World’s Okayest Mom

I think this pretty much sums me up right now.

Let’s face it, right from the off I was never going to win any ‘best mum’ awards. I’ve seen enough blogs and scrolled through enough Pinterest boards to know that those awards belong to the parents who find a style and follow it wholeheartedly, the ones who bake fresh broccoli scones and carrot pancakes and whatever for their toddlers and actually get them to eat it, the ones who hand-paint elaborate murals on the nursery wall and gave birth to an insta-latching baby in a birth pool surrounded by nature whilst whale music played and a doula murmured ancient Swahili childbirth chants into her ear (or something like that, anyway).

That was never going to be me. I made up my own parenting style, that basically means we do whatever is easiest for us as a family. I can’t bake to save my life, and ‘fuck it, another gingerbread man can’t hurt her’ is a regular utterance in this household. I bought pink vinyl star stickers meant for cars to go on her wardrobe instead of a mural, and hallucinated polar bears in socks during labour, not brought on by Swahili voodoo chants but by the gas and air I needed to get me through that syntocin drip as I simultaneously sang Hakuna Matata and told D he was getting on my tits.

But if there’s one thing I do pretty well, it’s be an okay mom. I come home from work and I love nothing more than to sit with SB, teaching her to walk, laughing at all the little habits and quirks she’s picked up, reading with her, watching Cbeebies with her, just generally marvelling at her.

When I’m at work, my desk is covered in pictures of her. They’re literally all over the soundboards around my desk. Whenever work gets tough, I remember that I’m making money so that she can have nice things, and a secure home and food on the table. I may not be with her twenty four seven, and she may be more likely to get a Birdseye Potato Waffle from me rather than a sweet potato scone or whatever healthy foods the crunchy mamas are dishing up these days. So she doesn’t have an intricate jungle design on the walls of her bedroom, and any craft I make with her will not be likely to end up on Pinterest.

I will never be the world’s best mum, but I’m the best mum for SB. I’m the world’s okayest mum right now, and I couldn’t be happier.

One thing’s for sure though – when I’m partnered up with the world’s okayest dad (who is actually a contender for world’s best, although he’d never believe me), we become a pretty unstoppable force of parenting. Even if our child ate cake today.

And a gingerbread man.

And biscuits.

And a Babybel.

Like I said… okayest. Not best.

Happy to be proven wrong…

Remember everything I said in my last post, yesterday?

I’m going to have to go ahead and take it all back.

This is beyond anything I could have dreamed. I have shed countless tears over this course, poured my heart and all my effort into the work. The course is where I became a mother and I’ve had the often-lovely, always-difficult and never boring experience of balancing books and a baby, and it has taught me far more than just what I need to know about theatre and performance.

And here’s the payout. At the end of October, I will be graduating with a first class honours degree, with my parents in the audience and my amazing boyfriend and beautiful daughter waiting outside. It’s not what I envisioned three years ago when I found out I was going to university, but life has taken me on the craziest three-year journey imaginable, and I have come out of it, not just as a functioning human being, but apparently as a pretty smart one too!

I finally feel like I can say it. I can set a good example to SB. I can be someone that she looks up to. I may be young, I may not have planned it, but I am a mum that she can be proud of.

The Moment Of Truth

Here’s the downside to being an over-achiever; when you’re eight, everyone around you wants to see you fail. When you’re twenty, even when people either don’t care or want to see you succeed, you still think they want you to fail.

The bigger they are, the harder they fall. It feels like one of those video games where you’re so far into the final boss fight, and two or three more shots will do it, and then the boss gets a really good shot in and you’re down, back to the last checkpoint with your tail between your legs.

Right now, I feel like that. Except far more publicly.

We’re due to get our university results at some point this week (when is anyone’s guess). The hardest three years of my life have built up to this moment, and I have no idea what is going to happen.

I’m fairly certain I’ve passed. I’d be surprised if I hadn’t, let’s put it that way. I don’t know what grade I’ll get. My dream would be a 2:1. After everything, when even finishing my degree felt like a far away dream, to be here at the end of it all is good enough.

The problem comes when people start guessing what you’ll get. Don’t get me wrong, it’s touching that people think I’m capable of a first, but don’t start acting like a 2:1 is something I should be ashamed of. I am totally cool with the fact that I won’t get a first. It’s unobtainable ; I worked it out based on my grades so far. It just won’t happen, and I don’t mind. I never thought myself capable of a first in my pre-baby days, never mind now!

I’ve never wanted special consideration purely because I’m a mom, but sometimes I wish people would remember that a 2:1 is bloody brilliant for anyone. If I can open my results letter this week and see 2:1, I will be over the moon.

14 Month Update!

I say this every. single. month but HOW ARE WE AT 14 MONTHS?

My baby is a bona fide toddler, now that we have first steps, shaky walking and standing unaided for as long as she can be bothered to. She’ll babble and chat to us like there’s no tomorrow and loves nothing more than ‘reading’ her books and giving us kisses on the cheek (complete with ‘mwah’ sounds!).

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She is now the proud owner of more teeth than I can count without getting bitten, including several molars. She was quite grumpy when the big teeth were popping through, but she’s got so many of them in one go that hopefully the grumpy stage won’t last too long (fingers crossed).

Eating… well, she still eats everything we put in front of her and whinges for more. She has discovered a new love for banana, which is her favourite thing at the moment, but anything will do. She had her first proper pudding this month; a bowl of apple crumble and ice cream, which she really enjoyed!

And yep, this child is now scarily mobile. She’s not very steady on her feet, but we’ve finally, after about a year of trying (or what feels like it), got first steps! She crawls at lightning speed and doesn’t like sitting still for long, so cuddles are somewhat thin on the ground.

We’ve started going swimming every Sunday, and her face is a picture! The second her toes touch the water in the pool, she pulls a little shocked face and says ‘Oooh’ repeatedly! She made a little friend in the pool last week, an 11-month old boy who waved back at her, and they spent some time babbling to each other from their respective floaty seats! It’s lovely to see her being so sociable.

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Family Day Out: Erddig Hall National Trust Property

Today we decided to get out of the house and do something! Our weekends are so precious now that I’m working through the week; so we really wanted to get out today and spend some time just the three of us.

Erddig Hall is a National Trust property and gardens in Wrexham, and it’s set in the middle of so much gorgeous countryside, with something like 13 miles of woodland walks all around it. There’s loads to do in the area including geocaching – we originally planned to find some geocaches today, as we used to do it before SB was born, but when we saw the sheer size of the place, we figured it’s best saved for another day.

We paid to go into the gardens, as we didn’t fancy walking around the house on such a gorgeous day, but it’s definitely something we plan to do on a weekend in the summer at some point, as it looks absolutely stunning!

We took a picnic and sat on the lawns in the beautiful garden, overlooking the huge house on one side, and the pond on the other side. Lots of other families had the same idea as us – there were lots of picnic rugs and deckchairs laid out, and lots of families making the most of the sunshine. We were joined for lunch by a family of ducks! SB wasn’t too sure what to make of them, but she chilled out after a while and was happy to watch them coming up and eating sandwich crusts!

We took a load of pictures and I’ve put them below. If you’re ever in the area, I really recommend it – it looks great for older kids too, there’s a Wolf’s Den adventure play area made out of trees and it just looks incredible, it’s like a woodland trail but there’s swings and branches to climb. For families with younger children, there’s so much wildlife around to see, and it’s lovely to just relax, enjoy a picnic and stroll through the beautiful grounds.

Erddig’s website is here.

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Could I do it all over again?

It was inevitable, really, that now SB is growing up and becoming much more toddler-y, leaving her days of babyhood behind, that thoughts would start to drift towards snuggly newborn cuddles, and sniffing a tiny baby head once more (don’t judge me, it’s an addiction). Yes, as I’ve mentioned previously in the blog, the topic of Baby #2 (that’s number two, not that we’re considering calling the baby Hashtag-Two – although I’ll keep the name idea in mind…) has most certainly cropped up and been discussed.

I’ll be honest, the thought of SB being a sibling makes me all melty inside, and I love the idea of having another baby. The thought of going through pregnancy again makes me feel a bit sick (not sure I could manage the first sixteen weeks of morning sickness, having only just started a brand new job), and as much as I loved giving birth, the newborn days were such a struggle, and SB is still so teeny tiny, that the thought of trying to cope with her and a newborn puts a little bit of fear into me.

When I see her kissing us, or stroking our faces, or touching the animals in her Touch And Feel book and saying ‘Aahh’, I do think what an excellent big sister she’ll make. Then I remember that in five minutes time she’ll be crawling over us, grabbing our arms to get our attention and occasionally biting, and I realise that for us, now is not the time.

That’s not to say I want to wait forever. I may be nervous of those newborn days, but I want them so badly. I want to see SB as a big sister, I want to give her a sibling that she can grow up with and I want our family to grow. I love my job, and all my energy is devoted to that at the moment, but I can’t wait to be able to start thinking about it. I’d always said that, as SB wasn’t planned, we’d hold off on any more for five years or so, but that was for fear of what people would say.

I know what people will say. I’m twenty, what on Earth am I doing planning Baby #2 (I’m really starting to like the sound of that name, Hashtag-Two has a ring to it…), I could be doing blah de blah de blah… but having a family is a massive part of my life plan. I don’t want to be waiting until I’m thirty to try for another. It works for some people, but I can’t imagine it for us. People will judge – they always do – and people will think we’re stupid, but people thought I was stupid for having SB at 19 and while still at uni.

I’m not going to waste any more time trying to excuse my feelings, and I won’t entertain people who think I’m a child ‘playing’ at being an adult. I wouldn’t dream of telling you what to do with your life; when you should try for kids and when you shouldn’t – so please, if you read this and feel inclined to tell me that I’d be making a mistake, stop for a moment and consider whether you’re really thinking about my situation, or whether you’re applying it to your own. You can judge, and I’m sure many of you will, but unless you can look at our daughter and tell me that she isn’t happy, healthy, intelligent and well-cared for, you can’t convincingly tell me that we can’t be trusted to make our own decisions with regards to our families.

I wonder if this is an issue most young parents face? When it comes to planning #2, people forget that you’ve grown and matured, and you’re still the ‘child’ you were (even if you were 18, 19, even 20 years old) when you first fell pregnant unexpectedly. Can we ever plan a subsequent pregnancy at a time that suits us, without being told we’re irresponsible, or rushing into things? The sort of age gap we’re looking at with SB would be absolutely, perfectly acceptable in any family – so why do I still feel so nervous about what the next year or so holds?

Still, this blog has always and will always promise to be honest and blunt, so that’s what it will be. I won’t mess around with ‘ooh, maybes’ and ‘potentially’s. That’s not how I’ve ever been, and I don’t intend to change now. All being well, we’ll start trying in January 2016. It’s exciting, scary, nervous – every feeling imaginable, all rolled into one. Sometimes I catch myself wondering what I’m so scared about – I’ve had a baby before, it’s all been there, done that. The difference is, we’ve never tried for a baby before. We’ve never been part of that confusing, scary world that is ‘TTC’ – full of uncertainty and bulk-buying boxes of cheap pregnancy tests on eBay because people go through too many a month to justify ClearBlue tests.

It’s terrifying, but it’s exciting too. If it wasn’t exciting, we wouldn’t contemplate it. We’ll assess when the time comes, whether SB is ready (and, of course, whether we’ll be ready). I’m not going into this totally blinkered – it could take months. We do understand just how lucky we were to fall pregnant accidentally, especially as I had no idea (and still don’t, really) what my cycle was like. It could take us a very long time this time, and we’re aware of that.

Still, I can’t help but get a teeny, tiny bit excited at the idea that in a year’s time, I could be posting pregnancy updates again.

Bonus picture for the week – did I ever mention that my nickname at uni was ‘Statistic’? Well, my course hoodie arrived, and look what’s on the back…

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13 Month Update!

This is something of a belated update, as work is taking most of my time and all of my focus at the moment, but here we are, at thirteen months!

I know I say this every month, but I still can’t believe how big she’s getting. Every day she’s more like a toddler, more like a child, and less like a baby. Her latest trick, mastered in the last couple of days, is standing unaided. First steps are sure to follow!

Word-wise, we have Dada, Mama, Nana (unsure whether this is ‘nan’ or ‘banana’ just yet), ‘yeah’, ‘hiya’ and (oddly), ‘purple’. She’s a little chatterbox and loves nothing more than chatting away to you (or to herself!) at random moments.

She’s hating her car seat at the moment, which makes for interesting journeys, but we can’t move her into her big seat until she’s 15 months old, which will be in July. She hasn’t so much outgrown the seat as become bored of it, as her latest trick is sitting herself up and trying to press the seatbelt off – not a great habit to be developing! Rear facing is safer, I know, but I’m looking forward to her being forward facing, as I think that’s half the issue we’re facing with her at the moment.

Food wise… there’s not a thing this girl doesn’t eat. Whatever you put in front of her, she’ll demolish, and yet she’s still such a little thing! Formula is well and truly gone; she still has a bottle of warm cow’s milk at night, but she seems to be phasing this out too. Her favourite meals are sausage and mash, pasta and cheese and the old favourite, beans on toast (although she’s a fiend for scrambled egg too!).

Apart from that… well, there’s not an awful lot else to report! We’re happy, keeping busy and I’m slowly adjusting to life as a working mum, rather than a student mum! I keep meaning to blog more frequently, but I think it’ll become easier once I’m settled in. Maybe scheduling posts is the way to go? Who knows!

For now, I’ll leave you with some of the most recent SB pictures.

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Baby’s Virtual Cousins – online birth groups!

Before I got pregnant, if you’d told me there were communities of women who found out they were pregnant at the same time and formed a group and a friendship on the basis of this, I’d have given you a look like this –

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I mean – it’s stupid, right? How can you forge a friendship with women you don’t know, who could be anywhere across the UK or even the world, and you have nothing in common with them other than the fact that you procreated successfully at a similar time? It just doesn’t happen.

Well, then I found out I was pregnant. And shy, scared, little old me poked my head into the ‘Due in May’ group on Mumsnet (Netmums was too glittery and cuddly for my liking, and don’t get me started on Babycentre), and I asked for a little bit of advice.

Almost two years later, I am Facebook friends with most of the women who responded to my terrified posts in the early days. I have met many of them. Our babies have shared an afternoon of playing together, with plans for more playdates in the future. We’ve exchanged Christmas presents, birthday cards for babies, and more advice, laughs and tears than I care to recall.

I can’t describe the comfort I take from knowing that when I’m struggling with anything – whether it’s relationship, work, university, motivation or just plain poo talk – there’s a community of friends who will listen without judging. If I’m excited about something, they’re the first to hear about it after my family. I have no doubt that when D and I try for a second baby, they’ll be the first to hear about it – and when we (fingers crossed!) get that positive test, I’ll be telling them weeks before we announce it to the world!

All through pregnancy, we shared everything. Morning sickness, tiredness, glowing, NOT glowing, cravings, worries, sad times and happy times, scans and stresses and family problems and worries for the future. Some shared with us the moment their waters broke. I kept everyone updated with a minute-by-minute (at times) account of my induction and eventual labour. They were the first people other than myself, D and my mum to see a picture of SB, shared with them in the wee hours of the morning after her birth.

They support me, and I try my hardest to support them. I can’t stress enough how important they’ve been – after SB and D, they’ve been my greatest inspiration, my biggest motivation to finish university. After my mum, they’re my parenting role models – I aspire to be as good a mum to SB as they are to their lovely children.

More than anything, I love that no matter what happens in the future, whether we stay in touch or not, SB will always have fifty virtual cousins, scattered across the UK and the world, and they’ll always have that connection. We have shared in the first years of their lives, and they have shared in ours, and even on a computer screen, that’s a bond that’s pretty difficult to break.

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Everything’s changing…

Apologies for the quiet spell – everything around me has suddenly changed, and when I come home in the evenings, as soon as SB is asleep, I’m crashed out on the sofa. Now that it’s the weekend, I can post a quick update!

With the exception of the one essay I’ll be handing in on Monday (if I can get the damn thing finished), university is done! That’s it, I’m officially no longer a student mother. It’s the end of an era, but it hasn’t really sank in yet. I still think of myself as a student, I think – so now that’s gone, I’m left wondering who I am. I’m ‘just’ a mum, right? Or still a young mum, technically, but that student part of my life is officially finished with.

And I now work! I have a job, and I’m really enjoying it. It’s not what I did my degree in, but it’s a job with the potential to become a career, and I get to talk, which is really what I do best (getting me to shut up is the hard part). It’s a lovely place to work, it’s a supportive, friendly environment, and I’ve only just started my training yet I already feel part of it. It’s exciting, but the long hours mean I’ve had little time to blog in the evenings!

We’re all having to adjust. SB will be finishing nursery for the summer soon, and then D is taking on my role from last year, and will be taking care of her while I work. I know a lot of people are taking the summer off, with maybe a part time job to bring in a little extra cash, but for me, it was easier to just get right back into it. I finished university last Saturday, and started work on Monday – I didn’t want to get used to doing nothing, only to suddenly throw myself into work and it be a shock to the system. The job came up at such a great time, and now we’re in a really good position.

I do want to turn this blog into more of a guide on surviving as a student parent (especially now that we’ve done it and all), so that will be coming soon, along with more of my series of posts on what it’s like to find out that you’re pregnant at 19. These will be few and far between, because after seven and a half hours of typing all day, the last thing I want to do is come home and be glued to my laptop, but I do enjoy writing them, so hopefully we’ll have posts coming fairly regularly.

Thanks for sticking with the blog, this journey has been such a long one, and I can’t wait to look back at where I was eighteen months ago, with the uncertainty and questioning whether I’d finish second year, let alone graduate, and now thinking to where I am today. It’s been absolutely crazy, too stressful for words, but rewarding beyond belief – and now here I am, straight into the world of work.

If there’s one thing you cannot say, it’s that young mums lack work ethic.