Emerging from the deep end

I read some posts during our COVID-19 lockdown from other solo mamas and felt guilty for not posting too, as it was great to hear from friendly voices in a similar situation. But time and energy had to be directed elsewhere.

Childcare and schools shut down abruptly here on 12 March. The rumours had been filtering through that morning, and when I went to pick up my boy from creche in the afternoon the staff were in shock trying to close everything down by that evening. At that stage, schools were set to reopen in two weeks. How naïve we all were.

By the time full lockdown was called a couple of weeks later, my situation felt a little weird. I’ve worked from home for eight years and haven’t even met most of the people I correspond with on a daily basis. Outside work, I have a pretty quiet life. I‘ve never even hired a babysitter, as my mother, who lives 20km away, can generally look after my boy the odd time I’m out at night. My boy and I do our socialising during the day. So, while everyone was getting used to the revolutionary concept of home working and being in their houses with their kids and not being able to go out to pubs and concerts at night, in many ways life was the same for me but with the one crucial difference of no childcare.

It’s not really possible to work properly from home when you’re alone with an almost four-year-old. Or maybe with some kids that age, but not with mine. So we settled into a routine where we were hanging out during the day, and I was squeezing work into the time after he went to bed. It’s no fun reading bedtime stories while dreading going to your computer (which decided to start dying during this time as well, as an added bonus). And for sure there was no Netflix binging, learning Mandarin or catching up on those classics you always meant to read in this house during those tiring months.

Unusually, the weather gods smiled on Ireland during much of the lockdown, which was a blessing. Our days consisted of walking down to the beach, which thank the universe was within our initial 2km exclusion zone, exploring nearby housing (and industrial…) estates we’d never visited, cycling (him, with me running alongside) or just chilling at home. We were so, so fortunate to have our own house and garden.

I loved spending the time with my boy, and he was mainly delighted to be at home with me. There was a home schooling programme on TV, and he enjoyed much of it. Things like his drawing really came on and he gained confidence on his bike. The poor boy turned four in April, and my family did a big Zoom call with guitars and piano and “Happy Birthday.” But my memory of that time will always be tinged with the underlying panic of not getting work done, trying to dial into calls with “I’ve done a poo!” shouts in the background, worrying when I did check emails, and worrying when I didn’t check emails. Much as with anyone who has been trying to “work from home” with young kids these last months but with the added stress of having no backup person at all to let you get things done, even just for an hour. My family were all outside our 2km zone, and it also felt a bit unnatural and unhealthy for my boy to see basically no one but me for three months. That’s how serial killers get made.

One thing that didn’t help was that early on in the pandemic, someone here referred to children as “vectors” for the disease, and that really stuck for many. So, any time people with kids were out walking, most of them were at pains to make sure the little ones gave other people as wide a berth as possible. This was before the wearing of face coverings became widespread. I found it really heartbreaking to see my little fella plaster himself against a wall and wait to allow other people 200 metres up the road to get by. And it was so sad to watch him gradually learn that he had to steer clear of other kids and siblings playing together on the beach.

As well as for exercise, we were allowed out to shop. I think I speak for many single parents when I say this was one of the most stressful parts of the whole lockdown. In all the weeks of lockdown shopping, we met only one other child in our supermarket, and that was about nine or 10 weeks into the experience. I dreaded our weekly shop and would have shopped less if I hadn’t also been buying groceries for an elderly neighbour. We were only turned away from the supermarket once, when I unwittingly arrived in the new time reserved for healthcare workers, with the explanation “especially since you have a child” (while they let other people in), so in general people were fine apart from reminders to “keep your child in the trolley,” but at times it felt like shopping with a leper. There were some high-profile cases of single parents being asked to leave their kids outside while shopping, or being turned away, and some supermarkets banned children altogether. I also know of some single-parent families who drove with friends in convoy so the friend could pull up beside them in the supermarket car park and watch their kids as they shopped.

Thankfully, things began to loosen up gradually from 8 June, when we were able to visit family within 20km, and then one glorious day I got a phone call from the creche to say they were going to reopen earlier than planned in July and would I be interested. Would I what!

So since 1 July, our little world has regained some normality. My boy fell back into the routine easily and it was a relief to see him interacting with friends again. I have to drop him off at the school door while wearing a face covering, and I have to phone when I collect him in the afternoon so they can bring him out to me. It feels odd not to set foot inside, but this is the new normal for the foreseeable future.

Under the creche’s new COVID policy, a child has to go home if their temperature exceeds 38 degrees. My boy is rarely sick and has, I think, only missed around two half-days of creche ever. So, unusually, I got a call the other week saying he needed to go home with a fever of 38.2. I collected him, and he was isolated in the office with a teacher who was wearing a mask and plastic overall/shoes. It was all very efficient and he enjoyed the special attention. Needless to say, he was down to 37.5 when I got him home and we were back the next day with no fever or symptoms.

It’s tough for many parents at the moment as they wait for schools to reopen. And my heart is heavy for parents of children with special needs who have watched their kids regress since March, with no end in sight for many. I’ve never been so grateful to have a healthy child and decent childcare.



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I don’t call myself a blogger any more, not that I was ever particularly diligent, but I thought I would check in, as I like to hear how everyone else is getting on. Hello!

My boy was three last month! Cliché cliché cliché but time fairly zips along.

What kind of a boy have we got? He’s very smart, very confident (which I love, as I was shy and quiet, though few people want an obnoxiously over-confident child either) and pretty strong willed, to do partly with his nature and partly with his age. His insistence on picking out the exact biscuit he wants (generally from the bottom of the pack), for example, could be about the control a three-year-old wants to exert on his environment or simply him being a pain – either way, it’s a little tedious but hopefully will pass.

Although his speech is phenomenal, helped by his great memory, he still doesn’t say his “s” sounds properly, sticking his tongue between his teeth. I’m not sure at what stage I should think about addressing this. I find this lisp very cute and don’t want to make an issue out of it, but at the same time it would better if he didn’t have a lisp at 14. I think we’re due a developmental check around 3 so will ask. Like his lisp, I find the mistakes he makes with words, such as “amilo” for “animal” and “of” instead of “at” (as in “look of my picture”) very endearing.

He’s got a great imagination and loves acting out ideas. Someone gave us the fabulous Frog and Toad books by Alfred Lobel last year and we went through a phase of reading them all a few months ago. One day, out of nowhere, he said “This is my sad time of day,” which flummoxed me until I realised he was being Toad in one of the stories. So we went through the whole story in character, with me as Frog and him remembering Toad’s lines. He hides under the bedcovers and pretends he can hear scary noises until we count to 10 (or another number of his choosing, ahem) and, like Mister Jelly, realise it was nothing to be frightened of. I find this fascinating, as I don’t think I was remotely inventive like this as a kid. I haven’t got any TV channels hooked up yet, so we’ve just got Netflix and YouTube. He enjoys programmes like Ben and Holly and Max and Ruby but we’re not watching much TV, which is no bad thing.

I get “I love you, Mammy” a dozen times a day, which obviously melts my heart, though sometimes I suspect he’s sneakily doing it to divert attention or change the subject. I’ll still take it though. I wonder, of course, if he would be more rambunctious and less gentle with (male) siblings and a dad, but we’ll never know.

He’s still fascinated by sandpits, sticks and stones, which is handy, as we now live by the sea. And honestly, when we’re out walking on the beach collecting stones, I sometimes cannot believe how lucky I am at how things have worked out. After his annual heart checkup in November, I was copied on a letter to my GP about his condition, a “severe” case of aortic valve stenosis. We are so, so lucky this was picked up and corrected before we left the maternity hospital. I find it hard to think of kids in other countries who haven’t had the same opportunity. I don’t know if he would have died but he would have been very sickly indeed without intervention.

Things are going well at the crèche we moved to in September. I had been worried that he wasn’t interacting with the other kids, but that’s all worked itself out. I think he was finding it hard to engage because he was one of the youngest in his group and their communication skills were a lot better, so he was just drifting along pleasing himself. He’s settled in now and there’s a budding bromance with the largest boy in the class, who has been known to thump the odd kid now and then but seems to be settling down.

I think I’ve mentioned before how my boy gravitates towards males. For example, he idolises his 9-year-old cousin and was star struck when his class got its first male teacher. If my aunt and uncle visit, he’s only interested in my uncle. I don’t know if this is because he doesn’t have a father or if it’s just a young boy thing. Similarly, I wonder why he chose the oldest boy in the class to be his bestie after weeks of complaining about how this guy has been pushing people around. But we probably overthink these things, and basically I think he’s a very happy little boy at the moment.

We moved house in January at last, having started renovations on our wreck the previous April. A week after we moved, my Dad was transferred to a hospice after a Christmas diagnosis of cancer, on top of all of his other health problems. And a week later, he died. So the first few months of the year were pretty intense.

Trying to explain death to a three-year-old is hard. It actually helped that the guinea pig in his crèche had died over Christmas after getting untreatable pneumonia: I was able to explain that the doctors couldn’t get the right medicine for Grandad any more and couldn’t make him better. My little boy doesn’t really get it though, and seems to think my Dad is stuck in the hospital. Logical really because his Grandad had spent a good portion of his last 18 months going in and out of hospital but always came back.

My Dad was a very important male role model, so it’s tough on the little man, though he’s not upset in the way we are. We had a comedy moment last week when he mentioned “When Grandad comes back” and then dissolved into tears when I reminded him Grandad wasn’t coming back. “What’s wrong?” I gently asked, ready to yet again broach the subject of death. “You put the bread in the wrong side of the toaster!” So, not that upset then…

Oh and – dum dum dum! – we had the first mention of “Daddy” not long after he turned three. Arriving at crèche, maybe because some Dads were dropping their kids off, he said “We don’t have a daddy.” I liked that he didn’t say “I don’t have a daddy.” So I threw out my prepared line about some families having a mam and dad, some having just a mam, some having two mammies and so on. Then, that evening he piped up with “I don’t have a daddy.” So I explained again that “our family” doesn’t have a daddy. This is a milestone, as I’ve been waiting for this question more or less since he was born.

I’m not sure where it came from but am glad he asked. We had tried to read the Donor Conception Network book on this topic a while ago, but it went into more detail than I wanted at the time. I haven’t gone into the whole “Mammy needed sperm for her egg” thing yet because I don’t think he’s interested, though I can see the argument for doing it now before everyone gets embarrassed.

Basically, we’re all good! I will try not to leave it another six months before checking in again…

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I’m a rubbish blogger, not just because of other priorities but also because no one is interested in yet another parenting blog, and most of the time life for us is the same as it is for all families.

Anyway, as of the last couple of months, my boy now sleeps all night! I feel like a right idiot because it has taken so long and was relatively easy to sort out: I stopped offering him the bottle when he woke and asked for it, and after a couple of nights he was fine with this. I only did it because my hand was forced after he bit holes in all his bottles’ teats and I refused to buy new ones for an almost 2.5-year-old, embarrassing. So now he’s off bottles completely and I get a fairly decent night’s sleep after a long 2.5 years, bar the interruptions from about 5.30am after he throws himself from the cot into my bed and kicks my face, stomach, back, snarling when he can’t snuggle into the right position… I should have done this a year and a half ago, if not earlier. If I had another child, I would be a lot more regimented, I think.

I would truly love a sibling for him but it’s not on the cards for many reasons. I feel we tempted fate with both my borderline pre-eclampsia and late-onset blood pressure problems last time, which I think would be a lot worse in a second pregnancy, and his heart condition, which we were so lucky to sort out before he was even two weeks old. Plus my eggs are getting on and incurring the expenses of another round of fertility treatment would not be the most sensible course of action at this stage. However, I feel an ache when I see tiny babies and I feel very sorry that he is on his own. The only solace is the possibility that a man with kids may be in the future, who knows. And of course I am very, very lucky to have my boy here in the first place.

He turned 2.5 this month and is such a smart boy. Current TV loves are Abney and Teal, Thomas the Tank Engine, and still Duggie, Tee and Mo, and Peppa. Plus some old nostalgia faves from the 1970s that I was brought up on, Mr Men, Mr Benn and Bagpuss. He didn’t take to Bod, another oldie. I didn’t realise as a small child quite how subversive Mr Benn was – antihunting, anticapitalist and definitely on the side of the underdog. And the music in those old BBC programmes was so good. We’ve so far avoided the whole smartphone thing, and I’m staving that off for as long as possible. Not having older siblings helps.

We started a new crèche in September, as we’re moving house soon, and he is not loving it yet but getting there. The school’s ethos is to encourage the kids to pursue what they’re interested in, which is fine but with a very strong-willed boy like mine runs the risk that he’ll just spend all day playing by himself in the sandpit. This only child needs to interact with other kids, which he was doing in his last crèche, so we will have to work on this. I also want him to have respect for his teachers and to do as he’s told, at least most of the time, or we’ll have a nightmare on our hands.

He has my immune system for sure. Since starting his first crèche in October 2017, he’s only missed 2.5 days, and two of those were because he had been slightly off colour the night before and I decided to keep him at home. I think he’s only vomited on two occasions, one of which was just because he wouldn’t stop making himself cough. I feel very lucky in this respect, as I haven’t had to endure the stresses of not being able to work when he’s unexpectedly at home. If I don’t work, we don’t make any money.

We have our next checkup at the children’s hospital in November to make sure everything is still okay with the aortic valve stenosis, but he seems fine. Fingers crossed.

His speech is really incredible, full sentences with lots of little nuances like “either” and “yet” thrown in. Sentences like “I goed to the shop to buy sweet and juicy strawberries” will never get old. He can’t pronounce his s’s very well, so can sometimes be a little hard to understand, but he’s having proper conversations and able to communicate most things, which stops him getting too frustrated. We don’t have many tantrums, and when he does throw himself on the ground everyone just laughs at him and he stops pretty sharpish.

This boy’s memory is phenomenal and in such great contrast to my sleep-deprivation-destroyed 45-year-old brain. He seems to only need to be told something once to remember it, and his visual memory is way better than mine. He will remember a TV episode he hasn’t seen for months from the first frame, which I definitely wouldn’t, and recalls exact episode names even if he doesn’t understand what they mean. Oh to have a memory like that.

And he’s definitely a man, as he’s already criticising my driving. “Mammy!” (outraged), “you take hand off steering wheel!” Oh dear.

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My boy is two

My boy had his second birthday this month. What a character he has become. Full of energy and curiosity and never wanting to stop. He refuses to sleep at crèche and so is hived off to the older class while his group naps. This doesn’t faze him at all and he happily does his own thing with this group of Montessori kids until I collect him at lunchtime. He moved up to the Senior Wobbler gang a few months ago without any bother and seems to have made friends with one or two boys, inasmuch as any of them are friends or really play together at this age. I’m told he’s quite kind and empathetic with the other children, which pleases me. He came home with a bad bite on his arm a couple of weeks ago after he and an anonymous Child A had some sort of a scrap. It looked quite shocking but healed quickly. You can’t help wondering if there have been other incidents in which he was the Child A. I really hope not.

His sense of humour is great. He likes doing funny voices to make us laugh and he gets a kick out of arguing eg insisting something is red when it’s orange or calling a dog a fox, and then laughing. He can spend hours in the garden just pottering around with sticks and stones and generally getting filthy jumping in puddles and playing with sand.

A TV favourite at the moment, apart from the ever-reliable Peppa, Twirliwoos and Duggie, is Tee and Mo. If you don’t know it, this is a delightful cartoon about a female monkey, Mo, and her son Tee. The music is great and I’ve bought the CD of songs for the car. It’s a lovely gentle show about the fun and love shared by a mother and son and it’s a bonus that it’s about a single mother (I wonder is she a solo monkey mama by choice or did it just not work out with the father).

The boy’s speech has really come on in recent months. He’s stringing together three or four words, usually an order (“Mammy, read Zog book” (he’s loving all those Julia Donaldson books, The Gruffalo especially, and is also quite partial to the Max Velthuijs Frog books) or telling me where something is (“Red balloon under sofa”). I love it when he exclaims “My goodness!” (I don’t think I had ever uttered those words in my life and now that I have a child it’s suddenly all I say 20 times a day, along with “Now!” like a bossy matron). My heart dissolves when he says “Mammy, come here,” and drags me by the hand.

He doesn’t seem to hear the “f” sound very well, so words like “finger” and “fish” are “shinger” and “shish” (I must try him with fish fingers). And for some reason he pronounces his “s” words a bit like a wee Sean Connery, as in “Shee you shoon.”

There is definitely a stubborn streak in this boy that I think is more than the terrible twos. When told not to do something, he looks you in the eye and does exactly the same thing again. It’s just so hard not to laugh. We had our two-year developmental check and the nurse asked him to make a tower with some bricks. He does this all the time at home and in crèche but there was no way it was going to happen for her. “Long bricks,” he said, and instead made a long line of bricks. And then did the same again. And again. She asked him to identify some pictures in a book and he went along with the first few before just making what sounded like “blah” sounds for the rest. Obviously he wouldn’t let her weigh him either, so she had to weigh me and then the two of us together. I was looking at him thinking “Why are you frigging messing with me buster.”

In other, more significant medical appointments, we had our annual checkup for his aortic valve stenosis heart condition in February, and all was fine. They continue to be chuffed at how well his valvioplasty at 11 days went. They want to see us in the autumn, which I could do without because I have the sense it’s just because they are so pleased with him and these appointments weigh on my mind for weeks before. But we have no complaints with the brilliant care we’ve received and long may this good news continue.

On my side, I’m still constantly knackered, as the boy’s sleeping at night is not great. I am weak-willed and continue to give him a bottle and take him into my bed when he wakes in the middle of the night. As it sends him to sleep in five minutes, I’m leaving things as they are for now. I know he’s probably only waking to get the bottle and that I should wean him off but I’m so tired I lack the energy for a fight. Breaking another cardinal rule of sleep training, I also stay with him until he goes asleep. I just never got around to training him to nod off on his own and if I try now he leaps out of the cot and heads towards the door in his Grobag, giving me horrible visions of him tumbling down the stairs. So we hold hands, sing and chat until he drops off.

This is fine on the crèche days when he hasn’t napped and we make it through the day without napping at home; on these glorious days, he is out like a light at 7.30pm. On other crèche days, he’s so tired and cranky/hyper by the afternoon that I have to let him nap in the afternoon, which of course means it can take an hour, often more, to get him asleep. This is super-frustrating when I have work to do or would just like to sleep or have some time to myself, but it’s also nice spending that time with him. Overall, I am less of a zombie than before. At the end of last year, he was waking every couple of hours, which was torture, but he’ll now wake at 1 or 2 in the morning and then sleep until 6ish, dozing on and off until we get up around 7, which is still not great for a two-year-old but an improvement. How I would do things differently if starting again (or having another).

Life is busy, so blogging has been pushed down the list. My Dad is very unwell and has just been admitted to hospital for the fifth time in five months. He adores my boy and the feeling is mutual, and their relationship has provided some light in half a year of stress and sadness. When I was pregnant, my Dad half-joked that he would hold on until the baby was born. Since the birth, he has wistfully remarked many times that he hopes my son will remember him when he’s gone. Sadly, that seems unlikely now. However, I know my Dad has had a strong influence on who my boy is and what he has become over these past two years, which is maybe just as important.

Even before I had the baby, I worried that I was setting my future child up for bereavement by making his main role model a not very well man in his mid-70s. Now it looks as if that will be irrelevant, as a two-year-old who doesn’t understand death is likely to quickly forget and move on. Which is good for my boy but sad for my Dad and me.

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I don’t know if you other solo mamas experience this but there are occasions when I think, “That trait is definitely not from me”. Last month, we were at a family event in a park I had been in only once before, and we headed away from the group to the playground for a go on the swings. When the time came to leave, my boy was not happy at all and squirmed in my arms all the way back to the family. He’s a super-determined little person, so I wasn’t surprised when he immediately headed off on his own the moment he was put down. I was slightly gobsmacked, though, when he ran across the grass to the path, turned left, hurtled down the path and turned right immediately back into the playground and directly towards the swings. He knew exactly where he was going despite having been there for the first time that day.

My sense of direction and spatial relations is pretty bad. Once I’ve turned twice, I pretty much lose the directional plot. Indeed, my stress dreams are often about getting lost in strange cities. So, this was one of those moments when I had a very strong sense of the donor’s input into my little boy’s makeup. I know it could just be a boy brain, girl brain thing, even if the jury is still out on whether that exists, but I would wager that this comes from the donor (who I think I recall is a keen sailor – so just as well he has a sense of direction).

On the nature versus nurture question, I also found myself looking at my boy’s toys a few months ago. I inherited most of these from a friend who has just one boy, and they are all typical “boy” things. Perhaps because I didn’t buy them myself and didn’t take any active part in getting them, it took me over a year to realise that there isn’t a single doll amongst them. And, obviously, nothing is pink. This made me stop and think – should I go out and buy a couple of dollies for him to look after? I loved my Tiny Tears doll when I was little. Then I thought, why do we buy dollies for girls at all? Are we teaching them that their role in life is to look after people (and that boys’ role isn’t)? Or do little girls have an innate, harmless need to care for their dolls – and are boys just not that bothered?

There was a documentary on TV a few years ago in which scientists left dolls and toy diggers in some monkeys’ habitat in a wildlife park. They watched the younger monkeys as they noticed the new toys and, sure enough, the girl monkeys took up the dolls and played with them, whereas the boy monkeys, fascinated by the cars, completely ignored the dolls. Of course, maybe the girl monkeys had already watched their mothers care for their baby siblings and were just mimicking that behaviour, who knows.

My boy loves seeing cars, vans, buses and diggers but this might just be because I’ve been pointing these things out to him since day one. And his childminder’s two boys have tons of toy vehicles and tracks, which he’s been around for the last seven months, so it’s not surprising he’s into them. On the other hand, I do know that my boy is really affectionate with his teddy bears and loves giving the people close to him big hugs, so maybe he would have liked a few dolls too. I’m not overly stressing about this, but I do wonder what kind of influence we’ve already had on my boy without even meaning to.

My 1.5-year-old’s world is about to open up to lots more influences, as we have a big milestone this week: we’re starting crèche. He was to begin his induction today, in fact, but Hurricane Ophelia is hitting the country so, bizarrely, all schools and crèches are closed. One upside is that we were due to finish at the childminder’s on Tuesday afternoon, the thought of which makes me really sad. Now Wednesday will be our last day instead, so we can save the tears for one day…

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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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