Last Sunday night, I was madly setting up paper honeycomb ball decorations and our traditional “Happy Birthday” bunting banner. Presents were being wrapped and assembled for the morning excitement of our soon-to-be six years old, Anna. Cake and cupcakes were made and ready for the birthday girl.
While doing birthday preparations, I was reminded about the Sunday night six years ago. At the time, little did we know but Charlie and I had finished our last meal together before becoming parents. I had made Cajun Chicken, and to this day, I have never made it since! Primarily because six years ago, I was a day over my due date of our first child and one of the first signs of my labour was being sick until all of that dinner was out of my system. Looking back, you just can’t fully prepare for what labour will look like… let alone instantly having to be a parent. It all kicked off at 3:00am and I was too anxious to sleep, so I proceeded to lay on my yoga mat in our lounge, timing my contractions every 10 minutes. Had I known how long a labour process can be, I would have made myself sleep through those early and mild contractions, yet I was in too much anticipation to rest. Charlie was the smart one who stayed in bed, perhaps foreseeing a long day ahead of us on a bank holiday Monday!
By 11:00am, contractions were every 3 minutes, so we drove to the hospital to be examined. After making it to the triage station, I disappointedly learned that the midwives were sending me home. They would have kept me had I been dilated to 4cm but I only measured 3cm. I felt so weak as I waddled down the big hill to Watford General’s car park, stopping occasionally to cling onto a lamp post through a contraction (I’m sure I looked pretty awful to other patients or just scared them!). Back at our flat, I rested as best I could, then Charlie brought me two smoothies and thank goodness, they stayed down, giving me a bit of energy.
By 3:00pm, we were going back to the hospital and this time, I was at 7cm! I think at that point, I was just happy I wasn’t going to have to waddle back down to the car park. They filled a birthing pool with warm water and that’s where I stayed until baby was born. And that’s when things really intensified. The burning “ring of fire” sensation was intense to say the least. I think it was at this point, I questioned why on earth I had said I didn’t want pain relief throughout labour, but of course it was too late for an epidural! In Stage 2 of labour, I thought I just couldn’t do this labour thing. I had been very quiet and focused throughout my labour unlike the crazy scenes of One Born Every Minute, but boy did I let my voice scream in my last minutes! My body was exhausted and I really felt like I just couldn’t do this anymore.
Amidst the worst pain I’ve ever felt and feeling very sorry for myself, this very determined Caribbean nurse came in and coached me through! I don’t recall exactly what she said but she was firm and direct with her words and made it clear that I had to just go for it! Our little Anna girl floated up to the surface of the pool within minutes, and Charlie and I both had tears in our eyes at such an overwhelming moment of relief, joy, exhaustion, and complete wonder at a little baby being born! After stitches and a shower, Charlie and I just stared in amazement at our little baby girl, Anna. Her dark chocolate brown eyes and cute little face were mesmerising.
Reflecting back on six years of Anna and three years of brother Luke, it amazes me just how fast the time has whizzed by. I’ve heard the message time and time again from parents of grown up kids, “Enjoy these years, they go by so quickly!” The truth of the matter is that enjoying these busy years is tough. I sometimes feel like everyone else gets to enjoy my kids more than I do with all of my responsibilities and little play time to offer them. Most days, I feel varying degrees of exhaustion and though I try my hardest, the laundry and dishes carry on piling up at an exponential rate. The reality is that there has been very little “me” time and I feel as if the Joy I used to be before kids, just simply doesn’t exist anymore. But would I change my life if I could? Absolutely not!
Despite all of the sacrifices of time, money, and self, my children are little blessings. They have and continue to change me for the better. Not to say I’m perfect, as there’s still plenty of shouting and mess up’s of parenting on my part, but this is a journey and my husband, kids, and I are in it together. I have more compassion and empathy for the parents trying to settle their screaming baby on an 11 hour flight. I no longer roll my eyes but offer a smile and look of ” I understand, it’s okay,” to the mother at the grocery store with a kid having a tantrum. Thinking about others before myself has become second nature. Waiting and recognising I don’t have to be first at everything, is also one of the vast amounts of lessons I have and continue to learn as a parent. This journey is far from over and day-to-day it can seem we’re going at a snail’s pace, but looking back six years and I am amazed to think one third of Anna’s childhood has sped on by just like that!
So here’s to that little newborn girl that turned my world upside down and made me wonder if I could even be a good parent. Here’s to the one year old full of wonder and time to be curious about the world around her. The two year old who loved to fill all of my old handbags with toys and dump them all over the house on a daily basis just to do my head in. Here’s to the lovely three year old who sang beautifully to all of the songs while excitedly watching, Curious George. The four year old who did daily drawings and artwork because she’s good at it and loved to give it to others. Here’s to the five year old who has amazed me with her ability to read and write and use her imagination, while also being so kind and thoughtful toward all people. And last but not least, I am so proud of the six year old beauty, inside and out, that loves to argue with me and call me out if I break my own rules! You are so cheeky and clever I don’t know whether to be annoyed or applaud you for your very smart ways. You have so much to offer to the world and you have made me a better version of me than could be fostered without you.
Artist. Writer. Teacher. Firefighter. Lawyer. Mother. Baker. Counsellor. Pilot. International Business Leader. Anna girl, your potential is limitless. Know that you are always loved and we want you to thrive in whatever you do. Life is more precious because of you and if you can be this talented and fun at six years old, I can only imagine how much more you’ll be at twelve and eighteen. Let your light keep on shining sweet one!