Monday, 9 September 2013

Never Being Truly Free Again... And Why It's OK!

Every now and then, you come across something that particularly resonates with you.  I came across this sentence a few weeks ago:

“The very worst thing about being a parent is that you are never truly free again and the very best thing about being a parent is that you never have a better reason to be alive.”

This beautifully succinct sentence struck a particular chord with me because it very simply summarises the reason why I found it so hard becoming a Mummy and the reason why being a Mummy is the best thing that ever happened to me.

Famed all over the world (OK, in all previous work places) for using 1000 words when 10 will do, I thought I would elaborate a little further on both elements of this sentence.

The timing of this reflection is particularly relevant at the moment in my life as I have a couple of very good friends about to enter the very challenging but very wonderful world of motherhood and I have also been doing a lot of thinking about whether a second stomping of tiny feet could ever (in the far away future!) grace our lives.

As covered in many previous blog posts, becoming a Mummy has been, by a million miles, the toughest thing I have ever done in my life.  Looking back now with a bit more clarity (as I’m not totally and utterly loopy from severe sleep deprivation), I can see that the thing I found hardest about becoming a Mummy was all to do with me and very little to do with Dalton.  OK, so he wasn’t the easiest baby in the world.  He suffered (sorry, we suffered) from colic, he HATED being horizontal (which made it a little difficult to not have him permanently attached to me) and he neither napped or slept at night well for about the first year of his life. BUT, he was a healthy, happy baby boy who got ill no more than all babies get ill, cried no more than most babies do, sh1t all over me no more than most babies do, puked on me no more than most babies do and, well, he was just a normal, slightly larger than life (in body and in character) little person who did nothing to warrant the mess that I became when I first became a Mummy and really right up until a) he started sleeping better and b) I went back to work and was saved from becoming a total mental case - thank you work, I will never forget you for allowing me to feel in control of something again!

No, he did nothing wrong, what screwed up the status quo of life quite so dramatically when I became a Mummy was me.

I’m not going to beat myself up about it too much as a large part of why I struggled so much was the extreme sleep deprivation which, as all parents know, is truly like nothing you can imagine or could ever be prepared for, and it really does mess with your brain and any sense of rationality that you once had but, that aside, what I really struggled with was the complete and sudden loss of freedom, the loss of control, the loss of any order to my life and the very stark realisation that those things really were gone forever.  It might sound strange but I had to go through a period of almost grieving – saying goodbye to my old life and coming to terms with my new one – and learning to be happy about it now that my life had been turned completely upside down and would forever be that way.

I went from being a person who totally 'owned that sh1t' at work, I mean, literally, I would walk to my desk, as I still do, and there is almost always a queue of people who can't quite do their job without me, waiting for me to impart a small gem from the font of my knowledge, to being a person who owned no sh1t at all. Suddenly, as an apprentice full-time Mummy (but without the whole mentor thing), I often had my fingers and thumbs covered in sh1t, was on all fours picking up sh1t, was combing my hair trying to remove various food-related bits of sh1t, but own it, I most certainly did not. This came as somewhat of a shock to me. I was used to becoming very good at something within a few weeks of trying to master it (or just saying, "pah, f*ck this sh1t, this sh1t is stupid, crochet is for nonces", and sauntering off) but this was different. A) I wasn't getting any better at coping and B) I couldn't run away. Ever. Although there have been many times when I wanted to in the early days (and a few very rare moments that I still do even today - only temporarily I might add).

So, it's true, I’m not truly free anymore, and I never will be again (I can see this from my watching my own mother and how she can never really allow her life to truly be just her own again). I’m pretty much imprisoned in my home from 5pm onwards every day.  Spontaneous trips away and nights out are most definitely a thing of the past. Boozy nights out with friends are a once-monthly treat that I look forward to all month. Looking not entirely shabby all the time is something I just about remember (I've seen photos, it must be true). Everything is a very complex juggling act. And so on and so forth. BUT, here’s why I’m OK with all of that now.  It’s taken me a while but I really am.

Because it’s true.  You will never have a better reason to be alive.

As Dalton turns from a baby to a toddler to a little boy, sure, the challenges don’t go away, they just change (although you aren’t so sleep deprived so on the whole, it is SO much easier to cope with), but every single day that I spend with him, he does several things that totally and utterly blow me away and fill me with joy, pride, love and happiness - a kind that I had never even imagined existed before he came in to my world and rocked it.  Each new phase fascinates me.  I am in awe of what little people can do and what their brains are capable of.  I have managed to make (of course with Ron’s help) the most remarkable person I have ever met and I am prouder and prouder of him as each day passes.  Quite simply, I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with him and hope that time will slow down enough to not let it go too fast as it already is.

Until Dalton arrived, I was a reasonably content person (obviously grumpy on the exterior but that’s just my way of expressing my annoyance with the abundance of stupidity in the world) but I honestly felt like I was waiting for my life to start. I wasn't sure what I was waiting for but I felt like I was waiting. It's the only way to describe it. I felt incomplete somehow and sometimes a little lonely and sometimes, unimaginably now, even a little bored. From the moment Dalton arrived, loneliness (except for the early months when I was struggling with how I felt about struggling to be a Mummy) and boredom completely stopped, I felt complete (well, almost – I’ll get to that in a moment), I felt like what I had been waiting for had finally arrived. Life had arrived in a tornado, got totally started and was never going to be dull again. And for all the challenging aspects of being a Mummy that I still feel many days and the days when I am so exhausted I honestly don’t know what to do with myself to try to get through the day, I wouldn’t have it any other way and I am excited about everything the future holds for us as a family.

Things have improved so much in fact that I have finally stopped looking at pregnant ladies and fighting the urge to run up to them, throw both my arms around them and tell them how sorry I am for what they are about to go through. I now look at them and think, bless you, you have some amazing times to come, and sometimes, I even feel a little broody.

Conscious that I may have filled a couple of my pregnant friends with fear and dread recently, having met them at particularly challenging times in Mummy-Dalton land (teething - bastards is all I will say), I thought about what I would say to them if I had the chance to see them again before their life is turned upside down in a mostly awesome way and they get to experience the amazing thing that is meeting a mini you, and I would say this.

Being a mummy will occasionally lead you to places that are dark, depressing, sad, heartbreaking and a whole load of other not so great emotions. At times, you will probably feel the lowest you have ever felt. But every single one of those dark moments is completely eclipsed by the many, many awesome moments that you feel as a Mummy and, at times, many times, you will feel the highest you have ever felt. And there will be not so much in between. You will understand the true meaning of the word "overjoyed" and you will understand the true meaning of the phrase "this too shall pass" but overall, you will be in constant amazement of what you have created and you will undoubtedly get to a place, if you don't end up there fairly quickly, where you think, you know what, I did good.

So, I hear you ask, would I ever consider attempting to bring a second hurricane in to my world? Honestly, at the moment, the jury is still out.

I feel sad saying that as family always meant four people to me (just because that is what I grew up with) so it doesn't quite feel complete with just three. I had always expected I would have two bubbas (if I was lucky enough to be able to make them) and I didn't really want Dalton to grow up without any siblings BUT, and it's a very big but, I honestly don't know if I can put myself, me and Ron and now Dalton through it again. I have an amazing man in my life and an amazing boy in my life and I'm just terrified of doing anything that could compromise my relationship with either one of them. I believe I would cope better the second time, but, hell, sometimes I just think, is it really worth the risk? I mean The Baby God already gave me someone as close to perfect as I can imagine, isn't it pushing my luck to ask for a second? The biggest reason though, really, is that I absolutely don't think I could cope with two! Dalton takes every bit of energy I have both mentally and physically. There is no way I could fit someone else in to the equation and, right now, I'm not sure I would even want to. Sure, maybe when Dalton is older and at school the idea of having another one might not seem so hard but I'll be an even older and tireder Mummy then and Ron will be over 50 and we have to be realistic about what we can provide to a bubba energy-level wise and we also have to think about what we have (Ron and I). And how we might like to spend some time together as a couple before we shift off this mortal coil doing, you know, old people type stuff, just me and him.

I think the decision will be easy to make when the time is right (and that time definitely isn't now). We will either get to a point in a few years when Dalton is off to school and think, awww, do you remember those teeny clothes and all that cute gurgling (because I truly do believe you forget all the bad stuff) and decide we want to go through it all over again, or we will get to a point and think, phew, we made it, life is finally returning a teensy bit to normal, it was awesome, but please let's not do that again.

We will see. For now, I will remain focused on enjoying the one I have. He's more than kid enough for any woman or man to deal with anyway.

I leave you now, as always with a few recent pictures of my gorgeous ball of fluff, just in case seeing his scrumptious little face makes you feel warm and bubbly inside even just a little bit as much as it does me.

Here's to never being truly free again, and never having a better reason to be alive. *chink*

Dalton two steps ahead of me, as always


Monday, 20 May 2013

What Nostalgia Taught Me

A couple of weeks ago as I was about to make my journey from one end of Westfield shopping centre to the other as part of my regular journey in to the office, I stumbled across something that got me thinking. A large group of French students were gathered at the entrance to the shopping centre and rather than immediately grumble at the prospect of having to fight my way through a group of kids whilst running late for work again, I took a moment to watch them. They were joking and laughing with each other, as kids do, appearing decidedly excited to be just metres away from where the magic of the Olympics happened, albeit they were almost a year late, and amidst the flurry of 'Bonjour's and 'Haw Hee Haw's, I was immediately transported back to my own French exchange days and specifically, my school days.

I remember these days very fondly. In fact, I remember all of my childhood very fondly, particularly the secondary school years, and whilst those particular years were, in the whole course of life, comparatively fleeting - just 5 years long - my school years remain one of the happiest times of my life. I loved many things about being at school. I loved to learn new things. I loved the opportunity to participate in so many sporting activities. I loved the chance to visit lots of interesting places. I loved learning to play new instruments or learning to dance in new styles. I loved learning to back flip and somersault on the trampoline. I loved the relative simplicity of life being mapped out for you for the next few years and just having to keep turning up. I loved the excitement of knowing I had my whole future ahead of me and had the ability to shape it any which way I wanted. Hell, I even loved exams. I loved most things about school and as I cast my mind back to various events - the evening I was desperate to achieve the 5 star award in PE and one of the teachers stayed for hours after school with me as I repeatedly hurled the shot putt, getting increasingly more exhausted but with her unwavering encouragement I finally managed those extra few centimetres that I needed to push me over the threshold; the day one of the most notoriously grumpy teachers stopped me in the corridor and told me that when I smiled, it lit up the room and made the world smile with me (which made me feel warm and bubbly inside - no one had ever told me that before); the day one of the other teachers told me he had seen better legs on a table (which made me feel really chubby and a little angry for a while - no one had ever told me that before either - but it turned out he was only joking); the day I made my Dad proud as he watched from the sidelines performing the role of unofficial netball team coach and we won, against the odds. And anyway, as I thought about all of these things, an overwhelming feeling of sadness crept over me. I really did enjoy those times but I didn't cherish them as though they might be some of the best years of my life. They just kind of happened and I considered for a few moments what a shame it is that often in life, you don't realise how good something is, until it has swiftly passed you by.

I think we have all wished we could relive our childhoods with the knowledge we have now at one point or another and really cherish the relative ease of life and lack of responsibility and just enjoy the uniqueness of having so many choices in front of us with very few factors forcing us to make them one way or another.

I often see school children and have to suppress the urge to tell them how lucky they are and to make sure they enjoy every moment of their childhood as though these days are the best days of their lives and it makes me sad that it has taken becoming a grown up to realise how easy life was when I was young and how much fun it was.

It left a bittersweet taste in my mouth that I hadn't taken a moment to stand back and cherish being a child as though they were the best years of my life.

Satisfied I had turned my happy memories in to grumpy enough thoughts for the day, I continued on my journey in to work and as I hopped on to the tube, as I always do, I scrolled through the gazillion photos and movies I have of Dalton on my phone and realised at some point or another, my face was hurting again. That's right, I was smiling. It happens to me more and more these days when thinking about my little man and I don't even realise I'm doing it, I'm just overcome by a slight twinge in my cheeks (because natural Wood face posture is grumpy face so my cheek muscles don't naturally cope well with the extra exercise) and I have to promptly check myself and ensure no one who knows me spotted it - it would shatter the Victor Meldrew illusion.

It was then that it hit me.  That perhaps the events of that morning - the stumbling across the group of French children blocking my entrance - had been strategically placed to give me a valuable reminder. To serve me a lesson. This time, during a phase relating not to my childhood but to my own son's childhood or more specifically I guess, my journey in Motherhood.

The lesson of living and cherishing each day with him as though they are the best they will ever be, just in case they are.

There is no doubt that motherhood will always be filled with enormous challenges and I am no longer naively waiting for the "bit when things get really easy"! I realise now that yes, many things do get easier, particularly from a sleep deprivation point of view and a boobies not feeling like they are being stabbed with needles point of view, but of course, with every new age comes a new set of challenges and it really hit home at this moment that this glorious phase of motherhood - the bit where I know exactly where my son is 24 hours a day, the bit where I get to see him learn to do something for the first time every single day and enjoy the smile on his face when he does it, the bit where I get to see him take his first steps, speak his first words, the bit where I get to not worry about him being bullied at school, bullying anyone else at school, going off the rails, drinking recklessly, driving recklessly, having his heart broken for the first time...

I realised that for all the tantrums in the world, this glorious phase which truly makes my heart melt every day might be the best time of our lives together and I don't want to miss a second of it.

So, that is my promise to myself and to my boy. Every day I spend with my beautiful ball of squidgy scrumminess, I promise to live it and enjoy it as though it is the best it will ever be - just in case it is. So that I don't look back in 20 years, passing other Mummies of little people on the street, nostalgically happy but with a sense of sadness, wishing I had taken the time to stand back and really enjoy these days for what they are.

I will love watching him take his first steps ...

I will love the moments we spend together as a family playing in the garden ...

I will even love the tantrums that follow as we prepare for naked dinner time after getting covered from head to foot in compost and water ...

And I will love that smile to the moon and back and it will forever melt my heart ...

I know what you're thinking. Won't this level of positive thinking cause me to spontaneously combust?  Well, yes, it quite possibly could. I have given this some thought too and as I always like to have a certain amount of grump in my life - keep the yin and yang balance all Feng Shui'd and such - I will counteract all the positive feelings I am having about being very lucky to be anyone's Mummy, especially this little boy's, with an ongoing outrageous negativity in the work place. I will continue to live and hate each day with my sugary, doughy colleagues as though this particular phase of my working life is the worst it will ever be - just in hope that it is!

Et voila. Happy / grump balance maintained.

Disclaimer: Contrary to the constant abuse I give my work colleagues on a daily basis on a well known social networking site, I actually and genuinely love working. Some of my work colleagues are actually fairly decent people that I am actually quite fond of (although I would never tell them that to their face) and although an overwhelming majority of them are donuts, I wouldn't trade in working with not working for all the hundreds and thousands in the world - I simply dream of a time when I am working with slightly less stupid people.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Losing Touch

A week or so ago, we went home to visit my parents and as part of the visit ritual, my Dad prepares a collection of items he believes to be rubbish and I believe to be my most cherished possessions in the world (despite forgetting all about them for over 15 years) and we discuss whether said items can be thrown away or must continue to occupy premium loft space for another 15 years.

On this visit, amongst a bunch of crap was a little box containing (mostly) handwritten letters (sweetly, the sender of the only typed letter in the box apologised for the letter being typed on one of those computer things exclaiming that his handwriting was awful - how times have changed) that I had received throughout my time at university from a mixture of school friends, 6th form college friends and two from an old 6th form tutor who was one of the worst teachers I have ever come across but something mysterious about him led me to experience my first weird, and of course inappropriate, crush, so we occasionally wrote to eachother, anyway I digress.

I brought the box of letters home and read every single one from start to finish. The letters were from a mixture of people. A couple that I couldn't identify, some from friends that I am still very much in touch with today and some from friends who I have sadly lost touch with over the years. As I read the letters, an enormous sense of nostalgia swept over me but also a sense of sadness. I realised that even of the letters from people that I would consider myself still in touch with, how many of those people am I really still 'in touch' with. It's been a long time since I've even had a personal email exchange with someone, never mind received a letter and I realised that I'm not really 'in touch' with many people at all anymore.

Two things have happened over the years that have led to this.

Firstly, facebook. The wonderful but equally unfortunate thing about a social networking site like facebook is that you become very lazy about getting in touch with your 'friends'. They posted something a couple of weeks ago about enjoying a muffin, they must be fine. You can make the mistake of feeling like you are completely in touch with someone that you haven't really communicated properly with for years by being party to the odd snapshot (and that's really all they are) from their lives and returning the favour by sharing a few snapshots of your own, and whilst in some ways this can be quite delightful, it's also sad that the side effect can be the excuse to make less effort with people that you once used to make a very special effort for. I met a friend a couple of months ago who, unlike me, is a very infrequent facebook user. He's more of a browser. He'd seen many (naturally hilarious) facebook updates from me and gooed over the countless photos of my beautiful little sausage and he thought we had been in touch constantly throughout the 18 months since we last met. I, however, was pleasantly surprised to see he was still alive when he turned up to our meeting. Without facebook, I'm sure we would have had a personal exchange of words over those 18 months, just as I'm sure I would have with the many, many other friends who I am in touch with, but not really in touch with at all.

Secondly, I became a Mummy. And this is the real reason I'm not in touch with many people anymore.

Before I became a Mummy, like I'm sure so many other mummies, I felt sad that all my Mummy friends didn't have time for me anymore and I completely admit to wondering what Mummies did with their 'free time' that made it impossible to find 5 minutes to respond to my email, text or call me back after leaving the third message. I understood that it was a little harder to come out for piss-ups but I found myself thinking, hey, you had that child like 2 years ago now, just how long are you going to play the 'I'm a Mummy, it's difficult to make it out for drinks now' card!

Well, now I understand. Believe me, I get it. And I'd like to take a little time to explain to all my non-Mummy friends why the formerly brilliantly pro-active keeper-in-toucher is now a bit, well, pants.

The reasons are as follows:

  1. I literally have virtually no 'free' time! Bubbas don't nap nearly as much as I had hoped they would and it turns out that on the one or two, if I am very lucky, naps that Dalton has in a day (rarely for more than 30 minutes at a time), I am using this valuable opportunity to put laundry on, take laundry out (I do laundry literally every day other than the two days I am in the office - how is this possible with just one extra person in the house who is a quarter of my size? I don't have the answers, I just present the facts), get dressed, locate missing raisins / cheese / ham / cheerios from previous meal, order groceries, research why my baby is not eating / not sleeping / has a rash / farts in my face / doesn't yet count to ten etc., remove all toys with wheels from the general walk through area of the house to prevent certain death, feed the cats, clean up cat sick, locate missing body of mouse that I remembered seeing a head of the other day and just generally feed my addiction for purchasing ickle clothes. Every now and then, I won't lie, I do get 5 minutes to just sit down and have a coffee when the boy has a slightly longer sleep than I was expecting but in those 300 seconds, honestly, and please don't anyone take offence, about the last thing in the world I want to do is email anyone or call them. What I want to do more than anything in the world is just sit. In silence. On my own. Just staring at something and doing nothing, zip, zilcho, nada. Doing nothing has sadly become one of my favourite and most sought after things in the world to do!
  2. Evenings don't exist. So, yeah, I used to think, OK so I get that you are busy in the day with bubba but what about the evening, you lazy bint? What do you do in the 5 hours in between bubba going to bed and you going to bed? Is there 5 minutes in there for me then? Well, let me explain, 5 hours normally becomes about 2. Unless all of the conditions in the world have conspired to be completely perfect - you know, that perfect evening when bubs doesn't wake repeatedly screaming inconsolably for completely unknown reason, you normally sacrifice at least some, and at times all, of your evening to the God of the Settling. On a non-wakeful evening, by the time you have made and eaten dinner, it is absolutely bed-time. I'm talking 9pm type bed-time! I actually find myself panicking now if it is 10pm and I'm still not in bed because you just never know what the night has in store for you. So basically, evenings are eating a sort-of proper meal time, and that's it!
  3. Children are ALL consuming. I will never cease to be amazed at how overwhelmingly all-consuming little people are. There is rarely ever a moment of the day when you aren't doing something with them, for them, about them, under them, over them etc. I eat, sleep and dream babies. Wait, no I don't. But you known what I mean. I'm just saying, they take up such an enormous amount of brain space that if I now have two things in my head at the same time and don't write one down within about a millisecond, I have to stare blankly at a wall for at least 2 minutes before I admit defeat and accept that, no, it's gone. I never used to do this before I had a baby. I used to have a memory of steel!
There are a whole heap of other reasons but mostly it's just because little people are a BFD and because you love them more than you could ever have possibly imagined loving a thing in the whole of the world, you don't always get time to write to that person you meant to, call that person you meant to, arrange a meet up with that person you meant to but it's not because you don't care about that person anymore. Believe me, you still think they are awesome, you just often get distracted on your way to contact that awesome person by finding little screws on the floor, or those infuriating little plastic clothing tags or just anything really that your son will definitely try to eat and could cause imminent fatality.

I hope that clears a few things up. At least in the 'explaining why I've become a bit pants' arena anyway.

I do miss my friends horribly though. Especially my non-Mummy friends and I live in hope that my social life will return to some degree once my little monster stops trying to chew leads, lick lightbulbs, swallow ping-pong balls and generally sleeps through the night as a general rule but I think being a Mummy of very little people just is all-consuming and that's all there is to it. I'm thinking of you all though, buddies, and if you are willing to wait for me until I'm through the super challenging bit, I'll still be your drinking buddy if you will be mine.

So, other than losing touch with people, I've been pretty busy losing other things like my mind, temper, grip on reality etc. back in the world of work, which I'm still generally very much enjoying (the being at work part, not the working with a bunch of donuts part). I'm not ashamed one little bit to admit that being a Mummy of a very boisterous, characterful little boy is just a bit too much like hard work for me. I love every moment I spend with my little man and am very grateful for them all but holy spondooliks, he's physically exhausting. I need the balance of my 4 day working week to recover from my 3 day unpaid working week and so far, this balance has made me appreciate everything just a little more. I appreciate work more than I used to (because it is my rest), I appreciate my work colleagues more than I used to (because it is nice to speak to people who can converse on a level playing field with me - no, wait, that doesn't happen, OK, so it's nice to speak to people who speak back, mostly in full sentences) and I appreciate my time with my little man more because I don't have it for just over half of the week. Plus, being back at work means that little D gets to spend 4 days with an awesomely calm and creative lady and lots of other little people and he LOVES it and almost every day when I pick him up he's had a fab day and doesn't really want to come home which gives me a warm feeling inside and even though it would be easy to take it as some form of rejection, I don't, because he's happy and that makes Mummy happy.

Otherwise, the good times are still stupendously fabulous and the bad times are still horrendously horrid (like 5 weeks of recent sickness hell where all three of us were very poorly and on top of feeling like a bag of rusty spanners, Ron and I had to play detective trying to work out what on earth was wrong with our little non-speaking person - not easy when you are sick with worry and sick with sickness but it passes, just like all the other oh so challenging parenthood joys) but all in all being a Mummy is still the most wonderful thing in the world and I wouldn't change it for all the tea in China. And that's a lot of tea!

I leave you now until next time with a little piccie of the person that makes me smile more than anyone in the world. My little Snuggle Muffin.

And my favourite sound in the whole of the world (Dalton being tickled by The Giant Tickle Hand - OK it's just my hand, or Ron's hand, but 'The Giant Tickle Hand' sounds much more dramatic).

Monday, 14 January 2013

One Year On

It's hard to believe that a little over a year ago, Ron and I drove to Ashford hospital nervously awaiting a surgical procedure to remove my son from my belly and would finally get to meet this little person who would change my life forever. A little person I had been so desperate to meet for almost 10 months.

We arrived having been booked in the evening before after it turned out my little man had done an about turn in the last week and attempts to physically turn him back in to a good birth giving position from the outside (my eyes water still just thinking about this awful experience) had failed and waited about an hour before being taken in to the operating theatre. I was petrified. Would he be OK? Would I be OK?

One year on, I have the courage to tell you what my very first thoughts were when my son was presented to me around the side of the dividing theatre divider-type thing. Not, as I would perhaps like to share with you, thoughts of extreme joy that he was alive and well and apparently in one piece. My very first thoughts were, "Oh my God, what enormous ears and OH MY GOD, he's ginger!" Years of playfully taunting my ginger friends was clearly coming back at me, but the ears? I had never made fun of anyone with big ears. Where was the justice?

The very first picture ever taken of my little boy
My initial concerns about the colour of his hair and the size of his ears very quickly subsided and I was almost immediately overcome by feelings of relief and shock and happiness and love and a whole load of things really. Actually, as I look at that picture above, I barely recognise myself. Whilst it seems like only yesterday that Dalton arrived, it also seems so long ago that I can barely remember my life pre-Dalton. I'm not sure I want to remember it with enormous clarity as there was always something missing. He was missing.

I remember when Dalton was about 6 weeks old and I was finding it incredibly tough being a new Mummy that I kept thinking, by the time he is 6 months old, it will be so much easier, he'll be sleeping through the night, I'll be a confident Mummy, we'll have a stable routine and a whole load of other things that didn't end up being the case when he was 6 months old. And then I thought, OK, OK, so when he is a 1 year old, things will be so much easier because of a whole load of things I thought would be the case when he was 6 months old and some new ones I expected to be the case. So, what can I tell you one year on about being Dalton's Mummy? Well, I can tell you the following.

Generally, yes, on the whole, life is much, much easier than it was when he was a newborn and even up to about 6 months old. It is clear to me now that Dalton was far from an easy baby and I had a personality that was far from ideal for becoming a new Mum (perfectionist, control freak and all those other personality traits I have talked about over the past year) but little by little we are, and mostly, I, am getting there.

From about 10 months old, Dalton has been at a stage where unless he is very poorly or teething badly, he sleeps through the night - from 7 - 7 almost without a peep. This is an amazing step forward from where we were prior to that and makes ALL the difference to how good I feel about the world and how well I cope in the world. He still has bad phases and we are currently having another toothy phase which has made the nights go a little to pot but I am able to understand that these phases pass better now that I have experienced them and they did indeed pass and actually, in those moments where I am holding my little boy at 3 in the morning and he is squeezing me tight, I take a moment to really appreciate him and enjoy the opportunity to have an extra cuddle. The night time cuddles are the best cuddles he ever gives me and no matter how tired I am, I will never be ungrateful for an opportunity to hold him in my arms, squeeze him tight and try to remind him that he is safe and loved.

He is very interactive and absolutely fascinating and learns something new every single day and I am in awe of what his little brain can take in (one of the reasons I feel a little sad about being back at work and missing the daily new tricks). I could watch him for hours and be totally entertained.

He is, on the whole, eating well and finally eating what Mummy prepares rather than what Mummy pours out of a pouch. This makes me feel good. In fact, he essentially eats what we do now and this makes life much easier too.

We are on to cow's milk. Hoorah. This is a real treat as, frankly, making up bottles every day and having to remember them everywhere we went was a real faff and something I am happy to say goodbye to. The boy seems to prefer the taste of the liquid that comes from a big hairy beast anyway and who wouldn't? Formula milk tastes so disgusting I'm surprised any bubbas are prepared to drink it at all.

I am finally getting to grips with being a Mummy and, importantly, being prepared to lose my grip on being in control. As mentioned in my last blog post, I have been working really hard over the last couple of months to let go of my need to be in control and my frustration at not being in control and have been generally just going with the flow. Any Mummy will tell you, even those that have good eating and good sleeping babies, some days, they just don't seem to want to eat and some days they just don't seem to want to nap when you can see they need to and my philosophy now is, well OK then. I will always give you the opportunity to eat and sleep well and if you choose not to take it, so be it. Perhaps you just aren't hungry. Perhaps you will just make up the sleep tomorrow. Perhaps it isn't the end of the world if you are a little tired and grumpy today. Tomorrow is another day and we will try all over again. This has made a striking difference to how I feel daily and to how nice it is to be around me. Ron (I hope) can vouch for this.

The other important thing I have been doing, also as referenced in my last blog post and inspired by Mummy blog Hands Free Mama, is making sure I don't miss his childhood. For many months, I was trying to keep on top of everything, just like I always had that I ended up doing everything half-heartedly, including spending time with him and it is something I vowed to change that day a couple of months ago when I realised what I had been doing and something I vow to never do again. It was rare for me to be spending time with him without my right arm extension in my hand - my iPhone - and whilst tentatively interacting with him, I would be ordering groceries, ordering the next new wonder miracle that was going to save my sanity and get everyone sleeping better, responding to mails, keeping a grip on the 'outside world' through facebook and just generally not really achieving anything effectively as I kept getting distracted. And how terrible is that? I was unable to keep on top of the household chores or respond to emails in the timely fashion I was used to responding to them in because I was distracted. I was distracted by my son growing up! Anyway, from that day forward I decided to impose an iPhone ban on myself (and iPad and any other device that would distract me from my son growing up) and swore that any time I had the fortunate opportunity to spend time with my son I would be 100% focused on doing just that. Sometimes that means playing with him and sometimes, when he is learning to explore the world on his own, that means watching him. Just taking it all in and making sure I don't miss a second of it.

Two amazing things have happened since I started doing this. Firstly, I appreciate everything about him and being a Mummy, even the bad times, as they are all just part of him growing up and the bad times only serve to make me appreciate the good times even more. Secondly, he has been much happier and, as a knock on effect, much easier to be around. And the only real negative is that friends have to wait a little longer sometimes for a response to their message and *sharp intake of breath* occasionally I miss a facebook status update. I'm so glad my virtual slap in the face happened early enough for me to not regret too much.

So, what else has happened? Well, I went back to work. I am only in my second week and this has been a harder transition than I could have imagined (again!). Being back at work itself is fine. In fact it's good. I like working and I like using my brain and the childminder we have found is absolutely amazing, I really couldn't ask for more so although Dalton still cries every morning when I leave him, he always stops when I close the door and always does some amazing things with childminder lady - much more exciting things than he would do with me, and he loves it. He loves the other children and I love all the new things he learns every day BUT, I really bloody miss him so much.

Going from spending 7 days a week with your little person and focusing on nothing but being a Mummy to spending less than half your week with them and having to wear two hats, your Mummy hat and your professional work hat is not an easy transition to make and quite a shock to the system. I quite enjoyed my first week of returning to work as I think it was such a novelty to not have anyone attached to me even though every night when I got home from work, I sat and stared at the baby monitor for hours just looking at this:

and fighting my overwhelming urge to go in to his nursery, pick him up and give him big squeezy cuddles. That was tough, but overall, work was better than expected. People were nicer to me than expected.

And then, as the weekend ended this weekend, and I realised I was about to do it all over again, it hit me like a wet herring to the cheek that that was it. The opportunity to spend 7 days a week with my little man was over and would never again be there and I felt absolutely gutted. I was speaking to the childminder about it this morning and she rightly said to me that it was like grieving and I was currently going through the grieving process and she is right. I always understood that at some point, you have to learn to let your children go but I wasn't expecting it to happen quite so soon! He is 1 year old and I feel like I am losing him already! Still, it is what it is and I know in my heart of hearts that Dalton is having a much rounder experience in life by spending time with lots of different people and children and experiencing so many wonderful things and that ultimately, my loss is his gain and I have to try to be selfless enough to let him have those experiences. Even if it makes Mummy's heart ache every time we're not together.

So, being back at work is far from all bad and there are some real pluses to being at work, as well as the obvious ones of drinking a hot cup of tea and going to the toilet all by yourself and here are some of the things that I am enjoying right now about being back at work:

  1. Having some control over what I do and how I do it
  2. Being an expert in something again (no Mummy will ever feel like an expert at being a mummy. Little people make sure of that!) and being able to share my knowledge with new members of the team
  3. Fucking about with Excel (one of my favourite hobbies in the whole of the world)
  4. Getting dressed properly every day and wearing make up (for the days I am in the office anyway) - what a difference a bit of concealer and mascara does to my self-confidence
  5. Slowly selecting my lunch and eating it with two hands in a leisurely manner
  6. Going to the supermarket in my lunch hour without a little person accompanying, making it almost a stress free experience
  7. Buying chocolate from the vending machine - there is something very special about buying chocolate from a vending machine that you just don't experience when you buy it from a shop. I don't know if it's the potential disappointment at the chocolate getting stuck in the metal turny thing and the ensuing delight when it doesn't but it's special. I like it.
  8. Talking to people about things that are not baby-related
  9. Appreciating the time I spend with him even more because sometimes I don't have it
  10. Earning my own money again!
And probably many other things that I have already forgotten about but the point is, on the whole, it's good for everyone, it will just take time to adjust to my new life, which is a bit like the old pre-Dalton one, only different.

As I was publicly grieving recently on facebook (you know I never like to have a meltdown in private), a friend commented that it sounded like it was time to think about having number 2. I agreed, and made sure I put an exclamation mark just so that Ron didn't realise the seriousness of my agreement but the point I am getting at here is that it has taken me until now to even contemplate putting myself and me and Ron through having another baby and whilst I am in no rush to conceive just yet, I would dearly like to try to have another baby one day - a little brother or sister for Dalton and I'm finally looking forward to it with excitement rather than with dread.

So, one year on, that is how far we have come and long may it all continue.