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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You know you’re watching too much pre-school TV when…

  • You’re humming the theme to the Furchester Hotel in the shower
  • A creaking in the supermarket reminds you of the sound the Pontipines’ window makes when it opens
  • You recognise Daddy Pig’s voice in an insurance ad. Oh dear.

“Peppa Pig taught my little girl the F-word scandal” here!

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Post-partum joint pain is gone

You know when you’ve had pain or discomfort for a long time and you suddenly realise it’s not there any more? A bit like constant noise in the background that disappears without you noticing. That’s what has happened in the last few weeks. My fingers are often a bit sore after I wake up and my feet a bit creaky but, by and large, it’s slowly dawned that my body feels more or less back to normal.

I mentioned the last time that post-partum arthralgia might be caused by the hormone relaxin. It occurred to me recently that my sister had symphysis pubis dysfunction, also caused by relaxin, with her first pregnancy and ended up in terrible pain and on crutches as a result. I wonder if there’s a connection.

Whatever the cause, thank the universe it’s almost gone. My boy is 10.5 months old, so it’s taken bleedin’ long enough. How lucky we are not to live with pain, most of us.

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Happy 2017

Seems a long time ago now but Christmas was a special one for me this year. My boy was oblivious despite the Christmas jumpers he was forced to wear (the only present he got from me) but I loved it. Last year, I couldn’t have imagined how much this boy’s personality would already be intact at this stage and what good company he is. Despite not knowing anything unusual was going on, apart from the excitement of having a tree in the sitting room (with lights!), he enjoyed having family staying and didn’t find it odd or disturbing to have random people at the breakfast table or taking him out for walks.

It’s fascinating watching him develop. He spontaneously waved goodbye to his grandparents for the first time this weekend, which was very cute. He’s making great sounds, including a hilarious “Ra-RA-ra-RA!” when he’s angry. He has a powerful set of lungs and better voice projection than me, is a great mimic and loves to sing. He sang along today to the “la la la” bit of the Furchester Hotel theme tune and enjoys the singing bits best. I had been wondering what he takes in at all when watching TV. A few weeks ago, Peppa and her friend Suzy Sheep (I know….) blew raspberries at each other, and he took the bottle out of his mouth and did the same. So, it seems he comprehends some of what he sees on the box. He definitely also understands some words, such as curtain, bath, window, birdies, Granny and Grandad.

His bottom two teeth were looking pretty lonesome for a few months but the top two are nearly down and have a large Brigitte Bardotesque gap between them. I don’t think this is from my side, as none of us have gaps, so am guessing it’s from the donor, as with his height and blonde hair and his pointy chin. He’s gone from looking like baby photos of the donor to becoming very like me as a baby. My mother finds the similarity very striking and even I can see the strong resemblance from my early photos.

He crawls around very quickly and pulls himself easily in and out of standing position, which is perfect for opening kitchen cupboards and swinging off their handles. For a while, he wasn’t interested in what was inside them but this has changed in the last week, and he’s starting to poke around at the enticing cleaning agents, food processor parts and bags of flour within. He can sidle along a sofa using his hands, which gives him a lot more freedom. He’s been a very sturdy boy since day one, despite having that heart condition from birth, and I won’t be surprised if he starts walking quite early. I feel so grateful that they were able to fix his little heart. He may need the valve replaced some day but for now he’s a healthy and happy little boy and I thank the universe for our good luck.

At his seven-month checkup, he wasn’t great at doing a pincer movement between finger and thumb and he’s not much better at this now, still tending to pick up food and smash it into his mouth or bury it in his hand and forget about it. This is because I spoon-feed him most of the time and I’ve been trying to give him more little bits to feed himself with, but I find it super-stressful when he jams too much in and starts to choke. He is brilliant though at eating every single thing I give him, regardless of texture, colour and taste, and long may this last. I really want to have a baby who eats pretty much what I’m having to the extent this is possible and, so far, it’s looking good, though I know things change as they get older.

Branching out
I think I’ve mentioned before that my donor described his elder son as being very sociable and interested in people and so is my boy, in spades. As a result, I had a major Guilty Mammy moment last week at his nine-month developmental check. We were waiting for our turn with two other babies and their parents and my boy made a beeline straight for the other crawler, started singing and touching his face and basically making friends. He was delighted with the company and basking in the attention of all the adults, who commented on how friendly he was. The penny dropped loud and clear that it was time to start taking him to some baby groups, which I haven’t been doing at all.

I have various reasons for this. First, I have a lot of family and friends around and he (as a small baby) got plenty of interaction from them, plus they kept me sane enough not to need the company of other mothers. I think a lot of baby groups in the early days are to get the mother out of the house and surround her with adult company and people going through the same traumas things and I just didn’t feel the need.

Second, I’ve been working, at a lot less than full steam but enough to make juggling all the parts of the day a little stressful. I’m working a lot at night, which is the only chance I get to enjoy a stretch of quality time, but also trying to squeeze the odd job in during the day. I have frequent moments of stress where I realise I’m being the opposite of mindful and not devoting my time and complete head space to my boy but you do what you have to do and I don’t feel guilty for earning a little money. I’d love to be on year-long maternity leave like most of my friends but being self-employed has had many other benefits, including giving me a much easier ride when going through fertility treatment. And the plan is that it will give me the flexibility to not have to spend half of what I earn on childcare.

Third, I live in a relatively middle-class area and (unfairly) had a picture in my mind of Ugg boot-wearing, fake-tanned, privileged mothers complaining about rich husbands not doing their fair share (I’m exaggerating but you know where I’m coming from). I find it hard enough to keep up with my genuine friends without adding Yummy Mummies to the mix.

We don’t have the Single Mothers by Choice organisation here but there is a Facebook-led group of solo mothers who meet up once a month. I’m not on Facebook and so not a part of it but hear about it from one of the two solo mamas I’ve met up with through the SMC page of a parenting website. Their numbers are small enough and the children of such varying ages that the benefit for my boy at this stage would be limited, though I do plan to meet with them when he is older so he can see more families like ours.

Anyway, seeing him at the nine-month check spurred me into action, so this week we went to a parent (= solely mothers, poor men) and toddler group in the local library on Monday and to a nursery rhymes singalong at the local Methodist Church hall on Tuesday. We had today off but will probably be back with the Methodists tomorrow (tea and biccies for the mothers, win win) and then see what Friday has to offer.

He LOVED the toddler group. We were late, as his nap is at the same time, but the awed look on his face when we launched ourselves into the melee was priceless. I steered him towards two boys of around the same age and one of them sweetly handed him a little book. I’m surprised at the interaction of kids of that age and it was lovely to see. I explained to some of the mothers what had brought me there and they were very friendly. Most of them were from other countries, I noticed, I’m guessing because they don’t have as much family here as those who were born in the country. And not an Ugg boot in sight.

The nursery rhymes were more for kids of toddler age, who are able to actually sing and do the actions, but he enjoyed this too, particularly the end, when he was able to crawl around the big space with the few kids who were left.

So, this is how many of my mornings will look for the next while. I have to get childcare sorted but am procrastinating and procrastinating. In an ideal world, I would do things with him in the mornings and have him cared for in the afternoons while I work. We’ll see if I can swing that one. For now, I will try to be mindful during the day and just enjoy spending time with my little man.

8-january-hedgehog-bum

That grater looks like fun

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Me, myselfie and I

I don’t know about you other solo mamas but I’ve found that one of the unexpected annoying, if completely trivial, things about having a child alone is photos. I know we live in the age of the selfie, and they are very handy for lone parents, but I sometimes wish someone would take a proper photo of me and my baby that doesn’t involve me holding a camera high above our heads and getting just half my body in shot. A candid, none-posed photo would be a miracle too.

In the early days, when family gathered round to view the new arrival, it was remarkable how they all took photos of themselves with the baby but no one thought to take one of me with him. I tried to put it out there but it sounded really whingy to bring it up and I didn’t make a big thing of it. Now, the novelty has sort of worn off for people but when the phones do get whipped out the odd time it’s still almost always for other people and the baby. Maybe I should just ask them directly more often but it feels awkward, plus you can’t get less natural than a photo that’s been requested.

Speaking of the baby being a novelty, my boy has learned his first harsh life lesson. As I’ve said before, he’s very friendly and engaging with people. In the early days, he enjoyed the (sometimes slightly intense and needy) attention very small babies get from complete strangers when out and about, always smiling back and charming people. Then, like an aging starlet, he became a bit perplexed to find that strangers were not as interested in him as before. I noticed this on a tram a couple of months ago, when he was expectantly looking at people and getting nothing back. (It’s actually a bit depressing how people just tap away on their phones now on public transport without looking at each other.) He was very excited one day when a man across the tram aisle started coughing, which my boy still does for attention, but his hopes were sadly dashed when he realised the coughs weren’t for him. Now, he doesn’t really bother seeking people out at all. The first of many knockbacks in life.

In happier news, he finally worked out how to crawl forwards shortly before turning eight months a week ago and this has been a big breakthrough. Crawlers are remarkably fast! I go into the kitchen to make bottles, turn around and meet him casually hanging in the hall. He is loving this new freedom, even if my heart is in my mouth a lot of the time. I see danger everywhere – patio doors, sharp-edged fireplaces, glass cabinets hiding intriguing cables, lamps waiting to be smashed down. It is lovely, though, watching him explore and find interest in ordinary things. He adores tearing (and eating) paper and goes absolutely berserk with a newspaper.

It will be a fab Christmas with him this year and the bonus is that I don’t even have to worry about getting him presents. Maybe a broadsheet paper if he’s really good.

28-september-shadows

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