“When are you having another baby?”

This morning, I helped a friend after the school run. She had her hands full, was trying to open a heavy gate and push a buggy at the same time. Naturally, she was causing a tailback of parents trying to hot foot it out of the bitter cold after kissing their offspring goodbye, and I was in severe need of caffeine, I selflessly stepped in and helped her out by pushing the buggy for her and immediately regretted my saint-like good nature. In my groggy, half-asleep state, I was ambushed by a gaggle of highly excitable, walking ovaries (broody mums).

“Oh it suits you, Cas!”

“When are you going to have another one?”

“Oh please have another, please!”

And last, but definitely not least…

*dramatic gasp* *suspicious twinkle in eyes* “Oh my God, you’re not pregnant, are you?!”

I did what any self-respecting 28 year old mother would do in a highly personal, uncomfortable, unexpected situation. I whimpered a nervous giggle and ran the fuck away.

I wanted to collapse among the painted snakes and ladders of the school playground and weep. I wanted to let out this all-consuming ball of “I-want-another-baby-so-badly-it-physically-hurts.” I wanted to tell them I took a pregnancy test a few days ago and when faced with a single blue line, I barely spoke for the rest of the day, silently hating myself for getting my hopes up and letting my mind wander. I wanted to say that this burning need to have another baby has simply grown and intensified over the last 6 years. And it’s gotten to the point that I now subconsciously find myself window shopping for baby clothes online when I’m supposed to be buying school uniforms and have shamefully avoided friends and family who are pregnant or have new tiny babies.

I didn’t do that though, instead I scuttled away, burying my face further into my scarf while guilt engulfed me. Why doesn’t one child feel like “enough”? Because he is enough, he’s everything, he’s at the epicentre of our chaos filled lives and always will be.

But what if there’s more?

My heart shatters every time he asks for a little brother or sister, and then thinks for a moment before finally deciding on a sister and I have nothing to say but “I know, baby, I know,” and I have to quickly distract him with something else because my heart’s battering my ribs like a moth caught in a jar.

An ever-increasing age gap that just gets bigger and bigger.

Beating myself up for not being well and for things not being different. Resenting myself for not being able to just say “Fuck it,” and get busy making babies because the need to feel the weight of our newborn on my chest again is just too great.

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Because what if I get ill again? What if I can’t get out of bed for weeks on end? What if I have another breakdown and end up in a mental hospital, terrified and alone – again? Last time, we were lucky, Noah was at school when the police coaxed me, crying into the back of their car to take me to A&E. He was young enough to innocently accept that “mummy’s just a bit poorly” for my absence. I can never, ever afford for that to happen again but the fear constantly hangs over me.

My head tells me we have to be sensible and responsible, that we still need a few things in place and that we will get there. We will. Honestly, we will. Soon.

While my heart cracks into countless shards, doubt creeps over me like ice and I’m left feeling hopeless, ungrateful and selfish.

My body aches and tears sting my face in the frozen air, my legs struggle as if I’m ploughing through wet cement as I try to get home as quickly as possible. A weight, a tangible real weight over my shoulder brings me back to the present moment. A gentle tinkling sound. I stop dead on the pavement as I realise Noah’s schoolbag, adorned with half a dozen Star Wars keyrings, full of Dennis the Menace library books and twigs and leaves he’s collected is still slung over my shoulder, ten minutes after giving him a kiss and telling him to have a good day.

At that moment, turning around is the very last thing I want to do, I don’t want to see the hoard of mums again. My toes have grown numb while the cold creeps through my rubber soles. But I do it anyway. I turn around. Because against all odds, with both his parents being ill, with nothing turning out like we planned, and even when we didn’t think we could do it, we did good with Noah. And somehow, soon, we’ll do it again.

National Wallpaper Week with Graham & Brown – a Nostalgic Bedroom Makeover

You may have seen that this year I’ve been all about the home improvements. I finally had enough of looking at the sticky, grubby child muck on the walls and doing not much more than giving them an idle scrub with a baby wipe. And while I’ve tackled the majority of the house now, after hours and hours of painting and blisters and aching muscles, one room remained…

Our bedroom. Functional, yes. But pretty? Comfortable? Something to be a little proud of? Not really. It was always at the bottom of the priority list as ya know, we only sleep in there, right? How much difference will it make if it looks nice? (A lot apparently, but I’ll get back to that).

I needed help.

The decorating guardian angels Graham & Brown came to my rescue with National Wallpaper Week (wallpaperweek.com) which is the 5th to 11th of October don’tcha know (yes, it’s a thing) and the opportunity to makeover a room with some of their fancy wallpapers.

Shall we have a little “before” action?

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Even my unicorn collection couldn’t brighten it up.

Enough is enough I proclaimed to the sad walls, brandishing my brush of wallpaper paste menacingly in the air.

Part of this challenge was that Graham & Brown wanted to prove that there was a wallpaper for everyone, and that different styles can evoke different emotions and moods. I went with nostalgia – I wanted the room to be timeless, effortless and full of memories and all the different styles I love – an old faithful that I could rely on to make me feel relaxed and content. I don’t like interiors to match too much or look too uniformed, I prefer the quirky feel where different colours and patterns just sort of work together in harmony. Nostalgia to me means kitsch, junk shop chic, slightly silly and bright.

So I set out to find a bold, graphic print and fell in love with Kensington Charteuse – a Victorian style, hand-drawn print with a modern edge and striking colour-way – the perfect focal point for my mix and match style.

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Kensington Charteuse Wallpaper £15 per roll, Moscow matte emulsion 2.5 litres £27, Lit Arrow £60 – all from Graham & Brown

To compliment the gorgeous wallpaper I wanted a paint that made the paper the main star, but was still a gorgeous shade in it’s own right. I opted for Moscow by Graham & Brown – a beautiful, muted putty grey.

Within a day I’d managed to paint the room which only needed two coats to cover the somewhat dubious pink it was previously (I know, I don’t know what I was thinking either). Even without putting the wallpaper up, the room began to feel different and had an air of stylish grown up about it.

The next stage was the paper itself. I’ve never put up wallpaper before so knew this could go very, very badly… But even as a complete novice, I can say with some confidence that it was actually pretty easy without any help. The Superfresco Easy paper is designed so that you put the wallpaper paste directly onto the wall, which saved a lot of faffing around as I didn’t need a pasting table and I didn’t damage any paper with my clumsy disposition. Start to finish it took me around 3 hours and we’re so delighted with the end result.

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And side by side…

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I never saw myself as a wallpaper type person before this challenge. I always felt they made rooms feel too much, too done but I’ve now realised that there truly is a wallpaper to suit any home, any style and indeed any person.

I can’t wait to spend many an evening curled up in my new room with a good book and as many crocheted granny blankets as I can stand!

To find your own perfect (wallpaper) match and events and ways to join in near you, be sure to check wallpaperweek.com.

Disclaimer: All decorating items and products mentioned were very kindly sent to me by Graham & Brown for the purpose of this challenge and post. However all words and opinions are entirely my own.

Holidays-ageddon

We’re just halfway through the summer holidays. That’s just three weeks. HOW HAS IT ONLY BEEN THREE WEEKS? In that time we’ve had a violent sickness bug stampede through the house, my kid’s been stung by a wasp, he’s gone to bed at 10pm and still had the sheer audacity to get up at 5.30am and to top it off, he’s called me a twat.

So all and all, we’re doing alright, yeah?

I reckon parents fall into two groups when it comes to the school holidays and half-term. Unless you home educate – in which case I need the number of your therapist.

On one hand we have the relaxed and calm lot, rejoicing the lack of early alarms, packed lunches and ironing – “Every day is an adventure!” they’ll tell you wistfully, while you wonder if you even have the appropriate footwear to conquer anything vaguely adventurey or outdoorsy. “I can’t wait for all the lie-ins!” they’ll cry happily.

Lie-ins? Eh? If we’re talking about anything past 7am – then I think we need to see other people.

Then we have the second group, quivering and nervous and oozing with self denial about what we’re going to face in the next few weeks, and how are we gonna do it, where routine and everything we know that’s safe flies straight out of the window.

I mean, come on, they must be knackered right? They have to be. Surely they could do with at least one pyjama day with a side order of Disney films and way too many baked goods? Alas no, before you’ve even got to the good bit with the singing lobster – the little blighter has ripped off his pyjamas, adorned them on his head in a makeshift turban leaving him completely starkers and is attempting his escape from a window.

This is the moment when you realise that you’re no longer enough. The second it dawns on you that this feral creature you helped to make needs other children, lots of land, big open spaces and padded stuff to fling himself from and no amount of craft projects, park visits or baking days will tame that for very long at all.

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Other things that you’ll no doubt encounter over holidays-ageddon:

The day you need to wait around the entire day for a delivery – the elusive 8am – 6pm slot will leave you in a false sense of security that you’ll be able to get out at some point, all the way until it arrives at precisely 5.59pm. Or worse, NOT AT FUCKING ALL.  By which point the kids will have made it their sole priority for you to go completely grey by bedtime, you’ll have shamefully wondered if it’d be really bad if you just locked them outside for a bit, just a little bit and had a mini cry in the airing cupboard under the guise of finally sorting the laundry out.

Two: The relatives are coming! Did you know you can translate “summer holidays” back to an old Norse saying which means “Family will descend on home and cause great discomfort / self-loathing and lust for murder.” It’s true, y’know. Brace yourself for arguments with the other half, a home that smells of a sickening mixture of bleach, freshly cut flowers and potent fear all while your children hate you even more than usual as you’ve hidden their collection of rocks / Kinder Egg toys / dead leaves and brushed their hair too vigorously and told them strictly not to sing Baby Got Back near your mother in law.

And thirdly: Get down with the sickness. “Mummy? Mummy, I think I’m going to be si-” 48 hours of every plausible surface including you, the cat, and OH GOD DON’T GET THE CARPET! covered in projectile vomit. And worse. Simultaneously. You’ll mop their sweat soaked brows with cold flannels. You’ll boil wash every known item of clothing and bedding. You won’t even care too much when they miss the bucket and puke straight over you. The flipside is when you inevitably catch the noro-bastard a few days later. “Can we go to the park today, mum?” asked earnestly while you whimper and crawl up the stairs desperately trying not to shit yourself. Again.

You wait, kiddo. You just wait until your first hangover, I’ll get you back.

However you’re getting through the summer holidays, I salute you – it ain’t easy, that’s for sure. I can guarantee I’ll be the first mum at the school gates on the 3rd, pleading with them to take us back. That we’ve changed and we promise to never be later than 8.40am and we’ll do the reading book every single night, I swear.

No More, No Less

A bittersweet realisation struck me the other day. On our return from a long, hot day at the beach, our skin turned freshly pink from the sun, sand smuggled in every orifice imaginable and a happy, exhausted kid bursting with stories about the first crab he ever caught and OMG THE ICE CREAM and and and… All while covered in dirt from digging around in the mudflats and his hair full of saltwater.

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I realised I was content.

I realised I was enjoying being this dude’s mum and spending time with him.

And there’s not many occasions I can say that’s actually happened.

Obvs it should’ve been a happy moment, but with the addition of the notorious Mum Guilt™ and Parental Doubt©, instead it was tinged with a generous dollop of  “I’m so shit. I’ve ruined his childhood,” and “Fuck, I better start saving for his therapy.”

Thing is, I reckon it’s still an unsaid thing, finding parenting a chore, something a lot of us cover up with self deprecating quips about needing to neck the gin / wine / any alcoholic beverage to hand (delete as appropriate) and hiding in the toilet with the door locked, armed with our phones and stolen Freddos and Smarties. Truth is I don’t really drink, and the last time I locked myself in the bog, the kid shat on the carpet outside the bathroom before I could hide away my contraband wrappers, wipe away the tear stains and allow him entry because ya know, sometimes 30 seconds warning of MUMMY I NEED A POO HELP IT’S COMING, ain’t enough.

What I mean is, we jokingly skirt around the issue, dance around it while the reality nips at our toes and we try not to let the pain reflect in our faces or the exhaustion show around our eyes, when all we want to do is collapse and weep for help.

I’ve been stuck in that seemingly never-ending cycle of wanting nothing more than to go back to bed before I’ve even properly begun the day, of feeling panicked and trapped, my heart racing, my head swimming with fear every time I’m cornered to play with my kid. Of having to physically force myself out the front door for every school run, every birthday party and outing, sweating, short of breath and shaking. Plus all the innocuous day-to-day parental tasks and required emotions and energy that simply feel impossible and out of reach, for the majority of my six years as a mum.

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It’s only now, after more than six years, that I can look back on a day and think “That was a good day.” Even with the house decimated and my kid’s parting shot when he goes to bed is “‘Night, OLD LADY,” while he tries to wipe his bogies on me.

It was a good day.

No more, no less.

And it’s enough just as it is, because it’s been such a long time coming.

Thinking Outside the Box for Father’s Day with Graham & Brown

Immediately following giving birth to Bean six years ago and the multitude of emotions and tasks I had to very quickly get used to, it came as somewhat of a shock that the first Father’s Day I was to celebrate with his dad was when he was only nine days old. Obviously being completely disorganised, I didn’t have the first clue of what I was supposed to do. So I did what I’m sure anyone would do –  I bundled a tiny Bean into his pram and rather awkwardly shuffled to the nearest card shop, wrote some incredibly soppy sentiments and was satisfied my job was done for a year.

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However, Father’s Day catches me out EVERY. SINGLE. YEAR. It still falls the weekend after Bean’s birthday and six years on, I still have no idea what I’m meant to do apart from make bacon and lots of fuss etc. I find men notoriously hard to buy presents for (especially mine) and of course, I also have to take Bean’s somewhat wayward ideas into account now, generally ending in my other half looking very confused and me holding up my hands declaring that the cushion adorned with fluffy kittens and hearts WAS NOT MY IDEA, I’M SO SORRY.

Interiors brand Graham & Brown recently got in touch to see if I’d be interested in looking at their Dad-friendly products. I must admit I was a little skeptical that I’d find anything suitable at first, however I soon had a list as long as my arm of things I thought the old man would enjoy. And since I’m forever reminding him that his interests vary too wildly for his own good, I thought there might be a little something for everyone in what I chose…

Hipster Dad – for the quirky man in your life, I picked up these cameo-style portraits of Oswald the Owl and Ziggy Zebra. They look brilliant displayed side by side and add a sense of humour to your space (something I’m rather passionate about). The unusual shape of the canvasses and the rather unique detailing with the hanging chain, they appear very old and could easily passed off as something you picked up in an eccentric antique shop.

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Geek Dad – I knew I had to get these prints the moment I saw them. Everything from the comic book style to the retro Star Wars images and vibrant colours, I knew my other half would absolutely love them for his office area. They’re so much better and more impressive in the flesh, they’re huge and make such an effortless-cool vibe for your home. Also, please note that if Star Wars ain’t your thing, Graham Brown also have very similar comic book style Marvel prints and classic poster style Disney prints too.

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Classic Dad – And lastly, for the perhaps more grown up dad with an interest in history or geography, I chose this traditional style map of the old world. Again, the print is huge and instantly makes a focal point wherever you choose to hang it, the neutral tones ensure it suits any colour scheme and it adds a very mature, traditional feel to your home.

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Overall I’m thrilled with the items I picked and the way they’ve really finished my home off in style. And I also love the fact that I’ve managed to tie in several of my other half’s interests as he usually allows me to take full control of the décor in our home.

Have you ever thought of buying interior-related gifts to the man in your life? Would you consider it? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

Please note: All items mentioned above were very kindly sent to me by Graham & Brown for the purpose of this article, however all editorial and opinion is entirely honest and my own.

And Repeat

A year ago, to the day in fact (thanks to that smug little animated dinosaur that prances onto my phone to merrily remind of my annual failings each and every morning) I wrote this post. It was nothing special, but the point is I could’ve written dozens more exactly like it. The ominous assessment, the dreaded GP review, the painful therapist appointment. Where the texture or tone or composition might be slightly different, but they’d still essentially be a snapshot of the exact same thing.

Me, perched on the edge of a padded chair that’s too low to the ground in grey room, panic racing through me, eyes darting methodically. The generic box of tissues. The certificates on the wall. The grubby mark on the wall by the door. My fingernails. Dust motes dancing in the ever decreasing sunlight creeping through the vertical blinds. The ill-chosen printed artwork on the wall. Back to the tissues.

And repeat.

The doctor / therapist /  psychologist / psychiatrist (delete applicable) absent-mindedly twirling to and fro in their swivel chair, fingers poised over their keyboard and mouse, ready to type unknown words I can’t see or churn another prescription out.

I ask for help. I say the things I don’t want to say. I nod silently.

I’m handed another prescription with a disingenuous head-tilt, complete with what they’re probably aiming for as empathy in their tired, slow eyes. I’m given instructions to call 999 if “things get bad”.

I leave.

I go home. I hide in my bed. I refuse to speak.

And repeat.

This well-trodden and anti-climatic routine led to “things getting bad” with a crescendo of me having a breakdown and being admitted to a psychiatric hospital last summer which I’m only starting to process now. Apparently, a breakdown isn’t a fix. It’s not a cure. It’s not the excuse to surround yourself with inspirational quotes and self-care and cross your fingers really hard that the same thing won’t happen again.

It’s a huge, ugly, jagged event that towers above everything else, where you start to remember things Pre-Breakdown and Post-Breakdown. You can’t talk about it because, well, if you’ve had a breakdown, you’ve got it out of your system now at least, yeah? Now let’s change the subject. There’s no “Sorry about your breakdown” cards. You’re just surrounded by concerned eyes watching you when they think you’re not looking, an avalanche of *hugs* and more dissatisfied appointments in grey rooms.

In the Post-Breakdown haze, the local crisis-team visited me at home. Although, they weren’t really the proper crisis team, I’d have to wait months for that, these people were more the mildly problematic team. I didn’t want to talk to them. I no longer trusted myself and felt if I said a trigger-word, they’d be sectioning me. They intimated that I might be dealing with more than just your common house depression.

The words “personality disorder” seeped through before my defenses shot into the atmosphere. I didn’t listen to another word they said.

The private psychiatrist I paid over 150 quid to see for fifteen minutes, shrugged off the suggestion while my other half saw a chance of getting somewhere, a breakthrough and I refused him it.

I didn’t know what to think, who to trust, denying that anything was wrong. The words, the lingering, leading questions were invisible rain, sinking through my protection, my clothes, making me colder and colder while I pretended it was OK as my teeth chattered and my skin was covered in goose-flesh.

Until one night, I told my best friend. I told her about the exhausting, unpredictable switches in mood. The compulsions. The sensory overload. The panic I felt at being asked if I was OK, because honestly, I had no idea. I told her the seemingly tedious details. I told her everything.

She’d asked questions, she’d said the scary Personality Disorder words, she asked if I was sure I was just dealing with depression, but it was OK. I realised then  that it was alright to listen to other people’s opinion and myself, that a personality disorder didn’t have to be a terrifying unknown.

From next week I’ll be going back to the grey rooms with the dirty marks on the walls. I’ll be asking to be re-diagnosed, for a second opinion. Most likely I’ll be nodding silently, leaving with a prescription pressed into my palm and not much else.

And repeat.

A Fresh Start with Farrow & Ball

A little while ago I was totally thrilled to be asked by Mumsnet and Farrow & Ball to makeover my home with Farrow & Ball’s gorgeously luxurious decorating products and paints. Now not only was I excited because my house looked a right state, ya know, tired and grubby (we shall not mention the bogies and peanut butter I had to clean from the walls prior to painting – cheers kiddo) but also, I’d never actually tried their products before, I didn’t feel worthy enough, as though my home was worthy enough for beautifully obscure paint names and eggshell – EGGSHELL! THIS IS POSH STUFF, RIGHT?

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Now, Mumsnet and F&B (it is cool that I call them that, right?) put on a lovely event in Chelsea at the end of October, to introduce themselves, discuss and demonstrate the paints and colours and techniques with us etc. However I couldn’t make it due to a virus, and didn’t manage to get any further than Fenchurch Street Station’s loos – soz about that. I was gutted and felt I’d ruined my chances of making my house vaguely nice ever again and creating a good impression with Farrow & Ball. Luckily they took pity on me and still allowed me to continue with the project (Thank you again, you lovely people). Obvs I missed the talks and advice so I sort of did my own thing when it came to deciding on colours.

Shall we get down to business and look at some before photos now? Yeah? Yeah.

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No, I’ve not put a filter over that to make it look vintage or anything. It really is that dark in my living room – AT MIDDAY. I have a south-facing garden, therefore the front of my house is always dark and gloomy, even though the whole of downstairs is open-plan.

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I wanted to keep things as simple and light as possible as I could with the walls and chose to paint all the walls with Dimpse (modern emulsion) – advertised as a cool grey on the F&B website. I also wanted to update my tired pine dining table and chairs so I decided on Blue Gray (in estate eggshell) – as the name suggests it’s a beautiful muted blue / grey. As it turned out, Dimpse is very similar to the original colour I had on the walls, only cooler and brighter. I don’t actually mind at all, as I don’t think the room could handle an overpowering / vibrant palette due to the lighting.

Once the paint and accessories arrived the high quality was unquestionable from just simply looking at them – no plastic paint pots or roller handles here, no ma’am.

On opening the tins I was a little nervous, having only ever used the paint with the famous Old English sheepdog on the adverts – the Farrow & Ball paints consistency was rich, runny and highly pigmented (no stirring – plus plus) as opposed to a big, thick mass of congealed paint that I was used to. Another thing is the scent – there is none. Not even with the eggshell paint or primer I used with the table and chairs. Yes, you can smell it ever so slightly while you’re using it but it’s virtually gone once the paint has dried (which is very quick btw) and leaves none of that “newly painted” smell that usually hangs around forever with other brands.

Ready for some afters? Yeah? Go on then.

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Farrow & Ball’s paint is an absolute dream to use, the thinner consistency glides on walls with total ease and if your walls are ever so slightly textured it clings in all the right places with little effort. I was stunned to find I didn’t need to use a second coat, and even more surprised to find I only used around 3 litres for my entire living room and dining room – a little goes a VERY long way and the finish is unlike any other paint I’ve used.

I honestly couldn’t be happier with the end result. This project has breathed new life into my home and my family, I’m constantly thinking of other things I can improve and fancy up now. I can feel my mood being lifted while sat in my living room, rather than feeling gloomy and oppressed as it used to, it’s fresh, bright and I can actually enjoy just being in here.

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Would I recommend Farrow & Ball to friends and family? Yes. Absolutely yes. Initially I was put off by the price (2.5 litres of emulsion retails for around £42). HOWEVER – taking into consideration the ease of use, quality of the product, lack of chemical smells and just how far 2.5 litres stretches. It’s worth it, without question.

Disclaimer: Farrow & Ball very kindly provided me with all the paints and materials needed for this project for the purpose of this review, however all opinions are completely my own and 100% honest.

Please note: Absolutely no camera trickery or filters were used in any of the photos above to alter the result of before and after shots.

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