Jennie, Connie and Olive

Children and ages: Connie, 3 & Olive, 2

Location: Manchester 

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Life since the last blog post: Plodding along… faster than I’d like and with more dramas than I’d like! Since we last saw you, Olive has been diagnosed with quadriplegic cerebral palsy and can’t sit, stand or walk unaided. She can’t talk yet, but we’ve learned sign language and are teaching both girls. And Connie has learned to read and write! We’ve also both had parents take ill recently so life is hectic for us. 

Motherhood since last being on the blog: Tough at times but amazing at others. I’m learning about raising a child with multiple disabilities as well as a typically developing child. It’s a steep learning curve for both!

We don’t get much sleep because that’s something Olive is inconsistent with, but Rhys is amazing and gets up to do most of the night time ‘back to sleep bum taps’. Usually because I don’t hear her wake up and will sometimes sleep through! Since I stopped breastfeeding it’s like I’ve slowly become less sensitive to her waking- or I’m finally catching up on sleep, who knows. 

The girls both rock my world though- I have completely different relationships with each of them and they need me for different things, but the love I have for both of them is overwhelming. It makes me fill up just thinking about how much they mean to me and I get so much love back. 

Has motherhood changed you?: Yes. I’m more patient in some ways but then less tolerant in others! And I think I expect more from people. Partly that’s probably age, but often when I’m doing things I think about how I want my kids to see me so it frustrates me when others let me down or act like a dick in front of them.

It makes me think about how I respond to people in front of them and (sometimes!) makes me think more about what I say to them and to others. I don’t want my kids to be judgemental of others but I find it so hard to reign that in myself – it’s made me more conscious of how much I make assumptions about people. Kids don’t do that, they just have this blank slate where everyone is the same and if you’re nice to them, then you’re ok. I want to keep them that way as long as possible. It’s not innocence as such, just that they have no preconceptions. 

Hardest parts of being a mother: The guilt. I don’t know if everyone has that but I get the feeling I’m not alone. I feel guilty for doing things, taking them to things or saying the wrong thing/ making the wrong choices for them. I’m guilty if I don’t do things (‘I should take them to more groups, I don’t do enough baking/ painting/ crafts/ walking etc with them…’), and when I’ve had a tough day and they wind me up to the point where I want to shout ‘you are an ungrateful little sh*t’, I immediately feel guilty for thinking it. I threw Connie’s pyjamas at her once and then cried because I felt so mean. I feel guilty for spending more time with Olive, even though she needs it. And I feel guilty for the future they will both have. I worry how I might feature in conversations they have with their friends/therapists! 

Another thing I have found hard is the social isolation. Isolation is a strong word- maybe just feeling alone at times or the change in social circles. I see much more of my friends who have kids. Friends I used to see often, I hardly see anymore. I don’t make as much effort with them as I should- I don’t have the time or energy. It works both ways though, I think they lay off because they know I’m busy and tired. And when I do see them I’m probably not great company because I don’t have the time or the energy! It takes me a while to ‘warm up’ to being social because I feel I have very little of interest to talk about, although that’s probably not true. 

There’s a pressure I put on myself too- I want everyone to see me as doing an amazing job, balancing all the plates… but that means I’m hard on myself at times, even though I know no one expects me to do all these things. I’m happy being busy though. 

Best parts of being a mother: The surprises. There’s lots- Even the not-so-good ones are still pretty good, like coming in to find Connie with my nice (only, nice) make up compact open and blusher/highlighter smeared all over her face telling me how she made herself pretty. Or when Olive takes the piss out of Connie and signs ‘you smell’ and Connie cries. It’s still funny. Or olive poking her finger up Connie’s bum at bathtime and the two of them wetting themselves laughing and then doing it again. Or coming into an empty room and hearing giggling from behind the curtain because they are hiding. I love that stuff, you can’t account for when it will happen. 

And I know everyday there’s something they will do that will make me love them more and feel so lucky to have them in my life. 

What you wish you’d known before having children: how much spare time and money I had!! Also I kind of wish I had appreciated sleep more, but I have always fully embraced sleeping, so I couldn’t really have enjoyed it more. I’m just jealous of the old, well-rested version of me. Everyone says you get no sleep as a parent but there’s no way you can ever fully comprehend beforehand, no matter how many people tell you. For us it’s just unfortunate that the no-sleep phase is longer than most. 

Any more advice for mothers and expectant mums: Never leave the house without wet wipes. Don’t dwell on your guilt too much. Try to enjoy the way your body changes, it was for a good reason.

Oh and take time for yourself. My friends will laugh when they read that because I’m not very good at it, but it’s important to look after yourself. 

Im starting to sound like that Baz Luhrman song now, ‘wear sunscreen’. 

Just find your own way to parent, you know best most of the time. I just want mine to be happy and resilient. Life can be a shitter, so as long as they know they have a parent/ carer that loves them, you’re doing your job well. 

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