White Tops and Other Tales

Right. If you are a new parent, or a parent who is in the trenches of sleepless nights and evil tantrum HELL, I have to tell you: IT’S GOING TO BE OK.

I’m telling you this, because after three and a half years of being a Mum and having NO SLEEP and having kids in my bed, and being screamed at all day, every day… there seems to be a lull.

Not to make you jealous, but yesterday, at 2pm, I watched a recording of Celebrity Masterchef, while my kids amused themselves, playing together. Without Screaming.

This has never happened. There has never been a day where I am not like a wet dishcloth by the end of it. There has never been an outfit that is not covered in children’s bodily fluids. There has NEVER been a day when I have gone for my second shower of the day, because I don’t want to get into bed smelling faintly like poo.

Yesterday, was different. They played, I cooked. They watched some telly, I worked. They played chasing, I cleaned the kitchen. Without. Interruption. Then, last night, when they were asleep *BY SEVEN*, I watched three episodes of tv with my fella. I usually fall asleep twenty minutes into the first one.

Last night, it was 2.30am before the first pitter patter of tiny feet made it into our bedroom. This usually happens at 10pm.

Photo on 2014-07-04 at 16.27

Clean Top, Babies

The biggest thing, THE GREATEST THING, is that today I dared to wear a white top. If you parent young kids, you know how perilous this can be. It is 4.24pm and my top remains white. I could even go to the shops and not be morto by the stains on it. Because there ARE NONE.

Maybe a change is coming. Maybe, JUST MAYBE this is what all those well-meaning strangers meant, when they used to come up to me in the supermarket, as I was carting two babies around – all three of us bawling – and patted me on the shoulder, saying “it will get easier. You won’t know yourself in a few years.”

Back then, I wanted to punch them in their smug fuckery faces. But today, I think – no, I HOPE – that they were actually right.

So, it’s half four. If you are sitting on the couch, reading this on your phone while balancing a wailing child and arguing with another one(es) about whether they can have another chocolate biscuit, I’m saying: IT’S GOING TO BE OK.

I may be a smug fucker, but I think it might be true.

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The Tyrant

“Mammy? MAM? MAAAAAAAAM?”

“Yes my darling?”

“Mikey is an asshole”

In Matthew’s defense, the ‘asshole’ in question had been screaming in a bloodcurdling fashion for over an hour, and both Matthew and I had spent a good deal of that time dodging a brutal assault of die-cast Thomas The Tank Engine figurines being thrown at our heads. He was quite right. Mikey WAS being an asshole.

I don’t remember the terrible twos very well with Matthew, mainly because Mikey was so tiny we probably didn’t allow him to shout and strop and throw things. Or, I was in such a desperate baby haze that I simply didn’t care, and the cacophony of a tantrum-filled two year old merely added to the non-stop crying of my infant son. Whatever, I am distressed to the MAX by the furious tyrant who is staging a coup in my home at the moment.

It all stems from the fact that Mikey absolutely refuses to talk. He communicates extremely well, imploring people with his amazingly expressive eyes to do his bidding. When that fails, he employs the good old ‘grab the hand and point’ situation, which does very well for him. We have tried flashcards, denying treats, playing word games, reward charts – you name it, we’ve tried it. He understands everything perfectly, and uses one word for all – NO.

When he doesn’t get his way, he throws things and screams. The thing is, the word ‘scream’ doesn’t quite capture the sheer horror of what is unleashed during a crying, snotty tantrum. It’s like he’s being tortured. Yesterday morning, at 8.05am, he chased me through the house screaming, SCREAMING, because I wouldn’t give him a biscuit. To stop myself losing my temper, I went out to the back garden, locking our glass doors behind me. It sounded like he was being boiled in oil.

Oh dear God. Sometimes I shout back, but it never works. I have employed the ‘hug it out’ scenario, but the brute force of his fury doesn’t really allow for that. I have gotten down on my knees and talked to him in a soft, but firm tone – all Supernanny-esque, but nada.

The thing is, when he is not screaming, my youngest is the MOST LOVEABLE and charming and delicious child of all time. He literally makes old people go all melty in the supermarket (even when he is tearing down a stand of toilet paper). He is so gorgeous that he makes my heart stop at least ten times a day, even though he makes me tear my hair out the rest of the time.

And at the end of every day, even though I am like a dirty dishcloth with tiredness, he rubs my face while he’s going asleep, looking into my eyes with such unconditional love that I burst open inside, and I am healed. Until tomorrow…

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Hello. HEYLO. Testing, Testing. Are you there? I wouldn’t think so. I haven’t written an iota in over a year, so there is something quite cosy about flying words out into the ether.

Why have I not written? Why did I disappear?

I’ll tell you. Having two small kids is feckin hard work. And pretending to be pseudo good-natured about it while you feel as though your life has  been sucked out of your vagina was starting to wear thin on me. You see, for every witty comment I could summon, there were seventy BILLION bitchy, moany, sweary thoughts whirling around my brain. Most of which were:

I DON’T WANT TO BE HERE!!!

I F-ING HATE BEING A STAY AT HOME MOTHER!!!

I HAVE LOST MY SENSE OF IDENTITY THROUGH MY VAGINA!!!

Mostly I thought:

DOES HATING ALL OF THIS MAKE ME A BAD MOTHER???!!!!

And so, as life got in the way of me peetering my thoughts onto a laptop screen, so too did the gang warfare of my two boys, who have mastered the art of pulling out the computer cable JUST before I hit save, and throwing full cups of sticky apple juice at the screen as I try to send a work email. Blogging, to be honest, became too much like hard work.

The year past has been a tough one. Decisions were made, words were exchanged, children were disciplined. Over the last few months, the children have been finally kicked out of our bed, and we are, for the most part, a NON CO-SLEEPING HOUSEHOLD. For someone who slept with both her boys, and most frequently, not her man for the whole of the kids lives, this has proved to be a positive move.

The kids are two and three now. TWO AND THREE. I look old when I look in the mirror. But lately, less stressed. I am still winging this motherhood lark. I roasted the whole family at the beach yesterday because I was too busy lecturing everyone about the benefits of vitamin d instead of putting on sun lotion. I forgot to give my kids lunch today because I was tweeting… so I gave them crackers and cake. Right now, this minute, my kids are playing with a little boy from next door who I don’t like at all, but I invited into my garden so that he would occupy my kids and I could write this. He could be bullying them, but the back door is shut and I can’t hear any screams through it…

So, I am coming back. I cannot promise to be funny. I cannot promise to engage you. I cannot promise anything really, except that I am not going to lie anymore. I will tell the truth of my story, in as much as I can.

(Without the super personal bits, because I don’t want to mortify my fella or the boys all over the interwebs.)

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Let’s talk about boobs, baby

So, I belong to a group called Irish Parenting Bloggers, and in between minding each other, and constantly reassuring each other that we are NOT bad parents, we get together for causes we feel passionate about. This week, we are blogmarching to share our stories of breastfeeding. The line up is as follows, and I will add links as the posts are published:

August 1st: Wholesome Ireland and The Happy Womb
August 2nd: Office Mum and Awfully Chipper
August 3rd: Wonderful Wagon and It Begins With a Verse
August 4th: Glitter Mama Wishes and Ouch My Fanny Hurts
August 5th: Bumbles Of Rice, Debalicious and Mind the Baby
August 6th: My Internal WorldMusings & Chatterings and Mama Courage
August 7th: The Nest, Mama.ie, The Clothesline, My Life As A Mum and Learner Mama

So, let’s talk about boobs, shall we? I am a breastfeeder, and a breastfeeding failure. I didn’t join any breastfeeding groups because I am scared of crowds and was afraid that they would all hate me because I wasn’t Boob Enough. I also committed the ultimate breastfeeding fail, by giving my kids one bottle of formula every night. Strike Me Down!

I breastfed Matthew for six months, and after an excruciatingly difficult start, we found our groove and I bloody loved feeding him. The only thing was, I was afraid to feed him in public. I stayed indoors for most of that six months. Any time I had to go out was carefully timed around his feeds, and I would literally FREAK OUT if I thought that I would have to find myself feeding him somewhere other than my house.

So, because of my self-imposed isolation, I found these months pretty lonely. I loved feeding Matthew. I loved the bonding feeling that burst through the room when he was latched on, I loved looking into his eyes, I loved the contented “mmmmm” as he glugged away. But, there was only so much Masterchef Australia to keep me company, and I was going back to work, and it was time to wean. So I did.

When I got pregnant again there was no question that I would breastfeed. I planned to feed my second child for a longer period, and was all gung ho about getting me baps out for all the lads to see – I didn’t care. I felt, and KNOW that feeding Matthew gave him strength and health, and I was determined to give the same to my second son.

Fast-forward ten months. I am standing in the car park of Crumlin hospital heaving sobs of total failure. We all know that crying, right? The ugly ugly, bottomless pit crying. The “I am killing my kid” crying. Michael had been pretty sick at birth, and after an extremely rocky month, he was home and thriving. Because he couldn’t feed at birth, I worked really hard to pump so that there would be enough breastmilk for him when he could. When he was a week old, the nurses started feeding him my breastmilk through a nasal gastric tube. And he got better. And it was a miracle.

When your child has been in hospital since birth a strange thing happens. You don’t claim ownership of them until they are released. In a way, you defer to the seniority and learned wisdom of the medical staff. Before Michael came home, we worked really hard and established breastfeeding. To say I was ecstatic was an understatement – it meant more than the world to me. To be able to feed your child is a privilege and something I wasn’t sure I was going to get to experience, so to be able to take my son home, and feed him in the same way that his brother had been fed was the perfect kind of normal.

And then, the public health nurse thing happened. I say happened, because it was a cataclysmic event. I was more vulnerable than I had ever been. My child was home, but I was still scared he was going to die any second, and suddenly a PHN arrived to my door. I didn’t know her – she was covering holidays for our regular nurse. Immediately she got down to business, stripping the baby and organising him to be weighed. He had lost two ounces. OH FUCK. It was suggested to me that I should top him up with formula. I didn’t want to. I wanted the sweet pleasure of feeding my child, which I explained to her. It was then intimated that I would be “reported to Crumlin” if I didn’t go along with her suggestion. Long story short, the drama this caused was major. I ended up having to exclusively pump every feed to make sure that Michael was getting enough. I had to report every ounce of milk I produced to the PHN. I was scared. It is so stupid, but I was scared they would take him away from me.

There I was. I had a newborn and a 16 month old. I was pumping every two hours for half an hour and then shoving the bottle into Michael while his poor big brother peacocked for my attention. I lasted six weeks. Those six weeks took more out of me than the whole six months of feeding his older brother. When I finished feeding him, and surrendered to the idea that formula feeding was actually better for us at this stage, because my supply had dwindled so much and I had used up all my frozen supplies, I had a check-up with Michael’s neonatal consultant. And was read the riot act about not feeding him. As though I hadn’t tried. As though I didn’t feel doubled over in grief because I couldn’t. As though I didn’t have another child to think of. And so, I found myself in that carpark, heaving out my failures as a parent. Beating myself with a breast-shaped stick because I was a shite Mum, and I couldn’t do the one thing that he needed most.

This experience has taught me so much about breastfeeding in Ireland and more importantly, about myself. Our attitudes are so extreme and so antiquated that it makes it impossible for anyone to deviate from the norm and feel ok about it. I learned that while I was feeding my first child even though I was in a self-imposed prison, it was a SMUG prison, because I felt quite superior about the fact that I was breastfeeding him. And I was quite the martyr. Oh I LOVED nothing more than screaming at my fella about how LONG AND HARD my day was, because I was stuck to the chair feeding all day. Choosing to stop breastfeeding Michael was as much about me as it was about him. I see that now. It was letting go of my preconceptions to live in the present, and to respond to what my child NEEDED, not what I wanted him to need.
This week has been so enlightening for me. How we feed our babies is such a sensitive issue that sometimes we are afraid to talk about our reasons behind the choices that we make. I hope that sometime soon we will learn to respect that mothers choose what they believe is right for their kids. And that instead of quietly judging, or feeling a tiny bit smug (“My baby will be brainier because he is on the boob.” “Well. Mine slept for twelve hours last night because he is on formula”) we can start to support each other in our choices, and become better Mums as a result.

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On Motherhood

I have said it before, and I’ll say it again. And again. Motherhood has given me a wildly different perspective when it comes to my life. But in particular, when it comes to my own mother.

When you become a mother, the only person you want to be around is your own mother. This primal instinct to learn how to nurture your own, from the one who nurtured you has been the thing that resonates the strongest with me on my parenting journey so far.

It is a strange tightrope to walk, that of an independent, confident Mum with that little girl inside, and one I constantly struggle with. Like a flower looking for sun, I look to my Mum for approval at every juncture. “Do you think he is sick?” “Would you cut his hair differently?” “What would YOU do, if you were me?”

And there she is, walking her own tightrope. Trying not to overstep, allowing me to make my own mistakes, even though she KNOWS how it will end, because after all, she is my mother. Supporting me, cheering me on, encouraging me.

We were talking yesterday about a tribe in Africa, where the women of the tribe raise all of the children equally. When a child becomes seven, he or she will be introduced to their birth mother. My Mum suggested that it was a way of ensuring that all children had an equal opportunity to grow up safe, and loved.

The mother in me agreed, but the little girl was shouting “NO NO NO! I don’t want to share her!!!” I grew up safe, and loved. My mother is a ferocious lioness when it comes to her tribe. I see it with my boys now; the strong matriarchal line that is the backbone of my family is protecting them, loving them.

Mists clear when you become a mother. The world is suddenly starker, and filled with light. It is in this clearing, when all the silliness of day to day life has melted away, that true love really shines. Motherhood has shown me this love, and in turn, the love that was shown to me.

Every morning we chat on the phone, my mother and I. It’s a nothing chat, a catch-up of the day before, a filling in of what is going on in our lives. It usually ends in a flurry, because the boys need something, but those few precious minutes are essential to my day. They set me up, and give me strength for a day to come. They fill me with love, and make me feel safe.

Love you Mum x

 

 

 

 

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On Happiness…

It’s my birthday today, and I am really really REALLY happy.

I am happy because:

This is my first birthday in two years that have not been ‘ah god, poor Ciara really needs a good day after the last few months’. It is BLISSFULLY uneventful. The boys are wrecking my head, pouring flour onto the flour, and pushing each other’s faces into it. We just got back from Lidl, where I intended on buying lots of sensible ‘dinner’ things, but instead bought two bags full of SHIT. I bought Magdalenas, because they remind me of a summer in Barcelona. I bought roasted almonds because I LOVE them, but never buy them, because they are too expensive. I bought chocolate biscuits GALORE. And have hidden most of them away, in case I get a giant attack of the munchies later.

Also, the mini heatwave has made me quite brown, which in turn, make my man arms look a little skinnier, and thus, I am able to wear a sleeveless dress without fear of a wibbly-eyed look from someone later on.

Another reason I am happy is because this weekend I slept quite a lot. Given that my bedmate (1 year old Mikey) is a fan of NOT SLEEPING, EVER, this has given me a giant boost of non vitamin B-related energy.

Mostly, I am happy because one week ago I got to go AWAY ON A HOLIDAY. To London. To visit my sister, who I ADORE. For three days, I lived the life of a twenty something year old. I drank Pimms. I saw a jazz band. I went to the Lady Ponds of Hampstead Heath. I saw one of my best friends ever for Sunday drinks in a pub that was teeming with sun-kissed people who had not a child between them. It took me a week to stop feeling like a toxic wasteland, but the inner boost it gave me will go on for at least six months. I felt ALIVE. In a way completely different to the way that I do around my kids. In a way that I forgot I could feel. And that was the best birthday present ever, really.

So, today I am HAPPY. And I am excited for the next year. I hope, now that the boys are slowly coming out of the hardcore baby stage where they want to crawl all over me, and pull my hair and expose my boobs in the supermarket (a new, and most disturbing turn of events), that I will be able to write more. Because I have really really missed it.

So, chin chin to me. I am raising my imaginary glass of Pimms to myself. And the fact that no matter what happens, I will never be famous enough to be chased by paparazzi like what looks to be my birthday twin, the new royal baby.

(KATE MIDDLETON, THE MUMS OF THE WORLD ARE SENDING YOU HUGS AND KISSES AND WILLING THOSE VILE PRESS PEOPLE TO STOP THINKING ABOUT YOUR VAJAYJAY).

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The Takedown

Some days around here, I feel as though I am at the mercy of terrorists. Tiny, very very cute terrorists, but terrorists all the same.

Ever since the boys realised that they could use their combined power for evil, my house has been turned upside down.

Yesterday, they plundered the fridge while my back was turned. The only indication that anything was awry was the deathly silence that I have learned means serious trouble (last week it meant that my last fancy makeup palette was being smeared all over my last fancy bed linen). I crept into the sitting room to find my walls, windows and rug ‘painted’ with vanilla yoghurt. Delicious. And really fucking hard to clean off.

The older one has learned to scale our kitchen counters, meaning that nothing is safe, and loves nothing more than sharing his spoils with his younger brother. So far, that means: olive oil, sugar, salt and pepper (my boys are nothing if not seasoned) all mashed into the floor.

Bedtime has become a takedown of epic proportions. My previous happy-to-go-to-sleep two year old has decided that the land of nod is not for him, and is staging scream-offs that render him almost voice-less by the time he eventually drops off. What was previously a quiet, happy time with his Dad has turned into a tag team of parental shout downs – whoever manages to get him to lie down is the winner.

Meanwhile, last night, the one year old decided to wake up at 9pm, and try to walk. On my bed. So, for the ensuing two and a half hours I lay beside him as he threw himself up, and down, and on his head, until eventually he fell asleep, arse in the air, snoring like a wilderbeast.

Right now I have separated the pack. The smaller one is at my feet, biting my ankles like a baby lion, while the bigger one has been bribed with my iPad and an app that I am going to regret downloading in… oh, 2.3 seconds…

And, breathe.

 

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To Michael, on his first birthday

Dearest, most gorgeous Michael,

You are one!

I have been thinking so much about what you have brought to my life over the last twelve months, and above all, you have taught me how to be grateful.

Your miraculous, brave and warrior-like spirit reminds me every day that we must live in the moment, and always appreciate the smallest victories.

Because you, my darling, are victorious. In every single way.

You are also, heart-stoppingly good looking. And charming. Right now, you have a particular gift with the older women. Everywhere we go, you flash those baby blues at old ladies and they practically fall on top of you so they can squidge your cheeks. You lap it up.

You and your brother have a bond that is ever evolving. This week, you are challenging Matthew at every turn. No longer a (literal) pushover, whenever he tries to shove you out of the way you have been shoving back. Quietly.

This is the biggest difference between you and your brother.

Whereas Matthew heralds his arrival with the tappety-tap-tap of dancing feet and high pitched squeals, you are stealthy. And fast. Even though you refuse to master the front crawl, you manage to shuffle, on your bum, distances that amaze me. Last night, I took my eye off you for a second and you had made it to the stairs to investigate the epic thuds (Matthew and Daddy playing hide and seek) going on above you. It is the stealth of a navy seal.

You are a Mammy’s boy. And even though I hope you’ll stay that way, I know you won’t. I know, that a year from now, your Daddy will be the apple of your eye, and like your brother, you will be emulating absolutely everything that he does, and following him from room to room like a little duckling.

So, self-indulgently,  I am allowing myself to enjoy this time. When I am the centre of your world, and when you go to sleep with your little hot hand wrapped around mine, and your breath on my chest. I treasure it, as I treasure every moment I have with you.

My gift to you on this, your first of birthdays is release.

Michael, your past is your past. You have moved mountains to show the world how strong and vibrant you are, so I am releasing you from the bonds of mother who has stared at you with fear every time you sneezed over the last twelve months. And I accept, and embrace your health and wellbeing.

I love you so much. I am changed, so much for the better, since you chose me to be your mother, and I am so grateful. Thank you. xxx

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I will never moan again

Today, at the supermarket a beautiful elderly lady came up to me, put her arm around me and said, “There’s a lucky mother, able to look after her children every day.”

Two weeks ago, I would have smiled, and told her to piss off in my head, but in light of last night’s Primetime programme, and the hundreds of parents who today had to go to work with their hearts in their hands, I know how lucky I am.

Solidarity, baby. It’s time to raise the shackles and come together as parents to decide what’s right for our kids, and make sure that they are looked after by people who have training, integrity and most of all, an abundance of hugs and kisses.

So, today, I am sending my virtual hugs and kisses to friends near and far who had to make that hard trek to the child minder this morning, because they HAD to. Unlike me.

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Getting a Life

The fella and I need to get a life. One between us would be grand, we’re not greedy.
Why do we need to get a life? Well, we’ve found ourselves in something of a rut…

Exhibit A)
This morning, we laughed our asses off at an episode of Ben and Holly. Because GENUINELY THOUGHT IT WAS HILARIOUS.

Exhibit B)
Last night, we had a full and fluid discussion about the amazing download speed of our internet connection.

Exhibit C)
This weekend, we are going to the cinema. In the afternoon. Because we go to sleep at 8pm. Every night.

I can blame the tiny people, and it would be truthful enough to say that they have stolen our lives. It would also be truthful to say that we don’t actually MIND. We are in this rut, but we kind of like it.

So, I am breaking out the big guns. I have organised a night out IN TOWN. I will wear glittery eye liner. I will drink many vodka and tonics. I may or may not visit Ricks of Dame Street at 1am for a burger. I will have deep and meaningfuls with complete strangers in the jacks of pubs so obscenely cool that they don’t even have a NAME. I will sway in front of a busker on Grafton Street, nodding my head exactly two beats out of time with the tune. I will suggest going to Ukiyo for Karaoke at 3am, but secretly sly into a taxi before we get there. I will tell the taxi driver my whole life story, and then, just before I slink out of the door, accuse him of ripping me off by taking me home the long way.

Look out Dublin, I’m coming to get you. Soon. Ish.

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