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To the three year old

Three years.

You’re turning three next week. I don’t know how this has happened. The minutes have felt so, so very slow, yet the years have passed in a blur and somehow you’ve been here for almost one thousand and ninety five days. That’s a lot of days. But in your lifetime it’s a single step.

You’re first day was filled with uncertainty. There was magic in the date. But there was distance in the actions. You left us and went to start your first battle. When we got to see you there was plastic in between us and we couldn’t touch you. How do we attach to you, how to we start to create the bond that we need to hold us tightly together as a family? We couldn’t even sit beside you both at the same time, there was distance and nothing we could do about it.

When we did hold you it was fraught with emotion, heavy with sadness and tentative with fear that you wouldn’t manage it. And then you were all we had. So we clung to you. And we filled six months with reading and holding and breathing and hiding.

I can feel the tightness in my chest that would start every time you stopped breathing. I can see your colour start to change and now, even though you’re bigger and stronger than ever, you go blue around the lips every morning in winter and my chest tightens a little. We would rub your little chest to tell you to breathe. Wiggle your CPAP in the hopes that it’ll annoy you enough to take a breath. Then we would move over and let the team help you. And then we would do it all again in the afternoon. When I check you now, in the middle of the night I stand there and just listen to you breathe. Steady, snuffly, little tight snores, and my shoulders lower a little knowing you’ll do that all night and all day and all night again.

The other day you ate a poached egg, toast, doughnut, toasted sandwich, yoghurt, potato chips, bread, meat, roast vegetables, broccoli, mashed potato, cake, cream, and more yoghurt, and I can vividly recall the day we had to slow your feeds down because you couldn’t manage 160mls going into your little tummy over an hour, so we slowed it to 90minutes and committed more of our day to feeding you and helping you grow. Now you drink 150ml of milk in approximately 90 seconds and I hold my breath and watch you hoping you don’t explode. Because how can it possibly be so different now?

You’ve had three surgical procedures, and although they were small on a surgical scale they were so very important and we are hoping will be still working towards helping you see all that there is in this beautiful world (and keeping your guts in your belly, that’s also good).

We rocked you to sleep for 18 months. We sat by you for another 12 months. And maybe now you are starting to slowly learn how to fall asleep on your own. I move between irrational rage at having to spend hours in the dark with you waiting for you to fall the F@$# to sleep, and calm warmth sitting with my hand on your head knowing we are your safe place.

You started with small squeaks behind the plastic, as we changed prongs, or shifted your position. I would live for these sounds. They sounded like “life” to me; they were the sounds of you fighting. These sounds became letters dada and baba, and finally that amazing day when its mama!! Then on my 30th birthday you said “I want to cuddle mummy” and it was simply remarkable to hear you link them all together and tell us what you needed. Now we sit and listen to you as you explain the way that the “firetruck drives to the emergency and waits for Moose to come because he’s ALWAYS late and then we put out the fire and go back to the station for a cup of tea”.

You are equal parts utterly magical and completely infuriating.

But when you fold your little body into mine, with your head on my shoulder and your arm around my neck, I would take angry, tired, no nap, hungry, irrational, screaming, raging Oliver all day, everyday knowing that you forever felt safe in our arms. (But can we have giggling, kind, soft, warm Oliver most of the time please, thank you).

Happy Birthday to all the three year olds out there, you are all little warm beads of light on these rainy nights.

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A case of the guilts

We have had norovirus recently, and head colds, and a wee bout of pneumonia in the household to really start 2018 off with a bang. But this week we have a fairly severe case of the guilts. I don’t know if you’ve had them in your house before, but I’d say most of you have. It’s this heavy feeling that for me sits over my shoulders and makes it a little hard to take a big proper breath in? Maybe for you it’s a wobbly feeling in your tummy, or a tiredness behind your eyes, but however it manifests itself, it’s incredibly unpleasant. I talked to a friend about it yesterday, about why the heck is has to feel so bloody heavy. Because then we would feel comfortable, she said, and parents are never meant to feel too comfortable.

We can’t feel comfortable about our decisions because there’s always some result of that decision that is wrong, or bad, or going to turn our kids into sociopaths who will forever blame us for their massive therapy bills when they are older because we: went back to work/didn’t go back to work/had a nanny/put them in day-care/bottle fed them/breast fed them/made them wear hats/didn’t let them wear gumboots EVERYDAY.

It doesn’t matter which way we do it, we feel guilty about it.

Mr O started daycare this week, so did a couple of his other little buddies, here and offshore. And all the parents have got a case of the guilts.

Guilt because we chose (out of desire or necessity) to go back to work. Guilt because there are now parts of our kid’s days that we wont be a part of, that they are growing up and we wont see every single second of it. Guilt because we imagine them sitting there alone and sad and wondering why their parents could possibly have left them here, and don’t we love them and love playing with them all day and why would mum and dad leave me here with these people I don’t know this just doesn’t make sense…I can’t be the only one imagining my child having complete conversations with himself?!?

Then I wandered (who am I kidding? RACED) around the supermarket yesterday trying to hold my shit together while feeling this deep, heavy sadness because maybe Mr O wouldn’t have been too sad at daycare if he had his buddy with him, if he had his brother there beside him to look to, play with, and get comfort from.

Which we say for everything.

Because there’s a gap in every minute of every day where we wonder how it would have been if they were able to take on the world together.

Instead we are learning to watch as Mr O gathers new people around him, new people to love, and to love him and today I saw that first hand because technology is awesome and kindy’s these days are all about the online portfolios!!! He now has a new environment, one that is all for him, that he gets to tell us about, and be excited about. It’s his special kindy that he calls “my OWN kindy” and as he walks up the steps he says “my kindy is so beautiful”, and it clearly MUST be better than home at least a little bit because he gets to use REAL hammers (seriously these teachers have courage to put real hammers in the hands of toddlers ?!?).

So after writing this all out, the guilt feels a little bit lighter?

Until tomorrow when I drop him off there again I’m sure. But you know he’s in good hands when his teachers print enlarged photos of, not mummy, or daddy, but one of our best friends to cheer up your kid and now my fridge has three huge photos of him on it and Mr O is super stoked with the fact that we all get our very own picture to have and to cherish.

And I’ll end with the fact that Mr O got his first sunburn today, because I suck as a mother and so perhaps the kindy guilt is slightly less tonight because I have well and truly replaced it with “I’ve given my child melanoma and he’s not even three years old” guilt….

Trial and Error

“The preliminary results of the study which Charlie and Oliver were enrolled in at birth are now being published”.
This sort of seems like an exciting statement, as we may have some new information that can help the future kids who are born too soon. But when I read it, and related it to the study it was referring too I felt less excited, and more scared. 

When you go into labour at term you aim to follow your birth plan, and you change it as the situation changes and people come and go, but no one really puts you on the spot to make decisions that could influence your child’s entire life, and you’re expected to answer in a matter of minutes, because that’s literally all the time you have (generally speaking of course, I am completely aware of how many people this is also not the case for). When you go into preterm labour there are suddenly a great number of ‘studies’ being thrown at you. This is amazing, as it illustrates just how much we are still trying to learn about these wee babies, and it feels incredibly important to be part of research that will hopefully result in better care and better outcomes for children. 

Charlie and Oliver were part of several studies during their hospital stay, some of which still continue for Oliver to this day; looking at what effect added omega-3 has on brain development, and at the developmental effects of protein intravenous nutrition in low birth weight infants.

The one that seemed easy at the time and now seems so incredibly hard is the cord clamping trial, and this is the letter that just arrived in the mail.

At the time I remember thinking (as much as anyone can think when their children are pushing their way into this world four months too early and are in a real hurry to do it) that any study we can be a part of is a good thing, that any way we can help develop the research will be beneficial. I think this comes partly from my medical background and partly from my constant need to do good and be generous??

 We signed up. To be honest, thinking back I don’t even know if William and I even talked about it, it’s a total blur. But we signed up.

It is a good study, fully randomised so both Charlie and Oliver had equal chance of having immediate or delayed cord clamping. I was “lucky”, in so much as you can be lucky when you’re entire world is falling apart, that I did not require a C-section and out they came (that is a story for another day). Charlie; immediately clamped and rushed to resus and intubated. Oliver; 60 second delayed clamping, where he lay, curled up in his little sac on the bed, as everyone hovered around him ready to rush in when that timer went off. Which they did.

And I didn’t think about it again (okay, that’s a lie, but it definitely got pushed away every time thoughts came through, pushed far, far away).

Today I read the letter. 

The preliminary results say that there was no difference between immediate and delayed clamping on the number of babies who survived without major issues to 36 weeks gestation. However, it also said that the study found that delayed clamping might have an impact on the number of babies who do not survive to 36 weeks.

And that is the sentence that throws us right back into it all again.

I know how research works. I know that might means that it just as easily might not. But I have also spent a lot of time thinking about how things might have been different. I know that we will never know the exact reason that Charlie’s brain had such a significant bleed. I know that we were helping future kids. I know that they had an equal chance of both being delayed, or both being clamped. I know all of this. 

But when it’s dark in your heart and the guilt and feelings of failure that you’ve managed to push deep down over time read that sentence they wonder, maybe if he had had delayed clamping, maybe it would have been different.

Maybe Oliver would have someone to play on the see-saw with him, and someone to ride around the block with.
Not a day goes by without one of us thinking we failed our kids, we couldn’t protect them, that it’s our fault.
I know it’s not. Well, I know that it’s not okay to sit and dwell on these thoughts. Maybe something was my fault. But if I let that thought move in I would never open my eyes again, I would bury myself under the house and let the earth swallow me whole. So I know to tell myself it’s not our fault.
I know that the study could have absolutely no evidence of relationship between clamping and IVH. All I’ve read is the letter. I could search for and find the published articles and delve deeply into it, but I’m not going to.
Because when you live every day with a heavy, grey cloud of sadness hanging over you, you try really hard not to look for ways to make it heavier, and greyer and cloudier.
Now I’m sitting here wondering why I even felt the need to tell this story. I guess because other parents will have got the letter this week and I want them to know we get it, we feel it and if this week feels harder than last week, just know you’re not the only one. And maybe so that I can say, even after all of this, all the worry and wonder and heartbreak; I will still sign up to studies. And I hope some of you will too.
Because although Charlie didn’t leave a physical footprint on this earth, he helped some future kids, and that is a legacy in itself. 

Anniversary means cake right??

Tonight I did what we often do, I tucked Mr O into bed and said goodnight and then hastened to clean him up after he threw up all of his dinner all through his bed. I changed his sheets and his pajamas, and then I basically force fed him, so that he would have something in his tummy again, and would be able to sleep without waking hungry. He cried a little after he threw up, then he sat on my lap and took all the food I gave him, without a sound, just swallowed it all and then got into bed again. I sat beside him until he fell asleep and then I rinsed all the linen and clothes and put the washing on. Then I stood in the kitchen and cried for a while. Because cleaning up vomit is misery, and force feeding your kid is awful and because its exhausting when it’s your normal. 
But then I thought about the fact that it’s November and in a couple of weeks it will have been one full entire YEAR since we took out his nasogastric tube. We used to change his linen 4-6x and put through 3 loads of washing every single day. Taking out that tube reduced his vomit significantly the minute we took it out. Things are so, so, so very much better than they were. 

He used to refuse anything and everything orally, he wouldn’t drink milk or water, and we would celebrate the tiniest mouthful. He started with yoghurt, custard and chocolate milk, and we counted the mls and the grams and we eased him slowly onto food he had to chew. He choked and gagged, threw up, refused, and then he chewed and swallowed and asked for food. I vividly remember the day he yelled for water and gulped from a sippy cup (yes, I probably cried). Tonight (pre vomit that is) he ate rice, smoked salmon, cucumber, and tortilla. He sits at the table with us for dinner and he scoops up curry with a spoon, stabs at pasta with a fork and he loves trying to eat corn. True, the majority of his ‘filling’ intake still comes from yoghurt, and true, he’s only just got over 10kg, but he eats on his own and he loves it. That is phenomenal progress. 

I haven’t written anything for a long time because the days this year are just flying by, but I’ve done a lot of reflecting this last week and as we come around to another Christmas (how, how is it November???) I want to tell anyone who is in the middle of misery that there will be improvement. It may not be until next November that you’ll be able to see it. But it will come. 

There will still be more spew in our house and I know we will still worry about food and growth and development. 

It’s just life now. 

But life now is also Mr O yelling “we love it” as he fills his mouth with Greek yoghurt, and me warning him it’ll be quite spicy if he decides to bite into the entire spring onion, and sitting next to him in the sun with a plate full of strawberries knowing he won’t choke on them anymore. 

I want to make him a Tube Wean anniversary cake, any ideas? 

The nightly choice of sleep, or recharge? 

There’s this time at the end of the day. You know the one, where you’ve finally got your kid(s) to bed and you’re so unbelievably bloody tired. You’ve just left their room after rocking/shushing/head stroking/cuddling/reading/whispering to them for the last hour trying to get them to go the hell to sleep. You’ve been awake since 0430 because, you know, that’s ‘morning’ to them for some bizarre reason, even though, being winter it’s darkness is fairly blatantly saying it’s still the middle of the night. You’re done with dinner because these days you basically eat it at afternoon tea time because that’s when the tiny dictator in the house is most hangry. There’s a million things you probably should be doing but in reality you know you won’t so you’ve really just got two options; 1. Go to bed. You know, because sleep. And 2. Don’t go to bed, put the kettle on, make a cup of tea and watch some tv with your significant other/on your own and take one hour to just be free. One of those cups of tea that you can wrap your fingers around and feel the heat, that scalds your throat on the way down because you’re used to cold tea and you gulp it forgetting that it’s just been boiled and you’ve got the time to stop and enjoy it. To watch something mindless on TV without interruption, no one talking at you or hanging onto your leg, or throwing food at you. You’ve spent the last 16 hours playing, feeding, cleaning, and watching your little miracle discover the world and it has been moments of bliss mixed with moments of immense frustration, and it’s finally time to decide. 

Do you catch up on sleep because you know in all reality they will be waking in approximately 2 hours and 37 mins, or do you stay awake and have an hour of your own time. Your own time to recharge before the next 16 hour day of play, and food, of little hands and high pitched squeaky-mostly-cute little voices, of books and parks and counting and head stroking and saying yes and no and no and yes until you’re blue in the face. Your own time, because you know that as soon as you close your eyes you will be opening them again to a little person who consumes your whole being, every breath is for them, and sleep doesn’t feel like a break because it passes at speed without you even knowing. 
I probably should take option 1 more often and catch up on some sleep, I’m sure I’d feel better for it. But I never do. Every night it’s the same, I say “we should go to bed” and then I put the kettle on and take the me time because I know that if I don’t, when the little voice starts again my patience starts off already being depleted from the day before. That hour is my recharge time and I hope I’m a better mum for it. 

What about you, sleep or recharge? 

(They sound like they should be the same thing, but it definitely doesn’t feel like it…).

Mr O does America. (Part 3). 

I’m lying in a van, my two year old asleep next to me, the door open, looking up at the darkening sky in the middle of the magnificent canyons of Utah, USA. 
The trees are dark silhouettes and the sky is an ever changing ombré as the daylight disappears. There are lights shining in the camper across from us, the smell of campfires drifts past and the air is crisp and cool. Everyone is settling in for the night before another day in the heat and dust begins tomorrow.  

It’s hard to describe the heat, or even imagine it now that the air is cool. But it’s hot here. It’s so hot that water doesn’t quench your thirst, and the dust permeates everything, by the end of the day your eyes are red and raw and your skin is coated. But it wouldn’t be as magnificent if it wasn’t so intense. 

We have stared in awe at the shapes and colours that make up Bryce Canyon, descended into the depths of it and zig-zagged our way back out again. We have caught our breath at the absolute scale of Zion National Park, we are nothing when we stand in those canyons, and we are on top of the world when we climb to the top. We have sweated and sweated and sweated. And each night we have driven our little home back to the campsite and cooked a simple dinner and settled in for the night. 

With a toddler. 

Honestly, I lie here now and I can’t even believe we are here, that we have actually been able to do this. 

But we are, we have been free and I am trying to use it to heal. To enter the next year a little less afraid, and a little bit happier.  

Mr O has made us so incredibly proud, he has adapted to daily change like an absolute super star and he has trusted us that everything will be okay. He has slept in so many different beds, and woken up in so many new places, surrounded by strange faces and voices, and he has taken our hands and walked into it with us. I won’t lie, there have been tantrums and meltdowns and screaming, but we understand it. We don’t feel comfortable all the time either, so his world must feel upside down right now (like seriously, we are on the other side of the world?!?). 

Tonight, as we ready ourselves for the final few days of our trip I want to stop and remember this moment. So that next year I can stay home. And be in our home during the hardest month of the year. We have been free, we can be, but I know that it’s for me, and not for him. 

Two birthdays, two completely contrasting towering mountainous terrains. 

Here’s to his third birthday party being at home (someone remind me next year when I start trying to run away again please…). 

Mr O does America (Part 2). 

It’s crazy how a little person can have such an effect on so many big people. We are adults, grown ups, mature and seasoned, yet a little one says your name or reaches out to touch your face and you melt into a million pieces in front of them.  
This is what I have seen over and over as I watch Oliver with all of the friends and family that he has met during this trip. 

He’s always been a watcher, he takes it all in and slowly he warms up and eases himself into a situation. And it’s the same with people. He sits and watches them, listens to them talk and follows the way they move, and over time he edges closer to them, answers a question, or reaches out a hand. And then they are hooked. 

He is who people gravitate towards when they enter the room, he’s the centre even if he’s still and silent. And that’s the amazing thing about children, they bring adults together. They make us stop; to listen, to feel, to appreciate the small things. 

Everyone who has met him this trip now understands the importance of a good stick and a patch of dirt to dig. They see the paint on the road and the lights that are shaped like balloons. Sounds are louder than they ever were and there’s a digger everywhere if you’d only open your eyes and look. 

The love that has been thrown at this child over the last two weeks is impossible to describe. We are lucky, lucky, lucky to be surrounded by such a phenomenal circle of people all over this amazing world. But the problem with this world is that it is expansive, and no one has come up with a teleportation device yet. We had to say goodbye to the ones we love at home so that we could be with the ones we love across the sea. And now we have to say goodbye to them, so that we can make our way home again. It’s unfair and heartbreaking that Oliver can’t be surrounded by all of these people all of the time. I just so hope that some of the love he has soaked up over here will come home with him in a memory. 

We have traveled through Ames, Iowa and Chicago, Illinois and we are now in Denver, Colorado, on our way to Boulder to get into the hills. And this time we have left all family behind and it’s just us. 

Thank you to everyone who has loved our boy, thank you for helping him grow into a world that is kind and warm and so incredibly full of love. 

He will be two years old tomorrow. Thank you for fuelling us on love for the last two years. We are so lucky. 

Mr O does America (Part 1).

Everyone told me “he will sleep”, it’s 12 hours, he won’t be able to stay awake the whole time. Hahahahahahahaaaaaaa. Good one. 
You’re right, he did sleep, by the time I got him properly asleep enough to be placed in the bassinet and stay asleep it felt like literally seconds later that every single light was turned on again as it was “morning” time in aeroplane world. 

One thing I can say about traveling with a toddler, they can and will charm everyone. So as tired, jet-lagged and frustrated as you are, your kid will make everyone melt a little and everything in the world will seem okay again. 

It took us over 24 hours to properly get into the ‘holiday’ zone. Houston was a good idea in that it allowed us to sleep horizontally, swim in the pool and just catch up a little bit, but it wasn’t part of the fun. 

The fun has begun now. New Orleans you beauty!! If you haven’t been, then add it to your bucket list people! It’s like carnival 365 days a year here, the streets are packed with people, tourists and locals alike. The attire; I don’t even know how to describe it, think up an outfit and you’ll see it out on the street here. Feathers and sequins, face paint and masks, dresses, top hats, activewear, togs, tuxedos. All of it and no one blinks an eye. You could grab a drink and sit for hours just people watching. But why sit when you can grab a drink and wander up the street with it. The French Quarter of New Orleans has some of the most relaxed drinking laws you will come across, as in, you can get your cocktail-to-go and just go! Obviously this is from a predominantly observant perspective due to the fact that we are traveling with a two year old and from 1900 hours we are in bed…BUT if being outside in the evening air as the sun sets with your pickled Bloody Mary sounds like you, then this is the place to come (if you come could you bring a babysitter so that maybe we could come out too?).

Mr O has walked steps (a lot of steps!) along the big old Mississippi River, it’s wide and murky and moves swiftly past with barges and steamboats all day long. He has eaten his hot chippies (more calories pleeease!) while waving his hands to the rhythm of the jazz band in the evening hustle and he’s slurped pho through a straw down an alley while trying to (gently) pat an artists dog as it wandered looking for leftovers (and attempting to ‘help’ sell art). 

We are learning the pace at which he travels best, and the ways to manage things when he starts to get tired. Freedom is key. Freedom to walk, to climb, to touch things and move without confinement and rules. It’s not manageable all of the time, but the more we can allow him to guide the trip the happier we all will be. 

I’m going to sign off with three things we have learnt, partly so that we can look back and remember, and partly so that you can learn it too.

1. All people are buried above ground in New Orleans, their cemeteries are beautiful and tall, due to the fact that the majority of the city is below sea level, no one wants their loved ones in the wet mud, which is fair enough! 

2. If you want a beignet from Cafe Du Monde, you better get up at the crack of dawn to get in that line (lesson for tomorrow morning…).

3. Travel ratio= two adults:one toddler. Help is the BEST. Don’t let me forget this okay? 

Post natal depression: please, just be there. 

 I want to start by saying that I understand that not all people feel the same way and that every journey is different; this may not work for everyone, so if you feel that this is absolutely not something that would help you there are some fantastic resources and supports out there, please check them out. (http://www.mothersmatter.co.nz/default.asp). Please don’t travel this road alone.
I haven’t had post natal depression. I do not understand what those women go through, because I havent experienced it. But I have been through something that others cannot understand unless they have experienced it, so I can see that although the journeys are different, they have a number of parallels. So although this is not my story, I want to share it because it is important to me. I want people to know they are not alone. And I hope that someone somewhere will send a quick message to a friend today, just to let them know that they are not alone.

A friend wrote this story about what she found helpful after the birth of her first baby and all I could think as I read it was that we should all strive to be there, for her, for our sisters, friends, mothers and daughters. No one should have to travel that road alone, no one should be left to feel like a failure and no one should ever feel that they can’t ask for help.

She has allowed me to share this with you. These are her words, from one mother to all of us, please just be there.

“After the 20 week scan I didn’t message you back, then you arrived at the house, I was stripping wallpaper in my dress and boots. I told you the baby has a cleft and we need more scans. All you did was give me a hug and said ‘we can deal with this’ and then you stripped the wallpaper with me. You were there.

You came to my midwife appointments. You kept me company, you listened to me cry and all through my anger and sadness and panic. You were there, always.

Then I had him, I think I had already started to cut you off, because I was already on the path to PND, but you stayed, you were always so positive and so there.

We were discharged home and you were there, you’d done the washing and made brownie, you were there.

I rang you in a panic 2 days later, you left a family dinner to come and help us. I had horrific mastitis and you helped massage my breasts to get all the milk out. It was so painful and so personal but you were there.

We went into hospital, and you were there, you texted all the time, I never replied. But you were there.

You came and stayed because I wanted you at the house, and you left notes everywhere, it made me smile and make me think this was all ok.

You came to our 6 week imms, because I was terrified of holding him. You were there.

When I was diagnosed with PND, at about 3 months in, I messaged my two closest people. “I have PND, on Meds, don’t want to talk about it”.

They both offered all the support they could and people to talk to etc. I didn’t want that.

Then I fell apart, I couldn’t feed or touch my beautiful boy- I was throwing up at the thought of having to do it.

You came and fed him. You were there.

When I was so bad that my husband and mother-in-law had to stay at home and look after me, you came and sat with me, literally sat on the couch watching TV while I counted down the minutes till the next Valium.

When he had surgery, you were there, you met us up at the ward, you chattered away and talked to us, I think I was numb and wasn’t really taking anything in, but you were there.

You took me to mothercraft and said it will be ok, and it was. You were there messaging and not caring if I didn’t reply. You were there.

When I thought there was something wrong with his breathing, you came around and decided we were off to the hospital, you came with me and you stayed with me. You were there.

You made sure, if I was anxious about anything, you would try and fix it. I think I decided my eyebrows were in desperate need of attention and plucking, so therefore, I couldn’t go out. So you lay me down and plucked my eyebrows… we went out and even though I found it hard you were there.

I remember going out for dessert one night and I really, really didn’t want to be there. You messaged me that night, to say it was ok and I didn’t have to force myself to do anything with people. You were there.

You were and are always there and you will never know how much that means.”

Sometimes it’s just a text or a call, or a drop and run at the doorstep with groceries, but it tells someone that you are there, and sometimes that is all that they need to get them through the day.

If you need someone, please tell them, do not do this alone. And if you know someone, please be there for them. However you can, just be there. 

Did you know there are no rules about having children?

img_0184I know it might seem shocking, since people seem happy to constantly expect things of you when it comes to children. But there’s actually no rulebook anywhere that says you need to have your first child at a particular age, there’s no list of guidelines that say you need to have a second child when your first child is exactly 18 months and 21 days old, in fact there’s nothing anywhere that says you need to have any children at all, or that you can’t just be happy with one, or that you need to stop at 4.

Yet for some reason we love to ask, and sometimes asking is not enough and we love to give our opinion, which obviously we know everyone really wants to hear (insert eye-roll emoji here…I love that little emoji so much). Oh you’ve been married a while, time for kids? When are you going for number two? You don’t want them to be an only child do you? Hmmm that age gap is too small, oh and that age gap is really big.

What’s wrong with: wow your kid is gorgeous! Or shall I take your kid for five minutes? Or even better, shall I put you up in this expensive hotel for a night and you can sleep all night and I’ll babysit? THESE are the questions we can happily answer!!

As for the others, I don’t speak for everyone but we felt there was no right time to have a baby, so at some point we just threw our hands up and said, may as well be now. There’s always something you haven’t done yet, or a career goal that hasn’t been met, or something that’s tugging for your attention. And we felt that would never change, there would never be a quiet moment where actually nothing else was happening and we had everything absolutely sorted and there was a light flashing “baby time” in front of us. We decided ‘now’ wasn’t an AWFUL time so why not? Whether you plan or you get a surprise, the time never seems ‘right’.

I always wanted to have a big family, I wanted heaps of kids, I love kids!!

And then it took us almost a year to get pregnant, which I know isn’t long compared to many couples, but I thought how do we go through this over and over? How can you wait each month and hope and dream and be disappointed. How can you enjoy the physical act of making a baby if it never gives you what you want, it begins to feel pointless, and that’s scary because it’s something special you have with your partner and nothing should be able to take that away from you, but it does.

And then we got pregnant with twins and life exploded into plans and dreams and joy and excitement before it got smashed into a million heartbreaking pieces and left us in a world where the sun was dark and cold and everyone seemed to be happy but us.

When you lose a child you lose something of yourself. I used to want to be surrounded by my family, piles of children clinging to me and playing all day, now I want to hold the one I have as close to me as possible and never move again. I don’t want to share him and I don’t want him to have to share, because he had a buddy he was going to share his life with and he’s gone. I am filled with fear. It is just under the surface, bubbling, ready to come up, even as I write this I can feel my heart rate increasing. I’m afraid of pain (which seems kinda rational to me, no one wants a bee sting, so why would you pick up a bee? -apiarists excluded of course, crazy folk!). I’m afraid of trying, of the waiting and the hoping and the disappointment, when it feels like you’re surrounded by people who are somehow pregnant the minute their partner walks in the room, seriously HOW?

I’m afraid of being pregnant, because I’ve only ever experienced the disaster of it, and why would I risk that again? I’m afraid of going to that scan and seeing two little blobs again, I CANNOT do that. I actually just can’t. I’m afraid of repeating everything we have just done. I’m afraid of losing again. I’m so afraid of so many things that the possibility of ‘going for number two’ is a complete and utter impossibility to me.

I just. Simply. Cannot.

So when you ask me (if you have to…) and when you tell me that I’ll change my mind in time (not sure why you have to do that…but you do…), well, maybe you’re right, but maybe you’re not, and at the end of the day it’ll be our choice and I’m not apologising for the fact that you have to accept that, because you haven’t lived our reality.

Everyone makes choices in their lives, and they don’t always announce aloud why they make those choices, all they want is people to support them, and love them. With or without kids, with or without siblings, whenever the hell they want. If you want to hang with your partner forever and play with other people’s kids, then do it! If you want to have 5 kids in the next 8 years, get started. If you want to give your 15 year old a sibling this year, go ahead. Whatever way you do family, we’ve got your back.