Sticks and Stones ……..

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Kindness is one of the biggest values in life that I want to teach my six year old son.

He is already a very thoughtful little boy and his life to date has been somewhat different to most children  his age. I am so proud of him.

With tears rolling down my face, I remember a time where I didn’t think I would see my son grow up. I thought as long as I taught him how to be a kind human being, he would go far in life, and I would have no worries about him.

Being kind however, is not enough to get you through todays tough, cruel and unkind world. Being kind is not enough to get you through cruel words and cruel actions.

I remember a saying from my own youth: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”. Words devastate. Wounds can heal but words can have a lasting impression. A very traumatic, lasting impression.

My son has had a lot of upset in school. I have spoken to his teachers numerous times. I am my son’s ONLY advocate and therefore I will always communicate my son’s distress to the people I trustingly hand over my son to, hoping they will guard him from any physical/emotional harm in the school setting. So when my son comes home saying children have been mean to him and that he’s spent the whole of play time crying in a corner on his own, I need to make changes to protect my son. I will not have my son’s heart broken.

I need him to stand up for himself. I need to teach him how to stand up for himself. I never in a million years thought I would ever be roleplaying ‘mean situations’ with my son, but that is what we have ended up doing. For example, a while ago he was taunted and called a ‘baby’. I pretended I was Rory being called a baby. We discussed what a baby was and he was definitely not one of them! I explained they were just untrue words that someone has made up to be mean and hurtful.

We have gone through how to handle those heart breaking situations where groups of so-called friends don’t let you join in to play. But how do I explain to my son what he should do if someone becomes physical with him? I have always disagreed with the ‘if a child pushes you, push him back’ approach. That was until now. I don’t want my son to think violence is acceptable at all, but what I do want to install in him is that if he feels threatened in any shape of form, he can do what he feels necessary to protect himself from harm.

One of the reasons I take my son to Tae-Kwondo lessons is so that he learns the power and strength of his own body to fend off attackers. But most importantly, he is learning the power of his voice as an initial warning.

In Rory’s first year of school, so he was 4 years old at the time, I was mortified to be told that he had bitten another child on the face. Rory was disciplined according to the schools guidance which I went along with. Causing harm to a child was just not acceptable. But this was so out of character for my kind and sensitive little boy. Why on earth did he bite another child, and on the cheek of all places? It didn’t make sense to me. Until Rory finally told me what had happened. He was sat on the floor in a line after dinner, waiting to go out to play. Having school dinners was still a scary prospect for Rory back then and he used to take a little toy in his pocket for reassurance. A boy kept reaching over Rory to take his toy that was in his hand at the time. Rory must have felt threatened by the constant invasion of his space and reacted in the only way he thought he could. He was protecting himself. He got punished for protecting himself. I will not let that happen again.

As an adult, I have come across many mean people. This is unfortunate but a fact of life. I cannot teach Rory that everyone is going to be nice. We all know that is not true. But what I am trying to do is to equip him with the necessary tools to protect his emotional and physical well-being when situations arise. Of course I still want him to be the kind, thoughtful little boy he is, but I also need him to toughen up. It really saddens me to say this though.

As the youngest of three siblings, we grew up where everyone knew each other. No one would have ever dreamed of intimidating me due to the presence of my older brother and sister. Rory does not have those siblings. He has me.

I might sound like an over bearing, over protective mother, but the sole responsibility of a little life is overwhelming. Children need happy childhoods, and I will do my utmost to make sure my little boy has the one he deserves.

I don’t want Rory to accept people being mean to him. What I want is for him to understand that we have to learn to deal with it.  As much as I would like to talk to every child that is mean to mine, and their parents come to think of it, I can’t. Although i will if need be! There is nothing more precious to me than my boy. This is just another hard lesson in life. There will be many more to come i’m sure, that will keep me wide awake at night, worrying. Who said parenting was going to be easy!

Be kind. It costs nothing and can make all the difference to someone.

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“We are NOT a proper family”

Not long after my son started Primary school, he came home stating that we “were not a proper family”. Unbeknown to me, the class theme at that time was all about families. My little boy was very upset. He has only known life with me and him, with regular contact with his father. My son has 2 houses and that is the ‘norm’ for him. I say 2 houses as opposed to homes because in my son’s eyes, our house together is home, the other is ‘Dad’s house’. I find that sad and its something that we are working on.

I was distraught when my son, my baby, my whole world, declared that we were not a proper family. How could he think that? How could he have come home from school thinking that? What on earth were they teaching him about families?

One in four families are headed by single parent families in the UK. Surely his teachers must be aware of the diverse society we live in today! Surely they need to be mindful of different family types and be sensitive to the children who don’t fit into the ‘norm’.

I researched what books were available for young children regarding single-parent families and was shocked by how little was available. I came across one book that was about a bird living in two nests. This was supposed to replicate a child having two homes. My son has always been a bright little boy. He questions everything and wants truthful answers to his questions. A book about birds was not going to help his curiosity about family types! He has always wanted facts when it comes to real life. This does help me enormously, as I used to spend most of my time bullshitting the truth, as I thought I would be protecting him.

But in actual fact, by being truthful and honest, I was protecting him more. None more so than when we went through my breast cancer treatment as a single parent family. I couldn’t bullshit feeling and looking incredibly ill. But what I could do was explain things to my son in a manner that he would understand. I could cuddle him for hours and listen to his daily stories. I was there for him. I was still his mummy and no one loved him more than me! My son needed information, real information. And I’m sure he got through this huge disruption in his life by the information he received.

So with all of that in mind, it has always been my goal to write a series of children’s books based on family types. The series will be based on the character ‘Super Rory’! Super Rory lives with his mummy. Super Rory lives with his daddy. Super Rory lives with his 2 mummies. Super Rory lives with his 2 daddies. Super Rory lives with Nana and Grandad etc. (the list is endless). Once that series has been completed, the next series will be based on real-life family situations such as Super Rory’s mummy has cancer. Super Rory’s mummy is sad (with postnatal depression). Super Rory’s mummy/daddy is in prison. Super Rory goes to play at Charlies house (a deaf family). Super Rory’s family welcomes new neighbours (a refugee family) etc. (Once again, the list is endless).

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It will be based on my very own superhero character (Rory!!) who has shown me his ability to get through difficult situations, and his level of understanding of these difficult situation is a lot higher than I was giving him credit for. They are going to be ‘real’ books to normalise family types and the difficulties families face but with a child-friendly level of understanding. An endearing character that children will associate with. And most importantly, they will be simple and easy to read.

Transforming Cancer Care services and positively supporting single parent lifestyles are my 2 passions in life. I need these projects in my life! After an unsuccessful attempt at returning to work, I am even more determined to make a success out of these passions!

My aim is to have a series of books based on family types in all Uk primary schools, so no other child has to come home, like Rory, saying they don’t have a proper family. That is just unacceptable in today’s day and age. But there are over 25,000 primary schools! I need your help!

I have contacted a leading Single Parent charity to see if there are any opportunities to collaborate. I have been researching self-publishing. I have been looking into financial grants to help get it all off the ground. I haven’t got round to emailing one of the most well known single parent authors: JK Rowling! But it is a possibility! As is pitching to the Dragon’s Den crew!

I’m using the power of social media for any ideas on how to make this a reality. I have been talking and planning for far too long! Please contact me with any suggestions. Thank you x”

 

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Queen Quitter Pants!

So, after a weekend of soul searching, I decided to leave my Return To Nursing course. Some of you may have read my previous blog which included some of the difficulties I was experiencing. The comments I received, were wonderfully supportive and greatly received, but ultimately, I was fighting a losing battle.

Why was I putting myself and my son through such misery and stress?

Well the answer to that was simple. I desperately wanted to go back to my pre-cancer days. To be that person I once was. But the truth of the matter is, I will never be that person again.

I have realised through completion of half of the course that I do not want to be a nurse. I thought I did. I wanted to believe I did as that would have given me some future purpose in life. I wanted to fight through the universities lack of support, proving that difficult challenges do not phase me. I have got through much worse in life. But if this was truly the path I was supposed to take, nothing would have stopped me.

So I quit.

I quit with my head held high. I walked away.

Did I fail? Absolutely not. Nothing in this world is worth compromising my health again. I am sure that stress played a huge contributing factor to my cancer development.  Not only were my stress levels increasing rapidly, but my anxiety too.

It has been a weekend of battling through all of my thoughts. A weekend of reaching out to friends and family (something I am usually rubbish at!). A weekend of tears. I was frantic with worry that I was letting everyone down. But I was only letting myself down for continuing with something that was causing me great distress and having a negative impact on mine and Rory’s life.

What I hope I’m teaching Rory through all of this, is that I tried. I tried very hard. But its ok to stop trying and walk away if you need to. I have learnt from people this week that walking away takes strength. I did not fail by quitting. I would have failed if I had continued not being true to myself.

What mattered to me pre-cancer, does not have the same meaning to me after becoming a mother and having had cancer. I am a different person. And I am glad to be this new person. A person who doesn’t waste time doing things they don’t want to do. A person who will not tolerate being treated badly. A person who can change their mind!

I am incredibly lucky. I can now pursue the things in life that I am passionate about: transforming cancer care services and normalising different family types through children’s books!

I know better than anyone, that life can be so very short. Life is precious and we owe it to ourselves to be happy.

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Returning to work ….

I am a grumpy, stressed out, emotional mummy.

Returning to work was not supposed to be this way. “You will be supported” said the university through which I am doing a work placement for 4 months. “It is only part time, less than 15 hours a week, you’ll be fine” they said.

Well I am not fine!

Full of enthusiasm and excitement on my first 2 days, to then be in total despair by the end of day 3 when the school phoned to say I hadn’t collected my son. Now I am not entirely to blame as I did not receive the notifications that my son’s afterschool activity was not running on that day. However, I totally blame myself. My son was sat in the reception area of the school for nearly 45 minutes, waiting for his mum who just couldn’t get her shit together in the very first week of returning to work. “Don’t worry mum” said my 6 year old little darling. I have no idea what I would do without this amazing little boy in my life! He is so much wiser than his years and I sometimes wonder who is the parent and who is the child!

The expectations my placement have of me are clearly much higher than what I can achieve at this present time. This is a very unfair process to have to go through. Humiliating in fact. I was expecting support and guidance to build my confidence but instead it has had the opposite effect. This meaning, I have my head constantly in the books, researching and completing hours and hours of extra E-Learning.  Which in turn, means that my son is having a lot of screen time, overloading on sugar and missing out on quality time with his mummy. Although, he is more than happy to watch Horrid Henry (which is usually banned) and eat copious amounts of sweets whilst I just take 5 more minutes to finish up. 4 episodes later ……..

The reality of returning to work is enormous. Practically, I have one pair of hands. I cannot be in 2 places at once. Breakfast club starts at 8.20am, my placement starts at 8.30am! My son has never caused a fuss about going because he knows he has to. But I know he doesn’t want to go. He eats breakfast at home and every time we go to breakfast club he says that he will just have a sip of apple juice or water. I know then that he will just have to sit on the floor for the next 30 minutes before school starts. The guilt is too much sometimes. I watched him for the first couple of times. My heart bursting with pride as he went up to the counter, asked for a drink and then found an empty seat amongst the very busy tables of children he didn’t know. I would have been nervous! But Rory, as with everything, just gets on with it.

As a single parent, I cannot always do the placement times. Sometimes I need to start late and finish early. If my son is poorly or has an appointment, I need to be there for him. Even though my son’s father has parental responsibility, he has made it very clear that this responsibility does not extend to out of arranged child contact hours.

Just this week, I have become totally overwhelmed by the emotional toll that returning to work has taken. I missed out on seeing my son do his Tae-Kwondo grading. This upset me greatly. Usually the optimist, I have been ready to throw the towel in several times. My head is screaming out that “I can’t do this”, “You’re crap”, “You don’t know anything”, “You shouldn’t be doing this”. 

Why am I doing it? I ask myself this question over and over again. I’m not happy. I’m very stressed and missing out on precious time with my boy. But it is a means to an end. I am desperately trying to better mine and Rory’s life. To break free from the cycle of benefits. To break free from ‘recovering from cancer’. But I think that is one of my biggest issues. Being diagnosed with breast cancer 4 years ago and the gruelling treatment regime that followed, has had a huge impact on how I see myself and what I am capable of doing. My brain does not function the same. I find it difficult to recall and retain information. Perhaps I am just not ready. Has it all been a huge mistake?

On reflection, I have been to hell and back. I thought I was going to die when I had Breast Cancer. I thought my son was going to grow up without knowing his mummy. I have been to the deepest and darkest places no one could ever imagine. I have survived single parenting not only through cancer but through devastating and traumatic parental conflict, which continues frequently.

So for anyone who doesn’t think I’ve got it in me to return to work, you are wrong. It might take me somewhat longer, but I will get there. I am stubborn. I am determined. When I am knocked down, I get back up. I am a Murphy after all!

My parents, once again come to my rescue! My dad is coming next week, in-between his chemotherapy treatment cycles to help with Rory. Unfortunately he also has to come back the following week as I got my dates mixed up (no surprise there!). Must get the San Miguel in! My mum has already done her time with us!

I have the upmost respect for single parents doing it all alone. And those single parents who have more than one child, are my absolute hero’s! The support I have received from single parenting networks, has got me through this very difficult time.

This is not how I thought it would be. I had an unrealistic view of sailing through this short course, getting a job and living happily ever after. It is tough. But so is life. I will get there and when I do, Rory and I will be going on our first celebratory camp of the year!

Returning to work after any absence can be a daunting prospect. I have doubted myself numerous times. I have cried a lot. I have just wanted to crawl under my duvet and stay there. My anxiety is back with a vengeance. But no one is going to tell me I can’t do something. No one is going to tell me I am not good enough.

I CAN AND I WILL

Thank you for all of your support xxxxx

But the biggest thank you goes to Rory. He has hugged me, wiped my tears, understood, and is just the world’s best kid. Proud does not even come close! Thank you my amazing boy xxxxx

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Two Breasts, One Breast, No Breasts ……

If the word ‘Breasts’ offends you, read no further!
If the word ‘Breasts’ makes you feel uncomfortable, read no further!
I thought hard about whether I should write about ‘Breasts’ on this blog. Its a ‘Single Parent Adventure’ blog! A future resource for my little boy. Why on earth would I be writing about breasts?!
I remember during the early days of my breast cancer diagnosis, almost whispering the word breasts when telling people. Having that awkwardness, like it was something to be ashamed of. But never have I been ashamed of having breast cancer, the effect it has had on my body or the appearance of my body.
My initial diagnosis of Ductal Carcinoma in Situ, meant that following a single mastectomy, no further treatment would be needed. I would have breast reconstruction at a later date, and a reduction in size of the remaining breast. I did think that by the time I turned 40, I would have a lovely pair of pert boobs and I’d be the envy of all my friends! That was until devastation struck. My cancer invaded my lymph nodes and a gruelling regime of Chemotherapy, Radiotherapy and numerous other medical interventions were scheduled for the following 18 months.
Precious time was taken away from my son. I needed our lives to get back to some kind of normality as soon as possible. That is when I knew breast reconstruction was not for me. In comparison to a mastectomy which is a relatively uncomplicated surgery, breast reconstruction is a very lengthy surgery with a much longer recovery and many additional post-operative procedures.
My mind was made. No reconstruction. But I struggled enormously with having one breast. It was a constant reminder of what had happened. I just wanted it gone.
I was fortunate to have a very understanding surgeon who agreed to remove my remaining healthy breast. But so many women have had to fight for this choice. A very personal choice, one that is as equally important as having reconstruction, but denied to so many.
My surgery couldn’t come soon enough and the relief I felt afterwards was immense. I had no breasts and I was so very happy about it. That sounds like an incredibly strange thing to say to most people, but it is true. I didn’t look down at my very flat chest and wish I had two breasts. For me, it was the start, the start of healing, the start of the recovery, the start of repairing and the start of moving forward.
Breasts do not define a person. They certainly didn’t define me. One of my biggest accomplishments in life is that I breast fed my son, but I don’t feel upset in the slightest that my breasts are gone. My breast was cancerous. Toxic even. Disease grew so rapidly.
Any memories of a sexual context related to my breasts have been quickly erased. If I had been in a loving relationship at the time of my diagnosis and treatment, my decision for an elective mastectomy might have been different. But fortunately, I didn’t need to think about how anyone else would feel about me not having breasts. I did what was best for me, and me alone. My body. My decision.
During the early days of becoming flat, when my chest was still sensitive, I would find myself apologising to any house visitors for not having my ‘boobs’ in. I would wear scarves to hide my flatness. I would apologise for being me. I don’t really know why I did that!
Over the years, I have tried various bras and breast prosthetics. Bras irritate my very sensitive chest. I hate them. But my son Rory has a whale of a time sorting through them, pretending to be me! I don’t hide the fact I don’t have breasts from him. He knows! I try to show a very positive body image, showcasing that people come in all different shapes and sizes. He just knows me as Mum!
I am a woman. Not having breasts doesn’t make me any less of a woman. As for future relationships, if my lack of breasts is an issue, I will have an issue with brainless idiots!
There are so many women like me who live a confident and happy life without breasts. During cancer, many decisions are made for you but every person has the right to make their own choices. Elective mastectomy surgery is not a routine choice, reconstruction is. This needs to change. Hopefully, I can address this during my next Patient Leadership workshop which will be focusing on the Breast Care Pathway!
Cancer does not discriminate. I was certainly not too young to have breast cancer at 38 years old. Check your breasts regularly. And get shouting out the word ‘BREASTS’!

Single Parent Snow Survival ………

Both my son and I are home bodies. There is nothing we like more than staying at home in our comfy clothes and chillaxing with our creature comforts to hand. So even I was surprised by how the recent heavy downpour of snow has affected us.

I love the snow. I love the time with my son. But my patience I noticed, started to wear thin. My six year old  son seemed to  turn into a  teenager during the last three days of  our isolated captivity. But the cause of it all, I’m afraid to say, was me being stressed.

When the news first came about the dangerous weather conditions that were about to come our way, I put a plan into action to be prepared for any eventuality. Food, supplies, petrol, torches, blankets, hot water bottles. But what if the electricity went off? How would I cook for my boy? He eats very little at the best of time. I spent a small fortune on emergency snacks and food that wouldn’t need cooking! And then I remembered I have a portable gas camping stove, panic over!

What if the water pipes froze? Water is essential to life! Off back to the supermarket, ashamed of the amount of plastic bottles I purchased. Plus I filled all of my pots and pans with water, just in case!

What if my son got poorly? Another supermarket trip to stock up on calpol and nurofen.

The sole responsibility of a child is enormous. Overwhelmingly enormous at times like this. But its snowing! It hasn’t snowed this much in 5 years. Rory had just turned one when we had the last big snowfall and obviously wouldn’t remember what it was like. It was an exciting time!

For a little boy who lives in shorts and has a full on protest when he has to wear trousers to leave the house, I wasn’t looking forward to introducing the clothing that he needed to wear out in the -5 degree blizzard weather. To my surprise, the thermals, jumpers and waterproofs went on without trauma and my boy couldn’t wait to get outside.

The sledge I had bought last year just in case it snowed, was in the garden. Rain water had gathered in it over the months. An old camping chair had fallen into the sledge which had become embedded into a huge frozen block in the sledge! 10 kettles of boiled water later and the camping chair was free, as was the sledge!

Watching my son experience snow at this age was purely magical. All he wanted to do was throw himself down and roll in it. He rolled himself down a bank and said it was the best day of his life! Strong winds prevented us from staying out too long so we retreated back to the safety of our home. We had a quick play in the garden before locking up for the night. But the door would not lock. The extreme temperature had affected the locking mechanism. Big panic. Having a safe environment for my son is paramount. Snow was preventing anyone from travelling so there was no one to call upon to help us. Now I was going to have to barricade us into the bedroom and hope we wouldn’t get burgled over night. The police would never get to us. We were doomed. After 2 hours of frantically forcing the door handle, it miraculously locked again. What a relief!

Petrified of the boiler not working and our house freezing, I kept the heating on all day and night. So far so good. No frozen pipes. Just an extortionate gas bill to come!

I had forgotten to collect my prescription from the supermarket pharmacy so we got snow suited again and navigated our way through thick snow. We have very little to do with our neighbours but we did knock on their doors asking if they needed anything, a lesson in humanity I wanted to demonstrate to Rory.

The prescription was wrong! The pharmacy assistant was rude. Not the best day to piss me off. These are the tablets I take to help stop my breast cancer from returning, I need them! Now there wasn’t  going to be a delivery until the roads were clear. Rory started whining and refused to walk back! He had already started removing his ‘itchy’ clothing which was going to take another half an hour to put back on. “Can I have a treat mum?” Absobloodylutely! I want one too! And some beer!

Back home, I was getting grumpy and shouty. My darling little boy was glued to me. He wouldn’t let me go to the toilet alone. I had a much needed bath and he sat on the toilet waiting for me to get out. He wouldn’t sleep in his own bed. We painted, made cakes, played board games and imaginative games. We tidied our rooms and sorted out the toys. But still I was grumpy and impatient, as was Rory. At one point I told him he was grounded! Anyone who knows me, knows this is totally out of character. I like to think of myself as a gentle parent. We do ‘Time in’ as opposed to the solitary confinement of ‘Time Out’. We respect each other and talk things through. But I was losing the plot. I even stopped tablet and TV time for a brief time. Who does that when they are stuck indoors for a few days? More fool me and I took it back very quickly!

Deep rooted memories of not being able to leave the house when I had cancer, came flooding back. Not being in control. Feeling trapped, isolated and lonely. I was panicked.  I had longed for snow for so long, to share that experience with Rory at an age he would remember in case anything happened to me, but I was not coping with it well.

I kept seeing wonderful pictures of families enjoying the snow. When there are 2 adults, the organisation, preparation and responsibility is halved. There are opportunities for respite. Single parents do it all. Building snowmen and sledging is exhausting! Digging out your car and driveway is exhausting. Drying snow covered clothes and saturated floors are exhausting. Maintaining an adequately heated home with plenty of food and water as well as entertaining a little person is exhausting. Living 24/7 with a little person is exhausting! I can cope with most things but being isolated without adult contact is no good for me. Our local supermarket café remained open, so that is where we walked to every day. They only served drinks but just being around people was a tonic in itself. Had our local pub been open (closed for refurbishment, how rude!), I know I would have dragged Rory on the sledge for some social interaction and for my sanity! We live out of the catchment area for Rory’s school which made it impossible for him to play in the snow with his school buddies.

I have loved seeing Rory love the snow. I have loved seeing how people come together to help each other. I am so grateful for the lengths people go to, for services to be kept open and running. My Dad is on his chemo week and although he lives 120 miles away, I know that if he couldn’t get himself to the hospital, somehow his community would get him there. I remember many years ago getting stranded in my home town when heavy snow started to fall. My Dad did everything he could to come and rescue me! My son’s own father who lives less than five miles away and has access to emergency vehicles, hasn’t once asked if we need any supplies. Not once thanked me for keeping my boy warm or offered any money for the added expense of keeping him warm during these extreme temperatures. Not once thanked me for giving my son the best day of his life! Not once thanked me for being mum and dad to Rory.

Thank goodness I was eventually able to dig the car out of the drive. Meeting a friend at soft play made all of my stress disappear. Sanity resumed!

I love my son more than anything. I love being with my son more than anything. But I am glad he has gone back to school today. I will be a much better mummy for it this week as all activities have been resumed! Our passports are at the ready though. As soon as I hear that snow is expected in future, we will be on the first flight out of here to a much sunnier climate!

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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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