Today

I received a text message from my old uni flatmate this morning.

“Sad news. Call me. x”

I thought – this is it. She’s gone into a hospice. Our other uni flatmate M, and her best friend – has had lung cancer. (Did you know lung cancer is the #1 killer cancer? And yet it’s unfairly stigmatised because sufferers are thought to have brought it on themselves.)
The thing is – M never smoked. She was a clean living freak. Not in the yoga way, but in the hale and hearty British gal way – she cycled everywhere, and only ever drank in moderation, and ate healthily. I remember back when we were at uni – she and I were both cycling devotees. She would be on her grown up bike and I’d be on my BMX, which was useless for the city’s hills – and we lived at the top of a hill – but I was proud then, and trying to convey something with my quirky persona. M was always M. And whereas I gave up the ridiculous BMX biking (I couldn’t do any stunts; it was literally for show), she carried on cycling into her forties. (We made it to our fortieths, M.)

Back when she was first diagnosed, M went to the doctor with a persistent cough she couldn’t shake off. Not one of us would have ever foreseen that it could be The Big C. They told her it was terminal. Imagine! A wife and mother of two young children, ages 5 and 2. How? Why? Cancer is so bloody unfair. I mean, even if you smoked forty a day you don’t deserve cancer – but a mother in her prime – a mother with two little children who need her – how can that happen?

Back then, she rallied. She set up a funding page because she wanted to feel she could do something, anything to provide for her family when she’d gone. She always was a provider. A nurturer. She underwent chemo, and she took a cocktail of drugs. Because her lung cancer wasn’t just lung cancer, but a rare form of lung cancer and They didn’t know exactly what it would do – only that it would kill her eventually.

But kill her it didn’t. Her page racked up the funds and she announced that she’d be donating it to lung cancer charities. Because she didn’t feel right taking it. Take it, we urged. Even if you’re fighting cancer and not dead from it – you deserve to have a buffer. You should give up work, have some fun. And yet she didn’t, because M was proud of her work, because she didn’t want to sit around at home feeling sorry for herself. We all wanted to go and visit her but she didn’t want that because it would be like saying there was a reason for saying goodbye, and she didn’t want to say goodbye.

We spoke on the phone. I didn’t know what to say when I found out, and I blethered on too much via SMS probably, and she said why don’t we have a chat on the phone. So we did. It was way back, pre-B, and we talked about everything, and it was probably over two hours or something whilst we poured our hearts out. She told me all about her husband (who I’d met once when he was her boyfriend – but they live a while away in a different country) and her two kids, and how she felt when she first found out about the cancer (suicidal – why don’t they tell people in a better way?) and how the cancer had responded to the drugs and somehow, miraculously, the cancer they’d said was terminal in a few months receded. In turn I poured out my heart about infertility and loss and she urged me to keep on trying and sympathised with me about the unfairness of it all. (The unfairness of which pales in comparison with a healthy young person struck down in their prime. I even knew that then.)

In the last three years she led an almost normal life, sandwiched around bouts of chemo. They holidayed. The kids got older, and she saw their milestones – the little one graduating from kindergarten, refusing to wear the gown and sulking; riding bikes… the school plays… The children making a video to raise money for lung cancer – heartbreaking; her daughter looking just like I remember M, earnest and passionate. Just a few weeks ago she went on a painting retreat and just like everything else she excelled at it and made a wonderful painting. She looked the picture of health. It was hard to believe she had lung cancer. And yet.

And yet.

It only receded. Borrowed time. We’re all on borrowed time, in our own ways, but somehow – unjustly – some of us have borrowed less than others.

I called back our friend this morning, after I’d finished feeding B, and she broke it to me, her voice breaking:

“She passed away last night.”

Shock.

I knew this day was coming. I knew she had terminal lung cancer. But if anyone was giving the middle finger to cancer, it was M. She was feisty and jolly and wouldn’t bloody give up. She still cycled everywhere, and was still going to work until last week when she had to be admitted to hospital, and finally a hospice. The end was quick, apparently, and she didn’t want everyone knowing, didn’t want them traipsing in to say goodbye. She left this life as she lived it – fighting, hoping. Hoping to see her darling children grow up. Fighting to stay with the love of her life.

F*** cancer.

Hold your loved ones a little closer today. Tell someone you love that you love them. And raise a glass (or a mug of strong British tea) to M, our brave, funny, wonderful friend who’s gone too soon.

To M. Mother. Wife. Daughter. Sister. Friend. Crazy cycling lady. Fighter. Horse lover. Artist. Whisky connoisseur. Red clothing wearer. All these things, and too many others. A lifetime of things. Too short a lifetime, but an amazing, full one. With love.

*     *     *

If you are able, please donate here to help fund lung cancer research, in honour of a wonderful woman who’s gone too soon. https://www.roycastle.org/donate

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And so it begins…

The first of our antenatal group is pregnant with #2. She’ll just about make it to 2 under 2. (The second is due on the first’s birthday! Poor kid!) I don’t feel terrible about it… I just feel a bit, “meh.”

She was a complete nightmare during pregnancy and most of the first year – super anxious and burning up our group WhatsApp on a daily basis with hundreds of messages about herself and her (totally healthy) baby, so much that I had to mute the group when I had to go back to work at four months. (I’d be pumping in the loos and they’d all be whinging about their babies, when I desperately wanted to be with mine.)

Am now considering whether it’s time to leave the group… Whilst I’m okay (I think) with them moving to #2, I still have some difficult feelings when I hear of people getting pregnant really easily.

I guess it’s a rite of passage for parents of onlies, and I’m thankful we have our only after all the years of having none, but still…

Sunny days

B and I are on a little jaunt to see my BFF in Italy. It’s beautiful… and hot! I’ve been promising her for about five years I’d come and visit but with one thing and another, it’s taken so long to actually make it here.

I only took three days off work but it feels like it’s stretching out and we are in a bliss filled bubble of gelato and delicious Italian food! We also have a funny paddling pool on the balcony that’s big enough for us all to sit in.

It’s been great to catch up with my best friend and also to enjoy B in a longer, holiday mode! I always spend weekends with him but I can’t quite describe how fun it is to see the world through his eyes. It makes me remember the joy in little things. I do generally enjoy my job but it’s been a stressful few months and a holiday is exactly what I needed!

Looking forward to our proper summer holiday later in the year, and of course missing T and Dog, but relishing this short break while it lasts!

A few pics to entertain you…

First goodbyes

B’s favourite teacher left nursery (daycare) yesterday. It’s a big thing because she’s the first person B really took a shine to. He started nursery as a tiny little 4 month old and so back then he didn’t really have a preference, other than me.

Miss J doesn’t even teach the littles – she teaches preschool! I don’t know how he decided he loves her but he did. She’s a black lady with bleached blonde cropped hair so I don’t think it’s because she looks like me! He’d hold out his arms whenever she went past, and as he got older he would follow her around and insist on sitting with her.

I decided we better show her how much we are going to miss her. But I’m also working full time and I don’t ever seem to be organised enough!

I ordered a cushion cover online that was personalised. It said: “It takes a big heart to help shape little minds.” And it said Thank you from B.

Her last day was Friday and I had a team meeting across town so I couldn’t be there for the leaving tea they were throwing her. But Thursday pm and the cushion still hadn’t arrived! I had a cushion but no cover!

I was supposed to be all day Friday across town in the office but I decided to work from home in the morning. The vendor assured me it would arrive before 12 and I had to be leaving by 1…

I started panicking a bit and thinking if it doesn’t arrive I won’t be happy to give her generic stuff, so I’ll try and do something. We bought her some nice flowers and chocolates and a card. But it didn’t seem enough!

So before my conference call I decided to whip this up. I still had gold fabric paint from my various Christmas craft projects, and I remembered I had a spare jute bag because I had made a personalised pre-wedding bag for T’s sister’s wedding.

Usually when I make these bags I spend a while considering the pattern and take lots of care over it… but this time I had about 20 mins before my conference call started, and I knew it would take a few hours for the paint to dry, so I needed to get it done as quickly as possible.

Here’s the result… It has her initial monogram and it even has a hidden heart with B’s initial.

And what should turn up at 11ish but the cushion cover… so we were able to give her a nice bag of gifts. When I took it to nursery she was really touched especially when I showed her the heart and his initial, and the personalised cushion. She gave me lots of hugs and said she would really miss him.

We will really miss her, too.

In shock (again)

So the wedding wasn’t entirely uneventful. I can’t quite believe we have all managed to move on from it – I think it’s because we are all still in a state of disbelief.

For those of you who have been following along, you may recall my previous post about what happened at my baby shower.

Well, it happened again.

We were there on a lovely sunny day for the first outside wedding of the season. It was sunny but not too hot.

We watched the brides walk down the aisle together – T’s sister wearing a dress for the first time ever (well, apparently 16 years!) and looking absolutely radiant. The brides have been together for something like 14 years so it’s just the cementing of something that has been in place for years and years already, but it feels significant that two men or two women can legally be married now.

B was a ring bearer and he looked absolutely adorable in his tiny suit. (I’m biased of course. I don’t even really like kids in tiny suits as it seems a bit weird, but he looked cute.) Of course he didn’t do his job – had a massive hissy fit and threw the ring box on the floor, so the older ring bearer (age 8) stepped in, but I think people forgave him on account of his age!

T did a reading and took B up with him so he was a part of the ceremony, even if it wasn’t the original part he was meant to play!

We were having a lovely day. Drinks and canapés on the terrace. Then inside the marquee for a slap up meal. Speeches from T’s dad, and even his sister gave a short speech thanking everyone. She gave B a gift bag containing his favourite Teletubby, La La! He was over the moon. (We’d steered him towards Dipsy but the kid has his own ideas.)

So it was all great and we were waiting for the ice cream van to turn up. (Stroke of genius, as was the baked potato bar later in the evening!)

T’s mum said she felt a bit like she needed to have a lie down. I suddenly got a bit worried. She’s very frail. She was sitting upright in a chair and she has a bad back (like a bent spine) and so it’s difficult for her to sit in that position for a long time.

I went off to ask about getting an armchair or something so she could recline a bit more. T was with her.

Suddenly I run back because she’s doing that thing again. Laying back, eyes and mouth open, drained of colour. Exactly what happened at my baby shower.

As T said, I thought my mum was dying before my eyes.

We got her onto the floor. T’s dad, bless him, I mean he’s even older than his wife, starts pumping her chest and I’m like – stop! We don’t know if she’s breathing or not! – and I tried to find a pulse.

One of the wedding guests – a giant man with tattooed arms called The Bear – had rushed over and told us he was first aid trained.

But this time she came round very quickly. It’s like she just snapped out of it and she seems to act like nothing’s wrong, which is sort of funny when you’re lying on the ground in your wedding finery in a giant wedding tent on the occasion of your only daughter’s wedding.

Of course we all were still in shock, whilst T’s mum was just all blasé about it – “Please don’t let this ruin the wedding… Get on with the party!” Just as she’d been at my baby shower! (Though she’d been out for longer then and needed CPR.)

We called an ambulance even though she asked us not to. How could we not?

This was maybe just before 6ish so the main day part of the wedding had been – thank goodness – but the whole evening bit was yet to come.

Of course T’s sister, one of the brides, was in pieces. She was absolutely traumatised last time – she’s so sensitive – and it took her months to get over it, and for it to happen on her wedding day was just terrible luck.

T’s mum and dad were in the ambulance being checked by paramedics and then they decided to take them to hospital.

We tried to get on with the wedding but of course it’s difficult when you’re worried about people. T’s sister actually wanted to go home but she was persuaded to stay. Her bride reacted by getting stinking drunk – and T’s sister doesn’t drink – so it wasn’t ideal.

Her bridesmaid told Bride 2 to pop home and walk the dogs and sober up. Everyone gathered round Bride 1. The evening guests started to arrive. Lots of cigarettes were smoked. To be honest, whatever gets you through. I had decided not to drink (or smoke – I don’t smoke) once this happened as I just didn’t feel in the mood.

I felt terrible for T and his sister having to see their mum like that. And obviously their poor dad who’d gone on a first aid course after last time and leapt to try and save his wife despite being very infirm and recovering from cancer himself. Ironically we’d all been more worried about him in the run up to the wedding but he was absolutely fine.

We managed to have an alright time. I was most concerned about T’s sister. Luckily her bride came back sober, and they cut the cake (see my previous post) and really loved the surprise rainbow inside, and they did their first dance – to the theme song from Friends – of course we all did the claps – and we were having as nice a time as possible. Little B was boogying away – I don’t think anyone has ever seen a one year old who’s dancing like a maniac at 10:30 at night, but now they have!

Just as we were all packing up at 11ish, who should turn up but… T’s parents!

His mum had been investigated and discharged with a note to see her GP and get a heart referral. (They still don’t know what it is but they think something heart related.)

They had a small slice of cake each and headed home. We offered to drive them but they insisted. I don’t know that there’s much we can do. I think the fact that she was discharged made T and his sister feel a little bit happier, but then obviously it’s worrying when you don’t know what the cause is and when it might happen again.

We wondered would she actually have died if nobody intervened? Has it happened before? She’s not conscious of it. And last time, my midwife (who saved her life by giving her CPR) couldn’t feel a pulse or breathing. There’s some sort of theory that it’s the vagus(?) that controls fight or flight or freeze – but I’m a little sceptical as I’ve never heard of something that seems like someone essentially dies in front of you. I can’t describe the look on her face other than to say it looks just like she died.

I think we all feel relieved, but still shocked. I realise I didn’t know what to do both times, even though I’m trained in CPR… That an unconscious body weighs a lot more than you think. (She’s a tiny stooped old lady but I had to get her from her chair onto the floor and I think I banged her head slightly.) There seems to be such a thin line dividing life and death. And she has been hovering across it more than once.

Wedding cake update

For those of you who saw my last post… I posted it en route to the actual wedding. So I couldn’t post any spoilers!

The wedding was a wedding with two brides… and this is what they saw when they cut into the cake…

#lovewins 💕

Out of retirement…

I haven’t made a “proper” cake really since B was born. But T’s sister is getting married and asked me to make the cake so how could I refuse?

This is a three tiered vanilla sponge filled with lemon curd, raspberry jam and strawberry jam. It’s covered with vanilla buttercream and decorated with buttercream flowers. I was a little rusty on piping but hopefully it turned out okay!

Bird’s eye view…

Let me know what you think!

Going Dutch… or British?

Went out for our antenatal reunion. It was… okay. If only for the sake of getting a complete set of pictures. (Bumps, babies, and now toddlers.) I suppose maybe we’ll do it once a year or something, but everyone is caught up in their own lives now and doesn’t really make the effort to meet up any more.

The entire do was 12 adults (7 couples in our class and 2 came without their partners) and 7 children (were babies, now toddlers). The Queen Bee of the group had booked a pub… at 11:00 for Sunday roast. Firstly I am not eating roasts due to vegetarianism and secondly, nobody gets to the pub for 11 in the morning because you risk looking like an alcoholic, and it looks even weirder with a baby in tow!

Anyway, we got there, quickly established that the pub really was not set up to accommodate a party of 19, let alone 7 little kids… They hadn’t set out high chairs or anything like that so we had to rearrange the furniture before we even sat down. They hadn’t put us on a long table but four smaller tables arranged perpendicularly to each other, so really it was just like four tables each eating in close proximity.

It was kind of stupid, tbh.

(I was merely thinking without saying anything that I had found a child friendly venue that was able to cater to children and have an afternoon meal and space for the kids to play, but everyone wanted to do what Queen Bee wanted.)

The children, predictably, did not want to spend two hours restricted in a high chair so they were running about all over the place, no doubt ruining other people’s nice Sunday lunches.

The food – that we’d all been forced to pre-order and pay a deposit for – arrived in dribs and drabs so they had some food first and others had to wait for about an hour before we got anything to eat.

Also slightly weirdly all the white people sat on one side and all the POC sat on the other side (two separate sets of tables) which was possibly coincidental but also kind of funny.

When my (vegetarian) food arrived it was a bit of a joke… It was literally a bowl of peas and beans topped with a bit of mozzarella and asparagus. Meanwhile the others inc Queen Bee (let’s call it the White Table) had children’s meals (we didn’t bother as B doesn’t eat meat), starters, mains and desserts. Funnily enough there was another gap here because all the POC brought food for their own babies rather than feed them pub food. (I wasn’t being snobby here – there was literally only mac and cheese that B could eat, and I didn’t think he would really want to.)

So when the bill came at the end, the White Table said, “Let’s split the bill. Everyone owes this much…”

And I said no.

Now, maybe I’m just being petty here but I am not into splitting the bill equally when you had a starter x2, roast dinner x2, dessert x2 and a children’s meal, and we had two mains (inc one vegetarian meal which costs a fiver less than a roast and was kind of awful) and a side order of fries…

And I think there are two types of people when it comes to bills. (Checks!)

  1. Let’s split the bill and everyone pays the same.
  2. Everyone takes a look at the bill, adds up roughly what they got, rounds up and adds some for service.

Now, that’s not to say I never split the bill. I really do. With good friends. We also often pay more because I might go out with friends who earn less (eg my best friend is a teacher who always earned a pittance… and it was usually me who added in vast quantities of alcohol to the meal, so it’s only fair I’d pay more, or even pay for her dinner). I have several friends who I take out occasionally and will end up paying the entire bill because I know I earn more than they do. But that’s not something I’d do in a casual arrangement.

I still kind of resent some friends who seem to take the p when it comes to going Dutch… One couple we know always has a bottle of wine on the go by the time we get there, and then expects us to split the bill…

But I’ve also been out with massive groups of friends and we all just tend to figure out roughly what we owe (round up and add something for service) and we’ve never been short.

Well…

The White Table looked at me as though I was some sort of criminal.

How DARE I question their bill-splitting?!

I mean seriously I think my questioning it was the nail in the coffin for our “friendship”. They were horrified.

(Needless to say, the person who suggested it would have benefited from the bill splitting arrangement as they had All The Things.)

So – to split or not to split? That is the question…

Do you split? Do you judge people who don’t split? Perhaps it’s a cultural norm… Most of my friends are pretty laid back about it and even in large groups we seem to manage it just fine. I just never had the situation before where someone was so horrified at the idea that we wouldn’t all be subbing.

 

The loneliness of the long distance mama

(Title apologies to Alan Sillitoe)

Readers, I’ve been feeling morose lately. I’m not quite sure why. I’m fairly sure it’s hormonal and maybe to do with those crazy chemicals rushing around my body, or work being a bit full on and then easing off, or breastfeeding slowing down a bit… or something.

In one way I’m my usual deliriously happy self. B is an absolute joy. I can’t believe I still have him, and get to be his mama, and all that stuff. I mean it’s like a little injection of happiness to every single day.

It’s not that I’m particularly unhappy with life. It’s just that now and again I feel a bit morose and this week happens to be it. Maybe it’s that the weekend went too fast, because we went to see both sets of grandparents and didn’t really get much downtime with just our little family.

Maybe it’s the work thing. Work’s going really well. I feel lucky to have landed a boss who I get on really well with and I mainly enjoy the work. But the gigantic bid I was working on hasn’t transpired yet and my boss wants me to go back to a day job (a decent job I can’t complain about – I’ve just been very full on with the bid for months and months and it takes up a lot of energy, so it feels a bit of an anticlimax to be tailing off that…)

I definitely think social media has something to do with it. I recently took a break from a big adoption group I’m very involved in. It’s something I keep meaning to write about but never seem to have the emotional energy. I’ve mentioned before that I kind of ebb and flow with it. Which makes me sound ambivalent but really it’s not that – it’s about self care and realising you can’t be on high emotional alert all the time.

The big adoption story in the news is something that those not in adoptionland probably aren’t aware of, but something that has been weighing heavily on my mind. And very upsetting to many transracial adoptees.

A couple of white adoptive mothers drove a car off a cliff, killing their six black adopted children. It transpired they had been somewhat evasive of CPS and concerns had been raised in multiple states. And one of the mothers had already been convicted of hurting one of the little girls who’d been beaten black and blue over the edge of a bathtub. Who does that to a child?

Moreover, one of the children was Devonte Hart, whose picture went viral when he was pictured crying and hugging a policeman. Anyone who knows anything about racial justice would notice the peculiarity of a black boy hugging a white policeman for the cameras – egged on by his white adoptive parents.

The more facts that come out about this story, the more hurt and triggers are piled up. As transracial adoptees we know that the narrative is heavily skewed in favour of white adoptive parents. And so much of the time that is manifested in benefit of the doubt and excuse making. It is upsetting because of the sheer amount of loss these young adoptees had. And to end their lives at the hands of those who called themselves their parents; the people who were meant to love them.

And the fact that there are many injustices still being perpetuated against adoptees, such as access to basic medical records and original birth certificates.

I guess you could say over time I’ve become awoken to these injustices. Part of me wishes I’d just stayed blissfully ignorant.

So – self care and social media. I’ve tried to take breaks but I find that it can be somewhat addictive. If I’m trying to stay away, I tend to hang out more in the Disney groups because how horrible can people be when it comes to Disney?! (It turns out you still do get mean people in all groups… sad!)

Mum groups can be one of the worst. I think I’ve mentioned before that I have felt really at odds since I went back to work and most of the mums I knew didn’t. It’s a lonely path to tread.

Mum groups online are kind of vicious. Even the ones that are meant to be non-judgemental and supportive. They have reams of nice supportive comments and then you’ll get the odd mean one, and depending on the day I find that can get me down (even though I don’t tend to post on them very often – I only try and comment supportively now and again). But anything based around an ideology, like motherhood is… well, it can be taxing.

Breastfed vs formula fed

Gentle parenting vs Cry It Out

Working mums vs SAHMs vs part time working mums

Only children vs sibling groups

It’s like everything mum related is shrouded in judgement. And maybe you join online groups looking for likeminded people because there aren’t that many in real life, but then they end up making you feel all heckled and I just wonder sometimes if it’s worth it.

Real life is another story. I do have some working mum friends because we have met other working mums through nursery (daycare). And it’s nice to see them because it makes me feel a bit less of an odd one out for working. The sad thing is, I think the SAHMs think I’m somehow competing with them or something when really I would have preferred not to go back to work! It kind of blows my mind I’ve been back for almost a year when if I’d had maternity leave like most people in the UK do, I would only just have gone back.

My NCT (antenatal) group makes me wonder as well. Out of seven mums in the only one to have gone back to work full time, and I feel like a completely odd one out. And I wonder if there’s any point in keeping on that friendship / contact when I usually end up feeling pretty negative about it.

An example (feel free to skip as I’m just venting here):

Before Christmas they wanted to have a meet up, and so I offered to book somewhere for a Christmas dinner, and we’d get the babies all dressed up and so on. They all agreed. Then when we had agreed a date, I got the details of the local pub and because it was Christmas they wanted us to pre-order, and give a deposit. Out of six other couples who had agreed, only two sent through the deposit and the other four just didn’t say anything. Nothing (on a whatsapp group). In the end I cancelled it. They didn’t even apologise. Just ignored it. In the end, the three couples who had agreed to meet had a meet up, plus one other couple. The others didn’t bother.

So now it’s April and they decided we should meet up. One of the girls (SAHM who quit her job after the baby was born and has got super involved in all the local baby stuff) decided to organise it. And found various non child friendly places. Bear in mind this involves seven kids. I found a place with a kids play area and high chairs and instead she decided we would go to a pub and the kids would just sit on our laps or whatever, and we would go for Sunday roast at the only time they have available… 11:30.

Then she says we all have to pre order and pay a deposit. Sound familiar? And of course everyone replies and says yes sure. That’s fine.

Just writing this out makes me feel super petty and ridiculous. I mean I shouldn’t even care. But I said it to T and he said he could understand why I’d feel upset. I mean the same people literally didn’t bother replying to me over the Christmas thing that they asked me to organise, and yet they’re falling over themselves to say yes to this arrangement of eating a roast on a Sunday morning. So strange.

I think maybe I’m just overly emotional lately because I don’t know what. (Hormones? Periods? I have to say I’m not happy about the Return of the Blob. It’s extremely unedifying.)

Also I had a health check at work because someone didn’t show up and the Health Champion guy really wanted someone to do it, so I did it. And I got weighed for the first time in forever and realised that I’m overweight and by way more than I want to be – 10kg minimum, and I suppose that sent me down a slight rabbit hole I had been avoiding. I finally dropped the habit of daily weighing when I was pregnant (after a slightly unhelpful obsession since my teens) and so getting back to that has mainly annoyed and upset me.

And I do wonder how much of it’s to do with breastfeeding. I have long thought it has an effect on mood. B is still nursing but less often now. Usually morning and night and I have one pumping session in between. So I’m sure that affects me. I know that pumping always made me kind of depressed and now he’s able to go longer between feeds even at the weekends, perhaps that’s depressing my mood a bit. (Don’t get me wrong. We still have fun. It’s impossible not to smile when you see a one year old’s joy on a swing.) Maybe I just need to ground myself more and try and rationalise it when I feel a bit low.

In the run of bad news, a close friend found out her husband of many years had cheated on her for the second time. I met up with her for a girly day and I just felt so sad for her. Two of my friends are battling cancer. One terminal. The world just seems kind of shitty some days.

Finally I guess I’m just feeling a bit run down and missing something. Maybe that’s it. Hay fever season is coming upon us and I feel a bit worse for wear. And I think often when you’ve been working hard and you suddenly ease up, that’s when it hits you. I feel kind of sad sometimes that I have to work and so I don’t get to see as much of my family as I’d like. I have such a wonderful time at the weekend that it maybe hits me hard when I have to go back to work on a Monday.

I don’t know what I’m hoping to accomplish with this post. I suppose catharsis.

I think what I mean to say is that I could have everything I ever wanted – and I do – but I still have down days sometimes, and today is one of them.

But right now I’m lying in bed – our superking sized giant mattress – and next to me is my little snorting baby-who’s-now-a-toddler, and further down the bed is my big boy Dog who’s turning five tomorrow, and on the other side is my partner T, my best friend, who I too often take for granted. And we are in my absolute dream apartment. I love it, with its little terrace, and summer is coming so we can spend more time outside and it’ll be lovely.

Today I have the blues but tomorrow is one step closer to the weekend…

When one is enough

I’ve talked a lot about infertility before – that’s the reason this blog started in the first place. But once you’ve been through it all and ended up with a baby – what are you? I’m still technically infertile, but I am a mother. I don’t feel like I can properly call myself infertile, aligning myself with the many women still in pain, still trying to deal with infertility, when I have our longed for child.

Post infertility

I talked about the strange hinterland of post infertility on one of my previous blogs. It’s that way we’re a particular kind of mother, an ever-grateful mother, a mother who doesn’t take having a baby for granted. I feel like a mother in an everlasting state of wonderment and joy that I get to be one. (It’s kind of sickening how happy I am about the whole thing, and I can assure you I don’t go around pooping rainbows – I just hold the happiness in my heart when my baby giggles or reaches for me, or does just about anything…)

I also feel The Fear for others. I have friends who get pregnant and announce straight away and I have to stop myself from saying, – Stop! What if?! and How can you be sure? – because those are my anxieties and not hers. It’s a strange place to be because we know what could go wrong, and we are those Miracle Mamas, the Mamas Against All Odds, and so our very being is confirming to them that good things do happen, and so we can’t be the ones to rain on their parade even though we know that not all trying ends up with a pregnancy, and not all pregnancies end up with a baby, but we nod along and smile because that’s what we do.

One of the things that’s come up a lot lately is the idea that one might not be enough.

And that’s something that’s just so alien to me, I can’t even imagine how it must feel to have that degree of sadness from having an “only”.

I was one of four siblings, and we got on well. It was complex, for sure – having two bios and two adopted. It was harder for the adoptees, but overall it was good – we had a fun childhood with lots of family games, kids going on adventures, and lots of freedom to play together. I don’t know why I never pictured myself as a mama of many. I guess I knew from quite a young age that I would find it difficult to have children. (I had been told something fleeting when I was much younger, which was never repeated by later doctors, but then told I had extensive endometriosis and likely fertility problems in my mid twenties.) I’ve always been someone who didn’t wish for things I didn’t think I could have. So the most I ever wished for was one.

Also, personally – I think I would have enjoyed being an only child. I don’t know if this is to do with being adopted or just my personality. I always felt as one of four that I didn’t get quite the amount of attention I would have wanted. And I don’t mean this in a drama queen way (although I had plenty of that) – I always felt needy, and maybe that is an adoption thing. I would just wish sometimes I could have a day of my parents just to myself. Don’t get me wrong – I do get on with my siblings. But I also enjoy now that I’m an adult that I often see my parents on their own and I don’t have to share them with anyone else! I guess I’d have been what they call now “a high needs child”!

So when I was told I probably couldn’t have kids, I just wished for the one, and when that wish was granted (by a lot of medical science and a fair amount of money and effort, rather than the Fertility Fairy!), I felt – gosh, life couldn’t get any better.

I see a lot of stuff now on FB about people worrying about only children. People worry they’ll be spoiled, or socially inept, or not know how to relate to other kids, or not able to function as adults, and I find it interesting because I wonder – where are they finding these terrible only children who grow up to be dysfunctional adults?! All of the single children I know have grown up to be just fine as adults. I don’t think they’re any better or worse functioning than the general population. And one thing they all had was a good relationship with their parents. B has been in nursery since a young age and he’s probably more socialised than a child who stays at home with his mother who doesn’t have a sibling for a few years. He enjoys seeing his friends at nursery, but he’s also securely attached to me. (And to his dad, and dog brother!) I figure so far, so good – he doesn’t seem like an irreparable weirdo!

For us, the lengths we went to in order to have B were pretty gruelling. (Though not a patch on what some have to go through. We were lucky.) I know that for me, I couldn’t be the mother I want to be to B if I were to continue going through additional treatments. It’s most likely I’d need another endo op, possibly another fibroid op, more IVF, more immune therapy. It was hard physically, but it was harder emotionally. I already feel a degree of loss that I have to go to work and B is at nursery during the work week, even though I know he’s absolutely fine. I wouldn’t want to be under emotional strain as well, trying to conceive a sibling, when I don’t think he needs one to be happy. I hope that by giving him a full life, and living in an urban area where there are a lot of kids about, that we can counter any potential loneliness he might have as an “only”.

I understand that being okay with one is not “normal”. Most people have more than one child. And maybe there’s something a bit strange about having no siblings, or not having multiple children. I don’t know. I feel sadness for people who can’t have children, including those who can’t have a second child and desperately want one. I just don’t feel the sadness of being a mother of one myself.

I never thought I’d be “that kind of mother”. I sort of thought that the baby phase would be kind of boring, that I’d probably find it a little bit of a drag until toddlerhood, until some kind of doing stuff like walking, eating, talking… but it’s been a joy. I thought I’d find it hard, because everything leading up to having a child has been hard, but it’s been relatively easy. And I don’t take that for granted at all. I’ve seen others struggle with breastfeeding and reflux and post natal depression and sleepless nights and I think we’ve been lucky, because it hasn’t been that hard for us. No tongue tie, no breastfeeding problems, no ongoing health issues and the sleepless nights I was used to due to my job! So whilst the adjustment has been monumental in some ways, it’s just been a case of slotting in as though he’s always been here in other ways.

And the thing that’s bittersweet as a mother of one is that I know that every time is the only time, and every last time is the very last time.

I’ll never have a tiny little baby again. B is my one and only (human!) baby and he’s now one, toddling about, vocalising, making his feelings known. (He’s a terrible tweenager already! Just like his mama used to be!) I’ll never see a baby take their first steps again. I’ll never see my baby roll for the first time again, or the time he worked out how to giggle and it made me cry with happiness – that’s the first and last time. We’re coming to the end of our pumping journey – and it’s been a slog. But the last time I pump breastmilk for him will be the last time. I can’t even think about the last time I breastfeed him. The last time I babywear. The last times are all the last times.

But… I feel so much gratitude that I even got to experience the firsts. And even if the firsts are also the lasts, I’m at peace with it, because it’s more joy than I ever thought I’d have.

I thought for so many years that I would never even have one, that I’d never be a mother. So to me, B, my “only”, my boy, is the most amazing thing. (I hesitate to call him a gift, because he’s not an object. He’s his own person, who has his own ideas of what he wants to happen in life, and most of those involve chocolate or bubbles). He’s an amazing, wonderful – and completely run-of-the-mill all at the same time, because that’s amazing also, the way we take the normal stuff for granted, the giving of life, the joy of family – little boy I never thought I’d have. So I guess I just never had the time to wish for another, because I was so busy wishing for him.