What bedtime really is…..

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Whilst I wait for my own words to return, you might like to try these…

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Before I was a parent, I used to think the hour reading stories at bedtime must be the best bit of the day. I had images of clean, sweet smelling children, all snuggled up in soft pyjamas in bed, drifting quietly off to sleep while I read them a chapter of Enid Blyton. Ah, how lovely it would be, finishing our day in such harmony, leaning over to kiss them gently goodnight after their eyes drifted shut, before going downstairs and leaving them to sleep soundly for twelve hours while I sat in my tidy living room, discussed all the joys of the day with my husband, and perhaps watched a bit of Grey’s Anatomy before going to bed myself. Five years into being a parent, it’s clear that my actual best part of the day is when I shut the door on them, go downstairs to my toy strewn…

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When the words just won’t come

Writing

I have been wanting to write a post all week but something has got in the way. I have topics I want to write about. I’ve even had the time to write. But, for some strange reason, something is stopping me.

Even now, as I start to type, I am fighting the feeling that is trying to get me to stop. It’s hard.

I remember how easily the words came when I first began to blog. They flowed from me in pages and the only way I needed to push myself was by pressing publish. But now they stammer and stall.

I can still feel them there, hear them form. I long to set them free but something still seems to stop me. I’m so unsure.

So I force them out. Clumsy and ill-crafted they take their shape on the page until I find myself here. Far from happy with these words but here all the same. Here and hoping that this is not the end.

Love and Fear

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Nothing teaches you about fear like becoming a parent. Nothing.

I recall the first night we brought our baby home. We took it in turns to stay awake through the night as she slept. Just in case.

And I recall that same night, around three am, when she wouldn’t sleep unless snuggled next to me as I fought to keep my eyes open and then, little by little, failed to do so. I remember how I berated myself for taking such a risk! I admit, I had an awful lot to learn.

Today, she has a rash. Red patches that can settle on neither spots nor splodges and leave me dashing to google for a diagnosis. She is fine.

Ultimately, I am terrified of losing her and it takes almost more than I have to keep that in check every day as we deal with all the big bad world dares to offer.

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But the fear I have found is so much more than this. It is a fear of myself and all the damage I will undoubtedly do. I dread the thought of breaking her.

And the only thing that scares me more is that thought that I might not be around to see just how misplaced all my fears might be.

Dear Never

Writing

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Dearest Never,

I’m writing this to you from a time and place where you seem impossible. But a time and place where I think of you endlessly all the same.

I daydream about your existence and wonder when and where you are (or whether you will even read this). Because I just can’t help but utter your name.

You are all of the things I dare not see; my fears, my dreams. You embody them all. And yet I cannot face you. The mere prospect of you plunges me in to the depths of despair. You are too much for me. But I realise that facing you is inevitable none the less.

And I know that when I do it will break my heart. I know that I will not be able to hide the broken parts any more. That my fears and my dreams will finally join us there and transform themselves in to so, so many regrets. It kills me to think of it.

So, for now, I will continue to take your name in vain. To use it to negate all that I am and all that I will ever be.

As always.

X

Therapy

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Sat across from you I desperately began my search. I was longing for a different life and you felt like my last chance. But I was still unsure.

I tried to trust you, to trust myself. Inevitably, it felt impossible.

Week by week we waded through my thoughts; thick, tangled, twisted. Alongside you I allowed myself to face the darkness. My darkness.

For so long I had feared what I might find. Was it the truth? I am still unsure.

Fragments of feelings flashed burning and bright rather than the dim and distant memories I dreamed I might discover. They hurt. They still do.

And what am I left with? What might I make of these broken parts? How will I fix them together to form my future?

Just five more minutes…

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“Just relax, breathe, and focus on the next five minutes. You can get through the next five minutes, right?”

He was right. Of course he was. I could lay there, safe and warm and still next to him for a few of those said minutes then get up, walk the short distance from the bedroom to the bathroom, turn on the shower and, by the time I got out, that would be it; my five minutes would be up. But what about the next five? Or the five after that?

Five minutes can be a long time.

Long enough to watch the drama unfold; the headlines, the breaking news. Enough time to win the game. Or to lose. To make it just in time or all too narrowly miss it. Disappointment. Relief. It’s long enough to meet someone new. To find yourself face to face with a stranger and wonder who you have to be. Or how you might even begin to be them. A new friend. A lover. Your own child. It is enough time to say goodbye. To speak those simple words without ever realising that it is the end, the last chance. Long enough to get it wrong. To say something or do something that ruins it all. Or get it right and realise you might not be ready as you start to doubt whether you ever will be. Whether another five more minutes will ever be enough. Long enough to see the truth. To watch it spill from someone’s lips and realise that you might just drown in it. Or to spill it yourself. Long enough to be forced to face to consequences.

Life has taught me that five minutes is all it takes. All it takes to change things forever.

And I not sure I can get through that.

The Mathematics of Being a Good (Enough) Mother

Family

I have a confession to make: today, I am a terrible mother.

When my daughter was born, I bought in to the idea that breast was best. I loved the suggestion that there was something I could do from day one that could give her the best start. I loved how that made me feel. And, fortunately for me, I found it easy.

As she grew older I could be found pulping and puréeing first thing in the morning. I found myself shopping everyday for yet more fresh fruits and vegetables, fish and foods free from artificial colours or preservatives. I have never been much of a cook but, even to me, it seemed pretty straight forward.

In that first year I also became a familiar face at various mother and baby groups. Something that didn’t come quite so easily. I despised the prospect of singing in pubic and was pretty terrified of socialising with people I didn’t know. But I did it anyway. And survived.

And I filled the days with every manner of enriching activities! From swimming to baby signing, museums and visits to the library, arts and crafts, flash cards, singing and dancing, days at the farm, fresh air and exercise and everything in between. And the reading! Endless hours of reading! Repeated reading to the point where I can recite a whole host of children’s classics from memory alone. Because how could I ever refuse her requests to sit down together and devour a book?!

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And, possibly harder than finding the time to fit in all of the above, I found the faith to tell myself that everything I did for her, every choice I made, held her best interests at its heart.

But I didn’t do it because I am perfect.

I did it because I know I am not.

I have been worried about today for a long time. If I am honest, I cannot believe it didn’t come sooner. I never thought I would survive this long.

Because I had already been a statistic. 1 in 4 people this year with suffer with a mental health issue. Depression, anxiety, paranoia…the spectrum is wide and the term encompasses so many different things but, having been there more than once before, I know the symptoms are often the same.

Put simply, it can become hard to cope.

I am reluctant to label the feelings that have been growing inside me for the past few months. I hope that I won’t find myself forced to as I sit opposite the doctor and ask for their help. But these feelings are familiar.

And, for me, the worst part is how they fool me in to thinking I am a failure.

So today, after spending the morning sat on the sofa whilst my daughter watched too much television, feeding her lunch of fish fingers and baked beans for the third time in a week and then driving her to her grandparents to spend the rest of the day and night, I returned home and got in bed.

And now I lay here doing the maths. Will all my efforts count in my favour? Have I done enough to make my workings add up? Or will my weakness cancel out anything I had going in my favour?

What does it take to be good enough?

A Mothers’ Meeting

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An army of brand name buggies encircle the tables located in the prime position; equidistant from the parent and child toilet and the mini microwave next to the till. Each is accompanied by a high chair that was, upon entry, acquired by a blonde girl under orders from the tall woman in her late twenties who now waits third from the front of the queue. From this position she employs her best signing skills (picked up and practised to ensure her first born could communicate long before that much anticipated first word) to clarify whether the women want cappuccinos or lattes, skimmed milk or soy.

Sat around the table the other women are already chattering. They pull plastic pots from padded bags and test the temperature of pre prepared bottles as they reply to emails on their iPhones. But the talk never stops. Some share self soothing success stories whilst others offer top teething tips. One dares to enter the debate on controlled crying by detailing her own dilemma. The others avert their eyes. They talk in fragments. All fail to finish sentences as, instead, they are torn away to distribute organic carrot sticks or spoon pouches of purée into gummy mouths. There is a flow of faces as they take it in turns to lift their little ones and traipse to the toilets. On the table a mountain of torn wrappers and used wipes has grown long before the order even arrives.

Looking on are two retired women, weighed down by bags, whose eyes scan the room in search of a seat. A man dressed in a cheap suit stands in the queue and clutches his panini and packet of crisps. It is clear his aim is to avoid meeting anyone’s gaze. Couples huddle along the side of the room and sip their too hot tea as they plan weekends away. Sometimes the women’s eyes can’t help but wander.

And, in the door way, struggles another mother, torn between her desire to pass half an hour in peace and her ever growing desperation to have another adult hear her voice.

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How not to face the future

Writing

“We are back here again, aren’t we?”

I paused for as long as I could manage. I broke.

“I guess.” My voice cut the silence with a cool, steely edge. At least, I wanted it to.

“You just can’t believe that it might be true, can you?”

“No,” I replied, “Obviously I can’t.”

“Every time we get here, it becomes so clear you are in distress. You must see that that is real?”

“Is it?” I hoped sincerely that it was. “Or is it just an excuse? It sounds like an excuse.”

She stared straight at me. I wanted to get up walk away. I let my focus become blurred and tried my hardest to escape her gaze. I checked the clock. It was impossible.

“Ok, so, let’s assume I am. Let’s assume it isn’t my fault and I’m not to blame. It doesn’t change anything, does it?”

“Maybe it will.”

She sat there, silent and still, her eyes fixed on me. I wanted to run but, again, I stayed. Something always makes stay. Silent and still, I allowed myself a moment to try to imagine if things were different.

I couldn’t.

I had nowhere to go from here. I had nothing to say that hadn’t been said too many times before.

So I sat there distressed, silent and still, and waited.

The Writer

Writing

It’s the early hours of the morning and the house is near silent and very still. She sits dressed in an oversized jumper and a blanket in the dark. Her face is illuminated by the blue glow of her own words on the white screen. Her features are highlighted and her flaws are exposed.

The words have been pouring for a while now. She couldn’t stop them if she tried. Sometimes she wondered what would happen if she did. And then she remembers.

This time alone with them is when she loves them best but they never leave her. They follow her around out in to the rest of the world and she finds them forming and making their presence felt in spite of herself. She has learnt to listen.

As she takes in their shape on the screen, she questions where they came from. Are they even true?