We are mums and we are heroes

Earlier I cried a little bit on the way home from nursery because I really shouted at Zee this morning and then felt bad.

I feel bad because the house is a mess and the washing’s piled up. I feel bad because I only have one kid and what must it be like for families with 2+ kids and single parents and families with both parents working full time and . . . enough.

I shouted at Zee this morning because he would not let me dress him and wriggled and screamed and made it impossibly hard, like every morning. For nearly four weeks now, he has woken 2-3 times a night, crying, shouting for mummy, wanting milk or ice cream (?) or MoreGuin (who is right next to him) or his hairbrush (?). This morning I’d just had enough. I suspect he is having bad dreams and is unsettled because of potty training. Sometimes there are cycles like these and broken sleep coupled with working stacks up and it’s not fun. So then I get the guilts for feeling this way, because all I can think of are those who are even more tired or busy or ready to bang their head against a brick wall when the tantrums begin.

That’s not right though, is it? It isn’t a competition. Sometimes it’s just tough. It’s different for us all and comparing doesn’t help. Instead of dwelling on all the things I’m not doing well at the moment, it’d be nice to think about the things that I am, though I don’t know what they are because my brain is so foggy from the broken sleep.

So for every mum today who might be feeling a bit like this, this is what I’d like to share:

Brilliant job

It’s a GinBunnyPrints.com card, which I saw on the brilliant Hurrah for Gin’s blog the other week and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. Because motherhood, for all its magic and wonder and joy, is bloody tough sometimes. No matter what our situation is, sometimes it’s good to remember we are all doing our best and that’s all we can do. And that a glass of something icy cold and alcoholic should always be kept in reach.

Five ways motherhood has messed with my mind

OrchardPraise be to Gina and that little book of potty training wisdom, for on Sunday Zee had a major toileting triumph (and that’s all I will say on the matter, no one but us needs to know the, erm, finer details). ANYWAY, he achieved what Gina had promised he’d achieve, in seven days, his little face was so filled with glee, and my heart was so filled with pride. Somehow whilst thinking about all of this, I kept finding myself wondering how all these rugby players’ mums must be feeling during the World Cup.

This is a strange link but bear with me.

Now I am a mother, it seems there are a few things I can no longer think about, see or do as I did before . . .

You see an epic try; I wonder ‘Did his mother cry?’

It’s safe to say I am not the ideal person to watch a rugby match with. I like the idea of it all; I’m very patriotic, love to belt out the national anthem and really appreciate a good sense of occasion. But during England’s first match against Fiji, it took me 20 minutes to realise they were playing in red and I asked Adam ‘What is a scrum, exactly?’ I was still keen to watch the match against Wales on Saturday though. But whilst all those around me were losing their heads, I was sipping gin and pondering how overwhelmed with pride those players’ parents must be and that I never, ever want my baby boy to play rugby, ever. Not ever. Not my choice, I know, but still. Ow!

Broadchurch? I can’t even.

Earlier this year, with all the hype around the new Broadchurch, we thought we’d have a look at the first series. Better late than never? No, just never. We lasted about five minutes, until the harrowing scene when the mum realises her son isn’t at sports day and that was it. We looked at each other aghast, said ‘No way’ and switched it off. Not these days.

That horror novel? Can’t go there either.

I used to be all about the horror novel or film – the scarier/gorier the better. Maybe it was an antidote to all the children’s books I worked on, trading a Magic Kitten or Pigs in Planes by day for a Karin Slaughter or Paranormal Activity by night. Just last week I realised the new book, by a writer whose debut I’d enjoyed last year, was publishing soon. ‘Yes,’ I thought, ‘I’ll be adding that to my list’. It’s not a horror so it’s fine.Then at Charing Cross, I saw the tube poster for it, with the book image and the single strapline ‘The cot was empty.’ Simple, brilliant, powerful – but not for this mum whose young son sleeps in a cot.

So over hangovers

Ooh I still love a glass of something bubbly or an ice-cold Hendricks in one of those big fun fishbowl glasses, but these days the very thought of a hangover gives me the dreads. Zee seems to have developed some kind of a radar so he just knows when I’ve gone out Out, and subsequently wakes, screaming ‘Mummy, MUMMY!’ just as I drop off after a rare night gallivanting. Water and paracetamol have never been more important than when faced with a toddler after a shandy or two. Peppa and the iPad are very much my friends in these situations as well.

Pub lunches

The idea of a long lazy pub lunch with a few drinks is SO NICE, but the reality is so awful. It’s just a colossal waste of time, with a toddler who doesn’t want to sit still for longer than the five minutes it takes to messily eat what’s in front of him. I don’t want to spend the whole time worrying and shrieking ‘No!’ as he shrieks ‘BOING MUMMY LOOK BOING BOING ON THE LADY’S HEAD!’ with the balloon from the trying-to-be-helpful staff. Sigh.

Obviously, the sole reason for all of the above brings me more delight than any book, TV series or roast in the pub ever could. Those gory novels or shows filled with murder and all things awful I may well be done with, but as for the pub lunches, we’ll most definitely be back.

No mummy, *you* the best

Our conversations with Zach just get better, as he learns more words and surprises us every day with new observations, comments and thoughts.

One of my current favourites is:

‘You’re so lovely/funny/cheeky/wriggly (insert appropriate adjective here) Zach!’
‘No I’m NOT, I’m Zachary!’
‘Yes you are!’
‘No I’m not, I’m a big boy!’
‘Yes, a cheeky big boy!’
‘NO! I not!’
‘Yes, you’re the best!’
‘No I NOT! You the best mummy!’
‘I’ll take that.’

I was thinking about this a bit more when I was feeling absolutely not my best; very tired after a fun night out. Those days of going out three to four times a week at uni, followed by getting up and going to lectures the next day, are so long gone. Though they probably didn’t start till 2pm and lasted two hours. Looking after a toddler + working + a late night are not the same.
yellow ice creamI know when he says this to me it’s a game. But I am, after all, the one who dresses him, feeds him, cleans up his mess, makes sure he’s warm, not hungry or thirsty, I find his toys and shoes and MoreGuin ten times a day. I deal with his mad tantrums (‘No don’t WANT that t-shirt mummy want my pyjamas nooooo nooo not THAT one want that t-shirt mummy noooooooo!’) and I now ask him quite a lot if he needs a wee and have no objections to cleaning up his wee or worse (although yesterday I was delighted not to). So actually yes, mummy IS the best (daddy too).

Yeaahhhhh! I’m going to remember this now and not feel bad that we’re lazing in our pjs as I write this and he watches Peppa on my phone. Because he just rested his head on my shoulders for a few minutes whilst giggling at Peppa and that was the best.

The Potty Training Diaries Part V

Tomorrow I am going to work and must remember not to ask every person I speak to ‘Do you need a wee? Do you need a wee darling? Do you want Mummy to help you? Shall I sit you on the toilet?’ because wouldn’t that be awkward with a capital A?

Over the last four days, Zee has gone from screaming and crying at the idea of using the potty to sitting on it earlier this evening and doing a big wee. In front of Peppa, but if that was what it took to get him to sit on it for an extended period of time, then fine. He did it, and that’s what counts. Today has been very much more of the same, with delight at pretending to use the toilet and screaming when he needed to, so the potty breakthrough earlier felt like a real achievement. Tomorrow I hand the potty training over to his excellent nursery carers, and yes I am positively punching the air at the prospect of this.

ProfileI’m so glad I was able to spend these four days with him though, trying to help him progress in this next big step. He has been his usual lovely, cheeky, playful and mischievous self and not in the least bit bothered at pretty much spending four days in the house and garden. The worst bits weren’t clearing up the messes (though yuck) or being wee’d on, but seeing him so distressed and feeling like the Meanest Person Ever when I wouldn’t give him a nappy when he asked.

But at 7 this evening I did, because I could not face a poo-gate situation on a Sunday evening so close to bedtime when he gets a nappy anyway. I’ve now got him to a weeing on the potty stage, having frankly wanted to abandon it after his sobs on the first day. The first stage is done. Roll on Tuesday when I can finally Have a Drink. Hurray for Drink!

The Potty Training Diaries Part IV

I was never able to follow Gina Ford’s advice on getting babies to sleep through, something to do with letting them cry or crying it out, I can’t quite remember now, but anyway it didn’t work for me. That’s because I just could not bear to leave Zee to cry for extended periods of time, although I can see how short term pain, if it works = extremely useful and sanity-saving long term gain.

GardenBUT when it comes to potty training, I am all over the *idea* of completing the task in one week, as Gina’s aforementioned book promises. A few people have recommended it to me and I have found it really useful and sensible in preparing for this stage. Day three was, up until earlier this evening, like Groundhog Day, with more willingness to sit on the potty until he needed to use it, tears, accidents etc. This was not, by the way, how it should go according to Gina, but every child is different and I didn’t expect to follow it that closely. Luckily today was sunny, so we played in the garden and he charged about with no nappy on whilst I found myself periodically going on and on and ON at him about potties and stickers and wee-wees and being a grown up boy and so on and so forth blahhhhh blah blah. Meanwhile, chats like these occurred, which weren’t helpful but were fun:

‘Would you like two more stickers for your chart?’

‘Oh yes PLEASE mummy!’

‘Okay well if you do a wee in your potty you can have TWO stickers.’

‘I’ve been thinking about it Mummy.’

‘What have you been thinking?’

‘It goes rounds and round and round!’

‘What does? What were you thinking about your potty?’

‘I don’t know mummy, don’t worry, it’s down there on the telephone.’

Later on he had a nap, woke up, we played, he had dinner and then the stress and tears began again as he clearly needed a wee but would not sit on the potty. Suddenly he said ‘Mummy I want to sit on the toilet!’ and I paid no attention because I’m sorry, what now? If he’s scared of the potty, then surely the toilet would be an altogether more frightening prospect for him?

But he asked again so we went upstairs, me carrying him and the potty because obviously we’d get up there and he’d scream and resist and demand the potty but wouldn’t really want it and I’d be wee’d on, again. I duly affixed the special seat for him and . . . and he let me sit him on it, smiling away, chattering, telling me he was going to ‘point his winky down’ and ‘Look Mummy, a little bit of wee!’ I was so surprised and full of glee and praise that this was actually happening and also thinking WHY WHY FOR THE LOVE OF GINA AND PIRATE PETE AND THOSE TWO PLASTIC POTTIES WHYYYYYYY didn’t I listen to the several people who told me to skip the potty stage and just put him straight on the loo?! It makes a lot more sense now it’s happened, as he is familiar with the little loo at nursery, but still. It’s called Potty Training, the name threw me off.

PantsAlso, I’ve never before had to second guess for three days when a little and highly emotional person may or may not want to empty their bladder, but my goodness I’ll know for if there’s a next time. He was delighted to use toilet paper and do flushing and hand washing and drying – so delighted we repeated the process three more times, with tiny trickles occurring, before going downstairs to ring daddy* and get stickers for his chart. And then he had a really big wee all over the kitchen floor, but of course this didn’t matter at all, because PROGRESS! Will it continue tomorrow? Let’s see . .

*Daddy who has been out all day at a friend’s BBQ, which we were all meant to enjoy. But me being like a bear with a sore head (thanks wisdom tooth) and the potty training not *quite* going according to (Gina’s) plan, meant that I made the Very Good Decision to stay here with Zee. I wasn’t going to give up, not after only two days. Tempted though I was to reach for the pull-ups when he was so distressed, I very, very much want this to be a success in as little time as possible. Short term pain, exactly.

The Potty Training Diaries Part III

It turns out having an infected wisdom tooth is not  ideal when potty training. The second day has been something of a catalogue of mishaps, which means I am currently upstairs drinking hot, sweet tea whilst H and Zee play trains downstairs.

This morning started off promisingly again, with Zee showing lots of interest in wearing his pants and even sitting happily up and down on the potty and being very keen to get more stickers for his chart.

Unfortunately, the fact I have been in denial about a painful wisdom tooth all week, meant I had to break one of Gina’s golden rules after only 24 hours into potty training. I had to take Zee with me to the dentist, and I could not see how it would work with him in pants and me in a dentist chair, should he need to go. I didn’t want to put him, me or the dentist in that situation, so I resorted to a pull-up nappy. This is apparently meant to confuse things wholeheartedly, but I was pretty stuck.

And then followed a series of events, which gave me a SERIOUS sense of humour failure:

  • Dentist diagnoses ‘massively infected wisdom tooth’ (owwwww) and gives me a prescription. Makes some mention of it needing to be stamped, but I wasn’t concentrating because, you know, pain and Zee was about to fall off his chair whilst heavily engrossed in Thomas
  • Drive to pharmacy. I’d forgotten wallet. Leave prescription there and drive home.
  • Return to pharmacy. The prescription hasn’t been stamped.
  • Drive all the way back to dentist’s and have to park two roads away as parking is a nightmare. Zee is tired and hungry, so I carry him.
  • Return to pharmacy, it’s lunchtime. Can I come back after 2pm? Excuse me for a moment, can I just slump over the counter and cry a bit here?
  • A few hours later, Zee and I return to pharmacy, fourth time lucky; the drugs are mine.

Back at home, potty training resumes, and I never knew the words ‘Mummy, I need to sit on the potty’ could make me SO HAPPY. But alas, whilst he’s still happy to sit on the potty when he doesn’t need to go, when he does, it’s a whole different situation. Tears, accidents, he’s very distressed, which makes me feel AWFUL. He’s now asking for his big boy pants so he can use those instead of a nappy. I do not know what to do about this as he refuses and screams when I try and help him onto the potty. I won’t go into any graphic detail, but it’s a good job I love that kid so very, very much, because only a parent could (literally) handle what I just did and not ask for the nearest bucket to be passed.

I’m trying my best, he’s trying his and we’ll get there. I’m very grateful to have nursery’s help next Mon-Weds to carry on my (hopefully good by then) work. In the meantime, I am continuing to curse this infection. A stiff G&T would be seriously nice this evening.





The Potty Training Diaries Part II

Over the last few weeks, when I’ve mentioned to various people that I would be starting potty training today, some were really positive, ‘Oh you’ll be fine,’ they said, ‘It’s really not too bad . . .’ Others were wide-eyed, with eyebrows raised and wishing me good luck.

Now I know why.

In terms of all the pre-reading, the purchasing of the pants and the potties and the personalised potty books, I was prepared. What I was not prepared for, was my child being happy to sit on the potty when he doesn’t need to go, then crying and telling me he’s scared of it when he does. This was followed by point- blank refusal to sit on it, let alone wee in it, all the while crossing his legs and crying and begging me to put his nappy on and being visibly upset and distressed. Which made me extremely distressed, though I had to try not to show it.

It all started off promisingly at 7 this morning, with him clambering into his blue big boy pants with gusto – first sticker on his chart, done. I reassured him and kept repeating myself. I felt like a broken record. ‘When you need a wee-wee darling, just tell Mummy and we can sit you on the potty, etc, etc, etc.’ By 12pm, still nothing, and that’s when his tears began. Today there have been several accidents, I have been wee’d over, as has the floor, but he did manage a little wee in his potty through all the crying and it felt like such a big moment, I nearly cried too.

I have no idea what tomorrow will bring, but at least I have an idea of just how tough potty training can be. Last night I was joking about the Valium. Maybe by the end of this I won’t be.

The Potty Training Diaries Part 1

And so it came to pass that I have in my posession:

1 x Gina Ford’s Potty Training in One Week

1 x a personalised, Penwizard Pirate Zachary’s Potty with pirate stickers and sticker chart


1 x Pirate Pete’s Potty book

2 x blue potties

A LOT of big boy pants featuring Thomas, cars and pirates

A travel potty

1 x large jar of Valium

The rug in the lounge has been lifted up, several pairs of jogging bottoms and loose trousers washed; the buckets and mop are downstairs waiting.

We have talked to Zee about the potty for MONTHS, he has practised wearing big boy pants, he has done many imaginary wee-wees in the potty; he has run around shouting ‘My have a winky! You no have a winky Mummy!’ more times than I care to remember. Nursery say he’s ready. I have tried my best to be ready.

Are we prepared? I hope so. Tomorrow it begins. Let’s get down to business.


Telling stories

It’s taken months of organising on and off, with hours more organising last week and then I was up till 1am working on it today, but I am finally a few edits away from hitting ‘send to print’ on the photo album of Zee’s second year.

A project like this is a chance to stop and look back, and there are great swathes of 2014 I had entirely forgotten until I started trying to put it into some semblance of order, for Zee to enjoy when he’s older. Of course, it’s an album for Zee, but I’m going to be the only person who’s truly interested in looking at it again . . . and again . . . and again over the years, I imagine. Sentimental Cancerian that I am.

It is the story of his little life so far told in pictures, and on here when I have time, I try to tell it for him in words. I have been neglectful of blogging lately from a sheer lack of time. I am lucky that my freelance adventures are going well; it is more than I could ever have anticipated this time last year. Amongst other gigs, I currently find myself working as the copywriter for two of the greatest children’s authors in the world, which makes me punch the air a little bit and feel lucky. I am also the monthly blogger for Ladybird Books, writing as LadybirdMum, which is an honour and a lovely record for Zach. So I haven’t entirely been neglecting the scribblings, they just sit here and here instead of on here.

But every day at the moment, I find myself thinking ‘I must write that down!’ when Zee says or does yet another funny or surprising thing. He is two and a half and developing at a rate of knots and it is fascinating and thrilling and at times entirely daunting to see. Our baby, growing up so fast. It makes me catch my breath sometimes. In no particular order, some of the things he comes out with now include:

  • ‘No Mummy, that’s impossible.’
  • ‘Mummy, you say no too much. Stop saying no.’
  • ‘Be careful Mummy! We must be careful.’
  • (One morning when I went to wake him) ‘No Mummy don’t want you, want Daddy, not you Mummy, LUK (yuck)!’ Charmed, I’m sure.
  • ‘Mummy, are you okay?’
  • ‘My go a nursery work today Mummy, my see my friends.’
  • ‘No I want to do it myself!’
  • ‘I’m not a sweetie, I’m Zee, you a sweetie Mummy.’
  • ‘This carpet is nice and soft on my tootsies.’
  • ‘GO AWAY!’ – which I’m happy to say he’s picked up from his favourite Pom-Pom Gets the Grumps, though he does take great delight in yelling it at us . . .

    And because this summer has seemingly been and gone so quickly I can’t keep up, I’m going to cheat and let this photo gallery below nudge my memory in months and years to come, because quite simply, we’ve been having far too much fun for me to write it all down. I will try and do better from now on.

Labour, she wrote.

M and BA couple of months ago, I spied on Twitter a post via Britmums, from a journalist looking for mums whose babies had been very overdue. ‘Yep,’ I thought, ‘that definitely applies to me.’ I pondered contacting her, uhmming and ahhing over it, eventually deciding I would, just to see what it was all about.

A few DMs revealed the journalist, Rachel, was writing an article for Mother & Baby magazine, a feature on long overdue babies and if I was interested, could I let her have my story? I thought about it a bit longer, deciding that really I had nothing to lose. And with my work hat on, there just might be a chance I could include a link to my blog, which is all about motherhood after all. As a freelance copywriter, I’m always trying to find new ways to showcase what I write; maybe, just maybe, this could be a good opportunity.

So I cast my mind back to those long overdue days (17!) awaiting Zee’s arrival, relayed the highs and lows to Rachel, and hit send. Throughout the whole process, she was friendly and enthusiastic and reassured me it was going to be a lovely piece.

I forgot about it for a while, until Rachel replied to say her editor loved my story and wanted to include it. Now, for photos. Could I provide any pictures, from just after Z’s birth, a few when I was waiting for him, some of us both a few days later? ‘Yes of course,’ I replied, thinking that a good photo of Zee wouldn’t be hard to find, one of me post-labour might not be too pretty. I found one and I am not ashamed to say I gleefully took some editing tools to it. A few filters here, some softer light there and hey presto, I didn’t look too scary. Vain, maybe but hey, it’s my article and I’ll filter if I want to.

Although of course, it’s not technically my article. It’s my story, but I’m not writing it. Being a copywriter, this felt quite curious to me. Rachel explained that once she’d had the pics approved she’d call me to could discuss everything properly. I’d already sent quite a detailed summary, so it was interesting to talk it through; to get a sense of her angle for the piece and the way she wanted to frame it. She asked me good, insightful questions, which helped jog my memory (sieve-esque since Zee’s arrival). She also wanted to know at key stages if I felt anxious, worried, frustrated, scared . . . I could see where thisSAM_5015 was going. Yes, it was difficult and stressful in parts; I was bloody enormous, waddling around like a giant watermelon on legs and my baby showed not the slightest interest in making their presence known in this world. But I didn’t want to dwell on that.

The point is, for me, I was given a due date, but it’s not set in stone and the baby arrives when the baby arrives. I don’t personally believe in all the ‘Eat a hot curry!’, ‘Drink raspberry leaf tea!’ ‘Walk up a giant hill!’ advice – I ate curry because I like curry, a lot. I maximised every single lie-in and went to the cinema a fair few times. I enjoyed a Pilates class where I was asked ‘When are you due?’, I merrily replied ‘Last week!’ and watched them back away. I just tried to be patient. Rachel noted it all down and said she’d call back to read it out to me before it went to print.

When Rachel called again it was nice yet weird to hear my own story, in her words. Strange, because she’d used a few phrases I wouldn’t say, and there were a couple of details the editorial team had added in that just weren’t true, so I asked for those to be removed. They’d left out the bit about Adam bringing us Pizza Express takeaway when things kicked off slowly, which I felt was a shame as this was the most fun part of a verrrrrry long night.

The only thing that made me wary was a line someone had added in my ‘Three things I’d tell my friends’ section. I’d commented that once you go past your due date, every time you call or text someone you find yourself prefacing it with ‘No news!’ or ‘Nothing to report . . .’ But this had been turned into something along the lines of ‘Tell your family and friends an approximate date, to stop the annoying questions when you go past your due date.’

No, no. I would never say something like that about my family and friends, contacting me to see if I was okay, which I stressed to Rachel several times.

Anyway, it all sounded pretty spot on; I dared to ask again if my blog link might *perhaps* be included, which Rachel was very polite about but I sensed it was a no. Oh well. If you don’t ask . . .
Zach 11 Feb 13 2The article is in the September issue, out early August. I bought a copy  last week and felt quite nervous when I opened it. There we were; Zee and I in Mother & Baby magazine, with no mention of the word ‘annoying’, a gorgeous (I’m biased, yes) photo of brand new Zee, and me post-labour, looking shell-shocked and filtered. Result! And of course there’s a Princess Charlotte link to the whole overdue angle, of course. I’d had no clue there would be, but what larks.

A fun experience all round and something to add to Zee’s memory box. It’s also something I can brandish at him in years to come, if he’s stomping around the house declaring how much he wishes he’d never been born. ‘But LOOK what I went through for you to be born, you ungrateful rascal!’ I shall declare. It’s my right as his mother, I do believe.