My Mental Health Rollercoaster

At 7 months pregnant, I completed my degree and qualified as a Nurse. I had just moved in with my son’s father and we were excited about our unplanned but incredibly wanted baby. Being a full time student for the previous three years, I had no money and became financially dependent on the man I was living with. The relationship ended by the time Rory was 10 weeks old. I had no where to go and a tiny baby to care for.

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Applying for state benefits was a massive blow to me. I had always worked, paid my way. But at this point I couldn’t even provide a home for my own child. I was frantic beyond words. Every day I would phone agencies trying to explain my situation but was always met with “sorry, we don’t accept housing benefit” or “No DSS“. I felt a total outcast and a complete failure. The unhealthy situation where we were living had escalated and we needed to move out very quickly.

I eventually found an unfurnished house, got the keys, packed a bag and the baby’s travel cot and left in the middle of the night. I curled up on my coat that was my make shift bed on the carpet, watched my baby sleep and cried. I was scared.

As always my wonderful parents came to our rescue, got our belongings and furnished our new house. This was a new start for my baby and I.

It soon became apparent why I was able to rent this particular house so quickly. After a few weeks the newly decorated wall papered walls began to peel away. The whole house was a damp, mouldy mess. But to top it off, in the middle of the night, part of the ceiling collapsed onto my little baby’s play mats. Thank goodness it was the middle of the night. From that moment on, my days revolved around conflict with the letting agency and corresponding with a Solicitor. I was a breast feeding single mum and I just wanted a peaceful life to bond and enjoy being with my baby. The stress was enormous.

We had to move house again. And once again I was a desperate mess. This time, someone must have been watching over me as a very compassionate private landlady agreed to me renting her house in a lovely quiet, residential area of the city. The relief was immense. We moved in and settled just in time to celebrate my son’s first birthday. What a 1st year it had been!

I will never forget those feelings of helplessness and despair. I vowed that I would never be in a position where I couldn’t provide a home for my son again and the only way I could do that was if I worked. Who was going to look after my baby? How could I possibly work 12 hour shifts, night shifts etc. and do the work/training required of me as a newly qualified nurse. The thought of leaving my baby terrified me. Not being there for him when he needed me. I was worrying myself sick.

The stigma around single parents is horrendous. I have felt so ashamed that I haven’t been able to care for my son independently of the State’s financial assistance. Many people call single parents “benefit scroungers”. Living on the poverty line is far from scrounging. The struggle is real. Not just financially but also emotionally. I am fortunate that my parents have helped me financially and I would not have been able to manage without them.  I used to find money hidden in my car because they knew I would just not accept it from them in person!

I will never ever forget what my oldest childhood friend sent me whilst I was financially dependent on my son’s father. A parcel arrived at the house with an assortment of shopping vouchers. There was one for a coffee shop so that I could treat myself to coffee and cake with a friend. There was one for a clothes shop to treat myself to something new. There was one so that I could buy toiletries! And magazines! Magazines were such a luxury! She was telling me that I was important! That kindness and generosity will never be forgotten.

As soon as my son turned 1 years old I had the humiliation of having to attend a “work focused interview” through the job centre. I was made to feel so inadequate for not leaving my baby to go to work. I stressed and worried about it constantly. Stress after stress after more stress. So I made the decision that I would be the mum I wanted to be until he was two, a mum who was watching her son grow, spending quality time together. A stay at home mum no matter what anyone else said.

After he turned two, I knew i had done the best job i could to prepare him for nursery life and ultimately our periods of separation, so I started the plan to return to Nursing. Our life was back on track.

Then boom! I didn’t think anything worse could ever happen to us but in April 2014, when Rory was just 2 years and 4 months old I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. Needless to say, our world was shot to pieces.

After the initial shock wore off, a whirlwind of planning occurred and my feet didn’t touch the ground. I had appointments here, there and everywhere and Rory came with me. Initially, I was only going to need one surgery due to the confinement of the cancer cells. I had never had surgery before and was petrified. I made Rory video clips telling him how much I loved him in case I didn’t make it. We hadn’t been separated for a night before so he came with me on the evening of my hospital admittance so he would be able to visualise where I was. He was in his element chatting away to the nurses and playing with the hospital bed remote control! Fear was the only emotion I had.

Unfortunately two weeks later, when I was hoping for the all clear from my surgeon, she told me that the cancer cells had become invasive and that I would need another surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, 18 months of  3 weekly target therapy injections plus ongoing hormone treatment. My head was shouting out “for fuck’s sake, I don’t have time for this”.

Now I was frantic. Panic set in. Who was going to look after my son. The thought of not being able to care for my own little boy was excruciatingly painful. He would have his beloved Grandparents come to stay but my toddler needed respite from the traumatic cancer world we were trawling through. We were in the wrong geographic area for the 2 year old nursery funding. We were in the wrong area for any charitable home help! After weeks of searching and begging for childcare respite, I was informed that the only way I could get a nursery place for my son would be through Social Services. I would have to volunteer my little boy as a “Child In Need”. I was absolutely heartbroken. What the fuck had happened to my life? Why me??? Why my beautiful little Rory???

The decision made, I found the most outstanding private nursery funded by Social Services. My son thrived from day one and we never looked back. It would be the highlight of my bed ridden days (following chemo) hearing him bundle up the stairs, climbing into bed with me to tell me all about his nursery adventures!

My little boy is truly amazing. I haven’t hidden anything from him. We have got though everything side by side. The day my hair starting falling out in big clumps and I had to shave it, he told me I was beautiful! Needless to say, I cried buckets! He would come with me to the mobile chemo unit to have my injections and was as good as gold. He charmed everyone!

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My son’s father and I had tried to maintain an amicable relationship since we split but after my second chemotherapy the relationship took a horrible turn and there were enormous child contact issues. Constant conflict, confrontation, and Solicitor interventions made my recovery time after each treatment longer. I was fraught with worry, stress and anxiety whilst trying to stay alive! My son didn’t deserve any of this. Getting through the days was a struggle. I was so low. I had hit rock bottom. I wasn’t able to put all of my efforts into fighting my cancer and getting well for my son, to ensure he had a mummy to grow up with. I was fighting the very people that should have been supporting us during our extreme time of need.

What should have been an exciting time at the end of my Radiotherapy and the rebuilding of our lives, was met with a court summons through my door! I was fatigued from 6 gruelling months of treatment and surgeries. I was at my physically weakest and emotionally vulnerable. I had no hair, eyelashes or eyebrows, my nose watered constantly and that following week I had to go and sit in a courtroom in front of a judge to go through child arrangements that had already been addressed via solicitors. I cannot believe that a “loving” father would put his “beloved son” and his mother through that. Of course it had an impact on this little boy! But as many single parents will know, to have that legal document that states your son lives with you is worth every bit of delayed recovery.

To think that after court, that would be the end of any conflict. Unfortunately not.  I was fortunate that a single parent friend of mine asked it I would like to go on a ‘Self Management’ course that she was facilitating through Gingerbread, Creating Connections and The Mental Health Foundation. At that point, I didn’t know which way to turn. I was experiencing so much fear, panic, stress, worry, guilt, anxiety, even loss of my identity. The constant parental battles had taken its toll and I knew I needed support. I felt a burden to my parents because I had just put them through 6 months of hell.

To say the course saved me is an understatement. Over 6 weeks we shared our stories with each other. Built trusted friendships with people who just new! Used tools to develop achievable life goals. Felt valued as a person by organising a community event which later developed into the creation of a single parent choir! Since then I have tried everything to maintain a positive mental health: clinical counselling, mindfulness, living with cancer retreat, moving forward and leadership courses, volunteering for a mental health charity, joining the single parent rambles, exercise, peer support but most importantly, being kind to myself. Acknowledging and accepting the bad days, knowing that my track record of getting through them is pretty good! Conflict of any sort is one of my biggest triggers for a rapid decline in my mental health. Knowing this and removing myself from it very quickly has positive results.

There is no doubt in my mind that I have some level of post traumatic stress. I had a life changing illness. I thought I was going to die but I had to deal with something much bigger at the time. 3 years ago this month was when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Sometimes I think to myself was it real? I keep reminders around the house so that it doesn’t come and smack me completely in the face when I least expect it. One of those reminders is a picture of me in my underwear so when people come to visit they might find it a bit odd! After my second mastectomy (without reconstruction) I entered a mastectomy lingerie competition. I didn’t have the money for expensive underwear but desperately wanted some. I got through to the final five contestants and was invited to London for a photo shoot. I didn’t anticipate my lingerie clad body being broadcasted over social media, and was very apologetic to my parents in case I offended them! I had no breasts. I was wearing my wig and I was saying a big “fuck you” to the world. I won the competition!

So in preparation for ‘The Mental Health Awareness Week’ in May I have been assisting a Mental Health charity with their appeal. By no means should we be ashamed to talk about our mental health. Writing is my therapy, as is camping! My mental health has been affected greatly by life events. Bad things can happen to anyone. Mental health can affect anyone. Only by sharing can we break the stigma associated with mental health.

As for my goals, a return to Nursing is on the horizon. Unfortunately another court battle is imminent, but this time I am much more physically prepared and emotionally able to fight for what is right for my son. I cant get much more broken than I have been before. The fear remains but there is nothing I wouldn’t do for my little boy. And we will get through everything as always, together.

But before that, we have a summer of camping adventures to plan!

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Single Mother’s Day

I am always mindful as Mother’s Day approaches, of all of the people that for whatever reason, don’t have a mum in their lives. Some by choice, some by tragedy. My heart goes out to everyone who longs to be a mum but is sadly not.

I don’t agree with the concept of ‘Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Grandparent’s Day’ etc. I am a mother every day. I don’t want to appreciate my own mother just on one day. But like most people, I get well and truly sucked into these purely commercial events.

When I became a single mum to a very young baby, the thought of Mother’s Day used to upset me. Other Mother’s were enjoying cards, flowers, homemade gifts, relaxing baths, lie ins and breakfast in bed. I wouldn’t be getting anything. But as much as reality hits home and I know I don’t need a card or gifts, I secretly long for them. Not from a materialistic  perspective but from a “being a single parent is overwhelming, someone tell me I am doing a good enough job raising my son” perspective.

As I write this, I am aware of how ludicrous it sounds! I am a mother. I love my son. He loves me. I do the best I can for him. We don’t need anything more. But when something like Mother’s Day is thrust in your face my logical reasoning somewhat disappears!

The stress of getting a gift for my mother is enormous. There is nothing  I can buy that will demonstrate how thankful I am for her love and devotion to me and her Grandson. How grateful I am to her for nursing me through cancer and most importantly nurturing my son when I couldn’t. “Don’t buy me flowers” always falls on deaf ears! So I turn up on Mother’s Day with a bunch of crap, disappointed in myself for not planning something very ‘special’ for one of the most deserving women I know.

When logical reasoning resumes, my head and my heart tell me that I am the luckiest mummy in the world. I am a mummy every single day. I don’t need breakfast in bed, my son and I are just fine eating cheerio’s on the sofa! I don’t need a spa day because I love nothing more than swimming with my son. I don’t need a relaxing, peaceful bath because I would miss my boy sitting on the toilet chatting away to me, showing me all of his toys and singing songs! I don’t need shop brought flowers because the love I see in my sons eyes when he picks me a daisy from the garden is phenomenal. There should be a day for “Luckiest person in the whole world, all day, everyday” . And a “Well done for getting through another day” day. Or even “You are doing the best you can” day!

Do we really need a Mother’s Day? Family types are changing. Families headed by single Dad’s and same sex parents are on the increase. Most of these ‘Days’ exclude members of society. All in the name of money making. But as hypocritical as ever, I have shop bought cards so that my son can write his name in and give to me on Mother’s Day. I even coaxed him into making me a Mother’s Day plate at a pottery workshop which I will open on Mother’s Day and squeal with delight at his masterpiece!

My deepest sympathy goes out to those who will grieve for their mothers on Mother’s Day. Those who are gone, missed but never forgotten. As I attend a funeral of a young mother on Friday I will be mindful that Mother’s Day will not be a ‘Happy Mother’s Day‘ for her children on Sunday. Not a day goes by that I don’t remind myself how lucky I am to be Rory’s mummy. And that without my own mum’s love, patience and kindness we wouldn’t be where we are today.

So whatever family you have, whether you celebrate Mother’s Day or not, parenting can be very hard. For the single parents out there, I’ve lived to tell the tale through extreme circumstances. Take small steps and reward yourselves for getting through another day. If nobody is around to tell you how important and amazing you are, I am telling you!

My Child Won’t Eat

“He will eat when he is hungry”. If anyone dared to say that to me again I’m sure I would have screamed the place down.

I always envisioned cooking wholesome one pot wonders for my son and I to eat together. As a Nanny in a previous life, I was used to cooking up nutritional masterpieces that were devoured by the little people in my care. How did it go so wrong for my now 5 year old son and I?

Baby led weaning was a fairly new concept when my son was ready for weaning. It was alien to me.  I was so worried about my son choking so we continued with pureed food for longer than the recommended age. He had such a great diet though and was thriving.

The Health Visitor called around one day to do an age assessment on Rory and I asked for her advice about introducing ‘normal’ food. Something I now wish I hadn’t of done. From then on my expectations of my child eating exceeded what he actually wanted, needed and desired and the nightmare began. My son became an ‘average’ child. On average he should be eating three meals and two lots of snacks. That is what I thought I had to achieve.

I am ashamed of my behaviour towards my son’s eating. And my justification was that he wouldn’t survive on the very little he was eating.  I decided that things were going to change. I took on board the advice that if my son was hungry, he would eat. This was a very low point for me because I expected Rory to eat unfamiliar foods. “A child needs to try a food 15 times” stuck in my head. It very quickly became apparent that my son would prefer to go hungry than eat. How can any responsible parent let that happen.

The final straw  was over a ‘ham sandwich’ incident. Rory ate bread and he liked ham. I made him a ham sandwich picnic and asked him to just try it. Hours and hours passed. I broke down in tears. My child was crying. What the hell was I doing??? He never wants to eat a ham sandwich again.

I have never apologised so much to my little boy. I had turned into a food martyr. Demanding my son ate because I was so scared of his lack of appetite. But why on earth would he want to eat when he has such a crazy mummy. Once again, things had to change and quickly.

All I needed to do was talk to my son. We made a list of all of the foods he liked, not many but it was a starting point. Thank goodness peanut butter was on there!

Friends recommended various ways to handle my “fussy” eater. The use of a reward chart system came out on top. However, I was not willing to “reward” my son for eating. Eating is essential for life.

I remember my son eating a couple of bites of food before telling me he didn’t want anymore or that he was full. “How old are you? 4? lets eat 4 more pieces then”. My son did not want to eat anymore. He was telling me this very clearly. Why was I not listening or believing him? I had done this previously when Rory had had one Weetabix for breakfast. I didn’t think one was too much to eat until I sat down with him and couldn’t finish off my one Weetabix.

“Make pizza faces”. “Make potato boats”. No amount of food art made my son want to eat the finished product. No amount of making ‘menus’ or cooking together helped.

It was during this time I found support in a local Gentle Parenting group. I learned to respect my son. To respect his choices. To give him control over his choices. I had to respect his choice of what to eat, when to eat and how much to eat.

I was always too scared to take Rory out to eat but in actual fact that is what I needed to do. For him to see eating as fun and social. I even overturned my ban of ever letting my child eat at MacDonald’s!

So this is where we are now:

  • I have accepted that my son eats very little compared to other children but for him, it is the right amount and he is thriving.
  • My son can help himself to food in the fridge and cupboards at any time.
  • Some days all he wants is a peanut butter sandwich and some milk and that is ok.
  • There will NEVER be any punishment or reward for eating or not eating.
  • He likes to keep his food separate on a plate.
  • He likes plain food.
  • I am grateful  he likes salmon and chicken and peas!
  • He regulates his own treat intake.
  • I respect my son.
  • He asks for rice and noodles from the Chinese takeaway!
  • He recently ate a whole Yorkshire pudding!
  • He seems to enjoy a variety of foods.
  • I am grateful that he eats and that he wants to eat.

Seeing my child, the little person who I love more than anything in the world, survive off a few grains of rice some days has been the hardest and most distressing part of parenthood for me. This distress caused me to handle the situation appallingly. Single parenting is tough. When you need support and reassurance from the other parent but have to cope alone. All I can say is that I have more than learned from my mistakes and strive to be a much better parent. I’m so sorry Rory.

 

 

 

A £10 day out in the City ……

As with most people, January is a financially depressing month. My son’s birthday is just before Christmas and most of my family members have their birthday’s in January! Our entertainment budget reduces dramatically so I am always on the lookout for cheap days out.

With £10 in my purse, my 5 year old and I set out for a day of adventures in Cardiff town. Now I must apologise in advance but I told the bus driver a little white lie. Well not a lie as such but when he assumed my son was under 5 and didn’t qualify for a fare, I didn’t correct him. My bad! So, £3.60 spent for a day return into the big city. I drive most of the time so a bus journey is a treat for my son.

The day we chose to venture into town, Cardiff was hosting one of the biggest sporting events: Wales v England in the Rugby. Being a welsh rugby fan myself I loved taking in the atmosphere. The town was buzzing with dancing dragons and daffodil’s! A chorus of rugby anthems and musical talents echoed from street to street. I just had to have a dragon face painted onto my cheek and a bargain at £1. My son Rory declined but soon changed his mind when he saw how cool his mummy looked! £4.40 left in the pot.

Our first port of call was the Cardiff Story Museum conveniently located in the centre. Neither of us had been before but we will definitely go back! On the first level there were interactive stations explaining all about the history of Cardiff. Rory was chatting away on the hand held listening device! He enjoys anything that allows him to push buttons and there were lots of buttons to press.  I finally persuaded him to follow me down to the children’s section on the next level. What a fab place! There is so much to do. Rory loved the toy kitchen and train in the most in the wonderfully named ‘Dewi’s Den’. For me, I thoroughly  enjoyed reading the displays showing the changes to this marvellous city throughout the years. We ended our visit by creating our ‘Peace Mugs’ on paper. Discussing what ‘peace’ meant was a lovely way to end our visit, however after 2 hours, Rory did not want to leave and it was only because it was lunch time that I got him out! The Cardiff Story Museum is free to enter and explore.

Our original plan was to go to Macdonald’s for our lunch. I am not a fan of Macdonald’s and we rarely go. But the Happy Meals had just changed from Angry Birds to Batman Lego and I have a big Lego fan. However, that all changed when toilet needs called and we popped into Pillars restaurant. 2 children’s meals ordered, including drinks for £6. Sitting in the restaurant chatting away to my little boy was well worth going over budget for!

As more and more rugby fans descended on the city we took ourselves across to the much quieter Civic Centre and climbed the steps to the National Museum. Not before Rory had an impromptu dance with some buskers! We have been to the National Museum many times and for a little boy like mine who likes to roam free, this environment is ideal. And once again, free. He takes me around the building as if he is the tour guide! You could easily spend a good couple of hours in this Museum. If pennies permit there is a coffee shop/café on the lower ground which has a little play area. Very useful if you need a coffee and a sit down to recharge your batteries whilst your little one still has bundles of energy!

By this time, I have more than reached my daily target of steps and ready to go home! £11.60 spent on an exhausting but fun and educational day out. Rory fell asleep on the bus home!

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Is School turning my Son into a Robot?

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“Good afternoon madam, which class is your child in?”. This sentence came from a young child carrying a clip board as I entered the hall where I was due to have a parents meeting with my 5 year old son’s teacher. More children were lined up very efficiently, also with their clipboards, reciting their lines to other parents. The reception was very polite. Very formal looking. But very robotic.

My son’s school is ‘very good’ by all standards. It is welcoming, colourful and it has a lovely ‘feel’ about it. A tremendous amount of work is obviously put in by everyone who works there but I can’t help but feel my son’s schooling will turn him into a “yes sir, no sir, three bags full sir” young boy.

Before I go any further I will just add that I have the upmost respect for Teachers. I trust them with my child’s life. Increased classroom sizes and learning outcome demands must put so much pressure on teaching. I could not do this job and am in awe of those that do. But this is the problem I have, is my son’s presence at school purely a ‘tick box’ exercise?

My son’s teacher dove straight in to tell me he was on the right path for achieving the targets for his age. Yes he can write ‘sat, mat, hat’. Yes he can count to the required amount. No he isn’t interested in reading the ‘Biff and Chip’ books he brings home! But does anyone know of the remarkable stories he tells from his imagination??? Or the books he reads from memory? “Here is a leaflet that explains how to make reading more fun at home”. Hmmm, I will let you come to your own conclusion about my internal reaction to this!

I’m afraid the very strict 10 minute appointment slot for generic information, is wasted on me. The things I need to know are:

  • Is my son happy? How do you know if he is unhappy? How would you support my son if he was sad/upset/unhappy?
  • The theme this term is ‘Homes’, how are you supporting my son from a Single Parent home throughout this subject, as a minority in his class? How are you ‘normalising’ different family types? What resources do the school use for discussion around homes and family life?
  • Why is my son putting bread in his pocket at dinner time because he doesn’t have enough time to eat his dinner?

Please put all of these in a tick box for me! At this young age, my son’s emotional health and development is more important than academia. He needs friendships and to learn the value of these friendships. Develop social skills. I sometimes wish we followed the Scandinavian schooling system where 7 is the starting age. Children have more time to be children, to learn through play as they are designed to do.

I hate to think of my son being a number amongst 30 others. I hate to think of him conforming at such an early age. He sits with his legs crossed, does as he is told and puts his arm up to ask or answer a question. Do we do this as adults????

I remember my son coming home after his first full day. He was desperate for the toilet. He hadn’t been all day because he didn’t know who to ask or where to go. I remember him coming out of school a few weeks ago looking a bit peaky and he said he had felt poorly all day but didn’t tell anyone. Now that made me sick to my stomach. My son is a human being with his own needs and feelings. Why is nobody seeing this??

I have spent the last couple of years encouraging my son to make his own choices. The need to conform as a class takes its toll on him and most days after school, he is like a bottle of pop ready to explode. The emotional intensity of school life at such a young age is concerning me. Take the school Christmas Concert for example, my son wasn’t ready to parade in front of strangers, singing songs that have been rehearsed diligently for weeks and weeks. He wanted his mummy but he sang up on stage upset because that was what was required of him. For entertainment! For school recognition. And I still bought the DVD! The pressure on these children is just too much in my opinion. Did my son have a choice to take part??? I bet he wasn’t even asked.

So the next parent’s session will go somewhat differently. I will have my clipboard and checklist and my ten minute timer. I will ask about my son. Not about his ability to build a tower of bricks and to recite the colours of the rainbow, but about his personality. About his likes and dislikes. And most of all about his happiness. Because to me, at 5 years of age, that is all that counts.

 

‘Only Child’ Grief

“When can we have a baby?”. “Please can we have a baby?” “Can we call the baby Tess?”. “Mummy’s got a baby in her tummy”. “When I’m a big brother ….”

Not a day goes by when my 5 year old doesn’t check to see if I’ve got a baby in my tummy. And to be fair, after over indulging throughout the Christmas period, I sometimes do look pregnant! My son tells everyone I’m having a baby!

Joking aside, it is very upsetting not to be able to give my son the one thing he wants more than anything in the world. And the words he used shortly after starting full time school last year still haunt me: “we are not a proper family”.

We are amongst the 1 in 4 single parent families living in the UK. Our little family unit is “PROPER”. We both have an overwhelming desire to increase our family but it is just not going to happen biologically. Will the longing to carry another baby ever leave me? The yearning to have the miracle of life growing inside of me once again is so strong.

You are lucky you have a child”. This is very true but it does not stop me grieving for what I want. What I want for my son. Given the choice I would have a whole brood of children. And although I do have choices they are not compatible with childbearing.

Shortly before my Chemotherapy started for Breast Cancer, I attended a fertility appointment where I was given various options available for a single person like myself. Options I would never have thought about before. My referral came too late though and I began my life saving treatment plan without looking back.

In recent months I have been researching my particular hormone driven cancer and future pregnancy outcomes. I have spoken with my Oncology team and Fertility specialists. I am on Endocrine Therapy for the next couple of years but all teams are happy for me to have a medication break should I try to get pregnant. But it all comes down to this: I fought so hard to be alive for Rory. For my son to have his mummy. To see him through all of his incredible milestones. Pregnancy will have its risks and these risks I cannot take.

We are so lucky to have support from Single Parent groups and Single Parent friends where we ‘normalise’ our family type. Never again will my son have to think we are not a proper family. I may not be able to give my little boy a baby brother or sister, but what I can give him is a family unit full of love, respect, kindness and adventure!

Not having another child is a decision I have to make peace with. It is very difficult, but I know, one way or the other, I am destined to have a house full of children. We will have our dream one day.

 

Aber dabber doo

I have done a fair bit of travelling in my youth for both work and pleasure but my favourite place by far to visit is non other than my home town of Aberystwyth.

Having moved to the big city many moons ago, I often long for the familiarity of the country. The slower pace. I was just thinking the other day, that unless we go to a farm park, we never see a tractor. You could go for miles following a tractor or two in Aberystwyth! And its funny because as soon as we hit Carmarthen on our journey home, I eagerly await the tractor sightings! Rory thinks I’m crazy!

Another of my best parts about driving home are the views along the Cardigan Coast. They are spectacular and I fully took them for granted growing up in one of the most beautiful, scenic parts of Wales. As soon as we arrive in Aberaeron, the 30 minute countdown begins. Through to Llanon (always looking at the house my parents lived in when they first moved to Wales), then onto Llanrhystyd, Blaenplwyf, Chancery, Llanfarian, looking at the sign to Llanilar and remembering the village fondly, before Penparcau and reaching our final destination on the outskirts of Aberystwyth Town. Home Sweet Home!

Now Aberystwyth may not have the best shopping in the world (yet!) but it has so much more to offer than shops. It is my little safe haven. And I am so glad I am able to share the best of Aberystwyth with my son. My parents have the most wonderful view of The National Library of Wales and Constitution Hill. My son loves going on the electric cliff railway up Consti hill. I’m always a bit scared and would much prefer to walk! Opened in 1896, the cliff railway is one of the longest in Britain and became electrified in the early 1920’s. The views from the top are incredible. We always pop in to the café for a warm drink and a treat before our descent. When I had cancer, I would go up Consti just to breathe. To be grateful for the beauty surrounding me and to blow my painful thoughts away. A very special but cold and windy place!!!

A new place that my Mum took us to at the end of last year was Bluebell Woods at Penglais Nature Park. I don’t know if its because I have been ill that I notice things more or if its because I have a child and want him to appreciate nature, but I couldn’t believe that I have never been to this place before. A stunningly beautiful walk with many trees to climb! You can understand why the woodland is now a protected area. Another of our favourite walks is in Llanilar. Through the old sawmills and down to the wobbly bridge! This was a place I and most of the village children used to come to on hot summer days during our childhood. Swimming in the river and piling onto massive inflatable tyres. Learning how to skim the water with stones. Ahh the memories! Ones I can pass on to my little boy.

Aberystwyth may not have a sandy beach, but it has a lovely beach nonetheless. There is always a variety of pebbles, shells, seaweed, starfish and jellyfish to keep children amused! The bandstand offers entertainment. Ice cream and snacks are just a stones throw away and the paddling pool is a lovely feature on the promenade. I remember playing in it when I was Rory’s age! The Jetty often has daredevils jumping off it into the sea so its a good job the surf lifesavers can be seen training regularly!

The Royal Pier arcade is a great place to go to lose all of your money! It has lots of ride on toys and slot machines but if you are anything like me, I just pretend to play games like the Air Guitar and gun battles!

A little further on past the Pier you arrive at the Castle. I won’t even pretend I have a clue about the history of this remarkable ruin! What I do remember is all of the naughty things I used to get up to amongst these ruins during my teenage years! I love the Castle though. Its a peaceful place, overlooking the sea. Rory loves exploring and playing in the park. During the warmer months we take a picnic and sit on the green. During winter, we take our plastic golf clubs and play on the crazy golf!

An indoor place that we enjoy going to is Aberystwyth Museum. Filled with history and interactive activities, its a great place to spend a rainy hour or two. I am only touching the surface of what Aberystwyth and the surrounding area has to offer. Situated a few miles north of Aberystwyth is the seaside village of Borth where we lived throughout my teens. Miles and miles of golden sandy beach which leads up to the magical Nature Reserve at Ynyslas (see previous blog post). Nant-Yr-Arian, Devils Bridge, Pen Dinas …. They all contribute to the beauty of this amazing town.

I love Aberystwyth!