A Decade Of Parenting

I have been a parent for ten years. Ten whole years – where did ?they disappear to in that blink of an eye? We had ten years of marriage before we had our first child and achieved loads and the ten years seemed to last, you know, for ten years of time but the ten years of parenting – it just passed like you clicked your fingers. Well, perhaps I tell a lie – that week of toilet training did seem like a long time!

We got married quite young, very young now that I look back. A mere month after my 23rd birthday. ?We’d been living together for two years and following an argument when we both wanted to kill each other, Brian proposed and I accepted! ?We both decided that we wanted the commitment of marriage, that we did want to be together ‘for better, for worse’. ?I look back on my 23 year old self and she was a very different person but luckily we both changed in similar ways, otherwise one of us would definitely be under the patio! (No photos pre 2007 btw – no time to scan them! ?- another time!)

Maybe Baby? No Way!

I had no intention of having children and my motto was ‘another 5 years’. ?As some of my close friends got married and had babies, my attitude was – ‘why on earth would you want a baby in your 20s’ and ‘no thanks, I’d never eat a whole one!’. ?I was never the type to want to hold somebody else’s baby and had paid little heed to my younger siblings when they were small. ?I went back to university between the ages of 24-29 and the last thing I wanted was a baby as after all, they tend to quite time-consuming. ?When I started work in a secondary school, I saw evidence of that ‘maternal bond’, I became convinced that it must definitely exist as after all, I was teaching some pretty horrible teenagers (some nice ones too – just to add that!) and yet their mothers still loved them.

Brian would have been happy to have children in our 20s but I was adamant – kids in our 30s, teenagers in our 40s and let’s enjoy time to ourselves again while in our 50s. I was also conscious that with the genetics in both of our families, we had the capability to produce a very stubborn, hot-headed, strange individual and felt I needed to be very mature to deal with that!

I used to be vaguely amused by so many people asking about the pitter patter of tiny feet who then stopped asking as time went on, probably presuming that we couldn’t have children. One thing about Ireland – people tend to be very interested in the reproductive organs of others!

Change of Heart

I was nervous coming off the pill – I’d heard tales of people who got pregnant in the first month and that would be way too soon and also stories of couples who’d taken years to have children. I’d a feeling we’d be either one way or the other but in fact, it was neither and in October 2001, I discovered I was 6 weeks pregnant. Although I’d heard that one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage, I felt invincible. Miscarriages happened to other people, not to me and my only concern was how we were going to get that baby out again when it was fully cooked. ?I had a healthy pregnancy, no scares, a little bit of morning sickness and all the usual things like heartburn.

Coming up to 2 weeks overdue, Will had to be induced and when he eventually came out by C-section, he was a tad overcooked with scrawny chicken legs. The placenta was probably not working as efficiently in the last week and perhaps he wasn’t thriving in the last couple of days as he should. ?Brian bonded immediately, the evidence being when he came in the next morning and whispered to me about an acquaintance’s baby who was born the day before ours ‘I didn’t know what to say to Jenny about her baby, I mean, ours is so much cuter’. ?I didn’t have the energy to respond that ours looked liked a scrawny chicken whereas her’s was actually quite good looking. ?By day 3 I’d bonded too by the way and thought he was gorgeous!

I’d never changed a baby’s nappy before and could probably count on one hand the number of babies I’d actually held. ?I was put to shame by a 16 year old in the bed opposite who was bathing her baby within hours of giving birth to him, changing nappies and seemed to be a fountain of knowledge. ?Trying to soothe Will to sleep on the third evening, he didn’t seem to want to feed, he didn’t seem to have wind – what else could be the matter? The auxiliary came in and taking him from him said ‘He probably needs a change, he’s a bit whiffy’. ?Ding – the bell went in my brain ‘Oh” I said ‘I noticed that too but didn’t think it was him’. ?Talk about feeling a fool – with a distinction in my Masters degree and I couldn’t work out that my baby needed a clean nappy. ?’Have you changed a nappy before?’ she asked me to which I shook my head vigorously as if to say ‘Don’t leave me on my own’, so she helped me to change the nappy and he fell asleep straight away.

We returned to Ireland when Will was 3 weeks old but I was so glad I stayed in the UK to have him. ?Having had eczema all my life, I’d been told that breastfeeding was the best way to prevent him getting it. The Salisbury hospital was wonderful – knowledgeable midwives who were wonderfully patient, auxilaries who took him from me to let me sleep and I trusted them to bring him back to me for a feed when he woke, large bright spacious wards and I was totally relaxed, trusted them completely. ?I know I’m only comparing my two experiences but I also believe that if he’d been born in an Irish hospital, I wouldn’t have had the energy to be so determined and fight for a midwife to help with the feeding and I would have ended up bottle-feeding him. The quick solution over here seems to be ‘He’s a poor sucker, give him a bottle for now’ which of course can lead to health problems later on. ?Down from my soap box now!

A little bit of Pear

Back in Ireland, I was a bit of a rarity amongst my friends and neighbours as I continued breastfeeding past 3 weeks, past 6 weeks and onto 4 months when most babies are started on solids. ‘Give him a little bit of pear’ my mother would suggest. ?’No, he doesn’t need it until he is 6 months’ I would reply looking at my son who was growing in front of my eyes without a speck of eczema on his perfect skin. I ended up hearing about the La Leche League and going along to a meeting. I was totally startled at my first meeting to see a 3 year old having a feed but so reassured to hear that I wasn’t totally mad wanting to delay giving him solids.

Rose Tinted Glasses

Having been convinced that my child would continually cry, get sick and have dirty nappies constantly, never sleep and generally be a bit of a pain in the butt until it was at least 2 years of age, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I had a smiley baby. He never slept but apart from that, he was very sociable, smiley and even the dirty nappies were bearable. I think the prolaction hormone helped too – I was wonderfully relaxed. ?I think even if the house had gone on fire, I would have picked up my baby calmly and simply sauntered out of the house. If only they could bottle that hormone!

Knowing now that the maternal bond existed, I was convinced that I (and the rest of the family) were the only ones who thought our son was gorgeous. After all, I’d never really admired anyone else’s children so was sure they were lying when they said my son was cute and as for those who wanted to hold him, I was immediately suspicious. Why on earth would you want to hold someone else’s child?

Then I had teenager girls pointing at him and saying ‘oh, look at the smiley baby’. I would stop pushing the buggy and look in at him and yes, he was smiling away. Once, while in the supermarket trolley, a lady came up to me and commented on how cute he was. ?’There’s something really special about him’ she said to me ‘Do you see it?’. To which my reply was ‘Well, yes, but he’s mine hence he’s special to me.’ and she smiled and went on, warning me with that Irish saying ‘People will run away with him’ which always gives me the shivers!

‘Have you read Gina Ford?’ was a popular question.

I always answered with a vehement NO. ?Kate was born when Will was 25 months and then my life revolved around feeds, nappy changes, cooking a dinner and getting out for a walk with them in the huge double buggy. ?While my sister got her daughter into a routine within weeks, got her sleeping for long naps and to bed at the same time almost every night, we ended up sleeping on two double mattresses on the floor when we moved up to Garrendenny.

The kids went to bed at the same time as we did and in order to get them to have a nap in the daytime, it was a case of either feeding Kate to sleep and then putting her down ever so carefully, pushing them in the buggy or going for a drive in the car at the right time. 40 minutes was the most they would sleep for during the day. But I have to say, they were rarely cranky from lack of sleep. I did try the ‘let them cry for 5 min, console, try for 5 min’ etc about twice and gave up. ?I figured I’ll sleep enough when I’m dead and when I heard that a friend had done that with her 18 month old for about 2 weeks for hours on end and then discovered she had been in agony as she was a coeliac, that decided it for me. Our routine was we got up in the morning and got to bed at some stage! I look back now and think thank goodness I did that, thank goodness I sat on the sofa for hours feeding them and nursing them. They have grown up so fast and after all, what else would I have been doing apart from read a book or have a cleaner house!

It is somewhat hard to believe that if I hadn’t miscarried, we would now have an almost 5 year old starting school in September and a 3 year old starting playschool. Life would be very different. I wouldn’t have started up Garrendenny Lane, I wouldn’t have started blogging (well, perhaps) but I wouldn’t have started up Write on Track and I certainly wouldn’t be organising the Blog Awards.

Most people who meet the kids ?comment on how good they are and I can honestly say that I could count on one hand the number of times they have ‘let me down’ in public. Kate did have a massive tantrum in Dunnes once when she was 4 (and she looked about 6 as she’s so tall). ?I didn’t know whether to cry with her or give her a clap as she eyeballed the security guard (who came over to see if he could quieten her) and screamed ‘But I want it’ to which he retreated quickly! ?They do have their moments, naturally enough, when we are at home and will give cheek, refuse to empty the dishwasher and argue with each other but on the whole, they get on very well together. From day one when Kate came home, Will was very attentive to her and in return, she absolutely adores him. As they are 8 and 10 now, they don’t tend to play joint games as much, preferring now to do their own thing. It’s a long time now since they both decided to create a ship out of 2 armchairs and pile all their provisions on it or decide to go on a shopping trip and a picnic and unload all the cupboard’s tins into their little shopping trolleys.

They are growing up and it has been a pretty good decade. Parenting was so much better than I ever thought it could be. People sometimes say it is the hardest job out there and while I’m not saying it’s always easy, it’s the best job in the world.

Having experienced infertility, my heart goes out to anyone who is longing to be a parent and it just isn’t working out for them. Some couples make the decision that they don’t want kids and they must be irritated by those who continually ask them if they have kids but for those who desperately want them and are asked – it is so tough. I used to even get the ‘oooh, only two’ reaction when I said I had two children sometimes. Imagine what the reaction can be when you say you have none. ?Reading this article ‘Accepting a Life without Children‘ in today’s Irish Times shows what how hard it can be.

I’m blessed to have two such wonderful children.

12 thoughts on “A Decade Of Parenting

  • warmandsnugandfat

    I fell into parenthood after a long marriage in the same fashion – it’s funny how people assume infertility when the reality is you actually are not that enamoured of the idea until you reluctantly stick your toe into the water. Time is going by faster and faster, it is true, and all the while we are trying to hold onto the little memories and make it all last a little longer. Lovely post.

    Reply
    • Lorna

      I got some tweets in response to this post last night from some people saying they were continually asked within months of marriage re the patter of tiny feet. Yes, it is assumed that everyone wants children and must be jolly annoying to those who decide not to have them and so tough for those that desperately want them.
      I do think, though, that because we waited, all those little memories are more precious and that’s why we want to hold onto them for longer. Sometimes I wonder if I would have had my 4 kids if I’d started younger (and not had problems with infertility), but I’ve never regretted waiting till the time was right. After all, I then wouldn’t have had my lovely two and might have some awful teenagers now 😉
      Many thanks Amee, Lorna

      Reply
  • MaggieG

    Loved reading this. Time does fly by – mine are 24 and 21 now. I was told I was too relaxed as a parent but they turned out great. Can’t ask for more than that. Must have done something right!

    Reply
    • Lorna

      I think I’m fairly relaxed too … until I get stressed 😉
      It really is scary how fast it goes, you think they’ll never be out of nappies and suddenly they’re flying through school. It’s been a great ten years, I want to stop time!
      Many thanks for your comment :), Lorna

      Reply
  • jan c.

    It does go by so quickly-it’s hard for me to believe that both my babies are grown and having babies of their own! (I will say that while there were many joys in my parenting years, there is nothing quite like the joy of grandparenting-very sweet and much more relaxed! We really enjoy spending time with our two granddaughters and are looking forward to their little brother joining the family in a few weeks!)

    Reply

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