Wednesday 28 March 2012

The end of an Era

The passage of time in my kids’ growth was marked by two things this March. Earlier in the month Screecher Creature No. 4, the baby, who is only 11 months old, I feared, was starting to self-wean.  I meant feared, in the physical sense, for me.  I spent one day in a state of discomfort.  He was also teething so maybe that had something to do with the nursing strike.  He sometimes wakes at about 3am for a quick feed.  This is fine.  Of late, he hasn’t shown any interest in a morning feed when he wakes for the day preferring instead to have a huge bowl of Ready Brek.  It has been quite a number of months now since I fed him in public.  There is simply too much going on for him to risk missing anything for a breastfeed.  I feel like a big fake at my weekly breastfeeding group as I am the only “breastfeeding” mother there whose child does not want to breastfeed!  For a couple of nights he had been quite fussy.  Waking and grizzling over nothing in particular.  He hadn’t bothered nursing worth talking about that day.  His older brothers were all day time weaned by 13 months old but continued to night and morning feed for a further five months.  Being pregnant each time pushed the weaning process on a little bit as my supply had all but dried up. But because it was a gradual process with the others, I never had any discomfort.  That was not the case on that Friday.  I tried several times to feed him, bordering on forcing once or twice but he wasn’t having any.  In the literal sense.  I used to think I would be devastated at the end of this era.  The closing of a chapter in babyhood for him and maybe even motherhood for me as my small baby makes ever increasing advances towards toddlerhood.  But I am surprised to discover that I feel a little bit excited about it.   I am looking forward to the next stages in his life; crawling, cruising, walking and I am of the belief that weaning is an extension of that.    Breastfeeding is not just about food, there is a huge element of nurturing involved too.  I had thought, that because he is most likely our last baby, I would hang on a little longer with feeding him.  I did encourage the others to wean but had they put up any amount of resistance, I would have stopped immediately and allowed them to decide when they wanted to stop.  It never occurred to me that one of them would pip me to the post.  Sometimes it’s the child that wants to let go.  And on the same day, our eldest wanted to know why people called him by the shortened version of his name.  It is a nickname I have called him since birth and others have been following suit of late.  He said he didn’t like it and when I pressed him it appears he would prefer if his full and given title was used.  Even with me.   I was about to tell him that I have never used my full and proper name, neither has one of his aunties.  But I stopped.  He has a right to be called Conor and not Con if he wishes.  It’s going to be hard though.  How do I stop the habit of a lifetime?  A lifetime that has lasted 6 years.       
Post Script.  The nursing strike came to an end that same night but yes, it would seem that the weaning process is under way.  The feeds have definitely slowed down.  But I will continue for as long or as little as he likes.   The other boy has stopped his objection at being called Con, too.  Turns out that he just wanted to have more letters in his name!  And then two more things happened.  Our baby morphed from Screecher Creature No. 4 into the Creeper Crawler.  At 11 months and one week old, he took off.  Towards my lap top and anything else that caught his attention.  For me, once they are up and moving, they have entered toddlerhood, they are babies no more.  After that the world is their oyster and before you know it, they are being bundled into a uniform and brought to school.  Out into the big bad world.  Scary stuff.  For me!  Mister Husband knows someone whose wife keeps an empty cot in their bedroom.  I think it’s used for storage but she is not for moving it.   Their baby left that cot 7 years ago.  At the time I heard this I laughed.  And then, I got it.  Only a very small few baby items made it down through the ranks in our house.   One of these is a set of cot sheets.  One is a blue check and the other is a paler shade of grey.  It used to be white. Each of the Awesome Foursome slept on them.  Over the last 6 years snot, vomit, pee, poo and regurgitated breast milk have been washed out of them.  Last month during another clean out, these sheets were put into a bag along with old duvet covers and sheets to be used as dust sheets when we finally get around to painting.  I was upstairs last week and in a basin on the landing  was one of these sheets covered in dust and dried dirt where Mister Husband has used it on a clean-up operation.  I wanted to take it, wash it and put in in a memory box.  It really hit me.  My eyes filled up and I felt another chapter close in their lives.  God only knows the state I will be in when the newly Creeper Crawler eventually fully weans.

Monday 19 March 2012

Mother Love

It may be very true that I have four small boys and have been busting a gut trying to care for them all over the past 6 years, but I have to come clean about something; being a mother is still a slightly alien concept to me.  I’m still waiting for that light bulb moment, for the last piece of the jigsaw puzzle to fit into place, for it all makes sense, because most days I’m feeling my way in the dark.  Blundering along, hoping that today will be the day they will eat what I cook and praying I won’t say or do anything awful that might threaten their future happiness and wellbeing.  Sometimes I say over and over again to myself, “I am a mother.  I am a mother.  I am a mother!” my thinking being that if I say it often enough, it will ring true. Don’t get me wrong, obviously I know I that I am a mother.  Who could forget when they hear their name being called eleventeen hundred times a day?  I didn’t take Mister Husbands name when we got married.  I kept my own as a last vestige of the old me.  But my name did change.  It is now “mammy” and I didn’t have to go the deed poll route to do it as previously thought.  I just had a child.  Had several.  When there are three little people, and one waiting in the wings, chorusing your name from dawn till dusk, you will begin to think “mammy” was the name you were given at birth yourself.  So how do you know when you’re a mother?  Is it when you’re looking at that positive result on a freshly pee’d on pregnancy test?  Is it at the first scan?  How about when you feel that first kick?  In utero that is, and not from your toddler!  Is it when you finally get to hold your baby?  I don’t think there is any one single thing that “makes” a mother, it’s a package deal.    I open my mouth sometimes and my own mother’s voice comes out. I catch myself coming out with expressions she used when we were little.  I dish them out on a daily basis to confused and slightly bored stares from the Screecher Creatures.  The most popular slash over used ones are: Am I talking to myself?  I’ve only got one pair of hands and, because I said so, that’s why!  She also liked to tell us that we were getting chopped straws and buttermilk for our dinner.  As far as I know we never sampled such a delicacy.  Quite often there were wigs on the green in our house too. When I was growing up my mother was just that; my mother.  I am ashamed to admit that to me, my mother was never really a person in her own right.  And similarly I didn’t see her with any rights of her own.  She was just there to do our biding.  It was her job.  I’m sure every child sees their main caregiver like that.  It’s only since my own family came along that we have become friends.  There is a definite shift in the relationship when a mother’s daughter becomes a mother herself.  For me, I saw my mother in a different light.  A brighter one.  She seemed to have a halo.  I have a newfound respect for everything she did for me and indeed, continues to do.  In a way, she seems to do more for me now that she is my boys’ nana.  Because she has been there herself I suppose and knows the lie of the land.  Sometimes I find myself doing a compare and contrast between the two of us.  I definitely have a more haphazard approach to parenting and all it entails.  The only time I ever saw my mother sit down to read a newspaper was on a Sunday afternoon when dinner was over.  She used to manage 10 minutes before her head would fall forward onto her chest.  I could never fathom how on earth she was able to do that – fall asleep.  Sitting up. In a chair.  Now I know.  I do it myself all the time.  It’s still a running joke between all of us that she will have to be surgically removed from her sweeping brush.  I have another memory of her coming to my aid when I was in school.  I had fallen and banged my face off a door frame.  As a result, I had lips celebrities pay good money for these days.  The wrong kind of lips that is to say, those of the infamous trout pout variety.  There wasn’t a phone in our house back then and my mother doesn’t drive.  To this day I still have no idea how she was contacted and reached the school to take me home.  I was but a child then.  Some years later, it was two days before my legal birthday and she was at my side again following another accident.  I have no recollection of how I came to be knocked from my bike but I do recall being woken by an excruciating pain in my smashed knee. Hers was the hand that was holding mine and she was crying.  I know I made her cry many times before that but hopefully not too many since.  She clattered me once.  There is no doubt in my mind I deserved it.  I have another strong and abiding memory of both my parents kicking up blue murder when my younger sister was wrongly accused of shoplifting in front of her school friends.  My parents insisted that the till roll be found.  It was and the shop manager was frogmarched by my parents over to the school and asked to withdraw the accusation and apologise to my sister in front of her class.  My parents are brilliant.  They did and still do a hard job with, it seems to me, ease.  I hope that when the time comes for me to stick up for my boys in whatever situation they find themselves, I have the grace and ability to do it as well as my parents did.  It might seem a little twee but I liked this quote the moment I saw it; to be a mother is to know your heart will forever walk outside your body.  This pretty much sums it up for me.  Mother love, there is nothing like it.

Wednesday 7 March 2012

Bionic Boy

Last week Screecher Creature No. 2 had his 6 week check-up for grommets. He calls them his bionic ears.  Mister Husband and I call them Bloody Expensive.  I couldn’t write a political piece to save my life; I can barely hold a political conversation such is my ignorance.  Suffice to say they’re all a shower of bastards.  Yes, the ones we voted into power in our country.  It’s our own fault so we should just shut up and put up.  I don’t know what else to do so I will just keep on bitchin’ about them.  We, as a family of 6, can’t afford a lot of things anymore.  I’ve gotten used to own brands in the shopping trolley, crossing items off the shopping list “until next week” because we can do without marmalade, and generally trying to be thrifty.  There are one or two things that both Mister Husband and I hang on to with a death like grip, such as our weekly breakfast of a Saturday morning in J-1 Cafe.  That cup of coffee and a scone after I do the school run aka my breakfast.  I enjoy that too.  This treat in particular comes to an end when it’s school holidays.  But the one thing that scares me is, we don’t have health insurance any more.  It was either that or the mortgage.  So when December of last year rolled round, I knew time was closing in on us.  We had already been told that Screecher Creature No. 2 had a bad build-up of fluid in both ears.  His hearing was affected.  He couldn’t hear me talking to him when it was just the two of us in the same room with no other background noise at all.  He referred to his ears as his “good” and his “bad” ear when in actual fact, both of them were crap.  When he needed his annual trip to the doctor just before Christmas with the usual ear and throat flare up, I got my referral letter.  To go on a public waiting list would see us waiting for up to a year, or so I was told, so I made a few phone calls to see where we could get the best deal for a private procedure.  And one place didn’t even bother to call me back.  In these recessionary times, someone out there doesn’t need our money.  Or else he needs a new secretary.  One hospital charged €650 for a bed for the morning.  The other wanted €379 but the surgeon was a lot dearer here.  In the wind up we decided to go to Kilkenny where Screecher Creature No. 1 had his grommets inserted.  In the days when we had health insurance.  The procedure cost us €1443.00 for a mornings work.  The last of our savings wiped out so our boy could hear properly.  It goes without saying that I would find the money somewhere, anywhere should he need the operation again in the event that the blighters fall out.  They have a tendency to do that.  But thankfully they stayed put as we discovered last Thursday.  There is the small matter of a secretion of some sort covering the grommets but at the risk of our very volatile child self-combusting altogether with a suction device being placed in his ears, when the option to leave well enough alone was given to me by the consultant, I took it.  It’s not the best thing to happen with grommets but it doesn’t affect his hearing so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.  We have the 6 month check-up during summer holidays so I am hoping whatever bubble has glued itself to both drains, bursts in the meantime and doesn’t cause any more problems.   I am not feeling sorry for myself in the least. As far as I’m concerned, we have it better than some.   No-one in our house goes to bed hungry.  Nor are we cold and without proper clothing.  We are struggling as much as the next person is.  Perhaps less so.  Some weeks are slightly better than others.  Mister Husband may not agree with me when I say that something always comes along at the eleventh hour to get us out of a hole.  For a short while at least.  When I saw our skinny little fella lying on that bed last week, looking at me out of big blue eyes that were plain old scared and nervous, I thanked my lucky stars it was only a grommet consultation we were in for.  My heart goes out to all the parents whose children are terminally ill. Those parents who have to travel long distances to visit their children in hospitals and go home again, leaving their children behind.  You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.  I hope I will always have “another” choice.