him. I needed to let him know that I was deeply, deeply sorry for letting him down when he needed me most. I needed him to know that I was sorry for not being strong enough, for missing that first hour of his life, and for failing to be the mum he needed when he needed it most. He was just a baby. He was barely four months old. He didn’t understand what I was saying and in a way, neither did I. I don’t think I had even begun to accept what had happened during his birth by that point. I certainly wasn’t feeling like a mother to him; I just knew that I was supposed to be feeling it.

Making that promise seemed like the best thing to do and I admit that even today, it weighs heavily on my mind. If  I’m tired, or he’s having a tantrum and my face won’t form a smile… guilt hits me like a bullet then. What about the promise?

When I made that promise I was grieving. Not for a person, but for something… something I couldn’t quite put my finger on.Perhaps I was grieving for that amazing birth I was supposed to have, especially after the first one had gone so wrong? Perhaps I was grieving for that little boy in the delivery room, who’s heart beat fell silent and died in my dreams? Perhaps I was grieving for… for me?

I am not the same person I was before my son was born. In many ways I am a better person. It’s taken me two long years to realise that. In many ways I know so much more about life and love and motherhood. In many ways I can now be that mother I thought I was before he was born. Perhaps I can now stop grieving for that person I was back then and embrace the new me?

These are all things I have been thinking since I left the meeting yesterday. It was the first Manchester Birth Trauma Association meeting and despite being involved in its set-up, I hadn’t actually thought much about how it might affect me. I’d bought a box of tissues, knowing that it could be emotional to talk to people who understand, or even just to talk to people. Caroline bought individual packets of tissues so that we could go home and cry too.

I didn’t cry. But I did think about that promise. I think I’m keeping it. I think I can keep it.

 

I’m glad to have a shoulder to cry on.

Graco Symbio b: what would yours look like?

With the testing period drawing to a close and the final challenge about to be reported on, I thought I would post something a little different. I’ve been thinking about the ultimate pram. The one that ticks all the boxes and makes the other mums on the school yard wish they had one too. The pram that caters to mum, dad, baby and more. The pram that is creative, innovative, fun and different. What would yours look like?

The Symbio b is a fantastic pram. It has many fabulous features that genuinely sets it apart from other prams that I’ve owned. It is stylish, light-weight, easy to use and reasonably priced. But if I was a pram designer, I think my ultimate Symbio b might be a combination of the following models:

The Roller Buggy. How cool is this? It’s like a buggy board for parents. Yes, Graco- take note. Its not only toddlers that want a faster ride. How about adding this feature to the Symbio to enable us to get where we want to be even faster and with a bigger smile on our faces? Scooters aren’t just for kids- us mums want to have fun too! 

Or how about the Babyoom? It’s a pram that converts to a bike then to a shopping cart. Or something like that. Its more than a pram. Its a lifestyle on wheels. It transports parents and helps them to shop. That’s good, right? But is it as good as the bike stroller? Forget the shopping cart bit. This is a bike with the stroller bit attached to the front. The Symbio could rock this look, no problem.

Sporty models aside, I think Graco could take a lot from this last pram. This was sold for a mere £6, 000 and has to be the most sparkly pram I have ever seen. Could the Symbio carry this off? You bet!

So in an ideal world, my ultimate Symbio b would have the following features:

  • a parent buggy board
  • a bike/ granny-shopping-cart converter
  • a separate bicycle attachment
  • a tonne of gold

What do you think? Perhaps I should leave the pram designing to Graco, they seem to know what they’re doing…

Other prams have tried to derail the Symbio b

Actually, I think that the Symbio b doesn’t really need any of these far out features at all. I’m all for creativity but there has to be a reason for it when it comes to prams. In fact, basic pram designs haven’t really changed all that much since they were first introduced way back when. And the things that parents look for in a pram don’t really differ all that much from family to family either.

According to Which, Graco are one of the best pram manufacturers around and “the first pushchair manufacturer to create a travel system pushchair, which allows parents to add a car seat to the pushchair frame”- which just goes to show that they have always been in touch with what parents actually need in a pram. Forget the scooter attachments and the bling. A pram needs to be practical and it needs to do its job efficiently.

So with this in mind, the Symbio b doesn’t need re-designing all that much.

symbio b toddler side view

Parenting by the book?

When I was pregnant with The big one, around 8 years ago, I devoured pregnancy ‘manuals’ and magazines. It was my first pregnancy and I made it my mission to read up on as much as I could. I think I’ve mentioned before that I tend to get a little ‘obsessed’ with things from time to time and I found that this was one obsession that could actually benefit me. After all, education is the key to greater knowledge and power, right? It’s just that I wonder what exactly these books were teaching me?

Ok, so I knew what was happening to my body as the weeks progressed and I thought I knew what to expect during childbirth. I actually read the infamous’ What to expect when you’re expecting’ and enjoyed it so much I bought the follow on books: the First year and the Toddler years. I find it pretty telling that the Toddler years book has been barely opened.

Is that because by the time my daughter was a toddler I felt that no book could really tell me what I needed to know? I mean, it wasn’t written for my child, now was it? It was written for the average child and I don’t think I know anybody who has one of those.

Our kids are all so different- how can they possibly write a guide to raising them?

During my second pregnancy, I lost interest in the guide books and went with the flow a little more. I was a little older and a little wiser… I still wasn’t prepared for childbirth though. This time, I invested in a different type of parenting manual and I devoured The Baby Whisperer. I found that a lot of her methods suited me and there are still aspects of her work which I greatly admire and techniques which are still working for me and the kids today. But I was still unconvinced.

Should we really be doing it by the book? Should we really be labelling ourselves as a such-and-such parent? Ok, so I don’t agree with the crying it out ‘sleep solution’ but I’m not going to judge you if you do. They’re your children after all and only you know how to raise them. 

I have three children and each of them is a different person. My eldest daughter slept like a dream from five weeks old and self-weaned from the breast at 7 months. My son still does not sleep through the night every night at two years old and he was weaned from the breast at four months, onto specialised formula. Currently, the baby is exclusively breastfed and we are co-sleeping. I’ve practised baby wearing since my son was born and the baby is now in cloth nappies rather than disposables.

I think my point is that I feel unable to box myself into one type of parenting. I have evolved. I have allowed my experiences and my children to guide me through what they need and how they will cope with parenting techniques. Perhaps I am borrowing a method from here and a tip from there- is that so bad?

Parents don’t need to judge each other. Parents need to accept that other parents may do things differently. We are, of course, entitled to believe that our way is much more effective than any other way- we would only do what we thought was best, after all, wouldn’t we?

I no longer parent by the book. I have not opened a single one since the baby was born and I intend to keep it that way. Yes, parenting guides are useful tools for reassurance and for, you know, guidance, but at the end of the day the only person who knows my babies is ME.

At weekends, my name is Captain Tantrum

Aaaaaaggghhhhh!!!!

Nope, still don’t feel any better.

Thank goodness it is Monday!! Honestly, weekends are an absolute nightmare at the moment. The toddler seems to change overnight on a Friday. He goes to bed as the toddler and wakes up as Captain Tantrum. Nothing we do or say pleases him and he is not a pleasant sight to behold at times. What is this all about?

I know that the weekends are a change for him- both mummy and daddy and big sister are around all day, as opposed to just mummy. But its been like that every weekend since he was born. Why has he chosen now to throw  tantrum after tantrum all weekend?

Last Sunday, we spent an hour listening to his screaming demands for me to STAND UP!!

We’ve taken the stance of ignoring his tantrums, in the hope that they will just go away. I don’t believe in the ‘naughty step’ or putting him in a room on his own. I think that ignoring his challenging behaviour and congratulating him when he is playing nicely works a lot better. And it does work… eventually.

This weekend, he kicked off about various things, so small that I cannot remember now what they were. We got to the point where we felt he must be coming down with something, otherwise why else would he be acting this way?!

This morning, I discovered that distraction still works as I brightly tried to convince him that I could hear a cat saying ‘quack quack’. He solemnly told me that cats say ‘miaow’ and luckily a tantrum was avoided. And guess what? He has been good as gold all day.

It’s a weekend thing. All week, he is his usual cheery self, with the odd little stamp of the feet and raised voice (he isn’t boring, after all) but nothing to really report back on. Today we have taken the big one to school, then to the aquarium, then to soft play with friends. And as I write this, a huge light bulb is hovering over my head…

The kid likes routine. He likes to know where he is and when he is doing it. He likes to see the same people at the same times and he likes to keep busy. There is no time for relaxing at weekends (just as well with a new baby imminent) and, most importantly, he likes to be in charge AT ALL TIMES.

Is this it? Will I eliminate weekend tantrums by imitating a weekday at the weekend? Watch this space…