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…
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!
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!)
- Let’s split the bill and everyone pays the same.
- 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.
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.
(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…
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.
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.
In London it’s snowing. I’m sure in Canada this is probably everyday weather (or summer!), but here it means everything stops. I left work early yesterday as I was worried about picking up B from nursery, but it was fine in the end. Today I was meant to be at the office two hours away but all the trains are snarled up (I’d usually need to get three trains each way!). My boss announced this morning she’s working from home so I decided to follow suit. Happy days!
A light dusting before I left work – it’s much deeper now.
Dog and I are having a lovely snow day “working” from home…
What are you up to today?
Forgive my terrible iPhone pictures but we are on our way back from Disneyland Paris and I wanted to wish you all a very merry Christmas!
Disney’s always been our happy place… We always went to Disneyland Paris in December to celebrate Christmas (a bit in advance of the actual day because we like to be at home on the day). It was our “Second date” as T says (because apparently none of the intervening meet ups counted as a date, because we didn’t go out anywhere!).
And for those of you who followed my blog during the pre-B times, you’ll know it’s the place we went to try and be happy again after years of infertility and our first cycle of IVF ended in the loss of our first, longed for baby in 2015. (We said if it didn’t work out we’d go to Disney World in Florida. We did, and it was amazing. Very few things could put a smile back on my face.)
For those who’ve been through infertility and loss, you know the pain of trying to find happiness whilst thinking you may never have your happy ending. And I wouldn’t say anything so crass as to suggest you will have it – because life isn’t fair and it doesn’t always work out that way. But I hope 2018 is your year. Even though some of us are on “The Other Side” and have a baby after infertility and loss, I don’t think we ever forget.
So to be able to go to Disneyland with our little baby B and to see his reaction to meeting all the characters, and to see Disney through a child’s eyes – that felt all the sweeter. Bittersweet, almost. T even said, I wonder what our first baby would have looked like? To us, B is the most beautiful baby in the world. (Almost a toddler!) We wished and hoped for him for so long. I just loved the ability to give him that experience of the magic of Disney and to know that the dream I held for so long finally came true.
I know there is pain and sadness and I want to hold space for that. I wish that all of you could have your Christmas wishes. I also think of my friends who have gone through so much this year. My friend with cancer, marking a year of fighting it. My friend with infertility who had to accept that her journey to try and have a baby is over. My brother and his wife who are dealing with a life changing diagnosis for their child, and letting go of all the jealousy I used to hold for his perfect life. And all the difficult stuff going on in the world… It just blows my mind sometimes.
This year has been such a life changing one. The year I became a mother. The year B came into the outside world after kicking away inside me for months. Timehop tells me I was absolutely huge about now. I had all these ideas about motherhood, and I knew I really really wanted a child but I wasn’t sure if I wanted a baby – I thought that part might be difficult and tiring and hard.
But it’s been the best year of my life. And I feel such gratitude that somehow the stars aligned and we managed to make a baby (with a little help from our – medical – friends). I can’t even describe how much gratitude I feel. And I really don’t say this to be smug. I don’t feel proud of anything I’ve done because it was almost all down to other people, people who helped us achieve the (almost) impossible.
So to all of them and all of you –
The doctors who helped us
The nurses and midwives who looked after us
The embryologists and fertility doctors who helped us make B
The surgeons who made things safe for B to grow – and helped him enter the world
The immunologist who dosed me up on ten different types of medication
The sonographers who figured out what was going on
The friends – in real life and online who supported us
Our families who rooted for us and cried with us after our previous loss
I am so deeply grateful. I hope that you find your happy under the tree. I hope you get your heart’s desire. I’ll never stop feeling grateful and I won’t take any of this for granted.
So what with our busy year this year and buying not one but two apartments, I’ve had barely any time or money to do the normal Christmas preparations I usually like to do. (Aka shopping.)
This Christmas will be a smaller scale Christmas with some less expensive (but hopefully more thoughtful) gifts we’ll be giving. I am hoping people will be slightly forgiving what with B being a rather active 11 month old and me working full time and whatnot.
Anyway, I decided to try my hand at a Christmas craft idea… not sure where it came from, but I had it in my head it would work out okay and I think it did! I haven’t had much chance to make any cakes this year and I think it sort of uses similar skills (like piping icing… but with paint instead!).
Actually I do know where it came from… There is a shop called Fortnum & Mason in London which does really nice shopping bags. They are usually blue with black writing but at Christmas they’re red and gold. They look great and they are nice for giving gifts but people also like to use them for shopping. And the bag I made for my friend’s hen do, she seems to use all the time so I thought I’d do my own take on a shopper / gift bag that people will hopefully like to re-use.
– Red jute bags (varying sizes)
– Gold fabric paint
I just did freehand and I think they worked out pretty well!
Let me know what you think! And link me your Christmas crafts…
I never seem to manage to make the time to blog much any more, and that’s a perfect microcosm of how it feels to be a working mother – there’s never enough time for anything. Which is crazy, because I have a million unwritten blog posts swirling in my head. Many of which are about the strange hinterland that is being a working mum (mom!) after years of infertility.
First things first: I am so grateful to be here. I still do a double take every single day when I wake up next to my beautiful boy and I realise that somehow, after all the struggle, I am a mother. How did this happen?, swirls through my mind every day. I thank all those people silently who helped that dream become a reality. And I don’t easily forget all the years where it didn’t seem possible.
Second things second: Being a mother after infertility is a strange thing to be… I feel like it’s almost a different thing from being a “normal” mother. I don’t think we post infertiles ever really forget the deep grief and fear, the joy-pain of pregnancy after loss, the hoping and wishing that something will go right after so many wrongs. My overwhelming emotion most of the time is deep joy and gratitude that I have managed to have this experience of carrying and giving birth to a human being… my first known biological relative.
Which brings me to the third point: Having a child after being adopted [in a closed adoption] is a huge thing. It’s monumental. Having a child after having been transracially, transnationally adopted – if you weren’t, you can’t even begin to comprehend the profundity of it. I couldn’t, before it happened to me, despite that person being me.
To look into my baby’s face and recognise my own – to feel that deep kinship, to feel joined to someone else when it has never happened before in my living memory – it’s the most gut wrenching joy-pain you can imagine. To realise what I lost as a baby. To realise what I’ve gained through having my baby. To realise my birth culture and language is lost to me and I can’t pass it on to him… To realise that matters – even despite the joy. To live in that complexity where joy can coexist with grief and loss.*
Of course – I don’t want to put that on him. He has no responsibility other than being my baby doing babyish things and hopefully drawing as much joy out of life as a baby can inhale. And yet – he is everything.
(*I already knew what I’d gained – prevailing adoption narratives always focus more on gain than loss. I can be happy and adopted and have suffered deep loss all at the same time. That’s adoption complexity for you.)
Fourthly: After so many other “Not like the other” categories, Working Mother has to be the most stark. I genuinely never knew that the battle lines of Motherhood were so entrenched. And none more than Stay At Home Mother vs Working Mother. I never wanted to be caught up in these battles, any more than I wanted to define myself by Crunchy Mom vs Gina Ford Mom, or Breastfeeding Mum vs Fed is Best Mum – and yet, if there’s one thing mothers seem to like doing, it’s defining themselves as a Mum Type. (I’m Haphazard, Intuitive Mum… completely disorganised and completely in love. That’s all really.) I realise in so many spaces I don’t really fit in. And the (relative) loss of my antenatal buddies – who fell by the wayside as soon as I went back to work – felt like a rejection of the old school kind. (And that’s not even to get into the whiteness of motherhood… and how that makes a transracial adoptee feel. A complex subject for another day!)
And yet, I think we’ve settled into our own niche. I’ve found mum friends – some of whom will probably last and some of whom probably won’t. Quite honestly, it’s hard to cultivate friendships when you work full time and other mums seem to have endless pools of time to do Mum things and they use their weekends to catch up with their husbands… My baby is at nursery during the week and so even if I’m working from home, I can’t really meet mum friends, because why would I want to go and spend time with someone else’s baby when mine is in daycare? Like I said, it’s a strange hinterland and we find our own way.
I have made some Mum buddies whose kids go to our nursery – their kids are a bit older, because I had to go back to work so soon. But it’s good because we have more in common. (I’m the terrible one feeding my child Ella’s Kitchen premade pouches instead of developing a varied baby menu and posting pictures of tot cuisine to our whatsapp groups. Our working mums group is a safe space for all of us who’ve ended up rushing across town all sweaty to grab our babies at the last possible minute. No Lingo Tots or prosecco in the play park for us!)
The thing is, I wish I could join those other mums. I’d love to be a stay at home mum, for even a time, and I find myself wondering whether it’s possible to have it all, and I’m pretty sure it isn’t – something has got to give. For working mums, it’s missing out on all the mundane stuff that our SAHM friends take for granted. The idea I might not see my child’s first steps.
Which brings me to: The Dilemma.
I’m doing not too badly in my job. Weirdly… It always makes me a little nervous when things are going well because I’m primed to feel like something is bound to go wrong. But I’ve managed to develop a great working relationship with my boss (the one I wasn’t happy that my old boss – who I love in a work platonic way – put in place). We seem to be quite symbiotic and complementary and work well as a team. And I am lucky that what I’m doing right now means I have the flexibility to work from home a fair amount and to continue breastfeeding/ pumping. (11 months next week. How did that happen?!) It’s important to me that I am able to do that. And coincidentally, I also get paid more than I ever did before, and my working hours are more reasonable. I honestly don’t know how that happened. I like to think it’s my karmic reward for putting up with so much **** in my old job!
Let’s not beat around the bush – I’m the main breadwinner. By a lot. I get paid almost double what T gets paid. We were lucky enough to have an offer accepted on our dream flat this year and it’s my salary that enabled us to get the mortgage (plus a fair bit of help from my parents with the deposit). So I need to work to continue to provide for our family. T is an awesome partner as he’s much more organised than I am and he figures out everything we need to do domestically. I just have one job – to earn the money. (Well, and to feed B!) Doing what I do helps keep us afloat. And getting promoted, earning more and doing well would help us reach our sweet spot (pay off debts and mortgage) sooner.
Our company is having a leadership summit in January, and I received an invitation. It’s a long way away – a transatlantic flight away. It goes on for four days plus travel. And only approved people get invited.
I got an invitation. It’s a big deal.
I asked my big boss if there was a mistake. (Surely not me!) My manager wasn’t sure either… She said our big boss had to approve all names so I must have been invited, but maybe not.
I emailed him to check there hadn’t been an error.
He called me. No error. I’m invited. “As a member of the leadership team.” Of course! (I’m like the most junior person in the team. They’re all one or two grades above me, or in his case, four!)
And when is this conference? Smack bang over my baby’s very first birthday.
He told me, You don’t have to come. Let me know and if you don’t want to, I’ll give your space to Andy. (Andy is another relatively junior member of the team. Hopefully not as well regarded as me.)
All the global leadership will be there… It’ll be a great networking opportunity. All expenses paid.
And… It’s my baby’s first birthday.
T says, He won’t know. We can move it a couple of days and celebrate then. I say, But I’ll know. I’d be on the other side of the world when my baby turns one.
My manager has asked me to work on a big piece of work over that time anyway, so the decision may yet be taken out of my hands, but the summit probably takes priority – if I want to go.
Every few minutes I change my mind about what is an obvious decision. And it comes back to my multiple identities and how the “obvious” answer changes according to which identity I’m cloaking myself in at the time. I am a mother. I am a working mother. I’m an adoptee whose baby is the most important person in the world to me. I am a mother after loss who realises how precious those small mundane things are. I am a transnational, transracial adoptee who finally made a family. I’m someone who was cut off from her roots who invests a huge amount emotionally in birthdays because they are the only link to my past.
I am all those things and I am my baby’s mother and I am a great worker and I want to do well so I can provide for him and make him safe, keep a roof over his head, keep him happy.
But he is not me. B is not me. He is himself, and he’s wonderful and joyous and giggly and amazing and cute. He doesn’t need to be anything for me, but I need to be everything for him.
How do we ever resolve our multiple identities? How do we decide what is best?
I don’t know if we ever can, but I’m going to have to try…
A few weeks ago we had a little mini holiday to Wales. It rained a lot of the time but we had a great time nonetheless. That’s Wales for you! And we recreated a photo we took years ago on the beach, for our fifth anniversary. (Dog is in the originals but in the spirit of anonymity I’m preserving his!) It was strange to think that nothing has changed, and everything has changed. I feel a bit giddy when I realise I’m actually a mother!
We went to visit The Centre for Alternative Technology which was much more interesting than I’d anticipated! It made T think we aren’t doing enough for the environment and he later discovered our beloved Nissan Qashqai is the worst car for the environment! We hardly use it, but we are definitely going for a more environmentally friendly one next time!
On rainy days we did various things. We went for afternoon tea. We played with B. He’s desperately trying to walk! Poor Dog is hyper vigilant now in case of tail pulling! They seem to be buddies on the whole especially when B drops food…
It’s nice to get away, and just decompress, I think. I really enjoy my job at the moment because they give me a lot of freedom (eg working from home) but it’s still a kind of structure and I don’t have that when I’m on holiday. Also, a few days in a welsh valley without tv or Internet will do that for you!
But the best thing about going away is coming home. (And WiFi!)