2.5

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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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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