Tag Archives: parenthood

Picking Favourites

For quite some time now, my eldest daughter has been slinging ‘ the favourite’ card at me. This is usually connected to the future CEO – daughter no3. I can see why she says it, to a 13 year old it would seem that I am unfairly favouring a sibling who is frequently rewarded. I guess this is where carrot not stick falls short. 

Here I am, asking the kids to help with the household chores. I don’t think I’m being unduly harsh on them for asking that they pick up after themselves, make their own beds, bring their own dirty clothes down to the basket, take clean clothes upstairs again, load or unload the dishwasher, help with lunch or dinner. Please remember, they aren’t doing that all day every day. I’ll allocate 3 or 4 jobs each. Easy tasks which are all connected to themselves. The screeching from Miss Hormones, the stamping from Miss Dreamer, the pursed lips and folded arms from the youngest Gingerling, and the boys both conveniently disappear siting homework as the reason. The only child who is likely to just get on with it is Miss CEO. Occassionally we get the odd “it’s not fair!” from her, afterall, to her it feels like she is the only one doing anything (because she is) but then she gets the reward which I have stated repeatedly, is open to all helpers when they’ve finished their jobs. The reward can be *helping with the shopping!* which will often lead to a small treat of new colouring pencils or a pretty hair dye, or maybe getting to choose the movie night treats, or even just getting their hair plaited which is now quite a rarity with my fingers cramping up. Nothing is extravagent, they all get the same chance but the results are the same. It will always be the tweenie who helps, you know, the child caught between their care free childhood and the peer pressures of the teenage years. 

This stage of life is actually the easy bit but it doesn’t last for anywhere near long enough. It is the last year of primary and life seems to go through like a bagillion changes, or so Miss CEO seems to suggest. As a mother, always fostering independance whilst slowly letting out the apron strings, I’m no longer surprised that we are seeing a gluttony of depressed youngsters. The demands our children are under starts before they even start school at 4, constantly being tested, watched for errors, placed on tables relating to how well they do or don’t stick to the lines when colouring… 

I am not a keen results reader, I much prefer to sit with a teacher who knows my child and who can tell me who their friends are, what their favourite topic is and how wonderfully knowledgable they are about Minecraft, Peppa Pig or the rights and responsibilities of the LGBTQ+ community. Instead I get to go in, interrupt the teacher who has their parent’s evening chit chat memorised and say actually Mr Teacher, would you mind if we can talk about how my child feels isolated and threatened whilst in your care? I have to explain that, yes, I understand that Miss CEO has a very secure sense of The Rules, how society should behave and, unfortunately, how it actually behaves. I have to again suggest that perhaps “ignoring” the problem is making it worse and that, perhaps, if the children involved were pulled to one side and asked to follow The Rules as they are supposed to. I don’t want to know that she must be popular because she was chosen by her classmates to be class rep, it doesn’t alter how much my book worm, mathematics enthusiast, teacher’s pet has changed, how now we talk about why it is important to attend school instead of why she can’t possibly be ill because she has to go to school. Even speaking with the Head didn’t help. One particular child is a handful in class and particular hurtful to Miss CEO because his mother doesn’t agree with the School Behaviour Policy!?! (I still can’t get my head around that one.)

I am more than aware that no child is an angel, I’m not overly concerned by the fact that all 8 of my children are unique and fall across the behaviour spectrum, but I am concerned that one after another my children have felt bullied at school and it is at those moments that my tweens, as each has been when this occurs, naturally demands a little more of my attention, an extra squish before school, and a touch more responsibility and praise at home to remind them that their beautiful nature and enthralling character is worth so much more than this bully or bullies will have them believe.
So, no. I don’t have a favourite child just a favoured child at *this* time. It will soon change. The bullies will lose and my little Future Leader will regain the confidence at home to be a stroppy dot again reminding me that we are doing a good job with our kids – they fell safe and secure enough at home to push the boundaries and ignore the mess *just* long enough to not get in to real trouble. At this point I think it worthwhile to point out to my eldest two (who have both acknowledged having a nose) that I still love them just as much when they are being messy, antisocial, food demanding, adolescents. But I also really would like you to bring those messy cups and plates down, thanks muchly.

I am utterly proud of my children, it would be impossible to pick a favourite. Each child is maturing into beautiful examples of what people could be, I am enjoying seeing them grow, change, tweak their own world view map, bring new insights to our family table, and even behave in an adorable childlike way whenever we find a bridge over a stream to play Pooh Sticks or a particularly interesting looking tree to climb.

I have many favourite moments, my children feature in all of them.

Nine years and still mulling things over

I am a birth enthusiast, although if that surprises you given my tagline then this post might not be for you.

I have experienced 

  • long, drawn out, boring labour
  • super quick and super exciting birth
  • spontaneous vaginal birth
  • urgent c-section
  • midwife led, hands off 
  • hospital “by the book”
  • home “birth before arrival” 
  • induced
  • and most importantly, live & healthy babies

I am also a very lucky recipient of some of the best healthcare available, free at the point of delivery, and world leading practices and staff members. There’s no doubting in my mind, the UK nationals are incredibly blessed to live in an era where labouring women have access to the best of the best.

I have met some extraordinary Consultants, Midwives, & health care professionals. There are also a few too many rotten eggs that we could do with pushing out of the basket but that is true of all walks of life so the easiest way to deal with them is to write your concerns down and send them in for the powers that be to act upon. Okay, it isn’t perfect but it is ours and I prefer not to kick a wounded animal, thanks all the same.

Anyway, back to my musings and mullings.

The Boy was a bellyful before he arrived. He span around so many times in the last three months of pregnancy that it was hit or miss regarding our plans for a homebirth. I believe that a breech baby can be safely delivered at home with appropriately trained midwives, they would also more likely be birthed without diffculty in this situation than trying a vaginal breech delivery in hospital. I feel this is mostly down to hospitals dealing with complications of medical interference and the setting being the best place for births needing closer attention. Personal opinion, lots of reading and researching, not medical advice.

My final antenatal appointment at 41 weeks had the head back down safe and our plans back on the kitchen table, so to speak. Unfortunately I felt him spin as I played puzzles with his then toddler sister as I gently breathed through contractions. I had already sent for the Mr to come home, arranged for the elder children to be collected after school, rang for my sister to come and sit with the smalls. In the 30 minutes it took for Mr to cycle home my waters burst magnificently and to my despair, the familiar brown colour meant that homebirth dreams where finally dashed. 

The drive to the hospital, only 10 slow minutes, was hideous. Why do hospitals put speed bumps around the very long drive to maternity? And why do councils seem to put them on every side road they can? Or so it seemed at the time. I could see that he was the wrong way around with each contraction. He’s broad back streched tight under my ribcage as my lower uterus failed to find a body to push lower. It took about 40 minutes from arrival at the labour ward to arrival at the theatre doors. My treatment was overseen by some of the not so world class midwives and my obvious upset and distress was “over looked” as my operating team set up around me. From the minute we decided that a c-section was the best course of action I cried almost uncontrollably. Some tears fell silently as people bustled around me, others slid across my cheeks as my breathing became rough and heavy, and my sobs heaved, the not so tiny boy pushing against my lungs making it harder and harder to focus on the positives. 

Our only request, to see for ourselves the gender of our fifth child after what, at the time, was four beautiful girls, was at first agreed to but unfortunately forgotten as the registrar pulled first his bottom and then his legs from my abdomen. An encouraging “come on big boy” was heard as yet more waves of fear gripped at my body, now shaking uncontrollably, and a terrifying pins and needles sensation was felt in my toes. I couldn’t speak, couldn’t express how utterly broken I was as my 100% healthy, squawking, blue bundle was wrapped and taken to recovery. My only words were to Mr to go with our son, to not let him out of his sight.

The tears continued to fall, my heartbeat erratic and breathing still laboured. The equipment check saw a missing swab and a broken clamp. By this point I was all but sewed up and the tingling sensation had now reached my thighs, I can recall the anaesthetist joking with me before a rapid search of the room finds the missing articles and the final knot is formed. I had regained enough movement to shuffle myself over on to the recovery trolley, the only part of me still numb was my now deflated stomach, the empty housing for the 41 weeks it took for my son to grow. I can see how people would think I should get over myself, that others have truly horrifying experiences, that my desire for a “natural” birth experience at home was just a pipe dream, one of those things, so time to move on. But I can’t. I’ve tried so many times to move past the pain and chalk it up to experience, but the pain is still real.

This evening I found my file containing my birth notes. The tears flowed freely as I see laid out, line by line, the timescale of my labour. It notes my blood pressure and temperature, the baby’s trace and the ineffective contractions. It says very little of my distress. Even my outburst as I demanded the room be cleared and I flung the ctg straps from my belly was conviently omitted from the entries. Only a short note that the monitor was repositioned and a fresh trace performed before my transfer from the delivery suite.

Perhaps, if I had sought help sooner, the pain and distress that I still feel today would be more managable. Unfortunately the Boy wasn’t an easy baby and the postnatal depression gripped me so hard that I doubt I could have properly addressed the issues even had help been offered. 

One day I hope to be able to help mothers who feel like I did, like I do. I want to reach out to them, to hold their hand, to cry with them and laugh with them, and to find a way to live well despite the trauma. We don’t talk enough about the weird ways our brains work when pregnancy takes control of your body. We don’t talk about how difficult it can be living with guilt, with disappointment, with the discomfort of nightmares and night sweats, waking in tears or dreading falling asleep as a birth gets replayed over and over again and sucks you back into grips of depression.

Postnatal depression, post traumatic stress disorder, “baby blues” – why do we take them so lightly? Mothers like me, we are so glad to be holding our happy, healthy bundles of joy but that is a position running parallel to the mind which can’t “pull itself together”, which can’t just be happy for a positive outcome. 

Mum, don’t feel alone. What you are experiencing is all too familiar to many other mums and we will reach out to you, if you let us. I know it hurts, I know that is draining you mentally and that it is so tough right now, but we can find new ways to make it better, to make it hurt a little less, to make it managable at the very least. You are not alone.

Hormones

It seems like our household is run on those tricky parts of the human system and it is terribly difficult to navigate.

Personally, I had the implant embeded a couple of years back. I am not overly keen, I never wanted to override my bodies own balance in such a way but we hadn’t made a decision about our families future so this gave us breathing space for three long years. Between this and long term breastfeeding my periods have stopped and my empty switch seems to have disappeared as my belly has increased considerably. In fact, I lost a none too shabby 2.5 stone just before deciding on the implant and I’ve gained that and the same again since. I am now hovering around the largest I have ever been and I’m not best pleased with it. I have also been put on some serious anti-depressants to try and counter the Fibro symptoms which may have helped the gain. Sucks to be me this year. The pain is so intense right now so exercise is not an option, even a short walk around Lidl has me beat and makes the rest of the day a right off. At least I don’t have mood swings anymore.

The big girls are all flooding with the damn things! All day, every day, one after the other we will work through an emotional outburst. Generally, it is easily dealt with, nothing outrageous or unmanageable but they seem to be a catalyst for the next big bang. I know the theory of all this but I never imagined just what a minefield it is. Suddenly a simple clothing suggestion becomes an on switch for a plethora of self doubt and accussations of sabotague. I swear, one day my head is going to spin so fast that it will fly off like a spinning top. There is no way to keep up with three teens who are all competing with themselves, each other and the social media peer group which I would quite like to take a massive delete button to. The messages coming from the images, memes, and quick quotes on Snap This and Insta That are a ginormous boiling pot of misery masked as sympathy and “advice”. We are the lucky family that are tech savvy and switched off enough to talk to each other and work through some of the damage these social groups can cause. When I hear tales of their real life school peers, the time they spend interacting with trolls and frenemies, the backlash they experience for wearing the wrong brand or not being quite “on point” with the latest eyebrow shape, I shudder and allow an audible profanity to escape whilst describing these faceless internet users. The boys are no more protected from this mockery and hate filled onslaught, they are just more likely to internalise the self loathing this invisible bully causes. No wonder that depression, anxiety, self harm, & low self esteem are hitting terrific highs in recent studies. The lack of personal, non-study based classes in the UK has to take a hit on this too. If we do not take the time to educate our young people about the positive role they can and will play in society, the impact their future job or position could help to raise the sense of self worth, and just the ability to decipher the hideous circus that the World Wide Web can so often be.

Our Big Lad has his own horomonal battle to fight. If it isn’t bad enough that his body is producing an abundance of the “wrong” hormone for his personal body preference, he also has to take a different hormone based prescription to help counter balance this cruel reminder that somehow, somewhere, something went a bit skew whiff. He has been considering blockers for a good long while now and it is the likely route he takes on his path to finally taking testosterone. This has it’s own complicated set of checks and balances, as well as a huge list of unknowns for this relatively new regime.

As a mother I’m finding this all a great deal to take in. For a 16 year old taking GCSEs (or whatever the damn certificates will end up saying) this must be a consideration which takes up more time than you’d prefer to allow as you chart out a revision timetable and pencil in study groups and classes running before and after school. I wish that I could make this process easier, to take away some of the stress and strain but it isn’t in my power. I get to sit back and offer a listening ear and the taxi service to various appointments, classes, and youth groups. 

To think, all those years ago when we first planned a large family, I never really gave much thought to how challenging this part of parenthood could prove to be. Now I’m living it I can confirm that it is as tough as all those commentaters have joked over the years but I can also confidently say, even with the teenagers, and the Threenanger, and the Queen Bee baby of the bunch, the Smiler, and the Boy – I would do this all over again. 

Despite the drama, the mayhem, and the sheer overwhelming need for reassurance that hormones seem to elicit, my young people are coping in a way I can only dream of. The sheer awe that I feel when I see each of them find their path through the hurdles and the set backs is almost beyond words. Our eight wonderful, individual, unique, and outstanding examples of the beauty that dna can create far outweighs this mass hormone onslaught. This is what gets me through, that and knowing that one day they may well experience a little of this rollercoaster with their own dna experiments.