I started writing this post in May (!) and listed Rex’s words;
At least half of which were combined with Makaton signs. Yes he’s basically a genius.
Since then he has mastered Mummy and Daddy and basically attempts to repeat any word you throw at him. He’s started singing Baa Baa Black Sheep a lot as well as the circle time song that Audrey used to plague us with a year ago (she still sings it now and again, but wow was that on repeat for a while). It’s November now and he has lots of sentences and is a very chatty young man.
This is a bragging post because I’m proud of him, but also because I want it to be known that it doesn’t really matter. Most of Rex’s milestones have been annoying to be honest, crawling, standing, walking, climbing… it’s just more to worry about. Talking you’d think was all good, however it does give him a chance to say “no” and to ask for things he can’t have. It’s a challenge to explain things to a 16 (now 20) month old.
Anyway, he’s doing well and we’re really pleased about that, but we were and still are, really pleased with how Audrey is progressing.
In fact, I remember my time alone with Audrey as an 18/20 month old as not very different. No walking of course, but I feel like we had our little chats and she made choices, yet I know she wasn’t at the Level Rex is now at. I guess I’m just saying that you can be content with your child and their development even when it’s delayed/tough going.
Life is still very challenging with two small humans, they test me daily, but it’s also wonderful. Their little voices! The chats they have with each other! The cuddles! The fights! The tantrums! Losing my mind! All life is here.
I can hardly believe it, but I now have a 4 year old daughter!
I'm also wondering why mothers aren't always a blubbering mess on their kids' birthdays. I started reminiscing days before her birthday and it's started to blow my mind that Audrey and Rex both grew inside my body. Woah.
We had a rocky start with Audrey popping out all "extra-chromosomey" so the love we have and the way she is now is extra sweet.
Our next big hurdle is potty training, which she's been potentially ready for for someone (a year maybe!) but I've been putting off and putting off… but once we've nailed that, wow, onwards and upwards for our grown-up girl.
It's a funny time because Audrey's typical peers will be starting school in September (we have deferred her to be the oldest in her year next year), so it's strange that we aren't moving forward in that way. But Audrey needs the extra time and when I look at how far we have come since her 3rd birthday I know it's the right thing to do.
Yesterday we had a great party (a BBQ at home), it rained half the time but we were ok inside. I made a chocolate peanut butter Hey Duggee cake and Daddy cooked lots of meat and made burger buns. Audrey got lots of lovely presents and was out like a light at bedtime, exhausted by a very fun day… the same couldn't be said for Rex unfortunately, he seems to get wired, but he fell asleep eventually.
Today I went back to work after 18 months of maternity leave (well, the cold, hard fact is, I was made redundant whilst on maternity leave, but let’s ignore that).
As I walked home (that’s right, no dodgy commute, just a meander through leafy Hove), I felt so incredibly emotional. I’m a cry baby anyway (I’m sure I’ve mentioned my tearful John Lewis advert moments/sniffles at people dying on Neighbours/sobbing to La La Land?), but this felt like such a mix of feelings. Rex spent an entire day cared for by nursery staff! – You see he’s only spent time with friends and family before, this was a big deal.
Audrey is a nursery pro – she started at 10 months and save a few tears at pick up (when she realised we left her!), she’s always been an easy-going sort; she took to it like a rubber ducky to kids’ bath time and we never looked back.
Rex has been a bit more clingy in general and at 16 months he’s at a trickier age than she was, but, nursery settling sessions went well. So I wasn’t crazy-nervous about him starting and to be honest second time around you’re much more willing for your kids to fly or fall. But when lunchtime arrived I realised I was keen to check in and hear from nursery that he was having a good time (which he was).
Once the day came to an end I was excited to get home to see my family. It was a good feeling because it is so rare that I get to miss Rex. Audrey has been going to nursery twice a week and on those days I get very excited for her to come home… clearly every day I cannot wait for my husband to get home, but for Rex… well we just don’t get very long breaks from one another to miss each other. What a novelty. I missed him. Amazing.
In many ways I’m one of those mums that complains about how I’m always with my kids and that I have no time for me, but then doesn’t let others look after them. I fear leaving them, it’s a control thing and I’m working on it. Walking down the street alone on a mild summer evening was pretty awesome. I started daydreaming about dates with Ted, maybe going for a run; just time without kids that I haven’t “allowed” myself before.
Getting home (5 minutes before my crew), I really got the “sight for sore eyes” phrase. Wow. My beautiful children arrived home with their Daddy, full of smiles and lots of shouting “Mummy!!”, it was wonderful. Rex was very clingy, but in such a lovely way and I got lots of cuddles and kisses.
For anyone wondering if working (and this is only part time to be clear) after having children is a good idea… thinking; will you feel guilty? Will it be difficult to do something other than wipe bums and faces? Will my children suffer? Well, in my experience, working or just having a regular activity away from your children is a great idea (insert thumbs up emoji here). I just feel like I’ve had a boost and that both my children seemed lovelier because I didn’t spend the day with them! Ha.
Check them out in pics below – Rexy got for a balloon on his first day and he loves balloons!
As the UK celebrates ‘Mothering Sunday’, a plethora of cards are being opened (my mum likes the ones with long cheesy poems in, the more words the better) and flowers are being plonked into vases.
Maybe you’re having a roast dinner. Or some afternoon tea. Mostly likely you aren’t talking much about motherhood. You may even have found yourself saying it’s “commercial rubbish”; a day dreamt up by card companies to make more money.
As a mother of two under the age of four, in motherhood terms I feel I’m right in the thick of it. At least I think I am, oh god, tell me there isn’t a more difficult stage?!? And you see, becoming a mother makes me think about my own mother. It makes me look at her differently.
My mum has always seemed nutty to me. Sometimes in a nice way, sometimes in a frustrating oh-you-are-paranoid-because-you-read-the-daily-mail type way. When we were kids she used to sing a song about being carried off to the funny farm, oh what a silly mummy we had! But of course now I see. Now I know. The funny farm song has loomed for me on more than one occasion and my kids are both still under 4! I was the youngest of four. At some point she had two teenagers, a 4 year old and a tiny newborn. Now thatis mental health worry territory! But wait, that’s not even the whole story…
When I was born, my mother had breast cancer. I was induced a little early so she could have a mastectomy and some radiotherapy. I was cared for by my (turning 98 years old this year!) Nan, my mother couldn’t breastfeed me, she couldn’t even hold me when she’d had her radiotherapy. I find it baffling that this rocky start never affected our relationship. That is to say, as a child, teenager and grown up, I always felt bonded to my mum, even if I did like to mock or scold her for being crazy/paranoid/irrational! But what she must have been through physically and emotionally in the first year of my life is difficult to imagine, as well as the rest of the family. I was unaffected by this traumatic time because I was just alive, sleeping, eating and pooing, unaware that Mum nearly died. She must have gone through hell.
Beyond this incredibly difficult time in her life, which we all got through, my mum then had to raise two small kids and two in their late teens as a part-time single parent; we moved to the coast and my father worked in London, staying there Monday-Friday, coming home on weekends. I used to think Mum was being dramatic saying she was practically a single parent, but of course now I know how much I appreciate adult company and assistance every evening- the countdown to 6pm each day. I can now see why she was a little bit nuts.
Since I’ve become a mother I’ve probably spent less time with my own. She’s gotten older, stopped doing things and I’ve been massively distracted by two little people to keep alive. The days of meeting for a shopping trip and a bowl of cappuccino in Costa have long gone, now it’s more a monthly meeting where I try to talk to her whilst every so often stopping to say “No Rex, be gentle!” Or “Don’t eat that!”.
My mum is ill. Well, it started as ill. It soon became scans and hospital appointments. Then it was potentially treatable cancer. Now it’s terminal cancer. So after being my original benchmark for what happens when you have cancer (you survive), she’s now become like the others, a cancer sufferer, not a survivor.
So we are celebrating Mother’s Day knowing it’s likely to be her last (I’m not sure celebrating is the word).
People say I’m strong, I don’t feel it. Truth is, I have to park this. Put it in a box on a very high shelf. Zip it up. Stash it away. I cannot let the feelings flood in because I have to function. I have my own little family now. We’re moving in a few weeks and I’m filling in job applications, but aside from these ‘big’ things; I simply have to drink tea, wipe bums and microwave sweet potatoes, because life goes on.
I’d actually quite like to smash some things. Punch some walls. I’d like to run until it hurts and fall down on the ground breathless and sobbing. However I recognise that won’t help my mum. Sheila doesn’t need me to break, she needs me to be that strong person people think I am.
Happy Mother’s Day to you and yours. Maybe hug a little longer, maybe talk about what those early days were like for your mum. Because they are tough for me, they were tough for my mum, but I know it’s all worth it.
I’ve read blog posts where mummies (of children with DS) have said “you certainly learn who your friends are” (after a Down’s Syndrome diagnosis), so I just wanted to write a post in praise of our friends (and family).
Because we certainly learned who our friends were… and they were exactly who we thought they were.
Lots of worries flashed through my mind in those first weeks of Audrey’s life. And one of those worries was that some people may not want to see us anymore, because our child had been born with special needs. I feel like an idiot as I type that now, but at the time it was something I genuinely thought. I worried people would feel awkward having to say she’s cute (when really they would be looking at a face that just screamed Down Syndrome and therefore ugly) and that they wouldn’t be that interested in visiting her.
Shall I enlighten you as to how our friends reacted?
Well, let’s see… EVERYONE wanted to see her. They were all interested and positive and supportive and… I suspect exactly as friends are when any baby was born, but it felt like they were extra in love, extra supportive.
Maybe this is just how people are when a baby is born (I have no comparison to a “typical” baby), but with Audrey it was like we had made a little celebrity. Friends went out of their way to shower her with love.
Of course it is an unwritten rule that when you see someone’s baby you have to say they are beautiful or cute or some positive adjective, even if the baby looks like a wrinkled old man or yoda. But you don’t have to say you love them. I didn’t expect other people to love my baby, but they did. They loved her. And they were wonderful at showing it and saying it. Not just through gifts of clothes or toys (although we were well and truly showered), but through visits, texts, emails, gifts of food (for us), lots of help, support and lots of gushing about Audrey. Over compensating? It didn’t feel like that. Honestly.
And as she’s grown, people haven’t shyed away or avoided contact, they’ve thrown their arms open to give the B-W family (but mostly Audrey), a massive hug.
Why on earth did I expect any different?
Ted are I are both blessed with an excellent bunch of school mates who still make an effort to hang out, as well as lots of cool university friends, Brighton friends, work friends and now NCT (antenatal class) friends, all of whom have been great.
I have so many positive friend moments that play through my mind… Becs coming with me to hold may hand through the scan that discovered Audrey wanted to get out, the tearful hushed conversation with my brother as I explained why we had struggled to confirm her name, the dreaded tearful phone calls to Claire and Mary the morning after she was born, which were met with declarations of instant love. Unconditional love. Katie and Claire standing with me when the doctor confirmed Audrey’s heart was fine and the tears flowed again… I’ll stop there as I can’t name check everyone and I don’t want anyone to feel left out!
The unconditional love is the key. No one was planning to love her only if she was cute. Or only if she could walk at 12 months. Or grow up to be a genius.
They love Audrey because she is a little piece of us, their friends. Oh and she’s awesome.
Here’s a little dig through the archives for Audrey pictures with friends and family…
Audrey first heard music (outside of the womb) in the arms of her daddy whilst mummy took a shower. We were in the room on the baby unit, where we had to spend the night and see how we got on with Audrey. A sort of transitional home from home, with nurses checking her over and weighing her (oh that obsession with her weight! So glad it’s over). We would not be allowed home unless she gained weight!
I entered the bedroom to be greeted by The Supremes singing “Baby Love”, Ted cradling Audrey in tears. She was 3 weeks old and looked like a music fan already. It was a bit of a turning point as she was no longer on the ward and seemed more like “ours”, plus a reaction to music made her that more… normal. I know that might sound ridiculous, but when your head is full of “difficulties” and “special needs”, it makes you think things won’t ever be “normal” and you worry what sort of interaction you might get from your little one. Of course I know now that those worries were pointless, but every little moment like this one served to teach me that.
We have played Audrey a lot of music since then, everything from The Beastie Boys to Blur to opera. She likes a good beat and from around 13/14 months she started dancing (rocking back and forth whilst sitting), which is amazing.
Of course Audrey loves the irritating music from a tacky, bright, light-up toy too and is getting quite adept at bashing the right places to get the music going!
Thankfully she is just as happy to listen to music we like, especially when we sing along and dance around the room. I’ve had several of those funny lyric-realisation moments that have led to tears… You know when you’re a teenager and suddenly you understand what the love songs are about? (Imagine me, 90s teen, ‘Again’ by Janet Jackson on repeat…). Well you get to experience that revelation again after having a baby.
When Stevie Wonder (one of my favourites), sings “Isn’t she lovely, made from love” I get such a warm, positive feeling. “Made from love” just gets me every time. It sums up making Audrey.
I’m also a Justin Timberlake fan and although I’m aware ‘Mirrors’ is about his wife, there was a sudden point listening to the lyrics that really struck me and now it has become an Audrey song…
I’m lookin’ right at the other half of me,
The vacancy that sat in my heart,
Is a space that you now hold.
Show me how to fight for now,
And I’ll tell you, baby it was easy
Comin’ back here to you once I figured it out,
You were right here all along.
It reminds me of when we reminisced about Audrey’s scan picture (she was pouting or sticking out her tongue) and the fact that she was such an active, kicky baby. There we were, looking at her a few weeks old, little tongue sticking out, as she kicked her legs… And then we realised there was no need to mourn the baby we thought was there – it was Audrey all along!