First word

And so my boy uttered his first proper word last month. I’m guessing every parent wonders for a little while if they are actually hearing what they think they’re hearing.  In our case, he had been making sounds like “ba” for ball and “ca” for car but one two-syllable word became unmistakable after a couple of days of me asking myself, “Is he saying what I think he’s saying?” I mentioned it to the childminder and she responded that, yes!, her four-year-old had noticed, which sealed it.

So, I’m embarrassed to announce that my boy’s first word at 15 months was: “Peppa“. There was no escaping this when he started saying it while pointing at the telly.

Can I blame the childminder?? The TV is always on in her house.

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Danish Oil

My niece saw this in the kitchen and asked if that was how I got knocked up.

Danish Oil tin

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15 months today

Hard to believe I have a toddler but that’s what he is. Although “toddler” doesn’t really do the boy justice – “zoomer” is more like it. He – never – stops.

He took his first steps on the Good Friday before Easter, at exactly 12.5 months, and experimented a little for a few days before deciding it wasn’t really for him. A renewed bout of enthusiasm came upon him in May. For a couple of weeks, he lurched like something out of the Munsters with his arms up over his head. It all came together in June and he has been speeding around ever since.

What I thought might be a lovely photo opp when buying his first shoes in mid-June quickly deteriorated into a massive cry fest the minute the lady put his feet in the measuring thing. I had heard they got a little certificate to mark the occasion but either they’ve stopped doing that or she just wanted us out of the shop. Once he got those Clarks on, though, he was strutting around the shopping centre like a Bee Gee. I will admit my heart was slightly broken seeing him in proper shoes – a baby no longer but a little boy.

I remember thinking last summer that it would be fab to see him running around the garden when he was bigger and so it is. He loves mucking about in a bucket full of sand, throwing stones (and rocks) and basically getting filthy. His favourite pursuit at the moment is picking berries off one particular bush and throwing them about the place or squashing them between his thumb and finger so hard that his little body shakes.

He understands a huge amount of what we say. I’ll tell him to get some strawberries from the patch and he’ll head up the end of the garden and come back covered in juice. He fetches things when you ask him to and seems generally clued in about what’s going on. I realised he was anticipating the storylines of TV programmes we’ve watched a million times when he started jumping on my lap terrified before Mummy Pig fell off her ladder into the blackberry bush in that episode of Peppa. We’ve added Twirlywoos to our repertoire too and he loves it.

child picking strawberries

I know this may change but, for now, my boy continues to eat pretty much everything he’s given, even if I have to chase him around with a spoon a lot. He eats dinner from his high chair and happily finger-feeds himself (more accurately jams into his cakehole) bits of fish, tomatoes, peas, whatever’s on offer. I have yet to wean him off bottles, which I should have done at 12 months apparently, but am not going to stress about it. He drinks water happily enough out of a lidded sippy-cup but I think it will be a battle to get him to drink milk that way.

He continues to have a great sense of humour and enjoys making people laugh. He loves being chased, particularly when you’re trying to get a nappy or clothes on him, and will hide patiently behind a sofa or chair waiting to be caught. The childminder’s two kids are brilliant with him and he loves their company but is equally happy doing endless circuits around her house or playing away with their extensive collection of toys.

I need to sort out sleeping, as he’s still waking up at night, having slept through the night between about six months and a year. I think I mentioned I shot myself in the foot at Christmas by jamming a bottle in his mouth at night rather than wake our visitors, and it kind of stuck. We had a very bad patch recently when he was sleeping until midnight but then waking every couple of hours demanding a bottle, a major regression. After a massive stand-off one night a couple of weeks ago, he’s generally no longer wanting to be fed and not standing up in the cot but still waking a couple of times and needing to be soothed, even if only for a minute. I need to fix this and get a full night’s sleep again. It’s a lot better than it was though, even though I capitulate and give him a bottle at 5ish (in my bed, can’t resist) so he goes back asleep until 7.

He’s making loads of different sounds and is very vocal and able to communicate. His sounds for “dirty” and for the noise the coffee machine makes are the same (“KkkhkkkkhhhhhhHHh!”). My mother was convinced last week that he was saying “Here you are” but I’m not sure. If he is, I think he’s just parroting and doesn’t really know what he’s saying. I suspect he’ll start to talk earlier rather than later, though.

All in all, things are great. I’m tired and it’s stressful trying to squeeze work into the afternoons when he’s at the childminder, and I could be earning a lot more. Come October, when he’s in the crèche, I’ll have a good five hours for work in the morning. And I’d really rather spend time with my boy now while he’s young and I can.

We were in the park yesterday and he walked over to a toddler and his older brother to say hello. At times like that, I feel bad that he won’t have a brother or sister of his own. If I were younger or had a frozen embryo, I would think of going again but it’s not going to happen. Most likely the only way he will have a sibling is if I meet a man with kids of his own. That prospect seems very far away at the moment but who knows.

One other odd thing about having only one child is that you feel everything you’ve learned about looking after a baby, stuff you didn’t even know you needed to know, will go unused again. I’m unlikely to be around (or, at least, compos mentis enough) to see grandchildren. I realised the other day I’ll be 61 when my boy is doing his school leaving exams, 61! Good grief.

Existential crises about aging aside, I love being this boy’s mammy and it’s all so worth it.

Baby shoes beside adult shoes

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I wrote to my donor

This has been niggling at me for a while, so I sent a card to the clinic last month and asked them to forward it. I didn’t include my contact details and explained that I didn’t want to strike up contact, just to say thanks.

I also wanted to mention the heart thing to him, just in case it’s a problem on his side.

I don’t know if contact is permitted at this stage and there’s a chance he hasn’t received the letter. I’m putting it out into the ether here to send him good vibes over the e-waves.

Dear _,
I wanted to drop you a note to say thank you so much for donating.
My gorgeous son was one last weekend and is the light of my life. He is blond and blue-eyed like you and, as far as I can see from your baby photos, has your nose and chin. Like your older son, he is a complete charmer who leaves lots of smiles behind him. Like your second son, he is a fast learner, strong-willed and full of contagious laughter.
A couple of days after he was born, we discovered he had a defect in one of his heart valves (aortic valve stenosis) that meant he had to have a procedure at 11 days. He has been perfect since. So, I feel lucky twice: one, that we could fix his heart and, two, that I was able to have him in the first place – as he wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for your generosity, thoughtfulness and selflessness.
If you ever doubt that donating is worthwhile, please know that what you do gives people a gift that changes their lives.
I hope my boy gets to meet you one day.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
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I’ve waited for this day

No, it’s not his first word or haircut or buying his first pair of shoes.

We’ve finished with formula! Huzzah! The breastfeeders among you probably won’t share my euphoria but bottlefeeders might recognise my pain after a year of making up bottles. I think I complained about expressing and feeling like I was in a cowshed every day but at least pumping only lasted four months.

I know we shouldn’t wish the time away, as every stage is precious and not to be repeated, but I have soooo been looking forward to this milestone. Reaching it makes me very happy.

Goodbye to forking out €13 for a box of formula. Goodbye to boiling the kettle and then waiting the requisite half hour and then (arghhh!) forgetting when you turned the kettle on/forgetting to make the bottles at all and having to start again, or (arghhh!) hearing someone turn the kettle on in the 25th minute and having to start again. Goodbye to getting distracted and losing count of how many spoonfuls of formula you’ve scooped and wondering are you going to poison your baby with a salt overdose. Goodbye to sterilising bloody bottles every bleedin’ Groundhog Day. Goodbye to clogging up the fridge’s salad crisper with (yeugh!) warm bottles.

And hello to simply washing a bottle and filling it with milk from a carton.

Bada bing bada boom. Who-hoo!

Formula and bottles

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My boy is one

The cliche about time slipping by quickly when you have a baby is true. This time last year, we were still in the maternity hospital, expecting to be discharged on day five. Instead, we were taxied across town that day to the children’s hospital to get his diagnosis of aortic valve stenosis confirmed. Thankfully, this seems a lifetime ago now.

It took me the guts of the year to truly come to terms with the fact that I’m a mother, in a good way. Sometimes I still don’t believe my luck. A sneaking part of me occasionally fears something will happen to take this away from me, though I suspect this may be par for the course on a first, or any, baby.

Even now, I still hardly believe it’s me he reaches for above everyone else when he’s upset or scared. Is this because it took so long to get here and I thought it might never happen? Am I the only nutjob to feel this way?

What joy this boy has brought to my life.

Baby reflected in glass

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We have childcare!

Well, fingers crossed.

A few weeks ago, I secured a place in a local creche starting mid-October. I had left it until February to start looking and competition is keen, so I’m lucky to have found a decent one within a 10-minute walk. There is another creche literally across the road but there’s no room at that inn, at least for now.

I know for many of you, especially those in the US, it sounds like a complete luxury to be able to wait until 11.5 months to look to send a baby into the care of others. The creche takes babies from 3.5 months. I would have found that extremely hard, even if the baby doesn’t really mind at that age who’s doing the feeding and changing.

I had a tour of our place and it seemed lovely. We saw the babies, wobblers and Montessori-age kids and my boy dove straight into each room without fear, crawling into the melee and exploring. They don’t do half days in the afternoons, which would have suited me work-wise, but I can live with that. I toyed with going four days a week or full-time but have opted for mornings, five days a week, which gives you a maximum of six hours a day, though we are unlikely to be there at 7.30 in the morning.

This left us with a gap until the autumn. By sheer luck, my friend A suggested E, the wife of a colleague who lives 10 minutes away in the other direction. E hasn’t minded kids before but has a two-year-old and four-year-old of her own, perfect for my boy, and is there in the afternoons.

We visited last Friday and I loved her immediately – very thoughtful and kind and warm with the kids. The kitchen was bright and child-friendly. She had recommissioned the playpen and baby toys in preparation for us and it was all perfect. Except that my boy had an extremely unusual meltdown, possibly because it was 10am and he needed a nap. Or maybe he sensed that something was going on, who knows. This was after hilariously sitting on her kitchen floor and filling his nappy until his eyes watered. Between changing him on her kitchen sofa and fighting to hear over his wails (the poor soul was actually sobbing in the back of the car on the way home, so not like him), I got to know her a little and discovered we’re on the same wavelength about child-rearing.

We started a two-week trial, more for E’s benefit than mine really, on Wednesday this week. I was warned to expect some rocky days but, knowing my gut feeling about E and the whole setup was great, I was fairly relaxed. We opted for a shorter 1.5 hours for the three days this week so as not to blow my boy’s mind too much.

It wasn’t too bad at all. The poor kid was absolutely distraught for much of Wednesday, cheering up mainly for food; he was a little better on Thursday and gave E some smiles; and Friday went well after an initial wobbly when I left (standing on the street hearing your kid absolutely lose it with sadness and fear in someone else’s house and just leaving him to it is not nice).

I think we’re over the worst, though he could regress next week when we try longer hours or he realises this is a regular thing, if you can understand that concept at 11.5 months. All I can tell myself is that this stress is helping him head out into the big world. Of course, E may decide at the end of next week that she’s not interested. If she does, my boy will still have had a taste of life outside the home, which will be good for him in the long run.

The plan, if everyone is happy, is for E to have him four afternoons a week, from 2-5pm. The luxury of time to yourself in the afternoon! Already this week I’m more relaxed for having been able to get an hour’s solid work done not at night without guilt or a little person playing on my keyboard as I type.

I’ve done the sums and the cost of all this childcare until he starts school amounts to a cool €34k. Coincidentally, the same amount of money it took to conceive him in the first place. Are you noting this future teenage boy for the next time you throw a huge tantrum and say you wish you’d never been born??

As I drove home after dropping him off on Wednesday, my heart was BURSTING with a complicated mix of sadness that he was distraught without me and happiness that he was moving to the next phase. Which complicated mix of emotions pretty much sums up the average day of being a parent I guess.

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