My wife

To my darling Lorna,

It’s your birthday today, the 7th one we’ve spent together. Birthdays have changed quite a lot over the years, we used to go out drinking and birthdays were a day to get spoilt. Not today though, we have the school run, I then have my medication review and then it’s baby group for Bertie. You’ve said you’ll do the food shopping because I get anxious when I have to do it myself. Even on a day that’s supposed to be all about you, you’re thinking about me.

I really don’t think you’ll ever know what you’ve done for me, when I was at my worst you made me wash and you put food in front of me so I would eat. On the days you were home, I would just want to lie in bed but you wouldn’t let me. You knew what I needed even when I didn’t have a clue. Even after working 14 hour shifts you would stay awake at night holding my hand so I didn’t feel so alone.

I must have been so difficult to live with over the past few months, I stopped finding things funny and we’ve always been able to laugh together. I cried all the time and I worried that our baby would die. Who wants to hear on a daily basis about the different ways their baby could get hurt. I questioned everything you did, your driving, your parenting, everything. You responded to the million times I said “careful” with a smile, you didn’t make me feel stupid and you didn’t get offended by it.

You work so hard and even if you’re busy you always have time for others. You take a lot on, people speak to you when they’re struggling and I know from first hand experience why. You listen, too often people want to jump in with advice, but you don’t. You listen and then if you have something to say you do, but sometimes you just listen.

You deserve so much more for your birthday than I can give you this year. I’m determined to keep a lid on my ridiculous behaviour although I’m now feeling anxious about being anxious and ruining your day. I want today to be about you because it feels like it’s been about me for the last 5 months and that feels selfish.

I told you recently that I love you so much more now than the day we got married and I’ll probably love you next year more than this year. I learn new things about you everyday which makes me love you more.

Today will be a good day and it will be the start of lots more good days, I promise you that my love.

All my love G xxxxxx

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My baby

Oh Bertie, my littlest, the one I longed for most, the one that came after the heartbreak of failed fertility treatments, the one who has caused me the most worry of all 3 and my last baby (probably).

When I was pregnant with you I wanted you to stay in there forever, not because I wasn’t desperate to meet you but because I knew that whilst you were in there you were safe. Your heart condition means that as you grow you may have more problems with feeding and breathing, so could you please stay little forever? You’ve already grown so much and you’re now a big bouncing boy.

When your brother and sister were babies they would wake up screaming and demanding to be fed but you don’t. You look over at me in the morning and break into a huge smile which brightens my day instantly. You don’t cry much, only when your really really hungry and you generally sleep all night. People love you and coo at you all the time and you have the ability to charm them all.

I love you so fiercely and all I want to do is protect you but the hardest thing is that I can’t protect you from everything, but believe me I will try everyday. I fell in complete love with you the minute you were born and I will continue to show you that everyday of our lives together.

My Son

What can I say about Ted!! I’ve said a lot already but I feel like I’ve painted a one sided picture of him. Yes Ted can be challenging but there is definitely another side to him.

When Ted was a baby he was such a happy boy, people would stop and coo over him all the time and he would reciprocate with beaming smiles and giggles. Everyone adored Ted and most still do. Someone once described him as spirited and that is very true, he’s got an opinion about everything which is lovely and also bloody annoying but I love that he is so interested in everything, I mostly even like him asking questions (I did say mostly, the constant why grates a little). And my goodness is he stubborn, most people see this as a negative but when he refuses to give up on something until he succeeds I would say his stubbornness is pretty awesome. Don’t get me wrong when it’s aimed at me it’s fairly frustrating but if we can just allow him to continue being himself he’ll go far.

Ted is also the most loving child you’ll ever meet, he’s always kissing and cuddling everyone (even when it’s not particularly welcomed) and he will randomly tell us he loves us, without any expectation of it being reciprocated. He feels things and god he feels them deeply, he expresses his emotions with every inch of himself.

As I’ve said before Ted has moments where he can be quite aggressive and struggles to control his feelings but these are starting to become less now and he’s starting to express himself better with words. Whether this be because he’s started school and has started to mature or something else, who knows but it’s a blessing to have him behave better but still continue to be spirited! We’ve always said Ted will either end up on the stage or in prison, we’re just not sure which one but maybe we’re edging closer to the stage.

My daughter

I’ve written about Grace before but I’ve not dedicated a whole post to her (she’ll probably hate that I have). So here goes, I’ll try not to embarrass her too much.

Grace is my very happy accident. I have no problem telling her this because I don’t want her thinking that it’s a good idea to plan a baby at 19 years old. Grace of course wasn’t planned but I’ve never for a second regretted having her. Having Grace so young made life quite tough for us, from a year old she had to go to her dad’s every other weekend. This was particularly hard on both of us but it was important for her to have a relationship with him.

Grace was pretty well behaved as a child, she had the odd tantrum but generally she was easy apart from her sleep! She ruined my sleep pattern for life, she didn’t regularly sleep through the night until she was 6 years old and when she did sleep it was in my bed where she would pull the hairs out from the back of my head the little beast.

She’s had a lot to contend with over the years, unfortunately her relationship with her dad has completely broken down. I would say it’s his loss but it’s had a profound impact on her and for years she blamed herself for the way he treated her. I’m so proud that eventually she told him what she thinks of him, it took her 17 years to stand up for herself but she did it! It is also his loss, he will never know the amazing young woman she’s become because he’s never really bothered to get to know her.

Grace really doesn’t believe much in herself, she asked me if she could drop French GCSE a couple of months before the exam because her teacher was negative and Grace believed that she would fail. She actually got a high B and the exam has been sent off to be remarked because they think she can get an A. She did so well in her exams and is now excelling at college too, thankfully she is nothing like I was as a teenager!

Grace constantly amazes me and although I could happily strangle her on some days, particularly when I look in her bedroom (it’s very close to being condemned by environmental health), she is my greatest achievement to date.

My sister

The story of my sister, Tamara, is not a conventional one, so this post may be a little different from my other family ones.

As far as I always knew there was just me and my brother Simon when we were growing up (much to my disappointment at the time), then when I was 23 years old my mum dropped a bombshell. I’d just got home from uni and my mum asked to speak to me, she said she had some news. Straight away I asked if she was pregnant, my mother was approx 54 years of age and I suspect it would be a bloody miracle of she was. Her response was “no, but I was”, she proceeded to tell me how she had found out she was pregnant when she was 18 years old, she had hidden it from her parents and gone off to Montreal to work for the summer, she was 20 weeks pregnant at the time (yay for 18 year old stomach muscles). She had written her mother a letter and explained that she was pregnant but she planned to put the baby up for adoption. Sadly for my mum she knew that she wouldn’t manage to raise a baby alone and her parents wouldn’t have supported her.

The reason my mum had decided to tell us now was that my sister had tried to find my mum (through an adoption social worker). This was fairly easy, my mum had a very unusual maiden name and she was from a fairly small place where her mother still lived at the time, she was the only person with that surname who lived there. Everything was done quite slowly at first, all letter went through the social worker and you weren’t allowed to say where you lived or give a surname. Eventually they arranged to meet, obviously this was not quite as simple as it seems, my sister still lived in Canada and we live in the UK.

The day my sister arrived I was at uni, on my way home I was terrified to meet her. I had a lot of anxieties about what to expect, this was uncharted territory, I didn’t even know anyone that had a similar experience. I worried she wouldn’t like me and that we would have nothing to say to each other, I suspect it was even worse for Tamara. I really didn’t have much to worry about, although we were nervous, we all hit it off.

I’ve only been out to visit my sister once but we had a great time. It was lovely to have proper 1:1 time with her, but sadly we haven’t been able to afford to go since. She’s never met Lorna, Ted or Bertie and I haven’t met her youngest babies (twins who are a few months older than Ted). Tamara has 6 children so understandably it would be impossible for her to come here.

When I first found out about Tamara I was angry! I was angry with my mum for not telling me and angry that I was no longer my mum’s only daughter and angry that I felt we’d been lied to our whole life but now I understand why we weren’t told. How could my mum have said that we had a sister somewhere but that we may never be able to see her. I feel totally different now, my sister is one of the kindest, most compassionate women I’ve ever met and she’s a fabulous mother too. I feel sad we don’t get to see each other for years on end but that doesn’t mean we’re not proper sisters and that I don’t think about her a lot.

My brother

My brother was 2 and a half when I was born and to say he was jealous is an understatement. I don’t think it’s going too far to say that he wanted me gone in those early days and he did a lot to try and get rid of me. He would bounce me a little too hard in my bouncy chair and there were times that I had got hurt but my brother cried more than I did. My mum tells me that he would go to baby group and push over the babies that had just learnt to sit up. Basically he was utterly vile, I see a lot of my son in him.

We pretty much couldn’t stand the sight of each other until he left for uni, I think we needed that distance to be able to see each other’s good qualities. Simon was a hard person to live with, when we were kids he was able to charm anyone and everyone. I struggled to have the confidence to speak to people so it was hard to live in his shadow, but he’s still able to charm people in the same way now.

Simon has had a pretty hard time over the last few years, he’s been divorced and his children now live quite far away so he doesn’t get to spend as much time with them. His youngest daughter has epilepsy and additional needs as a result, his older daughter has struggled with the move away from the home she’s always known but he is an amazing father to them and to his step sons. He’s consistent and loving to all 4 children and is an amazing role model. He gets lots of support from his lovely wife, with both of them it was obviously 2nd time lucky.

What irritates me more than anything though is his near superman quality. He does these ridiculous Ironman triathlons, not just one as some sort of achievement but lots and lots of them. Yesterday he did a 47km run, honestly that just isn’t normal. And my poor sister in law has been roped into all this! I’m only jealous, I can’t even run for a bus.

When we were children I never thought I would be able to say a nice word about him but as the years have passed I guess I can say he’s alright, I suppose! As brothers go I guess I got a fairly good deal with the one I got…..but don’t tell him that!

My Mother

People often say that their mum is their best friend but my mum isn’t mine, she’s far more important than that. Friends are disposable, replaceable even but a parent can be so much more than that and my mum is no different, she’s simply amazing.

My mum is Canadian and came to this country when she was 20 to train as a nurse. When I was little she was a midwife at the local hospital and worked night shifts so that she could be around for me and my brother. Goodness knows how exhausting that must have been but she did it for years. A lot of our Christmas Day pictures were with my mum in uniform because she had worked a night shift on Christmas Eve just so she would be there on Christmas Day.

When I found out I was pregnant with Grace understandably my mum was devastated, she thought I was limiting my chances of success in life, but actually she helped me be successful in the end. Without her support I would never have been able to become a nurse. She helped raise Grace and as a result they now have an amazing relationship.

My mum is an incredibly intelligent woman, she has a degree in French, she qualified as a nurse, a midwife, a teacher and then did a masters. She has however come up with some classic lines like Jean Claude Van Damme is her favourite Belgian lesbian (a stupid question asked by my brother).

She’s had a lot of hardships in her life but is kind, compassionate and forgiving. I’ve learnt a lot from my mother but the greatest lesson I’ve learnt is how to be an amazing mother.