Friday, 27 January 2012

Clearance

So the big aim this year is to move house. Make no mistake its going to be a Mission. We are currently in the throes of a super sized sort out to prepare the anti tardis, our cramped London flat, for sale. It's going to be a clearance so big it will rival every sofa superstore sale in the Queen's kingdom, and try saying that after a swift glass of vino. 

When it comes to storing personal history I find people tend to fall into one of these two camps; they are either hoarders or throw away-ers. There doesn't seem to be an enlightened middle way approach to managing ones belongings. It's either keep it or chuck it. Black and white. Well Younger Dad is a sentimental hoarder while I on the other hand am a self righteously proud throw away-er. However on this grand occasion of the super sized sort out the roles appear to be reversing.

Younger Dad was tasked with emptying the dusty relics residing in the loft. This weekend he cleared the roof of all the empty cardboard containers; various sized boxes he kept in case of an ebay sale or vaguely 'just in case they might come in handy one day'. Then, and accompanied by enthusiastic squeals from Little A, he piled all the boxes waist high in our lounge before methodically flattening them and finally transporting the whole lot with almost reckless abandon down to the local dump. He hasn't started on his objects d'IT, the foisty camping equipment or the dinosaur hamster just yet but it's a refreshing start.

I on the other hand had to sort through Little A's old clothes, baby equipment and toys. I found the process rather heartbreakingly emotional for the following two reasons ....



I just don't want to let go of the physical memories of my baby. Little A turns two this weekend but once upon a time my arms held her delicate newborn frame in tiny little baby grows and miniature vests. Each cotton baby grow, woolly cardigan, and tiny sock represents a fleeting moment of her precious growth. I laid all her old clothes out on our bed sorting the different ages into separate piles; newborn, 0-3 months , 3-6 months, 6-9 months, you get the picture. Upon completing this task I stood back with my arms crossed and gazed upon the scene of jumpers, trousers, leggings, romper suits, dresses and under garments stacked on the duvet. Honestly, the towers of baby clothing rendered me silent as I became lost in a sea of flashbacks from Little A's first years. I duly picked up individual items and deeply inhaled their cleanly washed smell, tears gathering in my eyes. I then chose the best practical pieces, sentimental items I really love and beautiful clothes bought from friends and relatives to keep from each era. The discarded chaff will be donated to a either the NCT or a charity. Unfortunately I just don't have time to sell it all on ebay.

It shone an ultra bright spot light on the decision to have a second child.  This is currently creating alot of background static in my head. You see I'm 41 so time is a-ticking but I'm still not quite sure whether I want another baby. Life is starting to take on a hue of normality again. Do I want a repetition of the last two years? Younger Dad certainly doesn't. Do I really want to risk another severe depression in pregnancy with a toddler? Do I want to go through post traumatic stress and PND again? How would a second child affect my marriage? On the other hand I worry about Little A being an only. I constantly think about her being alone in the world. Younger Dad keeps reminding me that clearing out a few things does not mean we wont have another baby.

So in the mean time I will hang onto some of Little A's clothing, the co-sleeper cot, the bucket bath, the slings I actually used, the bouncer chair, the play gym, the breast pump and a few other bits and pieces I found very useful.

I won't however be keeping this visual monstrosity. Practical, YES! Easy on the eye, an emphatic NO!

Eye Sore
So are you a hoarder or a throw away-er?
Are you sticking with the one child and if so what are your reasons for this decision?

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Guest Post - 'The Notes Read High Risk'


Ellen Arnison writes a witty, evocative and popular blog, In a Bun Dance. She is a professional writer and author. Her book, Blogging for Happiness, was published last December.

Enjoy ....








THE NOTES READ HIGH RISK

My final pregnancy culminated in a C section not long after my 42nd birthday. And so I was an older mum too.

My first child was born in 1999 when I was 32, the second in 2002 at 34.

The subsequent years saw me on my own for a while before I met and married second husband - the Panther of News.

The PoN was lovely with my boys and I really didn't have a huge urge to have more kids... so we plodded on.

Then my dad died a couple of months after our wedding and we had a bit of a seize-the-day conversation after which I had my IUD removed. Then I forgot all about it.

It was almost ten months later before I started to feel a bit odd. OMG, as they say. I can cheerfully say I hadn't really thought it through.

All was well until I miscarried at 20 weeks. A post mortem showed that I had Protein S Deficiency - a blog clotting disorder. This probably had much more of an impact on how things were than being older.

Now it was impossible to forget about it and we, ahem, applied ourselves to the business of conception. I paid close attention to my cycles and learns that the field window of opportunity often comes earlier and earlier in the 28 days as you get older.

Three months later I was pregnant again and this time my notes said HIGH RISK all over them in red pen.

Bring pregnant was reasonably horrible. I was injecting myself daily with blood thinners, I had sore hips, a low placenta and an irritable uterus. Oh and the little chap stubbornly stuck in the sideways (transverse) position the whole way through. It was a very, very long gestation.

However, Boy Three was delivered healthily by C section - all 9lb 2oz of him.

I did have PND but I think that was much more to do with having such a tense and scary pregnancy coming quite quickly after a miscarriage.

I bottle fed the hungry little fellow from the off and he thrived like a thriving thing. Being older made me much more comfortable with that decision after struggling miserably to breastfeed the other two.

As an older mum I am definitely much more relaxed. The boy ends up in our bed quite a few nights a week but we don’t really worry about it. We don’t have routines and in a way the whole family is bringing him up.

In danger of sounding like Old Mother Time, I would say that parenting for 12 years so far has taught me that, within obvious limits, it doesn't really matter how you do the job of being a mum.

I've seen hippy go-with-the-flow babies, rigid Gina Ford tots and everything in between. By the time they hit the middle of primary school you can't tell the difference.

So in the words of my toddler "be lax mummy it'll be fine”.

Ellen Arnison On Twitter

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Shiny And New

It's now the third week of January and I haven't set out my intent for the still new'ish year ahead. When I look back on 2011 it's like staring into the dank tangled undergrowth of a muddy wood or up a donkey's flatulent back side. Yes it was that life affirmingly good. So ta taa and good riddance to last year. I don't know about you but after all the decadence of Christmas week I'm usually too darn paggered (Yorkshire speak) for a New Years Eve celebration. Having said that I love the psychological watershed a new year beckons .......

By the end of the twelfth month I often feel like I'm trapped in a ramshackle room piled ceiling high with dusty disused furniture and mouse chewed cardboard boxes full of discarded rusting toys and sorry looking one eyed teddy bears. Then midnight strikes on the eve of New Year and I'm finally allowed to savour the Shiny and New Potion that is resting on a three legged table situated between the hypnotic ticking of an old oak grandfather clock and a skeletal coat stand. A door appears and I enter into a new cavernous room that is stripped bare of history. The sun's peachy rays warm and bathe the naked space through large sash windows.  The air is refreshingly clear and innocently scented with a newborn's delicate fragrance that invigorates my weary body.  I come back to life standing in the present and wondering what tomorrow may bring.


So the New Year always heralds a positive energetic shift for me and I gently switch gears. Ritualistically I always relish tearing out the diary pages of the old year from my filofax, yes I still own one, and replacing it with the virgin pages of the year ahead. I then calmly fill the empty dates with birthdays and planned holidays. So what will 2012 bring? My cranky bones tell me its going to be a better year than 2011. One thing I already know is that significant change is afoot as we are planning a migration from the 'anti tardis' to a larger abode in either the quieter suburbia of the home counties or possibly beyond. As long as there is less pigeon poo than London then I'll be a contented lady. A move is a big project. I also know that this year's underlying theme is about renewal and transformation and in the spirit of Kate On Thin Ice's inspirational Grooving Mums here are my plans.

Auf Wiedersehen Black Cloud
I had already identified that I was suffering from post natal traumatic stress and have healed much of this thanks to trauma focused EMDR therapy. However it wasn't until the end of last year that I finally admitted I've additionally been floundering in the turbulent waves of depression. I know I'm getting better because I'm acknowledging that I haven't been well, not just to myself, but to those around me as well. I'm also prone to SAD during Winter's short days and experienced a nose dive last December in which I couldn't muster the inspiration to write about anything. I'm contemplating taking a course of anti-depressants but I still see this option as a last resort and would prefer to lift my spirits by ....

  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Eating a diet full of fresh fruit, veg, whole grains and supplementing this with mood stabilising nutrients like vitamin B12 and evening primrose oil 
  • Taking steps to ensure I have better quality sleep
  • Swimming, yoga, tai chi and walking
  • Some mind fullness and meditation
  • Having a go at some hip shaking Zhumba
  • Acupuncture which I hope will balance out my hormone levels
  • Writing honestly about my experience of PND, so stay tuned! 

Empire Building
Last year I set about rebuilding my therapy practise. I am deeply passionate about my work. I have rooms to see clients, a website to promote my skills and all my administration sorted.  However I am currently only seeing one client and things aren't looking rosy. Business isn't materialising and I think this is down to two salient reasons.

  • I am not ready to take on the emotional demands of more clients just yet as I need to administer alot more TLC on myself first. Additionally, I am a big believer in the universal law of attraction and the add age 'where attention flows energy goes', and I'm currently paying more attention to writing. Maybe the universe is trying to tell me something?
  • We are potentially moving home this year and my intuition keeps signalling that it might be best, in the short term, to put things on hold until I have established some solid roots. Add to this that my childminder is moving away from London this Summer it's starting to feel like fate is telling me the timing isn't right.
  
So I have some decisions to make. I'm going to try and find a new childminder, continue to network and market myself but if nothing happens I'm just going to have to wait. This feels like a lesson in trust, patience and self belief that it will eventually happen when I'm ready. It may be that I have to volunteer for a charity again or find work in the NHS.   

Relationships
My relationship with Younger Dad needs a serious romantic rebooting. Although we knew it was going to be hard work our relationship still buckled under the strain unleashed from Little A's relentless demands and my trauma/depression. So some couples therapy might be a creative move to get us back on track. I can't help thinking it's still a bit of a conversational taboo talking to other couples in a similar position about the parental relationship after the arrival of a baby. Everyone appears to put on a brave face. We did. No one really tells you. And the NCT classes certainly didn't. Unsurprisingly statistics are high for divorce after the first child. 

Writing
Last year I set up Older Mum as an informative resource but then found myself writing about everything other than stuff to do with older mums. So the beginning of this year I made the decision to keep my personal blogging separate from the original site. I'm going to refurbish Older Mum and continue to publish related articles. This blog however is all about me ME me ME and I want to aim to post at least once a week. But, and this is a big skyscraper sized BUT, I don't want blogging to overtake my life like it almost threatened to last year. This would be a very unhealthy situation and make Younger Dad feel rather annoyed and put out. Twitter will be at the bottom of my priority pile. I have committed to attending the BritMums blogging conference which I am both nervous and excited about. I know I'm going to feel like a tiny nipper in a mightily huge pond.      

Reclaiming My Body
This is the year that 'baby milk' and booby comforting has to finish. I have let Little A suckle now for two years and I have reached my limit. Quite how I am going to do this is anybodies guess but if you have any clever ideas I am all ears!

Guest Post - 'Older Mother's – Or how to sell The Daily Mail'

Rachel Selby writes a beautifully eloquent and honest blog, Midlife Single Mum, about her IVF journey, life in Jerusalem as a single mum, and some really delicious regional vegetarian recipes.

Enjoy .....


OLDER MOTHERS - OR HOW TO SELL THE DAILY MAIL

There's a lot of folk wisdom surrounding the whole Older Mother phenomenon. My favourite example was an article in The Daily Mail whereby a first-time mum in her 40s gave all the reasons why it was actually better to have your children later in life – better educated, more mature, more settled, financially secure, more patient, done her thing and got it out of her system, etc….

A few years later the same woman, I can't even remember her name, managed to sell another article by doing an about face and admitting she got it all wrong. Now the mother of a lively young child she felt she didn't have the energy she once had, all her friends are starting to enjoy their second age of freedom while she is stuck at home, she has little in common with the mothers at the school gate, etc…

You've got to admire her cheek. She managed to make money out of first-hand experience on both sides of the argument.

My own experience seems to defy much of the folk wisdom on both sides. And of course being an older mother is never an isolated factor. In my case much of my experience is due to also being single and living in a different country to all my family. Other older mothers may have other older children, step children, health issues, older husbands, or ailing parents. The possibilities for a complicated lifestyle are endless. And they can apply to younger mothers just as well.

I didn't choose to have my first child at the age of 46, it just happened. I actually chose to have about six children fathered by an extremely wealthy husband and all in my 20s. Would that becoming a mother were as easy as shopping for furniture.

I am more educated as I got my MA in my late 30s. I am more mature but probably don't have the patience I once had for young children. I thought owning my own home would be more secure than renting – it is of course but you still have to make the mortgage payments every month and that's a worry. I was financially secure until I gave birth, then the hours available for work shrunk by about half. As for having done my thing, I did a lot of things but actually I always shortened my horizons in favour of hanging around for Mr Right who never showed up.

On the other hand, although I am old enough to be the mother of some of the other parents at the nursery school, I don't feel the generation gap and have made some terrific friends there. Most of them are actually only a few years younger than me, especially where the pre-schooler is their final child. I have fun with my daughter and am excited for her at every stage in her development, I imagine in the same way a young mother feels. We dance and romp, play in the park and build dens. We don't sit down to afternoon tea with scones followed by a game of gin-rummy (although I do intend to introduce her to card games as soon as she's old enough to count to 21).

My friends are indeed seeing their children grow up and flee the nest. They are once again able to go out (and stay out) without prior arrangement, go away for weekends and holidays. They have started reading again as they can stay in bed most of the weekend to do so. I am stuck at home because a) you can't go out too often as the little one needs the security of her mother, and b) I can't afford babysitters. I don't mind because a) I have to put in extra hours of work in the evenings anyway when she's asleep and b) I have discovered blogging and the virtual community that comes with it so I don't actually feel alone or cut-off completely.

Some of my friends are depressed at the prospect of moving on to the next stage of life whilst others embrace it with the anticipation of an adventure. Some of them envy me, some of them look at what I have ahead and say, "thank God we're done."

The best advice I ever got was from my doctor who told me not to think about the details of being an older mother too much. "One thing I can tell you," she said, "is that no one I know who has gone ahead with having a baby in untypical circumstances has ever regretted it so there's no point in scaring yourself out of it."

Motherhood is all I have ever wanted and I waited a long time for it. It wasn't cheap and it wasn't an easy journey. If I'd realised my dream earlier I wouldn't have the daughter I eventually brought home. Am I a different mother to the mother I would have been in my 20s? Probably. Am I a better or worse mother because of my age? Absolutely not.



Monday, 16 January 2012

The Year That Wasn't

Mentally I can't write anything else until I've wrapped up last year and sewn some visionary seeds for 2012 which incidentally will be the fodder for my next piece. So I've been particularly inspired by Kate On Thin Ice, Caught Writing and Mummy Plum to mull over the highs and lows of 2011. I feel a little late to the party as this theme did the rounds weeks ago. Oh well better late than never ... 

1. What was your happiest event?
This is a difficult question to answer as 2011 wasn't especially wonderful due to post birth traumatic anxiety plus the emotionally flattening affects of the black dog. But if I am to handpick a few fond memories they would be ...
  • A fairly relaxed sojourn in a heavily wall papered holiday cottage situated amongst the greenery and agricultural odours of the North Norfolk coast.
  • Little A learning and succeeding to walk at 17 months
  • Little A learning to communicate in frighteningly coherent sentences; she can articulate b*gg*r beautifully.

2. What was the saddest thing to happen?
Younger Dad's grandfather and one of his Aunt's passed away. The Aunt had been battling terminal cancer for two years. She'd been doing so well but then suddenly declined last Autumn. Younger Dad's grandfather had lived a very full life having enjoyed a very successful career as a restaurateur, a life long marriage, four children, a double decker amount of grandchildren and lived to see the arrival of four great grandchildren. I find that when a life has been so richly lived it makes the act of letting the deceased go smoother and easier to accept. But when someone dies before their time, Younger Dad's Aunt was only in her fifties, it is so heartbreakingly sad and the memorial less of a celebration of a life amply lived. 


Another sad thing which I need to name and shame so as to remind myself that this must never happen again was a particularly awful argument that took place in front of Little A *lowers head in disgrace* between Younger Dad and I. It was one of those very emotional shouty spats. Little A was 19 months at the time and it distressed her so much that she retrieved a loving photo of mummy and daddy off the speaker stand and promptly shoved it in our waring faces. Younger Dad and I stopped dead in our tracks. I'm afraid to say that my daughter possessed more emotional maturity than the pair of us. Needless to say that scene has never nor will it ever be repeated again. I hope.   

3. What was the most unlikely thing to happen that actually went ahead?
I was meant to start rebuilding my therapy career but instead found myself setting up a blog which really took me by surprise as I hadn't considered writing before. So penning my thoughts seems to be a new creative outlet for me.


4. Who let you down?
Those nearest and dearest don't generally tend to let me down but 2011 was an exception. Firstly there was my step mother who sensitively reminded me during a particular point of exhaustion in February that I'd made 'a rod for my own back' regarding Little A's sleep and that 'most parents have their babies sleeping through by the time they are six weeks old'! So why are there so many books about the challenges of baby sleep then? Her 'support' made me feel smaller than Tom bloody Thumb.


Secondly my father referred to my lack of solid mental health and ensuing symptoms of anxiety and withdrawal as 'strange behaviour' which I didn't find particularly understanding or supportive. Both my step mum and dad have a bee in their bonnet that I didn't 'join in' when we went to stay with them last Easter. This was during my darkest hour when I was experiencing an unpleasant emotional cocktail of trauma and depression. Socialising isn't easy when one is hidden under a veil of emptiness, despondency and self absorption. A veil incidentally that wasn't of my inviting. A veil which had stealthily crept over me like the march of an incoming tide so that I found myself suddenly marooned on an isolated sandy bank with little connection to the life and happy throng of those on the distant shore. Basically the black dog really cocked its miserable leg on me last year.  

5. Who supported you?
My mother, mother-in-law, best friend, Younger Dad, therapist and my blog. I also want to say how appreciative I am of all the lovely new internet friends I am making; your support has been wonderful. 

6. Tell us one thing you learned
I've always been a total Luddite so it was very refreshing to find that I had some technological spark in me when I set about creating Older Mum. The other thing I've admitted to myself is that I've not been on the best form mentally or emotionally. I blame this on the post natal doldrums which really sank its teeth in when Little A turned one last January. 


7. Tell us one thing that made you laugh
This is going to sound really maudlin but I didn't laugh so much in 2011 on account of how I've been feeling which is pretty depressing in itself as I'm usually rather jovial and game for a laugh. That aside Little A always makes me laugh especially when she has a fit of giggles. Another thing that made me laugh out loud was In The Fright Garden by Mother Venting which totally appealed to my black sense of humour.  


8. Tell us one thing that made you cry
Too many things made me weep but turning 41 ranks high amongst last years tear jerkers. 

 
9. Tell us three things your child or children did to make you feel proud
Little A walking. Little A talking, and Little A displaying gentle affection and empathy towards other small children; that made me feel very proud. 


10. Tell us one thing that made you proud of yourself
Creating Older Mum and discovering the possibility that maybe just maybe I can write. 

11. Tell us one challenge you overcame
My post natal anxiety with specific trauma focused therapy. Still haven't overcome sinking my finger deeply into the nutella jar though.


12. Tell us three things you would like to change about your life in 2012
More peace
More love
More head space .... and time to write.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Guest Post - 'Less Risky Second Time Around'


By My Gorgeous Boys.

She writes a lovely honest warm blog about life with her two sons and hard working husband. The way she writes makes you feel like you are having a catch up over a cuppa with a good friend.

Enjoy .....






LESS RISKY SECOND TIME AROUND

I didn’t plan to become a mum late in life and don’t really feel like I am “old”! In my 20’s I was focused on my career (in IT) and generally having fun with friends. I loved going to see live bands, shopping on Saturdays, exotic travel, out for meals and going to the gym. I bought my first house when I was 27 after living in rented accommodation for several years as a student and spent the years after continuing to live like a student but with a salary! I did work hard at my career, gaining a 1st class honours degree and then a MSc in Management Consultancy which I did part time whilst concentrating on my career. I couldn't really imagine having children but I think perhaps it also is about you being in the right place and with the person that you would want to have children with.

I met Gary when I was 31 and we got married when I was 34. I got pregnant very easily (on our honeymoon!) with a due date three months after my 35th birthday. The pregnancy went really well with no complications and I planned a home birth. Throughout the pregnancy I went to aqua natal and yoga for pregnancy classes for relaxation. I was starting to lose motivation in my career at this time, although I did pass the PRINCE 2 project management qualification when 6 months pregnant. The home birth, however, wasn't meant to be and I ended up having an induction when I was 12 days overdue. I had gone into hospital to be monitored but they said the baby’s heart rate was dropping so he was quickly whisked out with forceps (ouch!). But we had a healthy baby boy weighing in at 6lbs and 7oz and he was just perfect. I wouldn’t say I fell madly in love with him on first sight although I did feel protective towards him I remember sitting in the labour suite wondering what on earth I was supposed to do with him. Mother Nature didn't come calling naturally!

I did find the early days of parenting very hard. I was sore from breastfeeding (had mastitis twice) due to incorrect attachment and I generally didn't feel very confident in my role as a new mum. I was also shattered, as most new parents are and, typically, he fed mostly at night and slept in the day. When he was asleep I used it as an opportunity to do things I wanted to do (rarely sleeping was on that list!) like catch up with emails and reading (mostly parenting books as I was convinced I would find answers in them!). I was finding the learning curve of motherhood very sharp and very hard work.

We started going to our local Sure Start centre playgroups and I met up with lots of other mums with babies the same age. Before children I hadn't involved myself in the community where I lived at all so it was really nice to chat to other mums who were going through the same thing. Most of mine and Gary’s family live quite a drive away (at least an hour or so) and Gary works long hours in the computer games industry, so without this support my friends became like extended family. We took our babes shopping, swimming, to playgroups, on walks and it was these relationships that kept me going in the early months.

I had my second child two years later at 37 years old, he was born at home weighing 8lbs 13 oz and I was in love with him as soon as I saw him. He fed and slept regularly and I never had any sort of “baby blues” with him at all (didn't have the time!).

Interestingly, I had the nuchal translucency scan at 12 weeks with both pregnancies as this is standard in Nottingham hospitals to be offered to mums over 35 years. I can’t remember what the odds were but the funny thing was they were much lower in my 2nd pregnancy that with my 1st (which is surprising given I was 2 years older and statistically the odds should have been higher!). I put this down to me being more relaxed with my 2nd pregnancy that I was with my 1st and also possibly healthier and more relaxed!

For various reasons I didn't return to my job after children. Because I am older I know how quickly time goes and at the moment I don’t want to work and miss out on them growing up. With children you don’t have the same lifestyle so we survive on one wage. I do really miss earning my own money and having that financial independence though. Being a full time mum is definitely not what I would have envisaged myself doing before becoming a parent. Although it is incredibly hard work, it is definitely the fun option!

I don’t know if being an older mum has made me a better parent than I would have been if I had had children earlier although having life experience must have some effect on my attitude. I am relaxed in some ways, co-sleeping with them both when they were young as I found it the easiest way to minimise sleep deprivation! On the other hand I know I did, and sometimes still do, set quite high standards of myself subsequently putting myself under pressure. At times that can be very exhausting and destined to failure. Having time at home has reignited my love of writing, which led to starting up my blog writing about things we are doing and what we are going through and I love reading other blogs. This has been great for getting my brain working again and gives me a sense of focus and, even, achievement that being a mum can’t. I guess it is just that it is good to do something for myself when you feel so enveloped in the world of small, gorgeous but quite full-on, children!

My Gorgeous Boys On Twitter
My Gorgeous Boys On Facebook

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Bloody Baked Beans And Secrets I Shouldn't Divulge

Many many moons ago I was tagged by the very cool Mish Mash Mum, Kate On Thin Ice and Trouble Doubled for an illustrious Tell Me About Yourself award and its taken me until now to respond. My blogging manners are shocking. I am wiping all petty excuses away from my mouth with a three week old crusty J-cloth and solemnly hang my head in shame. My apologies.



But before I tuck into this post here's a brief meandering from the task at hand with a delightfully macabre lunchtime exchange that took place the other day ...

Little A: ''Mummy I'm wiping blood from the baked beans."

Me (looking worried): "What? Oh that's just tomato sauce sweetheart."

Little A: "No, it's blood."

Nice. It seems my gentille daughter is an aspiring vampire.

Anyway with this award I am now about to burden you with '7 secret things' about myself and then tag a truck load of other bloggers to do the same. So here they be...

1. I have a tattoo on the top left of my shoulder. It's of Pegasus that Ancient Greek mythological horse with wings. The wings had nothing to do with Red Bull, that ghastly acidic stomach knotting drink, but apparently from the divine magic of the gods. I was 21 at the time and had just finished my degree. So what did I do to celebrate? I gallivanted off to the drizzly sea side 'picture postcard' Lancashire town of Morecambe where they do serve very fine fish and chips and got me what now resembles an indelible ink smudge in a dodgy tattoo parlour. Father was not impressed.

2. I once accidentally poo'ed in a bidet. Not particularly proud of this one. Picture the scene. Its the annual family holiday. We've just arrived at our hotel room and I'm desperate for the lavatory. I rush into the bathroom and without paying detailed attention to the rooms apparatus sit down on what feels like a toilet rim. I then 'off load my personal baggage'. Feeling relieved I then freeze in horror as I turn to view the actual toilet to my right and it dawns upon me with the speed of a five mile wide meteor impacting the earth that I have in fact poo'ed in the bidet. Mortified. Embarrassed. This doesn't begin to describe how I felt as a then very self conscious teenager. Needless to say my two younger brothers found the whole incident hilarious. Little bastards rapscallions.

3. I have turned my hand to amateur dramatics very, very badly. Stand out characters I have  portrayed include Mike TV from Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory, my American accent was very dubious, and the resurrected one himself, Jesus, in a Sunday School performance of the Easter Story. Pardon the pun but I crucified my rendition of the one who artfully turns water into wine. To this day I have no idea why my parents packed me off to Sunday School. They weren't even remotely religious. Maybe it was a 70's thing. Or maybe they just wanted *quality* mummy daddy time. I shudder at the thought. Quick, deflect my mind with something else ... coal, lettuce, a cheeseboard but not THAT, not my parents doing the 'ole fandango ........ eeewww.

4. I am cunning as a crafty fox and the mouse in the Gruffalo.  During the heady early days of my relationship with Younger Dad I slyly tricked him into believing that giant dinosaur hamsters once roamed the earth. He bought it hook line and sinker. Bless him. He was so loved up and misty eyed that he was rendered defenceless against my wily tales. He was not amused when I fessed up. Now whenever he is hit upon by a viral bout of gullibility I always remind him much to his continued annoyance of the 'dinosaur hamster'.

5. I am the worst kind of vegetarian. I am not  a 'vegetarian's vegetarian'. I started out with noble aspiring ambitions to be one upon entering Uni as a veggie diet was a resoundingly cheaper one. Nothing to do with the ethics of slaughtering poor defenceless fluffy things then. In true Yorkshire style I cared mare about the pound in my pocket. I still ate fish though so that did not really qualify me as a vegetarian. I then fell off the wagon in glorious fashion during my mid twenties determinedly working my way back up the food chain. Bacon, turkey parmigiana and coronation chicken - yum - were to blame. I now fail miserably in meeting my five a day!

6. I am awful ney atrocious at mathematics - I scored an Unclassified in my maths O'level. Thank god I had a CSE to back that up with. Managed to scrape a grade one. My late Grandma outclassed me during the numbers conundrum on Countdown.

7. I was a 'solo' break dancer. I didn't have a 'crew' or a piece of lino for public displays of moon walking and back spinning or a shell suit for that matter. No I break danced very, very badly in my back garden. Probably a good thing the garden hedge shielded me from the shocked eyes of passers by. It proved a good cloaking device. Still I did win not one but two dancing competitions on a family holiday in Tunisia aged 13; it was the 'robotics' that gave me the edge.

So come on you lot show me yours ......

Caught Writing
Bling Bouy
Up Yours Gina Ford
Flossing The Cat
Older Single Mum

Guest Post - 'Diamonds, Pearls and Babies'

Harriet Kelsall runs a highly acclaimed bespoke design jewellery company specialising in engagement rings.  Her business has won many awards including the 2011 UK Jewellery awards and Harriet has been named as the Everywoman Retail ‘Woman of the Year’.  She juggles this with 2 young children (Thomas is 6 and Eleanor is 2) and talks about her journey into mother hood.


DIAMONDS PEARLS AND BABIES




When I set up my business at 27 I didn't really consider that I might want kids in the future; I was just busy trying to scratch a living.  But the business flourished and I was soon taking on premises, employing people and carving out a niche making affordable bespoke jewellery.

At around 32 I realised that if we wanted kids I needed to plan how to manage it. I was I was working super-long hours starting at 8am and finishing at 11pm 7 days a week. Running a business also meant maternity cover wasn't a viable option. The only solution was to try to come back to work about 2 weeks after childbirth.

I started trying when I was 34. I got pregnant the first time we tried but sadly lost the baby at 11 weeks. It was a bit traumatic because I didn't realise you had to go through a teeny-tiny mini labour if you miscarried so early.  I suddenly realised that I wasn't that young and blamed myself terribly thinking perhaps I was working too hard.

My dad reminded me that many women in the world work a lot physically harder than me whilst pregnant and also that my great-grandmother didn't started her family of 4 until she was 42.

When I was finally pregnant with Thomas, the tiredness that I experienced being older pregnant mum-to-be certainly redefined tiredness all over again!  I had a really long pre-labour and labour with Thomas who took about 3 days to arrive.  (Actually he still seems to take about that long to get dressed in the morning). I was 35 when he was born.

I was determined not to have an epidural as somebody I know was very badly affected by one. So despite two nights without sleep Thomas was finally born on gas and air and a lot of will power!

I remember feeling completely amazed when they placed Thomas on my tummy.  Had that perfect tiny baby really grown inside me?  I couldn't sleep. When I got up onto the ward at 2am as I just couldn't stop looking at him in awe at his very existence.

The first 2 weeks were a bit of a blur.  I remember lots of tears and a strange lack of understanding between what was day and what was night.  I remember home visits from work colleagues calling with gemstones for me to price.  I struggled with breast feeding and ended up expressing for every feed at all hours.  It was just such a crazy time.

Then somehow I was back at work for three hours a day just two weeks after Thomas’ birth.  I remember worrying because the work was already really piling up and I couldn't bear to let anybody down.  But there was also no way I was going to compromise on the time I could spend with Thomas. I do think though that being an older mum helped me cope with this kind of extreme multi-tasking..

Thomas was really quite a challenge because he had what we thought was reflux (actually when he was 3 we discovered he was allergic to milk).  There wasn't much sleep to be had in our house for the first year of his life.

When I went along to my first toddler group, all of the other mums seemed so much younger than me.  I suddenly felt quite lonely as an ‘older mum’.  Many of my friends were at a different stage of their lives or I had left them behind in London when I moved away.  I wasn't sure I could relate to these younger mums as our lives were so different. However, I soon met a couple of mums of a more similar age to me at a different toddler group and we have since become good friends.

Sadly there followed quite a lot more miscarriages.  The specialist at the time said that it may well be happening because we are both a bit older (my husband is 6 years older than me).  But we had various tests and there was nothing specifically ‘wrong’.

That last miscarriage was quite upsetting for my husband. I had to be admitted to hospital and receive 4 units of blood and emergency surgery.  So we decided to give it one last try and if unsuccessful possibly consider adoption or Thomas would remain an only child.

Fortunately I found myself pregnant again and for longer than 12 weeks which was brilliant!

We had the usual scans but were told there was quite a high chance that the baby could have Downs Syndrome.  This was worrying and confusing because we didn't really know much about Downs.  I didn't want to have the invasive test because of the small chance it could lead to yet another miscarriage.  But we quickly learned a lot about Downs and decided that actually, if our baby this condition, then this would be OK and something that we felt we would be ready for.

When Eleanor was born she didn't have Downs.  But having come up so ‘close’ to facing a baby with Downs I feel I have a lot more understanding about it now. I view this syndrome very differently and more positively now.

By the time I had Eleanor at 38 I had worked hard to get the business functioning more independently from me. Consequently I managed to take 3 months off work with only e-mail/phone calls to attend to. This worked well especially as the business now 25 staff and a very good General Manager.

Now that Thomas is at school and Eleanor is 2, I am starting to feel a bit more human again and lots of my energy has returned.

It is impossible for me to look at my children and not remember that I am very lucky.

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