I have just re-read my list of resolutions for 2016. I am happy to report I achieved more of them than I expected. Not all of them. That would be mental.
Here’s what I am going to try and focus on in 2017:
A wise woman (that’s you Zoe Blaskey) reminded me of the importance of focusing on how things feel on the inside rather than how they look on the outside. It totally resonated with me.
Less being cross about the mess. More focusing on how happy it makes the boys to make it.
Earlier in 2016 I was obsessed with moving out of London. One way and another we didn’t end up going it (mortgage, jobs, indecision). Instead, we’ve promised to spend one weekend a month in the countryside. A chance to get our fix of fresh air and space.
Give the house some TLC. Now we are staying its time to paint the walls, maybe replace the carpet. And ideally figure out how to make our v limited storage work better for us.
Support small businesses. It’s a habit I’ve started in the run up to Christmas and want to continue into the new year.
Get some professional snaps of me and the boys. I got some lovely ones of me on my own (like the one at the top by Emily Gray Photography), but want to capture my rabble too.
Stay off the sad step (bathroom scales) but maintain my healthy friendship with tape measure.
Go on a 2 week holiday. Our trip to Thailand was all kinds of spectacular. Much of that was because we were away for so long. Determined to do the same this year.
More quality time with these two.
Sayonara sugar. I’ve got an inkling knocking it on the head will do my waistline and mood a favour.
Avoid cheap undies. Having recently tried Rigby and Peller bras, I’ve vowed I will never go back.
Invest in my skin. After all I’ve got to wear it for the rest of my life.
Date night. Still manages to fall by the wayside.
Stop being tight. As some will know. 2016 have seen us come through financial crisis (am currently writing a blog post about it, which should be out in a week or two). It was pretty bleak. But it’s also hard to learn to enjoy being comfortable again. Got to stop feeling guilty after every purchase.
Culture. Theatre. Lectures. Art. I want more of all of it.
Watch some films Ben wants. I like documentary or rom com. He likes action. I’m going to relent and let him choose occasionally because I’m a nice wife.
Yes Ben Telford, I have agreed to let you pick which film…
Get blog posts up on time. I’ve written a posting schedule and everything. From now on there should be a new list every single Monday.
Polish my shoes. Radical or what?
Do my pelvic floors. It’d be nice to know I could go on a trampoline if I want to.
Visit the dentist again. I’ve faced the fear and got that dreaded root canal. Imagine how smug i can feel if I actually go for regularly check-ups?
Have boundaries. It’s not easy to say no or put my little family first, but it is always worth it.
Don’t mix my drinks. Seriously? When.Will.I.Learn.
I met Emma at a Stand up for Cancer & Selfish Mother event, where she talked about her incredible story.
She is a Mum of four, three of which are triplets, blogger and cancer survivor.
It’s fairly mind blowing, but what struck me most about Emma was just how much I liked her: her take on stuff, her sense of humour. Basically she’s just the sort of person I’d like to spend a night drinking too much red wine with.
Here Emma explains why Cancer is ‘The Gift that Keeps Giving.’:
Okay so bear with me. I’m going through a good patch, a more positive phase where life feels kinder than before and as a result counting my blessings comes a little more easily. It feels like a good exercise to list the positives of what is potentially a rather dire situation so here goes – my list of the positive aspects of life with cancer as a mum of four.
After coming agonisingly close to the magical five year all clear, it really is rather galling to find myself back at hospital on a regular basis after the cancer I had thought had gone forever resurfaced. Even though I’m currently back in remission, doing well and not enduring the misery that is chemotherapy just being back in ‘the system’ makes me grumpy and irritable and angry as hell. But, as I sit in my chair in the chemo ward dunking a bourbon biscuit into a cup of tea there’s always a moment, however brief where I catch myself and say a silent thank you.
Thank you to the NHS for the incredible treatment that flows into my port and through my startled veins.
Thank you to my weary body for continuing to respond so well to what my oncologist rather depressingly calls ‘maintenance’ treatment.
And thank you to my four beautiful babies who couldn’t give a stuff that I’m having treatment again and just want to know why I’m not letting them have Nutella on toast for breakfast every. single. day.
Having cancer has shown me that random acts of kindness are everywhere. That there are more good people in the world by far, than bad. Homemade chicken pies, laundry washed and kids taken care of, spa day vouchers and endless cake. When I was first diagnosed all those years ago I was shown more love and care than I could handle. And definitely more deliveries of homemade lasagne. The kids still love lasagne, which is handy as I’m pretty sure there are still several dishes of it shoved somewhere in the back of the freezer.
Sometimes I catch myself breaking into a run, zooming up the stairs to chase a wayward six year old or catch our minx like puppy to wrestle a marble from her mouth. I catch myself doing entirely normal things, mum things, life things – and it feels amazing. Every day that I feel well and strong is a good, good day and I wouldn’t dare take that for granted now.
On the other hand, any day that I feel run down, a bit glandy, maybe I’ve got an ulcer or even a flipping ingrowing toenail – any physical thing that crops up however randomly and unconnected to boobs, well.. I just crumble. I crash and burn convinced that death is near. Catastrophizing has become my thing and it does me no favours whatsoever. It’s a hard one to shake. Not much fun for those around me either. Happy days.
Cancer hasn’t made me a better mum. It’s probably made me a worse one because when the fear takes hold it makes it harder for me to love them in the way they deserve. So great is my fear of leaving them behind that, on some level, I push them away. Just when I should be gathering them up in my arms and smelling their skin and savouring each second I just want to be alone. Completely alone. I sometimes worry that this has affected the way I bonded with the triplets. I often feel consumed with guilt that I’ve spent all of their short lives gripped by the fear of early death and of them growing up without their mum. I’ve never had the luxury of being able to take our future as a family for granted. I don’t take any of it for granted. It’s quite exhausting to live with that level of fear. As if parenting triplets isn’t exhausting enough. Jeez.
Er..this isn’t a very positive aspect of life with cancer. Sorry. Its a very honest one though.
Let’s end this list on a high.
Cancer has given me a ridiculous appreciation of the mundane.
Having cancer meant I was chosen to be the subject of one of Peter Andre’s Sixty Minute Makeovers. This led me to my wonderful husband. My handyman hero.
Cancer has led me to people, situations, and insights that I might never have known. My life feels incredibly rich these days and beautifully boring. It goes without saying that I’d love to be able to shake off the constant fear. I’d love to confidently cast my net five, ten years into the future without my stomach twisting and my head spinning with a million what if’s…that’s a luxury I’ll probably never be afforded. But, in the meantime, there’s my kids to kiss, a husband to spoon and a body that, right now, is proving to be a very good friend indeed.
We recently got back from two blissful weeks in Thailand with the boys who are nearly 2 and 3.5. Although my husband and I have fortunate enough to do tons of travelling I felt unusually nervous about taking the boys half way across the world.
Probably because we actually spent a month in Thailand when Bertie was 7 weeks old and it was disastrous . He was our first kid, so at 7 weeks postpartum our whole world had been turned upside down. Forget schlepping across the globe, we should stayed in the baby bubble. NOT heading to a drastically different time zone, where you have to put your new unfamiliar body in a bikini and have very little support from friends/family.
ANYWAY, we were determined to make this trip different.
Here’s what we learned:
Book night flights. One way an another they WILL fall asleep and every hour that they are out for the count is a bonus.
Take ALL the snacks. We flew Thai Airways, because it was the quickest journey time. But the child’s meals they were a bit beyond their palette (apart from the chocolate bars that came with every single meal. Include breakfast).
Hungry kids + being trapped in a confined space = terrible combo. Bertie ate 5 bags of crisps on our journey back. I am not proud of it. But needs must.
You do not need jumpers. Or any kind of warm clothes. It’s hard to get your head round when you are in Blighty. It’s warm there constantly. Heaven.
Once a day suncream. I converted to P20 after my GP recommended it to me before I went off on my gap year. Not having to worry about reapplication is such a bonus.
Minimal footwear. Mine didn’t wear anything on the feet for the entire trip.
Travel buggy. Pavements are few and far between. The ones that exist are thin. We had a pair of these Babyzen YoYo‘s. They are mega.
Little Hot Dog Watson hats. They look cool but are actually super clever. The fabric keeps their heads at the right temperature and is imbedded with insect repellent.
Roll on insect repellent. Mine ended up enjoying putting it on. Result.
Take a small amount of toys. We took Duplo, story books and superheros. That seemed to do it. Takes up valuable suitcase space, but also increases the odds of you actually being able to read by the pool.
In terms of food we found plenty they would eat: Massaman curry, chicken satay, fish cakes (’round fish fingers’), the delicious deep-fried fish.
And who doesn’t like the amazing fruit/fruit shakes and BANANA PANCAKES?! They alone are worth the 13 hour flight.
Plus there’s always chips.
We also did a ‘big shop’ in a supermarket (rather than being ripped off at the 7/11). Where we got the necessities: Nappies, wipes, Weetabix, Milk and Babybel.
Yes the foodie traveller in me died alittle. But sometimes you’ve gotta do what makes your life easier.
What else?! Mine loved the beach and the pool. But they also couldn’t believe how much the rules got bent:
Being allowed in a Tuk-Tuk!
Mummy actually going in the sea. (Most previous holidays have been in the UK, I’m not ashamed to admit that I am a fair weather swimmer).
Or getting to go out AFTER DARK.
Jet lag on the way out is a bonus. We settled into a happy 9-9 sleep schedule.
Thai’s LOVE kids. Welcome in all restaurants. Frequently get given a free banana or ice lolly. Often when you are trying to negotiate them eating a vegetable. But still.
And your wallet will love Thailand. Though the flights to get there can be pricey, the cost of living is SO cheap. Lunches for 4 generally came in at £8 mark and dinner around about £15.
And laundry is cheap. So be sure to do yourself a massive favour and come home with a suitcase of clean clothes..
Because jetlag on the way back is a bitch. Know that it’s just ‘part of it’. They say it’s a day for every hour time difference. Realistically it took a week to feel normal.
Don’t be tempted to eek out the last day of holiday. Give yourself at least one day back at home to get your head in gear before work/school/nursery.
More than anything just bloody DO IT. The climate, the food, the beaches, the being far away from the usual madness of normal life. For me its one my happiest places on earth.
As someone who likes travelling it made my heart fill with joy to hear the boys speaking Thai. Expanding their horizons. Seeing how adaptable they are. Totally un-phased by having their pale skin and fair hair admired wherever we went.
Two weeks as just ‘us’ felt like a dream. A chance to reconnect. Have fun as a family and a reminder that without the stresses and strains of ordinary life we do still get on as a couple (phew!).
It such a cliché but we really did make memories that will last forever and suntans that might make it through the most vitamin D deprived months of the year.
Sophia sent this list to me out of the blue. Which I love. It’s content really made me think. Above all I felt full of admiration for Sophia: what an achievement to have carved a path as a Mother without someone to show you how. Here she shed light on her experience.
The trauma of losing my mother when I was eleven means that when I love someone, I become terrified of losing them. This is a huge challenge with my son, but the silver lining is that I don’t doubt my love for him. I knew straight away.
I don’t worry about the every day stuff. The occasional bouts of sudden and intense fear of losing my baby mean I have no energy left to stress over little things. If I had to summarise my parenting style, I would say it’s akin to how most mums raise their second born, except without the valid excuse of a toddler.
Call it a fascist commitment to winging it – but I didn’t read any baby books, and I don’t compare notes. If he’s smiling on a regular basis and his poo isn’t purple, we’re doing great.
I feel overwhelmed with gratitude. Okay, I’m not a saint – I don’t wake up to a crying baby and thank God I’ve lived to see another glorious morning of poo, milk and vomit (or ‘changing, feeding and burping’ as it’s euphemistically called). But every day I have a moment where I feel grateful for our routine, because for a long time after my mum died we didn’t do routines in our house. The flip side of boredom is stability, so deep down if I feel bored, I’m grateful.
As a mum, your instinct is to be there for your child at every cost. To cover all contingencies, to meet every need, to do whatever it takes. Cue the feeling of guilt when we realise we can’t actually do it all, and there’s a limit to what we’re capable of – even for the most controlling, most A-type, most self-sacrificing, most determined among us (and what mother isn’t all of these things when it comes to her kids?).
But having lost my mum when I was still a child, I learnt first-hand how resilient kids are. My son only has one mum, but if – God forbid – the unthinkable were to happen, I know he would be able to continue without me. He will, like countless other children of less than perfect parents, thrive regardless of the choices I make and the mother I turn out to be. Phew!
I couldn’t tell my mum when my periods started, nor when I got pregnant, nor when I had the baby, nor when I had a million and one questions and doubts and fears – I couldn’t share anything to do with womanhood with my mum, because I lost her before I embarked on the journey of going from girl to woman.
And yet I got through it all.
the first times
the bad times
the smear tests
the nights out
the mornings after
the poor outfit choices
the great outfit choices
the wedding planning
the mothering– I still managed to navigate womanhood without the one woman in my life who was best equipped to guide me through it. That’s something that even in my darkest hour I will always be massively, unapologetically proud about.
Of course, I would give anything to swap the engraved bulk of stone I had to ‘introduce’ my son for a real, flesh-and-bones, laughing, smiling, cuddly grandma.
I wept uncontrollably at said ‘introduction’, turning to my brother and saying ‘she couldn’t meet him,’ simultaneously feeling glad that my son was too little to understand that I was upset– remembering the two times I’d seen my own mum cry, how helpless I had felt, how upside down it felt to see my strong, rock solid mum be weak and vulnerable.
But as Stephen Colbert said when talking about losing his father and two brothers: ‘the thing I love the most is the thing I most wish had not happened.’
I think he was paraphrasing Tolkien… I dunno
Point is, that’s exactly how it feels to become a parent after losing a parent. It gives you strength and enormous comfort to know you survived that grief. And that strength and comfort becomes your cheerleader in times of need, your superheroic alter ego, and it really is the thing that you love the most…
…and the thing you most wish had not happened.
But it did happen. And the birth happened too. And you’re here. And so is your baby. And the husband/father. And a few other important people too. You’re all here. You’re all here. Be thankful, you’re all here.
I was born at 32 weeks premature. Recently I asked my Mum to tell me about my birth story. I wept when I read it. Until now I hadn’t realised how terrifying those early weeks must have been.
By chance I stumbled upon @sageandnellie’s profile on Instagram and instantly loved gorgeous Nellie. Here her mama Georgia shares their story.
I couldn’t be more open to share mine and Nellies story, I could write about her all day but where an earth do I start?
With her birth because i don’t remember much of that. Perhaps all our medical complications, I know endless information on those! Or just the shear love and joy she brings me? I think this may just be a mess of feelings and thoughts on what its like to have a micro-preemie, my baby born 12 weeks early, weighing just 1lb6oz with many complications and a whole load of love, my Nellie…here goes our list.
To start I will cut to the factual stuff, how it all came about and see where that takes me.
14 I’m diagnosed with PKD, a lifelong kidney disease.
18 I’m diagnose with lymphoma, cancer of the blood.
19 I travel the world with my partner, learn to live after cancer.
20 Im in Australia and holy shit I’m pregnant. Time to come back to England and attempt to be an adult, this baby is obviously meant to be.
Pregnancy after intensive chemo was a bit of a surprise. Infertility was always something i thought id struggle with but all i could think was Im going to be a mumma, things are going to be good.
I’ve had my share of bad luck, what could go wrong huh?
My blood pressure began to creep up, my kidneys couldn’t cope and my placenta was being affected. At 27 weeks a scan showed my baby had stopped growing, starving of oxygen and extremely malnourished.
But she was still moving, heart was still beating, I was told if she did survive she may have severe brain damage.
She had to live.
I was rushed that day to a bigger hospital four hours away, where we could have the best care before and after the birth.
Two days later at exactly 28 weeks Nellie was born via emergency c-section screaming and kicking. Hands the size of my nails and legs no bigger than my baby finger but SHE CRIED she wanted to be here.
There is nothing worse than watching your child sick, having Nellie gave me a whole new perspective on what my own mum must have gone through with me.
After three weeks I was discharged without my baby and Nellie was moved in a specialised ambulance back to a hospital closer to home.
There were no parent rooms so me and my partner had a 45 minute drive to get her from home each day. Premature babies can take a turn fast, a thought that terrified me, what if we couldn’t get there in time.
Just to number a few things Nellie dealt with and like a champ may I add-
Hours old and tubes in her legs, arms, hands, through her umbilical cord, nose and mouth. A lot of tubes for a 625 gram baby.
Skin so thin to hold her it could would tear
Numerous blood transfusion
Two brains bleeds
Daily, sometimes hourly bloods.
8 months attached to an oxygen tank
Her first cuddle was at two weeks old and then just one a day for ten minutes or so until she was stronger.
She looked so frail and alone in her incubator. I should still have been carrying her for another 12 weeks but in my heart I knew she was strong, I knew id be taking her home.
My heart ached, I yearned, my milk was so ready for her, i expressed 10 times a day, 4 bouts of mastitis, it was the only thing i could really do for her.
We took our girl home at 3 months old, she was still on oxygen and weighed just 4lb3 but boy was she feisty. Id started to fully breastfeed around 10 weeks.
We continued to have our struggles, daily nurses visits, severe reflux and still underweight but she was HOME. In my arms whenever I wanted, that I cant even explain.
In short that is what Nellie went through, we came through with help from the NHS and a lot of fight. I now have a beautiful, defiant, toddler who thinks she’s 13.
However one thing I still find hard to get my head round is the many emotions I felt as a mother.
I think on some level I struggle with post traumatic stress. At the time you have to be so strong, hold it all together but when the storm calms you’ve got to find normality again, come to terms with all thats happened and a lot has happened in the last few years.
And then sadly I fell into a trap of jealousy and resentment. I couldn’t look at pregnant mums, at first I avoided baby groups, I guess it reminded me of what i couldn’t do, safely carry and deliver my baby.
People moaning about how hard the last trimester is, telling me how lucky I am to have never experienced it.
Or that women that told me i was LUCKY to have had a small baby, poor thing gave birth to a healthy 8lb boy.
Oh and the one that said at least you got a good nights sleep in those first three months. Yes because getting up every hour to phone and check your baby is still alive is a good night sleep.
Well yes, as you can see that bitterness is still lingering but I’m getting over it. In a way i wish i could still be that naive mum, not everyone can understand, perhaps they need a wake up call, to open their eyes.
Ok, like i said I’m working on that side of it… really.
I think there just needs to be more awareness, more information. A premature baby isn’t just a small baby.
I am so blessed, we all are as mothers, there is always someone with a bigger struggle, we watched countless babies not make it, others with life long problems from their prematurity.
Everyones struggle is real to them, who’s to judge who’s is harder.
I wouldn’t be me without my story, my fight, Nellie wouldn’t be who she is today. Im grateful everyday, maybe I wouldn’t be if i hadn’t felt some pain.
I may not be lucky but i am definitely blessed.
Yep, that was a mess of thoughts and facts but how else can i describe our journey, it was one long, wonderful jumble. Just wish me luck for next time because I’m about to do it all over again with baby number two!
Recently I was asked to write about my boys births and how they differed. Obviously my response was to write a list. What a brilliant opportunity; a chance to really reflect on two most formative experiences of my life.
**This list is a longer than usual, but I loved writing it so indulge me… **
I thought I prepped for my first birth. NCT classes, every episode of One Born Every Minute. What more could I need?
Then I went overdue. Really really overdue.
I wasn’t prepared for that. As someone who does things at 100 mph AND was born 7 weeks premature, I had naively assumed that this guaranteed me a prompt labour. I was wrong.
At 41+6 I was booked in for an induction.
I had zero clues about what that involved, but didn’t care, I just REALLY wanted my baby out.
The morning of my induction. I went into labour (probably thanks a sweep).
Rung the delivery ward feeling excited. Not for long: I must still attend my induction slot as planned.
What an error. Once in ‘the system’ I was stuck in no-man’s land.
They wouldn’t induce me because I was in labour.
They wouldn’t send me home (even though I was only 3 cm) because I was on an induction list.
I didn’t progress.
I walked the corridors of St Georges to the point of exhaustion.
I didn’t progress.
I didn’t progress.
I cried some more.
They sent my husband home.
I begged to be allowed to go with him.
I didn’t progress.
24 hrs later, someone decided to give me a pessary.
Things went nuts. Within 10 minutes I was having 7 contractions in 10 – grim.
Into the delivery room. Active, mobilised labour, just gas and air, not fun, but I was ok (just).
I wasn’t very kind to my husband, but that’s by-the-by.
Then the decision was made that it was time to a) push b) get on my back.
It felt wrong, but I did what I was told.
The fateful hour passed. The inevitable episiotomy.
Then Albert Maverick Telford was here!!
But I was bleeding. A lot. Cue lots of medical people doing stuff, oxygen mask. Me thinking ‘is this it?’. Terrifying.
Thankfully the bleeding was controlled quickly. But, in my memory what followed was one nightmare after the next:
Left alone in the delivery room while I had a panic attack.
No hug. No reassurance. No quiet word saying ‘it’s ok to feel a bit wobbly after pushing a human out of you fanny’.
Just a threat of being refered to the psychiatric midwife the next day.
Firm instruction to breastfeed NOW, even though I was too exhausted to keep my eyes open.
Tuts of disapproval for not managing to walk to post-delivery ward (after an epsisiotomy!).
My husband being kicked-out just 45 minutes after we got on the ward.
Having to ask someone to change my catheter and could I possible have some paracetamol for my pain?
Feeling alone, shocked and frankly quite abused.
Then finally some sleep!
On waking my heart exploded with love for the tiny human lying next to me. I was a Mummy! Time to step up and be the Mummy he deserved.
A year passes.
A confusing life-altering 12 months of sleepless nights and rediscovering myself.
Then low-and-behold I am up the duff again!
More freaking-out. Then a plan: THIS TIME WAS GOING TO BE DIFFERENT.