What is the Perfect Age Gap Between Having Children?

If you knew me and my husband you would know that we didn’t exactly meticulously plan out when we were going to have our children. If we had, we may be considerably better off financially (because of visas we were on and working arrangements at the time). At the age of 33, I was diagnosed with PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) and given a rather gloomy prognosis from the specialist. He informed me that it could take as long as 10 years for someone with my condition to conceive and wellit might never happen.

I was devastated and left the clinic in tears. The one thing I’d always been absolute on was my desire to have a family.

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Why Waking A Sleeping Child Is A Little Bit Like Child Birth

Waking a sleeping child is a little bit like child birth. You know you have to do it, you know it’s going to hurt a bit and change the status quo but it will be worth it in the end!

My 2 girls have generally been good at going down for day sleeps. Usually, when they go…they are gone. Into a deep, peaceful, silent sleep. As much as I adore my 2 bundles of delicious cheeky chattering children – I also adore these day time sleeps and the peace and quiet this time offers me.

I often become like a woman possessed, running around desperately trying to get all of my jobs done as quickly as possible in the hope that I can have some precious and rare ‘me time’.  If I manage to achieve this, I sit down and either do some writing, enjoy some lunch without the children climbing on top of me and taking food off my plate or out of my mouth, chat to a friend or my husband on the phone without screaming children in the background or now and again I have been known to have a sneaky siesta.

I don’t mind admitting that I’m a little bit in love with day time sleeps!

The problem with daytime sleeps is that often my children would sleep all day if I allowed it (probably as a result of refusing to go to bed at a reasonable time or being up during the previous night). I have to confess there are certainly occasions when I have considered leaving them to sleep all day as I’m enjoying a snippet of relaxation in my usually chaotic and noisy life.  The reason this is a problem is that if they did sleep all day, as I’m sure every other parent is aware – there would not be a great deal of sleep happening for anyone that night.

Occasionally I have been known to let them sleep a little longer than the agreed time limits my husband and I have discussed (I don’t usually volunteer this information to him when he comes home later wondering why they don’t seem even slightly tired, running around like little grenades and climbing all over us, each other and the walls).

As the end of their day time sleep approaches I anxiously and continually glance at the time, wishing that (for today at least), it could just go a little slower than usual. I leave it to the absolute last-minute possible before accepting that my quiet time is over for the day. Once I’ve dragged myself up from the comfy couch, away from my laptop or even harder from my snuggly afternoon siesta,  I rather reluctantly begin my approach to wherever they are sleeping (my 3-year-old tends to have her day sleep on the sofa). Such a big part of me is desperate not to do what I am about to do.

IMG_3188.JPGI step away – for a second. As quickly as I step away I am reminded of the many nights when they have refused to go to bed and/or been up several times in the night. I know what it is I must do. I feel like I’m attempting to jump off a very high and slightly scary diving board. I will get there, I’m just taking a moment…to appreciate the calm before the storm.

I move back towards my sleeping child and this time I say their name a little louder, giving them a slightly more forceful stroke/shake. “Wake up baby, it’s time to get up now”. This tends to be met with a few grunts, as they retract and shrug me off them. My inner voice cranks up again, “This is so wrong, it feels wrong, they obviously need the sleep. She did have a bit of a cold earlier. Maybe she’s poorly and needs a bit longer today?” Hmmmm, pause. I look at the clock again. Already 10 minutes over the agreed time limit. Sh*t. Taking control of the situation I become a little more insistent/brutal. I draw the curtains back forcefully as I sing/shout out “time to get up girls, wakey wakey”.

Their eyes slowly open one by one as they sleepily rub them and start to move their little bodies around. Sometimes they just lie in the same position for a while with their eyes open, playing with the label on their teddy bear or sucking forcefully on a dummy. Each time I approach they recoil. They often cry – for the next half an hour. It’s very rare that I’m met with a big smile and look of “Hi mummy, thanks so much for waking us up – we really love you”. Nope, I generally feel like Cruella Deville which I find rather ironic considering I didn’t really want to wake them up in the first place.

I have to wait until they are ready before I can lift them out of the cot or from the sofa to give them a cuddle, the timeframe for this varies from day-to-day and child to child.

Now and again they wake up of their own accord. Is it wrong to admit that my heart does sink a little bit as I hear them cry out “Mummy, Mummy, Mummy”? I reluctantly accept that my precious and rare ‘me time’ has come to an abrupt end (this is especially disappointing if they haven’t met their full sleep quota – on these occasions I feel a tad cheated).

Once I have accepted that quiet time is over for the day and all the grumpy sleepiness has evaporated, the day begins again as it did that morning. With fun, laughter, cuddles, tears, tantrums, noise and so much love…..I soon forget my need for solace as I embrace the joy my children give me and remind myself…….there’s always tomorrow!

 

 

Risky Business

I often find myself performing a quick risk assessment when my children appear to be happily amusing themselves. The fact that they are amusing themselves is rare. Aware that it may offer me 5 minutes peace and quiet or the ability to do some cooking or speak on the phone without them hanging off me, has meant that occasionally whilst I’ve noticed that what they are doing or playing with would not exactly be my ideal choice, I’ve been prepared to let it go.

An example of this is a few months ago.  I was in the shower, my now 19 month old daughter, pulled all of the contents of the usually child locked bathroom cabinet out and sat happily playing with a box of tampons. At first I was somewhat horrified that she was playing with something so inappropriate. Although they were of course all still in their wrappers I had the sudden thought my head often gets filled with of ‘what if?’.’ What if she puts one in her mouth, the plastic comes off, she swallows it and then it expands inside her?’ Of course, I’m fairly sure the chance of this actually happening is less than zero, however the thought still weirdly found a moment of time in my head.

I rationalised my concerns, accepting that it was highly unlikely and if it did happen I would be able to see and could step in quickly. I concluded my risk assessment with the acceptance that whilst tampons wouldn’t exactly be my first choice of toy for her, she was happy and it bought me an extra few minutes shower time. These precious extra minutes enabled me the luxury of shaving my legs – a treat usually saved for weekends only when daddy is around.

In my head there are many things that I thought I’d have not allowed my girls to do:

  • Eat food off the floor when out and about
  • Walk on walls
  • Eat food in the pram, car seat, on the sofa
  • Eat food such as bolognaise without being bibbed up and chained down
  • Play with the box of condoms they found in the drawer next to the bed
  • Put shoes in their mouths
  • Eat sand
  • Wipe their own bottoms
  • Eldest daughter feed/shove food into her baby sisters mouth (something that made them both roar with laughter)
  • Eat all of that chocolate
  • Eat all of that chocolate whilst wearing that beautiful dress
  • Scribble in our brand new notebook which is now 400 pages of squiggles
  • Play my biro instead of their washable pens whilst I was on the phone so they and every item of furniture is covered in pen.
  • Play with my phone whilst I was on the toilet which they have now dropped on the hard toilet floor
  • Unroll all of the toilet roll whilst I was on the toilet
  • Pour water everywhere whilst I was cooking in the kitchen (but they did sound like they were having so much fun)
  • Eat all of those hot chips that were covered in salt – with red sauce
  • Bang the remote control on the table
  • Both stand on precariously wobbly children’s toys so that they can both reach the sink and brush their teeth at the exact same time
  • Play hide and seek together in the curtains which does often result in a few head bumps but provides them with hours of entertainment and giggles.

The daily risk assessment list is endless.

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I remember a couple of instances in particular where my risk assessment failed:

The first one was when my youngest was about 8 months old.  I’d decided to give her some nappy off time. She had just done a poo, therefore my risk assessment concluded it was safe. I was enjoying a moment of freedom, cooking in the kitchen with both hands and no children on my feet. I looked over my shoulder regularly to check she was ok and whilst I couldn’t see her face I could hear her contentedly gurgling away. I continued to enjoy the time to complete whatever it was I was doing, relaxed in the knowledge that she was safe and happy. When I’d completed my cooking I walked over to her to give her some attention. As I approached her I was horrified to see what it was that she was playing with was actually s***t! I got there just in time as she had her hand raised and headed in the direction of her grinning mouth.

The other occasion that springs to mind when she was around 5-6 months and not yet crawling. I was at the playground with her and my 2 year old. I placed her on the soft padded ground by the climbing frame. I performed my usual risk assessment, scanning the area to check there were no small parts she could put in her mouth. Clear. Risk assessment passed. The risk assessment for my 2 year old highlighted a few more potential hazards so I focussed my attention on her. When I looked back at my baby I noticed something small and brown on the ground beside her. That’s strange, I was certain there wasn’t anything there before. As I approached the small brown thing I was horrified to see it was part of a dead cockroach. PART OF ONE!! What had happened to the rest of it? I looked at my beautiful baby, sitting there so innocently, and thought I might be sick. No! Had she eaten the other part of it? I will never know.

Risk assessments play a big part of my daily life with 2 such young children. I will of course always do my utmost to keep them safe from harm. However I’m sure there will be many more moments where what they are doing is far from appropriate or ideal yet if it makes them happy and gives me a break for 5 minute the repercussions are probably worth it!

 

 

The Gift Of A Sister

Being one of 3 girls, I know what it’s like to have sisters. Growing up there were the obligatory fights and sibling rivalry however there were also hours spent happily together playing princesses, producing theatrical shows for our parents to watch and plotting our escape in order to run away together. As the youngest of the three, I tended to keep out of some of the heavier disagreements that ensued as my elder siblings went through their teenage years of angst and insecurity together. It wasn’t a conscious decision not to hang out with them much during that time, I was younger and not able to do many of the things they did, but I do remember witnessing some of the fights they had about clothes swapping/stealing and boys and was relieved not to be involved.

Regardless of what disagreements have taken place between the 3 of us over the years there is one fact that remains constant – we love each other and would protect and stand up for each other no matter what. Throughout our adult years we have shown solidarity towards each other at times of need and I have come to realise that one of the best presents my parents ever gave me was sisters.

When I found out that I was having another girl only 18 months apart from her older sister, I was ecstatic. To be able to give my first born the gift of a sister felt wonderful. I’m not saying a brother wouldn’t have been equally wonderful but I have no understanding of that. I hoped (and still do hope), that they will be best friends and show each other the same loyalty through times of need as I’ve experienced.

My eldest was 18 months when her sister was born, still pretty much a baby herself she didn’t really know what was going on. Now that she is three I have really started to see the bond between them developing and its heart melting stuff.

When the eldest has to be woken from sleep, it’s not a pretty sight. She grunts and groans, moans and sometimes screams. However, if I send her sister in to wake her up, she’s a different child. Squealing with joy and delight as her sister swipes her over the head with her chubby toddler arms. It seems she can get away with behaving in a way that no other being on the planet could do. When one is crying the other will rush to comfort them. Often it’s more of a rugby tackle to the ground and sometimes it will result in tears but the sentiment is there.

The youngest insists on doing everything her older sister does no matter how ridiculous, inappropriate or dangerous it is. Every day she attempts to put her sisters knickers on over her nappy, climb up on the sofa or high walls (much to my distress) and brush her teeth at the exact same time as her sister whilst both trying to fit precariously on a small activity table in order to reach the sink. As she is too young for toothpaste I perform the same ritual each day, pretending to put some of her sister’s toothpaste on her toothbrush.

It’s not just the youngest who looks up to and worships her sister. This love and adoration is reciprocated by the eldest and she too likes to copy her sister. She tells me at least 20 times every day “I love my sister, so much mummy”, “my little sister’s my best friend mummy” and although she does tell me that Daddy and myself are her best friends too, if she has lost favour with us the label is quick to be withdrawn. To date it’s never been withdrawn about her sister even though she takes her toys, food and often hurts her as she whacks her with a doll, pushes her off a wall giggling or pulls her hair. When the eldest goes to bed she needs to know which way her sister’s head is facing so that she can be the same.

We’ve been lucky to have our in-laws visit us in Australia from the UK for 5 weeks over the Christmas period. There were quite a few days they took my eldest for a few hours which meant some quality time for me and the youngest. As much as I appreciated the break with only one toddler to look after, I could see how much she missed her older sister. Often she would cry when her sister left then toddle around the house looking lost. She kind of got over it when she realised she could play with every single toy in the house and it would remain in her possession for as long as she wished it to. However, I sensed that this revelation was short-lived and didn’t compensate for the companionship and fun of being with her sister. The minute they were re-united they couldn’t have looked happier; the snatching toys and food, over-zealous cuddling, copying each other and giggling immediately returned.

They are young and I’m very aware that as the grow up together there will be many ups and downs in their relationship as they try to establish themselves and find their way in the world. They will no doubt experience many of the emotions me and my sisters have done through the years such as jealousy, anger, love and sometimes even hate. I’d love them to be best friends but I know that I can’t force that to happen, I will just have to step back and observe (perhaps attempting to steer sometimes) as their relationship develops over the coming years.

 

 

 

Pink Pear Bear

A Mother’s Love

Yesterday my friend called me to vent about an incident that had just taken place. Her 3 year old boy was accused of hitting another child when she was right there and knows for a fact that he did no such thing. She was upset by the way in which this child’s mum spoke to her and the fact that she didn’t stand up to her, telling her what she knew had (or rather hadn’t) happened. Instead, feeling humiliated, she quickly packed up her things and left the play centre.

Whilst trying to make my friend feel better about what had happened, it reminded me of a similar encounter I had a year or so ago. I’ve actually been meaning to write about this for a while. The problem is in order to write it I need to cast my mind back in time to possibly the craziest period in my motherhood journey – the first 6 months of having two children under the age of two. I was barely able to remember (or have time) to put my underwear on at this point so I’ll do my best to be as factual as possible.

September (ish) 2014

I was at the local playground with my relatively new-born baby (circa 1 month) and 19 month old toddler. I remember feeling particularly exhausted and emotional that day. In the early stages of new-born sleep deprivation with a toddler who was struggling with the changes and entering Tantrum-Ville. Miles away from family and with no respite (my eldest wasn’t even in kindy at this point), I was close to breaking point.

Whilst at the playground I started chatting to another Mum, keeping a watchful eye over my 19 month old with my new-born close-by in the pram. I’d seen my eldest curiously observing an older girl (circa 6 years) swinging from the wooden bars next to us, but I didn’t perceive any real danger. The next thing I knew the older girl had swung forward from the bars, kicked my daughter in the face and sent her flying to the ground. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I actually didn’t believe myself at first, I was so exhausted I must have imagined that it looked as though she had done it intentionally.

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A year and a half later at the playground on the bar where ‘the incident’ took place.

 

I was living in a constant haze of surrealism. Existing on very little, broken sleep – in and out of so many dreams it made it unclear what was reality and what was dreamt. I’d never seen my daughter so distressed (this has changed now she’s a ‘threenager’, I see it far too many times a day for my liking for the most innocuous reasons such as me walking in front of her when she wanted to go first or telling her it’s time to get out of the bath). My heart was aching as I picked up my screaming child from the ground, wrapping my arms around her tiny little body and pulling her into me, desperate to take away her pain and sadness.

The lady I’d been talking to came over to us and confirmed that it wasn’t a dream.

“You do know she did that on purpose don’t you?” she said.

“Well, I thought so but I wasn’t sure”, I replied as the tears started to roll across the dark circles under my eyes and down my pasty cheeks.

We were both looking around the playground, trying to identify who this older child belonged to. It became apparent that the responsible adult was the other side of the playground. My new ally went over to her and told her what had happened. At first she refused to accept it however after a few heated words from my new bestie,  she conceded. It transpired that she was the Nanny for this child. My friend suggested she send the girl over to apologise. Reluctantly on both the Nanny and the girl’s part, they did so.

Meanwhile I was an emotional blubbering wreck. Devastated that someone had intentionally hurt my innocent little girl and even more annoyed at myself that it wasn’t me who stuck up for her. I went home after the incident feeling much like my friend -upset that this had happened in my local playground but more annoyed at myself for not being the one to stand up for my child.

The following week I’d been chatting to a new friend through one of the Facebook mum’s pages and she’d suggested we meet at the same playground as where ‘the incident’ took place. My initial instinct was, “no way am I going back there”. However after a few moments of rationalisation I knew I needed to bite the bullet and get my arse back there pronto. Avoidance would just make the whole thing worse and anyway what were the chances of it happening again?

As I walked towards the playground my heart sank as I spotted the nanny and the same girl. I decided to take the initiative and went over to the nanny to let her know we were here and could she keep an extra watchful eye over the girl – she didn’t look any more pleased to see me than I was her, however agreed to my request.

My eldest was playing happily at the top of the slide with a group of children whilst I stood underneath, baby in my arms, watching on. The next thing I know, ‘the girl’ appeared, picked out my child from the group and pushed her with such force she flew backwards and landed hard on her little bottom. The initial startled look on her face soon replaced with horror as she let out an ear piercing scream and a torrent of tears.

A lady nearby who had witnessed the ordeal offered to take my new-born whilst I ran to the aid of my daughter. If I was worried I hadn’t stuck up for her last week, today certainly made up for it. A lump formed in my throat as an overwhelming surge of love and anger rushed through my veins. I threw my baby into the arms of this kind stranger and ran to my child, pulling her towards me as she continued to scream.

This is the moment I have played back several times in my head. It’s an ongoing debate, I guess, whether you have the right to discipline someone else’s child. To be honest there wasn’t a lot of thought that went into the next few seconds. I had absolutely no doubt in my mind this time what had happened. For some reason this girl was bullying my child and the love and protectiveness I felt was overwhelming. Once again, the nanny was nowhere to be seen.

“That is not acceptable behaviour” I ranted at the girl as I held my screaming daughter close to me.

“If you can’t play nicely, you need to leave this playground now” I continued shaking with anger and upset.

Suddenly I became aware of the other people in the playground looking at me but I couldn’t help it, I needed to protect my child. The nanny suddenly appeared and my ranting transferred to her. I told her (in no uncertain terms) that she needed to take  ‘that child’, away from the playground if she couldn’t play nicely.

Initially she seemed to take on board what I was saying as she took the girl away. Meanwhile my daughter was still sobbing, perhaps my attempt at comforting her whilst ranting was not assisting to calm her down? I was surrounded by other mums in the playground, curious to know what had happened. As I regained my composure I was concerned they may view my reaction as unjustified and felt the need to put it in context by telling them all that this wasn’t an isolated incident. I explained in depth what had happened only a week before. They were lovely, putting their arms around me and generally rallying around to make me feel better whilst my sobbing toddler clung to me.

I felt a tap on my shoulder as the lady I’d meant to be meeting came and introduced herself. Oh my goodness – in all the chaos I’d completely forgotten that was the whole reason I was there. Embarrassed and unsure how much she had witnessed, I proceeded to explain to her what had happened.

Just as I was doing this, the nanny returned.

“You should have been watching your child better” she shouted in my face.

“Excuse me – I was right there, that’s why I saw exactly what happened”

Just at this point a friend of mine happened to be passing. Not fully up to speed with the details she stepped in and suggested as everyone was a little upset it was probably best the nanny and child left. The nanny turned on her heels, dragging ‘the child’ away who was at this point feigning upset with some obligatory crocodile tears.

All the mums looked after me that day and their support was incredible, however I felt truly awful about the whole ordeal. I didn’t feel any better for standing up for my child than I had the previous time when I didn’t say anything. In fact, I felt worse. I sensed that my daughter seeing me so upset and angry only made her more distressed and possibly prolonged her tears. Also I wondered if my reaction to the nanny and child essentially showed my daughter it was ok to speak to people in that manner?

Many people believe that a mother’s overwhelming urge to love and protect their child is instinctive whilst others argue it’s a learnt behaviour which can take some mums longer to develop than others. Mums may react differently to situations when their child is in danger or upset however I believe this is no reflection on how much they love them- the feelings may be just as powerful however they just handle it differently.

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The truth is, if either of my children are upset or in danger wild horses couldn’t stop me from wanting to protect them. I feel a little more self-aware now. I know how I may feel but how I react to it is perhaps what’s more important. My child saw me lose it at the other child and the nanny, what kind of behaviour was that demonstrating to her? I think actually it may be my reactions that will have more impact on my child rather than ‘the incident’ itself.

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Big Pink Linky

 

Australia v’s England – and I’m not talking cricket!

Today is a very sad day for me. One of my gorgeous friends and neighbour is moving, not down the road or even to the next suburb, she’s making the big move from Sydney back to her home in Barcelona 17,183 kilometers away.

This is one of the downfalls of living somewhere like Sydney. It’s such a transient city, people are often only here for a short while and many people living here have family far away.  I’m noticing more and more people making the move back to their homes once they have had children. In search of more help and support and to build stronger relationships between their kids and grandparents/relatives.

I often get asked by family and friends back home why we stay here. How do we manage living so far away from friends and family back in the UK now that we have 2 young children?

The truth is it is something I personally find very difficult to explain. I am also desperate not to be misunderstood by those who are so dear to us as it is in no way a reflection of how much we love and miss them.

I am incredibly close to my family, even more so since my Dad died 8 years ago. I also have lots of wonderful friends back home. Ironically some of whom have become even dearer to me since making the move here as their friendship has well and truly stood the test of time and distance, I have no doubt we will be friends forever more.

When we first arrived it was a 2 year plan. An exciting adventure to share with the man I’d fallen in love with only a few months prior.

4 years on, 1 marriage and 2 children later we are still here and currently no immediate plans to leave.

My sister often asks me;

‘’Is it just because of the sunshine?”

I’d be lying if I said that an average of 236 days of sunshine a year doesn’t play a big part in our decision to stay, but it’s absolutely not the main reason.

I miss my sisters, Mum, in-laws, friends, nephews and nieces more than words can express. That said, there is just something about the way of life here, even more so since having the children,  that works for me and I just love it.

Considering the tough year we have had with our little owl who doesn’t sleep, and the various broken bones and trips to hospital, you’d think  I’d jump at the chance to return home where we have a spacious house and grandparents just around the corner and an hour up the M6.

There have been times when we have been literally losing it due to exhaustion, screaming and desperation where we have both mentioned ‘going home’. My husband has a tendency to do this more than I. Perhaps this is on account of my being half gypsy (I’ve never really lived anywhere longer than 5 or so years). He on the other hand was born and bred in Manchester and his parents still live in the house he grew up in. His roots are perhaps more established. But when I call his bluff and say;

‘’Ok then, let’s do it’’

He backpedals;

‘’Not right now then, but at some point in the future’’

When I got pregnant I thought that as soon as the baby arrived, I’d be struggling and desperate to go back. If anything I have felt the opposite.

Sydney/ Eastern suburbs is new mummy heaven (Unfortunately I can’t speak for the rest of Australia on account of only having lived here. I also can’t speak for the UK as again I haven’t experienced having children there). All I know is that from the minute I signed up to the ante-natal class and met some people who are still good friends of mine, to having the baby in the Royal Hospital for Women in Randwick, where I received the most fabulous care and support and throughout that first year through my Mothers group and various classes I attended, I have never felt alone being a Mum in Australia, something I thoroughly expected to feel given I was so far away from home.

I remember arriving to the new mums meet and greet session organised by the hospital, anxiously clutching my brand spanking new baby. The room was full of around 40 new mums and there were a couple (as there always are) that seemed to dominate the room with their self-assuredness only reinforcing my anxiety as a new mum. About to turn and leg it my own Mum (who had made the trip to Oz  for a few weeks) gave me a reassuring nod (and a shove) and reluctantly I went and sat down giving my neighbour an awkward smile.  We both did a double take and then relieved sat and beamed at each other like Cheshire cats, turned out we had met previously in a work capacity.

And that was it, from that moment on I had a wonderful new friend who is still a dear friend to me to this day.

We decided to create our own Mother’s group with the people we had met in our ante-natal classes and they invited people they knew and it snowballed. We met every Tuesday on the grass overlooking the ocean offering each other help, support, cake and a shoulder to cry on. Sounds idyllic and to be honest most of the time it was. Sure some days I was knackered and wobbly and not sure I was doing the right thing especially given I had a reflux baby who was constantly sick, always very small and didn’t like solids very much. But I didn’t feel judged by these new friends, we helped each other through our wobbles and could relate to the struggles and the exhaustion.

I remember a good friend of mine who has 2 older children laughing at me saying;

‘’Yes, that’s how Mothers groups start, drinking coffee and eating cake, but give it a few months and you will be having vodders in your coffee and desperately booking in nights out without the babies”

She was right. We rarely meet up in the daytime now. When we arrange a meet up it generally involves copious amounts of alcohol.

2.5 years since establishing the group some of us met up for a night out a couple of weeks ago.

The group consisted of 4 of us, 2 of whom began the discussion pre-meeting stating they would be driving and 1 requesting to share a bottle, I was more than happy to oblige. So it started out 1 bottle. Who were we kidding? It quickly turned into 4 bottles of wine plus a cocktail each for all of us.

So I have great friends here. Work friends from the jobs I have had, mothers group friends, random playground friends, playgroup friends, people I’ve met on the bus friends, people I knew in England who now live out here friends, friends of friends, neighbour friends, literally friends from all walks of life and all over the world. Connected by the fact that many of us are living thousands of miles away from our families and friends. I’m not trying to gloat, I’m not exceptional I’m fairly certain this is the case for any expat.

We are there for each other, not a replacement for friends and family back home but an extension of it. Whilst in the UK I’d never have thought to spend Christmas with friends however that is the way it’s usually done here. There is an ease to making new friends here.

I am a huge believer in the view that people come into your life for a season, a reason or a lifetime.

I have friends  (and I include family in this) back home who are so dear to me that I have tears streaming down my face thinking about them as I write this. We have been through so much together, they have stood by me no matter what, loyal and honest and absolutely will be my lifetime friends. But I know that it doesn’t matter where in the world we are, that will never change.

However, it’s such a wonderful feeling when you realise you have made a new friend.

This was reiterated  to me last week on a trip to the playground with the girls.

My eldest (2.5 year old), was a little out of sorts as she was getting over an ear infection. On arriving at the playground she was unusually clingy and quiet. A slightly older girl came over to her and asked if she could play with her. She was such a beautiful spirit, so kind and gentle. My daughter cautiously cocked her head to one side, looked up at me and then back warily at the girl. The little girl waited patiently, she then moved away returning a few minutes later, as gentle and patient as before. Never have I seen such emotional intelligence in someone so young! Slowly but surely my shy little girl began to warm to her, letting go of my leg and moving away from me. Within 10 minutes they were best friends. Giggling and laughing, playing merrily on the swings and running up and down the slide, sitting side by side to protect each other from falling off.

A true friend will always have space for you
A true friend will always have space for you

I will always miss people back home and nothing can replace my family and friends there. However living in Australia is sunshine-filled, exciting and challenging. It has brought my little family together, tested and pushed us, offered us new experiences and lots of fabulous new friends.

Whilst for the moment Australia is our home, moving back to the UK will always be a discussion point, particularly when the going gets tough. I absolutely understand why my dear friend and neighbour  is making the big move with her little family to Barcelona. She will have her Mum living in an apartment downstairs and sister down the road and I’m certainly more than a little envious of that. However for now, I love living in Australia with my little family, it suits us and feel incredibly lucky to have been given this amazing opportunity.

To Three Or Not To Three?

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Today I bumped into a friend who is three weeks in with her second baby. Whilst we were chatting she explained to me how she feels very definite that she is done, i.e. won’t be having any more babies. After the sleepless year we have had, on top of the extreme nausea that follows me for the duration of my pregnancies, on the back of a day like today that started at 1.49am (several screaming sessions, back arching and very little sleep, followed by the usual battles with my eldest refusing to get dressed, brush her teeth, sit on the potty, not smother her sister, leave all her toys at home, not leave all the toys she insisted on taking with us on the floor outside etc.), you would think my response would be the same – a definitive and resounding NO. But that’s just not the case. I don’t quite feel ready to say I absolutely don’t want to have another baby. I can’t bring myself to get rid of all the baby clothes. Surely if I was done, I would feel as certain as my friend?

The idea of having a third child is sheer lunacy for us right now. I can list hundreds of reasons why it shouldn’t happen:

  • We don’t have the space
  • We’re knackered after our second baby (now 12 months old) who doesn’t sleep and had severe reflux. We’ve been pushed to the edge and NEED to recover.
  • My pregnancies tend to be vomit filled and everlasting. The only blooming being how bloomin’ awful I feel for the duration of the pregnancy.
  • We can’t afford it.
  • We currently have 2 girls. I believe it is more likely that we would have another girl. My preference would be not to have 3 girls (being one of 3 girls myself I’ve experienced and witnessed some pretty hard-core, hormone fuelled, sibling rivalry that I’d prefer not to be involved with again).

My belief that we would most likely have another girl stems from no real facts, only what I have observed or read on the internet. Most people I have met who have three children, where the first two are girls, seem to have a third girl. I also recall reading something about gender being determined by the environment created in the womb, it becomes more hospitable to girls once 2 have previously grown there – but please don’t quote me on that.

I’ve also heard various other potentially bonkers theories suggesting that the gender of babies is determined by:

  • The age of the couple
  • How attractive the couple are
  • The sexual position used at the time of conception
  • Who initiated sex on the day of conception
  • Who had the first orgasm at the time of conception

Funnily enough nothing seems to be conclusive on this matter.

Considering all of the above, you would think if I’m not able to be the sensible one on this matter, at least my husband may be the voice of reason.  I decided to put the ball in his court and asked his advice on what to do with the baby clothes.

”Can’t we just put them away somewhere for now?”

It would appear he is not sure we are quite done yet either.

The change from one child to two children has been immense for us. I’m not sure if this is because we only had a small gap between them (18 months), or the fact that our second baby has had severe reflux, or that she is part vampire (i.e. the part that doesn’t sleep at night, not the part that sleeps in the day) or due to the fact we live the other side of the world from our families so are unable to get additional help or support.

I do have some friends with two children who seem to be finding the transition easier than us. That said I also have friends with two who regularly say things to me like:

“Why didn’t anyone ever say it would be this hard” and “please tell me it gets easier?”

A year on down the line, I’m still not really able to answer those questions. I find it especially tricky as they are usually asked to me by people who are just embarking on their journey of ‘two’ and I certainly don’t wish to be the grim reaper.

So for us and many of our friends, having two children has been a case of survival. Facing each new day with exhausted trepidation – who will or won’t sleep, who will wake up who, who will or won’t have a tantrum, who will be sick and then who will get it next, what party/appointment will we need to cancel or be late for, what have we lost en-route to our destination, what have we forgotten at home despite having what looks like the entire contents of our house strewn across and under the double pram, how many scrapes and falls have we had or narrowly avoided, how many wee wee accidents have happened? The list is endless.

It’s no wonder that every evening, once both girls are fed, bathed and put into their respective beds the first thing I do is crack open the vino. This precious time is not often for long, usually one of them will wake and require some additional settling. But when I do stop to enjoy the wine and chat with my husband, we spend that precious time recounting stories, chuckling at the antics of the day and speaking fondly of our wonderfully, funny and crazy girls. We wouldn’t change it for the world.

I know my husband would love a boy. When I first fell pregnant we both had no preference on the gender of our baby, we knew all we wanted was a healthy baby. Now we have two girls, whilst I know he absolutely adores them, I respect his honesty that he would also like to have a boy.  I would dearly love to give him a boy, if only it was that easy. It’s difficult to be honest about gender preferences, we feel we should just be grateful that we can get pregnant and have a healthy baby. Don’t get me wrong we are eternally thankful to have 2 beautiful, healthy girls but I do understand his desire for a boy in addition to them.

It occurred to me today whilst writing this post that I was pregnant with my youngest when my toddler was her current age (12 months old). The thought of being pregnant now, dealing with both girls’ tantrums, not sleeping and my proneness to severe nausea during pregnancy made me reconsider…I can’t possibly go through all that again…can I?

Despite all of this knowledge, I still don’t feel ready to say my family is complete.