Mother (Almost Never) Knows Best: April 2017

Friday, 28 April 2017


Since our oldest child turned three we have been somewhat preoccupied with the thought of schooling and how best to go about it. When I say preoccupied, there are times when it has consumed my thoughts upon waking and drifting to sleep.

I have an almighty fear of getting it wrong and ruining my children forever. Which I am sure with the gift of hindsight will be laughable but it doesn’t feel very amusing right now.

The worst part of all is that the distress is due to a very middle-class quandary (which I do realise I am extremely fortunate to even be able to consider) for I am trying to decide between state and private schooling.

You see, my husband was private schooled and I, state. Academically we are probably on par but where he is filled with an innate confidence and comfort in who he is, I am racked with insecurity and would gratefully morph into (any) another human being altogether. I see he and his friends and they just seem more at ease with who they are and their lot in life. For some reason, I put this, at least in part, down to schooling. I do realise that I am probably entirely mistaken, however, it is the one thing I can do something about. I want my children to have the confidence (not arrogance) to enjoy their lives to the fullest. So while there is certainly nothing I can do about the genetic make-up that I have passed down, what I can do is obsess on schools; private schools, state schools, grammar schools, mixed schools and everything in between.

What I would like to make very clear is that I don’t think private schooling makes you a better individual and I do see that in some cases it can do quite the opposite. I do believe that the quality of the teaching staff is identical but the class sizes and resources they enjoy are not and if we can afford it then surely we should lavish those bouquets of pencils upon them! But I then realise that we are merely on the cusp of being able to afford it and would I be short changing them elsewhere? Would they end up enduring school at the bottom of the social heap like a Cinderella who has been discovered half way through the first dance?  

With jobs that can be easily moved, we regularly play the “Right Move” game where we pick an area and look up the available schools in the area ( I should point out that this can involve plonking our baby on the map and seeing where he crawls). Although currently Scotland based, England (as well as the weather) has the attractive offer of grammar schools as while we do not struggle to meet the mortgage repayments, we would certainly be stretching ourselves by enrolling two children in private school but then is anything more important that your children’s education? And again, I come full circle.
That’s it. I’m home schooling
The "Right Move Game" Toddler Style

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

The Pregnancy: My Imperfectly Perfect Baby

So, to cut a long story short we did actually have a baby...

It was a miscarriage that never was but a threat that loitered menacingly for the duration of the pregnancy. My lovely, green "low risk" sticker was obliterated by an angry, red "high risk" stamp as further complications ensued: gestational diabetes, gestational thrombocytopaenia (no platelets and therefore an inability to clot) and "measuring small for dates".

At nineteen weeks we had our anomaly scan. This was booked early as, although undiscussed, there was a palpable expectation from the medical team that an abnormality would be discovered. Our previous conversations held in the scan department cloaked us in pessimism and the phrases uttered a mere two months ago rang clear:

"There is no fluid..."

"We usually find that this is not compatible with a viable pregnancy..."

"... normally due to a chromosomal abnormality..." 

And sure enough they found an anomaly.

Our baby had a "unilateral talipes". What this actually means is that one of their feet had developed in such a way that it turned in on its self. Historically the affliction had the rather attractive name of “club foot”. The good news was that it was entirely treatable to the point that the vast majority of those born with it actually go unnoticed. They can expect their feet to be different sizes, their calf muscles to be a little under developed on the affected side and they may need to rethink any aspirations to be a professional footballer or ballet dancer but they will run; they will jump; they will play. It takes five solid years of a parental commitment to physiotherapy but it is fixable.

It wasn't the abnormality that they found which caused the concern but the increasing possibility that there would be something more fundamentally wrong with our baby. Any sort of structural anomaly increases the likelihood that there is some underlying chromosomal irregularity but there was no way to know for sure. This was a worry that we would just need to live with and we did.

When she came she was beautiful, there was no denying that. She was tiny, which was fine, as she cried and fed without any fuss but when they passed her on to my tummy I saw it straight away. It didn’t fill me with dread or panic me to the core. She was here. She was never meant to make it this far and she did. There was little that could take away from that. She was my miracle. The miscarriage that never was. A proper human. With nine fingers and ten toes.

They tell me, with the aid of hindsight, that the attempted miscarriage was probably due to the membranes popping in early pregnancy but she had put her arm through the whole and sealed that cocoon up good and tight (my little dutch girl!). The tight seal around her arm restricted the blood flow and prevented it from developing properly leaving her with a slightly smaller right hand and only four functioning fingers. The lack of fluid meant that her legs and feet did not have the freedom of movement to develop correctly which led to her left sided talipes but there were no other abnormalities to find. She was imperfectly perfect.

The above summary is a beautiful thing to be able to write as it now feels like it has always been that way but the certainty I felt when I cradled her for the first time wavered in those first few weeks. You see, we weren’t told those reassuring explanations to begin with. They had to rule out some pretty nasty things first. We needed genetic testing and this couldn’t happen for another six weeks.

It takes its toll on a marriage that: genetic testing. You think you have found the one; your companion into old age. You agree on the fundamentals and you like most of the things about them (let’s not lie, there is always something). You have been through some pretty tough times together and come out stronger at the other end, but then there is a possibility that you do not match in the most important of ways. There is a possibility that in bringing a child into the world you cannot give it the simplest of things: health. It takes a while to navigate your way around that.

I am not sure we enjoyed her until we knew for certain. I am not saying we wouldn’t have enjoyed her if it had worked out differently but there is something to be said for knowing. Once you know for sure you start to cope. You readjust your expectations and move on.

Looking at her now I sometimes forget how amazing she truly is. She is a bright, chatty, happy three year old who runs, jumps and skips. She draws, uses cutlery and picks things up using both hands almost interchangeably. She has the most amazing team of plastic surgeons who have recreated her hand to make it function like a normal hand (apparently opposable thumbs can be built from other fingers) and if you didn’t know, it would definitely take you a while to notice.

I do sometimes feel sad that she might not enjoy a good manicure or may prefer not to draw attention to her hands by wearing the jewellery that most women enjoy. I do worry about bullying and people saying cruel things or shying away from her touch because her hand doesn’t look like it should. But mostly I feel proud. I feel proud that she was strong enough to get here. I feel proud that she is as amazing as she is turning out to be. I feel proud that even though she may not feel it at times, she is a fighter. I am one proud mother.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Toddler Rejection: The Threenager...

"Mummy, I don't like the way you talk to me. I want Daddy!"

"Mummy, I wish I had a Mummy like your Mummy."

"Mummy, you are so mean. You are not my best friend anymore! You are mean!" (sung to an indiscriminate nursery rhyme tune)

"I don't love you anymore."

As I write these phrases down I realise that this is a right of passage. A lesser known milestone. There's smiling, cooing, clapping, crawling, walking, talking and then wounding. I had been warned that this would happen from a variety of sources on a multitude of occasions. I just don't think I believed it. I could not fathom that my beautiful, kind, empathic girl would turn into a surly monster who channels all of her inner angst in my direction as the "primary care giver" (read "sitting duck".)

The thing is, I know that it shouldn't bother me.

I am aware that there are people all over the postcode, country and world who are receiving exactly the same treatment from their offspring on a tri-daily basis merely for deigning to parent. A toddler lacks a filter and will communicate every feeling exactly as it is felt. I know this.

I wanted to believe that my disappointment in this turn of events was because my daughter was different. I wanted to believe that she was intrinsically angelic in nature; advanced in her years for her unfaltering empathy and incapable of thinking, never mind uttering, such hurtful remarks.

The truth is, it's me. I am the one who cannot take rejection in any form. I am the one who is analysing the words of a three year old. I am the one who, upon hearing the criticism, critiques my parenting abilities and finds them coming up short.

She is three. She is mad because I won't let her dress up as Elsa for the twelfth day in a row. She is livid because I used the wrong colour of plate at tea time. She is enraged because I have been the one to greet her when she wakes in the morning. She is incensed because I won't let her waterboard her little brother in the bath. She is the perfect toddler in that she is acting just as a toddler should.

She has no concept of me being a good, bad or mediocre parent. To her, I am the one who is always there. I am the one who is writing the ever expanding rule book which she cannot comprehend and which causes her limitless frustration. I am also the one who is comforting her when she is sick, reassuring here when she is uncertain and re-enacting each and every Disney princess storyline with her upon demand. I am her constant and the one upon whom she depends.

That is just a little bit harder to articulate when you are three...

Everything Changes: Working Out the "Working Mother" Bit

It's been a big week this week and, no, we haven't sold our house. In fact, it is no longer even on the market which was both a hea...