Influences

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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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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