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Dear Mother - a love letter about your journey

Dear Mother – A Love Letter from Me to You

Dear Mother - a love letter about your journey

I’m currently sitting in bed, on day 4 of a hideous virus that has totally knocked me for six and left me unable to do much more than lay still and think. And think I have…

You see, any time I get so sick that the only thing I can do is lay in bed and wait it out, I am reminded of the torturous days of my pregnancy, when Hyperemesis ruled my life. Any HG survivor will attest to how the smallest sniff of nausea can bring on a memory of those days, but when you find yourself so completely wiped out that you can barely move, and your brain is so confused you cannot focus on anything, those memories can be huge.

For me, there is this added feeling of guilt and grief that comes with it. As much as I am terrified of ever having another pregnancy (enough so that we are not having any more children) there is always that feeling of sadness that actually, I wish we were expecting again, I wish I could have been stronger last time, I wish I could face it all again. And that makes me feel like I failed, all over again.

These past 4 days, I have gone through a lot of emotions. And the one thing that has cropped up time and time again is that I haven’t allowed myself to grieve properly for what was lost. I’ve been too focused on “seeing the positives” and “moving on”. But equally, I haven’t allowed myself to really see how my journey towards motherhood was just as valid and beautiful as anyone else’s, even if it didn’t look like the natural, glowing, mother-earth type pregnancy we’re shown in the media.

So I did what I always do when I need to work through emotions as big as these. I began to write. First I wrote page after page of how I truly felt about it all, no holds barred, no worries about what people will think. And then the next day I wrote a love letter to myself.

The shift in how I felt made me realise that I needed to hear this. And maybe you do too. Whatever your journey, whatever hurdles you’ve faced, whatever heartbreak has hit you, please know that this is written in love for each and every one of you, just as it was written in love for me.

Dear Mother - a Love Letter from Me to You

I’ve created a Printable Version of this love letter that you can print out if you feel like it. And please, do share this far and wide with as many mothers as you feel need to hear this.

I love you all.

This post has been added to the #MaternityMatters linky hosted by Ghostwriter Mummy.

Maternity Matters~ Ghostwritermummy

Finding the Blessings: Reflections on the past three years

Three years ago today I was at the hospital, having been induced early that morning. Despite the fact I didn’t know what to expect and was starting to feel decidedly unwell by this point in the day, I was thankful that whatever happened I was not leaving that hospital again until I had given birth to my baby. Nine long months of suffering with hyperemesis gravidarum was finally going to be over, and I was ready to move on. birth However, I totally underestimated just how difficult life would be over the years ahead. After such a challenging pregnancy I was convinced life could only get better. And it did in many, many ways. I was finally a mother, something I had always dreamed of being, ever since I was a very young girl. I loved every sleep-deprived moment of those early days, but life was far from easy.

Over the past three years so much has happened… both TJ and I have changed jobs, I’ve written a book, and Little Man has grown into the most adorable little boy. But the biggest change has been in TJ’s health. I have watched my husband gradually lose himself to some truly awful neuropathic symptoms and my own health has, in turn, taken a real beating as I try to balance the changing needs of my family along with working full-time and working on the book. I am, quite frankly, beyond exhausted.

Most days I feel like crying. I feel myself breaking into a million pieces, torn between so many responsibilities. And I have lost so much of the optimism and faith that once defined the way I viewed the world. I’ve lost the trust that “one day” life will get easier! But beneath all of that sadness, anger and grief, there is a little light that shines so brightly… SAM_1297 This gorgeous boy of mine, the one I fought through nine terrifyingly long months of sickness to meet, means the world to me. He is, quite simply, the light of our lives and no matter how hard things get, we keep going for him. Because he is worth it.

There was a time when I wasn’t sure I could have children. Despite the fact I would have loved a larger family, there are some incredible blessings to be had in having an only child. Our love for Little Man is unrivalled by any other, and his love is poured on us just as freely. Whilst I know we would have loved other children just as much, knowing that we get to pour all our love onto him alone is a wonderful feeling.

Of course we have our moments, times when I worry about the effect of all this stress on him. The times he sobs and just wants his mummy because he cannot express what is wrong, just that he is sad. And his frustration comes out by hitting, kicking and pinching right now, which is incredibly difficult to cope with. But even at those times we know that his heart is full of love for us and others, because we see it every single day. He adores making friends and finds joy in the simplest of things and reminds us that life is so beautiful, if only you would look. Feeding Daddy Daddy will probably hate me for posting this photo, but I love the beauty in seeing my boy sharing with his daddy and “looking after him”

The nine months of sickness were more than worth it for a lifetime with this beautiful little boy, and knowing this gives me the hope and strength I need to know that the battles we are currently facing are more than worth it for the life we have together. Right now. I no longer look for “one day”… that day may never come.

But right now my life is so totally blessed. I have a husband who is my best friend, who has stood by me through my darkest periods and now trusts me to stand by him through his. And together we are raising the most important person in our lives, receiving just as much from him as he receives from us. No matter what life throws at us, so long as we are together we will get through it.

Ticket to Ride

We climbed on board the train, bought our “ticket to ride” and chose the people we wanted to go on this journey with. I have no idea where we’re going, what the destination is or when we’ll get there, but right now I am choosing to enjoy the journey for what it is. A blessing.

 This post has been added to the Share the Joy linky (hosted by Bod For Tea) on 2nd February 2015

Share the Joy linky at bodfortea.co.uk

Parenting – Are These The “Happiest Days of Your Life”?

The other day I wrote a blog post about feeling guilty as a wife, mother and friend. It got quite a varied response, with one friend telling me she felt exactly the same a lot of the time and then a different friend asking me why I was letting so much guilt in when this should be the “happiest time of your life”.

At first my response was that these past two years have been the most stressful of my life in many, many ways. I suffered from Hyperemesis Gravidarum during pregnancy, then I started having problems with nausea and then Endo pains pretty soon after having Little Man, and  now my husband has just been told that he most likely has small fibre neuropathy. That’s a lot of health issues to cope with when you have a young child taking up so much of your time and energy!

But it struck me as interesting that within my group of friends there was such a wide gap between the one who told me that she too struggled with guilt and the one who told me that this guilt was unhealthy and that my focus was all wrong. I have a lovely husband and a beautiful son, how could I be letting guilt ruin what should be the happiest time of my life? It seems especially important to ask this when I spent many years of my life looking forward to this exact moment. Am I simply ungrateful for what I have, or did I completely underestimate how hard this would all be?

I wanted to see what other parents thought to this, so I asked a few other bloggers  for their thoughts. Here are their responses:

“I’m with you on this one. I can now see that I had no idea what it was like to be a parent until I had my own children. One minute it can be utter bliss and then in an instant everything can be total s**t (literally). Parenting is constant, I’d like to meet anyone who can be happy every minute of the day when they are always on duty!! I just look forward to the days when my friends have children and I shall just smile knowingly to myself.” – Ginger Bisquite

“Parenting is like a roller coaster, looking on at the people screaming and arms in the air it looks like loads of fun, but when you’re on it there’s the mixed feeling of nerves, elations and slight terror as you navigate the track. No one can fully understand how it feels until you’re on the ride. And it’s a ride you can’t get off. There are always going to be moments that are overwhelming and you can burst into tears in the street and there can be times where your heart is so full full of love it feels like a dream. The one thing it most definitely is? Hard work, a relationship that is constantly challenging you. To all the mums out there I take my hat off to you.” – Wild & Grizzly

“To me, this kind of response just adds something else to feel guilty about – not enjoying every moment! I regularly feel as though I’m the only who isn’t enjoying every moment and that there must be something wrong with me! Reality is that parenting is blummin’ hard work. FACT!” – 3 Children and It

“To me, the happiest time in my life doesn’t exist anyway. I find life mostly hard work and stress with the odd good day, you know, every decade or so …..”

“I get so angry at those type of comments (enjoy it, they won’t be like this forever etc.) – some days I can’t wait for my boys to be old enough to blow their own noses and be left alone for 20 minutes without risk of them destroying the house, or each other! Parenthood is a rollercoaster (and at times, bloody hard work, especially with pre-schoolers). This myth of it being permanently wonderful isn’t helping anyone…” – Hodge Podge Craft

*edited – in respone to Hodge Podge’s comment* “I find those things are a reminder for me when the kids do tire me out and I feel like I have no energy, am too stressed etc. I do feel like I will miss this stage once it is over and it helps me to remind myself of that at times when it feels challenging. As for happiest times of your life, I think that’s probably way too broad and way too individual for anyone to make these kind of sweeping statements.” – In The Playroom

“I keep having these thoughts. I know it is a blessing to have my little one, and I am eternally grateful for it, but we are humans too. We are allowed our mood-swings and meltdowns. I have written about this here” – Rambling Through Parenthood

Reading these comments back, I am reminded that parenting is hard work and that’s a fact! And yet we put all this pressure on ourselves to have the most perfect life ever.

We see, hear and read about people “having it all”. We believe we should be able to do all these things and still have time and energy to spare, but that is just nuts. So often the only things we share are the good bits, the bits which we want people to see. We hide the exhaustion, frustration and anger we feel because it doesn’t seem right to share these. Everybody else seems to have it all under control, and so we feel bad about the fact that we don’t. What is wrong with us? Why can’t we be like everybody else?

But the truth is everybody has these moments in life when it all gets too much. And by hiding this we make it harder for ourselves and others to ever admit that. We get caught up in trying to keep up with an impossible ideal and it is that which leads us down the path of guilt.

When I first received the comment about this being the happiest time of my life I reacted strongly… with guilt, go figure! But why should I? This is where my thinking is all wrong… these past few years have been the most challenging but they have been brightened by the wonderful parts of being a parent. However, when I fall into the trap of believing my life isn’t perfect without being able to do and be everything I want to be (or feel I need to be) I lose that balance entirely.

With that in mind I am making a few changes around here. The things I feel guilty about are the things my heart yearns for the most. Guilt can be  a very helpful emotion so long as you use it as an indicator to what is wrong, rather than believing there is nothing you can do about it. I am choosing to use it as a measure of what needs to change in my life.

These days may be the happiest of my life, but they are also some of the most stressful – and that’s okay!

Potty Training – A Relaxed Approach

Ever since I started working for an Early Years' Consultant I have come across a vast amount of information and a wide range of ideas through keeping up with social media feeds and industry press. And sometimes it can all feel a little overwhelming – which style will suit you best and how will you adapt what you see, hear and read into your reality of life as a parent?

One thing I have come to appreciate more than ever before is that there really is no "right" or "wrong" answer and most of us are just blundering our way through parenting, hoping to do the very best we can for ourselves and our children but knowing we will invariably get some things "wrong". Finding what works for you and your own family is key to not only surviving but thriving.

Some things I have found myself doing differently to how I thought I would prior to having a child of my own, others I have stuck with completely. Many of those things I already had strong ideas and preferences about came from experiences working in childcare and thinking "I like the way that parent does this, I hope I can achieve something similar when I'm a parent". But some things I just had no experience of whatsoever.

Potty training is one of those things! I've worked with under 2s and pre-school aged children, but never with this 2-3 year age when potty training usually begins. I have no experience and therefore had no pre-conceived ideas about how it might work or how I might make it as stress-free as possible. And so this is one of those areas where I would avidly read any messages that popped up on the various social media feeds I follow.

The one thing I really took from this is that I wanted to take as relaxed an approach as possible and that all children potty train in their own time. No matter what techniques people used, the one thing most seemed to agree on was that there was no rushing children to potty train, you could try for months without success and then as soon as they were ready they would "get it" within a week or two. Sounds good, right?

Except because both TJ and I work full-time, Little Man goes to nursery 3 full days a week. I also work another 2 days from home, fitting work in around Little Man as best I can. This means that there is very little chance for us to let him run around and just take it at his own pace. Were I at home with him every day I would simply leave his potty where he could find it as and when he wanted to, following his cues and just going along with his leads.

Little Man started holding on to his wee months ago, and so we decided that as he seemed to be showing more control and interest in the potty we would try potty training over Christmas. We had 2 whole weeks off with him and thought it was the perfect opportunity to have a "relaxed approach" to the whole thing. But what actually happened was we spent such a large amount of that time travelling and visiting family that there was very little time to just take it slowly… Little Man was put in nappies for journeys and visits to avoid stress (for him and for us) and so there was no consistency to it at all.

And so when he returned to nursery he was in pull-ups and had no interest in trying the potty. We continued letting him run around without a nappy on or "big boy pants" at home and he was doing okay. He really enjoys his Pirate Pete's Potty book and will happily sit on his potty whilst watching tv or reading a book. But he would then wait until his nappy or pants were put back on before doing his wee. He actually got quite upset when he did a wee in the potty at times, whereas others he would happily ask us to "flush" it down the "toilet". It was all a bit confusing…

Then the other day he had 9 accidents at nursery (which is entirely unheard of normally) and got very, very upset about it all. And I felt awful. Though I had set out to have a "relaxed approach" it just hadn't worked out as I had hoped. Little Man was obviously getting upset by it all and it was time to say "stop". The last thing I want is to stress him out about it.

I didn't want to take a complete step back, so instead of returning to cloth nappies we have gone back to disposable pull-ups. We had been using cloth training pants but they just aren't absorbent enough to deal with Little Man's mega wees! This way he can still pull his "big boy pants" down and sit on the potty, but he has the security of knowing if he wees himself it will be okay. It has taken a few days of reassuring him that these "special" big boy pants will do that but he seems much happier again now.

In retrospect we tried too early. He has the physical control but is not quite ready to take that big step. He is, after all, only 2 years and 4 months and whilst some children potty train this early, many don't. And I feel bad that we rushed him, but equally I know as a parent that the "relaxed approach" should not only benefit our children but also ourselves. We are all on a huge learning curve and if we can't cut ourselves some slack then who will? Certainly not the media who makes us all think that we should be competing in this parenting journey!! 

I misjudged the situation… but we got through it and we're just going to take it as it comes. If it takes until next Christmas to get to grips with the potty then so be it! Of course I would rather it didn't, but I am not going to stress Little Man and myself over it. Too much of life is spent comparing ourselves and our achievements with those of others, I don't want to start Little Man's life in that way. 

Now begins our new and improved "relaxed approach". I am sure we will make many more mistakes along the way, but hopefully we can continue to work through it together and keep listening to each other and honouring the feelings we all have.

So tell me, how did potty training work out for you and your family? Did you struggle with it or was it relaxed and straight-forward? I'd love to hear from you as I know everyone's experience is different!

Faith without Religion

I've been thinking a lot about faith and religion lately. Until earlier this year I didn't really feel like I belonged to any specific community. I had my faith, but it was my faith which kept me from fitting in to many more "mainstream" religions. And though I missed the community aspect, this wasn't a big deal for me. Until I had Little Man.

It strikes me that by having no religion as such I am "going it alone" in terms of introducing the idea of faith and God and everything else to Little Man. There are very few resources available (that I have found) which offer suggestions and age-appropriate stories and games which could introduce the thoughts and ideas to him, without coming from a very specific religious background. And as I believe faith is unique and do not want to push any one path upon Little Man, this concerned me.

So I was immensely glad when I found out more about the Unitarians this year and that TJ has shown a real interest in Paganism. I guess these two come under the umbrella term of "religion" but still they don't have the same religious concepts as many others do. The Unitarians believe you should actively seek your own experience and understanding of the Divine, whilst Paganism is such a varied path that to define a Pagan is quite challenging. 

There is no "standard teaching", no tagline which defines these two. And that is what makes me feel so comfortable with them. My own experience of faith and God has been that it cannot be squashed into any human terms, not fully. We can try to define the Divine in our own way and I think it is an important thing for us to do personally, but we cannot define it for another. For me, no one religion or person has the whole "truth". We all find aspects of the Divine that are important and appropriate for us in our current circumstances. To me, God is so huge that to claim we know exactly who and what he is and what he wants from us is to limit the unlimitless. 

But then, that is something I have come to understand over many years of experience and thinking. How do I express that very thing to Little Man? How do I show him that this is what mama believes, this is what daddy believes, but what he believes is more important for him? He isn't old enough for that kind of understanding just yet. So where do we start?

And yet, when I think back I realise that religion didn't really play a huge part in my early childhood either. My family weren't religious. I heard the odd Bible story at school but that was about it. And yet I have always had this immense faith that God was there, I was never alone, and that there was a purpose and flow to everything even if I couldn't see it at that time. This has obviously evolved and developed as I grew older, but the basis has always been there.

So maybe as children we are more aware of the Divine than we realise and faith develops anyway, whether we offer up teaching through a religion or not. Perhaps I need not worry so much about how and what to teach Little Man and just concentrate on living life through my own faith and seeing where that leads us. 

What do you think? Do you belong to a religion? How do you/did you raise your children? What resources have you found which help you in this?

Unitarian. Druid. A Strange Combination?

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For the past ten years I have spent an awful lot of time thinking about where I fit in when it comes to faith, spirituality and indeed religion. It has been a rocky road because although I know what it is I believe, finding a name for that and thereby a way to express it has been challenging.

For many, many years I honestly believed that faith in God must equate to being a Christian. It sounds utterly naive now based on everything I have learned in the past ten years or so, but let me paint the picture. My family weren't religious. They had beliefs, but we didn't attend church or home groups or anything. My experience of religion was through school and the odd church service with Brownies, Guides or the few months I spent singing in my friend's church choir. 

So when I went to university, I automatically joined the Christian Union. And that was when it all got complicated…

I found myself in a place that didn't feel right. Things that I had held dear were not only questioned but sometimes downright ridiculed and I went through a major spiritual crisis. I felt lost and alone and I didn't want anything to do with that world.

Luckily I found support online through some spiritual (New Age) forums and began to open up again. I even decided to spend my three month stay in Germany not only volunteering with the Salvation Army but also staying with a family there too. And I had a wonderful time.

Those three months did a fine job of healing a lot of the hurt I had felt and broke down my defensive barriers because they taught me that what I had experienced previously was an extreme and not the norm. I felt happy and loved during those three months and still write to some of the officers every year as I remember my time there so fondly.

But however much that experience brought me back from a place of being hostile towards Christianity, it also left me more confused than ever. Conversations led to my realising that my beliefs weren't always that far from those of what I'll call "mainstream Christianity" for want of a better term, but I still had some major differences that I personally felt stopped me from connecting with the Christian community.

Things like "original sin", "predestination", and the concept of the "Trinity". 

Oh and the fact that I practise Reiki, believe Angels are sent from God to help us all, and that every living thing has a soul that survives beyond physical death.

It didn't help that when I tried once more to connect with a Christian community online to try and figure this all out I was kicked off the forum for "saying the wrong thing". Whoops!

You'd think I would have just given up and gone my merry way in the spiritual community that seemed to have no pre-requisites, right? But there remained a part of me that missed the connection that belonging to a "real life" community brings. And this only grew once I fell pregnant with Little Man and started to think about how I would raise him.

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So when TJ started suggesting we should look again for some "Pagan" groups to join I initially felt rather excited. 

Except, upon reading more I began to wonder if I really was fully Pagan either. It seemed as if I was somewhere in the middle, between liberal (perhaps very liberal) Christian and loosely Pagan, not really fitting in one world or the other.

Yet the week we spent in Glastonbury earlier this year brought home just how much I miss the community spirit of togetherness. We had a wonderful time celebrating Beltane, and we held a beautiful little blessing for Little Man in the Chalice Well Gardens…

Blessing 9

So when TJ decided he really felt like Druidry might be where he felt his heart taking him, I listened with interest as he explained how some Druids consider themselves to be Christian as well and that the two don't necessarily clash.

I don't pretend to know all that much about Druidry as that is TJ's area, not mine. But it did make me wonder just how that would work. So I looked for more information, reading bits here and there, and eventually coming across the term "Unitarian".

It wasn't a new term to me. TJand I had actually been to a Unitarian church a couple of times, but for some reason I had never fully looked into it. And the more I read the more I realised I had probably been "Unitarian" all of my life, without really knowing.

Suddenly I felt less alone. I realised that there are groups out there that will help me as I develop further in my faith and that can offer support as I do the best I can in raising Little Man to seek his own relationship with God. 

And with all the other changes I've been making lately I feel much more confident and secure in sharing this with him, and with others. Whereas before I would carefully write such things as "my faith has helped me through HG" or avoiding the subject altogether, I now want to share that as it is crucial to understanding some of the things I am going through. And whereas I often used to avoid joining in with people when they discussed a topic, I feel able to take part now.

I found this amazing resource this morning answering common questions about Unitarianism and I found myself nodding along with so many parts of it. But the thing that really made my heart sing was this:

"We favour a simple and inclusive definition of the word Christian. Thus a Christian is any person who seeks to live in accord with the life and teachings of Jesus, who identifies with what is best in the Christian tradition, and who, perhaps, sees in Jesus a revelation of the God who is immanent in all people. This is the wellspring of love that permeated his nature and his ministry."

Cliff Reed "Are Unitarians Christians?"

I never felt comfortable saying I was "Christian" but in actual fact I have a huge amount of love for the life that Jesus led. I want to be able to show Oscar the Bible as a part of his upbringing in a way that allows him to think about it and decide what he believes to be true in his own heart. Because I ultimately hope that Little Man will have the freedom and courage to explore various paths before choosing that which he experiences as bringing him into a closer relationship with God, however he understands God to be. 

And that makes me feel glad. 

As a family we can celebrate those things we all share in our beliefs and still celebrate those which are different. We can pray and read the Bible, but we can also meditate, celebrate the Wheel of the Year, plant a Sacred Grove, and be open to learning more about the faiths of others. 

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Oh baby boy… this is going to be such a wonderful journey for us all!

I totally understand that this post may not sit very well with some people. I am leaving comments open on this post as I am happy to discuss this with anyone who wants a mutually open conversation built on respect for differences as well as celebrating similarities.  But I am not open to comments that aim only to either end in a massive theological debate in a hope to "prove me wrong" or simply undermine my own relationship with God. I have had plenty of those in the past and this isn't the time or place for it. Any such comments will be deleted. Thank you. 

The Hardest Decision (HG)

If you haven't been following this blog for long enough to know about our Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) journey, then you can catch up here.

I've been wanting to write this post for a few days now but really wasn't sure how to start. So let's go straight in at the crux of the matter: TJ and I made a promise to ourselves last week that we will never put ourselves (and Little Man and our families) through another pregnancy.

We've been going backwards and forwards between "never again" and "but we might want another child". Okay, who am I kidding? I've always imagined having 2 or 3 children and the thought of stopping at one is a very hard one to get my head (and heart) around. But HG made our life such hell that even I began to believe the "never again" option…

And so when that jealousy and anguish started to kick in when Little Man was just a few months old, when I realised I'd never get to experience the newborn stage again, never get to give birth again and cherish those first few hours with my baby, I lost my resolve. I began to believe that if we planned everything meticulously it might be possible. It certainly seemed preferable to that awful feeling in the pit of my stomach every time I heard of another friend having a baby or saw a random pregnant lady walking about town with a smile on her face.

But the more we talked about it and the more I researched it the scarier the whole thing became. We realised that we would have to wait until Little Man was in full-time education (so almost 5 thanks to him being a September baby) and that we'd have to spend a good year prior to trying to conceive preparing ourselves and Little Man physically, mentally and emotionally. 

It would mean potentially getting my health to a certain level only to risk it dropping to one of its lowest points again. And it's not as if my health is great at the best of times! I've had difficulties with my periods since they began in my early teens, but in the past 5-10 years they have really taken a toll on me. And not surprising when I realised that the pain I felt with my Endometriosis was akin to the pain experienced in labour! I had been going to school, university and work for years in the same level of pain as early labour, only thinking to take the day off when it got to the level of transitional labour. And doing that month in and month out, especially when I'd sometimes only go 2 or 3 weeks between periods, has taken it's toll.

So my recovery from pregnancy has been a slow one, what with the reappearance of my periods at 3 months post-partum, complete with nausea. 

And then there are the other factors playing against us. Things like my increased risk of an ectopic pregnancy (thanks to damage from the Endo to one of my fallopian tubes) and the risk of possibly developing Obstetric Cholestasis again. And I was considered at risk of developing Pre-eclampsia throughout my last pregnancy so may well have that as a factor again. And all of this made me begin to think that there were just far too many reasons not to have another pregnancy than to do it all again.

We were lucky that I fell pregnant quickly last time and that Little Man came out healthy and strong. There is no guarantee we'd have the same luck a second time. And the emotional trauma that both TJ and I experienced is ongoing. The guilt I feel at having put us both through it once is bad enough. And that was with going into it having no idea how bad it would be. To do it a second time knowing just how bad it could be, well that would just be too much.

So logically the decision makes perfect sense. 

And yet it is one of the hardest, if not the hardest things I have ever had to do. 

My head and my heart have been at war. And it was tearing me apart. So it felt like a relief to make a final decision, rather than going back and forth between one choice and the other. But it still hurts. 

One of the things I had to do in my CBT sessions recently was write a list of "I deserve…" and it was hard. What I wanted to write was, "I deserve to be healthy. I deserve to have another baby. I deserve to enjoy pregnancy". But I couldn't, because I know that it really isn't likely. Endo continues to affect my health and even if I had another baby of my own it is highly likely it would be a battle rather than a joy. 

According to my therapist, this is the point. These are things that I should be able to write, even if they aren't likely. That I should feel justified in the pain and sadness it brings knowing that these are things I should be able to experience. But it doesn't change the reality…

But even though it is hard, I know it is the right decision for my family. The pain at not having the chance to do all those things connected to carrying and giving birth to your own baby is far less than the pain we could feel by trying to do it all again in spite of all the things against us.

It hurts to know I'll never get to breastfeed another baby, especially as we had such troubles when Little Man was young. It hurts to know we'll never get to go to another scan, to see our baby for the first time, to choose a name and prepare our hearts and lives for a new baby. It hurts in a way that I know some people will know in their own hearts, but so many others will never understand. Not fully.

We feel blessed that Endometriosis didn't rob us of my fertility, but at the same time it is a leading contributor to the decision to never do it again. The time it takes for me to recover from pregnancy and the risk of Ectopic pregnancies that it has caused combined with the risk of complications during pregnancy makes me feel like, in some way, we have more in common with those who physically cannot have a baby than those who can. Because we feel it is an option we just cannot take, however much we'd like to.

But where does that leave us for support? We could try for another baby, so don't really have infertility issues. We're not actively trying and unable to. But choosing not to is not our first choice. 

This is why it is so important for me to dedicate as much of my time and energy to raising awareness of HG and that it is so much more than "severe Nausea and Vomiting in Pregnancy". There needs to be much more understanding of just how bad it can be. There needs to be much more research into potential causes of it and possible medications to help with the severity of the symptoms. There needs to be far more support. All of this is needed to help prevent other women having to face these exact same decisions and to support them if they do.

TJ and I are heading off to the annual conference held by Pregnancy Sickness Support this month, and I am working hard on reading through as much research as I can and bringing together as many "personal experiences" as possible from other HG sufferers and survivors to ensure the book I am writing is as accurate, informative, supportive and representative as possible. It is a big task but it is one close to my heart.

And having this project helps, in a small way, to give meaning to all of this. As a writer, this is an ideal project for me. It gives a purpose to my work. And gives me something positive to focus on rather than only the negative.

TJ and I still have a lot of healing to do. And we still have some big decisions to make. The biggest of all being do we remain as a one child family, or do we look into fostering and/or adoption. And I'm sure I'll be writing about this a lot over the next few years. But for now, we've made the hardest decision of all. Little Man is to be our only biological child. Our journey of creating a family in the natural way is over. And that is taking some getting used to…

NB: I must add here that since writing this I have done much more research and we have discovered just how badly managed my pregnancy was and how we could potentially have a better experience a second time round, is still difficult. So we have opened it up to a "maybe" again, however not for several more years yet!!

Spirituality and Kids

Okay, so this post is a biggie for me. I generally only write very vaguely about my spirituality on the blog (and other places online, and in person, to be completely honest). It's a combination of not knowing quite how to explain what it is I believe and being afraid of sharing it and gaining negative reactions and/or getting myself into theosophical debates with people who have very specific sources of information to refer to when I don't. 

TJ bought me a book called "Pagan Parenting" for Christmas and there is a section within it that sums this up very nicely:

"[…]This raises the question of whether to be totally honest or to pretend to be like everyone else. It is a question faced daily by anyone on the fringes of the majority […] Children growing up with metaphysical beliefs will often not share this side of themselves with mainstream friends for fear of rejection and ridicule.[…] A large part of one's public profile is deciding what should be encompassed within that role. For most followers of mainstream religions, this is not even a question that comes to mind. Unless the individual is extremely devout, religion is not often a part of their public persona. They neither hide it nor broadcast it. It is like skin color, hair color or anything else that is an integral part of who we are without needing to think about it."

In many ways I'm like the child mentioned in that. I have an instinctual urge to be honest and open about who I am and what I believe, but there is that fear of ridicule or rejection. And if I feel that myself, it is only to be expected that Little Man will pick up on this and learn by my example how to fear these things too.

So being honest, first to myself and then to others, is essential if I truly want Little Man to grow up knowing it is perfectly okay for him to explore his own spirituality and choose his own path. I can't tell him to do one thing when I am doing something opposite myself. 

TJ is much better at living his spirituality than I am. He likes ritual and "being a part of something" and it was his idea to dress up for Beltane when we were in Glastonbury this year (in fact he bought the dress for me because I was taking my own sweet time to decide on something!)

But I don't really like ritual. I feel embarrassed when doing it, and personally find it takes my mind and heart away from the matter at hand. I love the idea of it and know it works well for so many people, but I'm just not very good at it. 

So whereas TJ finds quite a lot of help and ideas in various Pagan sources, I continue to find myself falling somewhere just on the outside, not quite sure of where I belong. There is no uncertainty in what it is I believe, that's a mistake people sometimes make when I say this. I know quite strongly what is essential to me and those things that I haven't quite figured out yet, well that's what life is for, right? But expressing it and living it is another matter.

You may wonder why I feel this need to be open about it all. Surely the quotation I used at the beginning of the post points out that a lot of people do keep their spiritual and public lives separate. The problem for me is that although I can quite happily keep them separate for the most part, there are times when my spirituality is essential for explaining my outlook on life and how I get through certain things.

For instance, before we started trying to conceive I had come to a certain "peace" with the thought that if we were "meant" to have our own child we would but if not it meant that there was a different path for us to follow. This "peace" wasn't easy and of course my heart desperately wanted to experience carrying my own child. We were incredibly lucky to have that opportunity, but the hell of a HG pregnancy (further complicated by Obstetric Cholestasis) means that there were times when I truly wondered what I was meant to "learn" from this and what it meant for our future. I still don't know the answers to those questions, but my spirituality still helps me by reassuring me that even if I don't know the answer, someone (or something) does!

And so this reassurance is something that I want to share with Little Man. I want him to know that even when he feels at his most vulnerable and most alone, there is someone he can turn to. I want him to see beyond what is obvious and look to the deeper meaning behind things, to see the connection between all life and all living things so that respecting nature and our environment and other people is more than just something he is "expected" to do. 

I want him to understand that mummy and daddy do certain things for a reason. That we choose to use cloth nappies, try and eat healthy, locally grown foods when we can, and want to do all we can for those around us because that is our way of honouring the life we have been given and the life all around us. 

And the only way I can do this, truly do it, is to live it. Which means stepping out from the fear of rejection and ridicule and being true to myself and my spirituality. And this also means honouring and sharing TJ's own individual spirituality (which is different to my own) and in turn honouring Little Man's too. 

But how do you do this without risking that same rejection and ridicule for your child? What if something I do, some choice I make or some post I write on here has a negative reaction that comes back to Little Man? Judgement waits around every corner and although I believe in being as open and honest as you can be, I do know that sometimes holding back is a good thing. 

Where is the balance? How much of yourself do you share, to avoid confusion and to have trusting relationships with others based on honesty and truth? It's such a difficult thing to know and if I was scared about it before, I'm even more scared about it now that my actions could negatively affect Little Man. Without a "mainstream" understanding and image to guide and support us, where do we start?

I don't know if I'll ever know the answer, but I do know that it is an important question to ask!

I’m a Little Bear…

Little bear

Hello.

I’m a little bear, wrapped up against the cold.

Mummy asked me to send you a quick message as she didn’t want you to think she had forgotten you all.

So, here I am.

She is a little busy right now getting everything ready for something she calls Christmas. She tells me I will love it when I am a little bit older. I have to say I quite like listening to all the new songs she and daddy sing these days. And all the lights and shiny stuff mummy calls “tinsel” are rather pleasant to look at while having a cuddle. Does it get even better?

Mummy told me to tell you that she is also planning some changes for her blog. She is thinking of changing the name to “The Family Patch” because we are a family now. I thought she should call it “Little Man’s Patch” but she said that it couldn’t always be about me…

That’s what she thinks!

She is working on changing the design, because she says she can’t really have a pink blog when she has a little boy. She did dress me in something pink-ish the other day and I did look a little bit girly, so maybe she is right.

But it is taking her a long time to make the changes because I spend a lot of time cooing at her and smiling at her and trying my hardest to laugh so she knows just how much I love being bounced up and down and watching her and daddy making silly faces at me. So even when she leaves me with daddy and plans on doing some work she always ends up getting distracted by things like this…

Smile

I’m getting pretty good at this smiling malarkey, don’t you think?

So mummy asks you to excuse her over the next week or two because between me and Christmas she doesn’t have much spare time. But she promises to be back in the New Year with a brand new blog design to reflect her new life with me.

I better go now. She has been busy for long enough and I think she needs to be reminded that I am waiting for more silly noises and face making as she attempts to make me giggle.

Toodle-oo

A Grandad’s Love

Sky

I absolutely adore this photo. Everything about it is just so beautiful. It was taken during over the weekend when Little Man and I went to stay at my parents so that I had help while TJ was working night shifts (and TJ could get sleep during the day ready for trying to stay awake and professional all night long!)

It was strange going away without TJ. And I won't even go into the uneasy feeling that hung around the pit of my stomach, ready to catch me out when a quiet moment crept up on me from time to time. I couldn't quite put my finger on why I felt so anxious in those moments, but I would be willing to bet it was because the last time I stayed there was the week leading up to my induction when I was feeling pretty darn rough and more than ready for the week to be over and my baby to be here. Let's be honest here, when you are told right at the very end of an extremely difficult pregnancy (just when you thought you were on the home straight and all the sickness was almost over) that you've developed yet another health issue that has been known to be a factor in stillbirth and so you need to be monitored and then induced, you can't help but feel rather more than a little bit anxious! And as I only stayed at my parents at one other time during my pregnancy, just after the sickness started to ease off a bit, it's no wonder my subconscious kept dragging up those intense feelings when I wasn't distracted by anything else. 

But this photo was taken during one of the (much more frequent) tender moments of the weekend, as my dad introduced his first grandchild to his garden. My dad loves gardening, and even does some as a volunteer now he is retired, so his garden is his pride and joy. So who better to share it with than the grandson he adores so very much? 

My pregnancy was traumatic not just for me but also for my husband and my parents. They were all just as terrified of something happening to Little Man as I was. So now that he is here we are all showering him with so much love and sharing all the wonderful things we have dreamed of sharing with him for so very long. 

When my dad came to visit me in the hospital the day after Little Man was born he told me that he was so proud of me and thanked me for giving him the grandson he never thought he would have. After all the problems I had experienced with Endometriosis, my dad had thought that we would be struck by infertility and that having a baby would be a dream we would never get to realise. The sheer amount of raw emotion in his eyes that day, the incredible love and pride he had for me and my son, was overwhelming. And so that is why I love this photo so very much, because it completely captures just how much this grandad loves and cherishes his grandson. 

I love you dad. Thank you for loving me and my son so very much xx

Sleepless nights and colic

From Mum's Camera 119

Little Man is now 2 weeks and 4 days old. It’s hard to believe that we’ve had him for less than 3 weeks because it feels like a lifetime ago that I gave birth to him. It’s also hard to believe that had I not been induced early I could still be pregnant!

I can’t imagine life without him. In fact we’ve felt really strange the past few nights as Little Man has slept in the spare room with my mum and going to bed without him is really hard, despite the fact we are eternally grateful for the chance to catch up on some sleep.

One Day asked recently how life was going, particularly in terms of feeding and sleeping. Well I can safely say feeding is going well. On Monday he was up to 9lbs 11oz and he is now latching on well to the breast as well as accepting expressed milk through a bottle (meaning I get to sleep at least some of the night!) My milk supply is strong and I often spring leaks as the most inopportune times. I have to wear two breastpads on each side at a time and change them regularly. And Little Man and I have often both been soaked by one side leaking as I feed him from the other side. And when I express I can get between 2 and 4oz and still go on to feed him. So feeding wise we have no worries…

Sleeping is another matter though. Since coming home Little Man has rarely slept for more than 2 hours at a time and more often than not wakes up every half hour or so. He is as exhausted as we are, but unfortunately he is suffering from both terrible colic and a really congested nose. He has been mucousy since birth and rarely burps and has never spit up, not even the tiniest bit, but he gets so gassy and so ends up in terrible pain. It is horrible to see his knees pull up and his face go red and to hear him scream and know there isn’t anything more we can do. We are trying everything but it just doesn’t help him clear the gas.

We actually took him to the doctor yesterday as we were concerned that it wasn’t clearing and that he was struggling to breathe when laid on his back, which is of course how you’re supposed to lay them to sleep. He is a really strong boy already though and we often ended up taking him into our bed to try and comfort him through the night and although we’d lay him on his back, he would quickly roll onto his side to snuggle closer to us. The doctor listened to his chest and reassured us his chest is clear, but prescribed some saline nasal drops to try and clear the congestion in his nose. She explained that his colic is most likely caused by him taking in air when feeding because he just cannot breathe properly and so comes off the breast several times each feed and gasps and then gulps the milk down when he can. So we’re hoping these drops might help. We’re also hoping he’ll stop gagging on the mucus too if he can finally clear it!

So the first few weeks of parenthood have been full of sleepless nights and trying to soothe a baby in pain. But it has also been filled with many sweet moments as Little Man becomes more alert and observant by the day. He loves being sung to, he adores kisses and cuddles, and when he is awake he spends ages just gazing around at all the new things he can see. It is so adorable and I fall a little bit more in love with him every single day.

I’ll be back next week with some more updates, but for now I’m looking forward to TJ finishing his first week back at work and relishing in the fact that we planned his annual leave so well that he now has 9 days off with us to spend chilling and enjoying being our small family of 3. So I’ll leave you with just a couple more photos of my sweet, sweet boy, because who could resist his gorgeous face?

From Mum's Camera 095

Sleeping with Grandad

From Mum's Camera 120

Having a good old look around the room

From Mum's Camera 123

Snuggled up under the blanket mama made him 🙂

Faith: believing in what you cannot prove

I’ve been thinking about faith a lot recently, more than I usually do which is saying something. I am an immensely curious person when it comes to faith and how it is personal to each and every of us. I find myself reading the accounts of others on how their faith affects their lives, and regularly get myself in a philosophical tangle trying to understand how so many religions and spiritual paths have developed over the centuries, many teaching that theirs is the “only way” while completely missing or even denying the common threads that bind them all together.

This is something I think I will be confused by for the rest of my life, but this past week I realised something that made it that little bit easier for me to grasp. I cannot remember exactly what I was watching or reading at the time but I do remember suddenly feeling very clear about the idea that faith is believing in something that you cannot prove.

I think I always knew this at some level, but realising it so clearly made me realise just why I find it so difficult to fit into many religious or spiritual communities. I quite simply cannot work out the balance I need between sharing common thoughts and experiences while remembering to honour those which may not feel quite so true for us personally.

And this leads me to wonder exactly how we’re going to introduce and teach faith and spirituality to our child in a way that provides the least confusion whilst leaving it open for him to find his own personal faith. Young children want firm answers to most of their questions, and can often take what you say or do as the absolute truth that they should follow in life. I know this is a part of growing up, but I do want to try and give our son the best chance of knowing that whatever he feels to be true is the most important thing for him when it comes to faith.

How, for example, do I teach him the difference between science and faith? Science is something that relies totally on proof. We accept the ‘facts of life’ such as the world is round and the boiling point of water is 100ºc without question. And yet, at the same time, all of our major scientific breakthroughs come from a person’s ability to look beyond the obvious and question the ‘facts’. Perhaps there is a little more in common between science and faith than first meets the eye. After all, a scientist and a pilgrim are both seekers of ‘truth’, the first being unquestionable proof, the second being more personal.

For me personally though faith is so much more. It is an act of trust in something you cannot know for sure, and that is a huge commitment. Asking someone to believe in the power of gravity is a lot less than asking someone to believe in something that cannot be proven in any concrete way. With faith you have to decide what feels right to you in your own heart rather than relying on the convictions and reassurances of another. I know I could never question that gravity exists, yet I could easily dispute the idea someone has about God.

And this brings in another aspect of faith: how do we fully trust in something beyond ourselves without feeling the need to prove and justify that trust when someone else has a completely different view on the matter? How do I introduce my child to the world beyond the obvious without giving him too many of my own ideas as ‘the truth’? For me the things I believe may be my own truth, and I’d be happy if my son decides he believes in something similar, but how do I ensure he has the opportunity to seek for his own truth as well?

I do not want to project too many of my own ideas onto his life because I want him to be able to follow his own path in life. But I know that in his first few years he is going to need someone to trust and follow to even begin to develop an understanding of something beyond himself. So I guess it is all about finding the balance between sharing my own (and Tim’s) faith with him in these early years but subtly teaching him that it is perfectly okay and valuable to question and seek for his own answers. I hope that by finding some kind of balance like that, he will find it easier to choose his own path when he reaches an age where that is what he wants and needs to do.

When I think back to my own childhood, I realise took everything for granted. If someone told me something about life or God then I accepted it. And yet I also see that even at a young age I had beliefs that I cannot possibly have been taught by anyone else because they are uniquely personal to me and it took me many years to realise that they didn’t really fit in with the groups I was a part of at certain times in my teenage and early adult years. So perhaps I am underestimating children’s ability to question and find their own path with even the most minimal input from others.

Young children are inherently trusting: they trust their carers to show them how life works. They watch and mimic us to develop skills for life, and even overcome what must be the scariest experiences when they come across something new and alien to them. I remember once walking along a beach and a young family we passed were trying to introduce their toddler to the feeling of sand under her feet. The little girl was obviously very unsure and uncomfortable of this new substance, and clung to her parents and lifted her feet as far away from the sand as possible. And yet, within minutes she had decided to trust her parents and take her first tentative steps and effectively learnt that all was well and the sand was actually quite fun to play in!

Such trust in those who care for us is immense and we often forget that. As adults we become used to using our own discernment to decide if something is safe or not. We have gained enough knowledge and experience to trust in our own understanding of the world. But for a child this knowledge and experience is still being built and they have to rely on their carers to provide this for them. And I think this is why the faith we have as children is so much purer and secure than that which we have as adults. In some ways we have a lot less freedom in our ability to have faith as adults than we ever had as children.

Which brings me back to my original point: faith is believing in something that cannot be proven. As adults we seek confirmation and proof of most things in life, which for me explains why we so often feel the need to justify our own faith to others. We need to feel that our convictions in life are accepted by others, not just because we crave acceptance but also because it gives more strength to our ability to believe. But the beauty of faith is that we do trust in something that we cannot prove.

I could write about this for hours, but I don’t want to. What I will do though is leave you with a clip from Futurama that I saw the other day and which brought it all home to me once again. Isn’t it great when even our comedy shows can have things that make us think on such a deep level?