On my birthday eve…

I am consumed with thoughts of her. I’m reminded of the story of my birth and it’s one I will cherish. The reason being that it constantly reminds me of how much of a total superhero she was.

Labour started in the afternoon and she telephoned my grandparents to come and collect my sister Carly. However my Dad was yet to return from work and so she continued to make his tea. For clarification tea refers to our evening meals up here in Yorkshire. Anyway, she proceeded through the contractions to make his tea. Something elaborate no doubt and then she waited. When my Dad returned home she made him sit down and eat. Her reasoning being he’d been at work all day and would be ready for it and so she walked around the kitchen contracting and waiting and watching him and no doubt hating him a little bit but also loving him enough to put his needs first. Once he had finished, my Dad drove her to Pontefract hospital and without any pain relief, I arrived at 11.27. Having experienced a contraction or two myself I know the pain she was in and what she went through to bring me here but all the while she was what I would come to learn to be her stoic and selfless self. She was amazing and brave (to the very end) and strong and all the things I can only hope to be.

I miss her. I miss her terribly. So much so I’ve been ugly crying on and off for most of this week. Having now had Eliza I understand fully why she was the first call I got on my birthday. Wherever I was in the world she would be the first and it was because I (and my siblings) were the centre of her world. And she really was the centre of mine. Of ours. And you know that when someone dies they often become elevated in peoples perceptions, no one ever says “well they were a bit of a dick” well this is not the case for my Mum. No exaggeration or pedestal here. This is a true story. She really was that much of a hero. She really was that much of a big deal and I am devastated every day still that she has left us.

I find writing cathartic and I have found since losing my Mum that I find reading other peoples experiences helpful so I do hope that anyone reading this can take something from it. Even if it’s just to pick up the phone and ring their Mum. Or take a minute to reflect that whatever else is challenging them in their lives that they have their Mum and that is something to be grateful for. For those who have lost their Mum’s too then I hope my rambling about missing her on my birthday makes them feel a little less alone when they themselves feel like this when it should be a happy occasion.

Last year I chose to celebrate my birthday at the Spa and later at home with my friend Debbie accompanied by too much wine because I couldn’t bear to be around people. This year I verged on choosing to isolate myself again because it is easier than planning something when you’re missing someone so integral to your being but my sister has stepped in and instead I am going to be surrounded by many of my favourite people. The ones who can be here that is, by this I mean those in the country/in existence. It hurts to even write that.

So goodbye 34 and hello 35. Thank you age for the grey hair I found last week and the struggle I had getting out of the car on Tuesday after a long drive… getting old is rubbish but you’re only as old as you feel or the man you feel as the saying goes… and he’s 28 (29 in July) so I’m reckoning I’m really only 29 tomorrow too.

Here are some pictures of me and my Mum when I was a baby. As an aside to all the dad’s out there, take more pictures!! I have very few from when I was little with her as she was always the one taking them. Also I wish I could pan right or left or up as her face is left out of most of them.

I’m guessing from the way she is moving out of shot that she didn’t have her mascara on that day. Shame.

There are very few pictures of me generally as a child because I was the poor neglected middle one and this therefore prompted years of being told by my loving sister I was adopted. Given the lack of pictures pre age 4 I believed it but now the resemblance is so uncanny there is no doubt I was and am hers and she was and is very much mine.

Happy birthday

The week before her birthday it seems is another tricky time. I use the word ‘tricky’ to play it down I think. In the absence of a more fitting word for the muddled, indescribable feelings you experience approximately one whole week before a significant date. People who have not experienced such loss will not know of this feeling. They are forgiven for thinking that the actual day will be the challenge but it’s not. Birthdays, which includes all of them, Hers, mine, Eliza’s, my sister and brothers, nieces and nephew, Dad, my deceased grandparents, all of them. Christmas and new year and my wedding anniversary even. Every significant date including the anniversary of her death gives way to this week, (yes a full week) of a nagging, unsettling feeling. A general feeling of being short tempered and distracted and painfully sad. Thank goodness it’s nearly over.

Tomorrow is her birthday and it’s the second we have had without her. The picture was taken the night before her 61st birthday when I’d snook out of the house and round to my sisters to collect the flowers we had hidden there. She loved flowers. Lilies were her favourites. Tulips second. She loved reading and so in the bag there were two books I’d chosen for her.

Looking back at this I’m comforted to know that we showed her and told her she was loved. She had to have died knowing this. It may not have cost much but all of her favourite things so surely she knew what we felt. On that day at least.

There is no knowing this for certain of course but I tell myself it in some attempt to make myself feel better. To take away the guilt of those days when I maybe didn’t let her know how loved she was. The days we all have when we take for granted what we have. I’m still not ready for platitudes like “at least you had her for the time you had” or “at least she got to meet Eliza” I’m not ready for that shit yet. I’m so angry. Furious that I will never see or speak to her again. I’m still so so sad that I cry until I can’t breathe. On a random morning driving to work or night as I try and sleep or when Eliza says “my Nanna’s in the Sky” Yes it’s less but it happens and when you least expect it and it is crushing.

For tomorrow at least I know a calm will come over me and I’ll feel ok. Isn’t grief strange? Only those reading this who truly know will understand what I’m talking about and for this I am sorry. I so wish you didn’t.

How Eliza gave up the bottle

So it was always the plan once we returned from Australia to get Eliza off the bottle and out of her pull ups at night. I thought what I needed after the three week trip to the other side of the world, jet lag and a stomach bug was another challenge.

I decided against a weaning programme and went for cold turkey. Again, because I wanted the challenge. Or maybe I’m a little unhinged.

The first night was met with the expected protests. I was woken twice in the night with screams for her bottle. That said, she went back to sleep relatively easily. Second night… nothing. Third night… still nothing. Done. Seriously, I’m not even going to follow this with a story of how four days in Eliza was looking through peoples bins or stealing bottles from unsuspecting babies in Tesco. Absolutely nothing. So basically my laziness and possibly some subliminal need to keep her as a baby was the sole reason she had remained hooked on having a bottle before bed until the age of three. And three months.

As for being dry at night. Exactly the same. No wet bed. I’m not a total idiot though, I do expect some accidents in the coming weeks, months even years but I must say I’m a little pissed off I’ve been spending £15 a month on pull ups for no reason!

The truth is she’s been ready for a while. I just haven’t had the capacity to address it. It was the same with potty training. I didn’t have to download any apps or songs. She just did it. I kept her hanging on though for longer than needed because I was preoccupied with my Mum dying. She had prepared us though, my Mum that is. She’d bought the potty and the knickers and the toilet seat. It was all ready in place.

If you are wondering why I am writing about this then maybe therein lies the reason. I haven’t had anyone to tell. To send a daily update on the dry mornings. Or sending pictures of my bottle free ‘big girl’.

To avoid any further musings on how utterly devastating it is that I can’t tell my Mum about these milestones I will close with an admission.

Eliza fell off the wagon tonight. Her cousin Angelica is sleeping over and brought her bottle. I’d clocked Eliza eyeing up the bottle throughout the night and wondered if this would be her time to relapse and had prepared myself. As we all cuddled in bed to read a story, Angelica let go of the bottle temporarily and Eliza took her chance. There was eye contact for the duration and as I gently prised it out of her hands she said “it was just one sip Mummy” before throwing herself onto her pillow face down, letting out a cry and then in true Eliza style it seems, moving swiftly on.

Never a truer word said than that of a toddler

The actual saying is ‘many a true word said in jest’ of course toddlers don’t have that level of higher thinking to dress it up as a joke. They really do say what they think and don’t give a shit. Like pointing to your belly and declaring “you’ve got a wobbly belly” or “small boobies” while laughing. Yes, I know they don’t understand what they’re saying all of the time or that their brutal honesty can hurt but it doesn’t stop their words from stopping you in your tracks and making you reflect. Not just on whether you should have avoided that pack of biscuits at work. Even bigger than that.

Eliza and I arrived in Katoomba in the Blue Mountains today and ended up having dinner in a nearby restaurant. Dinner consisted of chips with a side of broccoli for her, nothing else on the menu was of interest apparently. She was waxing lyrical about being lucky because she had a jar of ketchup and I didn’t. I went on to say that I felt I was the luckiest because I had her and that she was my best friend. No response. So I asked if I was her best friend and this is the response I got

“No Mummy, Daddy is my best friend and I’m yours”

I then pulled my sad face and realising she didn’t quite get the two way friendship thing I said well who’s best friend am I then? To which she replied,

“Nanna”

And there you have it. The sledge hammer to your stomach. Yes, I was Nanna’s best friend and she was certainly mine. My eyes welled up and she looked at me long and hard as she often does when this happens and then changed the subject. I’ve got very good at the art of not letting the tears spill over now. Just the welling and hoping no one sees. Sunglasses have been helpful this holiday. On the beach at Whitehaven when a moment washed over me of longing to tell her how beautiful it was. Another time on the ferry from Manly. Hearing her voice saying “Oh Al, was it choppy?” and wanting to tell her it was actually more like a mill pond. Something she used to say. Only my siblings will hear her voice when they read that. Those are just two examples of the almost daily welling up but like I say, I’ve perfected the art of not letting it progress to full on tears so much so that you could be forgiven for forgetting it ever happened.

This it seems is the case when something has not directly affected you. We all resume our daily lives once the shock has passed.

We are fast approaching the one year anniversary of Mum’s death. I deliberately booked to be travelling back from Australia that day so that I will be distracted from how awful and raw it still is even a year on.

Not quite sure how we got here but we did.

In other news… I’m apparently now Joy, Topsy and Tim’s Mum. This is an improvement on being Tim and even Topsy so I’ll take it but I do question Eliza’s judgment because that women seriously has her shit together. Every lunch they seem to have a virtuous meal and when the little brats dropped the cup cakes she bought for their birthday party she just told them in a soothing tone to go upstairs and take a deep breath. I really wish I was Joy.

Oh and Eliza may come out with some profound observations sometimes but I’d like to add that tonight she sang “once I caught a fish alive” 29 times. Not the whole song, just that line. Normally I would stop her but I wanted to see just how many times she’d say it. 29. Yes, 29 times. I won’t be writing to Mensa just yet.

TFF island day care

That’s all I can say! Here is Eliza pre-clownfish day care.

Note the demolished plant bottom right. This she did while waiting for the club to open. Once it did she was straight in and I barely got a goodbye.

I bid a hasty retreat to the pool and a glass of Pimms. For $60 dollars a session (1.30-5) it was money well spent. For a child who is at Nursery five days a week she was missing the stimulation and mixing with children her own age. To be honest, had it been $100 dollars I would have paid it!!

We’d spent the morning on the beach and then at the pool. It was lovely. As she held onto me tightly and said “Mummy we’ll be best friends always” I was overcome with emotion. How lucky I was to have such a loving, clever girl. She went onto declare that I was actually Topsy and she would be Tim. A special morning indeed. However, seldom does this level of loveliness last and on our fourth trip into the pool Eliza splashed me for the hundredth time but this time I was blinded by a mix of pool water, sun cream and apparently waterproof mascara. When I turned her round explaining that “mummy needs a towel” she erupted and screamed the pool down. Sobs of “I want to go under the bridge” could be heard all the while I was experiencing searing pain and impending blindness and having her kick me in the stomach and other delicate areas. By 1.30 I was ready and I’m sure you can forgive me for that.

My afternoon went like this…

Finally getting to read the slimline book I’d brought. I also enjoyed watching a nice young man by the pool. When I say ‘young man’ I must add that he was of legal age but clearly younger than my 34 years. It’s nice to look though. When it was time to pick Eliza up I was anxious that I would be met with reports that mid way through the afternoon she had asked for me. Then I would have felt terribly guilty. But nothing of the sort, just a glowing report and this…

Testament to how well adjusted she is. A happy, relaxed child and a happy relaxed Mummy.

She’s booked in again for Friday…

High tea anniversaries and musings on single mummy dating (or lack of)

So my Aunt and her husband Mike celebrated their 48th wedding anniversary on Wednesday and were kind enough to invite me and Eliza to celebrate with them.

All in all it went well. Like our journey over here, a trip of two halves. I’m accepting now this is going to be the way. That after that cut off point when attention lapses there is very little that can be done to claw back the well mannered three year old from the now feral child smearing jam that was meant for the scones inside her new cream ballet pumps.

Despite the ridiculousness of how our civilised high tea unfolded. We must not forget why we were there.

What a wonderful example they are of when marriage works. It gives me faith that you can find that one person and spend your life with them. Mike and Chris met when Chris, already divorced, had her three year old daughter Lora and he went on to legally adopt her. They went onto have a second daughter Natasha and emigrated to Australia. I am sure Chris wouldn’t mind me saying but she had not had the best experiences with men up until meeting Mike and here there is hope for us all.

They’re wonderful together. A relationship that is lovely to see and inspiring. Definitely one of the notable relationships that gives me hope. The reality currently though is that I have yet to find my ‘Mike’ who is so mad about me he is prepared to accept I have my Eliza too.

Generally what happens is that somebody shows an interest but it is clear very quickly that she is a sticking point. This hurts a lot. When the ex husband declared he’d had an affair I can honestly say the rejection I felt was all for her, Eliza that is. How could he choose to leave her? A number of the reasons he cited for having an affair centred around me no longer giving him enough attention since her arrival. The fierce protectiveness was overpowering and this is what I feel now.

I can’t honestly say I have been open to dating and maybe this is the reason. I must be clear that I certainly don’t want to get married again. Divorce is too painful. It involves solicitors and money and this makes it turn nasty very quickly. I would like to meet someone though to share my life with eventually. Unfortunately so far I have only come across fuck boys (pardon the phrase) and people that although may be perfectly nice, they perceive their lives to be much more interesting without a three year old in tow. The reality however is that they’d be lucky to get to spend time with her and sleeping in until 12 every weekend is overrated.

Maybe ‘Mike’s’ don’t exist anymore? Maybe I need to accept that it won’t happen for me. I’m certainly happy now giving all of my energy to Eliza and making sure she is happy and healthy and having wonderful experiences. If I wasn’t happy with this maybe I would have put myself out there. I certainly don’t need a man and maybe therein lies another stumbling block. I love my own time. I’m self sufficient and maybe this isn’t particularly attractive. It should be but without the need for ‘saving’ maybe the Knight in shining armour will never appear? Just a thought…

I should maybe open up and go on at least one date before I make up my mind on the matter though. Who knows, there may be an emotionally intelligent guy who finds an independent, career focussed single Mum who likes to drink red wine and dance, an attractive option.

Below are pictures of Eliza pre and post smearing of the jam…

Oh and just in case you thought I was being crass with my earlier referral to ‘fuck boys’ they are a real thing. We all know one or a few even. Here’s the definition in case any of you have had the fortune not to come across one.

https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=fuckboy