A Story of Two Sisters (and their babies)

When we were kids, despite there being 5.5 years between us, our parents used to sometimes dress my sister and me in matching outfits.  Often they would be similar but not identical, so for example we’d both have little sailor dresses but mine would be white with navy trim and hers navy with white trim.

(Circa 1992 ish maybe?!)

Occasionally though they’d be the same clothes just in a different size.  In particular i remember a set we wore on a family holiday to Prestatyn, patterned cycling shorts and a cream sleeveless tank top with a zip.  I remember one day we went to the beach wearing out matching ensembles and my sister dug herself a hold in the sand, climbed in and peed.  Whether that was her way of expressing a dislike for wearing the same clothes as her big sister i don’t know, but if so it had the desired effect for that afternoon at least!

Other than that there wasn’t really much that was similar about us growing up, not only was it a big age gap, but more importantly our personalities were completely different.  Like chalk and cheese you might say. We used to fight, physically and verbally, she was one for pulling the heads off my barbies and running away with them down the garden path, i was one for whining when she was pestering me to play, or for telling tales on her to our Mum and Dad.

(Circa 1999)

Years, hell, even decades have passed and we’re still total opposites in so many ways but we do have quite a big thing in common these days- children.  Weirdly, without either one of us knowing that the other was trying for a baby we both fell pregnant at the start of 2009- and we both miscarried our first pregnancies and then got pregnant again immediately afterwards.  We would both go on to suffer further pregnancy losses at other points in time (i had a subsequent twin miscarriage in December 2010, she had three more including, spookily, a twin miscarriage also), all of which has brought us closer in some ways.

But it’s not all doom and gloom, as you know we more than got our happy endings.  Tobias made his entrance on the 6th November 2009 and my nephew Zachary Mark followed shortly after on the 5th December.

(Toby 6 weeks old and Zach 2 weeks old)

In the autumn of 2010, just after i came off the pill to start trying for a sibling for Toby, she announced she was expecting her second baby and Leo James was born the following June, by which point i was half way through my pregnancy with our second son and of course Rudyard came into the world in the October, shortly after which my sister fell pregnant with her third! And her baby girl Freyja Leigh Jade was born last month, 6 weeks early.

Starting our families at pretty much exactly the same time, and then adding to them again at similar times, being pregnant alongside each other and sharing the experience of giving birth within quite a short time frame of each other had it’s ups and downs.  The comparisons were inevitable, and even if we managed to keep a lid on our natural sibling rivalry other people seemed to get competitive on our behalf! Who’s bump was bigger/smaller/neater/rounder/lower? Who would give birth first, and what would the babies weigh? The names discussion went round and round and round.  Sophie was naturally open about her musings, Chris and i were very tight lipped.  Would either of us get our planned and much wanted water births? (A resounding NO for both of us each and every time as it turned out!) Would either of us get our planned and much wanted home births (A yes for me second time thankfully, all Sophie’s babies have been born in hospital for various reasons) The once the babies arrived- so did more comparisons! Heights, weights, physical traits and developmental milestones!

(Toby just under 3 months and Zach just under 2 months)
(7 months/6 months)
(baby cuddle swap, on Toby’s 1st birthday)
(wow, not sure how people with twins manage?!)
(Zach 1 year, Toby 13 months, Sophie is pregnant with Leo)

What has been wonderful though, without any shadow of a doubt is the Instant Extended Family it’s provided our children with. I grew up with one little sister and seven cousins, all living fairly close by, and remember what a big part of my childhood that played, the games, the birthday parties, the sleepovers, the trips out.  Not all sunshine and lollipops but an all round positive experience in a childhood that wasn’t always rosy.

(Cousins! I’m seated on the left holding my baby cousin Louise, Sophie is seated wearing a navy cardigan and paying absolutely zero attention to the fact that a photograph is being taken!)

I assumed, that because Chris and i have chosen to move away from our hometowns and start our families away from our own families, that any children we’d have would miss out on all that and it did make me feel a little sad.  But so far it’s turned out not to be the case.  True my sister, her husband and her little ones don’t exactly live just down the road, it’s about a 90 minute trip each way and one we always have to make as neither her or Jamie drive, but three hours of driving (providing Rudy sleeps!) is a small price to pay to give the boys that experience of having extended family, a bigger family experience, more people to love and be loved by.

(Zach 16.5 months, Toby 17.5 months)
(Sisters! L-R, my littlest sister Megan, age 11 in this picture, not pregnant obviously! Then there’s me, age 26, approx 15 weeks pregnant with Rudy, and Sophie, age 20, approx 32 weeks pregnant with Leo)
(Jamie with Toby, 19 months and his son Zach 18 months)
(My first cuddles with my newborn nephew Leo James)
(Double trouble!)
(Matching ringlets!)

Yesterday we went across the penines and i got to meet my niece Freyja for the first time.  She is now 6 weeks old (Sophie’s due date was earlier this week!) and weighs 6lb 4oz, so almost what both my boys weighed at birth, and she looks like a teeny tiny dot.  Rudy, normally the “baby” in any given situation/scenario, looked like a lumbering giant as he pulled himself up on things and cruised around the room whilst she slept through the chaos in her (Rudy’s old) moses basket.

It’s pretty much always chaos when we go over (we have four very small boys between us- how could it not be?!) and yesterday was no exception.  I usually forget to take my camera, or if i do, in all the madness it never makes it out of my changing bag, but yesterday i made a point of getting a few snaps of them all. Leo doesn’t feature as much as i’d like as he went for a long nap so disappeared out of shot for a while but otherwise i’m happy with the memories we managed to capture.  I was desperately hoping we’d be able to get them all sat down together (possibly with the aid of bribery in the form of flapjacks!) for a big group photo but sadly it wasn’t to be.  Next time though- i’m determined!

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Working Wonders

So i’m back at work these days and i realised i haven’t really talked about that much. Or at all in fact.

It’s a funny old thing.

I trained for 3 years to become a nurse, and it was one of the toughest things i’ve ever done in my life those three years training.

in my final year
work hard, play hard, n.b. those are not my actual colleagues, although they are all nurses/student nurses! Afraid?! You should be! 😉
 
i graduated!
there was hat-flinging! although i’d already taken my cap and gown off at that point (oops!)
and there was a graduation ball. i may have ingested a few alcoholic beverages prior to this photograph being taken 😉
 

I then took a job 50 miles away from my home to get experience in my chosen speciality (neonates) and i then put myself through the whole application and interview process all over again to get a job closer to home in that same speciality, and the month that i started my new job we also started trying for a baby!

5.30am Friday 13th March 2009 a little pink line appeared…

So for me, it hasn’t so much been work taking a back seat while i have babies, or babies being off the agenda until my career was flourishing, it feels as though they’ve both just co-existed, happening alongside each other. Which at times has been really tough, but i am just now beginning to think that it may actually have all worked out for the best.

I love what i do, both at home and at work, some days more than others (that statement is true of both my roles as a Mummy and as a Nurse!) but priorities shift when you have children, and going back to work after having Toby was hard.  I mean really really hard.  The last few weeks of my maternity leave with him were a total waste, i just spent hours upon hours crying, and then frantically searching online for jobs, any job that would pay me lots of money and mean i would be able to use my skills but without ever leaving my precious baby boy for a minute.  Guess what?! Turns out there aren’t any jobs like that no matter how many hours you spend surfing the net or reading the jobs pages 😉

It was made worse by my manager at the time refusing my request to go back on reduced hours on nights and putting me straight back on to a training program within weeks of my return.  We had assumed my nights only request would be accepted so didn’t have any childcare in place.  I remember that 8 weeks before i was due to go back we were thrown into the frenzy that is suddenly trying to find (and fund!) a nursery place for Toby.  We were clueless.  I called the most local private day nursery to us at the time and asked if we could come take a look around “well, let me see if we have any places first shall i?” the woman said.  “How bloody presumptuous of her” I thought, “Who says we’ll even want to send our darling angel to her bloody nursery anyway?!” I didn’t say that of course.  I sweetly gave her Toby’s date of birth and the proposed start date we’d need- 27th September 2010 “I’m sorry, the soonest we’ll have a space is January” she told me “when we’ll have a space opening up on Mondays and Fridays.  The next available full time space we’d have would be next April”…Uh-huh…Okaaayyy.  I called a few more places…”Has the baby been born yet?” one woman asked me sweet as pie. It seemed unlikely we were going to be able to find somewhere in 8 short weeks if most places expected you to be putting your babies’ names down BEFORE YOU’D EVEN FINISHED GESTATING THEM!

Of course, some of you will know how this ends.  We did find a place, and truth be told, it all worked out ok in the end.

cuddles with a 9 month old Toby before heading to work

That doesn’t mean it wasn’t a difficult thing to go through though. I really resented being back at work those first few months after i returned.  Once i was pregnant again with Rudy it felt more bearable leaving Toby as there was an end in sight- soon i’d be off on maternity leave again, and in fact, as the start date for my maternity leave loomed, i felt i was really getting back into the swing of things again, and finding my groove with it all.  Then i had another 9 months off…and then it was time to go back for a second time.

It’s been very different this time.  For a start my manager left, and the acting manager approved my request to go back on nights so that obviously made a massive difference.  I’ve also reduced my hours.  But aside from that, i’m not sure how to explain just how very differently i felt about it this time.  In terms of the boys- they were both a similar age when i returned to work, Toby was 9 months exactly on my first shift back, Rudy was 8 months exactly.  They were both still breastfeeding, in fact Toby was more amenable to having the occasional bottle than Rudy was.  They were both still co-sleeping part-time.  I love them both equally.  So surely i should have been distraught this time too? Weeping into hankies in the weeks leading up to my return date, freaking out that i’d have forgotten everything, or that Rudy would feel abandoned, or that the whole household would fall apart without me there to hold everything together? Erm…nope! I barely gave it a thought.  “I’m back in work on Tuesday” i’d say to people, and when i said it i’d feel…nothing of any real depth.  It was just a statement of fact.  I was apprehensive as the entire unit has been refurbished  and extended while i’ve been off, so i had some (well founded, it turns out!) concerns that i wouldn’t know where anything was but aside from that i felt ok about it.  Really ok.  And when i turned up and took handover and walked into high dependency to start my shift, it was just as if i’d never been away, as if i’d been at work only the week before and not 9.5 months ago.

Crazily i feel as though i am being disloyal to Rudy by finding it so easy to leave him.  But he’s at home, with his Daddy and his big brother who both love him to pieces, there’s plenty of breast milk for him in the freezer and a whole host of bottles with various teats and sippy cups for him to drink from should he so choose.  So why shouldn’t it be easy to leave him?  People have been asking me how it’s going and i keep saying “Fine- for me! Not sure Chris would say the same thing though left alone with the boys all night when all Rudy wants is boob!” but actually, if you ask Chris- he also says “Fine”.  They’ve had some unsettled nights, where Rudy has cried so loud he’s woken Toby up and they’ve all ended up in the big bed together at 3am, they’ve had some good nights where  putting rodrigo y gabriella on the ipod speakers in Rudy’s room has settled him back to sleep.  They’re already figuring out their own ways of getting through the night together, and this morning i walked into the house at 8.30am with boobs like Dolly Parton to find a very contented Rudy fast asleep in his Daddy’s arms having just polished off a bottle of EBM because he couldn’t wait any longer for me to get home (damn traffic!) and Toby greeted me at the living room door “Shhh Mummy- Rudy’s asleep!”

So actually, it’s all good so far.  I know we’ll have hard times still, i don’t imagine it’s going to be plain sailing juggling working part time, having 2 small children, breastfeeding, Chris being at uni and having assignments, placements and 2 part time jobs plus dedicating time to our relationship, seeing family and friends and taking care of our home…but that’s life right? Messy, complicated, hard, fun.

The week after i went back for my first shift Cherie Blair, not someone who really comes up on my radar at all, apparently caused a bit of a stir by giving her opinions on stay at home Mums vs working Mums.  I’m not sure that her version of being a “working mother” is really the same as for the rest of us, given her position and financial status, so what she thinks or doesn’t think about it is irrelevant to me, but as someone who spends time on forums, i found it interesting to see how people reacted- it seems she’s managed to piss off people from both camps (impressive!) It’s a debate as old as the ages and almost as heated as the breast vs bottle thing.  I don’t think i’m particularly qualified to speak for anyone other than myself so all i will say is this.  I was raised by a working mother.  She didn’t have a real choice whether to go out and work or stay home as financially, having an alcoholic husband in and out of work is crippling when you have two young children and a mortgage.  I think she also enjoyed her work (although you’d have to ask her that) In some ways it would’ve been nice to have her home more often.  I remember that i missed her.  But then again, if my Dad had been different, maybe that would have balanced things out more, made life more stable, less scary, maybe i’d have coped better with the notion of her being out at work in the evenings. I don’t know.

If someone came up to me tomorrow and offered to pay me to stay home with the boys would i accept? Probably in a heartbeat. But i don’t know that it would make me a better mother.  I love them both with all my heart but i have felt so much less weary with them since being back at work.  Which is ironic, because i’m working nights and not really sleeping, so i should be at the end of my tether. And yes i may be grouchy, but i’ve had more enthusiasm for playing, more patience for having my hair pulled, i’ve felt like by going to work, i’ve actually had a break!

I hate to say it, as i think it might sound a bit terrible, but perhaps absence really does make the heart grow fonder? For me, anyway.  If finances were different i probably would put my nursing career on hold for a few years to bring up my children, but they’re not, and it’s ok.  For a long time, after having Toby it didn’t feel ok.  I constantly fantasised about handing in my notice at work just to get rid of that icky feeling.  But two years down the line? I think i’m doing the right thing by going to work.  I think we’re doing the right thing.  For our little family.  Which is all that any of us can do i reckon 🙂

what i get to come home to in the mornings and what makes it all worthwhile 🙂

 

Once bitten, twice shy

I have read and heard the words “touched out” a fair few times in reference to that “Gah!” kind of feeling us Mamas get when we’ve had little ones clambering all over us all day and just wanted to be left.the.fuck.alone.for.a.minute.

What i am feeling right now i think might go beyond the realms of “touched out”, it’s closer to “mauled to death” i reckon.

My days start with hair being yanked from my head, my eyes being poked, chubby little fingers pulling my lips open and poking my teeth, or my face being scratched (Rudy) sometimes someone is actually climbing across me, or standing on my face (either Toby or Rudy)  In the past week i have twice been awoken by a baby biting down so hard on my nipple that i’ve only just managed to reign in my “fight or flight” response enough not to throw him off the bed and across the room.

Then generally the day continues thus. Clambering, pulling, biting, scratching, pawing…Rudy has the beginnings of seperation anxiety. Even when i am busy doing something- say clearing away the breakfast dishes, he will be crawling around after me, shrieking, grabbing my ankles and biting the tops of my feet and trying to latch on to my toes.  Like some yappy little terrier.  Toby is wanting a lot of cuddles.  He will randomly declare “my want you!” and clamber on to your lap, which would be sweet if he kept still for a minute.  But he shuffles and wriggles and grabs your ears to steady himself and pokes his bony butt/knees/elbows in wherever he can to get purchase and he weighs 15kg! It’s not like he’s as light as a feather!

Imagine if you had a hamster, or gerbil, or something like that, and you cuddled it and it bit you.  You might drop it in surprise, you’d probably put it back in it’s cage.  You’d certainly think twice before getting it out for cuddles again in a hurry.
It’s trickier with a baby.  I have managed thus far not to drop Rudy in surprise but then we’re usually lying on the bed feeding when he bites me, so that might just be luck.  I do tend to quite swiftly stop feeding him and move him away/put him in his cot when he bites me, but unfortunately i am hard wired to meet his needs so five minutes later when he wants out and to feed again i have no choice but to oblige.  It’s getting old quite quickly though.  I am currently sporting a hickey! A hickey! On my right boob! From my child! Where he angrily/sleepily latched on in the wrong spot and ignoring my protestations frantically proceeded to try and feed from the outer side of my breast.
He is almost 9 months old, and i’m wondering idly, if this is an evolutionary thing, like he had 9 months nurturing inside my womb, and now he’s approaching having had 9 months of nurturing outside the womb and i am feeling like i am reaching the point of wanting my body back.  Or at the very least, for the daily assault and battery to stop.  I don’t think i really want to stop feeding him (do i?!) as i’ve always felt i’d be shortchanging him by not feeding him for as long as i fed his big brother.

By bedtime, when they’re both wanting to snuggle down and be fed/cuddled to sleep by a contented gentle mama singing lullabies i am just spent.  I have absolutely nothing left to give either of them physically, mentally or emotionally.

Last night they both took forever to settle down for bed.  Toby because of an impromptu lengthly afternoon nap and Rudy just because. Because he’s an 8 month old baby who likes to fight sleep.  Because he can.

I settled Rudy and then i tried to settle Toby.  We had three stories and he had some milk.  He wasn’t being naughty, he was just laying in bed awake, tossing and turning, looking around his room.  I suggested gently that he close his eyes, i cuddled him, to no avail.  After a bit i grew weary.  I mean, really really weary.  I sat up and Toby said “Don’t go Mummy”.  I said “I’m sorry Toby, i need to go have a shower” and he said (as he does quite often at the minute) “WHY?!” so i said “I need to have a shower so i can get my pyjamas on and go to bed myself.  I’m very tired” and do you know what he said? “Alright” and he rolled over  and closed his eyes.  I left to shower, and he went to sleep by himself.  Now if only i can convince Rudy to do the same…

The Other Side

I’m back!

We moved house.

At times it seemed like we had undertaken an almost impossible task but here we are, on the other side.

(Toby’s new trains, waiting for him in his new bedroom)
(Unpacking boxes/Peekaboo!)
(The boys’ first bath in the new bath!)

We picked up the keys, the evening of Thursday 31st and we had to hand back the keys to the old house on Saturday the 9th. So we had a cross-over period to get everything moved in here, and then clean the old house up.  Not a big enough cross-over period it turns out, as everything is about 8 x slower and more difficult when you have a toddler and a baby, but one of Chris’s sisters came to stay with us for a week, and with her help, and the help of a few others, we did the best we could.

I don’t think we’ll be getting our full deposit back on the old place, and that sucks. I mean, really sucks, as we could really put that money to good use, but at this point in time i am just glad that the whole process is OVER. FINITO. DONE AND DUSTED.

I am sitting in a huge living-dining room, the only cardboard box in sight is one that has been decorated with tissue paper and fashioned into a spaceship/rocket, the boys are asleep upstairs, the dog is asleep at my feet. I’m not exactly sure where the cat is, and Chris is out at work, so it’s not exactly the fireside scene of family tranquility but almost.

If you open the door to the 3rd bedroom (what will, at some point, become Rudy’s room) the entire illusion of calm togetherness will be completely shattered as you’ll be met with dismantled bits of wardrobe and bed and boxes and binbags and general chaos.  But then, why would you do a thing like that anyway?! 😉

I guess what i’m trying to say is that we’re getting there.  “There” being that place you reach, usually a good few months after moving where your house looks like something resembling a normal home, and everything has a ‘place’ (ish).

Both boys seem to have adjusted really well.  Not to say we haven’t had some bad times, it’s been a lot for us all to cope with but now that things are settling down they both seem really happy here, i guess it wasn’t just Chris and i who were feeling stifled with the lack of space at the old house.

Rudy is crawling non-stop and he’s FAST now we have wooden floors.  Toby loves zooming up and down the living room/dining room, making full use of the space on his ride-on Thomas train/Lightning Mc Queen scooter!  Rudy can also now pull himself up to standing using furniture/boxes/people. Mainly he uses the sofa…

(the cat’s really pleased about it, can’t you tell?!)
In other news, i went back to work.  Tuesday night was my first shift back, but i’ve taken some annual leave this week, so that’s me done again now until next week! Which is quite nice, as it’s easing us all in  gently.  It went fine for me, but Chris had his hands full with Rudy (who was understandably pissed that not only had i left whilst he was sleeping, but i’d gone and taken my boobs with me! How rude!) and then at some point Rudy’s crying woke Toby, so they all ended up wide-awake in our bed together at 3am! I know it will all work out in the long run though, we just have to figure it out as we’re going along.  I’m only going to be doing 2 nights a week so i don’t think we’ll need to make any massive adjustments.
I’m going to end with what has to be one of my most favourite moving photos ever.  It was taken quite early on in the packing process (Toby still has all his hair!) but i just love how well it’s captured the moment.  Makes me feel all gooey inside 🙂