Why I know nothing about potty training

Potty training was always something I feared; I simply decided that for a child with a learning disability it was worth waiting for her to be older and have a better level of understanding before even attempting such a task… but also I hoped she might just magically figure it out for herself.

Before she was two, Audrey started to shuffle off to corners of the room to poo in her nappy. She often signed for a nappy change. We were attending Whoopsadaisy around this time and Audrey was learning to stand and walk, they encouraged sitting on the potty and subscribed to a different method to me – get them on the potty early and chance a pee here and there, hopefully she’ll get the idea. Well she did a wee on the potty a couple of times by chance, but it didn’t make sense to me work at it so early on.

I guess found it odd to encourage a child that couldn’t walk or stand to use a potty and once she was two and a half, Rex was born and the last thing I wanted to do was potty train! A discussion with a helpful health visitor made me feel better about that – she said “do not try to potty train whilst dealing with a newborn”. So I didn’t.

Time went by. Pull up nappies were used, potty books were read… it felt like we had so much time (since we deferred Audrey’s school start). Yet she started school in nappies.

We had many wee successes, but she was wasn’t consistent. I knew she didn’t need to be in a nappy all day because she could go hours without a wee, but I wasn’t convinced she actually knew when she needed a wee. I had some discussions with healthcare professionals about her being constipated quite a lot and they said this could mean she feels “full” all the time and that it wouldn’t be as easy to identify needing a wee.

With little effort, it wasn’t long before we switched the pull ups to knickers because Audrey decided to hold her wee all day – she would just do a wee  in her nappy in the morning and a wee on the toilet at home before bedtime. Great that she was dry, but unhealthy and stressful for me (worrying about urinary tract infections!) and she also had a couple of accidents at school, wetting herself when falling over.

We’ve had the Christmas break and suddenly Audrey has been really getting it. Asking to go for a wee (even out about) in the morning and afternoon and successfully having a wee. Oh how we celebrated! She’s been back at school over a week and they’ve only seen one wee from her…! And so we are back to where we are started, but at least she is consistently dry.

Well, I have a second child. Did I mention? Ha. He is 3 next month. And… I know nothing about potty training!! Rex requested to wear big boy pants and I thought “Wow, it could be this easy, maybe I don’t need to actually do anything to potty train this one either…” – that was before 3 wee accidents and a quick return to nappies.

He does hide in a corner to poo (in his nappy!), he responds well to rewards, so we could be on our way, however he doesn’t seem to quite “get it” yet and the thought of wee every where just puts me off. Both are in nappies at night time. I thought that was fairly common, but after a chat here and there with other mums, I find many have nailed the night time training too by 3 or 4 years old.

Advice I have heard…

  1. “Don’t leave the house for a week.” Not an option. Rex is feral at home, we’d go mad.
  2. “Take in a potty about 10pm and put the sleepy child on for a nighttime wee.” This maybe in our future, BUT, Audrey is very sleepy and I’m not sure she would wake enough to wee, Rex is the opposite and I fear we’d wake him up and not get him back down.
  3. “Take them to the toilet every 15 minutes.” Well this is practical if we follow advice number 1. But if we want to live a normal life, going outside, doing things… I just don’t know how I would get Rex to the toilet that much.
  4. “Reward them with chocolate/a sticker for every successful toilet visit.” Ahh yes the bribe. This one is interesting as Audrey had a chocolate button for a wee for a while and Rex would get one too (or face his wrath!) and now it’s his turn, he doesn’t actually seem that fussed. I suspect that off the back of Christmas-let’s-have-chocolate-everyday he doesn’t feel he has to work for it.
  5. “Put pants on with a nappy over the top.” We did actually try this one with Audrey for a bit, but she didn’t seem to care that she was wet and she got sore. I think Rex would get confused by the double.
  6. “Let them run around with nothing on their bottom half.” A great one for summertime. Rex would gladly do this, but I’m also sure he’d wee everywhere!

Part of me feels like it really doesn’t matter once both my children “nail” this toileting malarkey, another part of me feels huge pressure to get them there. Both are really great (chatty!) communicators and they are both very aware of the process of toileting (we have an open door policy!), but I am lost in the world of potty training.

This could be the secret of course; do very little and the kids get it anyway. Fingers crossed.

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Rex’s words and general hello

I started writing this post in May (!) and listed Rex’s words;

Mama

Dada

Up

Tumble

Milk

Yeah

No

Down

Ball

Dog

Bird

Audrey (Audrew)

Dum Dum

Teeth

Duggee

Hat

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.

Nursery times 2

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!

We Can Do This

A friend came to visit Rex for the first time the other day. I was explaining how tough we were finding number two, how his nights were getting better, but still appalling, that he was so rarely chilled and happy, that breastfeeding had been a struggle, that the labour wasn’t great, recovery was a shock, that I never wanted to do this again… My usual rant! 

Now, I know this sounds like a depressive visit, but we had lunch and a laugh (promise) and Rex slept on her for over an hour and then fed and slept on me for over an hour, so he appeared to be quite easy.

Anyway, this friend has two grown up children and had easy births, easy breastfeeding experiences, easy babies… She maintains the teenage years are the hardest, so god help us!

Since her visit, something she said has stayed with me. It was along the lines of; “Well I remember visiting you after you had had Audrey and just thinking how amazingly you were coping – because you had a lot to deal with; the Down’s Syndrome, the oxygen, the emergency c-section… And you were taking it all in your stride. Now you have a more common situation and you’re freaking out! This is dealing with a newborn, you’ve handled a newborn with lots of other challenges, this should be the easy bit!” And I guess she’s right. We’ve forgetten what we went through; having a baby in the special care baby unit for 3 weeks and bringing her home attached to an oxygen canister for 6 months, that’s not a standard start. But I know most will consider the shock of a baby with Down’s Syndrome and how awful that must have been. I don’t want to trivialise this, it was like a grieving process, it was rough, but somewhere down the line Audrey became more than Down’s Syndrome. She became our daughter, the one we planned for and made with love and that period of confusion has become so insignificant in the scheme of things.

Having Audrey, learning from her, knowing her, it outweighs the initial upset a billion times over. As a cheesy social media motivational quote would say: You have to experience the dark to appreciate the light.

And so we come back to Rex; we’re in a dark time and hopefully we’ll appreciate him more once we get out into the light?!

In the meantime, I’ll try to remember this is what millions of people are experiencing right now – sleep deprivation and an unsettled baby. It will get better… But please let that be soon.

The Calm After the Storm?

Newborns: wow.

Well little Rex arrived and turned me into a hormonal exhausted mess. 

I couldn’t handle not just the level of care he required, but also the way it took me away from activities with Audrey. Suddenly I can’t cuddle her on demand or sit with her playing all afternoon. I know she won’t remember, but I find it heart wrenching. I love her so much. I love cuddling her.

Having a second child hasn’t just rocked our world in terms of how tiring/stressful it is, it’s made me realise that much of what we went through having Audrey wasn’t about her having Down’s Syndrome. We always questioned it – we couldn’t decide if at the beginning we were reeling from the shock of the c-section or of her diagnosis. We’d never had a baby, so we didn’t know what it felt like, how you bond, how you love them. Film and TV would have you believe the baby comes out and is placed on the mother to immediate love and bliss. Both parents are instantly in love.

This is not our experience. Feelings for Audrey and Rex in the first weeks were quite functional. With both I felt quite shocked just to have a human suddenly on me – it’s quite something to get your head around – bump to baby. There’s relief that they are alive and then you just sort of numbly get on with things in a fog of “what on earth has happened??”.

The love part… Well we’ve found it takes time. You get to know them, their face, their smell. The bond grows slowly and then, when they become a little person who interacts and really shows some personality, wow, the love starts to peak – it’s like you’ve fallen for them after a romance.

It’s no secret I’m not a fan of the newborn stage. They are basically still a parasite but now live outside your body. You do everything for them and what do they give back? Ok, they are cute and cuddly, but they cry a lot. And poo a lot. They puke on you. They wake you up. And if you’re really lucky they might make your nipples bleed. Lovely.

But then they smile for the first time (Rex did last week, hurrah!) and they see you more and coo and almost play… And of course (please achieve this soon Rex!), they go longer between feeds. 

So of course I know this love grows and it gets better and better, but oh how hard it is to remember that with an unsettled baby to contend with. Every week gets better, but it’s still hard. Parenting is hard work.

I still remember chatting to a friend who doesn’t have kids, about how she’d like a nanny to just do all the hard stuff – the night feeds etc. And we had Audrey and I told her she wouldn’t feel like that once she had a baby – yes it’s tough losing out on sleep, but ultimately you want to be the one feeding your baby. It’s all part of how your bond grows. Going through the tough stuff together gets you to the fun part! And now I have to remind myself of that when Rex is wide awake for over an hour at 3am or when he’s screaming in pain from wind whilst on my shoulder. I need to do all this, no one else can – what’s the point of having kids? This is my job, my journey and at the end there is a big reward. We are already reaping the benefits with Audrey. 

Just think what these two crackers will be like together as best friends!

  
    
 

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

  
Look at us. A mother and son cuddling, such bliss. But of course this pic tells little of the realities of having a newborn. I don’t want this to be a negative rant, but I do want to share what we are going through right now… I mean, this blog may be filled with positive Audrey stories, but it’s really about our life and how having a child with DS doesn’t make our life that different to other family’s. So although I share a lot of positivity, it’s not because I’m sugar coating, she’s a joy.

Where we are now: Rex is 1 month old. He only sleeps in the sling (preferably whilst someone is pacing) or on us with some additional pats and jiggles as required. He likes to feed every 2-3 hours and he doesn’t like to lie still on his own for longer than about 5 minutes. He is currently a very difficult newborn and I am soldiering on with breastfeeding despite the early part being incredibly hard. In fact, it’s still hard. But they say it takes 6 weeks to establish breasfeeding, so in a couple of weeks we will hopefully be in a better place. I live in hope.

I recognise that each stage with a baby is a tiny speck of time in context of our lives – one day this kid will be festering in his teenage bedroom and I’ll be dragging him out of bed. But right now, I am dealing with the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do… and I’ve dealt with a surprise Down’s Syndrome diagnosis and my father dying… But this, this is another level – it’s intense 24 hour work. 

Of course Ted is a massive help – he is now in charge of Audrey am and pm before and after his full working day and all day on days off. Because very often, it’s only boob that will work for Rex. And that in itself is so hard. I’m striving to make breasfeeding work; to give him the best start in life etc,, increase our bonding, secure his immunity to various things… That’s all great, but oh the commitment to being there for him every 2-3 hours, when it can take an hour to feed and then settle him! And when he can’t be put down – where is the respite for me? I use that word – because with a “disabled” child you are given a lot of leaflets about support etc and respite care comes up a lot. Hey, maybe in the future Audrey will be a handful and we’ll want that option, but so far, no need. A newborn however – can they send over a respite carer for us now?? 

I guess I also feel robbed. We had a rough start with Audrey, I thought our “typical” baby experience would involve more blissful bonding and time to appreciate the life we created, no grieving, no confusion or worries, lots of gazing at him lovingly. But Rex isn’t letting us enjoy him. He is too needy for gazing. I’m genuinely terrified about how we “crack” the sleeping issue. How will he learn to sleep lying alone and still, when he currently sleeps upright and moving? Even on me in bed I spend much of the time patting him when he stirs (so often my sleep time isn’t real sleep time, it’s like being on watch for enemy attacks and dosing in between).

As I type this post I am pacing the house with Rex in the sling. Audrey is watching kids’ TV with her mouth open. If I sit down to rest, Rex starts grizzling and I have to get up and pace again. I’m exhausted, emotional and can only see a long stretch of this ahead of me…  I’m partly documenting this so that in a year or so (whenever the crazy thought arises) I can make a sensible decision about getting broody again; i.e; two is enough! Don’t let me do this again, please!!

Seconds

I’m writing this before our little man arrives (I suspect my blogging time might be a little reduced following his birth..?).

A second pregnancy is definitely a different beast. The first time around you can truly revel in being ‘with child’. When maternity leave hits, (all going well timing wise), you can have weeks to nap, read, chill out, enjoy decaf coffees… 

Audrey is a July baby. I had at least 5 weeks before she arrived in sunny Brighton, just enjoying some ‘me time’ and falling asleep regularly to my hypnobirthing CD.

This time around, I finished work with 4 weeks until due date, I fear he’ll be early (we’re week 38 now), but I only get 2 days a week of “me time” anyway (whilst Audrey is at nursery) so it’s really not the same. I don’t feel like I have blank weeks ahead that I can fill with baby grow folding and preparing for birth. I have our usual routine, plus tiredness, plus heartburn and I’m waking in the night for all manner of reasons (Audrey being one of those from time to time, but being uncomfortable/needing a pee/leg cramp etc etc also involved).

I have to lift Audrey a lot because, well, she can’t walk. And I have to walk around pushing her in the buggy because we don’t have a car and that’s how we get about, with a bit of bus travel thrown in. It’s not a big deal, but it definitely makes me tired. And she’s tiring because she’s a curious child who wants cuddles or books or snacks etc. Or me sat on the floor with her or her sat on the sofa with me. (She’s kinda bossy).

I have several fears this time around (last time I think I put it all off and didn’t feel like a baby was really coming, this time I can’t deny it!)…

– Exhaustion is probably number one, because I love and need sleep and I cannot see how I’m going to get enough with two kids to look after.

– Labour is also up there; I didn’t go into labour with Audrey, she stopped moving and I had an emergency C-section. I’m happily trying for a ‘natural’ birth this time (with no objections to a few drugs!), but the unknown is still strange and scary.

– Doing enough: how on earth can I breastfeed, entertain, cuddle, feed, clean, rest, leave the house… With 2?!? Eek.

– Just being a good mother and having enough love to give to a second child that is following in the footsteps of one of the most loved children on the planet.

At the same time, I know it will all be worth it to grow into a family of four. I also realise a lot of people have had two or more children and have survived to tell the tale.

But wish us luck anyway please!