Older children need a mum too

Son

Alli Marshall reflects on the challenge of sharing love between her children.

During the Christmas holidays I spent a wonderful day at home with my Husband and 4 children, my 3 older children all own the latest electronic devices and I do limit the time they are allowed to spend on them; however on this day I banned them totally and told the children that they would need to entertain themselves using “old fashioned” methods such as reading or doing some crafts.

My Daughter decided that she would build a wooden desk tidy that she had received for Christmas, she enjoys doing arts and crafts and is quite a professional and so she simply set herself up at the dining room table and set about her task.

The boys though were a completely different matter; they like the idea of building models but their attention spans are limited.  Both of them had received woodcraft construction kits for Christmas and decided that they wanted to build these.  My Husband helped our middle Son with his jet plan and I helped our eldest Son with his motorbike.

Middle Son was finished quite quickly, as Husband did do most of the construction –myself & eldest Son took somewhat longer; we spent over 4 hours building the model, which is probably the most quality time we have spent together for a long time.  Eldest Son is 12 now and so his reliance on Mum is now mainly limited to taxi services & food provision or so I thought!

My eldest Son thanked me when the model was complete and told me that he had really enjoyed spending the time with me & hoped that we could do it again soon – it made me realise that no matter how old my children are they still require quality one on one time with Mum.

I make sure I spend time with my youngest Son (17 months) playing games with him and entertaining him yet at some point I stopped doing this with my older Son thinking that he no longer needed or wanted this interaction.

I was wrong – my eldest Son still wants time with Mum and so I have resolved to spend more time with him in 2012.

Life changing experience – facing anorexia and becoming mum to twins

Leah shares her experiences of beating anorexia and becoming a mum to twins.

Being a mother of twins, I think the most frequent I comment I get is, “You must have your hands full?!” But to be honest, there’s no difference between me and someone with a baby and a toddler or two children a couple of years apart. In fact, I would say I’ve got the better end of the bargain because my two pretty much work in sync and I’m not having to worry about different times, meals and levels of entertainment.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s a breeze having twins, far from it, but it’s funny how everyone assumes that it’s on a whole different level of motherhood. I think it actually does a disservice to all mums out there because whether it be one baby or ten, every baby is different and with that comes a whole host of things that we have to cope with and worry about.

Blessed

However, I do feel very blessed to have had my twins, especially because I never thought I’d be able to have any children.

As a teenager, I was anorexic; this was pretty much from the age of 12 right through to my early 20s. I had one period when I was 12 and then none again until about the age of 21, then they completely stopped again a couple of years later when I had a relapse.

Three years ago I was at a low point again; I was exercising over three hours a day and using laxatives. I was very unhappy with my work life and I felt that exercise was a release and the laxatives were being used to try and cleanse all the rot that I felt inside.

All this of course was affecting my relationship with my boyfriend, Rick. We had spoken about children in the past and because of my history with anorexia I had obviously been very hesitant, but I knew Rick really wanted a family. I felt terribly torn between my love for my boyfriend and my fear of being fat – sounds so self-absorbed, right? Of course it was but that’s what happens with someone that suffers from this kind of disease.

The turning point

If we ever had an argument it was always a subject that was brought up, but I remember the actual turning point so clearly. We had been on a day out in a picturesque village in North Yorkshire, everything was going well until we started to talk about my issues which in turn brought everything to the surface and Rick turned round and told me in so many words that he didn’t think I ever wanted children.

I don’t know why but it hit me like a brick, my stomach dropped and I thought, “To not have children in my life would just be heart-breaking.” Something had been triggered in my brain that gave me a reason to fight against my anorexia, where as in the past there wasn’t anything strong enough to make me want to really try.

That was the day that my life would change. Well not literally that day but it got the ball rolling.

Injections and scans

Having had some tests done a couple of years before, I had been told that whilst I didn’t have periods my ovaries were in good working order but were just dormant i.e. not producing eggs. Fortunately, there was a solution to this before having to consider IVF.  I was put on a treatment that would help stimulate my ovaries, basically rebooting the system. This entailed nightly injections over four weeks.

During this time I would have to go to the hospital for a scan to check if my follicles (these are where eggs develop) were growing. I won’t bore you with details, plus it could probably get a bit confusing, but at the end of four weeks if the follicles were big enough (11-14mm) you were then advised to have sex every other night for two weeks.

Now as fun as this may sound, after a couple of nights its starts to feel very clinical and robotic, plus the pressure on Rick to *cough-cough* perform became quite draining for both of us. You then wait to see if you get a period, which means in that case no pregnancy.

We were told that you could have this treatment six times before IVF is considered. For a number of reasons which again I won’t bore you with, our lucky strike didn’t happen until the fourth round of treatment.

Success

I did the pregnancy test two days before I was meant to because I really had a feeling that I was pregnant. I can’t really tell you how I knew, maybe my body felt a little different, but I just had this instinct. Many women talk about doing about five tests before they actually accept they are pregnant. I did two and I only did two because the first one was a cheap one and didn’t really give a clear reading.

When I saw the two pink lines and the little digital reading saying ‘yes, you’re pregnant’ my whole body turned to jelly and I couldn’t stand up. I was genuinely so happy and perhaps a little relieved – I had been slightly concerned about going through the treatment again and then possibly having to consider IVF.

I then spent 10 mins debating with myself on how to break the news to Rick, should I wait until he got home or call him. Initially I had decided to wait until he got home and do the old ‘placing of the test on his dinner plate’ kind of thing, but I was too excited and felt the need to tell him right away.

Here’s how it went…

Me: “Do you know what I’m going to tell you”
Rick: “I think so”
Me: “Ha ha ha, I’m pregnant”
Rick: “Oh, really, has it? Can’t do much from here. Maybe I should come home”

(He later told me that he didn’t want to let on to his colleagues just in case anything happened)

Ricks office was only about a 5 min journey but waiting for him felt like an hour. When he walked through the door I was literally shaking. I think we were both in shock for a few minutes and then we were trying to be sensible about everything but the excitement was exhilarating.

Twins!

I went for my first scan when I was around four weeks. On the day I remember thinking that maybe I wasn’t pregnant after all and that they would turn round and say, “Sorry, but we can’t see anything.” I was so nervous.

As I lay back on the medical bench, my heart was beating really fast, it felt like forever before  the nurse said anything and when she did it was so matter-of-factly, “Yep, there are the two sacs.”

Neither me nor Rick were quite sure what she was saying and we looked at each other in puzzlement.

“Do you mean two eggs?” I asked
“Yes, twins.”
“Oh my God.” Rick said and his mouth just dropped open

I had to lie down again and I just stared at the ceiling for about two minutes with my hand clasped over my mouth.

Has your brain ever done a major scramble of words, pictures, images that all kind of blend into one? That’s what was going on in my head. I couldn’t really think straight, so as the nurse was talking us through everything it was going in but getting scrambled along with everything else.

A scare

For me, the next few weeks were actually quite scary. This is probably giving a bit too much away, but every time I went to the toilet I would hold my breath in case I saw some blood. I became acutely aware of any twinges or pains, the tension was immense. And then one Sunday when I was about 10 weeks and getting ready for bed, I went to the toilet and saw the blood.

My first reaction was a scream and I called out to Rick who came rushing in.  He saw the blood but bless him remained so calm. I just kept saying, “Take me to the hospital, take me to the hospital.” Again, Rick tried to be the voice of reason and told me it might not mean anything. Then the anger set in for me and I started throwing things around the bedroom and began to weep. There was no way I could wait until the morning, I needed to know if I was losing my babies or not.

We arrived at the hospital at around 1am and like most hospitals at this time, we were sat amongst the drunks and the domestics. However, Rick told me that having dropped me off to go and park he had come in behind another girl who said she thought she was miscarrying. She was actually sat across from us holding her stomach and looking quite pale.

It then occurred to me that I didn’t really have any pains, maybe a little bit of a backache and a bit achy, but a) it was late and b) the body handles shock in funny ways. I kept going to the toilet to check if there was any more blood and there was nothing, but I wasn’t feeling any more assured.

At around 4am, we were finally seen by a doctor who asked me a few questions. For every answer I kept following with, “I’m still wearing the same pants with the blood – I can show you.”

The doctor informed me that it would not be necessary and then pretty much said that there’s nothing they can do we would just have to wait and see what happens over next couple of days. No scan, no physical exam, nothing. Now, I kind of understand where they were coming from, there really wasn’t anything they could do for me, but at the same time I was a little frustrated. The doctor did however explain that it could just be spotting which is quite common in pregnancy and I did leave the hospital a bit more optimistic than when I arrived.

Relief

Fortunately, having called the fertility clinic where I received the treatment the following morning, they whisked me in for a scan. I couldn’t even look at the screen and I wanted to throw up. It felt like the longest time before the doctor said anything. Then, “Yes, I can see two heartbeats.”

My legs began to tremble uncontrollably and for a few seconds I felt like I couldn’t breathe. Rick reached over and grabbed my hand.  I remember his thumb gently stroking mine and once again making me calm.

It turned out to be a small blood clot probably left over from the period of ovulation, which as mentioned was quite common in pregnancy, but I knew then that I was really going to have to look after myself now, not just for me but for the two little lives inside of me.

Changes

Before I got pregnant my exercise routine was pretty intense and I was on a high protein diet. I ate a lot of vegetables and drank a lot of meal replacement shakes. This was obviously going to have to change and I was going to have to come to terms with how my body was changing.

The funny thing was, whilst I had no morning sickness the thought of eating broccoli or drinking milk (which was in my shakes) made me feel extremely queasy. Even the thought of a green vegetable was enough to make me  gag!

The first thing that grew were my boobs and rather than feeling repulsed I felt a surge of warmth and excitement. My body was actually becoming more feminine and I liked it. Then as my bump grew I felt even more comfortable with my body. For the first time in 18 years I was looking in the mirror and willing my tummy to grow.

Every day, at every possible opportunity I looked at my growing tummy and I gently rubbed it knowing that inside there were two little miracles that only the year before would not seem possible in my life.

I felt totally liberated by being pregnant and began to love my body again. I no longer saw it as an enemy, but as a valuable asset that was giving me something to look forward to. It was as though someone or something was teaching me that my body was special and needed to be treated that way.

Don’t get me wrong, I still had my demons to contend with and perhaps I was more conscious than others about how big I was getting which I think in some ways I still controlled. Of course I calmed down on the exercise, but I still went to the gym regularly and did a lot of Pilates, which I believe helped me have a natural birth with the twins. For once though I was really tuning in with what my body needed because in the back of my mind I was not just thinking for one person, I was thinking for three.

It was the most amazing feeling to feel and see my little ones moving around in my belly, it was like a scene for the Alien film, as little lumps and bumps would suddenly ripple across my belly. Rick would quite often place his hand on there and I could tell by the look in his eyes every time that this was just as magical to him as it was to me.

I knew Rick was not just ecstatic that I was pregnant, he was immensely proud of me and how I had embraced being pregnant. It had also been a long time since he had seen me genuinely happy and often mentioned how he thought I was glowing.

Being pregnant made me a lot calmer and gave me something to focus on, I finally felt like I had achieved something. For most of my adult life I had beaten myself up about not really having any goals or doing anything of real merit. I had been through therapy but for me, the pregnancy was probably the most effective form of treatment for my condition.

The twins arrive

And so it was on June 24th 2010 after 10 hours of labour, I gave birth to my beautiful boy Beau and gorgeous daughter Olivia. My body was now on its own again and I knew that it was going to be some tough times ahead.

In the next few posts I will talk about the first year of the life with the twins and also how I tried and sometimes failed to cope with post-pregnancy me and my body.

All Baby Advice

She’s not my ‘real’ mum…

How Could You Do This To Me, Mum?
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She’s not my real mum…

That’s what I used to say to my friends at school when my step-mum had done something particularly embarrassing. For embarrassing read:

- tell me off for bunking off school
- send me to school in hideous shoes
- make me put a coat on in the cold

or any number of other ‘mum’ type things that mums do.

“She’s not my real mum”

As if that made her contribution not matter, like she was some annoying fly I was flicking away.

But if the truth be known, without my ‘not real mum’ I wouldn’t be the woman I am today.

See, my ‘real’ mum was no sort of mum at all. When I was 18 months old, she left me with a neighbour while she went shopping. And she never came back.

My dad was in the Navy at the time, I was miles away from any family, and she walked out and (as you will see later in this blog) never looked back.

Luckily my grandparents took me in, and I ended up in a very loving family, my Dad left the Navy in the end and met Susan, who loved him enough to take on a child who was confused and angry at the world. In that day and age, single parent fathers were a rare occurrence, so to my mind she’s one of the bravest women I know!

But still I used to dream about my ‘real’ mum.

Maybe she left me to go and make some money and one day she would be back.

Maybe she met her Prince Charming and had to persuade him that having me around would be good.

Maybe she just needed to get her head together and would come back for me one day.

Because my step mum wasn’t my ‘real mum’.

She was the one to mop up the tears, make the rules, fight with me when I didn’t want to go in the bath, make me tidy my room, shout at me for being rude. My ‘real mum’ wouldn’t do that. She was a princess in a fairy tale castle, who would be all soft words and cuddles, never telling me off or chastising me, never having a cross word to say…

Throughout the years, my ‘real mum’ didn’t show up, didn’t come back to claim me, didn’t get in touch, and didn’t appear at all. Oh I made all the excuses for her, but really there were none.

I thought about finding her when I had my first child, when I got married, when my grandparents died – but I didn’t do anything about it until 2 years ago. A friend of mine had got back in touch with her 2 sons she hadn’t spoken to for many years, and it went so well I thought my story could have a happy ending too.

So with the help of the internet I looked for my ‘real mum’. And boy did I find her.

Unfortunately she had died when I was in my teens. But what I found amazed me even more. A half sister, abandoned in the same way I had been, ten years before I was born. A half sister my father knew nothing about.

Unlike me, my half sister had been contacted by our mother on her deathbed and had had the chance to meet her, years after she also was left while her father was away in the Navy (there’s something about a sailor, eh girls?)

I had nieces and nephews I knew nothing about, and great nephews too – me, a great auntie!

Maggie knew nothing about me – even on her deathbed our mother had said nothing about me, the child she abandoned ten years after she abandoned her.

The hurt can’t be explained – even now it makes me cry, but you know who I turned to when it all became too much?

That’s right, my step mum.

My ‘not real’ mum.

The woman who gave up her single life and took on another man’s child, put up with my crappy behaviour, supported me when I was pregnant at 18, and again when I decided to set up my own business at 21. The woman who still calls me all the time to make sure I’m OK, who cried at my wedding and again at my divorce, who looked after my daughter so I could work and earn money, who feeds me way too much when I go and visit and who cares about what happens to me and her granddaughters.

Now THAT’S a real Mum.

x

Nikki Pilkington runs Internet Marketing Company NikkiPilkington.com, based in the UK & France, specialising in Social Media Marketing and SEO for the SME.

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