10 Signs You Love Parenting 

Disclaimer: please read 10 things you can’t stand about parenting’ if you’re not in a positive parenting place right now, like me most mornings. That fluffy focus-on-the-good parenting stuff needs balancing out a bit.

 

1. Spending ridiculous amounts of time just looking at your baby/child. You know their every detail to the extreme, and of course they are the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen. You often feel smug when you look at people who aren’t your child’s parent (so pretty much everyone else except your partner) and gloat inwardly that they don’t get to look at your child every day. You regularly feel the urge to ferociously approach strangers crying “look at her face, she is beautiful!” because, they didn’t seem to be paying much attention.

2. Feeling that aching proud feeling in your chest when they’re so scared to swim in the swimming gala but they do it eventually. Even though they came last, they did it. All the other kids were probably doping anyway.

3. Watching your kids hug each other. It’s quite a skill to have made a little pack of humans whom you hope will confide in each other when they’re bigger and always have a friend who knows them so well. This morning I overheard my two eldest discussing how they liked ‘their baby [brother]’.

4. Wanting to bottle the smell of your baby’s head. I know it’s a cliché but if one of my kids is sat on my lap it’s quite likely that I’ll have my nose in their head (that sounds normal), which is fine until they notice and tell you to stop sniffing them.

5. Loving the power that the iPad or sweet foods has over other humans. I am God. You can make them tidy anything with the promise of an ice lolly.

6. When their favourite song goes from ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ to something over 20 seconds long and becomes ‘Paranoid Android’ by Radiohead, like my 6 year old daughter (which Daddy is very proud of).

7. Watching them learn to read, or write their own name. The months of choosing their name suddenly becomes a lot more serious. (May have set the bar quite high for our daughter Geneviève, poor kid.)

8. Sitting on the floor and having your baby crawl over to you and rest their head on your thigh. Loving that you’re what they want right now, not a brightly coloured, obnoxiously noisy toy in the corner.

9. Spending weekends watching them run around in the sun and play in trees, or even just giggle at cartoons. This is their childhood. Remembering what you remember from your childhood and realising that this is that, for them, right now. Wanting to make it brilliant.

10. Having made some freshly squeezed brand new people that are largely part of you, but are also separate beings and wanting them to be a bit like you, but also have a better life than you. You know they will probably make the world a tiny bit better.

 @shopgirlygm

10 Things You Can’t Stand About Parenting 

Disclaimer: read ’10 signs you love parenting’ for if you need to be reminded that you do love it really.
1. When someone misidentifies the gender of your baby. You may like to think you’re quite a liberal parent and want to buy your girl a red truck for her birthday, saying ‘fuck you’ to gender stereotypes, but it’s still a little infuriating when your dainty little girl dressed in a blue dress and flowery sunhat gets told she is a handsome young man.

2. Mornings when you feel your stomach acid start to bubble up due to the rage caused by the amount of times you have to tell your daughter to not just stand there in yesterday’s pants for a further 23 minutes, but actually make movements – any freaking movements at all – to get some additional kind of clothing on. And also, when you ask what on Earth they’ve been doing for the last half an hour they seem to have no recollection of their activities. Astonishing. Like it’s been erased from their memory. Which reminds me…

3. Sometimes, they remember everything. Apart from important stuff. But they do somehow remember that last week you promised them they could have packed lunch at the end of this week, and now it is Friday, 8:27am and you now have an obligation to rustle up a nutritious picnic for the clever little thing.

4. You want to be a fly-on-the-wall at school lunch time and have the power to poke other kids when they say something mean to yours. You hate the idea that your daughter is sad and you’re not there.

5. Dressing babies. Due to my disability I can’t do this myself but I’m usually the one trying to pin said baby down while others try to insert him into trousers. They should use this activity to torture prisoners – see how long they last with a baby (okay maybe just a doll) who, just when you’re getting leg #2 into place, they retract leg #1. Leg #2 then becomes leg #1 and the ordeal is repeated about ten times. It’s the same with sleeves and shoes. You all end up screaming and you put your son in a dress and be done with it.

6. They do not want you to sleep. Babies are arseholes during the night and that’s all I have to say on the situation.

7. When you’re supposed to cook something nutritious to fuel their growing bodies but you’ve just got home and it’s 6pm – fridge tapas will have to do. You boil up some pasta, add cheese and a bit of sandwich pickle, some sliced up cold sausage from the weekend BBQ, and throw in some frozen mixed veg to pretend it’s healthy. They don’t eat it, and instead have some questionable yoghurt from the back of the fridge for dinner. If they get the runs it’s their own fault.

8. Meltdowns which occur outside the home. Nothing screams “look how shit I am at parenting!” than when your child decides to lie down on the floor in the frozen section in Morrisons. You’re a mum in a wheelchair and the verbal attempts to get your child to stand up are not working. Then the Parent Samaritans rock up and offer help and you just want to scream “You can fuck off too. Leave me alone.” in their face. You’d quite like to just ignore your child and leave them to their tantrum as you might at home, but unfortunately it is frowned upon in the public arena.

9. Morning wake-up calls before 7am when you’re not getting up early to go on holiday. I love that my kids want to snuggle in bed next to me in the mornings but when they are 3 and 6 years old, it is 5.48am and within 3 minutes they are arguing about not having enough space or any covers, you regularly scream “it is MY bed, it’s not even 6 o’clock, bugger off”. You load YouTube on your phone and some sickly sweet video of some girls unwrapping Frozen-themed Kinder Eggs, and send them on their way. You’ll deal with the post-YouTube comedown later on.

10. After all the other trivial, albeit shitty stuff that happens day-to-day as a parent, you have the overwhelming sense of disappointment that you can’t give them everything you want to. You can’t promise the world will be nice to them always and you can’t promise nothing bad will happen, and that sucks.*

*Although you can help them to be strong, loving and open-minded people, and that might help with those things.

@shopgirlygm

The thought-process of Breastfeeding.

So I’m pregnant. I’m excited, nervous and pretty overwhelmed. I think I’d quite like to breast feed, that’s what I will hopefully do but if not I’ll have bottles bought on standby, you know, just in case.

Meanwhile, a simple, quick and painless act called childbirth happens (in no universe EVER).

Aww look! My beautiful baby! (Tears, emotion, blood, tears, etc) I really hope I can get this feeding malarkey off to a good start. 

Okay, latching on. I’ve learnt a lot about this in antenatal classes. Nipple-to-nose, baby opens mouth wide, insert boob. How hard can it be? 

EXTREMELY BLOODY HARD. This baby is absolutely minute, she weighs 5lb 10oz and I think my nostril is bigger than her mouth. How the hell do I make this happen. Millions of women worldwide do this every single day, maybe it just takes a few attempts to get her to see just how irresistible my nipples are. Then it’ll be easy. “Strip her off down to her nappy”, they said on the postnatal ward, “she’ll wake up and be more alert and want to feed”.

She latched on! She stayed on for 76 seconds, I counted! It was amazing, I did it finally. We’ve cracked it. 

Okay it’s been 4 hours since she tried to fool us into thinking she’d feed. Nope, nothing since. I’m going to have to express by hand. How hard can that be? 

MY NIPPLES… I WANT THEM BACK!!! Where the hell have they gone! Oh no, wait, there they are, hanging out down there with my belly button since being stretched like a balloon being tied in a knot. But at least we have milk, all 1ml of it. Don’t drink it all at once now Amélie. 

Okay, you drank it all. I have nothing left to give now except my actual nipples, but you have no teeth so good luck with that.

Formula it is then. This feels so weird, I really thought I’d be able to breastfeed.

I’ve been home for 10 hours now and OH MY GOD MY BOOBS ARE GOING TO EXPLOAD. GET ME TO SAINSBURYS, THEY HAVE BREASTPUMPS…STAT. (Didn’t actually say STAT).

I am a cow. An actual real-life human dairy cow woman. I feel SO attractive right now. She has latched on a total of 5 times in three days, that is kind of progress. Right? 

I don’t want to give up on the actual feeding, what is wrong with me? My mum did this without problems, for a whole year. I can’t physically hold a bottle and a baby at the same time with my useless hands. This is going to be so difficult. I could keep on expressing but that’s a very tedious job where I don’t get much milk out and there’s so much else involved, sterilising, measuring, heating, none of which I can do myself either. The milk has come in properly now though, maybe it’ll get easier?

DONT TOUCH ME. I am fully aware that I have a sudden case of breast-Tourette’s but, bejesus this bloody hurts. I might instead saw off my breast with the blunt side of a bread knife and extract the milk that way, I think it would hurt less. Whose idea was breastfeeding anyway? Do not touch me either mini-child, your mouth is my nemesis! 

Okay yes, you need a feed again, I get that. Make yourself at home, left or right for you madam? I’d recommend the house breast. Would you like a taster before going for the whole thing?

She’s doing it! That’s the majority of the day now where she’s actually entertained the idea for a substantial amount of time and fed from me properly. Does this mean she’s exclusively breasted? I think it does. Man I feel smug right now.  I love this.

I hate this. It is 4.02am, we last met at 1.32am, that is not good behaviour. You CANNOT be hungry right now. Short sleep cycles you say? Stomach the size of a marble you say? Remind me why I signed up for this again. Oh yes, she’s right there in front of me staring at me with massive blue eyes. Then I remember all over again, why I chose to do this. Breast is most definitely best all round but this, is the one thing that ONLY I can do for her. I can’t change a dirty nappy, I can’t get her dressed and get kicked in the face in a miniature sock-battle or lollop around the room trying to soothe a grumpy baby. THIS is my job.

I have boobs and, well, what else are they for?

Okay tiny girl, you’re 15.5 months old now. It has become as much a part of our bedtime routine as brushing teeth and reading What The Ladybird Heard, but you are growing so fast and taking my nipples with you every time you turn to look at the TV whilst feeding. I love you very much, but I think we’ve done it now. Save some for your baby sister, who will be born when you are 2 years and 8 months old and I can start this all over again and teach you all about how brilliant boobs are. Months go by very quickly.

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@shopgirlygm
Photo copyright @tombunton

Talent Search

What are you good at? Singing? Photography? Teaching? Breadmaking? Egg and spoon races?

I’m still trying to figure out some things about myself, mainly what the hell I want to do with my life and what skills I can comfortably say I’m in possession of. I am soon to be returning to work, and so in a few weeks I have to be an ’employee’ again rather than a stay-at-home-mum and that partly excites me in that I get to be working again but part of me (a very much more substantial part) is dreading it.

Not *just* because my Thursday morning date with recorded episodes of Grey’s Anatomy and 24 Hours in A&E must come to an end (holding back the tears here), but I will have to spend whole days away from my squidgy Genebeeb and her beautiful cheeky face, and try not to start blubbering in work because I can’t hold her and sniff her head all day any more. I have to be working in a children’s centre surrounded by everyone else’s children all day instead of my own and that sucks just a massive bit.

I’ve come to a bit of a moment where I feel like I’m supposed to decide soon what I want to be when I grow up. It hasn’t happened yet and I’m a bit stuck. Stuck not knowing what my strengths are, stuck in a whirlwind of revolving interests, stuck trying to figure out what to do to bridge the gap between all that. I’ve got A Levels in Psychology, English and Photography, a degree in Broadcasting and postgraduate Early Years Professional Status… So you see there isn’t really a theme!

Most people I’m pretty sure, have worked out vaguely what direction they’d be happy to see their life going in by the time they are my age (twenty*something*seven). My mum has worked her way up the ranks in the local authority and education sector, she has suitable qualifications to support this, my dad was in the Navy for many years and still works as a civilian for the Navy, my partner and I met whilst studying for our Broadcasting degrees and his line of work as a video editor and content producer is both technical and extremely creative, both integral to a career in the field of broadcasting.

I just feel a bit lost, like I’m supposed to know what I’m good at by now, but I don’t. I have so many interests but my disability just rears its ugly head every time I entertain the idea of plotting those interests along some sort of career path.

I wanted to have children in my twenties. That is something I consciously planned as I did not want to risk not being fit and healthy enough in my thirties or beyond to be dealing with my own very young children, like others are more able to do. So having children at this time in my life hasn’t caused my career path to deviate as such… I just don’t have much of a career path to look at. I cannot express the frustration of looking through pages of job descriptions online and having the same thought as I look at every entry – I COULD do that job, I am qualified, skilled and passionate enough to be responsible for this role, but… – and then I look down at my hands (metaphorically, mostly) and realise, nope I can’t do that EITHER.

So since the beginning of this year and whilst on maternity leave I have been trying to discover my inner creative streak… It was hidden somewhere within me underneath a lot of sarcasm, cold cups of tea and soggy milk-soaked muslin squares. I first started making button jewellery, necklaces, bracelets, bag charms, and then for what actually happened to be my half birthday (entirely legitimate cause for celebration) I convinced Tom to buy me a sewing machine. It arrived the next day, and well…

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Maybe I don’t need an official career. Just an ongoing supply of oilcloth samples, fabric quarters, thread and brightly coloured buttons and I think I’ll be set for life. Or at least until I have to return to my ‘real’ job in a month’s time. At the moment I am loving just coming up with ideas of things I can make for my children, and for my family, friends and their children.
It’s never going to be midwifery, or paediatric surgery, or Olympic athletics… But at some point in the near future, in between making baby dresses and quirky purses, when I’ve got over the fact that I cannot ever have the job I dream I have when I’m asleep and not disabled, I hope to find out what I’d like to do for at least a substantial part of my working life.

Thought I’d end that on a chirpy note there… Happy Friday!

@shopgirlygm
http://Facebook.com/florenceanddaisy

For the love of babies

Here’s the recent guest article I wrote for Disabled World.

You can view the post on the website in a nicer looking version!

http://www.disabled-world.com/disability/blogs/babies.php

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @shopgirlygm

For the love of babies

Some parents are worried about passing on their frizzy hair, or an awkwardly placed mole, but I’d have given anything to have those genetic traits as my only concern!

You see, I still go to bed each night and wake up each morning and though I don’t consciously say it to myself, I get this regular sense of ‘I have a child! ME!… Oh wait, I have TWO children… Goodness me’.

As a child, I had the same aspirations and fantasies that every little girl has about one day being a mummy and what I might call my children, what delightful styles of clothing they will or won’t wear, where we will go together on holiday, and so the dream went on. But as I grew up never really having that ‘young love’ that most kids encounter in school, a big disappointed part of me was seriously let down… By myself for not being a particularly confident child growing up, and by genetics for lumbering me with this awkward, annoying, frustrating and downright unfair disease. *sob sob* right? Wrong (sort of).

Fast forward a few years and I meet a lovely, intelligent, dedicated and caring person who I know I want to have children with. We became friends first at university where we were both studying for a degree in Broadcasting and some time later decided we wanted to be together. It never occurred to my partner, Tom, that we wouldn’t have children because of my disability, and neither did I, I just didn’t think I’d ever meet anyone who wanted to have children with me! I knew my neurological disease was hereditary and so I was always worried about people’s opinions, reactions and comments about any children we had together. I didn’t know what the inheritance pattern was or could be at that point, and for a while I read alot about PGD (pre-implantation genetic diagnosis) as ideally, I’d stop CMT in its tracks and not pass it on to any of my children.

I’m the first one in my family to have been diagnosed with having CMT from a very young age, when my mum noticed my feet looking different when I ran as a toddler. My maternal grandmother was diagnosed after I was, when she started suffering from muscle weakness but of course at a much later age. Nobody ever really queried why my case was so much more severe and earlier to begin, and how this could’ve happened. So when it was discovered that I had in fact inherited a fault on a particular gene (Mitofusin 2) from both sides of my family, we were pretty stunned. The chances of this happening are so slim so it really was a surprise. I don’t blame anyone for my inheritance of this condition, but when we became better informed about the genetics of my disease, we had already had our first daughter. PGD wasn’t an option anyway so there is no way that I cannot pass on one of my gene faults to my children. I can only hope that they just carry the disease like my parents do and not actually suffer any symptoms.

So what then?

We had our first beautiful, happy, perfect daughter and so began the biggest learning curve of our lives. Along with all the things most new parents get stumped by – ‘oh my god I cannot survive on such little sleep’, ‘TEETH! Argh! Who needs them anyway, why can’t babies just survive on a liquid diet for at least 5 years?!’, ‘yes, that’s right, my child has chosen the canned goods as the supermarket meltdown location this week, kindly move along and take your gawping eyeballs with you’. Nothing out of the ordinary there, except when your child is having said tantrum, and instead of picking them up and traipsing out with a screaming monster under your arm, you instead have to try your hardest to keep any mental strength you have left to verbally coax your child away from the tomato soup stack, because you cannot pick them up. This is the moment where having a pet (or child) on a lead and preferably muzzled seems like a terrific idea. It is beyond frustrating and disheartening to know that the supermarket gawpers aren’t just questioning why you can’t control your child’s mood, they are wondering if you, personally, having a child was a good idea. Then there’s the pity, ah the pitiful looks of ‘aw, so sad, she can’t look after her own kid’.

What better way to shock them, then, than having ANOTHER child (beautiful, happy, perfect, yes yes yes) and wheeling yourself through the clothing aisle with a baby lying on a cushion in front of you, boob out, breastfeeding on the move? These days I try not to focus on the starers, as much as I also hate knowing what they might be thinking, I welcome their wonderings of ‘how do I feel about that?’, as they are made fully aware that indeed, disabled people do have children. I have difficult days, difficult beyond belief. But it wouldn’t be parenting without a bit of a challenge, would it?

What the Devil?

Trying to come up with a title for this entry was quite tricky. I’m aware that it’s a sensitive topic, one that will always spark lots of debate between people, often within in the same social group. But I LOVE talking about religion. So when a man knocked on my door a few weeks ago in the late morning, I wasn’t not sure he was wearing comfortable enough shoes for the bumpy little journey we went on whilst stood on my doorstep.

He had come to deliver God’s message (note to God – use a courier, much more efficient)… he was trying to hand me a bit of paper and I politely said “Oh, no thank you…I’m an atheist”.
“Atheist?”, he queried scepticaly, “how long have you been an atheist for?”…” Um, all my life”, I replied.

Now this is not technically true, I haven’t always felt like I was an atheist, I was Christened as a baby, in a church in Cornwall, as was my brother and we attended a Church of England primary school where we were regularly subjected to listening to (and watching) our amply-bearded headmaster, foot upon a chair and guitar in hand, strumming awkwardly away and singing ‘Kumbayah’.

But, religion wasn’t particularly discussed at home, one way or the other and I guess as a child I kind of assumed I was supposed to be a Christian if I was asked about my religious beliefs. But come my early-twenties and then with some crucial eye-openings from a completely Atheist Tom, I finally started to consider my own thoughts in that area. I came to the sudden realisation that God had done a pretty shitty job at making sure we all believed in the same things.

The conversation with the older man at my door progressed onto the creation of the universe and all things good and bad. He was arguing that although he felt the Big Bang probably did happen (but the Earth is only 6000 years old apparently), it couldn’t possibly have just happened, it couldn’t just be ‘one of those things’, someone very powerful must have designed and created it all. He went on, to say how poverty and starvation are the fault of mankind themselves (God, you slipped up in your designs again there, didn’t you, yes) and that ‘He’ made the Earth to have enough food for every person to ever live on the planet, and it is our own fault that people are starving. That and war of course. I then queried him about things like disease and natural disasters, why does God feel the need to inflict that on to innocent people?
“No, no, those are things created by an evil being, an evil being is responsible for that”.
“Oh!” I giggled, “Who’s that then?”…
“Well Satan, the devil, of course”.

Oh crap.

“Oh, so Satan made me disabled?”
“No, Satan didn’t make you disabled…no that’s *metaphorical head scratch*… just one of those things”.

Well now I know! Thanks for that insight, you ignorant twerp, what does that even mean?

The Big Bang, life, the universe, every single thing in any place, ever, was created by God, but a simple gene fault causing disease… Just a random occurrence?

This, more than anything else (but not exclusively) is the reason I am now a comfortable and happy Atheist. Surely a God, having all that sparkly power and whatnot, would find disease just another little blip to iron out.

Unfortunately the typical response from most Christians I often hear is ‘God moves in mysterious ways’, when they are searching for a reason for the unfair things which happen to us. But not in my case. The man at my door had no answer for me. Religion has given me nothing apart from the knowledge that I am simply an anomaly.

Personally, I need to believe that nobody is to blame for the things I struggle with. My parents each unknowingly passed on the gene faults which cause my nerve disease (I got both faults, go me!). I have had children of my own knowing full well that I will pass on one of those faults to each of my children.

I know all of this thanks to science and medicine, in which I have a lot of faith.

TJB… Thank you for helping me iron out my thoughts. X.

I really don’t cope well!

At least not when my almost-three-year-old is deciding that getting into her car seat after a nice afternoon with friends is the time to act more like a cat resisting the catbox. Except toddlers don’t do it mostly silently like cats do, just with all their limbs projected out to the sides, they have to scream and shout and resist and push and arch their backs and do anything else they can to be stronger for that particular moment of the day.

Why then? I will never know. Nothing prompted it, nothing lead up to it. It was a mystery, but a mystery that stirred up so much anger inside me that she had to do that, at that time of the day and outside that children’s centre. The adjoining school had just spat out a *what’s the word for large group of schoolchildren*… Gaggle, a gaggle of children, with their gaggling and gawping parents who’s children obviously never have tantrums or surely they’d just glance briefly, exchange a suitable look of “I hate children too” with me, and carry on walking. But no, when I asked my PA to take Amélie out of the car and stand her by the wall and walk away, the look of shock, horror and “oh my god there’s an abandoned child”, was just a little too prevalent for my liking. She was only stood about 6 feet away from the car, in which I was sat with my door wide open watching her, she was in absolutely no danger. As far as I was concerned, if she was refusing to be strapped in then I can refuse her entry into the car!

But the thing that got to me about all this wasn’t Amélie at all (well I’d rather she didn’t have ridiculous tantrums like that in public, but it comes with their job description I think), it is that I can’t deal with it, any of it. As you might know, toddlers don’t listen to verbal cues much when they are in such a state.  They need their parent to grab them, take them to one side and remove them from the situation that they’re disturbing. I cannot do that, and it infuriates me. So despite not being able to shout properly due to my non-working vocal cord, I do all I can and feel at that moment to let my child know that I am indeed rather p*ssed off with them, for their behaviour and for making it seem even more obvious that I have to employ someone else to deal physically with that.
It’s one of my reasons for breastfeeding, only I can breastfeed my children. No one else can or needs to take over. It’s the one thing only I can do for them, It is essential for me, and I hope for them too.

So next time you are being kicked in the chin from restraining your toddler, or you get peed on whilst you’re changing a nappy, those are things I so wish I could do!