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An Open Letter To My Son, Who Is No Longer Here

To my first son Elijah

This month marks three years since you left us. Summer warmth is rising over the freshly dug garden and our new home feels big enough for a hundred children to play in. Yet there is only one little boy, rather than two, toddling around with bare feet upon the messy kitchen floor. I love him with more feeling than I ever knew existed within me, but every so often (in truth, its at least once a day) I feel the presence of emptiness. When I watch him play with his bricks and sand pit, there’s an outline of another child next to him, a slightly older child with brown hair, pale skin and large hands. You are that boy, and while I can feel you all the time, you’re not with us, and won’t ever be again.stack-letters-447579_960_720

We visit you a lot. At first, we would come and sit with you all the time. It was the only way to feel close to you. Even on our wedding day we drove to your resting place and celebrated with you. Had you been alive, you would have been at our ceremony as a page boy, no doubt wearing an oversized baby tuxedo with silly side-combed hair. I want you to know you were part of our wedding vows. We never stopped being your parents, and took amazing life lessons from your existence.

I often wonder what you’d be doing right now. As a three year old, you’d be into everything. I imagine you’d be energetic and curious, with a wild-streak that your Dad and I share. You’d be heading off to nursery with your favourite teddy bear in hand, creating marvellous finger paintings and building dinosaurs from play dough. I’m so sorry that that’s not how it is. I know I shouldn’t feel guilty, but I do.

We still pay you frequent visits and bring your younger brother for a family picnic every now and then. He learnt to walk on the green grass next to where you lay – the part that overlooks the city. That was such a lovely day.

You need to know that we are much better parents because of you. You taught us true humility and compassion. You taught us about real strength and resilience. You gave us perspective – an ability to view the world in proportion. Being pregnant with you remains a fond memory, all those peanut butter milkshake cravings must have fed you well! And believe me, the depth of love and grief that combined as one at your birth has altered every single part of me. It was a painful time, but when I gaze at photographs of you, my heart bursts with pride. You look so much like your brother, and I like to think I can see something of you in him too. For such a shortly lived life, you had a huge impact on so many people.

Do not feel forgotten. Life has had to go on, and it certainly doesn’t always work out the way we plan. Even though you’re not here anymore, I still watch you in our garden, picking flowers and playing alongside your brother, and I’m sure in the years to come, you’ll be with us for many special moments.

Just remember I’ll always be your mum, and regardless of how busy or sidetracked I get, I notice you in everything. No matter what, you’ll always be my baby.

Love Mum

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Why I Want To Avoid Competitive Parenting

Extreme examples often come to mind when I think about what ‘competitive parenting’ looks like. From pushy ex-pageant queens pinning false eyelashes onto tired toddlers, to the unforgiving world of child genius competitions, there’s a sub category of competitive parents who take measuring success to a whole new level.

But there are far more common examples too, many of which slip into our consciousness without much thought as to why it’s happening. How often do we hear the phrase “My daughter got all A’s on her assignments, how did yours do?” Followed by an awkward reply of “Well, mine got B’s, but I’ll get her to resit them all”. And it seems to start pretty early on too, with new parents becoming involved in how quickly their toddlers are meeting their milestones, how their 4 year old is ‘top of his nursery class because he got the most gold stars’ and is ‘so gifted with a violin we’re already applying for the top music schools in the country’ plus ‘look how tall he is, he’s bound to be the tallest in his year’. Continue reading Why I Want To Avoid Competitive Parenting

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Coping with Hand Foot and Mouth Disease Naturally

Hand Foot and Mouth Disease

Hand Foot and Mouth Disease sounds pretty scary, but actually it’s a relatively harmless virus which is self-limiting and therefore burns itself out within a week or two. Saying that, it’s incredibly unpleasant and can affect children and adults in varying severities. Treatment is usually rest, as there are no conventional medicines available to control it.

The first sign is a fever or temperature.  This is then followed by a general feeling of being unwell, exhaustion, and finally spots. Lots of spots! The spots look like pimples, and they disappear when pressed with a glass.

We had an outbreak of Hand Foot and Mouth recently. My son caught it before I did. As soon as I saw the spotty rash on his hands I took him to the GP who confirmed Hand Foot and Mouth and sent us home for bed rest with pain relief. Continue reading Coping with Hand Foot and Mouth Disease Naturally

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How To Cope With Sleep Deprivation After Birth

A newborn’s first instinct is to feed and sleep in a pattern and quantity that varies from baby to baby. It is impossible to predict how a baby will adjust to life outside the womb and what to expect, as every experience can vary greatly. This means each parent must be flexible and patient during those first few weeks.

I remember laying in my hospital bed following birth, my son swaddled comfortably in the crib next to me, just a few hours old. He slept all the way through the night and I didn’t sleep a wink because I was so eager to ensure his safety and wellbeing. We have evolved to instinctively protect our young and be on guard, which makes relaxing difficult from the offset.

After returning home, he began waking every hour for milk and cuddles, which I was thrilled to give him, but exhausted responding to his regular needs.

During that challenging time, I developed some ‘survival tricks’ in order to keep my energy up and maintain some sanity. Continue reading How To Cope With Sleep Deprivation After Birth

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A Positive Approach To Pregnancy After Loss

**Trigger – baby loss. Please be kind to yourself before reading on**

There were many things I wished for after I discovered I was having a baby. A stable home, good maternity pay, an easy birth, even a sickness-free first trimester! But above all, I wished for a healthy pregnancy and the safe delivery of my perfect baby.

I wasn’t so lucky.

Many women like myself face one of the greatest personal tragedies imaginable: pregnancy loss.

This can happen early on in the form of a miscarriage, or, less commonly, after 24 weeks which is known as stillbirth. Either way, loss is always heartbreaking and intensely emotional.

My son was stillborn at 40 weeks. His name was Elijah, and my husband and I buried him a week after he was born. The grief that followed was limitless, and every aspect of recovery was difficult for both of us.

Then six months later, I found out I was expecting again. This time, instead of thinking about good maternity pay or a sickness free first-trimester, I wished only to make it through to the end of the pregnancy without killing my baby – something that felt entirely impossible. I was terrified beyond measure and set myself up for failure. Continue reading A Positive Approach To Pregnancy After Loss

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Tips for Safe and Effective Co-Sleeping

Before I gave birth to my son, I decided that I would not be co-sleeping with him. I bought a crib and placed it next to my bed and produced a sleeping schedule that I felt was realistic for when I brought home my newborn.

Little did I know just how challenging newborns can be and the dramatic effects sleep deprivation would have on my mental and physical wellbeing.

Five days after birth, I hadn’t slept for more than one solid hour at a time. I was so exhausted, drenched in milk and sore from my caesarean section that bedtime soon became a sorry routine of tears, headaches and despair. My son wasn’t sleeping well and as a result I wasn’t either.

One miserable afternoon, I was laying on my bed with my baby and as he fell asleep during a feed, I dared to close my eyes just for a minute, only to wake four hours later to the sound of my sons happy gurgles. It was the longest sleep either of us had had all week. He clearly felt safe enough to sleep for longer, and instead of crying, he woke happy and rested. That’s when I changed my mind and decided to co-sleep, and it stayed that way for six whole months. Continue reading Tips for Safe and Effective Co-Sleeping

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