What’s a bit of shit between friends?

For those of you who’ve been “with me” from the start of this Blog; you will understand what I mean when I say that I’ve treated Potty Training as I viewed childbirth in pregnancy. It was an inevitability; positive, was probably going to be a bit messy and uncomfortable, but would bring with it amazing results. It’s 20.59; I’m on my second [large] glass of Sauvignon Blanc. I’ve been awake since 5.03am. We’ve got through 7 pairs of pants [well, boxer shorts actually, as I don’t think Fred’s a Y Front kind of dude], 3 loads of laundry, and only one shit on the carpet. My most used phrase of the day has been “Do you need the potty Freddie?”, followed by “tuck your willy in” [Fred, I sincerely apologise if you are reading this in years to come. You’re doing just fine, Mummy’s little prince!]

“The potty” is an all singing all dancing Thomas the Tank engine one. When excrement hits the pan it plays a lovely Thomas song, and Freddie shrieks with excitement “I’ve done a poo” he exclaims; although he doesn’t actually know the difference between wees and poos, and the only poo we’ve had today has most definitely been on the carpet. It reminds me of when I worked as a care assistant in a busy nursing home, and forgot to put the “pan” under Mrs X’s commode one night [only second to Mr X, asking me to “rub cream in my balls” as part of the bedtime routine ….]

I’ve imposed “lock down” for the past 36 hours … we have watched Postman Pat the Movie; we have painted pretty pictures, made minion cupcakes, played football in the hall, and eaten lots of chocolate buttons as a treat for “performing” on the marvellous potty. Tomorrow we must venture out … potty and all. Another milestone …

After the week from hell, this is my greatest achievement; even if I had to drag my 2.5year old to the shop on the corner for the aforementioned wine in his pyjamas!

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Grief; 7 months on

This Blog began as a MummyBlog full of pregnancy thoughts, childbirth and sticky finger memories. This year it has inevitably also incorporated bereavement and grief, and moving forward from such loss whilst mothering a toddler. My most read Blog post to date is the one I wrote on January 11th, the day after finding my Dad dead. I sometimes read it back, feeling every moment – pleased that I did capture those raw, horrific images so soon after they happened. Seven months on, I’ve realised that for me there are two traumas; the actual events of that Tuesday afternoon, and the loss of my Dad. Perhaps people don’t talk about these things; but writing is cathartic [I have a sleeping toddler!] – and I think it’s important to process and share the journey. You never know who else needs to hear it.

Last week a doctor phoned me from the Ambulance Service patient liason office. I had contacted them asking for the reports the crew made when they arrived at the allotment. I’d finally admitted to myself that something I really struggled with was those endless minutes before the paramedics arrived; when I was on my own with Dad. I felt a huge sense of guilt that in my panic and shock, I didn’t spring into the kind of Holby City CPR action that you might expect. Whilst my gut instinct told me it was already too late; how did I know? I remember every awful detail; and the truth is, I wasn’t very good at the CPR; I was a shaking shocked mess; scared of the man I loved most in the world. As the months have passed; it was those moments which troubled me the most. I let him down; I should’ve done more; what if I lost vital moments because I couldn’t get it together? He was only there helping me; he’d have done it for me; I know he would. The grieving mind plays a lot of tricks; and the moment of finding him remains an ongoing nightmare. I wanted to talk to the Ambulance Service because perhaps they could clarify; perhaps they could tell me if I’d fucked up. The doctor understood. He had Dad’s SATS and heart rhythm readings taken when the crews arrived, in front of him. He said that from those readings, Dad was most likely beyond help before I arrived, but the 999 operators have to start you on the CPR, and the paramedics have to keep trying. I should perhaps feel better; that my inability to help didn’t really make a difference – but I’m not sure that’s the point. I wish it could’ve been different.

I chew it over in my mind; being stuck behind a lorry on the way to the allotment; wondering if I hadn’t been held up – maybe I’d have been there when it happened; maybe it wouldn’t have happened at all. Initially the allotment was a source of huge comfort and a place to be close to Dad … but as time has gone on, all I see is the image of him lying on the decking. And this too makes me feel guilty; because surely he’d  have wanted me to be stronger than that? He was helping me to create the allotment dream I had for Freddie, when he died. And I’ve sort of given it up …. because on the way in I see that yellow defibrilator in the box and immediately I’m back to that day, running with it in my hands, feeling like I’m not moving anywhere, knowing it’s too late. The memories are too raw; too stabbing. There are times when I see an ambulance with its sirens on, and I’m back in the police car following the ambulance that day. And there are times this feels so unfair; why; why did he not only have to die; but why did I have to find him? You can’t not see it, you can’t not remember it.

Yesterday I wrote another measurement on Freddie’s wall growth chart, and instinctively counted how much he had grown since Grandad died. Sometimes I have to stop and think; did we have that chair when Dad was alive, or, did he see that toy of Freddies? Time is an odd concept. Dad never met my new partner; and I’m pretty sure he’d have liked her a lot. It’s things like this which make you realise life goes on, but is never the same. It still takes my breath away to think I’ll never see him again; that this chapter of my life is over forever. And it’s hard; it’s really hard. Last weekend Freddie and I were in Guernsey with my partner’s family; and Dad would’ve loved it. There’s part of me which automatically wants to phone him and tell him …

I go to Dad’s grave once a week; occasionally more … not because I feel close to him there [the engraved stone actually makes it feel surreally real] – but because I want it kept colourful and tidy; just like his beloved garden was.

“But where is Grandad Mummy?” is Freddie’s question of the moment. I hope both he and Dad know, that I’m doing my best.

A memo to all single mums

This is a memo to all single mums out there, putting on their pyjamas and possibly pouring themselves a glass of wine on a Saturday evening. Little ones bathed, read to, sung to, kissed on the cheeks, watched as they drift to sleep; beautifully perfect (tantrums forgiven as you ponder how you could’ve created such a precious little human). You’ve probably cleared the carnage of mega-blocks and plastic toy paraphernalia from the lounge floor, scraped uneaten suppers off plates and washed the dishes. You’ve mopped up the bathroom, fed the cat; realised you’d put some washing on at 3pm and it still needs hanging. Then there are the things you need to do which you can’t do with a little person craving every ounce of your attention; – work out when your car MOT is due, update your CV, make a birthday card, brave the never ending phonecall to Tax Credits, write a letter to a nun in India (okay, maybe that one’s just me!) … only,  you haven’t actually had supper yet, and all you want to do is crawl  into bed (because you can be sure little darling will be up at 5am.)

You scroll through social media and everyone seems to be dressing up ready for a good night out. And it’s fucking lonely; no matter how much you love your kids (and I know your heart bursts for them; it’s what we do …) Sometimes you look at the parents at nursery, or in the park – and imagine the perfect family dynamics, the loving gazes over the breakfast table and the way he/she gets in from work and helps with the chores but also provides adult company/conversation. And then you beat yourself up for being a single parent in the first place – if only things had been different; what if you’re irrevocably damaging your child by not raising them in a “family unit”. What if you’re just messing it all up?

2am, maybe again at 3.15 and 4.08, you’re shouted for. They need a cuddle, or a drink, or have had a bad dream. Sometimes you’ll crawl into their toddler bed and sing to them until they go back to sleep. Sometimes you bundle them into bed with you, hoping beyond hope that you can all get some sleep before morning (and never admit you do this as you’ll inevitably be accused of making a big fat rod for your own back). You wish there was someone else to share the night time calls. I know that sometimes you lie awake wondering what you’re going to cook for tea tomorrow; if you’ve got enough money to last til pay day; what you’re going to do with the rest of your life to better provide for their future …

This might be the hardest thing you ever have to do – but you’re doing it. Every day you get up, and put your kids first; they are fed, clean, chaotic, noisy, bumbling children. They adore you. Sure, there are days when you just want some space; you just want to hide behind the kitchen door and cry because you don’t want to watch another episode of Peppa fucking Pig; but you take a breather and deal with it. You are showing your children what it is to be strong; what it is to be resilient. Raising little people is not an easy task whether you’re in a relationship or not; but the emotional loneliness of doing it by yourself can be all consuming. Sometimes you just need someone to tell you that you’re doing an okay job.

And that’s why I’m writing this memo, and raising my glass of wine to all of you/us, in this together. Hang in there, sisters; we are doing something wonderful in every cluttered, endless day. It may not always seem it, but we are.

 

It’s what Mum’s do …

When I started this Blog; pregnant, single, and slightly overwhelmed – I didn’t know where it would lead, or what form it would take. Over the past 3 years I’ve sometimes sought solace in WordPress, detailing the ups and downs and inbetweens. Many a night I used to snuggle up with a cup of tea/glass of wine and my laptop after Freddie had gone to sleep, and write. I think/hope it makes a good record for Freddie when he’s older – the little achievements, the anecdotes, as well as the raw heartbreak of losing his beloved Grandad. Snippets of our world.

image5I haven’t Blogged for a while; life has been quite turbulent recently and there is much of that I don’t want to share here  – but I DO want to share the joys and occasional frustrations of an ever growing little boy. Sometimes I look at Freddie and am shocked at how big he is, how long his legs have become, and how I grew him; or to put it more bluntly; gave birth to him.Wow. I’ll never quite get over the wonders of childbirth [neither will my pelvic floor….]

This cheeky little chap now regularly tells me “be careful mummy don’t fall down” on the stairs, or “don’t fall in the duck pond mummy, you don’t have your armbands on.” He understands so much, and is articulating more every day. Last week when I dropped him at nursery he said “mummy go to work and earn some money then pick me up.” He doesn’t know that I’m actually signed off work for a couple of weeks, but that’s not the point.

No one warns you of the huge guilt associated with motherhood. There have been many image3reasons to cry this year, and by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done is try to be a good mother through the tears. You are their safe place, their comfort, their security – the person who kisses things better and makes it okay again. I don’t want Freddie to look back on his early childhood and remember a mummy who was sad; yet I also want him to know that emotions are real and life [and death] happens. Its okay to be sad sometimes. I used the phrase “Grandad died” from the very beginning, and Freddie still talks about Grandad, and will now ask, where is Grandad, or tell me that he misses him. We now have  a beautiful plot in the local crematorium, and Freddie likes to water Grandad’s plants …

image1As a mother you constantly doubt yourself; I’ve had a particularly bad week of worrying that I’m not quite doing it well enough. Then I look at this bruiser of a toddler dashing around with his toy aeroplane, grubby faced and smiling; and my heart bursts with both love and pride. We are doing okay, Fred and I. This little boy who shot into the birthing pool, continues to blow me away. “Don’t be sad mummy” he said to me on Sunday, “come and play with my aeroplane.”

And you swallow hard, clamp down on your lip, and swirl around the lounge making aeroplane noises … because its what Mum’s do … we’ve got this.

 

Grief is a tsunami of treacle

I think I did grief a disservice last night; I made it seem too soft, too poetic. I neglected to mention the brutal punches in the stomach, leaving you gasping for breath, unable to envisage a life when it didn’t hurt [and feeling guilty if it didn’t] What are the tears for; the absence? The memories? The memories which will no longer happen? The things unsaid? The reality? The broken jigsaw. The people left behind.

Grief is a tsunami of treacle. Grief is not an option. Grief is a constant exhausting battle. It hits you again every morning, when you wake and re-remember. Grief is angry. Grief is putting on make up and going to work and smiling. Grief becomes a part of you and a part of your daily routine; lingering, all encompassing; swallowing that lump in your throat and simply surviving. Breathing.

I can’t see the screen for a haze of hot tears. I’m listening to Lukas Graham’s “You’re not there.” This song was on the radio as I got in the car after registering Dad’s death.

Time can heal your wounds if you’re strong and standing tall
I’ve been doing all of that, it didn’t help at all
They say, “You’ll grow older, and it’ll get better still”
Yes, I will, but no, it won’t
They don’t get it cause

You’re not there

Grief makes you question your existence and mortality; it shatters the ambivalent notion that death happens to others people, far from now. Grief makes you wonder what its all about; why we’re here; and what happens in those moments between life and death, and beyond. I think back, inevitably, to that Tuesday; the blank expression; the brutality of the CPR; those moments when someone ceases to be someone, and becomes a corpse. It’s those things you think about at 3am when your heart is thudding and your mind is filled with the unanswerables.

People everywhere are walking around with this, in Sainsburys, at work, in school, at the park … carrying on, yet weighed down by loss, by sadness. Life must’ve been so carefree before; so content. I’m back there, walking down the path at the allotment, oblivious. That Tuesday hadn’t been the best, but I could tell you every detail of the drive to the allotment; putting on my boots and getting out of the car. Little things, insignificant things. Those crocheted prayer mats in the little room in A&E. The sweet tea; the beige book with lilies on the front about bereavement.

It’s 15 weeks ago tomorrow. I just counted.

 

And so it continues…

Last Tuesday was the first Tuesday since January 10th when I didn’t check the calendar to ensure I knew how many weeks it was since Dad died. At a guess I’d say 15 or 16; but I don’t suppose it really matters. As the seasons change, the image of finding Dad on that sunny Tuesday in January, begins to fade – or rather not provoke the terror it once did. The heart thudding nightmares have, for the moment at least, disappeared; replaced by dreams of Dad alive and well. I’m not entirely sure which is worse.

I’ve found the past week or so rather heavy and sad. I’m not sure why. It would be Dad’s 66th birthday next Sunday, and this could be playing on my mind. Another first on the inescapable conveyor belt of firsts. Gone is the raw, numb horror of the early days of grief; and in its place is a deeper, lingering “forever sadness” that he’s not here and never will be. As time goes on there are less things where he left them, less tangible connections to the man who was such a huge part of our lives. Occasionally I forget, and think I must tell Dad or ask Dad, or wonder why I haven’t seen him. Sometimes in town I still catch the back of someone I think is him, and for a moment this has all been some sick joke. It is disconcerting and exhausting. I wonder how we’ve got through these months; constantly reminded of his absence. Freddie has new clothes, new toys, another mark on his height chart. Freddie no longer says “Gandad” when I cook a curry; and I realise this is it – the unpredictable and unforgiving cycle of life, of death, of love and all the chaos inbetween.

There are days when I’m constantly battling to push out of my mind my reactions that day. If only I’d arrived sooner; if only I’d been better at initiating the CPR. If only I’d seen it  happen. If only he hadn’t been there, helping me.

I had a bit of a Facebook rant earlier [I used the C word on a Sunday; Mea Maxima Culpa] about these months really showing me who cares, who has my back, and who is prepared to be by my side on this journey no matter what. Likewise, I am now fully aware of who doesn’t care. True colours are known. Freddie is my priority. My funny, cheeky, ever growing Freddie, who counts to 10 and rides his balance bike in the park. His Grandad would’ve enjoyed so much sharing all these firsts with him – and instead we’re embarking on our year of firsts without Dad….

 

Two year old you

Dear Fred,

17156074_2103858033173957_1695764839204359995_nToday is your second birthday, and whilst you’re spending some time with Daddy, I wanted to write a Blog about 2 year old you.

It was wonderful watching you and your friends enjoy your birthday party yesterday; clambering around on the soft play, eating “choo choo cake”, singing songs and generally having lots of fun. The only thing missing was your Grandad, who helped Momma plan the party – and was looking forward to it very much. In the car on the way to the party as I told you all the people who would be there, you repeatedly asked for “Gandad,” and Momma had to explain once again that she too would love to see him, how it was very sad, but how I was sure if he could, he would be there in spirit. I’m writing this because whenever you’re reading this Blog, Freddie; you will probably have forgotten the wonderful memories and times you shared with your Grandad. But yesterday you asked for him, and I know he would’ve loved your party and been so proud of you. Yesterday was the first big event  without Grandad around, and Momma did need a couple of glasses of wine at the end of the day.

So, two year old Freddie….

LOVES…. Thomas the Tank Engine, Postman Pat DVDs [you’re already quite au fait with changing the DVDs yourself in the player], chocolate buttons, Weetabix for breakfast, collecting the eggs from the chickens, playing on momma’s phone, driving your mini car – especially reversing when you’re supposed to go forwards!; Percy cat – who you call Lala, singing “twinkle twinkle chocolate bar”, Tots Rock on fridays, morning and bedtime “boobie”, reading books on Momma’s lap, going down the big slide at the park, bathtime bubbles … Your favourite meal of the week is chicken curry; the hotter the better…

DISLIKES …cleaning your teeth, eating the eggs you like to collect, sitting in the buggy …

17155674_2103857676507326_6559896394241886088_n

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You are such a fun, cheeky little chap – forever making me laugh.It is incredible that you’re 2 already. I look back on the day you were born with such wonder and amazement, and always will. You rocked my world, little boy. Momma was pretty naive going into a pregnancy on her own, unsure what everything entailed. These have been the best two years of my life, and even in the present sadness, you keep me going and remind me of what’s important.

So bring on more adventures, little boy. You are so loved.

Momma xx