Maths – No More Passing The Buck.

“You’re just not getting it, are you?” The man said in a tone that made it clear he was losing his patience with my obvious stupidity.

Later, as I was retelling this story to Mark, he stopped me at that point and said: “That’s when you went ballistic, right?”

Wrong.

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Standing at the tills in the high street shop, even though I knew, I KNEW, I was right, something stopped me from pointing out he was being incredibly rude.

And that something?

Simple maths.

I’d gone to the shop to take back a dress I’d bought Freya which came down to her ankles. The deal was the dresses should have been £8 each but if you bought two you got them for £6 each making them £12 and saving £4 (every little helps).

My plan was that I’d pick a different style from the ones in the same deal and swap it.

I explained it politely to the man.

He nodded.

He scanned the old dress.

He scanned the new dress.

He said: “That will be £2, please.”

I reached for my purse before I realised that no, that wasn’t right.

He pointed at the receipt and said: “You only paid £6 for the old dress and this one is £8.”

“I know but if I buy two dresses I get them for £6 each. That’s the deal. I have two dresses but I want to swap this dress for that dress using the same deal. I shouldn’t have to pay anything.”

He tried to explain it to me.

I tried (again) to explain it to him.

Then he resorted to insulting my intelligence.

I really hate rude behaviour (and I’m quite capable of saying so normally) but maths is my achilles heel. He was so adamant that he was right that I felt a tiny tingle of doubt; maybe I had got it wrong after all? I started to get bit flustered, even considered giving him the £2.

I’ve been feeling cross about it ever since.

I’m not sure when I realised I was rubbish at maths. Junior school, maybe? Certainly in high school when I was placed in the lower set (I got a D in GCSE maths, for the record).

It’s something of a standing joke within my family now.

The strange thing is, it’s not really the hard stuff I struggle with – I really enjoyed algebra, for example (maybe because it has letters in it!), and later, at work, I quite liked picking my way through council/company reports trying to work out where the money had gone.

It’s the basic stuff, especially if it’s on the spot, where I stumble. My brain just doesn’t work that way. Never get me to work out splitting a bill – unless you’re willing to pay for a bit of my lunch (at least that’s my excuse).

In those long months of pregnancy, I worried about who would help Freya with her homework (because, clearly, I didn’t have enough things to think about) but I told myself “Oh, Mark can deal with that side of things”.

This man made me think.

Passing the buck is no longer good enough.

I don’t need to be good at everything but I do wonder whether I’ve switched off to even trying now – and that’s not a great lesson to teach Freya. “Oh you can’t do it, let someone else do it for you.”

That’s why I found myself insisting to the man in the shop that I was right. I was just about to ask him to get his manager when he suggested refunding both dresses and starting again.

He gave me £6 back for some reason.

“I’m sorry it’s all coins,” he said, which was a bit bewildering.

“That’s ok, I’m going to give it back in just a second.”

He did his thing, eventually scanning the two dresses I wanted. They were indeed £12 and so I pushed the coins back across the counter to him.

I saw the exact moment it clicked in his head what I’d been asking.

I’m not sure what was going on.

Maybe he couldn’t put it through the till any other way. Maybe I didn’t explain what I wanted well enough but there was no need for his rudeness.

He did me a favour in one way because I’m determined to start having a go from now on (and I’ll hopefully get better at it).

Have you ever worried you’re not good enough in a certain subject or don’t have the right skills to be able to help your child?

 

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Why Blog?

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It’s an age-old question. Or it would be if “age” described the 20-odd years that take us back to the 1990s when blogging began, which seems like only last week to me. 

Anyway, it’s a question that appears to unite all bloggers at one point or another, no matter how big or small their audience. It is asked at the start, probably many times in the middle and one last time at the end. 

Why blog?

I imagine there is more of a list when you are a pro-blogger; hopefully there is still a love of writing but also income, readership, contracts signed etc. What about for us folks for whom blogging is a more of a hobby? Why do we start and, perhaps more importantly, keep going?

My story.

While I’ve consistently kept a paper journal since I was 18, I found it was a lot easier to grip a phone and type one handed while holding a finally sleeping baby than to attempt to write with a pen in a notebook and still keep said baby from rolling on to the floor.

Blogs had also kept me company in the lonely wee hours of those early months of motherhood when I felt like I was drowning. They helped me find the energy to kick my legs and get my head back above water.

So when I was feeling a little less overwhelmed, I thought I’d have a go at telling my story too. 

It wasn’t completely new to me, I had blogged anonymously in the early noughties (full of angst following a nasty breakup) but much has changed in the online (and offline) world since then  – not least the advent of social media.

As it happens it was thanks to social media that I got a reminder of why I blog. 

A Twitter friend kindly re-shared an old post of mine from more than two years ago, which I clicked on to re-read.

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Freya had just turned one and, as well as celebrating, I was also reflecting on what a hard year it had been and why it didn’t seem like the “done thing” to say so.

Amid my ramble was this paragraph:

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At first I thought: “Wow, did I really include that?” I shocked myself! Maybe I should have edited that out? It’s hardly ideal to admit I was so low that I thought about harming her or me, even if I didn’t do it.

Then I realised, this was a huge moment in our lives – one I had all but forgotten until now.

As I read it again, I was back there, standing at that junction with the pram, the bus coming towards us. I can still feel the deep-down despair, the absolute certainty that I was a terrible mother for not being able to ease her reflux and stop her suffering and that this could be a way to stop all our pain. And I can still feel the whoosh of cool air hitting my face, blowing my hair back, as the bus drove by.

It was a turning point.

I was at my lowest but I decided to fight on.

Look at us now, how far we have come.

Yes, reading it again was like a hug for me, a “you got through it, you survived” but it was more than that. I continued to read and discovered a couple of comments on the post (including from the lovely Jenni, who I remain in touch with). To this day I am still surprised and delighted when people take the time to comment and especially if they can relate in some way to my experiences. I also remembered a couple of emails I’d received from other mums who were struggling, possibly even as low as I was. They said the post made them feel less alone, more able to keep going  – exactly as those blogs that I read when Freya was tiny did.

It’s that connection, along with preserving the memories (good and bad) and the fact I love to write that keeps me blogging and reading blogs (so please don’t stop writing).

I’m not suggesting that every post will hit the mark, especially when I write about falling in love with a lemur, but sharing our stories – the joyful moments as well as the tougher times – matters on a personal front but also on a wider level, possibly more than we think.

Why do you blog? I’d love to know.

Giving birth – was it the best experience I could have hoped for?

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I wrote this the week before Freya’s third birthday but didn’t post it. I held back partly because I didn’t want to cast a shadow over her celebrations but mostly because I was worried it might seem like I didn’t realise how lucky I was to give birth in a safe place to a healthy baby, which couldn’t be further from the truth. The fact that it has stuck with me must mean something so I’m taking a deep breath and pushing publish. 


“This time three years ago…” is a phrase that’s been uttered more than once in our house this week.

We are not generally ones for looking back but when it comes to the birth of your child, the day that changed everything, forever, I don’t think you can be off it.

“Was giving birth your worst experience?” Mark asks.

“Certainly top five,” I reply.

I feel guilty for saying it (and even more so for making it permanent by typing it here) but the further away I get from it, the more I wonder, did it need to be such a demoralising, fraught and, at the end, frightening experience?

It hopefully goes without saying that I am endlessly grateful that she eventually arrived safely and relatively healthy. Being a mum, while a huge challenge, is the best thing to happen to me. And I never take her (or the fact I was able to give birth in a clean, well equipped hospital) for granted.

However, I do wonder, was it the best experience I could have hoped for?

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After two previous early losses, when I finally got and remained pregnant I had big dreams for giving birth.

I imagined myself on the midwife-led birthing unit we had visited floating in water, holding Mark’s hand, in a calm, maybe even candle-lit environment. Ideally I would have done it drug-free, although I was open to the idea of pain relief.

It would be the complete opposite of the last time I was an in-patient in that hospital (on that ward, as it happened); induced to miscarry my poorly baby at almost 13 weeks pregnant, writhing in pain, lonely and alone in an overly bright toilet (number one on my worst experiences list).

I get that plans change, especially when it comes to bringing new life into the world. At the end of the day I would have done whatever was needed to have her safe in my arms. From what I can fathom, though, the reason my plans had to change quite so dramatically when Freya was born was down to people not really caring. Or perhaps not having the time to care, is more accurate.

Freya’s labour is a long story – about 29 hours on a busy Bank Holiday to be exact. The only water I got near was in a jug sitting on the bedside table. I mostly felt like I was in the way, an inconvenience and then largely ignored because I wasn’t making a fuss. I had a panic attack because I felt sure something was wrong (and something was wrong). I guess I hoped that eventually someone might take the time to see me – in every sense.

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Each time I tried to push, we listened as Freya’s heartbeat got slower and slower and then stopped…before eventually, after what seemed like a dozen minutes, thumping again.

The room was suddenly full of people.

We all began to hold our breath during each silent wait.

At 10lb 3oz and back to back she had no where to go and was in distress.

A doctor tried to turn her, which wasn’t fun for either of us, but when that didn’t work we were rushed to theatre.

Maybe, even if things had been different, I would still have found myself on the operating table? Maybe it was a blessing with such a big baby. I think why I struggle is because, to me, it felt like it didn’t need to get to the emergency stage.

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At 3am, more than three hours after the c-section, I finally held Freya for the first time (she was taken to the NICU for checks while I was in recovery). After a quick attempt to breastfeed (and a rushed piece of toast) we were pushed from the delivery room to a ward (our things had already been removed while we were in theatre).

Mark was told to go home, despite the fact I couldn’t feel anything from the neck down. We had no time to talk about what had happened, the trauma we both felt or even to simply revel in the fact that we had a baby, that we were finally parents.

I was left alone in a dim, overheated bay. I was so sweaty it looked like I had been for a swim, my hair was dripping wet. I was unable to move, unable to get out of the bloody hospital gown. It was morning when the lovely lady in the bay opposite took pity on me and handed me Freya. It was the first time I could actually feel her.

We stayed on that noisy, hot ward for four days with people coming and going at all hours. There was no communication, it was almost like I didn’t matter. At one point, while I was in tears and begging to be released from what felt like a prison, a nurse said: “You’re a mum now, you need to put your baby first.” That’s what I was trying to do. I wanted to protect her, get her home, away from the chaos.

Even now, three years on, my heart feels heavy just thinking about that time.

Was it the best experience I could have hoped for? Is it wrong, selfish even, to have wanted something more?