Pro’s Pretence…

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The ways in which my husband and I prove we are not ‘adult’ enough to have children (and yet we do, and they seem ok..).
1. We find it hysterical to brush each other’s teeth. Seriously, try it, hold your partners brush while they control yours and see if you can do it without laughing. You can? You think we’re ridiculous? Ah. Ok.

2. We see those memes that refers to stupid things that one parent does, the ‘irresponsible one’ and it applies to both of us. Where is our supervisory parent?! “Oh dear, did Daddy dress them today?” *awkward pause as I try and work out what’s wrong with a tutu, Spider-Man tshirt and wellies combo*

3. We both find it funny when Scarlett accidentally picks up on a swear word. So when in the car, and my husband gets road rage, we make the situation worse when we hear the angelic voice of our two year old shout out with glee, “thanks dickhead!”. We of course explain to her that it’s a bad word and that Daddy was naughty for saying it, but we can’t make eye contact with each other when doing so without giggling!

4. Neither of us ever successfully looked after a tamagotchi (although did anyone?!). 

5. If we fancy wearing a cape, we will do. If we want to play the PS4 while sitting in a fort, we will do. Although the kids are obviously always welcome to join in…as long as they know the password.

6. We often take on different personas when we go out together, could be as simple as ‘the day of the French accents’, or as elaborate as Liam and Nikki, the crime fighting team with a stray cat as their sidekick. I mean, we’re really tired a lot of the time and when it’s just the two of us (or sometimes secretly while we’re in a group of people..!) we really give in to the delirium!

7. We give the children nicknames based on random sounds, Ponk and Moop are two official titles that only we use. Some days that can be lengthened to Ponko Shmonko and Holly Wally Moop Boop, there is no limit and whatever we use, we will always somehow know which of the girls the other is referring to. Crazy understands crazy.

8. We stay up till 2am playing board games or watching a film or enjoying time together knowing full well we’ll be up by 6.30am. And like students do, every morning we swear that ‘TONIGHT we’ll have an early night’. Spoiler alert: we NEVER WILL!

9. We often make decisions based on ‘rock, paper, scissors’ or through some other childish competition; we both hate washing up – but he lost the staring competition fair and square so it’s HIS turn!

10. Neither of us really know what we’re doing as parents, we’re doing the best we can. Sometimes after a trying day, when we’ve tried something new to deal with bad behaviour, or the baby refuses to go down to sleep until midnight; we have a cuddle and sometimes even a little cry! When things go right we high five or give one another an actual pat on the back. But we muddle on through, like teenagers lost in the woods, we take on parenting together by holding each other’s hands and just going for what looks like the best direction!
You can never be ready for parenthood, and certainly other people give a much better impression of being fully fledged adults. My husband and I both have jobs where people need to rely on us being experts in our fields and THAT we’ve been trained for, THAT we know (most of the time) what we’re doing! And so in our personal lives, we try and give the impression that everything’s totally in hand. I think the truth is, no-one really has it in hand. Nobody really gets to a point where they’re totally confident or feel on top of life, because we’re all always adapting, changing and growing. Even an 80 year old is a novice at being 80, just as they think they’ve got the hang of it, that damn 81st birthday rolls around! So although our ridiculousness gives us away as not even being able to do an impression of knowing what we’re doing, I don’t think we’re truly alone in it. And we manage to keep a lot of the above to when it’s just the two of us, that’s when we can be the most unapologetically silly and goofy! 

And my suspicion is it’s the same for every other couple, we all know how to sit round a dinner table and act like we’re grown ups. Maybe we should be more free with the less adult things; maybe we should stand up on our chair at dinner and say, ‘fear not! I’m not really an adult either, I’m wearing Snoopy knickers and using cellotape because I don’t know how that breast tape bra stuff works! I couldn’t find shoe polish so I coloured the scuff mark in with felt tip, and despite being 31, I really want to blow bubbles in my drink with this straw, be free with me!!’ 

On second thoughts, I might be more amateur than most after all…

…and that kind of behaviour can get you asked to leave Zizzi’s…!

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A New Baby, The Sequel!

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Good afternoon dear friends and comrades! I hope your week is going well and you all have exciting plans this weekend (and I count things like zip lining AND things like sitting on the sofa in pyjamas with a takeaway as equally exciting!). For myself and my husband, we both have some work on, a family meal to attend and we’ll try and get in some sofa slouching as well at some point.

I am feeling much better, and am starting to re-emerge back into the real world. The antibiotics have finally done their job and I in the meantime am waiting for my kidneys to be put through some more tests to get them sorted on a more permanent basis. Now a few family members and close friends guessed. After all, a kidney infection is something I’ve had before at quite a specific time. Likewise, it seemed odd to some of my friends in the medical profession that I was given such weak antibiotics when clearly a stronger drug would have been a better option. 

I thought it would be harder to keep a secret, and as we were high risk and going through a difficult time health wise, I was worried about people guessing and then heartbreak following. HOWEVER, the ‘benefit’ of being so poorly is that I’ve barely seen anyone over the last month and a half! Much easier to keep a secret!

So what is this secret I’m alluding to? 

Scarlett is going to be a big sister!

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Yes indeed, our little family of three is expecting a fourth player at the beginning of April next year and we have recently had our 12 week scan to confirm that baby is healthy and strong, if anything, significantly healthier than I am at the moment!!

We are extremely excited and after a worrying first trimester, we are looking forward to a *fingers crossed* smoother ride from here till delivery day although I’m sure it will have it’s own ups and downs to provide! 

And I have a confession to make, when I blogged to say I was continuing my blog…we knew we had a little bun brewing in the oven! So I’m looking forward to seeing how this pregnancy compares with my last, how having number two compares to having number one, and how Scarlett will react to the new addition! One things for sure, I won’t get as many nap times as I did last time!! And when I was younger the idea that I would one day run upstairs with a toddler under my arm to then sit her in an empty bath whilst I vomit was not something I pictured! However, luckily Scarlett not only isn’t bothered, she finds the visual hilarious! If only I could find it quite as entertaining! 

Like last time we’ve managed to be moving house when I’ll be roughly four months pregnant again, only this time we’ll also have a toddler to negotiate! Unlike last time, I’m not due to be on stage at seven months pregnant but I do have a couple of work trips abroad! All in all, I’m sure it’ll be chaotic, fun, ridiculous and a wonderful roller coaster! 

As with the last time, any tips of having a second child will always be welcomed, as well as your stories and anecdotes! It is not true that having a second child means you’re a more experienced parent, you’re an amateur all over again about to embark on the journey of multiple children! So it’s back to square one on the learning curve for us and we look forward to everything this time has to offer! 

Second Sibling Statistics…

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I was recently asked to write an article about ‘the best age gap between siblings’. Many hours of discussion with Mum friends, and even more hours of research led me to my original hypothesis. Of course there’s no ideal age gap! Each baby is individual, each parent has their own original set of circumstances. Trying to plan exactly when to have a second child is as easy as stapling water to a tree, and that’s assuming that when you decide you’ve reached this magically perfect moment in your life, you can get immediately pregnant.

There are lots and LOTS of statistics for a massively wide variety of pros and cons, medically for the mother, financially, socially for the children, what parent age is best, what first sibling temperament suits second siblings better at different stages of their life. The list is endless, and I say this with confidence when I had to physically stop myself researching so I could get some sleep, the topic is so vast and I think that’s because there are no answers, only opinions.

In the same way that the discussion about religion can and has gone on forever (am I really comparing religion to child rearing?! Yes I am but I have a valid point, stay with me!) so can the discussion about parenting, ANY aspect of parenting. So although all religions can agree that loving one another is good and we should live good, honest lives; there’s always a few extremists who take things too far one way or another. With parenting, we all agree that we should love our children and raise them the best we can, and there’s always a few (slightly less dangerous) extremists who insist the nursery mix special herbs and boil them in dolphin tears because baby Jemima is to be brought up as one with the sea. 

When it comes to sibling age gaps all I can tell you is my personal opinion and assure you that whatever your personal opinion is, even if it completely and utterly contradicts mine, it is still absolutely valid and no more right or wrong. And as far as I’m concerned, that’s the bottom line. Not that it’s not really interesting to hear other people’s views, my only warning would be: stay away from the internet ‘facts and figures’. It won’t take long for every possible age gap to be far too dangerous, whether an increased risk of low intelligence, decreased risk of carrying to term, we are quickly bombarded with terrifying statistics.

On reading said statistics closely we find that often the increase or decrease is less than 1%, and with chances so slight, there really is very little use reading them, unless you like horrible dreams! 

For my husband and I, our view is this; as our siblings are so important to us, it’s a no brainer for us that we want Scarlett to have a sibling. With a smaller age gap they’ll truly grow up together, and it won’t be such a huge shock to us to go back into ‘baby mode,’ the sleepless nights, the nappies, the bottles. Financially we’re doing well, and career wise, it makes more sense to both of us to have a closer gap.

With all that in mind, it may take ten years for another baby to come along, you just don’t know what nature has in store for you. The fact remains that whatever the eventual age gap, whether we have a boy or a girl and whether or not it happens when we plan, if it happens at all, we will love any and all children we have. 

The only question you really need to ask yourself is this, “do you want another baby and do you feel as ready as you can be?” If the answer to that is yes, there is millions of pieces of information you can take into account if you want to, but really, that’s all you need to know.

Creating Christmas Cheer…

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October is a bit soon to be using the ‘C’ word but as it’s my baby girls very first, we are very excited about Christmas this year!

Both my husband & I are big fans of the Christmas period, and as everyone, we have certain Christmas traditions that we look forward to carrying on with our little family. We’d also like to create a few of our own traditions and have been talking a lot about them recently.

Hopefully in years to come, Scarlett will cherish her memories of family Christmasses as much as we will, and hopefully we’ll still be upholding the three below that we plan to start this year!

1) My Nan loved Christmas and in my childhood was the absolute core of Christmas spirit. One of the highlights of Christmas Day was always receiving our sacks of gifts from Nan. Which at first sounds really shallow! But it was never about the quantity, it was opening little bits that Nan had found throughout the year, that she thought myself and my cousins would enjoy, usually including some form of troll (the gremlin type creatures, she didn’t wrap up internet bullies!) and nightwear. Nan is no longer around but we would like to make sure her vivacious spirit stays present in our little girls holiday period. Therefore, instead of the traditional stocking, Scarlett & any future siblings will receive a Lois Christmas Bag! With a few little pieces with a few ongoing themes, it may only be October but I’ve started looking for some small bits already, as I’m pretty sure Nan did, and I can only hope she’s looking down with a smile. Both my Grandmothers were incredibly loving and giving and Scarlett will receive the same.

2) I spent one Christmas Day on my own, in the dark and although it was sad not to share it with someone, it was one of the most rewarding Christmasses. Let me explain…! I was working at the hospital at the time and volunteered to do as many Christmas shifts as possible, reason being that a lot of my colleagues had young families whereas I was in my early twenties and my family were all South East so doing one shift meant I was unable to go; so my thinking was I may as well do as many as I can. I lived in a house share at the time & the house was empty, my best friend that I lived with had headed down to Cornwall as late as possible to keep me company but for the three days I was on my own. I should also point out that it was a student house share so we had electric on a card (you’re starting to see where this is going!). On Christmas Eve I got home from work at 2am and got in, deciding that as it was officially Christmas Day I would have a glass of port and open my Christmas Eve pyjamas, (a tradition my Mum started & one we’ll be continuing!) I got in, switched on the light and walked into the wall…the light never came on. Instantly I knew what had happened, so I headed down to our creepy basement to push the button that gave us £5 of emergency credit…but predictably, being students, we’d already used that option! A quick call confirmed that I would have to wait till Boxing Day to get more money on the card (this is also in the days before internet on phones & I had no computer that didn’t need electricity to turn on!) and so my Christmas Day dinner turned into bread and cheese! The story could be a tragic tale on a par with the matchstick girl if a) it wasn’t my own fault for being a lazy student and not ensuring there was electricity and b) if I didn’t have such a fantastic time at the hospital! What I learnt in 2005 was that there is a magic at Christmas and it has nothing to do with having the latest games console or buying lots of stuff. Patients had the biggest smiles on their faces when they saw family members come in or when the awful, (and I mean awful!) Father Christmas did his rounds. Visitors were so kind to all the staff who were working such long hours to keep their loved ones safe (I’m not including myself, I was just a receptionist but the Dr’s & Nurses were amazing) and despite the pain, the sadness and the hard things people were going through, not one shift went by without seeing several acts of kindness and happiness that you just don’t see at other times of the year. So yes, for the rest of Xmas 2005, I mainly sat in a cold dark house by myself and chatted to family on the phone, but I could only tell them what a great time I was having, they felt awful when they heard the house situation but it really honestly didn’t matter. And the true meaning of Christmas has always been very important to me, I’ve always tried to do some volunteering or fundraising around Christmas. We should all of course do it all the time but at Christmas time, a time that can be the best time ever for some, but also incredibly difficult for others, why not try and help them find a bit of Christmas magic. Therefore whether it be volunteering at a Crisis centre or taking part in a Santa fun run, or even just going to visit someone who may be lonely and appreciate visitors; we want to ensure that Scarlett sees the true magic of Christmas. (I’ll also try and be sure to teach her that if you live on a meter, you have to be more on top of keeping it funded!)

3) I set up a netball club in 2006 & we used to do a lot of charity events and other activity related things, the idea behind Hotshots (which I’m proud to say is still going!) was that anyone & everyone could take part and have an active lifestyle. In 2012 I implemented what I dubbed ‘Activity Advent Calendar’! For every day of December, behind each door there was an activity to be done at each participants own pace; whether the activity be 10 star jumps, or dancing around to your favourite Christmas song, for a few minutes each day, we all got active! I posted it online and others joined in, we had 50 people join the group, the youngest participant was my cousins little girl and the oldest were my Dad, Aunt & Uncle who took part as a team with more gusto than anyone else taking part, it was brilliant! Even family in Australia would take part & we all posted videos and photos and it was a nice way to all keep in touch. It was a really rewarding experience and quite a nice bonding venture (not to mention it was a real giggle!) so we’re going to set it as an annual thing. Not necessarily with sporting activities each day but a little something to do together in the run up to Christmas. Again I’ll put it online so anyone who wants to take part is more than welcome to join us, or why not draw up your own!

So there they are! Our very own Christmas traditions that officially begin in 2014. Hopefully they will be Christmas traditions that Scarlett enjoys and although I’m sure in her teenage years she’ll probably rebel against at least part of it, maybe she’ll want to pass some of it onto her own children.

It’s only October the 18th so I promise not to mention Christmas again until December, especially because Halloween is just around the corner; being a theatrical household, Winter is quite the season for us! But whatever you do over the holiday season dear friends, I wish you a very happy and healthy time. Whatever your traditions, or even if you don’t have any, there’s no denying that there’s a certain wonder about this time of year, that’s different to different people. So whatever it means to you, enjoy your very own slice of magic!

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Treading the boards…

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In a few short weeks, Scarlett will take to the stage for the first time. Well, not technically the very first time, at seven months pregnant, I was in a show that my husband wrote and played the parts of ‘pregnant maid,’ and ‘pregnant Lizzie Gupp’ , as well as the highly memorable ‘pregnant chorus girl’. I’m now doing a show with the same theatre company doing a commemorative piece about the people of Gloucestershire in WW1, only this time, instead of being carried around with me, she will be making a very short cameo.

It’s being performed in a theatre of course but anyone worried about me being a horrendously pushy parent thrusting her into the spotlight at such a young age should know that we’re ensuring she won’t be under bright lights or on stage when there are any loud noises and she will essentially be carried on and then carried off whilst all the time being looked after by a family member whilst the rest of the show continues. This is a company that have seen me get married, get pregnant and support me throughout the entirety and it is therefore just a short cameo of a baby girl who is loved by the cast around her. I certainly won’t be pushing her to do theatre if she doesn’t want to in the future. In fact, my husband and I often joke that as we have such a theatrically heavy lifestyle, Scarlett will grow up desperate for a more routined stable office job! And if so, that’s absolutely fine, she will have the opportunity to be whoever she wants to be and when young, if she wants to do some theatre or get involved in shows in any way (her Godmothers are both technicians so she’ll probably more likely grow up as a technician and reprimand her Mother when I behave like an actor!) we will enable and support her to, in the same way that if she’s into sport, we’ll be out in the rain every Saturday morning if needs be.

There’s no getting round it though, with her Father working so regularly with the RSC and both of us running a professional theatre company, writing and in my case performing, she’s going to be around a lot of theatre. A few people worry about the stability of such a lifestyle or the influence that Scarlett will have growing up. And of course her lifestyle, influences and stability are things that concern us as parents, we want her to have as happy and as healthy an upbringing that she can possibly have. But here’s where my views differ from those with concerns. When I was growing up, I remember visiting my Dad at the office several times as he often had to work on the weekends, I used to totter off to the drinks machine and chat to his colleagues, and I have memories of giving him ‘lessons’ on his flip chart in his office. I remember the doorman really clearly, I remember the people he worked with, a lot of whom I am still in contact with today. He used to happily let me wander round to chat to the people in his team and as a result I gained independence, I grew in confidence and I still know that a chocomilk is a number 55 on the machine they used (ok not necessarily a life skill but still…!). I’m pretty sure nobody asked Dad if he thought it was appropriate to let me see the ‘office world,’ or if he worried I’d grow up too sensible as a result, or if he was pushing me too hard towards a life in business. And of course clearly, if he was trying to he failed miserably, out of the two children Dad had, I am by far the most ridiculous, I barely have a sensible bone in me, and although I have done office work, it really isn’t me. And this isn’t because I’m a rebel and am pushing away from my upbringing. It’s because my parents also took me to swimming lessons, encouraged me to learn musical instruments, took me abroad, and, took me to the theatre. I saw and experienced several things and was then able to find what I was passionate about. And I was passionate about theatre, always have been, always will be.

Now consider Scarlett’s childhood, she will meet several of our peers including many RSC Practitioners and members of staff, several other actors, musicians and technicians, if there’s a coffee machine, in time, I will teach her where the buttons to get a chocomilk are situated! She will gain independence and confidence and she will get a really in depth view of a theatrical life. At the same time, we take her swimming regularly, and as much as we can afford we will allow her to experience as much as she possibly can to find what she is passionate about. We’re lucky that our jobs enable us to travel a lot and she will therefore see a lot of the world and if when she grows up, whether she gets her own corner office in the business world like Grandad, becomes a technician like her Godmothers, or finds her own passion and becomes a professional sports player, Dr or astronaut, we will be proud of her and help her achieve her goals.

The only difference between my experiences in the office and her experiences in the theatre is location (and ok, let’s face it, theatre has a little added flair!) we as parents, like my parents did before, will keep her safe when in a location outside of the home. We will teach her to be polite and respectful, and she will know where she can and can’t go (the Managing Director’s office and an unsteady set in a theatre are equally as scary for little ones!). My concession is that a life in theatre is not 9-5, it’s often long hours, late finishes or early starts. And of course, from that point of view, although when she was a newborn she came everywhere and anywhere with us, now she’s nearly four months old, we make sure that she’s at home at a suitable time, and as much as possible give her a routine. Don’t get me wrong, she will experience the shift type lifestyle that we lead and there will be unavoidable times when she’ll fall asleep in the car on the way home because we’ve been unable to get childcare and we both need to be at a theatre, or working separately on productions, but what child hasn’t been carried in by a parent after a slightly later than normal night due to circumstances. She will grow up knowing that at the end of the day she comes first, we work hard to be able to provide for her and she will never be pushed to be part of a world she doesn’t want to.

Theatre is a central part of our lives and will therefore inevitably be a central part of hers in childhood. But if typing hands rather than jazz hands turn out to be more her thing, rest assured we will support her in that. Whatever she grows up to become, I hope that she’ll always have happy memories of her childhood, and will know how much we love her and always do our best for her. And who knows, maybe one day she’ll be more successful than we are in theatre, “all the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players,” whatever stage she chooses, whatever sort of player she wants to be, we’ll be right behind her…with dramatic panache!

Midnight fatigued feelings…

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As I type this, it’s 05.21 and I haven’t been to bed yet. Baby Scarlett has a very blocked nose which is making sleeping almost impossible for her and she keeps waking up and crying. My husband has a busy weekend coming up with a lot of driving so I am currently downstairs with the Moses basket down here with me so I can keep the cuddles going for her whilst not disturbing my husband, who has been a pillar of support over the last couple of difficult days and really needs some rest!

It must be very confusing for her not to be able to breathe through her nose and it’s heartbreaking not to be able to do anything for her. I’m no longer bothering to try and go to sleep, it just makes it harder to get up each time! So instead I decided to go back and have a little read of all the messages on Facebook of congratulations and well wishes from when she was born. And, like I did then, several tears came to my eyes as I read through all the heartfelt expressions of love, support and good luck.

Admittedly, I’m VERY tired, and my emotional control isn’t what it used to be before those pesky maternal hormones came into play!

But ask anyone that knows me and they’ll confirm that I’m cranky when I’m tired, I’ve always been bad at sleeping but I’ve always caught up or slept at funny times to ensure I had enough rest time. That’s not quite how it works when you have a baby. Scarlett woke me up at 2am on the 1st July when my waters broke and I haven’t caught up since! There’s no time, like almost every parent, I walk around on fumes most of the time. But you know what, it’s brilliant.

Every day, every single day when I look into that little girls face, with her beautiful blue eyes I feel like I could do anything. Every smile lights up the entire room. Today, despite the fact that she has been feeling poorly, when the two of us were standing together in the lounge with her, my husband chatting to her with her in my arms, she let out her first proper baby giggle, and the emotions took my breath away. In that moment, I swelled with pride and my heart nearly burst with love, not only for her but for my husband as well. We made this tiny little new person and she amazes us every day. It’s hard, it’s really hard, especially when it’s 05.21 and you’re weighing up whether to make Camomile tea or admit defeat and put on a pot of coffee so you can survive the following 24 hours (especially knowing full well my husbands away for the night working!). And I know it’s not a night of missed sleep that I’ll get back, tonight is gone and there’s no retrievals. But I couldn’t be happier.

Years ago, nearly 30 years ago in fact, my Dad wrote a poem. I should tell you, my Father is not known for his theatrical talents, he freely admits never to having read a book (since he had to at school) and although he’s very supportive of me, creative pursuits are not really his bag. However, he once told me that he couldn’t adequately explain how he felt when I was born, and that this once in a lifetime poem, just sort of came to him. And I think his words actually sum up that crazy haze when you realise your life has been taken over by someone else, that moment you realise someone has set up a permanent camp in the largest part of your heart, really quite well. (I should also point out that my Mum is more the creative talent, and used to write a lot of poems, but she didn’t keep them so heartbreakingly I never got to read them)

So in fact that’s enough from me, I’m going to try and get at least a cat nap, and I’ll leave you with my Dad’s words…

“When I looked at my little girl
The feelings I experience put me in a whirl
As she lays there asleep
My thoughts are ones I want to keep

I just stand there by her bed awhile
Whilst I look at that angelic smile
The look on her face is so peaceful
What a shame she has to age and become tall

As each day becomes part of our past
I hope and pray my feelings will last”

Our poorly pea…

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Our beautiful baby girl is poorly, her very first cold. Not a first we were looking forward to and one we can’t help but feel slightly helpless in as she’s clearly in discomfort and there’s little or nothing we can do about it but cuddle her, feed her, and try and show her as best we can that she’ll be ok soon.

“Daddy’s on the couch with you, Mummy’s in a chair,
Taking turns to comfort you, showing you we’re there.
You’ve never had a cold before, you’re only 12 weeks old,
we’re doing the best we can for you, using tips that we’ve been told.

Your little eyes are slightly red, your little nose is too,
your little tears are heartbreaking, there’s nothing we can do.
The night feels never-ending, as we wipe away your tears,
checking for your temperature, abating our own fears.

We’ve added in a bottle, to quench your increased thirst,
Both of us attending you, baby Scarlett coming first.
We wish we could just tell you, that all will be just fine,
but we can only hug you, you’ll feel better in good time.

Some people say these moments, are too much to bear,
A night of broken hours, both parents needed there.
We used to think that also, dread the hardest parts,
But now we are here with you, you’re the best thing in our hearts.”

Get well soon sweetheart X