Playground Panic…

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The schoolyard (I know I know, I JUST said I wasn’t going to write about the kids and the FIRST TWO words of this next post is about school, but bear with me), as a lot of new parents know, is terrifying.

I have been a school age parent for three weeks now, and I am yet to make a friend. This is not because I’m a cool loner who stands at the age of the playground in a leather jacket, a beret and a cigarette (am I thinking of Molly Ringwold? I feel like this must be a film scene from the edge of my memory!). It’s because even though I practise saying things to people in my head “I like your shoes/aww how old is your baby/they’re always last out aren’t they”, no joke, I say these things over and over in my head, but somehow non of it has yet come out of my bloody mouth. If they’re in a group my mind tells me they don’t want a stranger butting in, if they’re alone my mind suggests maybe they prefer being on their own. I wear a lot of gaming and film t-shirts, they probably will think I’m weird. I never have make up on, they probably think I I look like a hobo. I’m currently on medication for getting rid of kidney stones, but it’s given me really bad skin (HA! As if I haven’t had bad skin since age 11..!) so that’s all anyone will notice. All of these thoughts I know are irrational. I know it’s the black dog talking, it’s coming from a place of anxiety, not logic, and not really who I am as a person. But so far its winning. Well no that’s not true. 

In the school playground it’s winning, for now. I’m not even 100% sure which parents have children in my daughters class or year group, the playground is full of people picking kids up from the entire school. It’s big, it’s daunting and I think it’s ok not to have settled in myself in three weeks, especially as I don’t do all the drop offs and pick ups. It takes time and I’m willing to give myself that time.  

My younger daughter is at nursery, students are between 2 – 4, and the total number of students any one day is about 20 max. All parents there are waiting for kids in my daughters class because they are all one class. This is more doable.

I explained last time that my anxiety and nerves had taken a nose dive after a series of sad or unlucky events within the last year. I knew relocating across the country, away from the town that for 30 years (in the main) I had called home, was going to be an adjustment. Over the Summer we were travelling round so much for work that I’m not even going to blame myself for it taking a while. We’ve lived here now for 8 months, but in truth, for myself and my husband, we only really started our settling in process mid September. 

So the small nursery is a better starting ground than the school gates really. A few days ago someone said they liked my shoes, I said thank you and then said (look at me go!) ‘I wish I’d worn sandals really as it’s been so hot today.’ My heart was POUNDING in my chest, I’d done it, I’d ‘chatted’. I only had that on hand as I had been practising ‘I like your shorts, I wish I’d worn shorts now it’s so hot today,’ and because I have a PhD, I was able to improvise with my practise material….
…shut up, small victories and all that! 

As if I was on some sort of power trip, I then had a half conversation with one of the Mums who lives on my road about toddler tantrums (my youngest was having one at the time and she said her son was also very tantrumy – thank you Holly!). I thought about walking with her and then offering her a coffee when we went passed my house. But after saying it in my head a few times, I balked and went left instead of right, telling my strongest potential for my first friend that I needed to go into town. I could hear myself screaming WIMP, at myself. In my defence I did have to go into town but I didn’t need to go right then, I just got too nervous. But I spoke to her and next week maybe I’ll walk home with her, and maybe after that I’ll invite her in. She definitely seems open to being friends, she’s also new to the area so I’m overthinking it way too much and making it way too difficult for myself! BUT, that’s two interactions, and stupidly, enough to make me feel like I’m going to get there.

A little back story – a decade ago you’d have thought I was Van Wilder (it’s an early 00’s film about a party animal called Van Wilder…it’s not really as apt if I have to explain it!), I went out at least twice a week with a big group of friends (all through uni, a surprising large percentage of us all stuck around in the area). I fancied trying netball so I set up a team, an initial team which, within a few years had four teams in a local league. 

Go back 16 years and you’d think I was a recluse. I had left school prematurely due to ill health and completed my ALevels through home learning. I didn’t sleep during the night, was pretty agoraphobic and stayed within the confines of my Dads house and mainly only left for epilepsy appointments at the hospital. 

The teenage experience was mainly because I was diagnosed with epilepsy age 14 and then went through a lengthy diagnosis process and a seemingly even longer prescribing process to get the medication right. I was too nervous to leave the house on my own in case I had a seizure. I didn’t sleep well because the medication messed up my sleeping patterns which got even worse after a bout of glandular fever.

But it only took a few years for me to go from hermit to apparent party animal. So I know that although I’ve obviously been prone to slightly unstable mental health, but I’m also able to manage it when I don’t feel like my nerves are on high alert. I went through some difficult stuff as a teen, and I’ve been through some difficult stuff in the last few years. I’m certainly not saying that what I went through at either point was worse than what a lot of people endure, and God knows that in a lot of ways, I am incredibly lucky. But what I have recently accepted about myself is that sometimes in times of high stress or trauma, I need a bit of time to recover. And the consequent brain damage (if you haven’t read my last post, very mild and not a serious issue), means I have physical and mental limitations that I need to respect.

I can also hear my mother shout ‘and you do too much, I do wish you’d slow down’, at this point..! And she’s right, I am prone to taking on a lot and I’m a terrible people pleaser so I find it very hard to say no, I end up stressing myself out when I can’t do things for people even though, saying no is not always a bad thing and is something I’m trying to actively teach my daughters is quite often a positive thing to do. Although she’s also a people pleaser so I blame her entirely (love you Mum 😉 )! 

Hermit and party animal are very much opposite ends of the scale. Who I really am is someone in between. I like my own company and sometimes need some alone time, especially when I’m working or learning. But I also love being around people, I love helping and supporting people, and I love to try new things. 

So at the moment I’ve slid back down towards hermit. Not in the same way as before, but the nerves, the anxiety, the twitching hands, the struggling to sleep are all familiar. I have two huge motivations for not staying inside all the time, and the girls are genuinely my driving power behind keeping going when it’s particularly tough. I’ve also been down familiar roads before so I have a few coping methods to draw on. I sign up for regular sporting events so I always have something to train for or aim towards. I eat much better with a healthy varied diet (‘diets’ are firmly banned, I’ve personally found that no good has ever come from them). I have regular baths with scented candles and genuinely find that those candles and bath bombs calm me. 

And I’m trying to take each day as it comes and I’m trying to acknowledge the small victories. Some of which include (as silly as some of them might sound);

– opening up to my parents and brother about how I was feeling after trying to hide it throughout a mental (great in many ways but very stressful) Summer schedule. Sounds like an obvious thing but was actually harder than I thought, you never want to disappoint those closest to you and I certainly didn’t want my family thinking they needed to worry about. Turns out they were already worried and my opening up was a relief. I know that I am very lucky to have my family.

– looking at my work commitments and being honest about what I could do, I had no less than seven voluntary roles for companies or organisations and I’ve now only have one, in a field I adore working with a very small team who are more like family. 

– I rounded up and donated some old clothes, some that are too big and some that were baggy shapeless clothes that is started to hide away in.

– I went to the Dr, and was honest about how I was feeling instead of my go to ‘oh I’m fine’.

– I admitted I didn’t like travelling away from home. I had an amazing opportunity to speak to some producers in LA about some writing I’d submitted, and I had an all expenses paid trip to LA to discuss and experiment with a couple of ideas. It was a fantastic experience that I know I’m incredibly lucky to have had, but I realised when I was there (and the panic attack I had on the way to the airport heavily suggested it..!) that I just did not enjoy being away from my family, not necessarily for ever, but certainly right now. Realising that and accepting that was a huge relief. For self employed people, saying no to any work is basically unthinkable and irresponsible, but actually there are times when it’s more important to say to yourself ‘this sort of thing is not for me and that’s ok’.

I’m not the housewife type, give me five minutes and I’m bored and wanting to try something new, and that’s a trait that is not likely to change! That’s not to say I don’t love looking after my girls and don’t enjoy cooking and using some of my downtime to make our house a home. (And that in itself is a full time job that I really admire other men or women for taking on full time) But it’s not really who I am, but it IS where I am at the moment while I get back on my feet, physically speaking (I have some treatments to hopefully improve the minor issues with the brain) and mentally speaking. 

So back to the playground. It’s terrifying. But you know what, I feel like in time I will get to know some parents. And then ironically, once I have a couple of friends in the local area and am a bit more settled, I won’t even notice that there are lots there I don’t know. And that’s what I’m trying to concentrate on, it will take, in reality, a small amount of progress to make a huge difference. In one week they’ll both be on half term and I cannot wait to have some quality time with them both, and school holidays, maybe I’ll even be telling my husband to keep a night free so I can go to the cinema with a friend. 

Right now everything hurts and it feels so hard and like an unclimbable mountain. But it needs time, which is easier said than done. And let’s be honest, we all know the LOGIC behind how we’re feeling, but that doesn’t help at the time. It won’t be smooth sailing either, it is soon to be the year anniversary of losing my cousin, which means a month later it’ll be the year anniversary of losing one of our best friends. And that will be tough. But life is tough and there’s never going to be a year where any of us get to the end of it saying ‘well that was a stress free easy year’! I don’t want to belittle anyone struggles though and I shouldn’t belittle my own. This year one of my New Years resolutions was to have a year free of operations having had at least one every year since 2014. Two of which were C-Sections, but the other 4 were not, my health has not been in good shape since before my first pregnancy! And somehow my husband and I decided to cram pretty much all major life decisions into the same four years as starting a family, we moved house twice, started and grew a family business, I was made redundant, and of course our two kids were born. Frankly we were sorting of asking to live life on a harder mode! 

So overall I’m optimistic. My husband and kids have settled fantastically in our new hometown, it won’t take too much longer for me too. There will be no more babies, no more moving and no more huge career changes now, so I have time to focus on healing, and getting stronger. It still doesn’t make it an easy path, it’s covered in thorny brambles which will hurt to cut through, and bits of rubbish strewn across it that I need to take the time to pick up and dispose of properly, but what I need to keep in mind is that I can SEE the path. 

This has somewhat turned into an essay style string of brain vomit! Things are tough right now but behind the things out of my control, the things I’m worried about are normal and natural. It will be ok, I have 100% record of getting through tough days and I aim to continue that ratio for a very long time. I don’t need to conquer the playground, I just need to see past the fears, and find my feet. I’ve been a school child parent for three weeks and will remain so for at least the next 18 years. It’s not easy right now, but everything’s going to be ok, we all are.

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Chapter 3…

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The 8th February 2018. That’s when I last wrote a blog post. And it was about a ‘temporary blip’ in my mental health, the death of my cousin, the death of a close friend of ours, a car accident and the arrival of a rat had set my nerves totally on edge and I stopped sleeping, had panic attacks and didn’t feel safe at home. Especially as a week after the first rat had been ‘sorted’, another appeared.

In the eight months since, although it’s a lot less simplistic than I’m summarising it as here, we left that house, relocated to the South East of the U.K. near to family on both sides (and although that meant living further away from some family in our old town, excitingly it included family with children around the same age as our girls. Including children soon to join us all!)
I had some brain scans on relocating when I met my new neurologist, and it showed that the epilepsy during my second pregnancy had unfortunately left a little damage. Nothing life threatening, just enough to mean a change of career paths to a slightly simpler path for at least a few years. For now, writing is to be my main work, and I’ve stepped down from a few of the various roles including voluntary roles I’ve taken up over the last few years. 

The anxiety and nerves have remained difficult, moving has definitely helped. We live by the seaside and as the UK has had such a glorious Summer, there have been many family beach days. The transition to moving work commitments from one side of the country to the other has been hard and has meant a lot of travelling, and even worse, a lot of time with my husband and I apart. But we’re starting to settle and the travelling has settled down to an extent that we now only travel for the work we’ve chosen to keep on. 

Now to the more important, how are the girls? Scarlett is now 4, and Holly is now 2. One of the reasons we relocated in March was so that the girls had a good six months settling into a new home town before starting school/nursery. It was definitely the right decision. Both are very happy at in their new environments and have made friends and I’m so proud of them. We continue to explore as a four, and although times going really fast, we could not be more proud of them both.

I’ve thought a lot about privacy in the last few months. In fact a research project on links between social media and mental health, (that I have unfortunately needed to take a break on while my own brain gets a bit more sorted) made me think about how much more difficult and stressful life can be when it’s 24/7 accessible. If I had a bad day at school, I’d go home and be ‘safe’ from it. If my parents had a bad day at work, they could come home and forget about it, knowing there was nothing they could do until the next day. These days kids can go to school and then be tormented online until they return the next day having had no reprieve. They can not be on social media of course, but 1) that further isolates them from their peers, and 2) why the hell should THEY be the ones not on social media?! And if people have a bad day at work these days, you can take it home, you can receive emails to your work or personal accounts, your colleagues can tag you on social media. And again you can disengage from all of that, but then you will, in today’s society (generally speaking) find it difficult not to fall behind on progress, or be overlooked for promotion for not going ‘the extra mile’, which these days can often mean an extra marathon. I’m not saying that the days gone by were much better or easier, I’m not saying people didn’t struggle. With the advent of the internet, people’s career paths were suddenly opened up on a potentially international scale. If your childhood friend or family members moves away now, through social media, you can stay in touch and be a part of their lives. There are some huge positives. But similarly large negatives. 

The point of this train of thought (plot twist, there is a point…!), is that I shared a lot about my two babies, my pregnancies and their first couple of years. I don’t regret this, as the two books the passages filled are a fantastic momentous of some magic moments. But they are both older now. Scarlett is becoming aware of how she looks and how she comes across, and although I have nothing negative to say about other people who continue to share their parenting journeys, I have made the decision not to continue mine. If there was a public version of my first years, I would love to read them, it’s not a time I remember and it would be amazing to have a glimpse. When I then think of the childhood I remember, there are many humiliating stories, I’m quite glad aren’t written in print! So for me. Personally, whilst I may share stories over coffee (or Gin!) with friends or family, or even in emails I send to both daughters that I set up for them when they were born (for the very reason to write to them I the future at various points, not even for them to use as they’ll be perfectly capable of picking their own!), my online record will cease to share personal details of my daughters lives.

However, I’m 33, and I am fully capable of making my own decisions about what I do and don’t share about myself. And I have decided that actually being open about my new ‘Bumpy Ride’ is right for me. So instead of the ups and downs of parenting (although I’m sure there’ll be cameos!), it will instead be the ups and downs of settling in a new town, getting on top of my nerves and anxiety, and finding a new career path and all that comes with that. 

I realise this will not interest some, and for those that have followed my parenting journey, I apologise, I am aware I am not as interesting or as adorable as my two daughters! But I’m hoping that perhaps along the way, I will find that my own journey through this new stage of my life has its comrades old and new; as always I welcome advice from others, and I look forward to what the next year or so has to bring. To what’s next, to chapter three…!

Unplanned Panic…

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There’s been a slight set back. A blip. A temporary bump in the road. A bit of back story will help make sense of how I got to watching Greys Anatomy on the iPad, still shaking, trying to get my heart rate to calm back down to pre panic attack state.

On New Years Day we were involved in a minor car accident. We were all fine, and luckily the driver who went into the back of us swerved to avoid us taking the full impact. In terms of injuries, the kids were unaffected, my husband had some soft tissue damage to his lower back and I hurt my neck and left shoulder from where I had twisted round towards the children just before we were hit. Physically, we were ok.

Cut to a week later and I’m struggling to sleep because of the back and neck pain. Which is fine, although difficult. A car then cut us up at a roundabout a couple of days later and I freaked out, with a way bigger reaction than necessary. Nightmares of a car coming towards my children were three or four times a week occurrence. I became very jumpy, and my nerves were frayed. I avoid getting in the car, I’ve become really overly protective of the girls.

After a couple of really bad nights sleep I ended up bursting into tears at the Dr’s surgery because I was so worried that the lack of sleep would lead to epilepsy problems that my stress levels were through the roof.

In the meantime, physio was arranged for both my husband and I. I had my initial assessment and it went ok, we chatted through it all and a referral was put through for both my wrists which I’d hit on impact to make sure a break from a few years ago wasn’t problematic. I was then booked in for my next session of physio the day after my birthday this week. (I’m 33 now. Yelp.)

To try and work through some particularly tender knots in my neck and shoulder the physio used an ultrasound for some deep tissue massage. I remember it hurting, and then…and then my husband was there and I was being taken home. I apparently then sat in the bath without water for a while, and I’ve been full of a headache with really tense muscles since. Something tells me the physio’s good work may well have been set back slightly.

The ripple effect from the minor prang is, I know, hugely not a big deal. But it feels devastating. I was on track, I was on the road to improving my wellbeing after a couple of turbulent health years. I was jogging, I was using mindfulness for a few leftover anxiety issues and post pregnancy stress issues.

So why am I sitting up in bed at 1am shaking and trying to get my heart rate back down with a paper bag next to me tonight? Well, the seizure was yesterday. So today I haven’t felt very well, exhausted, and in pain. And emotionally struggling as I really thought I was done with epilepsy being an active issue. This evening my husband went to Swindon for work and after the kids were in bed I sat watching TV and (ironically) reading through my mindfulness apps.

And then I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. And running across my living room floor bed as brass was a freaking rat. Without warning my panic level went sky high. I’ve only felt that panicked once before in my life. And that was when I walked onto my holiday balcony and saw a body hanging in an apartment down from ours. Yes, it was horrendous, and likely one of the main reasons I went into a forensics/criminology career path. And I know it seems hugely dramatic to compare the two events but my nerves are currently so shot to shreds, that I went into full fight or flight. And like the Summer of 2003, my main worry was that if panic took over I would have a seizure and I was on my own and so needed to deal with this situation. When I saw the rat, my husband was about 40 mins away on his way home. It ran underneath the sofa, so I walked to the stairs so I could see both sides of the sofa. I called pest control and was told that someone would be round in about 25 mins with a terrier dog trained to track and get rid of vermin. Whilst on the phone, the rat went from under the couch into the kitchen. The sight of it again did not help my panic. I could tell I was on the verge of hyperventilating so I called my Dad (I didn’t want to call my husband and worry him while driving), to try and keep as calm as possible and so that if I did have a seizure, there would be someone on the phone who would recognise it and be able to do something. I also called my brother who came over as I’m quite nervous of dogs, and although I’m ok with most dogs these days, the idea of being on my own while a dog came in specifically to attack something while I was already in such a state, did not fill me with confidence.

My husband arrived just before pest control did. The noise of dog vs rat is not something that will leave me quickly. While the ‘eviction’ took place, I sat on the stairs trying to calm down, and made a list on my phone of all the things I needed to bleach.

I am not a nervous, panicky person. I am not frightened of spiders, or mice, or (until today) rats. I am a good person to have in an emergency. I keep calm. People call me when they’re in a panic. I am not the person who can’t sleep because she can still hear rats or because I’m panicking that both children are in some kind of danger.

We were in a minor car prang on New Years Day, and the chain reaction has me a quivering wreck, terrified to put my feet down from the bed and unable to go to sleep with an appointment with the epilepsy nurse to up my dosage. Which means I can’t look into learning to drive (one of my 2018 goals), I’ve had to stop jogging, and I’m on a waiting list for trauma related therapy. Not to mention that I’ve now become terrified about any epileptic issues when I’m with my kids. All in all, the minor prang feels rather major now.

It’s a blip, but it feels like such a massive one tonight while I try and ignore the feeling of needing the toilet because I don’t want to go anywhere else in the house. And although I thought I was on the other end of issues like this. I want to bring my girls up to know that life will throw many bumps in the road, and as important as it is to keep going, it’s also important to make sure to heal as you go. And that healing needs it’s time as much as the braving it.

My Dad and husband both said they were proud about how I dealt with it. Which seems laughable, I hyperventilated, panicked and practically pulled multiple muscles by shaking and being so tense. But, I called pest control and I kept someone on the phone with me and stayed so I could see where the rat went. And did everything I needed to without screaming and waking the kids or losing track of the rat etc etc. And I didn’t have a seizure. So it can be considered a win. But I’m still going to call the Dr tomorrow to ask if there’s anything I can maybe have to help my nerves because tonight has proved that it is most definitely out of control.

It’s a slight set back, a blip. And I’m writing a blog post and watching Greys Anatomy to keep my mind busy. I’m so upset about it all, but I’ll manage it. And I’ll show my girls that it’s ok to struggle and it’s ok to need help as long as you don’t give up on yourself.

So my healthy, active, putting the past troublesome three years behind me is not the bump free road that I was planning for. But the easy road is a boring one anyway….

Loved ones legacy…

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People that know me well know that I am not overtly religious, although I do feel that in such a huge universe, we can’t possibly understand what is behind and/or beyond and I therefore remain open, and often find comfort in the term ‘spiritual’. I believe in fate as it seems to have come to fruition on more than a couple of occasions. I believe in there being powers to our heart and soul that we do not understand. 

And on some occasions, I seem to have a sort of unexplained foresight, a ‘feeling in my waters’, a sense that can’t be explained but likely has a scientific explanation. I’m not making much sense I know, but I’m hoping you’ll know what I mean.Two nights ago I posted at 4am about my overwhelming sadness for my Aunt and how she must feel at not being able to make her son, my little cousin, better. I reminisced a bit about our childhood together, and I talked of not being able to sleep. I didn’t sleep for a while after posting and the next day I just knew there was something I wasn’t totally aware of. That lunchtime, for the first time in lord knows how long, my brother and I met up for lunch, the first time in months we’d just spent time together just the two of us and very random. He invited me to join him for a lunch break and we chatted about our cousin. 

After lunch I got a call I knew I was going to receive that day. My 30 year old cousin had passed away. He battled cancer like an absolute champ for nine months, and certainly given it hell, but was now at peace. 

He was surrounded by immediate family at the end, and in some random circumstance, my brother and I were together as it happened too. My Aunt had been called in early that morning. 

Maybe I just ate something that disagreed with me, maybe I’m in a weird place in my menstrual cycle which kept me awake. I’m sure there are hundreds of reasons scientifically minded people could enlighten me on as to why I couldn’t sleep and couldn’t stop thinking about the family a few hours before. Or why for no real reason, my brother and I met up for lunch like we did. If you are one of those people, I respect your logic and often search for it, but on this occasion you can leave me be.

Because in this case, I choose. I choose to believe that somehow on his late night, in hours when fewer people are around, perhaps he would have been able to sense that I was thinking of him, that he wasn’t remotely alone. That although we weren’t there, my brother and I were somehow present in some way. That maybe if he had any worries about letting go and being at peace, perhaps, unconscious thoughts of mine could reach his in the middle of the night to let him know that everything was ok. 

Christ, I know how that sounds. Bloody arrogant for one thing, he had a lot of people in his life, and he would most likely have chosen someone else to spiritually link with! And my grief is nothing compared to that of his parents, his siblings. 

I was brought up with an extremely healthy view of death (in my opinion), we talk often and fondly of those no longer with us. We keep them firmly in our minds and hearts and as part of our lives. I think of my Grandad every time I make a roast dinner, I can hear him say ‘good on you girl’ every time the roast potatoes go nice and crispy. I phoned my Mum just last week because I was rolling out marzipan for a fruit cake, and suddenly the combination of marzipan and the wooden chopping board created a smell that took me right back to my Nana & Grandads house. Nana used to use a lot of marzipan. My Nan I think of every Good Friday, I imagine her infectious laugh as I have a glass of port and make the same joke about her perhaps being back this Easter Sunday, every year. It’s the kind of joke she would have made herself! My Auntie Win had this distinctive laugh which my eldest daughter now occasionally does and it takes me right back to being in her flat. I think of my old neighbour George whenever I play a board game with my kids. I laugh remembering my Great Uncle Jack whenever I see the English dishes on an Indian restaurant menu, thinking back to him insisting on having chicken and chips at my Dads 60th birthday meal. 

And those are just a few! A few people that were in my life that I loved and lost but will never really leave me. I like to think of them all watching over us, it gives me a huge amount of comfort to think that they could see what happened in my life, that they could see my husband, laugh at my kids antics the way they would have done if they’d have met them. Maybe my cousin can tell them, our Auntie Win will definitely be waiting there for a big hug for him, they were very close. 

He’s no longer with us, but I will see him and think of him often. When I buy gingerbread men from a bakery as we used to as kids. Every time I watch the girls run round trying to pop the bubbles coming out of the wishing fish clock in the arcade, a feature he loved so much he did a road trip with a friend specifically to show them it! Bachelors super noodles, something neither of us could get enough of, chicken, or sometimes BBQ beef if we fancied a change. 

So whether it was foresight, or I sensed it, or part of my sub conscious was reaching out to him at the very end without me knowing, I find comfort in it. It helps me believe that he is looking down on us all now, pain free and happy. Most likely trying to tell me I can sleep now! So I’m going to try to. And for him, and all the people no longer on this earth with us able to do so themselves, I’m going to try and honour them all by living to the fullest, making this Christmas as magical as possible for Mini Pea and Mooper. My cousin was kind, generous and always smiling, a bloody good example to us all. 

Smiling through sadness…

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My beautiful grown up girl had pre school booster injections today. They hurt & as a parent, all you want is to make them feel better. For Mini Pea, we could do that with a coffee shop treat & cuddles. My heart breaks for my Auntie, who cannot do anything to heal her child’s pain. I’m not ready to write about the circumstances yet. I haven’t slept very well recently, I’ve been half expecting a phone call, half trying to calm my anxieties and talk myself down that living positively is not something to feel guilty about but the only way we can keep going forward. 

My children are my life. Today, I had to physically hold my eldest so she couldn’t move while someone injected her which I knew would hurt her. She was so brave, she stayed still and went in the room smiling because she is at an age where she trusts that her parents won’t put her in harm. The pain was a surprise. We’d explained that it would hurt a little bit but that she would need to be brave, that it was to keep her healthy (not really a concept that a three year old can quite grasp) and that we would take her for a treat afterwards. 
And as she cried, I smiled and hugged her, told her I loved her and that it would all be ok. My husband and I took her to our special coffee shop and treated her and by the time she went back to her Grandparents (she spends every Tuesday with her Grandparents) she was smiling and her normal sunny self. Inside however, as soon as I saw her in pain, my heart broke. After we all laughed together in the coffee shop, my mind and heart kept thinking of all parents who can’t heal their children or take away their pain. Specifically I found myself grieving for a family situation in a way I haven’t yet allowed myself to process fully. 

If I could, I would take my younger cousin a hot chocolate, and maybe some BBQ beef super noodles, as when we were kids, both of those things would put a smile on his face. If possible, I would take him on a car journey and put ‘Rhythm is a Dancer’ on loud so we could both throw our heads back laughing as we sang along while my Uncle drove. 

It was such a simple thing that cheered up my precious little girl. Such little things I know could cheer my cousin up. But I can’t make him feel better. The whole family are in anguish knowing that there’s nothing any of us can do. 

Sadly my husband is going through a similar pain, one we share for a close friend of ours going through a similar thing, sadly only slightly behind my cousin. I keep telling him that we must concentrate on positive things to get through the dark and celebrate every day with our family and friends, that living life to the absolute full is the best thing we can do. We’re lucky to be able to visit our friend and will hopefully make a fair few more happy memories. This year has shown us how important it is to make sure friends and family know how important they are, how loved. 

My little girl was brave, and she is now safely tucked up in bed, warm, healthy, safe. I would give my last breath to keep her and her sister that way. I’m still awake now because grief keeps me awake. Grief for two situations I so desperately want to help but know that I can’t. I don’t allow myself to dwell on these negative emotions generally. I’m more of a ‘buck up girl’ until there’s a bit of time to deal with things. I’m not saying that this is a good thing, on the contrary. When things are tough, I tend to make myself busier and busier until eventually it catches up with me. I’m not entirely sure how to deal with things better, it’s a lifelong method that I don’t really know how to change if I wanted to. In some ways, it’s a coping mechanism, in some ways it’s how I’ve achieved done of the things that I have. Anyway, I digress. I hope and pray that I am always able to make both of my girls feel better, I hope and pray I’m always able to make my husband feel better. I hope that the little things can always make a big difference for those I love. There are lots of us in pain because of similar circumstances. 

An old school friend of mine once wrote in a blog ‘live, love and don’t be sorry’. Words and a general sentiment that changed my life in 2013 and have stayed with me ever since her death that year. None of us know what sadnesses and difficulties each other are dealing with behind closed doors. We cannot control what happens to us or our loved ones however much we pray for it in the middle of the night. We can however control how we treat each other. As much as we can, let’s be kind to each other, love each other and make the most of every little thing that brings us joy.

Continuing Collecting Memories…

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Holly suffered so much more with tooth pain than Scarlett ever did, I’m not sure Scarlett ever even noticed her teeth coming through(!). Holly was quicker to walk than Scarlett, Scarlett started talking clearly sooner than Holly has. They are both very spirited, bright eyed and full of smiles and laughs. Holly has more of a temper, Scarlett I think may be a bit less of a daredevil than Holly (maybe slightly more sensible is the better way to explain it!)

As they grow up, they will gain other similarities and their differences will also become more apparent. Their differences are to be celebrated as much as their similarities are to be cherished. Their hearts will be forever entwined together, but they will travel their individual paths with each others support (and probably gentle mockery because the sibling bond is like no other). My brother and I are similar in many ways, we’re both dorky and a bit weird, we’re just as likely to make a strange noise at each other as we are to communicate normally. So far, so sibling. We’re both defensive and have tempers. We’re both extremely passionate about our interests (both of us with video games, him with football and me with theatre), and we both also use humour to hide what we’re really feeling 90% of the time, both only really confiding primarily in our partners and quite often each other. On the same page, he loves fast cars and I wouldn’t be out of place running barefoot in a meadow. If he goes on holiday, he’d rather stay someplace nice with English speaking areas, whereas I like to roam locally when abroad and would happily stay in a shared hostel room if it meant getting to see the ‘real’ area. I have an open door policy at home and often invite groups of people round, I’m his sister and have never been round to his for a meal and that’s not because he hates me, I don’t think he’s ever hosted a family event or more than one friend because he likes his space to be his space. Neither of us are wrong, neither of us are bad people, we’re very similar with quite a lot of differences. We’re extremely close despite being different generations and despite sometimes not understanding each other. The biggest thing is that we both know that in an emergency, we could call the other and we would be there in an instant. 

My hope is that my girls will have a similar close bond, perhaps even easier as they are so close in age. They will grow up watching the same TV shows, knowing the same people, perhaps being taught by the same teachers and having the same cultural references. This will likely mean they have more moments of screaming at each other, more days that they hate each other. the close proximity will draw them closer and on occasion make them wish they were further apart!

At the moment Holly adores Scarlett, and Scarlett adores showing off to Holly. They make each other laugh, they hit each other with lego bricks when one wants to build a tower and the other wants to knock it down. They both love to dance and sing, they both like giving cuddles and I think that they are both going to be very empathic as they always notice and react when one of me or my husband are upset or in pain. 

I’ve been proofing and arranging two books today to be published. ‘A Bumpy Ride’, and ‘A Bumpier Ride’. I started this blog to take note of both pregnancies right up until their first birthdays. They have a book each, from around 4 months pregnant, to just after their first birthday. And within the pages, are countless memories, anecdotes and descriptions of a time that even now, not much later on, the details have become fuzzy. The memories have started to fade, which is terrifying, it makes me extremely grateful to have written it all down. Putting the thoughts together made me wonder what to do with the remaining posts. I have continued writing now past Holly’s first birthday with no real plan with what to do with those posts. But in reality, this entire process is for the girls, for them to read, or ignore if they’d rather! I have so many questions from when I was younger, questions that understandably are a bit difficult for my parents to now answer, especially as it was over thirty years ago! I’m lucky that I have a diary from 1985 that my Mum wrote, a short passage of which I’ve posted below. It’s an insight into those small details that you can’t remember even a couple of years after as the first few years are such a blur, it’s like a descriptive memory that you don’t have as such a young child and that you inevitably lose as an adult. 

Perhaps the series WILL become a trilogy, the what came next, ages 1 – 5, the years that they won’t be able to remember for themselves. Whatever happens, I hope they both know how much my husband and I adore them, and how much of a priority they are to us. I also hope they grow up to know how important they are to each other, regardless of how their differences might make them feel like they don’t have a lot in common, or how much their similarities remind them too much of each other! I’m so excited to see how they both grow up together, but for now I’m enjoying savouring every little, desperately important but fleeting moment.

1985 Diary Entrys

Tuesday 21st May 1985: Danielle got up at 8.30am and I feel completely refreshed although I woke up at about 4am anticipating Danielle waking up. She has been trying to lift herself up from her bottom. At the moment she can’t lift her top half together with her legs and bottom. Danielle went to bed at 8.30pm. She woke up at 4.15 but it was because her little arm was caught between the bars in her cot and was absolutely freezing

Thursday 23rd May 1985: Danielle was first up at 6.15 for a feed, then went back down at 6.30 until 9.45. She has been really good today, although she seems to want to chew on her bottom lip – I’m not sure if she’s teething but it sure looks like it. I put her to bed at 8pm but she woke up again at 9 laughing at her Nanna Whelan!! I put her back to bed at 9.15 and she seems to have settled.

Sunday 2nd June 1985: Danielle first woke at 6.15am, then after feeding her she woke up at 8am. She’s been very good today, smiling everyone. I took her to the beach and she loved it. Her Auntie Jan put Danielle’s feet in the the water but it was a bit cold!! Danielle settled at 8pm.

Monday 29th August 1985: Danielle has finally got her tongue around the word ‘Dada’. she’s been saying it all day and she sounds lovely. I put it on tape so that Nick would believe me.

Friday 9th August 1985: We took Danielle to the baths today for the first time. It was so cold but she loved it.

Sunday 15th September 1985: Danielle started crawling today. Although she’s been moving around for some time, she actually crawled properly today.

Friday 20th September 1985: Danielle said ‘mama’ properly today. Now Danielle has started crawling there’s no stopping her and we keep having to move everything out of her way (especially the papers and my catalogues which she is determined to eat)

There it is, a little insight to my first year, first swim, first words, crawling, little moments that would otherwise be lost to time. In ten years time will I remember that Scarlett went nappy free and started using the potty on Friday 1st September? Doubtful. Will I know that the girls went to their first music concert on Saturday 17th June 2017, and it was Rick Astley, one of Mummy’s favourites? No probably not. But I’ve got it written down, and although it seems unimportant, those moments are precious. And therefore I will continue to safeguard those memories.

The Unavoidable Unknown..

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Hypothyroidism confirmed. Which is a relief and a bit strange and suddenly makes so many things make sense from the past few years. I was a bit occupied with thoughts of it in the day or two that followed getting the results. But now? Now my brain is keeping me awake thinking of crazy things.

So firstly a couple of quick things. I thought it was much more serious, I was all but convinced from the weekend where I’d spent time in hospital, that my luck had run out and the news they were calling with was going to much worse than a manageable chronic thing. So much so that I’d been thinking a lot about what would happen with my girls, and my husband if something were to happen to me. I know I know, very dramatic, but when it’s the middle of the night and you know something’s wrong but you’re not sure what, your mind tortures you. So much so that (and I’m about to sound properly sleep deprived crazy) tonight I’ve been distracted by the fact that my husband and I are starting to search for primary schools for our eldest to start in September 2018 (that’s a whole other blog post…HOW can our baby girl be old enough for school?!!!). That means it is 2017, which means the bereaved parents of Sandy Hook primary school children would have this year been looking for secondary schools. And that breaks my heart. It seems like a relatively recent news story but it was five years ago this December. I remember it being one of the most horrific tragedies because of the high percentage of innocent children being the victims. And five years has gone. Now for me, I became a parent in that time and now we’re looking at primary schools. Something so big yet somehow so trivial. As a parent you worry about living in a good catchment area, you read results statistics (and then talk about how they don’t really matter), you discuss whether the religious aspect of a school is important. You look at what secondary schools it might lead to. As a parent you NEVER imagine that something so awful could happen in real life. And those parents this year could never have imagined that applying to secondary schools for those beloved students wouldn’t happen. You just don’t, because thinking about it is heart wrenchingly devastating and you just wouldn’t leave the house if you considered things like that as a possibility. It would paralyse you with fear every day if you allowed it to. I know this logically so the fact that my brain is keeping me up thinking about it is only damaging, and gains nothing but misery.I don’t know why my brain went from ‘relatively positive diagnosis’ to every parents worst nightmare. Something about the lack of control I suppose. My fear over the weekend was that I cannot bear the thought of not being able to look after and protect my family, but ultimately there’s nothing I can do about certain situations, and then the leap is there to be had (if your subconscious enjoys punishing you as much as mine clearly does). 

And what can you do when these kind of mind demons take hold? Not a lot, I can logically explain to someone that it’s not healthy, not realistic to even try and think about these things, but I know that won’t stop the wiring in my brain from psychologically electrocuting me. The best thing we can do is live the best life we all possibly can. Take the trip, eat icecream in October, get the train even though you know it might be busy at the theme park and will probably rain anyway, book the hotel, dance in your pants; I know that all of those seem random, but if you make decisions that will make you and your family happy, you at least will build the best possible life around you. And as and when bad things happen, and they do to all of us in big and small ways, you at least saturate most of it with good. Don’t put blocks in front of the life you want to live, why are you waiting? 

None of this can take away the grief and horror that the parents of Newtown went through, or the reverberation felt from it across the world. Same for the horrendous events that have come since, it’s not a foreign issue, the London bombings, the Manchester attacks, the London Bridge incident; all of these were gut wrenching and unpredictable. We are lucky to live in a country where gun crime isn’t an every day issue, luckier still to live in a modern western culture where our families safety isn’t constantly under threat. 

(I digress, there are several massive issues that this could all lead to for discussion.)

My main point is that we cannot help the events and situations we are faced with that are out of our control. So it’s makes it even more important to live the absolute best life we can do. To look out for each other, to laugh with each other, to hold each other together when needed. 

I guess maybe what I’m saying is that it’s a terrifying world but we can all be a strong beating heart within it.