Mother/Daughter Holiday: Dream V Reality.

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“I don’t like the beach,” Freya said, as I pulled out of our road.

Driving us to the last minute holiday I had booked.

At the beach.

“Since when? You spent all last summer asking to go to the seaside. What don’t you like about it?”

“It’s booorring.”

Ah, her new favourite word.

When the email with the holiday deal popped into my inbox I was immediately tempted – the fact that neither Mark nor my parents could come probably should have been a deterrent.

It just seemed like such a good deal; three nights in a deck house at the Haven Holiday Park in Caister-on-Sea, a place we have been to and enjoyed on several occasions, for about half the normal price.

My imagination went into overdrive; after long, warm days spent playing in the sand Freya and I would walk, tired but happy, back to our house. Perhaps we would eat tea on the deck, smiling at each other across the table, with the distant sound of the waves gently lapping at the shore as the sun set. It would be a wonderful mother/daughter bonding experience. An adventure.

With the dream still spinning in my head, I booked it.

“First Norfolk, next Nepal,” was my exact thought – although, as I loaded up the car with enough stuff for 60 people, I decided I needed to get better at packing first.

We arrived just after 1pm with the sun shining brightly. The ground floor deck house was everything I had hoped for, lovely and clean, beautifully decorated, all the amenities and more.

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“Yes!” I thought, relieved that I hadn’t wasted what was still a fair amount of my dwindling savings. “We are going to have a fab time.”

We went for a swim in the site pool. Freya loves the water and is so confident (although because she smiles the whole time she swallows loads of water so I have to keep telling her to close her mouth).

Singing a happy holiday song, we made our way back…and then things took a turn for the worse.

Now, we live in a flat so I’m more than used to noise and while I couldn’t hear the people who had moved into the deck house upstairs speaking, what I could hear was their thundering footsteps running up and down.

“It’s ok,” I told myself. “They’ll have to sleep at some point.”

And they did.

At 1am.

Up until then it sounded like there were a dozen people circuit training.

While they could have had a bit more respect for the people below them, I think the main problem was with the flooring. It seemed really bouncy, maybe because of the soundproofing (ironic)? I’m no expert, obviously, but I’m not exaggerating how loud it was.

I was almost in tears at one point because Freya gets up at 5am, no matter what time she goes to sleep (believe me when I say we have tried every combination). She’s also not the sort of child who will ever sit still so I really needed my rest – not just to try and keep up with her but I wanted to enjoy it too.

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On Saturday, despite feeling pretty tired, I was determined to make the most of it so we were on the beach just after sunrise (because I didn’t want other people to be woken up by a small child running about). 

I figured she would forget about her new dislike (hah!). We managed about 20 minutes, with the aid of The Lion Guard and the lure of making them a rock cave. After that she refused to step foot on the sand again and at one point wouldn’t even look at it, hiding her face in the side of her buggy. IMG_7210

Luckily there are lots of other things to do on site, which she did like, including more swimming, soft play, the nightly disco (turns out I’m raising a party animal) and playing with the many other children who swarmed over the play areas.

We hardly stopped all day and I was really ready for my bed but, of course, we had the same noise problem. Freya also developed a hacking cough so when one eventually stopped the other carried on.

On Sunday we were both tired and a bit grumpy but we got out early again and joined a bug hunt (while everyone else collected ladybirds and snails we found a slug). We definitely needed a nap, and afterwards I decided it was time to head home. It was a night early but I was worn out (not quite the happy tired of my dream) and couldn’t face the noise for another night.

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I thought about complaining then but what good would it have done? I wanted to be on the ground floor so Freya had easy access to the outside, which she doesn’t have at home, and unless they had a deck house with no one above (which from what I could see was unlikely) we’d have the same problem.

After lunch on Sunday we came home.

It’s not really a big deal and maybe the holiday wasn’t a complete disaster but I felt like I’d not only wasted money but also that I’d failed to give her the amazing mother/daughter bonding trip I had planned.

In reality I know she had fun, despite being a bit poorly, and she has no idea we left early. I also know I should be grateful that we were able to get away at all (and I am) but the reality was so far from the dream, I guess I’m just a bit sad.

I’ll definitely be leaving Nepal for a few more years (she’d probably announce mountains are boring at the moment).

Finding the real me again – feeling the fear and doing it anyway.

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Freya went to a fourth birthday party at the weekend – the first one she’s really been old enough to take part in.

The excitement had been mounting for weeks, even though she’s not really sure what a party involves (apart from cake). It doesn’t matter, she thrives on new places or experiences. Nothing phases her. It makes me smile to see her throwing herself wholeheartedly into some new adventure.

There’s no fear, no question that she’s not going to love it. She gets right in the middle of things and just goes with the flow. New people? A different set of social rules to learn? Bring it all on. Even new, possibly a bit confusing, games such as pass the parcel are treated with gusto – especially when she eventually, delightedly, won.

I used to be a little bit like her. 

Back in the day. 

As a reporter, I often didn’t know what stories I would be asked to cover. I liked that uncertainly each day; the chance to learn something, go somewhere different, meet someone new, tell a different story (or sometimes the same story in a different way). I could be sent to a building site to see them “turning the first sod”, off to magistrates court for the morning or dispatched to interview a visiting politician, actor or singer. Later in my career, there was occasionally foreign travel, sometimes at short notice to far flung places, seeing and doing things that I would never have imagined. There were obviously some jobs I liked better than others but I wasn’t phased by any of them. I took it all in my stride.

Somewhere along the way, I changed.

I couldn’t take the car through a car wash this week because I was worried I’d have a panic attack while trapped inside.

Before that, last week, we’d had a lovely morning in Ipswich and we were all tired but happy as we clambered on to the bus home. Freya wanted to sit on the back seat (already a rebel) so my parents and I all followed behind her. As I sat down I noticed the driver get out of his chair and put his coat on.

“Where’s he going?” I said to no one in particular.

“Off to have his lunch, I expect.” My mum answered, just as he got off and closed the door behind him.

I tried to distract myself by looking at the new party dress my mum had just bought for Freya but I could feel my heart start to beat faster, my breath quicken and my throat start to close up. 

“I get funny when I feel trapped,” I said to my mum. I normally try to hide my fear.

“You’re not trapped,” she said calmly. “There’s a button next to the door you can push and they open. They wouldn’t be allowed to lock you on a bus.”

Even through the haze of panic that made sense. I’m going to have to push it, I thought, but she kept talking and I eventually started to calm down. A few minutes later a different driver got on and away we went. Even though I felt shaky I called it a win because I didn’t get off. I thought, maybe I’m finally getting over the claustrophobia, which started when I was pregnant with Freya.

Then the car wash happened. 

And I realised, I’m actually getting worse. The fear is spreading.

Thankfully, because I freelance now, it’s not impacting on my work but in other small ways (not going through a car wash is hardly the end of the world and probably better for the environment) it is affecting my life. I really really hate lifts now. If we have the buggy and Mark is with me I will always leave them to it and take the stairs (I realise now I shouldn’t be letting fear win). Even a small toilet with no windows in a coffee shop had my heart rate increasing. I refused to go to London for my 40th birthday because I thought I’d panic on the tube. I worry about all sorts of things, particularly that I’ll find myself in a difficult situation without realising and panic (like the bus). 

I don’t understand why I’m like this. I’ve never been an anxious person.

I know the continued lack of sleep isn’t helping but talking to Mark made me realise that while I’ve pinned this change on being trapped in the car one of the hottest days of the year while heavily pregnant, it actually started long before that, after I lost the first pregnancy.

I definitely felt like I didn’t have any control over that situation, like I was trapped.

Afterwards I couldn’t cope with stress in the same way as before but I thought, after counselling, I was actually doing well – especially getting through a stressful pregnancy and then that tough first year with Freya. Now I wonder, thanks to my psych degree from the University of Google, whether those things just masked what else was going on. 

So, I’ve recognised that I’m getting worse. How do I fix it? From what I’ve read it’s very much a “feel the fear and do it anyway” rather than avoiding things (combined with some coping mechanisms should the worst happen).

I’ll keep you posted.

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Anyone else have any experience with this sort of anxiety? All tips appreciated.


Mummy Times Two

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.