The Taboo of Feeling Broody

I like to talk and write a lot – about almost anything. As a journalist by training I have always had that stereotypical interest in anything and anyone. There was always a story to uncover.

Except there was one story I could never bear to write. Not officially, anyway, and not for just anyone to read. Over the last decade, many friends have encouraged me and wondered why I hadn’t written about my struggles to conceive. But somehow, documenting my fertility story felt too close to home and, more poignantly, I couldn’t face that the story may be over.

Don’t get me wrong, I certainly talked about all these things a lot – openly with friends and strangers alike – as I knew it was important to overcome my pride and not let my emotions fester away.      But somehow writing it down made it like an official record — and I simply wasn’t ready to accept that version of the story.

From the very beginning, I was driven by the belief that the more women talk about fertility issues and share their experiences, the more we lessen the stigma that plagued my parents’ generation. During my efforts to get pregnant, I learned there were genetic links to fertility issues – many associated with immune disorders that were prevalent in my family. I became very disheartened when I asked family members “do you think so-and-so didn’t have children because they had issues with fertility?” and they all admitted they never asked, were never confided in and that it just wasn’t spoken of.

To me, this seemed like almost more of a tragedy than the reality of not being able to conceive. I often wondered if these couples were still mourning the isolation and the shame even more than their life spent without children. My own grandmother never broached the subject head-on with her daughter who was in a childless marriage for 30 years and a teacher who was passionate about children. It just wasn’t done – at least not in my Anglo-Protestant-Canadian enclave.

But here’s the thing: I did eventually get pregnant. I am very proud to report that I am the extraordinarily blessed mother of 8 year-old boy-girl twins. However, the scars left behind from the fertility trenches were still there, and what was perhaps even worse, I seemed to have more fight in me.

When I was initially trying to get pregnant I cringed at the words “maybe if you stopped thinking about it?” or “you are too hard on yourself, you need to relax and try to be happy.” I have spoken to other women about these types of comments. They are offered with good intentions but are not particularly helpful when you’re on the other side. Of course, I knew that stress manifests itself physically and is hugely counterproductive. And after all, look at those friends who got pregnant on a party week in Ibiza only to give birth to a perfectly healthy baby 9 months later…

So I embraced not trying, not thinking about it, not mapping out my menstrual cycle and watching what I eat. I dove into work: covering theatre, music and visual arts stories in London along with the occasional Al Qaeda backgrounder for a Canadian Broadcaster. This was the post-911 era and news was humming. My husband and I traveled, partied and tried not to think about my looming biological clock.

Madonna, who was living in London at the time, gave birth to a son in her early 40s and became a very public example of what was possible. I was still just 34. I now realize this was relatively young but I had endometriosis and I suspected I had had it for a long time. My husband and I were living the single life in a fabulous European city and there was no shortage of distractions and friends – but I was just ready. I wanted a family.

I won’t bore you with all the details but here is a short synopsis. After two hysteroscopies, various rounds of timed cycles with estrogen-boosting drugs, intrauterine inseminations (IUIs), a hysterosalpingogram, Chinese herbs and acupuncture, a Sri Lankan aryuvedic guru, “not trying” and a failed IVF, I finally got pregnant with my second attempt at IVF. And then there were two embryos on that first 6-week ultrasound – twins – and at 20 weeks I was told I had a boy and a girl! Finally, on the summer solstice in 2005, I gave birth naturally to my precious rays of light – Leo and Issy. It was the best day of my life.

I know deep down on that day I wondered if God had given me that master-stroke of good fortune – a healthy boy and a girl – how could I possibly ask for another baby after that? And yet, I did eventually long for another. And this was even more taboo than talking about not being able to conceive in the first place.

So despite generally considering myself an open-book, somehow writing my feelings down on this issue felt like writing an epilogue to a story that in my heart wasn’t finished yet. I hoped my story would end with another baby, the one who came naturally after I stopped trying because I already had two kids and was happy and wasn’t thinking about it. And, the kicker to all this was, this felt greedy. After all, I had been very fortunate. I shouldn’t appear ungrateful and push my luck.

I also sensed that a number of friends and family who had been on this journey with me felt I should be happy with what I had already been blessed with. And I was! And I still am! But somehow I couldn’t just stop being broody. A woman once told me that feeling never goes away. I get that now.

Meanwhile, over the course of five years of prodding, hormone injections and failure, my self-esteem had been slowly eroding. Privately, I had begun to question my femininity (because fertile equals feminine, right?). Over time my lame reproductive system affected not only my idea of who I was as a woman but also my relationship with my partner. You try not to get stuck in that proverbial trap but eventually you find yourself in the place where sex is no longer carefree and fun. It becomes a rollercoaster where you get your hopes up that a miracle will occur with each liaison coupled with inevitable and repeated failure. It causes you to start protecting yourself, anticipating the worse and, well, you can just see how unsexy that all is.

But here is the really confusing part, in my heart, when I was truly honest and not just torturing myself, I still believed I could get pregnant naturally. Some people say the best cure for infertility is getting pregnant – it is like a reboot of your system. And I had been pregnant – I had carried two babies and delivered them naturally. Surely this meant I had it in me.

In addition to all this, I’ve always had an athletic mindset — I felt tough and was determined. I ran two marathons, a handful of half-marathons and 10 k races just to prove to myself that my body was strong. And secretly, I continued to believe. Even as I rode the waves of hope and disappointment again and again – I still had faith.

It wasn’t the same as the first time to be sure. I was never delusional about that. It was a completely different experience walking into a fertility clinic and looking at all those ashen faces remembering when I had sat there waiting to be told my treatment hadn’t worked, again. I had two healthy toddlers at home.

I tried twice to have frozen embryos from my second IVF cycle transferred: first when my twins were two years old and then again when they were about three and a half. I was living in Dubai by then and the country’s Muslim-influenced views on reproductive technology prevented me from doing the treatment there so I had to travel back to London.

Both efforts failed and the last one in spectacular fashion. A rare confluence of immunosuppressant drugs, stress and strep throat led to a spontaneous eruption of guttate psyrroisis. In my case, this manifested itself in flaming red welts over every inch of my body – except my face, thankfully. The dermatologist had never seen such an extreme outbreak and prescribed a cure of ultra violet rays (vitamin D) and bathing in salt water. The irony of my proximity to the salty Arabian Sea and the scorching sunlight of the Emirates in May felt scathing. I covered from head-to-toe for about 6 weeks to hide my spots (fortunately not suspicious behavior in this part of the world) and clandestinely sunbathed frying away my sadness. This is when things finally changed. With two toddlers, I just didn’t have the energy or the finances to justify expensive medical odysseys for a while. I felt guilty. And I knew I had to take a step back.

I told friends that I felt it was a sign and privately I tried to convince myself of this too. But secretly I still believed. I openly swooned at the sight of young babies and held out the dream of a big, chaotic family.

It has been years now since I’ve had paying work – instead I’ve become a professional volunteer at my children’s school, assisted some local charities’ efforts in Africa and started a children’s clothing line (Moon & Cocoon) which, while keeping me occupied, barely broke even.

I am 43 now and I feel age has finally caught up with me. I love my children more than anything in the world and celebrate the symmetry of my family of four. We are fortunate to have travelled extensively together and I love that they are at an age where we can move around easily and explore the world.

I will always yearn for more babies – there, it’s on the record. I love taking care of them. I love the responsibility and the limitations on my freedom. I love being at home and reliving all the milestones of childhood while trying to do things differently and better for my children as best I can. I haven’t looked back at a lost career with regret. I have cherished the gift of motherhood and loved it so much – I wanted to do it all over again. But for now I own my longing and pour it back into my two beautiful children, their friends, my nieces and nephews and any child in my care.

I long, I love, and I move on.

 

Reinforcing the meaning of Behind Every Bump is a Story…..

Before you read Erin Wright’s story ‘The Taboo of Feeling Broody’, I feel it is important to reinforce the meaning of Behind Every Bump is a Story.

As I grew as a woman in motherhood and became aware of the emotional, physical and often psychological struggles of becoming a mother, I realised that every woman had a story to tell.  In turn, every story could be related to and understood by other women and more often than not, it was a comfort to know that we are not alone.  Whilst we live in the bubble of motherhood, we are often scared to admit our real struggles and reach out to other women for fear of failure or, indeed, imperfections of what is classified as an ideal mother.  It is too easy to hide behind a screen hoping and believing that miracles will happen.  Often they do but equally, we may have to ride the waves of hope, disappointment and faith in order to learn, appreciate and understand more about us as an individual as well as a mother or mother-to-be.  I envisaged Behind Every Bump is a Story to be a blog encouraging woman with a story to tell, to open up and tell it.  In turn, I believed that other women could learn and be encouraged by so many courageous and strong women who may seem ‘perfect’ on the outside but have a deep, meaningful and often heartwarming story to tell.

Behind Every Bump has published stories from a single mother proving the strength of a woman whilst she raises three boys, two of which have been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome.  There has been the inspiring story of a divorced and career woman starting a family in her 40′s with the husband that turned her world around.  Also, a mother raised the subject of being married to an alcoholic and how marriage and motherhood can be affected by the severe emotional struggles involved.  All these honest accounts can be found on http://www.behindeverybump.wordpress.com as well as other topics I have raised surrounding motherhood.

I am so appreciative of Erin Wright sharing her story with Behind Every Bump.  It will touch so many hearts and is an honest account of appreciating what we are given, but living in the hope that we may be granted more blessings.  It is a personal struggle of emotions and heartache as well as a deep understanding of the cards that have been dealt without remorse but of reflection and acceptance.  I know it is a journey that will reach out to many other women.

If you have a story to share, please email in confidence to behindeverybump@gmail.com.

 

In association with The Little Book (www.thelittlebook.com)

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Learning to Count Our Blessings

The next story I will publish is titled ‘The Taboo of Feeling Broody’.  It is the personal journey of a mother and her emotional struggles in dealing with IVF treatment and the issues associated with it as well as the guilt of wanting more children.  I touched on this subject in my blog ‘It’s Not What You Want But What You Need’ (www.behindeverybump.wordpress.com/2013/06). We all have expectations of how our lives will progress. We have a mental plan of action and more often than not, we have to accept and come to terms with the reality that our journey may not go according to plan. For every woman lucky enough to conceive naturally and without concern, there is another woman struggling to have much yearned for children. For them it is not the treatment and medical care available but the mental issues of accepting that they may never have a child of their own. In this particular case, despite one successful IVF treatment, the on-going emotions of yearning for more children was difficult to accept. Is it wrong to feel broody and have to explain the mental torment associated with struggling to conceive naturally? Maturity in years often resolves many issues and we naturally accept the ups and downs of life. It becomes easier to acknowledge that life is not about choice but more of acceptance. We have to understand and consider that everyone has their “thing”. By this I mean, very few individual’s lives are plain sailing. We grow old understanding more and hopefully, we can pass on this knowledge to others who may be struggling at any particular time. As a generation, we tend to have a voice and speak out more about issues that possibly were (and should not have been) ‘Taboo’. Of course, we can feel guilty about being fortunate. Likewise, we can feel resentful for other’s fortune when it is not our own. However, coming to terms with our personal lives is inevitable and counting our blessings is ultimately the only treatment left.

In association with The Little Book (www.thelittlebook.co.uk)

 

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Behind Every Runner is a Purpose

Running is topical in my life at the moment as I have just embarked on a new venture, Go Run.  Whilst I have been a runner for the last 25 years (woo, am I really that old?!), I decided more recently to use my passion and knowledge to inspire and motivate others who would like to improve, develop or simply incorporate running into their lifestyles.  For me, running has been an enormous part of my life.  It is like my best friend!  I know that sounds ridiculous but it seriously has always been there for me and I have been able to rely on it to make me feel better, stronger and more confident.

As a child, I would cycle and accompany my father on his marathon training runs and there was no getting away from my brother (a professional triathlete & personal trainer) who was my biggest inspiration and motivation.  His passion and enthusiasm was infectious and my daily runs are a constant reminder of him.  If you have read a couple of my previous blogs (Siblings Share Memories & Life Long Dreams and Behind Every Bump is a Mother), you will know that he was tragically killed and it was whilst out running that it occurred.  One of the few comforts that we had as a family was that he was taken whilst doing something he absolutely loved.    This tragedy only made me more determined to do something that would have made him proud of me and in a small way, I feel closer to him through running.  It keeps the memories alive.

As the years have passed, I have made many close friendships through running and it was incredibly beneficial when I embarked on expat living and needed to expand my social network in foreign lands.  It has supported me through three pregnancies, keeps me sane dealing with four children and most especially it got me back into shape after every birth.  My trainers are an integral part of my luggage when I travel.  I have run down beaches in Bali, up mountains in Italy and pounded endless streets in cities around the world.  I have got lost in the lanes of rural Ireland but the Chilterns are now my home and whilst, I think I know them pretty well, I am continually in awe of the scenery, landscape and views I witness on a daily basis. The sense of space, freedom and peace I feel whilst running is what I wish to pass on to others whilst we all exist in this demanding and fast paced world.

What I have discovered as a mother is that there is very little time left for us.  Our worlds are consumed by little people and managing their lives as well as keeping our partnerships on track and the general cog of everyday family life running smoothly, we easily lose track of who we are.  By simply taking a limited amount of time out of the day-to-day mayhem to do something for ourselves should not seem selfish but actually beneficial and positive for all concerned.  I am, without doubt, a much more patient mummy (and wife!) when I have escaped for a run.  The adrenaline mixed with fresh air and the endorphins that are released through exercise equate to a much happier and calmer persona.  I assure you!  Many runners I know, have gained their passion for the sport during motherhood and the catalyst has been to let their old self emerge once again.  We can often lose confidence through motherhood.  We gain weight, we feel unattractive and less fun than our previous selves.  By donning a pair of trainers and stepping out of the front door can give a renewed sense of life and self esteem will rocket.  The beauty of running is not just the great overall workout that is achieved through improvements in strength, tone and cardio but the fact that it is so personalised and all you need is a pair of comfortable running shoes.  There are no fees involved, just your own time and energy to explore the environment you live in.

We are surrounded by advice on exercise, nutrition and general fitness.  Advertising and marketing companies earn millions through the leisure industry but despite the money involved, running as a sport is becoming ever more popular.  Behind every runner is a purpose and what I find especially fascinating is the inspiration, motivation and goals behind every individual. Whilst I have already mentioned the benefits of running, I admire enormously the challenges that individuals set (often over a bottle or two of wine!) but nonetheless, they are more often than not upheld and accomplished despite the commitment and struggles involved.  Charities benefit enormously from running as a sport and the main reason is obviously the challenges that it sets for purely unselfish reasons.  We all like to do our bit for society and whether a runner is racing a 5/1okm, half , full marathon or endurance race, it is remarkably personal.  Often a loved one or love lost is the direct link to a specific charity or a national event such as the remarkable Sport Relief is a catalyst to achieve a personal or team goal. There are a million inspirational stories to be told from individuals who have raised funds through pushing themselves to limits they did not believe possible and having the image of benefiting a specific charity is the motivation they need to keep going.  What is there not to admire?

My new venture, Go Run is of course about running but it is also about building confidence, gaining inspiration and having fun too.  Through it I am meeting some wonderful individuals who each have a story behind why they want to let themselves escape in the sport of running.  It is extremely addictive and most especially rewarding.  Benefits are visible quickly and  I believe that everyone can experience the buzz of running if you just let yourself have the confidence to give it a go.  If, through Go Run, I can spread the running bug and share my enthusiasm to motivate, inspire and help individuals achieve goals I will be an even happier runner!  Go Run!

Please LIKE my Facebook page to keep updated on Go Run (www.facebook.com/Gorunhenleymarlow)

Please share your story, in confidence to behindeverybump@gmail.com

In association with The Little Book http://www.thelittlebook.co.uk

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Passionate, Proud & Encouraging Parents (PPEP)

When I started thinking about what topic to choose for my next blog, I was drawn to the debate of Pushy Parenting. The more I thought about it, the more I realised that being a Pushy Parent (PP) is actually only half of the subject. The other half involves the Living Through Our Child Parent (LTOCP) and that is where it gets interesting. What line do we have to cross to become one, the other or a mixture of both? Is taking a relaxed approach to our children’s accomplishments and attributes also taking a negligent approach?

In the very early years of parenthood, most especially at sports days, I was incredibly focused and conscious of not entering the pushy camp. It was farcical that one would even venture towards becoming a PP however, they could easily be spotted on the sidelines. Even school announcements requested “that parents refrain from wearing spikes in the Parent Race”!! However, as the years progressed and I witnessed my elder two children becoming willing and able competitors, I started to realise that my children might not be classroom geniuses but they were actually quite good at a number of sports. In turn, I had to become more conscious of staying on the right side of the PP line whilst still actively encouraging them in their abilities and strengths. It was tough! They began to collect various medals, rosettes and trophies proving their prowess and we, as a family, started to thrive on their successes. We even ventured into tongue in cheek conversations along the lines of swimming in the Olympics or playing rugby for their country! Whether this equates to being ‘pushy’, I am not wholly sure but I liked to think of it more as positive assurances that they could win or, at the least, give it their best shot!

What makes me laugh is that all this happened before our eldest daughter was 9 years old. It is now much more apparent that when children hit this milestone, they become acutely conscious of what they enjoy as an individual and where they want to focus their attention. Not only are they maturing but so too are their strengths, talents and accomplishments. However, parental power and influence means that many a child is unable to be free spirited and relaxed. It is at this time that children hit a wall whereby they feel pressured to pursue avenues that they possibly would not choose for themselves. The sheer dedication and determination of parents who have committed their time and energy, mixed with the belief that their child can and will succeed culminates in disaster as far as the eye can see. Possibly, alongside this element of parenting is when Living Through Our Child syndrome is introduced.  This can be merged with a child who starts to feel guilty that they may let their parents down if they do not succeed.  In all honesty, do we want our children being led to believe that they are achieving for the sake of us, their parents, or is it healthier for them to be succeeding for themselves and their own satisfaction?  I think the later!

As parents, we are scared. We are getting older and wiser. We are reflecting back on years passed, what we achieved and because, possibly, we didn’t achieve to our full potential, we put the pressure on our children to do it for us. We believe we have an insight into how success can be made and, with the best intentions in the world, we desperately want our children to get the most out of the world they are living and to do this they need to be successful. We are a nation of achievers and we are putting our children under undue pressure to walk before they can run. Whether it be sporting, academic or musical talents we are losing sight of what our children stand for as little people and jeopardising our relationship with them.  Of course, we all want the best of everything for our children.  We want them to have a fulfilled life but this can easily be lost in wasted time and energy whereby the entire family unit is saturated by a pace of life that bypasses the little things.

In all honesty, when did we as adults recognise our strengths? There are exceptions to the rule but in general, our strengths mature and develop over our lifetime. At the age of 40, I am still learning what I can achieve. Experiences and situations throughout my life have enabled me to discover new and varied skills. Why indeed are we expecting our children to develop not only their personalities, but their talents in a matter of a handful of years? Surely, we should accept that they too will discover them along the path of life. We do not have to throw every club, pursuit, sport, musical instrument, academic subject at them or expect them to pick up our lives where we left off. Of course we can guide and encourage them but let us not become a culture of pushing children to strive for limits that are detrimental to their childhoods. What we become negligent of is their innocence and we use our influence to turn them into status symbols that need to excel and exceed on every level.  We pitch them against other children and we strive for acceptance, not from them, but from our own fellow contemporaries.  Whilst we expect our children to arrive home with trophies, we are using them as our trophies.  Did any one of us embark on parenthood with the notion that we would push them to limits we ourselves would struggle to achieve?

Schooling can have a huge impact on children and the environment in which they are educated has a lot to answer for in terms of a child’s development.  In my view, primary school is exactly that… a priming period.  It is ideally a few years of building basic skills in literary, maths and elementary life skills.  It is a time for children to thrive, be nurtured, develop friendships and start to learn about themselves and what lies ahead in the world ahead.  Secondary school obviously releases their independence and, in turn, they become more mature, responsible individuals who are more secure in where their strengths and weaknesses lie.  The transition from Primary to Secondary education is a period that has become pressurised and stressful in many families lives.  There is an enormous demand for schools and this results in children literally being hot-housed in order to achieve placements into recognised and exceptional schools.  The notion of the children being faced with the reality of living within the premise of this particular school is overlooked and the pressure intensifies not on us, but on them.  Do their results and achievements at this level of education reflect on us as better parents?

Personally, I still have a great deal to learn on the parenting front and each year new challenges arise.  I do believe, however, that eventually, through trial and error all children will find themselves.  I would like to think that whatever they do in life, we will stand by them and be passionate, proud and encouraging.  Maybe we should dismiss the notion of PPs or even LTOCPs and fly the flag for PPEPs.

Please share your story, in confidence to behindeverybump@gmail.com

In association with The Little Book  http://www.thelittlebook.co.uk

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The Gift of Forgiveness

Many of you may have seen a new cinema release, The Railway Man, featuring Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman.  I went to see it with a couple of girlfriends, all of us expecting (due to our lack of in-depth research) that we were merely going to watch an easy going, World War II romance.  Well, how wrong were we?  It was the most heart-wrenching, brutally honest film (based on a true story) that literally set my emotions into overdrive witnessing the terrible suffering many of our ancestors endured.  The audience was made aware, not only of the extremities and torture of soldiers captured under Japanese Rule in Prisoner of War camps in Asia, but we were also taught a very important lesson in life and that is of “forgiveness”.

This small sentiment gets so regularly overlooked and I came home feeling humbled by one man’s response to the act of forgiveness.  It proves the strength of an individual and in the words of Mahatma Gandhi “The weak can never forgive.  Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong”.  This is especially true of The Railway Man.  Despite the fact that this man’s forgiveness goes beyond the realms of any human being’s general life story, it does prove that life is too short not to forgive.

I thought to myself, I must ensure that I teach my children how to forgive.  It sounds simple doesn’t it?  However, in reality it is easy to dismiss individuals out of our lives because they disappoint us, let us down, deceive or hurt us.  We are all in charge of our behaviour and, as children, we learn through guidance from parents, teachers and friendships to take into consideration the feelings of others.  Our simple, innocent friendships mature with age and with maturity you expect humility in relationships.  No-one wants to get hurt so we naturally become defensive if we do and barriers slowly appear.  Teaching our children to forgive will only strengthen their ability to understand friendships and hopefully they will become more adept at not putting themselves in a position to ever need to be forgiven.  Whilst relationships get built on trust and understanding, they can so easily be destroyed.  Without sounding too complacent, surely we can learn to have the strength and ability to excuse other’s behaviour accepting that there may be an element of human error involved.  To have this attitude of acceptance means we can also forgive.

Playground antics feature heavily in my 9 year old’s life and there are days when she arrives home disappointed by friendships and questioning individual’s behaviour.  It is easy to dismiss these episodes and most of the time I do, as there is nothing really untoward about the dilemmas of a 9 year old, just girls being girls.  However, there are times when I do have to explain, in a little more depth, why a friend would react in such a way as to disappoint or hurt feelings.   What is important is that she recognises and starts to understand that we are all so very different, leading parallel lives and expecting a great deal from friendships.  To have the ability to rise above these acts takes years to develop but I know she will feel better about herself once she grasps the concept of forgiveness.

We learn so many lessons in life through friendships and whilst we learn how to build trust we ultimately marry our partners under the presumption that we have found someone who incorporates all the elements of a person we not only trust but love and cherish too.  What happens when forgiveness comes into a relationship we have built our life around?  A few years ago, a friend of mine discovered her husband had been having an affair whilst she was pregnant with their first child.  To witness the devastation and destruction surrounding her life in those first few days of discovery and weeks after was heartbreaking. How on earth was she going to move forward positively when the one person, whose sole responsibility it was to protect her, had destroyed her?  Do you know what she did?  She forgave him.  I know in this world of feminism, it is inconceivable that a woman should be scorned and accept it.  However, she did not accept it, she merely accepted that he had acted with immaturity and disregard for what was important and she took it upon herself to teach him the importance of what they were building together and that was their family.  She did not give up and they now have three children together.  Whilst it was certainly not plain sailing for a long while and there was a great deal of creases to be ironed out, the simple act of forgiving the unforgivable moved their lives in a new, more positive direction.  It was purely her strength of personality that got them through.

Forgiveness is an element of life that we face on a daily basis and the scale of limits can be extreme.  Often the hurt and anguish of personal situations causes such stress that individuals feel that is their only emotion available to deal with the incident leading to the animosity.  However, with a sense of honesty, openness and strength of personality hurdles can be overcome.  What we do not want to be left with is a sense of guilt and longing to have forgiven when it is somehow too late.   Live in the here and now.  Forgive for your own sense of peace of mind.  It will draw a line under a situation that otherwise would not be finished.  If the Railway Man can do it, have faith that so can we.

Please share your story, in confidence to behindeverybump@gmail.com

In association with The Little Book  http://www.thelittlebook.co.uk

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Belief is Magic

Phew, we made it!  I’m sure I was not the only mother sighing with relief as we dropped our children off at nursery or school and came home to an empty house, silence, peace and quiet this week.  For me, I felt an inner sense of achievement that we had got through the other side in one piece and still smiling.  I love Christmas and more so since having children but, as a mother, it is hard work and stressful keeping the unity and the emotions regulated is a mission in itself.  This Christmas was particularly special for us in that it was the first year all four of our children not only understood the magical myth but believed too.  Next year, I imagine my 9 (soon to be 10) year old will have fallen off the wagon, or sleigh and reverted to the other side!  I could sense her doubt and understood her logical questioning this year.  I had to admit that Santa actually does enter through doors as opposed to squeezing himself down endless chimneys and whilst he delivers all the toys, he does not actually make each and every one!  I praised Sky News on Christmas Eve when we sat watching an interview with NASA providing support for Santa’s Mission.  She watched in awe, mouth agape and I could read her little mind thinking “ah, Sky News is always right so surely Santa must be real if astronauts are helping him”.  The footage made sense and not only was Santa on track but we were too!

Of course, the day will come when I won’t have to be searching around the attic at 2am to find presents stored out of sight, tiptoeing around the house with a torch so as not to disturb the children who swear they are “not” going to sleep, disposing of carrots and mince pies left out for Rudolf and the most stressful task of all, not letting them have sight of Santa’s wrapping paper in the lead up to Christmas!  It is hard work and pre-motherhood, I had no idea how much work was involved but I already have pangs of sadness that another stage of life will take over and it will all become civilised once again.

Ultimately, it is all based on Belief and that is what is magical.  We introduce our children to the myths involved in Christmas and many people will say it is unfair to encourage a child’s imagination, only to let them down years later giving them their first opportunity not to trust us.  Maybe this is true to a certain extent but surely, ignorance is bliss and those years believing, outweighs the disappointment felt on learning the facts.  Throughout life we have to have belief in more than just Christmas.  In order to learn optimism and faith in life we have to believe in positivity.  We have to believe that people are good, life is worthwhile and that our individual journeys are an adventure to enjoy.  As parents, we have to teach our children how to live positively and in the words of my son “Believe in Yourself”!  This is a motto he has learnt through assemblies at school but it is probably the most important lesson in life he will learn.  If children can believe in themselves, confidence will follow.  We all know that each individual has strengths and weaknesses but it is having the confidence to make the most of strengths and find a way around weaknesses that matters.  To think that we can encourage our children to follow their dreams and live a most fulfilling life, simply by asking them to believe in themselves seems magical in itself.  Of course, we will let them down in life despite our best intentions not to and as with learning the truth of Santa, they too will learn one day that we are merely protecting and nurturing them.  We are softening the blow for the hurdles they may have to be introduced to as the years pass.  We have to let go at some stage but what we leave them with is the belief that they can achieve and isn’t that what life is about?  Having the confidence to achieve.

Having children is magical and we have to make the most of the magic they bring back to our lives.  As we become older, we naturally become more cynical.  Maybe it is purely becoming realistic in our expectations of life and situations, knowing that roads are rocky and seas choppy.  Children see the world differently.  They see blue skies and peaceful waters.  They enable us to relive what we may have forgotten from our childhoods and give us back the simple joys and pleasures of life we thought no longer existed.  Whilst we may teach our children to believe, they in turn teach us humility.  We become less selfish and more focused on their happiness.  If magic returns to our lives in simply re-experiencing a myth at Christmas time, then belief is everything.  These are incredibly important elements of establishing our own family identities that they, in years to come, will pass to our future generations.  Nurture them.

Please share your story, in confidence to behindeverybump@gmail.com

In association with The Little Book  http://www.thelittlebook.co.uk

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When you are married to an alcoholic…. sometimes love is not enough.

It has taken me some time to gain the courage and strength to put pen to paper and write my story.  Time, encouragement and the ability to look back and know I am finally in the right place have, perhaps, brought me to this point.  My story is one I feel should be shared, mainly because I am sure there are more people out there who have lived and continue to live through circumstances similar to my own.  I would have loved to have somebody else’s story to relate to 4 years ago and in that alone, I hope my story can give someone else the confidence and courage to move forward and make positive changes in their life.

While it has taken time to find the courage to write, it has also taken the same amount of time to come to terms with the fact my family unit has been broken.  My husband and I split up four and a half years ago.  In a way it seems like yesterday, but at other times it seems like we’ve been apart forever.  However, the underlying feeling is it was ‘for the best’.  It has, however, taken a long time and a great deal of soul searching to reach that realisation.

In a nutshell, I married an alcoholic … though foolishly I wasn’t entirely aware of that at the time.  I certainly should have been as the signs were all there, but as a young, fun, impressionable  ‘girl’, I was not in possession of the wisdom that family and maturity bring you.

We met when we were aged 24 and we finally married aged 31.  Through that time he proposed to me on numerous occasions (always under the influence of alcohol) but recoiled and recalled the following morning.  Really, I should have had more pride than to stick with it, but I loved him.  He was different … very different … he was generous, carefree, funny and addictive.  I too, loved to have a good time.  He was my drug.  Little did I know that alcohol was his, and while I was eventually able to withdraw from mine, he was unable to do so from his.  I couldn’t help but love him and against all the odds, my heart eventually led me to say yes to the final ‘serious’ proposal that came with a ring.  I knew somewhere inside me that my head was telling me to say no but I lived by my heart and I still do.  He did love me and I loved him.  Surely, against all odds we could make this work?

Before we were married, I worked in the male dominated environment of the City.  I was a strong-minded individual who had a larger than life social life, a great network of friends and a good career path ahead of me.  I gave it all up to move abroad with my new husband and I had no doubts about that decision.  Not once did I yearn for what I had left behind though little did I know what the future held.

The nights that were once ‘ours’ and fun prior to children very soon became hard when I had no job of my own, no friends of my own, a large pregnant belly and a husband who chose not to come home until the early hours.  We very quickly had our first child, a son.  He was and is the most wonderful addition to our lives and one I thought would, perhaps, ground my husband and encourage him not to be out so much.  However, all it did was leave me starting to wonder why I had left everything behind.  The man I loved, who proclaimed to love our baby and me equally, was still out … and selfishly leading the life he had chosen for himself rather than us.  I started to lose myself.  I began to doubt who I was and I started to realise that while I should have been so happy, sharing what we had talked about wanting together, I was actually beginning to feel incredibly lonely.  A baby, as we all know, is a wonderful blessing, but not something you necessarily choose to do alone, in the place of the man you presumed you would share this journey with. 

While I was at home learning how to deal with a new baby without the loving support of parents and old friends in the UK my husband stayed out more, gambled, drank to excess and generally enjoyed the life of a male in Asia.  As the woman I am now, and was before meeting him, I find it hard to understand how I accepted it all, but I did … foolishly. 

The drinking started to consume us and I began to live in fear of what the night would bring.  I do look back and remember enjoying the first drink with him because he always communicated with me enormously for the first hour of the evening.  It is important to acknowledge here that I enjoy a drink too but it just never had the same effect on me.  We would share a bottle of wine and all my insecurities of being alone and the worries I had would dissipate within minute, only to increase tenfold 3 hours later as his behavior repeated itself and the alcohol took its full effect, as it only can with an addict.

My weakness was that I struggled to acknowledge what was going on.  We appeared on the outside to be the ‘perfect family’.  We had gone on to have a second child, a beautiful daughter and we had money, plenty of it.  We lived in a gorgeous home, with a housekeeper, gardener, and every pleasure that ‘materialism’ is supposed to bring … yet why wasn’t I happy?  I started to see the dysfunction his drinking was bringing to our family and the anger it was evoking in me on a day-to-day basis.  I wished I could rid myself of it but just as I felt I was verging on peaceful, believing his promises and witnessing him refraining from alcohol, another crazy night would evolve and he would come back stumbling and incoherent.  My anger and fury would return tenfold and forgiveness was harder to give, especially when you were looking after small children alone.

Life was incredibly simple in his eyes.  It generally consisted of him.  He did not understand or want to understand me despite me showing every emotion possible to try to explain my unhappiness.  Whilst he was sober, I thought there was the possibility that he was reflecting on what his drinking was doing to our family and me.  Sadly, the drink then took over and he could never follow through the remorse and change the pattern.  He became verbally abusive both with and post a drinking binge.  Our life became a total roller coaster all governed by him.  I was given material goods as remorse for drunken escapades and while, occasionally, it made me feel better I very soon realised this was no compensation at all for loneliness.  So this was where I was.  I had beautiful children and financial stability but a husband who made me feel lonely and angry.  It was upon this realisation that I finally persuaded him that we should move back to the UK.

Sadly, this was not going to be the saving grace I thought it would and, in hindsight, I realised that nothing would have been.  Sadly, I have learnt you cannot change an alcoholic until they choose to help themselves.  The pattern I thought would change without the male dominated influences of Asia just continued … the drinking, gambling and totally selfish behaviour threw us further away from him.  They say an alcoholic needs to acknowledge their disorder before they can seek help.  I can say that so does their partner.  It took me a long time to admit that my husband, the man I had married and given my heart to, was an alcoholic.  I genuinely believed he would ‘sort the drinking out one day’.  Surely no one chooses the bottom of a bottle of vodka over his wife and children?  How wrong I was and still am.

We split up in 2009, 2 years after moving back to the UK and 9 years after we had married.  The first year can only be described as absolute hell. I cried every day and felt empty and sad for what we had, what we had lost and what we had thrown away.  I still felt resentment and anger for how he had failed us and the fact that myself and the children were having to live through this pain because of his own inability to cure himself of something that surely could be dealt with.  We had failed the children and failed each other and that isn’t a good feeling for anyone to live with.  I didn’t give up on asking him to seek professional help but he always came away saying ‘they don’t understand me’ … oh if only he knew … they do!  He tells me his drinking is now under control but on the odd occasion I have to speak to him in an evening on behalf of the children; I know it’s not.

His drinking led to the temporary demise of his business, the loss of all the money he had worked so hard to earn and with it the loss of all the materialism he had surrounded us with.  I am now living in an annexe off my parents house which, was a huge piece of humble pie to swallow at the time of their offering, was an absolute necessity and has been the saving grace of the three of us.  I am working while the children are in school and have found myself again. The children are independent, confident and happy.  More importantly, my husband and my relationship has grown and developed into a friendship I never imagined possible while I was living with the day to day anger of his addiction.  This has been done for the children and has also removed us from his drinking, control and bullying which has been essential in the progress of our recovery.

And that is why, 4 years later, I have found the peace and calm I have.  I no longer have to wait for the drink to take effect every night, and see what arguments it leads us to.  I can now, with my hand on my heart, say that our separation has been ‘for the best’.  I am happy, genuinely content with a calmness in my life I could never have imagined whilst I was married.  I am able to be his friend for the sake of the children and they are secure in the love they get from us both.  The love we once shared for each other was simply not enough …

The rollercoaster was worth it, because I loved and I lost and I gained an enormous amount of ‘life experience’ and two beautiful children.  They adore their father and I pray it will be years before they realise the extent of his illness, and when they do I will be there for them to explain how hard it is to love an alcoholic.

I hope my story reaches out to other women and mothers who may be faced with similar difficulties either through living with alcoholism, abuse or loneliness.  It takes enormous courage and strength to enter the unknown world of being a single mother but that road opens up and, from my own experience, brings happiness along the way.

If you would like to share your story in confidence, please email behindeverybump@gmail.com

In association with The Little Book  http://www.thelittlebook.co.uk

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For The Best…

One of the reasons I established the Behind Every Bump is a Story blog is to bring and encourage awareness that not every mother or mother-to-be is living the perfect life behind the scenes. It is too easy to presume that not only is there a perfectly healthy baby behind the bump but that there is also the ideal relationship and family life behind the mother. Many women are enormously lucky to have found their match in marriage and enjoy a mutually supportive and respectful relationship once children are introduced into the equation. Others may be faced with hurdles that are only made easier if they have the support and respect of a partner. Whilst these hurdles may be unavoidable, they are nonetheless an element of life that is uncontrollable. The ups and downs are learning curves and whilst, at the time, there may be little understanding as to why life can be so harsh or unfair, they teach us and mature us.  Behind Every Bump aims to give mothers a chance to read stories that they may relate to and gain strength from. Motherhood is hard and with the joy and happiness also comes worry, guilt, and often stress. My last blog questioned whether motherhood changes us in ways that mean we cannot revert back to the woman we were pre-children or more importantly, whether we would want to. What I want to promote and encourage is positivity and trust that despite the enormous changes being a parent brings, we are all in a position to take control of our lives whether we are faced with a straight or windy road and, ultimately, let our children learn from our strength in the future.

It is interesting what we expect of our partners when a child arrives in our lives and their support and understanding is an integral part of how we get through those first few days, weeks and celebrate the first year and beyond. As we nurture, we need to be nurtured and encouraged that we are doing a good job. We believe we know our partners but we do not know the parents we are to become together. We learn and adapt each day but hopefully, we run in parallel lines. If not, the balance tips and sadly resentment and a lack of confidence and trust in our partner can develop.  This, obviously, has it’s own repercussions on the children we are raising together and it is our job to protect them.

My next story is exactly that. It is from a woman who lost herself along the path of motherhood because of the loneliness and insecurity she felt within her marriage. Divorce is a complication that can arise for any number of reasons but when you are raising children with an alcoholic father, it takes one brave and incredibly strong woman to leave the relationship, not solely for her own happiness but for the long term security and stability of her children.   To leave a marriage is probably one of the hardest of life’s lessons but to do it with the foresight and understanding that the two people who love these children more than anything in the world also have the capability of destroying them by enabling them to witness events detrimental to their long term happiness, is more than admirable.  The future of our children are in the hands of us as parents and to work through our own serious complications affecting their family unit, is only possible if we have the belief and trust that some things cannot be protected from storms but once new replaces old, love and laughter can grow in it’s place.  Sometimes things really are ‘for the best’.

Please share your story, in confidence to behindeverybump@gmail.com

In association with The Little Book  http://www.thelittlebook.co.uk

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Lost in cyberspace: How long do children spend online? – Telegraph

Lost in cyberspace: How long do children spend online? – Telegraph.

The children interviewed in this article may be a few years older than my own, but the extent of time they spend in front of a screen is proof that trends and friends influence their consumption.  Ultimately, communication links are broken down between parents and children once timescales are increased and parents loose control.