Pregnancy Diary: Week 32

Sunday, 17 August 2014

I was all doom and gloom last week and now, predictably, things are on the up again.

It's been a good week. We said goodbye to the builders on Wednesday. My mum arrived Thursday to help. 

There's still a few bits that are needing doing, the electricians are coming next week to finish off, and we're having a new front door fitted, but in principle, we are done.  The house is still a war zone because we have to decorate the two downstairs reception rooms and my husband is just finishing the hall, so there's ladders and silicone and so much paint everywhere.

But I feel like we're making progress.

Also this morning after much deliberation and issues regarding stock and delivery times, I have ordered a new pram, which I will review, and I bought a Moses basket mattress. Even though nothing at all is sorted or washed, in principle if baby came tomorrow we'd have somewhere for it to sleep, a car seat and access to clothes, all of which are Ollies old ones which my mum has brought up to us as she was storing them.

I need to really get it all sorted though, and pack a hospital bag, but we are busy with the house still and then on holiday next week in Devon.

Pregnancy wise my hips have been less painful as I haven't had any more chasing Ollie incidents and my husband has been massaging my feet and lower legs each night which really helps general achiness. I've started producing a little bit of colostrum which I'm VERY excited about as I can't wait to breastfeed again (fingers crossed).

My stretch marks from my last bump are now starting to look a little pink again, but I don't have any in new places. Generally I look absolutely massive but still a wee while to go! If this baby comes at 38w as Ollie did, it's only 6 weeks left though. 

My husband and I went on a date night last night to a lovely candlelit Tapas restaurant. I even found my GHDs in all the chaos so could look slightly more presentable than usual. A bit of romance always cheers me up!

Thanks for reading xx

The Genie

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

I'm not one to normally jump on the bandwagon and write a post relating to a news story. Well actually quite often I do write something and then hestitate pressing publish, and it ends up in a very long list of drafts, that quickly becomes out of date or irrelevant. But this time I am determined to publish.

Robin Williams, a brilliantly funny man who touched many of my generation's childhoods, has died. It is so sad, and so sad for those he left behind.

But I am not actually going to talk about that, or the impact he had on me or anyone else.

I am going to talk about a tweet.

This was actually the first thing I saw, which informed me of Robin William's death. Links via Facebook.

And it immediately sat oddly with me. A colleague had posted the link and written a status about it being touching.

And it wasn't touching to me.

Yes I get the sentiment. I understand. A man tormented by Demons. A man whose life was lead granting others happiness when he couldn't find it himself. A man who is finally free of those demons.

And no I'm not one of those despicable people who comment on the daily mail about suicide being selfish and how dare he or why on earth would someone with all that money and success be "sad".


To me this tweet has got it all wrong, because death is not freedom. Death is not liberation. Death has not cured this man's terrible disease. It has not given him rest. It has not given him anything. It has taken life. And yes it has also taken a loved one from his family.

Suicide is depression's final triumph. It's final act. It's final horrible cruel laugh in the face of happiness and hope and life and love.

I have never managed to blog about my depression on my blog. It is too big. It is bigger than me, bigger than anything I could begin to put into words. I've tried, and along with the posts written about news stories are several drafts along the lines of "Depression: My Story" etc.

But I am not a good enough writer to put it into words. Not fully. 

I have wanted to die because of my depression. To die a hundred times. When I was first ill, in my early twenties, the depression had hit me so strongly, so completely, that I felt like I was constantly choking. I was constantly sinking, drowning, engulfed in this black misery that had me in its grip and wouldn't let go. It was a physical suffocation. It wouldn't leave me alone. I was haunted. All day and all night. This choking darkness, this nightmare.

And that is when the thought sets in. "If I am dead this will stop". 

I thought about it a lot. I thought it was the only answer. I didn't want to die because something specific had happened to me that I couldn't live with. I couldn't bear life with the symptoms of my illness. The constant black. The despair. The physical toll it had on my body. The inability to have any hope at all that anything would ever be any good again.

During both my pregnancies the ghost of my depression has tried to haunt me again. My pregnancy with Ollie where I battled against my work environment and my anxiety was so severe it made my skin crawl. This pregnancy when I have felt so stressed and emotional and unsettled I felt like a lost ship floating into darkness. Darkness again. The shadow looming. 

I am very lucky that I have managed to hold on to something to keep me afloat. To not go under, to not go in. 

But I know that if depression ever grips me again in the full, all-encompassing way it has gripped me before, I will struggle. I will think about death. My state of mind now is that I have too much to live for. I couldn't leave Ollie. I would rather suffer every day for the rest of my life than take a mother away from my son. 

But sometimes the darkness is so acute that it is impossible to see this sort of reason. I can't speculate on Robin William's situation but he has left behind a wife and 3 children. He must have felt there was no way out.

He is not liberated now. They are not. Liberation speaks of glory, of achievement, of reaching a final goal. 

It is irresponsible and wrong to put out a tweet, that is now favourited and retweeted by thousands, that suggests that this man is finally free. He never was, and now never will be. And death is and can not ever be the answer for people who suffer from depression. We must find a way to help them find the light, to find life, to find a real freedom.

Thanks for reading xx

The Teacher in Me

Monday, 11 August 2014

As a child I was really into all things academic. Totally useless at anything physical, crafty, or creative in the artistic sense, but really into books, writing, maths, science etc. A bit of a geek, and probably a pretentious one at that. I was a really hard working little soul and after starting piano lessons aged 7 ploughed all my spare time when I wasn't writing stories or devouring books into becoming a music geek too.

It all paid off, because when I was 11 I sat the entrance exam to a local Independent Grammar school which happened to be one of the best in the country, and was offered a place with both an academic and music scholarship. So going somewhat against my late Dad's aversion to private education  and the fact that my two sisters went to the local comp, off I went.

I loved school. I adored it. I was very lucky that I had an amazing education. The opportunities were endless. I thrived as a young musician, toured Europe in the holidays playing in orchestras, won national competitions. It was brilliant. I loved most of my teachers. My favourites were the most inspiring people I'd ever met. I will never forget my final lesson of A-Level English, when the entire class broke down in tears as we hugged goodbye to our teacher and told her how she had changed our lives. It sounds awfully pretentious, but what a miraculous gift to be able to affect young people like that. Yes many of my cohort were very privileged and we did live in a bit of a bubble but we were also normal teenagers with normal worries and hang-ups. 

It was this English teacher, and a handful of others, who made me want to become a teacher myself. The nature of going to a fee-paying Grammar school is that the majority of parents are professionals and highly successful earners, who encourage their children down similar career paths. Whilst my friends opted for medicine or business, I took a music degree (albeit a very academic one), with the intention of doing teacher training afterwards. I wanted to change children's lives. I wanted to instill in them the love of learning and the love of music I had.

I'd also always felt like I was a born teacher. Something in my character leant itself. I was and am always the person who will happily sit down and explain something to someone who doesn't understand. Draw out a diagram if they can't fix an appliance, or a map if they don't know where they're going. Explain the meaning of an unknown word, or solve a practical problem. I always think about whether someone understands what I'm saying, whether its accessible to them. When I don't understand something, I systematically try to work out why that is, what piece of the puzzle I'm missing. 

Maybe I'm just a bit of bossy, or worse a know-it-all, but I genuinely like helping people, I like making things clear and easy. I take my time making sure they understand, making sure I explain things in a way that works for them, that isn't condescending or overly complicated. 

I was teaching my own class of younger students music theory aged 15, after school in an empty classroom. I had private piano pupils aged 17. There was a teacher in me for as long as I can remember.

But then I actually qualified. And it all went wrong.

The school I took a job in has a lot going for it. And a lot going against. The biggest issue by far is that the catchment is generally a socially deprived area, and the social climate for what I would say is the sometimes a majority of children, is that school is a place to be sneered at, education is worthless, and adults in general don't deserve respect. Basically, the behaviour and attitude of the majority of children is appalling. 

Every day is a battle to be heard, to be looked at, let alone listened to. Suddenly I realised that I not only had to teach my subject, pass on information so that it was actually retained, assess how well it was retained and how skills were developed, but also fight my corner that it was worth learning anything at all, that any skill other than having underage sex and texting your mates was worthwhile. That life would be better with an education. With a job. With a home.

Every day when I walk into the school building, teenagers are rude to me, whether directly or indirectly. They are horrible to each other, the corridors are littered with appalling language. I am laughed at, sneered at, ignored, walked into, ridiculed. I've had children throw used chewing gum in my face, I've been sworn at, told to fuck off countless times, I have children everyday turn their back on me, ignore me, grimace at me, make racist comments about my Polish surname, and walk off when I'm talking to them. I've been told by a twelve year old girl that she hopes my baby inside me dies.

And by all accounts I am quite a well liked member of staff. I get really good results. But my heart breaks every morning I have to go to work. Because I am not really teaching. The good results are miraculous and a result of nearly killing myself with the amount of effort I need to use to drill into my GCSE classes the importance of learning. And these are the musical kids who opted for my subject. I am not teaching like I know I can teach. The children are not learning like I know they can learn. I am crowd control. I am the person who tries to keep them safe and breaks up fights. I am the person who probably wastes a lot of time just trying to get them to be quiet and pick up a pen. I am the older person in the room who isn't worth most of their time.

I have a first class education. I am intelligent and worked extremely hard for many years to achieve what I have. I have a natural desire to teach and to do it well. I didn't walk into teaching because I had a useless degree and liked the idea of 6 weeks off in the summer. I didn't go into teaching on a social crusade to encourage disengaged teenagers to learn how to spell their own surnames. There are lots of people who are absolutely fantastic at dealing with these sorts of children. I am lucky enough to work with and learn from some of them. But I am not one of them. It is not me.

I want to teach. Properly teach. Yes manage a classroom because that of course comes into it. Yes make the effort to prepare lessons that are engaging enough to make the children want to learn, want to listen. To deserve their attention.

But I don't want to be on the receiving end of abuse. To feel physically unsafe. To feel like my working life and my skills are being made a mockery. I'm really not paid enough for that.

I am currently trying to decide what to do after my upcoming maternity leave. I definitely do not want to return to my school. I am looking for a different post in a different school but if one doesn't come up then there is the option that I stay at home and do private instrumental lessons and save a hell of a lot of nursery fees. We could make it work. Anything better than going back to the place which has become soul destroying for me.

But I've also thought about whether I should be a teacher at all. Whether I would feel like this in any school. Am I just not cut out for it?

Oliver has given me the answer.

He is just like me, a bright little boy, who loves books and is well ahead of himself in the EYLFS assessments. At 22 months his language is within the 36-50 month bracket. He is talking in sentences. And yes most of that is him and his brilliant little head but part of it I think has come from me. From my teaching. From the way I talk to him, I always ask him questions, I always praise him when he says something, whatever it is, I always respond directly to him. I've never baby-talked to him, I've always taken what he says literally and seriously. I've never ever said no to him or corrected him if he said something wrong or got mixed up, just modeled the right example. If he has said "Mummy come room" I'll say "Yes mummy will come to your room". I've read and read and read to him. Encouraged him to repeat words and sounds that make him laugh. We give his animals and toys names and talk about them. Describe them. And the brilliant thing is that I've really followed his lead on this. He is never more happy than when with a book in his hand pointing and telling me what everything is.

The Teacher in Me has come out since becoming a mother. I was perhaps more aware of language development than some mums because he is being brought up bilingual and I didn't want to make any mistakes that would confuse of hinder him. But what has happened is he has developed this wonderful language and love of language and books. I knew that after starting to put together two words, he would start to understand possessive pronouns and plurals, so I focused on using them as much as I could. When he says " Mummy, a car!" I say, "Yes Ollie, a BIG car" or "a GREEN car" so that he starts to understand adjectives. Part of this is just an intrinsic part of me. Part of it is some research I undertook once the bilingual thing started to become an issue. Happily his confidence speaking Polish is growing.

I love that my little boy is doing so well. I am also acutely aware of not becoming a pushy parent.  I think he has developed my husband's physicality and I hope will be a well rounded little thing who enjoys all sorts and isn't just shy and bookish like I was, and the last to be picked on any sports team. I want him to be happy, I want him to be his own person. But I love helping to shape him. Helping him to develop and watch him grow. Watch him finally grasp how to piece a jigsaw together. Watch him climb up the stairs and count from 1-10 and the utter triumph on his face when he gets there and we clap and laugh and dance around.

I was born to be a mummy. And I think I was born to be a teacher too. It is who I am. I just need to find the right place to do it, but for now I can just enjoy the mummy bit.

Thanks for reading xx

Pregnancy Diary: Weeks 30 and 31

Friday, 8 August 2014

So I'm a bad blogger and missed a week.

I am completely and utterly exhausted.

The house is almost finished. The kitchen is in. We have units and appliances and a floor, the grout on which is currently drying. We have spent tens of thousands of pounds and 8 months of our lives living in complete chaos and disarray, and the reality is that it will all be over within a matter of days. There is a snag list of 50 items, all little things which are being ticked off by the builders. Yesterday we have 2 plumbers, 3 electricians, a joiner, a painter, 2 tilers, 2 men doing the driveway, my husband, mother in law, me and Ollie, at the house. And no floor boards because of a gas leak. And no safety gate to stop Ollie trying to escape and explore. Wet paint on the walls, dust everywhere, newly laid tiles on the floor that we weren't allowed to stand on until the adhesive set. Maybe a million screws and nails littered about the garden.

This house project during pregnancy has pretty much broken me. I've had highs and low and I've tried to document both in a bid to be honest but equally not a whinge-bag 24-7.

The fact is I am hanging together by a thread physically and emotionally. I am having to compress every natural instinct to house my child in a safe and calm atmosphere. My natural desire to sort and keep order. I am having to ignore my growing hormonal instinct to nest and clean. To crave order for the baby that will soon be in our lives.

I am hugely grateful and excited about this baby but the reality is, it was really bad timing! We never should have taken this on in the way we have in the time we have. Its too late now and its nearly done and we've survived, so its fine. But I would not recommend this to anyone else!

I am sad that I have not been able to get more physically involved in the project due to my pregnancy. I am sad that I have not been able to offer my growing baby a calm and stress-free mummy breathing in clean non-dusty air. I have been so busy and stressed I haven't eaten as well as I could have done and I haven't rested. Thankfully I am healthy and the baby appears to be so too. I am already consumed with guilt over it all, and I'm not letting myself even face the guilt that is starting to build at the thought of introducing a brother into Oliver's life when he won't understand why his mummy hasn't got as much time for him as she used to.

Another post, no doubt.

I feel guilty and sad that I haven't had time to blog as much I want to. I really have so much to say and share.

I am sick of feeling guilty and sad.

The only real news to report other than my fragile mental state is that my SPD hip pain is back in full force, worse than it ever was, to the extent that at night I am in so much pain and so seized up that I can't actually move from one side to the other. I can't roll, I can't lift up my legs. I literally wept trying to heave myself up the stairs to bed. It is a constant agonising pain deep in my pelvis, and when I try to move in a way that I am unable, it is literally like being paralysed but with the pain intensifying. I just can't move.

I think chasing about 100m after Ollie yesterday in the park after he ran off from me made it worse. I was screaming at him, tears running down my cheeks as I fought back the pain and ran to stop him running straight into the main road. It was probably hilarious to watch but I really was in agony. And of course someone could say that he only ran because he thought it was a game and mummy was chasing him, but the fact is I have a son who a) loves to run away and will keep going even if you don't chase him, just elongating the distance between you and b) who loves cars and traffic.

I love him so much, and I wish this wasn't so hard! I wish I was finding it easier and didn't whinge. Two of my best friends are trying to get pregnant and I feel like such an idiot complaining. I just can't wait for the house to be done and this pregnancy to have run its course and to have my home and my family and my baby all safe and together.

And my new dishwasher.

And a loo with a door in the door frame so I can, you know, in peace. (Yes for 8 months we had no door on either bathroom.)

Nearly there.

Thanks for reading xx

Olivers Top 5 Summer Favourites and DISCOUNT code!!

Monday, 28 July 2014

I feel like I have neglected my darling boy recently on this blog so wanted to share with you his summer favourites!

1. Ollie has absolutely been loving his Clarks Doodles sandals which I bought for him in early June. He also has a pair of Clarks trainers but I got these for running around outside/going to the beach/paddling pools etc and now I can't get him out of them! He wants to wear them every day and just loves them. I really like Clarks footwear as I feel it is better quality and more supportive than buying shoes from high street clothes shops, although I think sometimes the designs are a bit limited. A lot of blue for boys and pink sequins for girls etc. Do you recommend any summer shoes for toddlers? He is an 8F so doesn't fit into the little baby stuff anymore!

(He has them in blue which are no longer available online, only khaki left as far as I can find...)
2. Ollie is absolutely obsessed with fruit and I recently calculated has on average 6 or 7 portions a day! :-S Whilst sometimes I worry about this being too much sugar I'd rather encourage this than have him being fussy or only wanting processed snacks. A lovely way to make fruit more summer friendly is to make your own ice lollies and I was sent the Annabel Karmel by NUK Ice lolly set* to do this with. I have tried several recipes (all found online) but basically just blend some strawberries plus a dash of water and you're good to go! These are a lovely shape for little ones as the standard ones with thin sticks like I've seen in the shops are a bit difficult to hold and flimsy. These also produce a good sized lolly- anything took big is just more likely to melt off and cause upset!

3. We were also sent a Winnie the Pooh active cup* by NUK to try and I wouldn't usually put something like a beaker in a favourites post but Ollie really really loves this beaker! To the extent that he had to take it with him to nursery for the first week he had it! Encouraging little ones to drink water in the Summer is obviously vital and Ollie, whilst getting hydration through fruit, isn't great at drinking that much water. This beaker has really encouraged him to drink more as he obviously likes the mechanism. It doesn't leak which is great and has a lid with handy clip so it attaches to my bag. I would definitely recommend it if you have a toddler who likes being on the go!

4. I couldn't do a favourites with mentioning books because reading is Ollies favourite thing ever. I am so pleased he loves books so much, especially that he loves some of the books I read as a child. Probably the two favourites at the moment are his cardboard lift the flaps books;  'Peepo' by Janet and Allan Ahlberg and 'Peter Rabbit's Lift the Flaps' by Beatrix Potter. 

5. In terms of toys Ollie is very partial to all his DUPLO, diggers and cars, and also is developing more interest in his soft toys, which he carts about and talks to, but he is also starting to really enjoy more educational toys such as puzzles and blocks. He is able to count (with assistance) to ten and likes to line things up, count them, build with them and knock them down again! According to nursery this is all part of the mathematics section of the EYLFs and something he is very keen on. I was lucky enough to choose some Boikido ABC Cubes* for him and he really loves playing with these and throwing them around. Obviously as he gets older the letters and numbers will play a more educational role and I am currently using the colours to help him get to grips with yellow and green (favourite colours so far) and the shapes to help him learn these (he likes circles and hearts best).

So there you have it, his top 5 favourites for Summer! Apologies for stock photos but they just show everything off much better (and in truth, the sandals are filthy, the lollies in the freezer, the beaker at nursery with Ollie, the book half chewed to death and half the blocks under the  piano (another favourite game, tra la)...

If you are interested in buying the NUK or Boikido goodies as mentioned above, or would like a gander at the NUK website (which sells them all plus a lot more lovely stuff for children and an excellent range of baby accessories), then you can use the code SUNSHINE25 for 20% off!

What are your child's summer favourites? Any recommendations?

Thanks for reading xxx

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