Category Archives: Motherhood

Be kind, be brave

We haven’t quite hit the 1st January, but with just a couple of days to go, I thought it wouldn’t be out of place to mention the ‘R’ word.

Resolutions.

They’re everywhere. From pledges of getting fitter and healthier, to drinking less and relaxing more, you can pretty much guarantee you will have at least one conversation about New Year’s resolutions at some point from now until the end of January.

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Four irritating children’s habits that actually benefit your running (yes, really!)

I’ve been working hard to improve my strength, running pace and overall fitness this past month. For over a year, I’ve been plodding along at the same old pace, covering the same old routes, without ever pushing myself too hard (because, frankly, getting out for a run – whatever speed or distance – has felt challenging enough, what with two little ones to run around after all day, one of whom has NEVER slept through the night).

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On the final day of Baby Loss Awareness Week…

In 2011, I found I was pregnant. I was elated – my husband and I had been together for 11 years, married for four, and now, after all that time as a couple, we were about to become ‘the three of us’.

Nothing can compare to the emotions you feel at first seeing those parallel blue lines appear on the pregnancy test – excitement, joy, fear. But one thing was certain: the second I knew I was pregnant, my whole world changed. Those two lines on a white stick were proof of my baby. In my mind, I was already a Mummy.

For almost eight weeks, I thought of nothing else: I attended my first midwife appointment, lovingly stroked my tummy when no-one was looking and my pace slowed significantly every time I happened to walk past Baby Gap.

Which is why, when that small drop of blood appeared when I was almost 12 weeks pregnant, the floor fell away from under me.

Sitting in the small waiting room in the Early Pregnancy Unit, just three days before I was supposed to have been visiting the ultrasound department a few doors along the same corridor, I started to console myself.

It was just one small drop of blood.

My baby was fine.

I wasn’t having a miscarriage.

As it was all merely a precaution, I actually became excited when we were called in to be seen: I was going to see my baby on the ultrasound screen – and three days earlier than planned!

We waited as the midwife spread the gel on my stomach.

And then we saw our baby.

I had always thought miscarriage would be immediate. I thought it would be a rush of blood, and pain, and a scream of loss.

I thought it would be loud. But it was not.

I lost my baby in a whisper.

Our baby had died and I never even knew. A silent miscarriage.

In my mind, I had already held my baby close, heard their cry, their laughter – but that potential of a life was taken away in the quiet room in the Early Pregnancy Unit, before being removed completely under the cold, clinical lights of the operating theatre two days later.

I don’t have much time to think about my first baby these days; my life has become engrossed by my two very real, very loud, very demanding little ones, who are my whole world.

But tonight, the final night of Baby Loss Awareness Week, my first baby, I did think of you.

And what I thought was this: that for those almost 12 weeks, you were so very, very real to me.

And you were loved.

babyloss

Why running a marathon is nothing like having a baby (and one way it kind of is)

*Originally featured on The Running Bug*

If you’re a parent, chances are you’ll have attended antenatal classes (back in the days when drinking a hot cup of tea was not a luxury, and you didn’t have an audience every time you went for a pee). During these classes, someone may well have uttered the words: ‘Giving birth is a bit like running a marathon.’

While I get the part about it being an endurance event, not a sprint, I have run a marathon (two, in fact) and I have also given birth (twice). And I can tell you that one is absolutely nothing like the other.

Training for the event

Marathon

A marathon-training plan is usually 16 weeks long. If you’re a beginner, it can take you from those very first run/walk outings right through to the 26.2-mile event itself (how cool is that?) The final few weeks of the plan, however, are the ones that really freak the hell out of runners.

Because this is the bit when, instead of increasing your mileage, you need to drastically cut back your training, to ensure your body is fully rested and recovered in time for the marathon. It’s called the taper, but is more commonly known in running circles as a total mind f*ck. Why? Because you will start to worry that you’ve lost all your fitness, question whether you’ve done enough in the first place and basically feel like you are not in the least bit prepared. Don’t panic, though. You are.

Motherhood

Before having a baby, there’s all manner of preparation you can do – those NCT classes to attend, the hypno-birthing sessions to breathe through, the birth plan to write, the hospital bag to pack and the baby books to read. In fact, by the time you have done all the above and are standing in your newly painted nursery, next to a pristine white cot and a stack of teeny tiny sleep suits, you will probably be feeling pretty damn prepared. You’re not. Trust me.

Advice from the experts

Marathon

If you’re training for a marathon, you’ll probably find that lots of people have lots of advice. This advice all tends to go along the same lines – eat a tried-and-trusted breakfast a few hours beforehand; start slowly; listen to your body; drink when you need to – because often the same race-day strategy works for many people. My top tip? If runners are happy to share their experience of how they got to that finish line, then listen up, because you might learn something useful. After all, it’s 26.2 miles, people.

Motherhood

If you’re pregnant, you’ll probably find that lots of people will want to give you advice. Usually lots of conflicting, confusing and utter crap advice. Here’s the thing: if it works for one baby, it absolutely does not mean it will work for your baby. Your best bet? Smile politely, nod and do your own sweet thing. Your baby will thank you for listening to their needs, rather than to your second cousin’s neighbour’s friend, who swears Cry It Out is the ONLY way to get a baby to sleep through the night. (Note: it’s not.)

PB chasing

Everyone is different. But my personal experience is this: I ran my first marathon in five hours. I was in labour with my first baby for 30 hours. 30 FREAKIN’ HOURS. Enough said.

The task at hand

Yes, it’s difficult, yes, you have to run a really, really, really long way and yes, it hurts. BUT, at no point during a marathon are you expected to push a fully formed human being out of your vagina. That said, at no point during a marathon are you able to request an epidural, or get off your face on gas and air, so I guess it evens out a bit in the pain department.

Recovery

Marathon

You’ve done it – you ran 26.2 miles and crossed that finish line! Next, someone will hand you a medal and you can then hobble off to find your loved ones, who will no doubt shower you with praise and help you onto the nearest form of public transport. Someone might even offer you a seat on the train (result).

You will then be expected to do nothing more than sit on the sofa, while people bring you food, water and maybe a cheeky prosecco, before you pop a couple of paracetamol and go to bed, where you can sleep soundly for 12 hours, if you so wish. After all, you’ve just run a marathon!

marathon

Motherhood

You’ve done it – you have been in labour for Christ knows how long and you now have a baby! Think you might be able to close your eyes for just two minutes? Erm… not exactly. Because now, regardless of how many hours you’ve been awake, how many indignities you have been subjected to over the last 24 hours – hell, even if your stomach has just been ripped open by a surgeon – you are now called Mummy.

And in your new role as Mummy, you need to learn how to latch your baby onto a boob, rock your baby, soothe your baby, wind your baby and change your baby’s nappy. Approximately every three hours. For the next six months. Oh, and you will then be on call 24/7 for THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. Good luck.

Newborn

But there is one way giving birth is just like marathon running!

However tough it might be; however painful; however challenging; and however many tears are shed during the process, you will never, ever regret it.

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*Originally featured on The Running Bug*

Fantasy vs reality: motherhood

Remember those carefree days before you became a parent, when you and your partner used to stroll along hand in hand and half whisper to each other throwaway comments like, “How cool will it be when we have children?” And then you’d nuzzle into their neck and kiss their earlobe, while your brain concocted fairytale fantasies about flying kites, and toasting marshmallows over a campfire, and Saturday night films sprawled on the sofa as a family, all arms and legs and popcorn and happiness.

Well, I do.

And now here I am.

Is it anything like my dreams?

Erm, not today it isn’t: not when I’ve scraped another homemade dinner into the food recycling bin, and looked down at my top and wondered whether that slug-trail stain is snot or dribble; not when I’ve been lying IN THE SODDING COT with the baby trying to get her to settle at 9.30pm while pondering what the actual f*ck has happened to my life.

Motherhood isn’t always everything it’s cracked up to be. Some days, it can break you. Some days you feel worried and worn out, and just not damn good enough.

But…

You know what? I wouldn’t swap any of it for those bygone fairytale fantasies.

Don’t believe me?

My children might be noisy and messy and unpredictable and sticky. They might have caused me to utter sentences I thought I’d never have to say – things like: “Stop sticking spaghetti to the telly!” and “Put the poo back in the potty!” Yes, they have sped like a whirlwind into my life and tipped the world I knew on its side. They have crippled my social life and they have zero regard for my sleeping patterns.

But they are real. They are three-dimensional and high definition. Their laughter is loud.

They are so much more interesting and exciting than those papery, one-dimensional fantasy children, whose neat-and-tidy quiet perfection would, quite honestly, have gotten on my tits.

More than that, when motherhood was just a dream, I only imagined that I would raise my children. I had no idea about the reality of being a parent: that they are raising me, too.

My children push me to my limits. They make me question myself. They threaten to tip me over the edge pretty much each and every day. And I have to pull myself back; become more understanding; alter my perspective. I have to become gentler; more forgiving. I have to change.

I am learning and growing with them.

So you can keep your boring, perfect fantasy children, who allowed me to stick being the same old me. I’ll take my very real, very brash, very present little brood any day of the week… even if they threaten my sanity daily.

Because they are reshaping my whole world and everything in it, with their sticky fingers and inquiring minds… and I love the new surroundings we are building together.

Clangers Beach Farm

Wishing for space

I spend a lot of time every day wishing for space. I’m not being greedy here – I’m not pleading with the universe to grant me solitary mountaintops, or vast plains, or a deep, crystal clear lake.

Just two minutes to pee in private would be nice. Or maybe silence while I’m changing the baby’s nappy, instead of a three-year-old shouting loudly, “Look at me, look at me, Mummy! MUMMY, LOOK AT ME MUMMEEEE! LOOK! LOOK!”

I would say that on average eight times a day, I long for actual, physical space – space away from little people who are intent on pulling my hair, climbing onto my back, attempting to jam fingers up my nose and generally clambering all over me, clinging to my limbs as if hanging off branches of a tree.

But then something happened, and I got struck with the realisation that, one day, I will have all the space I have craved. One day, when my skin is the texture of autumn leaves, I will long for their touch.

Two weeks ago, my Nan died.

She had a lot of space.

I often blame the physical distance between us, because we lived 300 miles apart. But I could have picked up the phone more often than I did. And now, I am caught in a kind of limbo, wishing I had spoken to her more and knowing there is no longer time.

I have not always been a good granddaughter.

I didn’t cry for weeks. I felt so removed from her passing.

And then, the morning we were due to visit her house, I sat on the toilet seat in a Premier Inn on the outskirts of her hometown in South Wales, and I sobbed so hard I retched into a paper sanitary disposal bag.

Because even if you haven’t been physically close to someone for a long while, if they are woven into the fabric of your childhood, your memories, your DNA, it will hit you, even if it doesn’t hit you right away.

Grandparents

And then, when you are feeling sad and regretful and guilty, it can take someone else you love to bring you back. My son, in his unique little way, brought me back.

To persuade him to wear a smart shirt to the funeral, I told him he could wear whatever he wanted at the ‘little party’ afterwards.

I am such a tit.

And so it was my three-year-old rocked up to my Nan’s wake dressed as Buzz Lightyear. At one point he even declared rather loudly, “To infinity and beyond!” Which, I suppose, summed the whole event up quite nicely. Good job my family have a sense of humour.

BuzzLightyear

Despite having said my goodbyes, the remorse lingered. It trailed me home along the M4.

I knew what I needed. I needed to run.

So I did. And it worked. The guilt fell away – for then, anyway. I ran further than I have for a long time. I ran through deep mud and puddles and up a killer hill. With my legs burning and my lungs screaming, I ran into nothingness; into the space I needed in my head.

And while I ran, things became a little clearer: my Nan had been unhappy for a long time, ever since she lost my grandfather, 17 years ago.

Now somewhere, somehow, she is back with the love of her life.

Grandparents2

Perhaps, after all, this is what I need. Not more space (although I will always long to pee in private). But more time with the people I love. Even if that does mean little feet jabbing me in the ribs as they clamber all over me.

Because right now, I have all the time in the world.

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Highs and lows

Motherhood is both wonderful and a little bit shit.

It is often both of these during the course of a single day.

It is sometimes both of these within the space of a minute.

Occasionally, both the wonderful and shit bits of motherhood occur simultaneously ­– cue the baby eating her fish pie beautifully, while the three-year-old rolls around on the floor in a fit of rage because “it’s NOT POTATO-Y!” (It was.)

The wonderful bits make you feel like you are nailing parenting (child eats home-cooked dinner? Check. Child sits happily doing arts and crafts? Check).

The shit bits make you curse the fact you jinxed everything by thinking you were nailing it. (Why? WHY would you even think that??)

The wonderful bits make you feel like Supermum – the telly is off, all the crappy plastic toys are away and you’re about to go for a walk in the woods together. You will probably skip. You might even build a den. Fun!

The shit bits are infuriating to the point of driving you slowly insane…

Me: “Sweetheart, you can’t wear your sandals in the woods – you’ll get stones in your shoes.”
Three-year-old: “I WANT TO WEAR SANDALS.”
Me: “But stones will get in them – it will hurt.”
Three-year-old: “But I WANT them.”
Me: “But your feet will get hurt. Look, let’s put your trainers on.”
Three-year-old: “I WANT my SANDALS and I HATE YOU!”
Me: “OK, wear your sandals.”
Three-year-old [hurling himself to the ground 22 seconds into our woodland walk]: “There’s a stone! A stone in my shoe! I WANNA GO HOME!”

We all have our own ways of dealing with the shit bits of motherhood. I go running. OK, OK, I drink wine. But also, I go running (not while drinking wine).

Because running is alone time.

Running is cathartic.

Running is me and a trail and cool evening air.

Running is empowerment.

Running is that little piece of me before children.

And yes, running can also be aching legs and breathlessness and that painful stitch you just can’t shift (because, you know, sometimes running is a little bit shit, too).

And it’s those days when running is a little bit shit that it hits me: even on the tough days, I always come back to it. I come back to it because I know the wonderful bits outweigh the shit bits.

Running gives me perspective. It gives me the headspace to know that all those wonderful bits of motherhood – the smiles and cuddles and belly laughs; the boy telling me, “I really really really REALLY love you”; the baby’s warm milky breath on my shoulder at night – outweigh all the shit bits.

They outweigh them by a million miles.

Cuddles

Motherhood: it’s not all bad.

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