My Child Won’t Sleep …….

Sleeping is one of my favourite things” said my little boy! How is that even possible when I haven’t slept for over six years?!

Before Rory had turned one years old, we had moved 3 times. They were traumatic and unsettling periods. I never expected him to sleep all through the night, but I did think/hope/pray that he would sleep for more than 2 hours at a time.

As a Nursery Nurse with 20 years of childcare experience, I was often employed to help families ‘sleep train’ their babies. Whilst training for my childcare diploma, routine, routine, routine was always drummed into me. ‘Gina Ford’ insisted that babies should be sleeping from 7pm – 7am. Burn that book if you have it. It was books like that, that made me feel like an inferior mother. My child just wouldn’t sleep.

When he was six months old, I began the transition of moving him into his own room. It was equipped with lovely mobiles, low lighting and a comfortable breastfeeding chair. Every 2 hours throughout the night I was sat in that chair with my boob monster!

I thought by the time he was having solid food, he would sleep longer. I was wrong! Keeping him awake in the day, getting more fresh air, non stimulating activities past 5pm etc. etc. etc. were all recommended but to no avail.

By 16 months, I wanted to stop breast feeding. Rory didn’t agree!

I turned his cot bed into a toddler bed, hoping that it would encourage longer sleep. However, it was at this point when the night terrors started. If you have ever witnessed your child having a night terror then you will understand how helpless I felt. I couldn’t offer any comfort. I had to just sit next to him, gently reassuring him I was there until the terror ended. It was exhausting and upsetting.

By 18 months, I had stopped breast feeding. I was so proud to have got that far but I couldn’t keep functioning on very little sleep. The night terrors were getting worse and I was an emotional, sleep deprived mess. I wasn’t feeling very well either and knew I didn’t have the energy to be up all night so I brought Rory into bed with me. He slept all night. Of course, I didn’t sleep a wink!

If I’m honest, I didn’t really want to co-sleep with my son. As a single parent, every minute of every day was spent fulfilling all of his needs. I loved being a mum. But at night time, I just wanted a few hours to myself, my own space. But this was never meant to be!

Luckily I joined a Gentle Parenting group where co-sleeping was the norm. As the weeks progressed, both Rory and I were sleeping very well and I wished we had co slept sooner! His natural biological clock of waking up for the day at 5am gradually moved towards a much more respectable wake up time of 6am! I was thrilled.

I am a very light sleeper. Being solely responsible for another human being means I usually sleep with one eye open. I can hear a feather drop and I’m ready for any eventualities in the middle of the night! Being elbowed in the face, kneed in the back and kicked to the edge of the bed did have its drawbacks. And although I still didn’t get that much sleep, I was rested and that was what I desperately needed.

If only health care professionals such as Midwives and Health Visitors, as well as all of the baby literature given to us during pregnancy, gave a much more realistic account of a baby’s sleeping habits during the first year. If only they said it was ‘normal’ for babies not to sleep for long periods of time. Why would a baby that has been used to hearing a mothers heartbeat for 9 months, want to be alone? Why would professionals advocate leaving a baby cry themselves to sleep? I have been beyond exhausted and I’m not ashamed to say I left Rory in his cot crying whilst I attended to my needs for a brief period of time. But I would never contemplate letting him cry himself to sleep. As an adult, I have cried myself to sleep. I would never want that for my baby. However, I do understand the desperate needs of sleep deprived parents, therefore I do not judge anyone’s choices. I understand. I empathise and sympathise. It is simply my opinion.

Rory was nearly 2 1/2 years old when I started my cancer treatment. We had been co-sleeping up until then. I was worried about our separation at night time. I moved into Rory’s bedroom and moved his toddler bed into my room. The room he would share with my mum until my treatment side effects eased. He slept from 7pm – 7am! Might I just add that my mum is amazing. She is the gentlest of souls. The bond that my mum and Rory have together meant that he was totally comfortable to sleep knowing she was only a few feet away should he need her. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

Anyone who knows Rory, knows he is a confident and articulate little man. He does however, have separation anxiety at night. Since he started full time school, I have tried to be a little firmer with his bed time routine which includes sleeping in his own bed. He knows that if he needs me, he can just come into my bed and snuggle up quietly next to me. He comes in every night!

The weekend is another story. I let him self regulate. He decides when he wants/needs to go to bed. He may stay up with me for as long as he likes and usually does. There is nothing worse for me than going to bed and not being able to sleep, it shouldn’t be any different for my son. He follows in my footsteps and doesn’t need a lot of sleep and that is roughly 6-8 hours on a good day. One thing that helped me, was accepting my sons sleeping pattern. For years I tried to change it. Once I accepted it, life became easier.

I never thought there would be any advantages to single parenting, but when my son goes to his dads for a sleepover, I sleep! I really sleep! Slowly but surely, I am catching up on 6 years of no sleep!

For whatever reason, my son needs extra comfort and reassurance at night time. I am never going to turn him away. I know for a fact that this won’t last and my baby will be all grown up before I know it.

Sleep deprivation has been one of the hardest parts of parenting for me. IT DOES GET BETTER! I just hope anyone reading this, who is dreaming of an uninterrupted night of sleep, appreciates how absolutely amazing you are. If you can survive on no sleep, you can survive anything!

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A trip down Cancer lane ……..

Im going to keep this one brief and let the photos do the talking!

Cancer is cruel. Cancer does not discriminate. Cancer devastates families.

I am forever thankful to be alive. Life is so very precious and can be taken away in a split second. For that alone, I appreciate life. I appreciate the people in my life. I love the people in my life and im not afraid to tell them!

I cannot and will not forget I had Cancer. I write and talk about it much more than I probably should but it helps me heel. Heeling is ongoing and always will be. But it is because I had Cancer, that I have new amazing friends in my life. Our paths would never have crossed without having had Cancer. I cannot be angry with Cancer for bringing such incredible people into my life.

Cancer brought me adventure! Cancer brought me fun and Cancer has given me amazing memories.

Im not saying by any means that having cancer was fun, it was beyond horrific and something I hope I never have to put my family through again. But somehow in the depths of despair following a painful diagnosis of cancer, living life in the moment and making the most of every opportunity, fuelled me on. It made me want to be adventurous, and seeing my son happy on these adventures, was more than I could ever have asked for.

There is a song from ‘Nickleback’ that sums up a few of my thoughts when I was having treatment:

If today was your last day, and tomorrow was too late, could you say goodbye to yesterday”

He said each day’s a gift and not a given right, leave no stone unturned, leave your fears behind”.

If today was my last day, my family know I love them. My son knows he is my world and he has a million memories of us together to look back on.

I don’t have photos of me crying all night long, praying that I see my son grow up. I don’t have photos of how distraught I was when my hair started falling out and I had to shave it off. I don’t have the photos of waking up in hospital looking at my body for the first time without breasts. These are memories that will always be with me. Memories that I live with.

But I do have hundreds of photos that I cherish. All taken during and after my treatment. I am smiling in them because I saw another day to take a photo. I saw another day to go on another adventure. I saw another day. Far too many people don’t have that privilege. I smile because I owe it to all of the people who are no longer with us, to be happy and to live life to the fullest.

On World Cancer Day, and every other day, my thoughts are with everyone affected by Cancer.

Dad, I love you! xxx

 

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More than just a Teddy …….

When I asked my 6 year old son Rory what he would like to do on the last day of the Christmas holidays, without hesitation he said he wanted to go into town to spend his Christmas vouchers!

I was a little reluctant. One, shopping with Rory is a nightmare. Two, I didn’t want to go into town and three, like with most people post Christmas, finances are stretched to the limit.  December saw us needing a new car. December saw me financing an already scaled down six year olds birthday party. And obviously the added expense of Christmas meant we were totally wiped out financially. But I did have petrol in the car and £2 in my purse, the exact amount needed for Sunday parking in town.

My son has more money than I do!  I give him £1 pocket money every Friday. He doesn’t have to do any chores for this money. He is expected to do things around the house as a routine part of our lives. The money is for him to learn the value of things. I’m sure he will be an accountant one day as he loves counting out and sorting his money! Although I often have to raid his piggy bank and write him IOU’s!

He got out his Lego shop and Toys R Us vouchers along with another £10 he had saved up, whilst I made us a picnic and flask of tea to take with us.

There are so many distractions in town that cost money. Carousel’s, racing car’s and even massage chairs. Rory asked to go on them all. And after a quick reminder that I didn’t have any money and he would need to use his own, he quickly took the lead and marched us off to the Lego shop.

I hate the Lego shop!

Rory could spend hours in there looking at the magnificent creations displayed in the glass boxes. “How much is that one Mum” he asked enthusiastically. Needless to say I shattered my little boys dream after declaring it was £695.00! We painfully looked back and forth at the toy boxes. Nothing jumped out at him. He usually knows what he wants. To my surprise he said he would keep saving his money and come back again. Bless him!

Next stop Toys R Us. I was much more at ease in this shop. It was empty and we took our time looking up and down the aisles. “Have I got enough money for this Mum?” asked Rory. It was the biggest teddy bear I have ever seen. Considerably reduced in price. Probably because most people don’t have room for a ginormous teddy bear in their homes. We certainly don’t have room! “Can I get it? Please Mum”. Out of all of the thousands of toys in the shop, my son wanted the biggest teddy in the world. There was no persuading him otherwise. But it was his money and his choice and that is what he wanted! Where on earth was he going to go?!!!

Due to its size, it was me that had to carry him through the city centre, navigating past street performers and busy shoppers! Rory was busy thinking of a name and age for our new addition to the family. We put him in the car seat next to Rory’s and Rory chatted to him all the way home. He showed him around our house and where he would sleep. He cuddled him and mimicked a very gentle voice when talking to him. He even had dinner with us!

I can already see this is more than just a teddy bear to Rory. He is a new companion. His caring nature is shinning through and I am loving seeing his role play interaction.

It was a bit of a squeeze when Rory and teddy climbed into my bed in the early hours of this morning and I was a little put out when teddy had the first morning cuddles! But my boy is so happy. He told the teddy all about going to school and not to worry as he would be back later. He joined us for the car journey to school (only for today though)! And I know Rory will be so excited to see him again after school! I think this is going to be a teddy that he can tell his troubles to. A teddy to give him extra comfort when he may need it.

There is nothing better in the world than seeing your child happy.

He might be as big as our house but both Rory and I are glad “Tiddles” aged 4, has come to live with us!

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A letter to my Son ….

Dear Rory

I can’t believe that when I see you next, you will be 6! You are still my baby and will always be my baby!

When you were an actual baby, I always wondered what you would look like as you got older. You slowly lost all of your baby curls and gradually changed from a baby to a toddler, to a now school aged boy!

I worried all of the time about whether you ate/slept enough. Whether I taught you enough or played enough. I still worry and probably always will. That’s what Mum’s do!

But I look at you now and realise that YOU taught ME everything.

You taught me that there is nothing we cannot do together. You taught me that by talking to each other, there is no problem that we cannot solve. You taught me that you will only eat and sleep what/when you want/need to! You taught me that you are your own unique, remarkable little person and that I need to listen to you more. I have learned to not do what I think I should do in haste which is often incorrect, but to think more about  what you need me to do. You taught me that’s its OK to make mistakes. I have never been a mummy before so we are learning every step of the way together as a team, Team Murphy!

It breaks my heart when you come home from school saying children have been mean to you. I will always protect you and try to teach you to find your own place in the world. I will teach you that there are mean people in the world, no matter what age you are. People say unkind words. But they are just words. The words will hurt, but you will get past them because I will be there to help you. Being kind is the most important thing and if your kindness goes un noticed, I will always know. I will teach you that hurting someone is not ok, but if need be, you must protect yourself by any means necessary, just like your Little Dragon’s training. You are my absolute world. Always remember that.

We have faced so many obstacles in the past 6 years together. And even when Mummy was so poorly, you were my little sunshine. Always bringing me hope and happiness. Your childhood has been somewhat different to most. Mummy is so sorry that I was poorly for a lot of it. You were my absolute angel though and never complained about having to come to the hospital with me time and time again. Everything we did and continue to do has been an adventure!

I will always remember our first camping trip! Your first sports day. Your first steps. The times you unexpectedly said “I love you”! The time you starting calling me “mum” instead of “mummy”! The time my heart ached for you after not seeing you for 5 days. The time you ate chicken pie! The time we went to Tenerife. I will take you back one day. And I will take you to Disneyland! We have so many more memories to make and I just cannot wait.

I am the proudest mummy! We have everything we need in life because we have each other. I can’t promise that I won’t get cross at times. I can’t promise that I won’t react the wrong way at times. I can’t promise that I won’t get poorly again. But what I can promise is that I will always love you, no matter what. Because our hearts beat together as one.

All my love, always and forever

Mummy

ps I love you to the moon and back!

pps I love you more than you love me, not possible!

 

Sisters

One of my biggest sadness in life, is that my 5 year old son doesn’t have a brother or sister. If I were to leave this life, who would he have by his side to grow up with? He longs for a sibling as much as I long to give him one. I have to believe that even if I can’t have another biological child, mine and Rory’s lives are meant to have a house full of children living happily ever after. Whether it be by adoption, fostering, surrogacy or step siblings, our hearts are meant to love more children in our happy home!

I am blessed with an older brother and a sister. My childhood is filled with wonderful family memories. And although my brother has emigrated to the other side of the world, there is not a day that goes by where I don’t think about or miss him and his family.

My sister is my best friend.

There is 21 months between us. We look nothing alike! Growing up, she had the straight black hair and I had the wild, curly goldilocks! Our temperaments are also very different, with me being the quiet and more reserved out of the two! But we compliment each other very well!

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She is the light and soul of my life (and of course Rory!). I followed in her footsteps career wise and her experiences of travelling gave me the confidence to explore the world. She has got me in more trouble during our youth than I care to remember but has filled my life with more fun than I could ever forget! We’ve worked Ski and summer seasons together abroad. She was always the thrill seeker! I was the follower! But without my sister I wouldn’t have had such a memorable and enriched past. We used one of our many lives skiing off piste  in the French Alps. We were seasonal chalet girls and making the most of our free ski passes. I was a beginner, my sister was much more of an accomplished skier, or so I thought! When a blizzard set in, we knew we were in trouble. Fortunately the very angry mountain rescuers got us down to a place of safety, oops!

I was always the sensible one! Always looking out for my sister. Growing up I was a real pain. I just wanted to follow her around everywhere and she would be made to have me along side her and her friends. I was one of those annoying little sister’s! We argued. We ram sacked each others bedrooms looking for ‘borrowed’ items. But we also nursed each others broken hearts and understood each other only as a sister could.

 

 

My sister has overcome so many heart-breaking situations in her life. With unbelievable strength and dignity. A survivor of immense pain. And yet she was, and still is, always there for me, and now for my little boy too. Nobody loves his Aunty Trace as much as Rory!

When I was 15 years old, and my sister 17, we made a terrible judgement call and got into a car we never should have late at night. The driver lost control of the car and crashed into a bridge. 4 out of the 5 passengers suffered broken bones. My sister being the most severe, breaking her arm and leg. I was the ‘lucky’ one. I got away with concussion and no memory of the accident at all.

Our dad was working on vehicle recovery at the time of the accident and had a call to recover the smashed up car we had been in. Just as he was leaving the house, the phone rang again to inform him that both of his daughters had been in that accident and he was needed at the hospital immediately. With my sister in surgery and me a hysterical mess, our parents were in a complete nightmare. My sister lost a lot of blood internally and was touch and go for a long while.

She spent the next 6 months bedbound in hospital with what can only be described as a piece of torture equipment screwed into her bones and traction weights suspended with her leg in the air. Even during that time, she made the situation bearable for everyone. My sister is very funny. She brought humour even when it was inappropriate but very much needed! She ran the hospital ward! Friends brought in takeaways and always outstayed the visiting times. She made the other patients and their families laugh even throughout her own pain and discomfort.

She had a long road to recovery. She had to postpone returning to college. She had to learn to walk again with intense physiotherapy. Once she was allowed home, even though she could walk a few steps, she still needed to depend on a wheelchair to get around. We used to wheel her around our little town and everyone would stop to chat to her. We were even given VIP treatment in pubs and our local club when the time came to socialise again. Nothing was going to stop my sister  living her life!

She has courage beyond belief.

So on Friday, 26 years later, my very brave sister is having surgery again to repair damage to the previous broken bone. Again she will face gruelling physiotherapy and another 6 months of wearing a metal calliper. She will get through it. Her little girls will get her through it. But I wish she didn’t have to go through it at all. I would do anything to take this pain away from her. The guilt that she got hurt so bad and not me lives with me everyday.

On the morning of my mastectomy, when I was petrified, she drove to be with me, to hold my hand and to be there when I woke up. She was there when I looked at my scar for the first time. She made me laugh during my cancer treatment and got me through it. She loves my boy the way I do. As I do my nieces.

So once again the Murphy’s are faced with medical challenges, painful memories and guilt. But I’m sure each one of us has been chosen for various things in our lives because we can get through them. We are lucky. We are strong. And we have each other.

Please keep my amazing sister in your thoughts throughout these next few months.

Love you Trace, my absolute hero! xxx

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The Battle of Clothes

As a single parent to a gorgeous five year old (almost 6!), the biggest challenges we have faced together so far regarding his development have been his lack of sleep and his reluctance to eat very much food.

Over the years we have tried and tested many ways, accepted what is ‘normal’ for us and adapted our lives accordingly.

When my son was 18 months old and I was exhausted beyond recognition after having no more than 2 hours sleep since he was born, we started co-sleeping. Once Rory started school I put some ‘sleeping’ bounderies into place as I needed my space back. But he knows he can come to me whenever he wants/needs to in the night and this works for us.

As for food, Rory is in control over what he eats and when he eats it, within reason of course! This might sound absurd to most but again it works for us.

Our newest challenge that we are facing and working through at the moment is a new one on me. The dislike of clothes. Now im not saying he roams around naked all day. He wears clothes but is incredibly particular about his clothing items to the point of daily distress.

Today is a ‘wear your own clothes to school day’. He was adamant that he wanted to wear his uniform. Most of the time I let him wear whatever he wants. Give him the freedom to express himself through clothes any which way he pleases. Respecting his choices. But all I could think about was when I was in secondary school myself and the sadness I saw on the peoples faces who wore school uniform on a non-uniform day. Whether they forgot or were from socially deprived families and thought their items of clothing would open them up to more ridiclue. Children can be so cruel. Rory had had an awful week the week before from taunts and non-inclusion from his peers in school, that I just wanted to protect my little boy. His upset is my complete heartbreak.

Since the spring, he has been obsessed with wearing shorts. His cousin gave him a pair of red football shorts which for some reason he called them the “100 shorts”  These shorts with a Power Ranger t-shirt were the only things he wanted to wear. Unfortunately he had to change them at some point! He absolutely despises trousers so I went along with shorts whilst the weather permitted. Every single label has to be cut out, even the stitching where the label once was can irritate him so much. Lots of his clothes have holes in where I have cut the labels out too close to the fabric. But it doesn’t really matter as he won’t wear them anyway!

I’d been shopping and bought him some really ‘cool’ t-shirts and tops. We’ve been shopping together for him to choose the clothes he wants but always come away empty handed. We’ve been through all of the Star Wars clothes which were ‘acceptable’ for a while. We’ve since moved on to a Harry Potter  obsession! I’ve found one Harry Potter t-shirt but unfortunately he can’t wear it all of the time!

Pants, socks, pyjamas! They all cause the same amount of trauma. He now has 7 pairs of ‘star’ pants that are fine to wear. Thank goodness!

He has 5 pairs of identical school trousers, but guaranteed at least one of the pairs will cause him some level of upset just as we are leaving the house for school, resulting in a full uniform change, late for school, an irritable mummy and a sad little boy.

I am starting to think that maybe there is some kind of sensory/skin connection to his discomfort. He hates anything being on his arms and legs, hence why he would wear shorts and t-shirts all year round. Our heating takes a while to come on in the morning, so we chose a lovely Spider-Man dressing gown for him to wear until the house warms up. He hates wearing it, along with any kind of hoody, jumper and coat. He desperately tries to convince me he is not cold whilst trying not to shiver! Trying to find a winter coat was traumatic to the point where I bought him one and that was that. No choice. He has to wear it. But is that the thing, am I giving him too many choices? I just want him to be warm and comfortable.

We have 100’s of Iron Man, Star Wars, Power Ranger dress up costumes that he loved wearing many moons ago, but now they stay hanging up in his bedroom. What does surprise me though is that a friend gave us a child’s wedding suit. Complete with waistcoat, shirt, bow tie and blazer and he will wear that!!!

I am at a loss with this. I’m not talking just a few tears, we have full on melt downs regarding clothes and am unsure how to progress. Is it just another developmental ‘phase’?

 

 

Any thoughts/advice/words of wisdom greatly received!

 

 

 

Where is the Emotional Support after treatment, for people affected by Cancer?

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014, aged 38, i was propelled into a frenzy of medical appointments and life saving procedures. My medical team were there for me 100%. As a trained nurse I could not fault the care I received. My team responsible for my care became my security blanket, as long as I had them by my side I would be ok.
So what happens after treatments finish? What is life like after Cancer? Well for me it was scary. At a time where I thought I would be rejoicing in the fact that my cancer had gone and I could finally get on with the rest of my life, the reality of it was that I was too frightened to live my life. What if the cancer came back? Every pain in my body resulted with me going into complete panic. I will never forget presenting at my GP surgery with persistent headaches. I was convinced I had brain mets and my GP sent me on my hysterical way advising painkillers! That was a very low point for me and the point where I wondered where was the support for people who were struggling emotionally after Cancer.
I attended 2 sessions with a Clinical Psychologist, a Moving Forward course, a Look Good Feel Good course, a Younger Breast Cancer network conference and have even been on a Living Well After Cancer retreat. And although I am so grateful for these events as they did help my mental health and emotional needs, the problem is they end. A one hour session once a week for 4 weeks is not enough. Because once again you are left alone to cope with life after serious trauma. Those feelings of fear, helplessness, grief, sadness, despair, come to the surface all too soon again. The cancer support groups, choirs etc that run once or twice a month are great if you can get to them. As a single parent to a young son, they have been almost impossible for me to attend.
During my darkest days I used to wish there was somewhere I could just go to, to talk to someone or just to have a good cry. Somewhere that was accessible when I needed it. I would phone my mum and she would often say she was in the “crying café”. A place she would go to for a coffee but end up reflecting on the traumatic experiences our family had faced because of my cancer diagnosis. Crying alone in a bustling café. Where is the support for people who have been affected by cancer?
One of the biggest cancer charities in Wales has cut their counselling services and another mental health charity has a waiting list of at least 6 months for counselling services. With more and more people being diagnosed with cancer and mental health related issues, where is the support? Where is the care and compassion that is clearly missing in post cancer care. In 2022 the new Velindre site is due to be built in Cardiff with the addition of a Maggies centre, a well known charity that provides support for cancer sufferers. In 5 years time! We need something now.
There needs to be a home away from home environment, a place of comfort and support that is accessible not only for an hour but all day, all week, all month and all year. A place to offload. A comfortable, tranquil place where people affected by cancer can feel safe. Nobody should face cancer alone, yet so many people do. And nobody should feel abandoned after cancer treatment as this is the time when support is needed the most.
With so many cuts to much needed professional after care services, I am looking for help with the initial plans/funding advise to set up a centre in a homely environment to provide emotional support for people affected by cancer. Think of a ‘weight lifted of your shoulders’ environment. Comfortable sofas, cushions, throws, trickling water fountains, soft music and lighting. Run by volunteers with lived experiences of cancer who empathise with the overwhelming fearful thoughts that can arise from a diagnosis of cancer. An area that could accommodate tables for mindfulness activities such as art therapy, craft and design, crocheting/knitting/sewing, cake making. But more importantly, supporters supporting each other. A hand to hold if words are too difficult. A worry box to write down the most difficult of thoughts, to release the burden for a better quality of life. A place where cancer charities can refer people to for much needed support. But mostly a much needed place for people to go to should they need to.
Any help/suggestions greatly received. Please contact Debbie via email on debdeb2503@gmail.com